The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

June 26, 2001 Continued :
[Page 5884]

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS (cont):
But let's be clear, and members who were at the Law Amendments Committee, and members in the gallery should know this, health care workers should know this, we receive stacks upon stacks - and some of them are here beside me - of your presentations at the Law Amendments Committee. On Monday, when I spoke in this House, afterwards, for a moment, I went over to the Red Room, and I want members of the Law Amendments Committee to admit, from that side, that those stacks of papers are still sitting where they sat. They never even had the courtesy, most of them - there were stacks of these presentations beside the very seats where the members of that caucus sat, to take them from the table, to distribute them to the members of that caucus. They left them right where they were given to them. That's offensive. That's the reason nurses such as Carolin Read were so upset. They are not going to forget 1975, in fact, in 2001, 26 years later, they are going to give this government a lesson they won't soon forget.

Let's address the major concern I heard yesterday, and from the members of the Conservative caucus who finally stood in their place. They kept talking about fiscal accountability. They kept talking about the importance of meeting the commitments on which they were elected. They kept talking about the fact that there will be a 10 per cent tax cut for Nova Scotians. They continually talked about the importance and, truthfully so now, they did point to the members of the Third Party and they pointed out the mess they have been left in, and they pointed out, of course, that the previous Minister of Finance, whether he had a balanced budget or an unbalanced budget, if you remember those days when we were in minority government, that this government has had to make some tough decisions. Tough decisions, agreed. But those tough decisions based upon fiscal accountability.

I want Nova Scotians to be able to have answers to questions. If you are going to make fiscally-tough decisions, how come you can hire a Deputy Minister of Health at the exorbitant salary that he makes? That's offensive. That's a health caregiver's nightmare to have a particular person, as the Deputy Minister of Health, who, incidentally, has never once showed his $186,000 - maybe I might have that wrong, and I apologize, Mr. Smith, if I do - face here during budget estimates. That's offensive.

Nova Scotians would like to know if you are making fiscally-tough decisions, can't we get a Deputy Minister of Health at a salary that is, after all, not as exorbitant as that. Fiscally-tough decisions do not involve a $3 million giveaway. I can hear the Minister of Economic Development trying to explain it - a $3 million giveaway to a good friend of this government and a good friend of that Premier, Sobeys. Those aren't fiscally-tough decisions.

More importantly, I caught on the news the other night that the Port Commission is going to go out and purchase, not because the union wants it, not because the port wants it, but they are going to invest $1 million of taxpayers' money to get a simulator so workers will know how to unload these container ships that are here. That's not necessary, the workers are saying. During downtime, we train new workers on the cranes that are sitting there that are not busy. Is that a fiscally-tough decision? No, that is an irresponsible one.

[Page 5885]

[9:45 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I heard the Premier talk about being fair and being prudent. I heard him make excuses for the Buchanan-Cameron Government, and then, conveniently, of course, jumping all over the Savage-MacLellan Governments. That is history. It is of some consequence, as we judge the present and the future, and it is the future that Nova Scotians are concerned about. That is where I would like to turn my attention at this time, the future, as I see it, for young people in this province.

Mr. Speaker, as you are well aware, and you have heard me many times speak in this House about the future of young people and education; it is something we all firmly believe in and must invest in. I know the Minister of Education said during her comments, the demands upon her budget, because of the health care crisis and the amount of money that is absorbed into that department, is a major concern to her. I share that concern.

The future that I am concerned about is the future of some young health care workers, with young families. They live in my constituency, and yes, yes for the member for Halifax Bedford Basin, they are all past students of mine. I want to thank them for appearing and having their say. To Judy Hilchie, outstanding Sir John A. Macdonald High School athlete, and now health care worker; to Carol Cashen; to Melissa Cavicchi, to these outstanding young people, what is their future in health care in this province? It is bleak, according to what they have told me. It is bleak.

Melissa Cavicchi, as you are well aware, Mr. Speaker, I have done it a number of times and I don't want to be repetitive, but I think it is of real consequence that I draw the House's attention to the fact that Mrs. Cavicchi, Melissa Ryan Cavicchi as I refer to her, wrote this wonderful poem called, This Hour Has Twenty-Two Dollars. This three page poem, made up of these wonderful stanzas shows the frustrations of this young health care worker. I hope that members opposite have read this poem. I would ask the Page to table this poem again, to make sure that members opposite take the time to read Melissa's poem, This Hour Has Twenty-Two Dollars. It is no take on This Hour Has 22 Minutes, this is no comedy, this is no piece of entertainment.

This is the fact that this young nurse, and I recall when she was a student at Sir John A. You know how you run into these young people in school. There are members opposite who were schoolteachers. The students come into your class and they say, sir - believe it or not they actually called me sir and some still do, as the Law Amendment Committee could testify to - I want to be a nurse. I can remember Melissa Cavicchi telling me that, taking my Grade 11 history course, when after all she would probably be more interested in biology and chemistry and physics and all those really tough and important courses for nursing, not that history isn't. There is a young woman who wanted to be a nurse.

[Page 5886]

I don't think Melissa would mind, she didn't come from the most financially-able home, she comes from the Village of Prospect. Through student loans and hard work, and her diligence and skill, this young woman finally achieved her goal and became a nurse. Now, Melissa Cavicchi is saying to me, as her MLA - you are right, Mr. Speaker, if you are thinking this thought, yes, the Cavicchi are sign locations for this MLA, yes, on their front lawn, and hopefully in the next year or the next election, whenever it is called there will be another NDP sign on their lawn - the Cavicchis, Craig and Melissa, are considering, what are the advantages of leaving this province. That would be a loss to the community of Tantallon.

The Cavicchis have lived in Tantallon for as long as I have. Their grandfather and father have deep roots in that community, from Boutiliers Point through to the Head of St. Margarets Bay to Tantallon. Craig and Melissa Cavicchi do not want to have to leave this province, but Mrs. Cavicchi has reached that stage with her frustrations, if this is how this government is going to treat me, then I am not interested in staying any longer. I will miss that sign location if Melissa and Craig move out of this province for reasons that are of their own choosing. But more importantly, it is not about my sign location, it is not about me as their MLA, it is about the loss to health care of young people such as Melissa.

That is the future that concerns me as a teacher; that is the future that I heard about in the Law Amendments Committee. I wonder if members opposite were there when young Amanda Lundrigan, she is still in the school system, the daughter of Darrell, Darrell heavily involved with the NSGEU, Amanda spoke for a few minutes at the Law Amendments Committee with the permission of the Chair, and young Amanda Lundrigan had her say to the members of the Tory caucus on how offensive she found Bill No. 68. Not one time did Amanda talk about money. During the comments that I have made about Judy Hilchey, Carol Cashin, and Melissa Cavicchi, not one time are they talking to me about money. They're talking about their rights. They're talking about their respect. They're not talking about dollars and cents here. They are talking about their rights.

Let's face it, what has provoked this strike which was coming down the pipe - what is going to provoke this labour interruption happening now is the introduction of Bill No. 68. That is what has people on the streets. That is what has people at the gates blocking the Cabinet Ministers from leaving. That is after all what they are so concerned about, that the democratic hard-won right to have a labour interruption in this province is going to be taken from them to April, 2004, a convenient date pulled out of their hat but, more importantly, who is going to decide the contracts? Who is going to make these decisions?

It is going to be the all-powerful Cabinet. It is going to be the Cabinet that makes these decisions. It is going to be the long arm of the Minister of Health who will interfere in labour negotiations because now, because of Bill No. 68, he will be able to do that and the Minister of Health should perhaps talk to the Minister of Justice, a comparison that the Minister of Justice and I have talked about in the past.

[Page 5887]

Maurice Duplessis did the same thing in the Valleyfield strike, in the asbestos strike, in the cotton mill strike. The long arm of the Cabinet reached in in Quebec through those dark days and the vilification that resulted because of that is the very vilification, if you interfere with labour negotiations, history will show that the voter will come back and get even. Duplessis' Union nationale no longer exists in the Province of Quebec. It is a Party that has been condemned to the dustbin of history because of the very thing that I have been talking about, their anti-labour legislation.

I heard the member for Preston say yesterday, and I referred to him and again I want to publicly thank him for standing in his place, for having his say, and if you noticed the tone, I don't know if you heard it as carefully as I did, it was almost apologetic, you know, I am caught, it is the wrong spot, but he did say, and he said it clearly, Tories have a reputation for being anti-union and then he went on to deny it but, hey, that's the final impression that is going to happen. Is this government anti-union? Are unions in this province going to be allowed democratically through the collective bargaining process to eventually and at times inevitably, Mr. Speaker, are they going to arrive at that time, after protracted, prolonged collective bargaining, to have the legal hard-won right to withdraw services.

What is an essential service - teachers, liquor store workers? I mean all these questions are being asked and that headline that I referred to earlier, that headline in The Daily News and the article that's in The Chronicle-Herald, that's what has workers upset; that's what has Brian Forbes of the NSGEU upset. That is what has teachers at Brookside Junior High School upset; and that is what has health care workers upset.

Let's look at the history of collective bargaining in Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker. Collective bargaining in this province goes back a long way. It was in the 1930's, in 1937, that the right to collective bargaining was established in this province. Along the way - and the members opposite, I should say, I guess there are two members opposite, with roots in Cape Breton, and I know that my good friend, the honourable member for Cape Breton Centre never misses Davis Day. For members of the gallery or members who are not aware of William Davis, he is that miner who was gunned down during a strike, and Davis Day is a day of respect and solemn respect. It is for the working man and working women of this province close to Remembrance Day, when we remember that labour negotiations in this province have firm and deep roots and many of those firm and deep roots are deep in the coal mines of Cape Breton.

That is part of the history of this province now, the coal mining tradition. William Davis will not be forgotten. He won't be forgotten by my good friend, the honourable member for Cape Breton Centre. He won't be forgotten by some of those veteran miners from your area and I know the Springhill bump of 1956 and the trauma that it caused. I know that labour interruptions happen in this province and they are going to continue to happen in this province if they are allowed, through the democratic right of the death of a miner such as Bill Davis, if they are allowed to continue to happen because if we have fought so long

[Page 5888]

and hard in this province based upon unionism and that unions do have a place in the development of this province, they certainly have a place in the history of this province. The question that workers are asking, do unions have a place in the future of this province?

Mr. Speaker, I know my time is fastly passing and as I stand in my place, by the looks of things on this final time for my fifth hour of debate on this repressive piece of legislation, I want to take the time to thank some individual Nova Scotians. I want to thank them for expressing to me some of their fears and some of their concerns. I want to begin by referring to an exceptional, talented young nurse - and, you know, young, as compared to my age - Trisha MacDonald. Trisha MacDonald makes this very clear when she says, "I have been nursing for 14 years and never have I felt so unappreciated or undervalued in the Province of Nova Scotia."

I want to read one paragraph from Trisha's e-mail that she sent me and I want to thank her publicly for her involvement. It's not every day that a young woman like Trisha MacDonald makes the national news. She is not looking to make the national news. Trisha MacDonald does not want to be on strike. She wants to be beside the beds of the people who she is responsible for. She wants to be there, but Trisha MacDonald is not going to take it any more. I will table this very emotional e-mail that I received from Trisha in a moment, and it will take me about two minutes with my one good eye to figure out what Trisha said, and I apologize to the Page for calling her over here too quickly.

Trish says, "I love my job and there is nothing more accelerating when one has been part of saving someone's life. It breaks my heart to watch my co-workers leave my unit one by one. I have watched four of my co-workers leave due to back-related injuries, two in the last month because they no longer could handle the working conditions and the stress. Five of the new grads I work with are leaving for the U.S. and the West Coast. They are leaving due to student debt and better wages and more attractive benefits. In the last two weeks two more senior nurses have put in their notice as they, too, have succumbed to the stress and the working conditions."

[10:00 a.m.]

I finish with this statement from Trish, "Every Nova Scotian is entitled to the right of health care, but the reality is that it is becoming a privilege. Does this Hamm Government really believe that these nurses will come here and stay. He can't even keep his own Maritime nurses here. I refuse to be hammered any longer." That is why I can stand in this House for another 10 minutes. That is why I could stand in this House for another 10 hours and talk because of Trish MacDonald and talk because of the fact that these health care workers are angry. They are angry because of the frustration and the concern.

[Page 5889]

I know the health care system is overworked or I am told that. I have only been in the hospital once, Mr. Speaker, for a protracted time of a week when I had an eye transplant and as you are well aware of the fact, I worked at Dorchester Penitentiary on the back shift and I will tell you I wouldn't work in a hospital at night for all the tea in China or all the beer in Alexander Keith's brewery, if I can use a more appropriate expression for me, but I want you to know that health care workers are stressed but, more importantly, what has really got them over the edge? What has got them at the gates? What has got them at the streets and what's going to get them on the picket line is Bill No. 68 and Bill No. 68's repressive clauses that are contained.

Now, this crowd over here had the opportunity during the Law Amendments Committee and the Minister of Justice had the opportunity to include some of the worthwhile amendments that this caucus brought forward. This crew is intent upon taking away the right to strike of these people because essential services and the nightmare of June, 1975, from the Premier's memory, is haunting all the backbenchers but let's be clear, Mr. Speaker. That collective bargaining right is something that these health care workers are not going to give up easily. This is going to be bitter. This is going to be angry and it all could have been avoided. The olive branch, and no reflection on the member for Dartmouth South, the olive branch was offered by the President of the NSGEU, withdraw Bill No. 68, withdraw it and we will go back to the table. We will give you that 48-hour guarantee. No, absolutely refused. Amendments from the members of the Third Party, dutifully elected by the past Minister of Environment incidentally, I don't know if he has told you, the youngest minister who has ever been in a Cabinet, have you ever heard that one? Well, that young minister of the past, he introduced amendments upon amendments, as did the exceptional member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, and what happened time after time? I saw it and I know members opposite saw it, there sat the Minister of Justice and he wrote out two quick letters and he passed it over to the member for Halifax Bedford Basin. What did it say? It said no.

I know I am not allowed props, but that's what it said. We saw it time after time and people in the gallery, people who were sitting there at the Law Amendments Committee saw it, well-thought-out amendments, amendments that would be fair, amendments that this House could get the concurrence of, amendments that would allow certain basic rights for workers in this province to be allowed to continue but, no, the message was no, no to Joan Jessome, no to amendments from the members of the Third Party, no to the amendments introduced by the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage. All of those noes mean one thing, that we are going to have a labour interruption, an unfortunate labour interruption, a bitter labour interruption, a personal labour interruption, where there will be anger, where there will be police, where there will be people guarding Cabinet Ministers. That's not Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker.

That's not Nova Scotia. That's not Canada, not just the Canada of MacKenzie King, the Canada of John Hamm, the Nova Scotia of John Hamm, but that's what it has come to and that emotion, that raw emotion, that fear and that anger has resulted not because of the

[Page 5890]

labour demands of these unions, not because of the fact that they aren't willing to bend, it is because of the intransigence, the stubbornness, and heaven forbid I use the term, and I apologize to students who are listening or who are here, the stupidity, the political stupidity of this government, not being allowed to realize, unless workers of Nova Scotia you are taking the lesson, unless you're looking at the lesson that I have referred to earlier when we go from Bill No. 20 to Bill No. 68, to bill, whatever it is going to be called, let's give it a number again, Bill No. 99, there's the triple play that workers in this province are concerned about. There's the triple play that I referred to earlier by those historic baseball combinations of Tinkers to Evers to Chance because this time that triple play, that infringement upon collective bargaining is going to go from Baker to Muir to Hamm and that is not going to be forgotten by workers in this province.

It is not going to be forgotten by the residents of Timberlea-Prospect because, Mr. Speaker, I want you to know when this House adjourns, I fully expect to go canvassing. I love to go canvassing. My wife tells me it keeps my weight down. It keeps me from being home during the summer and it keeps me on the doorsteps of the people of Timberlea-Prospect. I am going to do a lot of canvassing this summer because the people in Timberlea-Prospect are used to seeing me on the doorstep and I will wager, I know it is inappropriate in this place to wager, but I will put a friendly bet with every member present, you go canvassing, you go door knocking, and I will go to your riding and you come to mine. You can go to the doors by yourself. I would appreciate it if you took a piece of my literature with you, but you go to the doors in Brookside, you go to the doors in Glengarry Estates, you go to the doors in Greenwood Heights, and you tell them who you are and how you voted on Bill No. 68 and I will go to your constituency. I will even take a piece of your literature with me. I will take mine with me, too, and I will tell you I know what the response is going to be.

I know what the response is going to be in Queens. First of all, they are going to say, well, where is Mr. Dexter? He is always talking about Queens. How come you're here? The Leader of the Opposition, I apologize, the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, but there it is again, I take the offer from Queens. It would be a wonderful opportunity. On the way home on Highway No. 103, take Exit 3 and go down in past Timberlea, come down the parkway, go into Greenwood Heights and do some door knocking and you ask the people in there, you ask that second door on the right as you go into Greenwood Heights, Susan and Wally Hannem, what do you think of Bill No. 68 and they will tell you.

They will tell you and they will tell you quick. You will be down off their steps and back out on that sidewalk with your tail between your legs because those people in Greenwood Heights, those people in Timberlea, those people in Prospect, they know that their MLA is doing the right thing, speaking up and making sure that the rights of workers in this province are going to be defended. Incidentally, the member for Queens should know that Susan and Wally Hannem are not health care workers. They are not health care workers and, no, they didn't have a sign in the election, but I will guarantee you one thing, they will have a sign this time because they are concerned about their rights to collective bargaining.

[Page 5891]

So there's a deal that we take. There's a deal that I encourage members opposite to make sure that they go out and do some door knocking this summer, to make sure that they are out there and that they are listening, that they - as the member for Pictou Centre I recall said after the last election - you just take your time and go for a barbeque, you go to the beach, you leave it with us. That was two years ago, two years ago this July 27th, that Nova Scotians are looking forward to getting even with, two years when the Premier said you just relax, leave it in my hands, the good country doctor will take care of things.

That is not the case anymore. The people of Nova Scotia want to hear from these MLAs so don't you go to the barbeque. Don't you go to the beach. You go to the doorstep and you explain door by door, voter by voter, why you voted for Bill No. 68 and don't talk about dollars and cents. You talk about common sense, the common sense that says workers in this province have rights. Workers, whether they're health care workers, whether they're teachers, whether they are liquor store workers, have rights. Money matters, the budget is important but, Mr. Speaker, what is most important is the collective bargaining rights of Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

HON. DAVID MORSE: I would just like to ask the member a question. When I go to the door, usually I am more interested in what the people at the door, my constituents, want to talk about. So why would I go and insist that I talk about something . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour will have to save his question for the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect because his time has expired.

The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I rise this morning, as was mentioned by the member for Timberlea-Prospect, to begin my fifth hour of debate on Bill No. 68 and I have to tell you I didn't expect this would be my final hour. I certainly expected this morning to be speaking on an amendment on third reading which has happened numerous times in the past. I recall standing in my place on numerous bills to speak on third reading and to speak on an amendment on third reading and when I know how important some of the legislation is on which we did that, I would have to say, as important as they were, they paled in comparison to Bill No. 68. To see that this is the one bill that the Opposition is denied the opportunity to put in an amendment on third reading is most disturbing.

[Page 5892]

Just the other day I stood in my place and I congratulated the Speaker for the tough decision that he made on Thursday evening where he protected the rights of not only members of this House, but I would argue all Nova Scotians in not allowing his colleague, the Minister of Justice, to trample over the rights of members of this House and in the end all Nova Scotians. I have to say it saddened me, having listened to the news this morning and seen what happened last night, that no amendment was permitted on such an important piece of legislation, a piece of legislation which has managed to enrage Nova Scotians from one end of this province to the next.

It is the one topic at every Tim Hortons in this province. It is the one topic at every water cooler throughout this province. It is the one topic during every friendly discussion which takes place and yet this is the one bill where the Opposition is shut down and told you cannot put an amendment on third reading. I still await for the logic and the reasoning behind that and certainly it sets a very dangerous precedent in saying that the Opposition will not be permitted to make any motions on third reading and to argue that suggesting either that it be referred back to the Law Amendments Committee or suggesting that this bill be hoisted is not an appropriate amendment. I would argue that those amendments would clearly have been appropriate and would clearly have been in order and it is quite sad to see that all of a sudden that is not being permitted here and how ironic, in fact, that (Interruption)

I am reminded that even on the Barrington bill, a private member's bill, the Tories kept saying, you know, it is just an innocuous bill, it is nothing serious, don't pay any attention to it. Yet our caucus made it clear, at least, how concerned we were about its broader implications and we brought in that amendment on third reading and it was accepted. It is sad to see that on Bill No. 68, such important legislation, that that is when the hammer is brought down, that the Opposition is denied the right to speak on that and it is quite unfortunate and I think Nova Scotians will judge this government, once again, very harshly on that.

How ironic it was yesterday to watch the Minister of Justice and other members speak about the Rules of the House and how cumbersome the rules were and how long a debate it allowed, extended time, and how they weren't trying to ram this bill through even though we are sitting 24 hours a day, that they were just patiently chugging along. I remember when the Minister of Justice sat on this side of the House and he seemed to think the rules of this place were just great. They were wonderful rules because it suited him then. When we were in government, he thought the rules were great. Now that he is on that side, we all saw what he thought of the rules in his dealings with the Law Amendments Committee. Then we saw his overall respect for the Rules of this House and even yesterday he decided to put them into words and to tell us how we needed to change the rules here to make it much easier for government to operate.

[Page 5893]

Well, Mr. Speaker, if they thought they had a fight on their hands with Bill No. 68, let them bring in legislation to change the Rules of the House and to try to take away the democratic rights of all members and all Nova Scotians and see what kind of response that they get on that.

Mr. Speaker, yesterday I have to say I was - I guess I will use the word - impressed that a number of members on the government side stood in their place and spoke and indicated clearly why they felt Bill No. 68 was good legislation and why it was necessary. I know a number of the members had prepared texts and they wavered from that. In fact, I believe the Minister of Tourism and Culture never even referred to his prepared text and referred to a personal experience I guess with our health care system. I thought his comments were honest. They were sincere. They were straight from the heart and I appreciated hearing that.

[10:15 a.m.]

I can't say the same for my colleague, the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, who read from a prepared text and decided to go back into history and to talk about all the evils of the administration from 1993 to 1999. Yet somehow he forgot to mention the administration before 1993. It is quite unfortunate. I will go member for member because I think they all warrant commentary. Certainly the Minister of Tourism, the experience he gave us I think was a very personal one and I think it spoke to his sincerity about his concerns as to what the dangers would be of having a health care disruption here in this province.

I think a few of the members indicated that if we have a problem with the idea of a strike and if the Opposition doesn't, then that's their prerogative. Mr. Speaker, I can tell you I was in government when we were faced with a strike. If I am not mistaken, I believe it was called the Northwood Manor, no, I don't think it was Northwood, but it was the one down in Sydney, Cape Breton. We had just settled contracts with almost every public sector bargaining unit there was in this province. Yet there was one holdout. We negotiated and we negotiated and we kept negotiating. We had agreements with everyone, but for some reason, we just could not get an agreement with that bargaining unit.

I noted how one member said, well, you know, the NDP's whole mission in here is to see strikes and it makes them happy. Well, that may be the case. I can certainly tell you that for our caucus it does not make us happy and we do not look forward to seeing any labour disruption in this province, whether it be public sector or any other sector. I remember when we went through that labour disruption, the cause of concern was because that was a long-term care facility with people who are seniors, people who needed constant care and the idea that their workers were out on strike and that they were having replacement people coming in who they weren't familiar with was very disturbing for all of us.

[Page 5894]

I remember at the time when we were sitting on that side, the Premier of the day would have been Russell MacLellan. The then Leader of the NDP, the member for Halifax Atlantic, I remember they were just in their glory at the idea that there was a strike. We had settled contracts with everyone else. This was their last chance to see a strike in the province and I remember him hollering over at the Premier in a question and saying, you know, you don't even understand and you have no appreciation and how can you turn your backs on these seniors in this home? I remember the Premier answered - and he gave a very sincere answer and he was very restrained, I don't know if I would have been as restrained as what he was - he looked at the Leader of the NDP and he told him, well, you say I don't care, but ironically my aunt is one of the people in that home. She had been quite sick and it had been causing quite a bit of grief to his parents at the time, the idea that she was in there and had strangers providing service.

We didn't enjoy that strike and we were happy to see it done but, do you know what, we could have brought in Bill No. 68. We could have brought in that bill and we could have ordered them back to work. We didn't do that. We respected the process. We respected the fact that the right to strike is a negotiating tool used by labour in this province. I don't remember how long the strike lasted, but we negotiated with them. They returned to the table, an offer was made, and they went back to work. Bill No. 68, or any similar legislation, would have been the easy way out for our government at that time. We chose not to do so.

Each member who spoke yesterday about why they support this bill and each member sitting in the backbench has to ask himself, why is it that our government with a Cabinet of which many of its members, at least two of them, are veteran members of this House - I would argue even the Premier could be termed a veteran having been elected in a by-election quite some time ago - others who had experience here in the minority government days, how could they let us go 670 days without being able to take care of this? That is the one question you have to ask.

When your House Leader tells you, look, we had no choice, here, we are in a panic, why did you wait so long? If you were so concerned about the health and safety, as the Premier says, his reflections on the 1975 strike and I have no doubt it was a very serious situation, if this was his own personal conviction, why was it not in the blue book that your government would have said we will pass essential services legislation? Where was that? Why wasn't that put in there? Why did your own Premier, if his personal convictions are to be held as being credible and if he is to have any integrity and credibility in this House, why did he wait 675 days, on the eve of a strike in this province?

Oh, we might say he made a mistake, oops, they slipped up. I heard the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank speak yesterday, and I have to say I think it was one of the better speeches that he has given in this House. I find that there has been a significant change in that member, I would argue a positive change, and I thought he spoke from the heart and he spoke sincerely and he spoke what his belief was on this, but if one looks at the text of what

[Page 5895]

he said yesterday and one looks back at the words he used in 1999 to justify why he believed he should vote for his government during the paramedic strike, I will submit to you that if you look at those two speeches, they are almost identical. They are almost identical. Back in the paramedics' strike he apologized and said, you know, look, it is unfortunate, it is too bad we're here, but the health and safety, and he gave examples.

He spoke of how sincere he was and how important this was and how it hurt him to hear the Opposition say what they were saying, but yet he was going to have to vote for this. One could argue even then that, look, it was in 1999, they only got elected in July. They didn't have the time to really sink in or settle into their place in government to be able to deal with this. So that was 1999. Now we are in June 2001, two years later, and we're in the same situation and he is forced to give the same speech and give the same apologies that he gave in 1999. I don't think that is fair to that member to have to do so and that's why we say in the Opposition that it is unacceptable for a government that has been in power for 675 days, that, two weeks before a strike in this province, you bring Bill No. 68.

I challenge anyone on that side to stand in their place and tell me that your government is not a government by disaster. That is what it is. You govern by disaster. You have no plan. You have no vision. You govern by disaster. When a disaster comes upon you, you suddenly react and you react harshly. The proof is there. Let's look at your experience. Look at the paramedics' strike. That was government by disaster there. Then look at this. You have to just ask yourselves why it is the minute the Premier and the Minister of Health took office and this Cabinet took office on August 16, 1999, I believe, they knew this contract was going to expire; 675 days ago they knew this contract would expire.

If your Premier, and if you believe your Cabinet, has the vision that you try to make Nova Scotians believe, I have got to tell you, back home we would rule that to be incompetence, that you had 675 days to deal with this and you wait until two weeks before there is a strike in this province. Then you stand here and you tell us, oh, my God, I am so worried about the health and safety. The Premier tells us of all his bad memories of 1975. Yet, somehow, they were only triggered 675 days after you came into office. We told you when Bill No. 68 came in, you know, how convenient for the Opposition to say I told you so, but in this case I have to say I told you so. When Bill No. 68 was introduced, we told the backbenchers then that this is just the beginning. Don't let yourselves be fooled by believing this is a one-time thing to get you past these contract negotiations.

Today, as I said, read the papers, I told you so. Now the Premier says essential services legislation will be brought in to deal with a whole host of other public sector employees. So now it is no longer just nurses and health care workers. You have been duped. You have been fooled. You have been tricked by your own government. So then that's what Nova Scotians have to ask because when the Premier says, look, this was our plan, essential services legislation, why wasn't it in the blue book? Why did you hide it? If this was your plan all along, why wasn't it in Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course? Why did you hide it? Well,

[Page 5896]

maybe a number of you wouldn't be here in this House if he had put it in the blue book. You might not even be in government had he put that in the blue book.

So now they tell you, the other thing you have to explain, see, this weekend when you go home, this legislation may be passed by that time - it may not be, the Speaker may have a change of heart on his previous ruling and it might not be passed by this weekend - but when you go home now, with all the questions Nova Scotians have about Bill No. 68, the new question is going to be, did you know about the poll? You better be practising your answers. You better have your answers and you might have to get them scripted by someone, like some of the members had to have their speeches scripted yesterday, you better have an answer to that because that's going to be the big question, did you know about the May 18th poll? Did you know your government, while it tried to claim that it was negotiating in good faith, was doing polling asking Nova Scotians if they would approve if Cabinet enforced a contract on the health care workers if it made them the highest paid in Atlantic Canada?

I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that none of you knew. None of the backbenchers were aware of that. Your government didn't tell you, but they kept trying to sell you on the idea of how good this legislation was and I would go so far that if I had to guess, the Minister of Justice would kind of hint and say, listen, we know this is the right thing to do, wink, wink. I am not going to tell you any more and I have to tell you I really hope that they will stand in this House and state it again, but there was nothing more amusing out of the sadness of Bill No. 68 than to watch on the news and see the Minister of Health, the Minister of Finance and the Premier say I knew nothing of the poll.

With all the tragic ironies in this whole story, I got to tell you, Mr. Speaker, if they had one ounce of credibility left, they lost it. They lost it right there when they said I knew nothing of the poll. The only one who had the integrity, I would argue, to even admit he knew about it was the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, the Government House Leader. At least he was prepared to say I knew about the poll, I did, I knew the questions were going to be asked. He said it, but yet the Minister of Health, the Minister of Finance and the Premier say trust us and then they tell us we didn't know about the poll.

I have got to say it again, Mr. Speaker, how ironic that not only did this government stick it to Nova Scotians, but they actually used their own tax dollars to do the polling that led to them sticking it to Nova Scotians. I use the word sticking it. There is another word I would like to use, I used it yesterday, I am not sure if I would be allowed to use it again today, as to what this government has done to Nova Scotians and I think the members of the backbench know what I mean. I think the member for Colchester North knows exactly what word I am talking about and I think that word is the one that Nova Scotians are going to say, why did your government - blank - that to us? You know, that's what they're going to say and that's the question he will be asked.

[Page 5897]

Member for Colchester North, did you know about the poll? He is shaking his head no now, and I believe he is sincere when he says he didn't know about it, but if you are a backbencher, you have got to ask yourself who is running the show? These guys are doing polling which leads to Bill No. 68. We are being asked to sit 24 hours a day from midnight to 6:00 a.m., to 7:00 a.m., to 8:00 a.m., back again in the afternoon, and yet they're doing polling and they don't trust us enough to tell us? Yet they want us to stay here overnight so that they can go and take a rest? That is what you have got to ask.

[10:30 a.m.]

Last night, how ironic, we watch and we see again the comedy act by the two members for Kings once again. Mr. Speaker, I am wondering if you could just check and make sure that we have quorum right now.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Richmond has called for a quorum. I will begin with the honourable member for Richmond; the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid is two; the honourable Minister of Finance is three; the honourable Economic Development Minister is four; the honourable Minister of Community Services is five; the honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture is six; the honourable member is seven; the honourable Minister of Health is eight; the honourable Minister of Environment and Labour is nine; the honourable member for Yarmouth is 10; the honourable member for Queens is 11; the honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury is 12; the honourable member for Annapolis is 13; the honourable member for Queens is 14; the honourable member for Pictou East is 15. We have a quorum.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I have got to tell you I thought the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley had the most innovative way of counting quorum here in this House, but I have to say I think you have just beat him with regard to having the most interesting way of counting quorum. It was funny to watch all the Tories scurrying back in and the member for Antigonish kept trying to put his jacket on, but couldn't get the entire thing on. If you see Janet Jackson's new video, she has this new fashion, it is only like a half jacket and he almost looked like he was sporting one of her fashions there, coming in with the half jacket. (Interruption)

I am glad the minister admits that and we don't have to get into an argument over that because I really didn't want to go down that road. I am pleased to see that he admits to that, but anyway I am pleased to see that the government members are all listening. What I was saying, you know, it was interesting hearing the Premier yesterday talking about when you come into this place, you take your oath. I have taken three oaths in this House since my time, when I first got elected in 1998, then when I entered Cabinet and then again when I was re-elected in 1999.

[Page 5898]

The Premier referred to it as an oath of conscience. He didn't say an oath of allegiance and he actually said in the oath of conscience your allegiance is not to your Party, but to Nova Scotians. It seems to me that that is kind of sinking in with a few of the members of the backbench, not the member for Cape Breton North because he said 100 per cent of my constituents could be against Bill No. 68, I am still voting for it. So, obviously, he didn't see it as an oath of conscience. He saw it as an oath of allegiance to the Tory Party regardless of what his constituents think.

I have got to tell you the show being put on by the two members for Kings was amusing at first, but now it has become sad. The member for Kings North and the member for Kings West publicly mused, looking for attention. I took them as being sincere at first. I think most Nova Scotians took them as being sincere and saying that they would listen to their constituents. The member for Kings West said, I will listen to my constituents, I haven't made a decision. The member for Kings North's conscience, you know, the article he wrote in The Daily News, visiting graves, everything, I think people took that as sincere. They said, well, maybe there actually is some sincerity in this government.

Yet on second reading they do their disappearing act. Coincidence? Maybe. Ironically, the other member for Kings also was part of their magical act and disappeared also. Suddenly he has had a change of heart. I believe the Minister of Finance had to chat with him and whatever integrity and conscience he had, he checked at the door and made sure not to violate that again while he would be a Tory Cabinet Minister.

So yesterday in the Committee of the Whole House, lo and behold, the disappearing act happens again. Imagine, you know, and I have said it before, I spoke to someone from Richmond and they were looking at this and they said, look, there's only one question to ask. It is very simple. Are you a man or a mouse? It is a very simple question. It is no longer funny. In fact, the attention you are drawing to yourself, which I would say you are probably trying to argue, look, I have a conscience, I am not a Tory minion, I will do as I want. I will vote with my constituents. That is a farce now because whatever credibility you may have gained at first, you have lost with your disappearing acts. Regardless of how you vote on third reading, it will still be a joke. Anyway, that is the point I wanted to make for Kings in case that hadn't been made to them before.

One of the interesting comments that came from the honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank and, again, I tell you, in all honesty, I thought his comments were sincere. Even the Minister of Tourism and Culture, also his comments were extremely sincere and he spoke quite eloquently from personal experience and personal conviction. Referring back to the 1975 strike, as the honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank did, he mentioned that there was Party co-operation and that they voted on this in quite a quick period to get it through.

[Page 5899]

You have to ask yourself, all members of the backbench who have been sitting here all day and all night. Go ask your Premier and go ask your honourable Government House Leader, what discussions did you have with the Opposition on Bill No. 68 before you introduced it? Go ask him, did you go and sit down with them, bring the Minister of Health, bring his bureaucrats in, the ones who had the bill briefing, sit down with representatives of the Opposition and explain to them the situation you are in and why you felt you had to pass Bill No. 68? Ask yourself if that happened. I can tell you, it didn't happen at all. Your government has done absolutely nothing to try to get the Opposition to support what you are trying to do with Bill No. 68, nothing.

Some of you might be saying, you are not fit to talk to in the first place. I can almost see that going through the mind of the honourable member for Colchester North. I think that is what he would want to say. I think even the Minister of Health might want to say that. Yet, that attitude didn't seem to be the case last night when there was all-Party agreement from the Opposition to not have the Minister of Justice brought before the Committee on Assembly Matters. It suited you last night and somehow the Opposition, which some of you might feel is not fit to talk to, they seemed to be all right to talk to last night and there seemed to be co-operation.

I would argue that in 1975, when the Regan Government brought in this bill, they spoke to the Opposition, not only on the floor of this House, they spoke outside the House. I would argue that they probably made changes to the legislation to try to make it better legislation, but to try to get it passed. Your government didn't do any of that. When the honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank, like I said, I respected a lot of the things he said, but when he finished with the statement, maybe the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid will recall better than I do, whether it was step down or stand down or step aside or move aside. I am not sure which one it was. But the whole point of why we will not do that is because of the fact that Bill No. 68 is bad legislation and when we have tried to make even some small changes to it, as mentioned by the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect, your government said no.

So why should the Opposition co-operate with a government that has done nothing in return to show co-operation or even elicit co-operation from the Opposition. The Minister of Health has said many times, you can't suck and blow at the same time. Well, look in the mirror. Who is doing it there when you are saying, we want the Opposition to co-operate with us? Look at 1975. The Tories voted with Liberals. The NDP, I think he said, may have even voted with the Liberals. Why is it not happening now? You never asked. You never sat down and said, here is the situation. Here is why we have to do this. What can we possibly do to make changes to the bill to bring in a bill here respecting the seriousness of this, which will buy us time that we can pass through the House quickly? I think it could have been done.

[Page 5900]

I know our honourable House Leader has been able to work with the honourable Government House Leader on numerous things and anyone in the know in that government knows that. We haven't been unreasonable. Yet, this time, you didn't even knock. Your honourable Government House Leader, your Minister of Justice, your Premier and your Minister of Finance came in and said, we are going to pass Bill No. 68 and let them yap all they want. But guess who has had to sit through it all? They have gone home and they have slept. You have stayed here. You eventually have to ask yourself, how respected am I in this government? What is my role as part of the Hamm Administration? Am I a seat filler? I think a lot of backbenchers have to ask themselves. The honourable members for Shelburne, Sackville-Beaver Bank, Guysborough- Port Hawkesbury, Annapolis, Queens, Pictou West, Cape Breton North, Preston, are you just seat fillers? That is what it appears that your government is saying.

Rather than come and talk to the Opposition and try to put in a bill that may have gotten support, they said, no. We have our seat fillers and we will get them to sit 24 hours a day and they won't say anything. That is an absolute disgrace. You have to go home at night and ask yourself, what am I doing here? What is my purpose? Is it just to collect a paycheque? I told people I would be a strong voice in John Hamm's Government and now I am a seat filler. A couple of them last night were afforded the opportunity, then given prepared text by the caucus staff, to read about the history of things that happened at times that they weren't even here.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, his whole speech basically was about saying things that he wasn't here to witness or to debate on - and how sanctimonious he was on making all those judgments yesterday - and he wasn't here for any of them. Someone wrote that for him. You really have to ask yourself, what is your purpose here? That is the real issue that comes down on Bill No. 68 and each one of them will be held to account for this. If you thought Bill No. 68 was the end, get ready. If your back is sore, get something for it because, in the fall, your government is bringing in essential services legislation.

So it is not only going to be the nurses and health care workers, you are going after all civil servants and you are going after teachers and everyone else, road workers, everyone. So you are going to have to sit through that again and you are going to have to listen to us again. I have only spoken almost five hours on this bill because an amendment which is usually permitted, for some reason, was not allowed on this bill. Maybe it will be allowed on essential services, I don't know. We will have to wait and see.

The usual Tory way, and I am sure the Minister of Finance and the honourable Government House Leader have given you this speech before, it is two years of misery, make Nova Scotians suffer, do everything to enrage them and then we will give you two and a half years of good times before you go back to the polls. I am sure they have given you that speech before. But, guess what? The two years is up and yet the Premier wants to bring

[Page 5901]

essential services legislation in, so the rough road continues. You have to ask yourself, how much more rough road can I go on before I have to face my electorate the next time and they ask me, were you a strong voice or were you a seat filler? You will have to answer that for yourselves.

I have to tell you, again, regardless of what the Minister of Finance or the Minister of Health any other minister tells you, if the health care workers walk out at 6:00 a.m. tomorrow morning, if you want to see who is to blame, you can all collectively look in the mirror. We sat for 12 weeks in the spring and you didn't bring in this legislation. On the 10th day that the House had adjourned, the last day that the House could be recalled before 30 days' notice was required, you recalled the Legislature. Now I would challenge any of you to stand and say, well that was our vision. That was our plan. That was the Hamm plan, to do this. No it wasn't. It was a disaster looming. How do we deal with the disaster? Bring in the strong arm of the majority and pass it through the Legislature. Again, government by disaster. There is no vision, there is no plan and out of this comes the idea of essential services. It is not in the blue book. It wasn't talked about 675 days ago, but it suddenly appears.

Here is the other point, and I focused on the honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank. He gave a good speech, that is why I focused on it. He was referring to the numbers of how the health care costs kept going up and how much more money the government was pumping in yet the costs kept going up.

[10:45 p.m.]

Now I can forgive him for that. I can forgive the Minister of Tourism and Culture, maybe even the Minister of Community Services, and almost all the backbenchers who were elected for the first time but I can't forgive the Minister of Finance or the Minister of Economic Development, the Minister of Health, the Premier, the Government House Leader, the Minister of Justice, because they sat here in third place and they knew what the state of our health care was, they knew what the state of our finances were, yet they went out and they told you when they were recruiting you as candidates, we can fix health care with $46 million. We can cut the administrative fat there. We can achieve the savings to run an efficient health care system.

Many of you used that in your campaign speeches. You used it in your ads, cut administrative fat, $46 million we can save health care. You believed it. I think you honestly believed it because you were relying on the opinions of members of your Party who had sat here in this House. The Minister of Finance, who has been in here since what, 1984, 1988, quite some time, he knew what the health care situation was. If he says we can fix it for $46 million, well, not knowing any better, I would probably believe him also.

[Page 5902]

Many Nova Scotians believed that but guess what? It wasn't true. They misled Nova Scotians when they said that they could fix it and they knew that, that they couldn't fix it with $46 million. It would have been impossible to be able . . .

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I have been listening with interest to the member opposite saying that we told Nova Scotians that we would cure the ills of health care with a certain amount of money. I just want to say that although we knew the financial situation of the province was bad, and I think all members from all Parties realized that the situation was bad, one thing I want to say on the record today is that there were $100 million of cuts that were buried in the budget that the member for Lunenburg West tabled that was not known to our Party when we went into it, $100 million of more difficulties that were not present when we took office. If you want to have a debate on the financial situation of this province when we took office, you should have that at least on the table because that member was a Cabinet Minister in that former government, and was probably aware of that and they didn't disclose it to the people of Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That is not a point of order. It was a clarification of facts, I guess. The honourable member for Richmond has the floor.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the day he is prepared to stand in this House and debate what the financial situation was in 1992 when he was a member of Cabinet, when he was defeated for his incompetence as part of the Cabinet, when he is prepared to discuss 1992, we will discuss 1999. Once again, you can't suck and blow at the same time. That is the Minister of Health's own words. Let's debate 1999 finances but I don't want to talk about 1992 when I sat at the Cabinet and we had a $1.1 billion deficit in that year. Yet he talks about the 1999 finances.

The point I was making, and the backbenchers can now see it, the Minister of Finance knew going into that election what the state of the finances were. He knew the state of health care. In fact, they sat here and railed against us for having made too many cuts in health care and in administration yet they go out and tell Nova Scotians, we will cut more administration. So the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank says, look, we are doing our best here, we are pumping in money but the costs keep going up and up. You knew that. It is not rocket science. You knew that was going to be the case yet I don't remember in the 1999 election, the blue book saying that it is all the federal government's fault and that is how we are going to fix health care because we are going to get the feds to give us all this money. Yet how convenient an argument now, and I have to say, I have to give credit, at least the Minister of Tourism and Culture didn't go there, didn't follow his colleague, the member for Cape Breton North, in blaming all of the ails and all of the problems of Bill No. 68 on the federal government. Give me a break.

[Page 5903]

Yes, we would like to see more money from Ottawa but this government has done quite well in the last couple of years with money that has come from Ottawa. In fact, the Minister of Health has been more than happy to send out press releases, taking credit for money that has come completely from Ottawa yet when it is convenient, when the member for Cape Breton North is on the ropes, blame Ottawa. How original. What an original thought. I haven't heard that argument in here before. It must have been quite the inspiration he got to come up with that one. Imagine.

So if you are sitting on the backbench you have to ask yourself those questions. Did your government negotiate in good faith when it had the results of a May 18th poll with the questions that were asked? That's going to be the question you are asked. You better come up with an answer, at least ask someone to write you an answer because that's what they are going to ask you. We sat at the table, we tried to negotiate and your government had a poll asking questions should we legislate a contract on them, back on May 18th. The Minister of Finance says he didn't know anything about the poll. Ha, ha. There's nothing your government won't say when it suits them. No Nova Scotian is buying that, that they didn't know about the poll. Nobody.

So now here we are. Flashbacks to 1999. We are on the eve of a strike. Where is your government? Are they at the table? Are they sitting 24 hours a day like you are here? Where are the negotiators for the government? Are they sitting like the honourable member for Shelburne, are they sitting like the honourable member for Queens or the honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury? Are they sitting 24 hours a day to try to avoid a strike? What are they doing? They are not at the table. They gave up. They sat for one day, last Thursday, and that was it. Yet, your government and your Premier has the audacity to stand here and say I would still like to see a negotiated agreement. Well, you have to be at the table to get that. Yet, you good little seat fillers stay in your seats from midnight to midnight, don't say anything - for God's sakes don't say anything, you had your chance yesterday - whoever is out, you are out and you are not going to get to speak anymore and yet we are not even at the table, but go home and tell people we want an agreement at the table and we negotiate in good faith. But at the deadline, when we are about to face a strike, your government is not even sitting at the table.

How do you justify that? I want to hear the Minister of Finance's argument on that one. They are not even sitting at the table. We are on the eve of a strike and now the Premier comes out and says, listen, we need essential services legislation because we can't be going and bargaining in good faith if labour has the threat of a strike. But what have they got? They only have one weapon. It is the threat of a strike, that is it. Other than that they are almost powerless. If they try work-to-rule or wildcat strikes, you have the Labour Board that is as quick as can be to issue orders. If only our health care system was as efficient as our Labour Relations Board, we wouldn't be in the situation we are in. If this government was as efficient as the Labour Relations Board in providing their quick decisions, the state of our finances wouldn't be what they are.

[Page 5904]

So the question is, going home, we will be going to visit our constituents, I imagine all of us will be going to different functions, festivals, gatherings, picnics. You have to ask yourself and you have to realize that for the rest of the summer you are going to have to talk about Bill No. 68 and you are going to have to give the lines fed to you by the Minister of Finance, by the Premier and by the Minister of Justice. It is already clear that there are some of you in this House who are sickened by the thought to start off, you don't even want to vote for this bill, and now you have to spend the rest of the summer justifying it. Guess what? When you are surrounded by 20 people, the Minister of Finance isn't there to pull you out of the scrum like he pulls out other colleagues, or the Minister of Health is not there to pull you out of the scrum or to get in the scrum with you. You are on your own and you have to answer all of those questions.

Maybe you just don't care. It is possible. It would be a shame if that would be the case. The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury has to go back home and the first question is going to be, it is seven months and we still don't have an emergency room doctor and now you have passed Bill No. 68 and you are sticking it to the nurses and the health care workers. You are going to start waving white flags in the Strait area soon, asking for mercy from this government. What are you going to do next?

Yesterday, the Minister of Health confirmed my worst fears when I asked him how could he sit there and allow the Strait-Richmond Hospital go on seven months without a doctor. He hollered out, who is their MLA, sending out a clear message that there is no doctor at that hospital because of the fact that it is in a Liberal riding. How much lower can this government go when it would play politics with the health and safety of my constituents or any other constituent? They can't go any lower. If they go any lower they are going to either hit gas or hit oil but, I hope, as all Nova Scotians probably hope, they hit solid granite head first.

Backbenchers have to ask themselves, when you ran on July 29, 1999, is this the government you wanted to be part of? Is this what you expected it would be in the House of Assembly, that you would be passing this sort of legislation, that you would be hearing a member of the Opposition, for seven months, keep pleading with your government to send an emergency room doctor to his hospital that serves over 12,000 people? Is that what you thought? Is that what the member for Kings West really thought when he ran, that that is what he would get here, that is the government he would be part of, that his Minister of Health would holler over, who is their MLA when asked why there is no doctor there? Really, that is what you have to ask yourself.

I was proud to be a member of Russell MacLellan's Government. We weren't perfect, we were far from perfect but I have to tell you, history will look back fondly on Russell MacLellan. I know there are many Nova Scotians who would like to have him here in this House now, because his integrity and his compassion were never questioned by anyone. No one ever stood in this House and questioned it. They knew it was there, but you heard

[Page 5905]

repeatedly, not only members of the Opposition, but all Nova Scotians, question your own personal integrity, every single one of you, repeatedly. That hits pretty low when someone questions your integrity and questions your compassion and questions your principles. While the two members from Kings can do their disappearing act, you can only disappear for so long. You have to go back to your ridings and you have to face the people who you asked to elect you and you have to tell them, yes, I am proud to be a member of John Hamm's Government and it's exactly what I thought it would be.

I will be interested to see in the papers in the summer, to hear your reports, see maybe a little written-up column, many of us do MLA reports we put in our local papers, and I want to see you say how proud you are to be a member of John Hamm's Government, to have sat here, repeatedly, not only with the paramedics strike, now in this strike, and to have your principles questioned, your compassion questioned, your integrity questioned, and rather than to be able to stand up here and to explain it to everyone, the Minister of Finance says, listen, you are a seat filler and understand your role in this government is to be a seat filler, that's all.

I have to tell you, I sat on a government backbench. I know what it is like, it is not easy. I know when we were under the leadership of Russell MacLellan, he gave the backbench a lot of leeway and he allowed us to take part in debates and he allowed us to speak our minds and speak on behalf of our constituents. He made it a priority not to abandon the backbench and to make sure we could speak out.

You have to ask yourself, is that what I am getting from John Hamm or is Samson right, is the member for Richmond right when he says that deep down the Premier and the Cabinet sees us as seat fillers? Only you can answer that question. You have to go back to your ridings, tell them all the wonderful things you did while you were up here, the wonderful speech you gave on Bill No. 68 or on Bill No. 20 or on any other bill that was here, the Barrington bill or any other important piece of legislation, the Order of Nova Scotia. How many times did you speak on those bills? Send us your speech. It will be environmentally friendly for many backbenchers because we won't have to cut down too many logs for the paper they will require to send those speeches because they haven't said a word and I don't think it is because they didn't want to talk, I don't believe that.

I don't think anyone who is elected to this House comes here with the intention of sitting here silent. You would never get elected if you only had the intention of sitting there silent. If you ran a silent campaign, you wouldn't get elected, yet, when you got up here you quickly saw who runs this government. It is the Minister of Finance, the Justice Minister, the Government House Leader and, sometimes, but it is questionable, the Premier. Your role, in their eyes, is you are a necessary evil. At the end they need you as a seat filler to keep quorum in this House and to let them go to sleep and you can stay in your seat on Bill No. 68. I don't know. I really don't know, Mr. Speaker, how when you go back home, you look

[Page 5906]

at your children, you look at your wife, you look at your parents, you look at your aunts and uncles and you say I am proud to have been part of the John Hamm Government.

[11:00 a.m.]

I really don't know how you could do that when you go home after this session and you can argue, look I really believe that Bill No. 68 was part of our government's vision, because if it was part of your vision, why did you wait 675 days, on the eve of a strike and because of the incompetence of the Cabinet, not yourselves, because you are not part of the decision-making process, but because of the incompetence of your Cabinet, we are going to have a strike in this province. There is only one group to blame and it is your Cabinet. Unfortunately, guess what? What they do, you wear, and you are responsible for, although you have no voice. You can't go to Cabinet, you are not a member of the Privy Council but you have to wear their decisions. So you have to ask yourself, if I am going to wear the decisions these guys make, the least I expect to be able to do is to be consulted and to be told why it is being done and to have my voice heard.

Now, maybe, caucus meetings are just that avenue and that all of the members spend hour upon hour at caucus meetings talking to their Cabinet colleagues and making sure they are consulted. I highly doubt that. Maybe one of them can stand and correct me on that and say how they feel they have been consulted. I wonder if the member for Shelburne can go back home and say Bill No. 68, listen, that clause there, Clause 7, I told them to put that in there. Or Clause 13, that the member for Kings West can say, the clause that will not allow any appeals to the courts, I am the one who suggested that. They asked me about it. The Minister of Finance came and said, what do you think of this, member? I told him what I thought of it and I told him to put it in there. Maybe that is the case, maybe I am wrong, maybe I am way off, but that is not the Tory way. It is not the Tory way.

The member for Annapolis, who won by what, 200 votes, has to go back and say what did I do during the last sitting? I am going to send you the speeches that I gave in the House of Assembly, my reply to Bill No. 68, my speech on Bill No. 20, my speech on the Order of Nova Scotia, on the LPN Act, the Nurses'Act, all of that stuff. He wasn't even allowed to speak. That is what you have to ask yourself. What are you really doing here? When you go home and you tell your children, you tell your family, listen, I am really proud and you should be proud of me for what I have done and proud of me for what I stood for and I stood my ground and I spoke, and I spoke on behalf of all my constituents. My God, three-quarters of the backbench can't say that. You can't say that. You might think that is an unfair criticism but it is a factual criticism. Hansard is the perfect proof of that. You are just not there.

At the end of the day, you weren't even allowed to make resolutions congratulating constituents on their achievements. I think the member for Preston slipped on in one day. I don't know what he had to do to do it. Maybe he didn't even tell them he was going to do

[Page 5907]

it just so that they couldn't tell him no. You haven't even been allowed to do that in your government's obsession to ram Bill No. 68 through the House. Even today, you are going to have to answer. All of your nurses out there who have been following this expected that there would be an amendment from the Opposition and that that would be debated. You are also going to have to explain why the Speaker ruled that out of order, why the Speaker brought down the hammer and did not allow that to take place. You have to justify that, not us. It is very easy for us. I know the line already. I have spoken it on the radio about what the explanation was for it, but you have to explain that.

I know my time is coming to an end but I just want to point out a few things and really, again, I want to commend the Minister of Tourism and Culture, his comments, even the member for Halifax Bedford Basin, she is taking quite a bit of heat on this debate and everything that has happened. I don't agree with what she said, but at least she stood and she spoke. The member for Dartmouth South also, and as I said the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank, the member for Kings North - nah, I don't know what to say about the member for Kings North anymore - really, I can't congratulate that.

AN HON. MEMBER: Preston, don't forget Preston.

MR. SAMSON: I hear Preston. I unfortunately missed that speech, so I can't really comment on it, but I am told that he spoke sincerely and apologetically and at least he spoke, so you have to commend him for that and he was here for the votes. That is why, Kings North, I can't congratulate a member who speaks in this House and then when the vote comes he disappears. So that is the problem that I have with that particular point, but overall I think a number of the members . . .

MR. WILLIAM LANGILLE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Something that occurred with the honourable member for Richmond last week. I would just like to have some clarification and I believe it probably was just a slip on his part, but I would like some clarification for the House. Last week in the Law Amendments Committee we had a bit of a ruckus there and a police officer entered the room and at that time he was carrying his service revolver, which actually wasn't a revolver but a pistol, which is the standard issue for the Halifax Regional Police. In Question Period the next day the honourable member made mention of that, but what he made mention of that the police officer was carrying a rifle. When you look at a rifle, you have the perception of a rifle, a man standing with a rifle. If he would just clarify that and say if it was a slip or not, I would appreciate that.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That is not a point of order. The honourable member for Richmond, you have about two and a half minutes.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, if the member was actually present during Question Period when I made that slip-up, I did correct myself to say a rifle, revolver, whatever. Not a rifle, I said a revolver, a pistol, whatever, and in fact in speaking with the officers here at

[Page 5908]

the House the next day, they, in jest, laughed. They said we know it was a slip-up and you said afterwards it was actually a pistol, a revolver but if you want to see how childish the government has become to start going on about this, really.

Mr. Speaker, as I was pointing out, the members who did speak on this and who spoke and tried to justify this, keep in mind when you go home these were the same arguments you used to justify the paramedics strike. You had 675 days to do this and you didn't. You never once consulted the Opposition on Bill No. 68, so don't accuse us of delaying this bill or say you don't like the Rules of the House. You have no one to blame but yourselves and the arrogance of your Minister of Finance and your Justice Minister and your House Leader. If you want to know why you are sitting 24 hours a day and you are sick and tired and your back is sore and your bum is sore and your legs are sore, it is because of their arrogance. That is why, not the Opposition.

You are kidding yourselves and you are allowing yourselves to be made fools of, if you believe that. In 1975 there was discussion, there was cooperation, they amended the bill, not the arrogance that we see here today. If you want to be arrogant, if you want to be a majority government, if you want to bring down the hammer, then you suffer the consequences.

HON. JAMES MUIR: How do you know what happened in 1975?

MR. SAMSON: Oh, well, the Minister of Health says how do I know what happened. Well, your members themselves have been the ones who brought up the debates and who have justified what happened. The member for Sackville-Beaver Bank is the one who said there was cooperation, but the Minister of Health, he can't even find us a doctor in seven months. How could we expect him to do anything competent on Bill No. 68 or anything else? Yet the members from the Strait area sit in silence. They sent out a press release about a month ago giving all the excuses in the world on behalf of the minister. At the end of the day, nobody is buying it and everyone knows that they will be made to pay a price for it.

In the end, Mr. Speaker, we will see. I am not sure, I don't want to make a prediction yet, but I think there will be another disappearing act in this House by the two members from Kings when it comes vote time, and then Nova Scotians will judge not only them but each and every one of them on how they voted on Bill No. 68.

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

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to once again be able to engage with Bill No. 68. Like my colleague, the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect, this also is my fifth hour speaking about this bill. I have no problem doing that. It has been something of a wearing and exhausting time, as all recent speakers have noted, and yet

[Page 5909]

because of the scope of Bill No. 68, because of the damage that it does to labour relations in this province, because of the scorn and contempt it shows for nurses and other health care workers, I have to say that I and all my colleagues we are quite prepared to put in the hours that are required to deal with this bill. It is our hope that as we marshal our arguments, as we marshal our analysis, and as individuals in Nova Scotia learn more about this bill, and as nurses and other health care workers come forward to talk to government members, the government will still decide that it has embarked upon the wrong course and decide to withdraw Bill No. 68.

I have to say it is getting a little late in the day. Here we are at third reading and the bill, despite many opportunities that have been offered to the government, is still before us virtually unchanged from the time when it first came forward from the Minister of Health. Has binding arbitration been added to the bill? It has not. Has the discretion of the Cabinet been modified in any way? It has not. This bill is every bit as objectionable in the form in which it finds itself before us now at third reading as it was when it first was introduced.

Because one of the steps in the proceeding, that is to say when this Legislature meets as a Committee of the Whole House on Bills, is not transcribed into Hansard, some of the comments that I made during the fourth hour in which I spoke will not be on the official record. I very much regret that and so I am going to take this opportunity to repeat at least a few of the points that I made during that fourth hour of debate during Committee of the Whole House on Bills. I want to do that because I want to make sure that the very many people who have been following these proceedings get the opportunity to understand in detail what it is that the objections are that I and my colleagues have to this bill.

It is undoubtedly the case that there might have been a few beyond the immediate confines of this House who heard my address between 5:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. on Monday, just yesterday, Yet, I don't imagine there were a huge number of insomniacs, political devotees, or nurses and health care workers on duty who had the time at that hour to take from their duties to watch the proceedings. So I have no problem going over some of this ground. I particularly have no problem going over some of this ground again because it is quite obvious that the points do not seem to have sunk in with the members opposite.

What was interesting, especially about the proceedings during Committee of the Whole House on Bills, was that we actually began to hear, in the middle of these proceedings, at long last on the record, in one-hour speeches from some Cabinet Ministers. I say on the record, but it was on the record only in the sense that it was here in the House and undoubtedly there is a video and an audio tape somewhere, but it certainly was not part of the Hansard record. It was also clear that the purpose of the government members speaking during committee proceedings was to keep the Opposition from being able to bring forward amendments to the bill. That was the whole purpose, it wasn't an exploration of the points that had been made in criticism of Bill No. 68, except for some very few of the remarks. I want to draw attention to some of these remarks. It was interesting to hear from the Minister

[Page 5910]

of Finance and it was interesting to hear from the Minister of Environment and Labour about what it is that they think they are doing with Bill No. 68.

[11:15 a.m.]

I want to jump ahead to my conclusion, because it should be borne in mind by everyone as I go through a couple of the points that were made by those two ministers. My conclusion is that any justification that has been offered by those two ministers is an irrelevancy or has no substance. So be in no doubt that I reject entirely what it is that was said the other day, off the official Hansard record, but at least in this Chamber, during Committee of the Whole House on Bills by those two Cabinet Ministers.

Let's start with the Minister of Labour. Although he spoke for an hour, there were relatively few points that he made. He complained, quite bitterly, as did the Minister of Finance, that the federal Liberal Government has not taken advantage of its position of being abundantly in surplus to put more money into health care in this country. They complained bitterly, both of them, that more money had not been put by the federal Liberal Government into the CHST. You know what? They are absolutely right. The federal government, being in surplus, should be putting more money into CHST. It is a question of their priorities. Their priorities seem to be, pay down the debt and to give tax breaks rather than to put money into those essential public services that ought to be provided by provincial governments all across this country on a reasonably equal basis. That is the whole idea.

Indeed, that should happen and indeed, the Minister of Finance and his colleague, the Minister of Environment and Labour, were quite correct to castigate the provincial Liberals here for not being more aggressive towards their Liberal counterparts in Ottawa and attempt to try to get more and better funding for the CHST. This is a fair point. But you know what? That is no excuse for what it is that this government is doing, absolutely no excuse. It is not just a question of this government paying money into health and going into deficit. That is the suggestion they are making. But you know what? That isn't the case. It isn't the case because they are proposing to do exactly what it is that the federal Liberals are doing.

Think about the core agenda of this government. It is to get the deficit under control in three years and then deliver a tax cut. Well how does that differ from what it is that the federal Liberals are doing? It differs in no way from what it is that the federal Liberals are doing. If it lies in the mouth of the Minister of Finance of this province to criticize the federal Minister of Finance by saying he ought not to pay down the debt while the health care system in this province is in need of money, then he ought to listen to what he is saying and take his own advice. Because, in the end, that is exactly what is happening here.

The provincial government is saying here to the nurses and other health care workers, we have an agenda. Our agenda is to deliver a tax cut. That tax cut, at 10 per cent, which is the advertised percentage, is going to be $130 million in year one. In that year 2003-04, that

[Page 5911]

fiscal year, that is the value of that 10 per cent tax cut, $130 million. You know what? That is more than enough money to pay what it is that is on the table being requested by the health care workers and probably by all the other public sector workers with whom this government is going to have to negotiate this coming year and if it isn't, let them say so, let them give details because the Minister of Finance has so far given only partial details of his costing out of some of those requests and, indeed, they're only requests that are being made at the bargaining table.

So that is the essential irony right there, that we heard in the middle of the night from the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Environment and Labour that they think the sense of priorities of the federal government is wrong. They are saying that the federal Liberals are wrong to prefer to pay down the debt and give tax cuts instead of putting the money into health care. That is exactly what it is that the provincial government of those ministers is doing just right now through Bill No. 68. They are saying that our tax cut that we have promised is more important than fairness for health care workers. In other words, we are going to make sure that the health care workers pay for the tax cut that we promised.

That's it. That's what it comes down to and the Minister of Finance danced all around that question in every imaginable way without engaging with the core issue and that was wrong. It was wrong because it leaves an incorrect impression with the people of Nova Scotia as to the state of the province's finances. They are left somehow with the impression by the Minister of Finance that everything is an inevitability. There is no more money. We can't afford it. That's the line, we can't afford it, but what a province can afford is a question of its priorities and here nothing could be starker and although that government could say reach into the Department of Transportation, reach into the Department of Education, reach into the Department of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations for some money from their budgets and transfer it to Health or some other part of it, we're not saying that.

If those kinds of decisions are to be made by the government, they can do it. The one and only priority that I am focusing on here and, indeed, in reflection exactly of the sentiments of the Minister of Finance of this province, is look at the tax cut. That is the tax cut that is coming inevitably. Indeed, next year, according to the Minister of Finance, the province is going to be in surplus, never mind the coming surplus that is going to fund the tax cut, but what we're seeing is the Minister of Finance criticizing the federal minister. Paul Martin, he said, is a wicked man for choosing to pay down the debt and give a tax cut instead of putting money into health care, into the CHST as he ought to, but I am a responsible Minister of Finance, according to that honourable member, because he is just following though on his election promise and his government's election promise to deliver a tax cut.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, on a point or order, just to set the record straight. I didn't call Mr. Martin a wicked man. I also indicated at the same time that he had the ability to deal with it and that he should be looking at more funds for CHST, just to get

[Page 5912]

the record straight. I know the member is in full flight, but I just want to get the record straight.

MR. SPEAKER: It is not a point of order. It is certainly a clarification of facts.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, if the honourable minister wanted to get the record straight, it is good that he actually spoke on the record for a change instead of speaking at 3:30 a.m. during the Committee of the Whole House when it was off the record. I would have hoped to hear more from this minister in justification and maybe he will still have the opportunity to stand up and talk when it is his turn and give us some more details, if he wishes, about his view of the finances of the Province of Nova Scotia. The one and only question I really want to hear him address is why it is that he cannot forego a tax cut which is, of course, going to be an inequitable tax cut in year four of his mandate in order to put money into the health care system, if it is required, or into the broader public sector if, indeed, that is required.

Let me go back to another remark that was made by the honourable Minister of Environment and Labour, again in the middle of the night, during Committee of the Whole House. Here, astonishingly, is one of the things that the Minister of Environment and Labour said in his remarks. He was engaging on the question of whether the government ought to have included in Bill No. 68 a provision dealing with binding arbitration and he was explaining why it is that the government chose to reject binding arbitration. Here is what he said, and I think I got the words exactly - I am not a Hansard reporter, but I think I got it pretty exactly - I think the minister said: Ability to pay would not necessarily be a consideration. So I wrote the words down, that's what he said: Ability to pay would not necessarily be a consideration.

Let's focus first on this weasel word necessarily. That's clearly an attempt to introduce an element of uncertainty into what it is that the minister says.

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, on a point or order. Perhaps it would be helpful to the member opposite that what I was pointing out is that the backing off by the federal government and the funding of the CHST and equalization has made it more difficult for the provinces and it is now becoming based on the province's ability to pay. I think that that perhaps would put it in context. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: It is not a point of order.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, not only wasn't it a point of order, it was in fact wrong. That is not what he said. What he said the other night was in the context of discussing why it is that Bill No. 68 didn't have a provision in it dealing with binding arbitration and the Minister of Environment and Labour, who ought to know better in terms of labour relations and the processes under the Trade Union Act and how it is that things like binding arbitration

[Page 5913]

go ahead, introduced this very peculiar statement: Ability to pay would not necessarily be a consideration.

I say phooey. The minister cannot have any experience of what goes on in binding arbitration, binding interest arbitration. Those of us who have had direct experience of binding interest arbitration know that what happens is that ability to pay is indeed one of the factors that any arbitrator would consider. Now, I have been involved in these kinds of cases in Ontario, in Nova Scotia, and I have appeared before and watched arbitrators at work, people who have the utmost stature as interest arbitrators in this country, and that is what goes on in those interest arbitrations. An interest arbitration is where the terms and conditions of a collective agreement are set by an independent third party. That's what binding arbitration is all about and they do consider ability to pay.

Now, surely, the Minister of Environment and Labour ought to know that and if he or his government were in any doubt about ability to pay being one of the factors to be considered by an arbitrator, then they could write it into the legislation. They could put it right in Bill No. 68 in an amended form if they introduced the clause that had to do with binding arbitration. They could list the factors that an arbitrator had to consider and they could specifically list ability to pay if they had some kind of fear that an arbitrator would not consider that.

Clearly there is no way that ability to pay would be an absent or negligible consideration. The only way in which the statements of the Minister of Environment and Labour or the Minister of Finance on this same topic make any sense is to intercept them as meaning that they are scared that an arbitrator wouldn't take the same view of ability to pay that they have taken and it is no wonder they're scared because, of course, they're planning to deliver a tax cut worth $130 million in year four of their mandate. Clearly the province has the money. So ability to pay is a smokescreen issue.

The ability to pay is there and that ability to pay is there regardless of what the federal government is doing about the CHST. Make no mistake, I don't disagree with the Minister of Finance in his criticism of the federal Minister of Finance. He is right to criticize the federal government on this. The federal government has been wrong. They could put more money into the CHST, but it still doesn't matter because the money is here. So let's get that one right off the record.

Some other interesting things emerged from what it is that the Minister of Finance said the other night. He tried to leave the impression that what he called the demands on the table from the nurses were so exorbitant that, again, the province was just going to go broke trying to pay them and he painted for us the picture of other public sector negotiations that are coming soon. It is not just the nurses and the health care workers, he suggested to us, it is going to be the teachers and it is going to be municipal workers, it is going to be the physicians, to still stick to the health care sector, it is going to be the general Civil Service.

[Page 5914]

Well, you know what, he is right. Of course, there are going to be those negotiations and those negotiations will take place and we will see where they get to.

[11:30 a.m.]

The ads that they run keep indicating that their offer to the nurses is about $100 million. The exact figure, according to the minister, is $98.4 million. Well, that's fine, but they're saying that that is already budgeted for, that is already in their accounts this year, no problem. They're not complaining about that. That's their offer. They are costing out the request from the nurses, which they're calling a demand, at $53 million. That is $53 million on top of the $98.4 million. Well, maybe the minister is right, maybe he is not. He hasn't given any details of that calculation. It will be interesting to see it. What he hasn't calculated and what he hasn't given details of is the full range of health sector and other public sector settlements that they expect. If they think that the money isn't there, let them give details. It is not appropriate, it is not convincing, it won't convince us, it won't convince the public for the minister just to wave his hands around and say we can't afford it.

When it comes to money, we exist here in this House to look at the details. That's one of the main things that we do. We go through the books in the budget estimates every year and we look at multi-year projections. Indeed, the government was elected, part of their platform was their multi-year projections. That is one of the mainstays of their policy platform. Let them give details. It is not so hard. We know that there must be people in their departments who have done those calculations for them. They have to have done those calculations or the minister wouldn't be in a position to try to say that they can't afford it. So he has got to have some numbers somewhere. Let him share those numbers with us. I am looking forward to it. We could engage on something like that. What you can't engage with is when the minister waves his hands around and says trust me, believe me, I don't really want to give you any details, but here is the situation.

At this point, of course, the government has no credibility with which to deal on something like that and when it comes to money, where you can do the projections in terms of salaries because you know the number of employees, you know the existing level of pay, you can do the projections based on several scenarios if you wish. It is entirely possible to do this. So it is not beyond their abilities to do. Instead, they just say it is too much, we can't afford it and, again, I say phooey, and I say phooey to the minister.

Both of those two ministers have attempted to say that public safety is one of the issues here as well as money. They're not fooling anyone on this one. Everyone knows that this is really about money and an interesting small piece of overlap in thinking, we actually heard this morning from the honourable member for Richmond, a casual slur addressed from him at this Party, saying that we would be happy if there were strikes, saying that nothing makes the NDP happier than when people go out on strike. Well, it is exactly the kind of casual slur we have come to expect from the member for Richmond but, do you know what, it is not

[Page 5915]

true, we reject it. No one likes a strike and I will explain to the ministers again why it is that no one likes one.

It is just as clear as it could possibly be. From the perspective of any employer, they don't want their workplace shut down. If it is in the private sector, if workers are off the job, then they are not producing the goods or services that keep money flowing into the firm and on which their profits are based. So an employer in the private sector doesn't like it. An employer in the public sector doesn't like it when their workplace is shut down and do you know why they don't like it? It is because ultimately they get complaints from the electorate and that's especially the case, and it isn't going to be so ultimately if the health care sector has reduced services due to a work stoppage. There is public pressure now but, do you know what, that's the way the system works. So the employers in the public sector don't like work stoppages either and, of course, the employees don't like work stoppages in either the private sector or the public sector because all the time they're out on strike, they don't receive wages.

So, of course, they don't like it. No one likes strikes, neither employers nor employees, and do you know what, it is public policy in this province that downing tools and going off the job is not desirable. It is there as part of the fundamental thinking of the Trade Union Act of this province that people are not supposed to resolve disputes whether to get a new collective agreement or during the life of a collective agreement by either, if you're an employer, locking people out or, if you're an employee, walking off the job. That's prohibited. If a collective agreement is in place, the Trade Union Act says employees can't deal with disputes in the workplace by walking off the job. What they have to do is file a grievance and if they're not satisfied with how the grievance is dealt with, then they can go to arbitration, a nice, neutral, independent decision maker.

That's part of the Trade Union Act as it exists right now. Much more germane to what we're dealing with here now is the anti-strike philosophy and anti-lockout philosophy of the Trade Union Act when it comes to negotiating a new collective agreement. So here is the first thing that the Trade Union Act provides. It says that when the collective agreement expires, the parties have to negotiate, and as long as they're negotiating, the old collective agreement remains in force. It is not as if all bets are off, no rules exist, there is an extension of the life of the old collective agreement. So there is a framework. The next thing the Trade Union Act says is that there has to be bargaining in good faith.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member allow for an introduction?

MR. EPSTEIN: Absolutely.

[Page 5916]

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

MR. MARK PARENT: I thank the honourable member. Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce, I am not sure if she is still here, Karen Walsh. Is Karen Walsh in the gallery? She is a psychology technician, 4.5 years of service, who moved to Halifax. She took less pay to work here and is here to express her concern about Bill No. 68. I don't know if she is here. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We will certainly welcome her when she does arrive, if she is not here now and I thank the honourable member for the introduction.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I was explaining what it is that is a feature of the Trade Union Act that militates against strikes and lockouts. I was pointing out that one of the features is the requirement that there be bargaining in good faith and the Labour Relations Board exists in order to police that. Furthermore, if bargaining doesn't work, people can't, again, lock out their employees and employees can't go out on strike. What has to happen is that a professional conciliator from the Department of Labour has to be called in in order to try to knock heads together and reach an agreement.

If that doesn't work, then the conciliator has to file a report and it is only after that that there is a countdown to a strike. Furthermore, the union has to take a strike vote. Their employees have to mandate the strike. All of these are hurtles that are part of the mechanisms that are built into the Trade Union Act as it exists right now pursuant to a philosophy that says cessation of work in any workplace is undesirable. So there are a lot of factors that already militate against strikes and lockouts. The Act is not perfect. There are many changes one would wish to see but, do you know what, in this respect, when it comes to the provisions that deal with the process of trying to get a collective agreement, they're pretty good. They're pretty good, and it is even open to the minister to call for the services of a mediator. A mediator has somewhat extra powers to try to arrange for the parties to reach agreement.

Well, this is what is in place. This is what is in place now. It is a good system and we should stick with it and there should be no arbitrary interference with the kind of system that we have in place now and the government is far from justifying, even remotely, what it is that it is doing here. So, I say, that it is still open to the government to withdraw this bill. Even though we're now at the stage of third reading, that is the only appropriate thing for the government to do because negotiating in this atmosphere is counterproductive. We know it is counterproductive because we saw what this bill did to the negotiations that were going on with the health care workers. They reached a tentative agreement at the bargaining table between the employers and the union representatives. The union representatives recommended to their membership but between the time they did that and the time there was a vote, Bill No. 68 got introduced and the membership voted the tentative agreement down.

[Page 5917]

We heard at the Law Amendments Committee, from one of the negotiators, we asked what was wrong with the agreement you worked out at the bargaining table, why was it rejected by your members? What didn't they like? She told us they probably didn't like any part of it. What they didn't like was Bill No. 68. They felt their bargaining process was being interfered with, that the health care system was being interfered with, that the government was showing contempt and disrespect for health care workers and they weren't about to put up with it. So the government's heavy-handed, bumbling interference with the labour relations in the health care sector as manifested in Bill No. 68, has been counterproductive already. The only thing for them to do is withdraw the bill.

Now, we will keep saying this to the members over there until they do it. Now the choice is going to be theirs - they can withdraw the bill, they can vote it down, they can pass it, but the choice is theirs. Now if they do go ahead and pass it, the consequences will be counterproductive for labour relations in the health care sector. The consequences will be counterproductive for labour relations throughout the whole public sector and the consequences will be counterproductive for each of them because Nova Scotians will know what to do when the time comes.

This is old ground. Virtually every address that has come forward about Bill No. 68, this kind of criticism I have just been laying out, perhaps with different variations, has been made of Bill No. 68.

I want to turn to something that I have not heard anyone else talk about yet. This has to do with a constitutional law problem having to do with Bill No. 68. Now I have to say that constitutional law was not one of those subjects I found the most fascinating when I was at law school. Everyone knows that in those days there was just one textbook on constitutional law. It is about 1,000 very densely packed pages by a University of Toronto law professor Bora Laskin. Bora Laskin subsequently, of course, was a labour arbitrator, he was a judge of the Ontario Court of Appeal, he was a judge of the Supreme Court of Canada and, indeed, he was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. Bora Laskin, because of his textbook, had a nickname. Generations of law students, because of his text, because of the dryness of the material, knew him as "Boring Laskin". So many of us didn't actually learn as much constitutional law as we might have in the past.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Not you though, right?

MR. EPSTEIN: Well, my colleague, the member for Timberlea-Prospect, is suggesting that this might not have been one of my failings but I might as well fess up, I think it was. I am grateful to the Minister of Justice for my experience of his government in the last two years. I am grateful because you can hardly turn around in this Chamber but some member of his government is introducing a bill that is clearly unconstitutional in some form, so I have been driven to learn more constitutional law now. I am grateful to the Minister of Justice and his colleagues for affording me this opportunity.

[Page 5918]

Now I don't purport to be an expert, by any means, on all aspects of constitutional law but I have been doing my best to learn. All of us who are lawyers come with some understanding of constitutional law questions. I have been looking at this bill and considering what might be the constitutional law difficulties. You know what? This bill runs smack dab up against the equality provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms of this country. Section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms lists various areas of prohibited discrimination. One of them is it prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.

[11:45 a.m.]

Now let's just think about that for a moment. The Charter of Rights is a constitutional document. A constitutional document means that it is a law according to which you measure other laws. That is what the Charter of Rights and the Constitution Act say. They say that laws that are inconsistent with the Charter are of no force and effect. They say that anyone can go to an appropriate tribunal and challenge the laws if they think they are of no force and effect by reason of violation of things like the Charter of Rights.

What I am saying to the government is that they are setting themselves up for a lawsuit here that is going to allege discrimination on the basis of sex. I have to say that when I look at the cases that have already been decided under the Charter and on similar kinds of grounds, I think there is a good case. Here is how it is going to go. You have to look not just at what a particular Act says it is doing. Of course Bill No. 68 doesn't say we are discriminating against women. But you know what? It doesn't have to say that. The question is the effect - what is the effect of a bill?

So what do we have here? What we have here is a bill that picks out, from among all the workers in the Province of Nova Scotia, two groups of employees. It picks out nurses, 96 per cent or 97 per cent female and it picks out health care workers, 80 per cent female. It says to those workers, we are going to introduce a bill that will regulate your labour relations in a way that is different from the way labour relations are regulated for any other comparable group - any other group at all - in the Province of Nova Scotia.

I remind the government that you have to look at the effect of legislation, so here is how it will go. The government will be called upon to justify what it is doing. They will say, well, it had to do with public health and safety. Then the plaintiffs are going to say, well wait a minute, what about correctional officers, a largely male group, did you do anything about them? What about police officers, a largely male group, did you do anything about them? What about the people who work in other parts of the public sector that might have something to do with public health and safety, did you deal with all of them?

[Page 5919]

The government is not going to be able to maintain that position. So I suspect that the government is going to have a hard time justifying what it has done here. They will say well, it is irrelevant that these people are female, it has nothing to do with it. At that point you are into a very interesting series of cases.

Again, I have to thank the Minister of Justice, and I suppose in this case particularly the Minister of Health who introduced Bill No. 68, because he prompted me to go off and actually read up, swot up on this area of the law. I have had a wonderful time. I have been reading quite a fascinating book, starting off with statistics for lawyers. This is a book by Bruce Levin, who I happen to know is head of the Department of Statistics at Columbia University in New York. Now this is primarily an American book. What is interesting about this book is that they set out how this kind of case proceeds. Now they are using American examples but they go through how it is that you look at probability and how you look at regression analysis.

Now regression analysis - and I will table the extracts here, Mr. Speaker. I am referring to a book so I have had copies made of the pages I am referring to - is a statistical technique developed 100 years ago by Sir Francis Galton. It had to do with his studies of the heights of parents and their offspring. This technique has become standard statistical fare. What they do is they try to control for variables in order to determine what exactly is going on in a complex situation. So what they do in regression analysis is they say, in response to allegations, typically of discrimination lawsuits, often focused on unequal pay, can we explain why it is that a group of employees, female, black, whatever, why they are being paid differently than their male cohorts?

If the employer says, oh well, it is because of their experience, because of their senority, because of their qualifications, because the kind of work they do is sort of different from the other group, statisticians are now able to control for that. They can look in detail at the qualifications at the workplace and they can assign weights and they can control for that and they can narrow down what component of the difference in salary is attributable to those factors and what differences in salary are left unexplained. If they are left unexplained and the only other reasonable explanation is its distinction on prohibited gounds, then, statistically, that emerges, statistically, such cases abound, and statistically, employers often find themselves in great trouble.

So when a Page comes back, I will table the extracts from this book, Statistics for Lawyers and I hope that the government members take the opportunity to read up on this. Let me tell you that there is a whole variety of Canadian cases that have dealt with this kind of situation. It is not just that the law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. You certainly can't have and this bill, of course, doesn't say that a male nurse is going to be paid more than a female nurse, it doesn't say that. It doesn't say that. We know, of course, that would be outright illegal; the government would know that that would be outright illegal. But, again, the law looks at the effects.

[Page 5920]

They look, for example, and this is what is also illegal under the Charter of Rights, it is not only illegal to pay people differently based on sex, it is illegal to pay people differently if they are doing work of equal value. If one employee group is female, predominately, and one employee group is male, predominantely, that is prohibited discrimination, not only under the Charter of Rights, but under the Human Rights Codes under the Bill of Rights. Cases abound in which this kind of complaint has been filed and in which this kind of complaint has been upheld.

The first complaint, and I tabled this the other day, of this sort was in Canada federally in 1979, against the federal government, in which a group of employees that were librairans, predominately female, compared themselves to a group of employees, historical researchers, primarily male and when the regression analysis was done, the federal Human Rights Tribunal found that the women were underpaid. That was the start of more than 20 years of findings of this case.The point is that it is possible for Human Rights Tribunals and the courts to compare different employee groups, those that are predominately male with those that are predominantly female and in appropriate cases, come to the conclusion that is what is known as systemic discrimination has been practiced. That is what I am saying is going on here. I am saying that we are seeing a case of systemic discrimination.

Again, I want to thank both ministers, the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Health, for expanding my personal horizons when it comes to questions underlying what it is that we are dealing with here because I had the occasion to go back and read some of the early feminist theory literature. One of the early pieces of feminist theory literature is, in fact, written by a man, John Stuart Mill. John Stuart Mill is famous for his essay on liberty, but he should be equally famous for his essay called The Subjection of Women. This essay was written in 1869 and I read into the record the other day, a small extract and I tabled the larger extracts from this essay. I am going to read some of this into the record again because it is important that the members opposite remember this.

Here is what John Stuart Mill says in The Subjection of Women. "The object of this Essay is to explain as clearly as I am able, the grounds of an opinion which I have held from the very earliest period when I had formed any opinions at all on social or political matters, and which, instead of being weakened or modified, has been constantly growing stronger by the progress of reflection and the experience of life. That the principle which regulates the existing social relations between the two sexes - the legal subordination of one sex to the other - is wrong in itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other."

Now I am going to pause at this point in my quotation to draw the attention of the members opposite to one particular phrase in the middle of that paragraph. It is, "the legal subordination of one sex to the other." In other words, the law itself is often the instrument

[Page 5921]

of the subjection of the female sex. That is important to note, especially in the context of this bill.

There is one other passage. and there are longer passages. I can see I am almost out of time. There are longer passages that I would like to read into the record, but I will read a shorter passage, again, if I may. "In struggles for political emancipation, everybody knows how often its champions are bought off by bribes, or daunted by terrors. In the case of women, each individual of the subject-class is in a chronic state of bribery and intimidation combined." Bribery and intimidation, what we are talking about is the workplace and the pay. I think there is much in this essay by John Stuart Mill that the members opposite should contemplate because they could only profit by thinking about this.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member talked about bribery and intimidation. I am sure that he is not suggesting it is any members of this House, because all members are honourable and I would ask the honourable member to ensure that he is not suggesting that any honourable members in this House would take part in such acts.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, thank you for your intervention. Indeed, the whole point was to direct the attention of the members opposite to a piece of historical literature so that they might contemplate it and think about it. On the particular point that you raised, the question is not malice of any individuals, certainly not members of this House. The point is really what is known as systemic discrimination, that what might appear from a system as a whole. That is how it has been interpreted. I certainly wasn't attempting to refer to the malice of any individual.

So, Mr. Speaker, one of the problems I think all of us who have struggled with this bill so far have had is that there has been fairly limited opportunity to bring forward a number of amendments to this bill. You will be aware, of course, that as we dealt with it in the Law Amendments Committee and as we dealt with it in Committee of the Whole House on Bills, particularly Committee of the Whole House on Bills, no amendments really managed to find their way through the thick of the debate onto the floor. That is regrettable. I don't know if there is still the opportunity to do that, but what I hope and I think many members of my caucus hope is that there will be the opportunity for the government to rethink its position. Our fundamental hope is that the more time that goes by, the more mature the reflection of the government members will be.

So to give them the opportunity, Mr. Speaker, I move that the question be now put. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto has moved that the previous question be put. Are there any interveners on the motion of the honourable member?

[Page 5922]

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: I am speaking on the motion, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: No, order, please. Are there members who want to speak on the motion itself that the honourable member has put, whether or not it should stand? What I am asking is, you are speaking on the question, but I want to know, obviously the honourable Government House Leader was up at the same time as the honourable member for Lunenburg West. I am not asking if the honourable member wants to speak for his hour, which I know fully he will. I am asking if there are any members' interventions in regard to the motion the member has made. I am questioning the motion, whether, in fact, it should stand or not.

[12:00 noon]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, the tradition is that when the question has been put, if the Opposition Parties don't agree that the question should be put now, they are entitled to speak on the question. The member for Lunenburg West was just exercising his right to speak, as the next allocated speaker in the debate. That is all he was doing, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. I realize there were two members on the floor at once and I was sure that some people wanted to (Interruption)

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: I have nothing to say on the motion. I simply know what the motion does, I know what the Opposition is trying to do and that is fine. If they want the strike to proceed, fair ball.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I have heard that argument from Government House Leaders and others. If the government doesn't want the House to go ahead, then of course the government has options, like getting back to the bargaining table, withdrawing Bill No. 68. This government has been blaming everybody but themselves for all that has been happening. They have been telling the health care workers they don't trust them.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto has moved the previous question and I did have an opportunity earlier, as I knew it was going to be moved, to do the research and it is obvious that any member can move the previous question so now members will have an opportunity to speak to the previous question.

[Page 5923]

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, these are very tough and sad days in Nova Scotia, days that will be remembered for quite some time in this House on the issue of Bill No. 68. Nova Scotians will remember this Bill No. 68 . . .

MR. TIMOTHY OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order on the motion from the honourable member. If I may rise on the point of order; I think it should be made perfectly clear to the people of Nova Scotia exactly what is going on here. This government put Bill No. 68 in to attempt to avert a major health strike. The Opposition have now moved to ensure that this strike goes on for two days, if not three, Mr. Speaker. It is very important that the people of Nova Scotia understand (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It is not a point of order.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid on a point of order.

MR. JOHN HOLM: I wish to respond to the point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: It was not a point of order.

MR. HOLM: It wasn't even a very good point, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, this is a very sad day in Nova Scotia's history in regard to the fact that we are now dealing with Bill No. 68 and for the last number of days we have been literally begging this government to reconsider its position on Bill No. 68. We have told this government clearly, on behalf of Nova Scotians who have contacted us, that this bill before us is an infringement on the rights and the freedoms of individuals with regard to the collective bargaining process. We have expressed to the government that Bill No. 68, if nothing else, puts a stake in the heart of the collective agreement and the collective bargaining process. It puts a stake in the heart of those who have worked in the health care system much of their professional life. It puts a stake in the heart of those who believe that by working for the health care system that they, in turn, would be able to provide quality health care and be appreciated and respected for that, whether they are nurses or health professionals in the Province of Nova Scotia.

This government has known for a long time that Bill No. 68 was really their agenda. They have known for a long time, when negotiations were underway in the province and they were negotiating with the health care workers in the Province of Nova Scotia, they were negotiating on the basis of a collective agreement. You know those workers and those individual nurses and others who are part of that negotiation, were there on the basis that they

[Page 5924]

were being treated with respect and that there are fair players at the table. They were legitimately at the table arguing and debating their positions. I can imagine how they must have felt when, this week, the realization that not only did the government never intend to negotiate in good faith, they had done enough polling - research as they call it - prior to the negotiations and during the negotiations to know exactly what their strategies and plans were.

This government understood exactly what was going to happen in this House and exactly what the debates would be long before we even realized we would be in this situation as Opposition members. The nurses and health care workers in this province were negotiating on the basis of a fair deal. All along, this government had known that there was an alternative agenda, an alternative agenda to what they were trying to achieve. In fact, they said, well, we are going to say the amount of what we think the package should be. They went into negotiations knowing that this is what they were offering and then, they turn around and say this is as far as we are going to go and, if there is anybody who is going to negotiate harder, then what we are going to do is simple, we are going to do some polling to find out how Nova Scotians feel if posed the question in the right way. So we will be able to stand up and say, this is what Nova Scotians want and try to blame the nurses, try to blame the health care workers, try to blame anybody who is speaking on their behalf, as we are being requested to do so.

So they are doing the polling. Then they drafted Bill No. 68. It was interesting at last night's Question Period at 2:00 a.m. or 3:00 a.m. when the question was posed to the Minister of Human Resources. You could take it that the minister admitted that it was through Human Resources that the polling - or to paraphrase, the comment, I think, was something about the government's research being done.

The government's research was sanctioned by somebody in that government. That research and polling that was done was very specific; it asked very specific questions relative to Bill No. 68. In fact, it is not just by guess and by golly that this happened, this happened because this government had an alternative agenda. This government knew its position. So then we asked the questions last night and members from this side of the House asked a question of the minister because, prior to that, we heard the Premier and we heard the Minister of Health say that they had known not a thing about the polling that was being done back in May. The minister confirms today that that is true. He never knew. He had no idea that there was polling being done with health-related questions.

Corporate Communications does polling and the minister was right. Back in 1993, we would ask questions of Nova Scotians about certain issues. But I don't ever remember when questions were being posed about a specific department, that the minister of that department was not aware that those types of questions were being asked. I don't remember if a question was being asked relative to education, in a very specific set of questions about how Nova Scotians feel towards education, whether it is against teachers or about class sizes or about the number of hours in a day or whatever the government wanted to do, that the Minister of

[Page 5925]

Education would not know the question or would not be aware that Corporate Communications was asking those questions.

I don't remember if there was a day when there were questions being asked of the Department of Natural Resources that the minister would not be aware or somebody in his department that would be briefing him or maybe, I just thought, maybe what they are doing is allowing the EAs to interface on that type of strategy. Maybe it is the EAs, the executive assistant to the Minister of Health, and I hope I can catch the attention of the Minister of Health to see whether it was the EA that was actually doing the polling on behalf of the minister. I know the Minister of Health has two or three executive assistants. They are very fine individuals, but he seems to have two or three. Maybe one of the EAs for the Minister of Health said, we don't want you to know what is going on, but we are going to be posing some questions and maybe it was the executive assistants that are doing the work on behalf of the minister to get those questions done.

I can't imagine the Minister of Finance not being aware of questions that are being posed by Corporate Research, relevant to either a budget or a major piece of legislation that the Minister of Finance is working on. The Minister of Finance might want to find out how Nova Scotians feel about the fact that bracket creep is still there and that they are now clawing money out of the pockets of Nova Scotians. He might very well want to know how much do Nova Scotians know about bracket creep or something like that. But I can't imagine those questions being asked unless the minister was aware.

We have the Minister of Health saying, I know nothing, Mr. Speaker. I hear nothing. I see nothing. I see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.

AN HON. MEMBER: Well, I don't know about the speak part.

MR. DOWNE: Well, maybe. Then the Premier says, I know nothing, I see nothing, I hear nothing about those questions in that poll. It is hard to believe, isn't it? The Minister of Health just said to me, it is hard to believe. That is why I am talking. That is why I am saying this because, yes, Jamie, it is hard to believe. It is hard to believe that you did not know or the Premier did not know or, in fact, Jane, the Minister of Education, didn't know, the Minister of Finance didn't know. Dale Madill knew. Is that the next Cabinet Minister? Maybe that is the next new Cabinet Minister that is going to be put in in a new shuffle.

AN HON. MEMBER: See if he wants to run for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. DOWNE: Maybe, Mr. Madill would like to run and get into Cabinet. Mr. Madill knew. So how would Mr. Madill know about this research, or polling, as I would call it, and the powerful minister and the Premier, the most powerful person in the Province of Nova Scotia, didn't know, but his staff knew. So then the question is, is it the staff's incompetency, did not share that information or did they just simply say, listen. Why do we want to share

[Page 5926]

this with the obvious players that are going to be asked the question? Why don't we just do it and not share it with the Minister of Health and/or the Premier and/or maybe the Minister of Finance, and we will do this on our own, just to make sure that the bill being posed and proposed and being drafted will have some backup. So maybe they did it saying that they didn't want the Premier to stand up and say yes I did know about this. So if they didn't want the Premier to stand up, because they know he would be forced to explain what is going on, and/or the Minister of Health - ignorance is bliss sometimes - so they didn't know.

[12:15 p.m.]

Well, I would think the fact that they are spending taxpayers' money on polling that is very specific about Bill No. 68 and very specific about the fact that this bill is going to have a dramatic effect - and as I said back a number of days ago, Bill No. 68 could be the beginning of the unravelling of the health care system as we know it in the Province of Nova Scotia - so the research or polling that was done was done on the basis of trying to make sure they protect their Premier and their minister, that then poses the question, if the minister and the Premier are not aware of some very important information critical to the development of Bill No. 68, in fact it later became known as exactly the words the government is using in spinning out Bill No. 68, the questions that were asked and how they are asked, they are actually the exact wording that is being used to spin Bill No. 68 to the public of Nova Scotia, so if the ministers were not aware, one would question that.

As the Minister of Health said it is hard to believe, then it is the backroom persons in the government who are calling the shots. Either way you look at it, this government is out of control. The ministers don't know what is going on; the Premier doesn't know what is going on. The staffers know what is going on, and the backroom persons who are calling the shots know what is going on. They don't have to sit here in the front row to be asked, but I am sure that the media might ask them. So if they don't know, then the backroom persons know, and in either case it shows that this government is out of control; this government has an agenda that is not forthright with Nova Scotians.

I tried this morning to phone one of the nurses who is actually part of the negotiations. She was obviously on shift and couldn't be reached to talk on the phone, to find out how frustrated they must feel when they sat down earnestly and honestly to debate and discuss the issue of the collective agreement, only to know a few weeks, over a month ago, this government had commissioned polling that would try to put Bill No. 68 on the side of the public - no intention to argue and debate and to negotiate in good faith.

Ladies and gentlemen, that is the type of government we are dealing with today. That is why Bill No. 68 is so frustrating, such a regressive piece of legislation, such an infringement on the rights and it lacks respect and dignity to the health care workers and to the nurses in the Province of Nova Scotia.

[Page 5927]

You know I am sure there are a number of people in this province today who are at home saying, what is going to happen here? We're down to the wire. What is going to happen? The government is doing their spin, they are spinning out their side of the story.

Remember the $100 million, so anybody at home, sitting back, will say, my gosh, they are going to give them a $100 million this year, that's a lot of money. They are not going to get $100 million this year, it is not $100 million this year that we are even talking about, it is $126 million that the government has set aside for the purposes of negotiations and restructuring of government. This agreement that is at the table is not $100 million this year, but yet that is what they are trying to spin out.

The public back home are worried. They care about nurses and health care workers. They are either related, directly or indirectly, to them; they have been in a hospital or they have loved ones or themselves who have been touched by a nurse or a health care provider in a very special way, at a time when somebody is scared, in a hospital, or going through a very traumatic time, the nurses provide more than structured health care. They deliver a sense of compassion and warmth and caring that you can't find in a tablet or a pill or a needle. They provide a sense of confidence; they provide a sense of caring and compassion; they provide a sense of love for a human being, in a broader context. That word is not used in this House very often.

I note that the comments being made and hurled across are very frustrating; it is a very frustrating time in here. It don't think I have ever been as frustrated about a bill as I am about this. I don't think I have been as frustrated about the fact that colleagues in this House are not bad people and yet tempers are at an all-time high - lack of sleep maybe? Heat of the day, heat of the debate? Things are said and I think many of us will regret some comments or apologize for comments made.

I think we have to go beyond that. What we need to really get at is the debate of the specific aspect of what this bill is all about. So we realize that the people at home are moms and dads. My mom and dad on the weekend are asking questions; everybody is asking questions, I guess, why am I here debating this bill? I don't want to see a strike, personally. I can't speak for everybody in this House, but I can say that I don't believe that my family would like to see a strike in the health care system. Friends I have talked to say they don't want to see a strike. None of us want to see a strike.

The government is turning this around to say that it is all the fault of the nurses and the health care workers, or us or anybody else on Bill No. 68. The reality is that this government has a choice, they have a majority government and they have a choice. The choices they have are: they can go back to the table and negotiate in true good faith. They can pick up this bill and say that we will go back to the table and try to negotiate a fair arrangement between us both. If we cannot find a solution here, what we can do is have binding arbitration to allow for the rights of both to be respected and upheld.

[Page 5928]

You know the Premier is going around the provinces, talking about how we can become self-reliant in Nova Scotia. The Premier is going around talking to other Premiers, and undoubtedly to the Prime Minister and others, about the issue of equalization. It is laudable to try to get more money for Nova Scotia at a time when we have the offshore, to build self-reliance and opportunities of growth, to have parity with health and education with Central Canada.

There would be nothing better for the Premier if he had an ability to go to binding arbitration, whether it is through equalization or some other form, to get a solution to the problem that he is facing. He would love to be able to have binding arbitration on the debate that he is raging with Ottawa on some of the principles. He would love to have binding arbitration when it came to trying to find a solution to a problem that he believes fundamentally is wrong. He would love to be able to have binding arbitration on being able to represent the people he has been elected to represent in a better way. He would not argue binding arbitration at that point.

How would he feel about going to Ottawa to fight for the rights of Nova Scotians only to find out that somebody else has brought in a bill that shut him down? He would scream with outrage and rightfully so. He would blame Ottawa for not being a government of good faith to the people of Nova Scotia and rightfully so. Yet we are here, today, talking about nurses and health care workers and Bill No. 68 in the same context, trying to use an analogy to deal with this issue. This bill is a regressive piece of legislation that without question will have a very serious negative impact and effect on health care delivery. The lack of trust and morale amongst the workers will be at an all-time low.

So family members who are at home wondering what is going to happen, we explain to them that really it is up to the government at this point to make the first real legitimate move. They could have negotiated in good faith. They could have bargained in good faith and if everything came unglued, they could have gone to binding arbitration and found a solution because I don't believe anybody wants to strike but, you know, when you force people and push them against the wall hard enough, then I think the government has gone too far. The government will say that once this bill goes through, everything will be okay, the public will be safe. Nothing can be further from the truth.

This system that the Minister of Health has developed over the last 600 or 700 days is predicated on the basis that if people work overtime, it will sustain itself, not very well, but it will not work if people just worked the normal working hours that they were paid to do. I believe the Minister of Health has indicated that to this House and I wouldn't want to misspeak on behalf of the minister, but I believe that is what he has indicated. In fact, we have had nurses come here, and one, in particular, told me that for two years she never had a paycheck that did not have overtime in it. So they are saying we don't want to work overtime all the time.

[Page 5929]

The Premier's comments, yesterday, indicated what is at the heart of the problem of the health care delivery system in Nova Scotia. What is at the heart is the fact that nurses and health care workers come to work only to realize that not everybody is at that shift and so that means they have to work harder, more stress, more pressure on them, but the problem doesn't go away after the shift is over. They go home only to know that their pager or their phone is going to ring again because they are short of staff - will you please come in for another shift?

[12:30 p.m.]

So the Premier and the minister have both acknowledged the fact we don't have enough nurses to be able to handle the health care delivery system as it should be handled. We don't have enough health care workers who are doing the evaluations on the tests to do the job properly for Nova Scotians. So health is like a house of cards. It is like a hospital built out of a deck of cards, the first real wind and it is going to fly apart. So what does the government do? It brings in Bill No. 68, a hurricane on that house of cards that this government has built for a health care delivery system in Nova Scotia, predicated on the basis that everybody who works there has to work overtime to sustain itself.

So they brought in hurricane Bill No. 68 to blow her down and I am trying to think why would they do that? Why would they have done that? The polling data that they researched or the polling data that was done prior to it indicated to them some aspect of how they felt Nova Scotians felt. They indicated that they had a 50-50 chance to get the support of Nova Scotians for doing this, but the spin doctors and the backroom persons, who seem to be aware of what is going on more than the Premier and the Minister of Health do, said what we need to make sure is that we sell Bill No. 68 on the basis of health and safety because all of a sudden, if we do that, the polling data that we have will come together. If we sell the issue of Bill No. 68 on health and safety, the polling data that we have will substantiate those claims and we can sell that to Nova Scotians, that we are standing here on the basis of Bill No. 68 being a bill that will preserve health and safety in Nova Scotia. There is nothing further from the truth than that statement.

I have tried to set the stage by stating that, number one, the minister and the Premier have stated that the heart of this problem is the fact that nurses are overworked, health care workers are overworked. They're overstressed. They don't have a life as the term goes and so the problem is not the nurses, the problem is the lack of nurses, or the lack of health care workers that this government promised it would deliver when they ran in the election just a short two years ago and, by the way, for $46 million it would be done. I never ever want them to forget the biggest mistruth ever made in an election campaign was the $46 million fix for health care in Nova Scotia. All your problems will go away. (Interruptions)

[Page 5930]

Yes, maybe people are looking at that now and saying, well, maybe there was a little bit of logic in that because you're now at $300 million to $400 million of borrowed money and you still haven't got the problem resolved. I know that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works does not want me to go on about the last election campaign and what he would promise in his election campaign and all that kind of stuff. I don't want to go there. I want to talk about Bill No. 68 and I want to talk about health delivery. I want to talk about the plight of the nurses and the health care workers and their frustration.

AN HON. MEMBER: You're jealous.

MR. DOWNE: No, I am not jealous. I am frustrated and I am very . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: That member thinks this is funny.

MR. DOWNE: So the stage is being set now by this government backbench, the spin doctors, backroom persons who are controlling the government's agenda because, obviously, they don't want the Premier or the minister to know anything. They don't want them to know anything because they don't want to have them mislead Nova Scotians, I guess, in regard to Bill No. 68 and the research. So they keep them in the backroom, they keep them in the black room, they keep them in the dark so then they can go out and say, now, here is the message. Here is your message. Here are your key points of message. Bill No. 68 is health and safety.

So we heard that day in and day out, health and safety, Bill No. 68, health and safety, Bill No. 68. Well, if Bill No. 68 is health and safety, why are the nurses in the Province of Nova Scotia saying they are not going to work overtime because Bill No. 68 has taken away their rights? I believe what you are going to see between the nurses and the health care workers because of Bill No. 68 is a reduction of health and safety in the health care system in Nova Scotia possibly. As I said yesterday, maybe they should have posed that question to a judge to evaluate, and realizing what this whole package has been, from the research, from the polling to the bill, to knowing that they don't want to sit and negotiate fairly, or they don't want binding arbitration whether this government has worked in good faith and whether or not Bill No. 68 is truly about health and safety.

Mr. Speaker, I would say to this House that it was not about health and safety. The bill was all about their financial agenda. That's what it was about. They didn't trust the negotiating process. They didn't want to. They put in what they figured was it and that's all there is to say. Yet I remember in this House when the same Premier, who was then the Leader on this side of the House for the Progressive Conservative Party, when we were in a minority government situation, do you remember those days? Being in a minority government situation is very much like being in business with two partners that both want you to fail. Can you figure that one out?

[Page 5931]

It is like being in business. I will say it one more time to the Chair so he can figure this out. It is like being in business with two partners who want you to fail, it isn't going to go very far, because neither one of those Opposition Parties wanted that minority government to work, but besides that, we were in a very tight situation in negotiations and the then Leader, now Premier, made it very clear to the public, as he stood over here and as he railed at us and as he made his points, and other members who are there in the front bench who were here at the time, is to go to binding arbitration they would say, negotiate. If you can't negotiate, go to binding arbitration.

They said do everything that we are talking about here today - reminding him of what they had said just a few years ago but - oh, my gosh, things changed. They are in government now and they think differently. Well, this government is spending a huge amount of money trying to convince Nova Scotians that Bill No. 68 is good for them. They failed to remind the people how damaging this course of action truly is and at the end of the day, whatever happens, it will be on their watch, it will be at their feet, the decisions that they have made. This isn't about decisions that were made in 1975. This isn't about decisions made in 1995. This is about decisions that are made today, 2001, by this government. It is their agenda, their bill, their way of doing things. It is their attitude and it is their contempt to the collective bargaining process.

This tough person approach to health care workers is backfiring on the government as I speak and, as I indicated yesterday, in an article on the weekend by Mr. McLeod, who is the money editor for The Daily News, that what this government has tried to do would be unacceptable in any private sector, whether unionized or non-unionized, and he also talks about, if they ever went ahead with their draconian laws, would not be right. He goes on to say, "In addition, it was tactically stupid to try to demonize health-care workers, . . .", that this government is trying to do. These are not my words, these are the printed words. This government, in Mr. McLeod's view, in reading the articles in the paper, is trying to demonize the health care workers and the nurses in the Province of Nova Scotia. Absolutely shameful.

It goes on to say that, "Too many Nova Scotians have experienced first-hand the role these people play . . .", in providing health care to the people of Nova Scotia. Nurses are not greedy, they are not uncaring, they love and care very much about the work that they do, and the Premier knows that all too well.

But this bill goes beyond the right to strike. We have talked about that as well. Bill No. 68 goes beyond the right to strike in the Province of Nova Scotia. Many Nova Scotians believe that, perhaps, health professionals and nurses shouldn't have the right to strike. These same Nova Scotians, however, are some of the most fair-minded people in the country. If they believe that they shouldn't have the right to strike, they would also believe, in my view, that they should have a right to fair collective agreements and/or binding arbitration.

[Page 5932]

There is a true sense that people believe that if an individual gives up a right, then it should be replaced with something in return. If you are going to ask Nova Scotians to give up a right, then it is only fair that you give them something in return to offset the right that you have taken away from that individual Nova Scotian. This government should have nothing to fear when it comes to binding arbitration.

I know that the Premier has grappled with many challenges in his professional career, but probably none as great as the challenges that he grapples with being Leader of the Government of the Province of Nova Scotia. I say that with the greatest of respect for the position that he holds. I know that the Premier probably has had many nights of wondering and hoping and, I am sure, praying that what he does is right. But I am sure that the Premier knows, as well, that if somebody came to this province and took away his right, then he would demand to have something in return.

This government should have nothing to fear except fear itself. Heaven knows this government has spent a large amount of money telling Nova Scotians that their offer is fair. Well, let's put it to the test. Let's put that offer to the test. What we are saying, what they are saying, what their spin doctors are putting out and what their media clips are saying, let's put it to the test. Considering the high demand for these highly-qualified health care workers, this government is being penny-wise and dollar foolish with Nova Scotians. Think about that for a while, Mr. Minister.

I know you are frustrated, but I am frustrated too. There are nurses in this province who are more frustrated than you and I. There are health care workers in this province who are more frustrated than you and I. Yes, we are putting in long hours, but they do, as well. Their long hours are not a matter of sitting back and listening or standing up and talking, their long hours are dealing with life and death circumstances on an hour-to-hour basis. They are dealing with young children; they are dealing with seniors; they are dealing with young parents; they are dealing with complications that not any one of us would want to be in. They are dealing with decisions that are being made that could affect an individual's future, and they take those very seriously.

[12:45 p.m.]

It is not $100 million a year. Is the Minister of Transportation and Public Works saying $100 million a year? No, he is not. It is $100 million over the life of the contract, and that is a significant difference. Why aren't you telling Nova Scotians it is $20 million or it is $30 million, whatever the figure is? I am getting different numbers. The Minister of Finance says one number, the Premier says another, we are rounding them off, we are doing this and that, whatever the specific number is. He has $126 million that he planned for, for these negotiations. That was part of his strategy when he talks about the restructuring fund. He set aside $126 million for this year, for negotiations . . .

[Page 5933]

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The member opposite is not telling the truth. The $126 million was for negotiations for last year, that were taking place, plus the severances for last year, plus the negotiations for this year. The number included two years of negotiations. The member, who is a former Finance Minister himself, knows that, and for him to say that in this debate during this time is inflammatory, and he should be ashamed of himself.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, that is not a point of order. I tabled the documents in this House that showed when the minister brought his first budget in he projected out the first five or six years of the restructuring fund. This year, as I understand it, there was $126 million allocated in that previous budget for this year's negotiations. (Interruptions) Now, just a minute, Mr. Minister, I listened to you, you listen to me. Okay? You listen to me. You allocated those numbers and I tabled that information to the House.

The next budget comes out, and it shows that there is only $50-some million allocated for restructuring this year. So, I asked the minister the question, why the change of heart? What happened? What was allocated for this year was not last year, it was this year. He said, well, the Minister of Finance should know that we only needed this much money. Then later, on television, he indicated that $70-some million of those dollars was allocated within departments, taken out of the restructuring fund and allocated directly into departments. I wasn't aware of that before; I wasn't aware of that when we were in the Red Chamber talking about this issue; I wasn't aware that that was what had happened. We talked about it then.

So, I asked a very straightforward question to the minister, this is not a trick question, this is not to put him in a box, this is simply a straightforward question. They have $126 million, according to what the minister said on television, that there is $70-some million allocated to the departments for negotiations, plus there is $50-some million in the restructuring fund. My question back, was that there is $126 million for the purposes of negotiations, for research and for restructuring. I asked the question last night, or this morning, to the Premier about that. I said, out of the $126 million, in a broad way, how much of that is allocated for negotiations? The Premier obviously didn't know. That is fair. He should have known but, anyway, we never got the answer.

The minister says to me, previously, I can't tell you how much is allocated for the nurses' strike, because that would tell you what our position is. Fine and fair. I asked the broader question, then tell me, out of the $126 million of which $70-some million has already been allocated to departments for these negotiations, how much of the $126 million is going to be there for negotiations? I have yet to receive the answer. I am sure, at some point, I will.

[Page 5934]

That is what I said, Mr. Minister. That is what I said, and that is not misleading this House. I would ask you to retract your comment about misleading the House.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, on a point or order, the honourable member has made no more sense in this comment than he did in his first one. The restructuring allocations for the second year, when he talks about $126 million, it included all the negotiations which would have happened in the first year, all the severances and the retraining costs that would have happened in the first year, plus the negotiations which would happen in the second year. All of the first year's numbers are allocated to the departments that they would have gone to.

For example, if you negotiated a contract with NSTU, all those costs would go to the appropriate department and what would be left is just the amount of negotiations left for the second year. So for the member to say there is $126 million for negotiations in year two is not the truth, Mr. Speaker. If the member has trouble understanding this, I will be more than prepared to bring my staff over from the Department of Finance to have Finance 101 for the member so he can understand it.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I will be happy to talk to his Finance staff because I am sure they have had a hard time teaching him Finance 101 as well, and we will go on. I want to get in to why we are here on this Bill No. 68, because people in the gallery or on TV are saying this government is misleading Nova Scotians. There is your ad, Mr. Minister. It says $100 million on the table, we have put $100 million on the table for Nova Scotia nurses and health care workers. It is not $100 million this year, it is over the life of the contract. They are doing everything in their power to spin out what they are doing as being more than fair.

Ask the nurses if it is fair. They are the ones who are saying it isn't fair; the health care workers are saying it is not fair. Considering the high demand of these highly qualified health workers in Nova Scotia, this government is being penny-wise and dollar foolish. By treating Nova Scotians with respect, health care professionals would have tried to work on the basis of that respect both ways.

When they find out that they have done research, that they have polled, that they have had this Bill No. 68 in the back room, even with the collective agreements underway, even with the negotiating underway, they felt betrayed. So, Mr. Speaker, make no mistake, the largest single threat to the health and safety of Nova Scotia is Bill No. 68. Let there be no mistake here today as to where that threat is and where that blame should be.

This government is threatening the very foundation of labour/management relationships in the Province of Nova Scotia, and that is their choice. We hear the government, they blame Ottawa. They blame everybody but themselves. They blame nurses, they blame whatever. The bottom line is that at the end of the day, this government is

[Page 5935]

threatening the very foundation of labour/management relations in this province that will have a profound effect in the days and months and years ahead.

While this Premier may view this action and the behaviour of his Cabinet as wise and necessary, all the tactics and items being used will come back to haunt this government. We differ, the Premier and I differ on the issue of Bill No. 68. We have talked about it and in many areas we have commonality and common agreement between the Premier and I on some items. Even the Minister of Finance, who gets a little hot under the collar once in a while, would agree on certain issues. I think his staff would probably tell him that. We differ big time, Mr. Premier, on Bill No. 68.

I have listened to arguments being made on the opposite side and I want to compliment the government for yesterday speaking about their view of Bill No. 68. At least we heard and had a chance to put on the record some of the comments made - well, it is not on the record, that is the ironic part, it is not on the record but at least we heard it and others have heard it. Some of the arguments did not make a lot of sense to me, some did, but at least we heard where they came from.

Sometimes when you hear, when you listen to what they are saying, you can understand their point of view. If they listened to us, hopefully they will understand our point of view. That is what negotiations are all about. Generally you try to find a common ground when you stop to listen to what each other is saying, so you can find a solution. That, in itself, is pretty simple and basic. What this government has not realized is that they were tempted by somebody to bring in a bill that would bring the hammer down upon the nurses and the health care workers in the Province of Nova Scotia and it would not affect their bottom line and somebody sold this government that that would be done on the basis of health and safety.

They are not listening to what others are saying to really want to move this agenda forward. If they were, I think this would be resolved. I believe it would be resolved. I want to thank the countless numbers of people who have appeared before the Law Amendments Committee to share their concerns on Bill No. 68. I have two members I know of from my riding who came, a husband and a wife, one is a nurse and one works in a manufacturing plant. They came to express their concern on Bill No. 68, one from the perspective of a nurse and another from a view of a spouse and what the implication will be on Bill No. 68.

I would like to thank all those who have taken time out of their busy schedules to come, whether they are health providers or nurses. I talked to one, I don't know if she is retired or not, but she was very frustrated to see the state of affairs that this is in now. We had individuals who were young people. We had individuals who utilized the health care system, Nova Scotians. That could have gone on for many days. There were over 500 people who wanted to come to voice their concern and the government did not want to listen to the 400, 500 or 600 people who wanted to come forward. They had heard enough. I beg to say that

[Page 5936]

they had heard enough back in May when they did their poll about how they thought Nova Scotians felt with regard to this situation. They had their minds made up in May, long before we were called back to this House to debate Bill No. 68.

That is what is so frustrating for people in this Chamber and people in the health care system. I would never like to see a strike in the health care system in the Province of Nova Scotia. I would not want to see one. If I were to take away a right of an individual, I would want to try to give some right back. Binding arbitration would be that right back, that offset to the right to strike. Because as you negotiate, if you don't have something to go to the table with, to give authority to, you are not going to be able to negotiate. It is like having your hands cuffed behind you and you walk in the ring with Muhammad Ali. How are you going to dance around there? It isn't going to happen.

AN HON. MEMBER: Rope-a-dope.

MR. DOWNE: Somebody said, rope-a-dope and that is exactly what we have right here, rope-a-dope to this bill. Mr. Speaker, how is my time?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member has until 1:02 p.m.

MR. DOWNE: Three minutes. Well, the Minister of Finance said two and a half.

AN HON. MEMBER: You could tell him about his phony books, his undercalculating of the funds.

MR. DOWNE: That is right. We can talk about the minister. I am not here to talk to the Minister of Finance about finance. I am here talking about Bill No. 68 and the fact that this government had made their mind up long before we ever got to this House, long before we ever saw the face of Bill No. 68, long before we saw nurses crying, expressing their frustration and disbelief of what the government has tried to do to them with regard to their rights and privileges to negotiate in good faith, long before we saw the health care workers standing and cheering, yelling at the government. Not cheering the government, yelling at the government, for their disbelief at what they have done, long before we saw the eyes and the looks of individuals who work in health care for 5, 10, 20, or 25 years, their disgust and their outrage at this government.

[1:00 p.m.]

This all boils down to, I think, this government's mandate of 10 per cent reduction in income tax in the year 2003-04. You know, it is interesting that they are prepared to weigh off the health and safety of Nova Scotians and realize that they have had $0.75 billion of additional revenue coming in to deal with this, then I think it is a serious situation. The priorities of this government should be a balanced priority of fiscal stability, as well as a

[Page 5937]

healthy community and health is a major priority to Nova Scotians from one end of this province to the other. My hope and my prayer will be that this will be resolved in the right way and my hope would be that this government would pull Bill No. 68 and allow the people to go back to the table honestly and earnestly and to be able to come up with a solution that all of us will feel proud to be a Nova Scotian and proud to be a member of this Legislative Assembly. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, here we are on a beautiful day in Nova Scotia and I think it is fair to say that most members here on the Opposition side are here with very heavy hearts at the task that we have had over the past week or so. Because it is a task that ironically, yesterday, the Premier, in his speech, talked about, the phrase that Mackenzie King had used, that we be judged in terms of what it is we prevent, rather than what it is that we do.

That is our task, Mr. Speaker, and it is our task to attempt to prevent Bill No. 68, a profoundly flawed piece of legislation, whose implications will be felt in this province, not only immediately, but for many years to come. The bloody-mindedness of this government as it pursues the passage of Bill No. 68 and its willingness to trample the democratic rights of people to be heard and to participate in voicing their views on Bill No. 68, I think is also something that leaves us not only angry, but certainly, I think, profoundly hurt and saddened by what our very proud democracy in the Province of Nova Scotia has been reduced to at the hands of this government.

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the Premier yesterday, quite closely. I had been here for most of the debate the night before and the honourable member for Lunenburg West and I were having a laugh earlier about this. You stay here, you participate in the debate when it is your time to do so, and then you go home and you watch what is happening in the Legislature on the legislative channel, rather than getting caught up on your sleep. I think that is indicative of the enormous amount of concern that members have with respect to Bill No. 68, as it proceeds through the process in this Legislative Chamber.

The argument I think the Premier was making yesterday, Mr. Speaker, was that Bill No. 68, from the government's perspective, from the Premier's perspective, is a piece of legislation that will prevent a strike, thereby preventing life-threatening situations that a strike in the health care sector poses. If I followed the arguments of the Premier correctly, that essentially is his argument. I would say to the Premier that you can turn that argument around, that, in fact, Bill No. 68 is a piece of legislation that will provoke a strike in this province and indeed, with the current bargaining unit of allied health workers over at the QE II, this is precisely what has occurred, this legislation is forcing a confrontation with health care workers in this province which could have been avoided, which should have been avoided through good-faith bargaining, a bargaining process that would be unencumbered

[Page 5938]

by the polling this government has engaged in. It could have been avoided by listening closely to nurses and health care providers and by believing in fairness, by believing in the democratic process, by respecting the views and the perspectives of others, by protecting processes where alternative views can be expressed and can be accommodated.

That, Mr. Speaker, is what is absent not only from this process but is absent from Bill No. 68. Therefore, the very thing this Premier says he wishes to prevent, he has placed on a collision course with his government. I think it will remain to be seen if Nova Scotians, themselves, feel safe in the hands of this Premier and this government.

Mr. Speaker, I know the Premier is a doctor and, from all accounts, he was an excellent GP. It is clear that he cared very much about health care and when he speaks about his profession and health care providers, that concern out of many years of dedicated service in that profession hasn't disappeared. I think that when I look at Bill No. 68, I am very pleased that the Premier wasn't a surgeon, because Bill No. 68 is like taking a meat cleaver to a situation that requires a scalpel. Rather than a nice, precise, neat incision, what we have in Bill No. 68 is an amputation of the entire limb. We have the most invasive form of intervention that one could ever imagine and the implications, of course, are much more than preventive.

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, listening to the Premier attempt to justify the approach of his government, I was very saddened by what could only be characterized as scare tactics and fear-mongering toward the people of Nova Scotia with respect to the impending labour situation. I have said this in this Legislature before and I will say it again, in my constituency I have the honour and the privilege of representing a good number of senior citizens. I have the honour and the privilege of representing a good number of people who rely on health care services, on diagnostic services, on regular monitoring of the health status of many people through blood work and other forms of health care delivery to identify whether or not medications are at a level that is healthy and helpful and that other conditions aren't getting out of hand and resulting in life-threatening situations.

Mr. Speaker, I, as much as any other member in this House, want to avoid a strike. We want to avoid a situation where our constituents who require these important services are caused anxiety or denied access to the services they need. Nobody likes strikes, however that does not mean that I and other members of this Legislature don't understand the profound importance in a democratic society of workers having the right to strike, and it is indeed troublesome, worrisome, to hear the Premier of this province say that he feels that the ability to strike is an unfair bargaining chip in the collective bargaining process.

I believe the Premier is quoted in several newspapers and has made this statement, unless those statements are inaccurate. You have to ask yourself, Mr. Speaker, does this Premier not understand anything about industrial relations? Does he understand nothing

[Page 5939]

about the history of establishing in law the right to strike? Does he understand where the right to strike, how that became established as a law, as a basic human right in our society?

Mr. Speaker, for many, many years, the right to strike did not exist. The right to strike is a relatively recently won human right in modern industrial societies. Indeed, in some very repressive regimes, where there are one-Party, right-wing states, the right to strike does not exist. This has been highly problematic; very, very problematic. The right to strike is a right that has been fought for; it is a product of conflict in our history. It is a product, actually, of conflict that at times represented very violent situations in Canadian history and in history elsewhere. After violent conflicts, after the kind of instability that these kinds of conflicts engendered around the world in various countries, it became clear to not only citizens, but to lawmakers and legislatures that it was very important to put in place some system of rules, a system, a framework for industrial relations that would be built on fairness and some principles of fairness that would result in greater stability between workers and between their employers.

This, in fact, Mr. Speaker, is the basic assumption under which the right to strike has been embedded in labour legislation and in industrial relations legislation the world over, embedded there to ensure that there is a framework, that the framework is fair, that it applies to the various interests and parties in a fair and equitable manner, that the rules are known and that the result of this will be stability, the result will be an orderly process with some stability.

Mr. Speaker, we have now learned that not only does this government have an agenda with respect to the health care workers around Bill No. 68, but this agenda goes far beyond health care workers and that, very shortly, we may see a wholesale reform of those fundamental rights that people have fought for and that have been embedded in legislation in this province. This is absolutely astonishing if you think about it.

[1:15 p.m.]

In the last few days, in thinking about Bill No. 68 and in thinking about all of the other measures that this government have introduced in what will soon be two years of governing the Province of Nova Scotia, I am very troubled by what I see to be the politics of division, Mr. Speaker. Very much the Mike Harris approach in Ontario has now been imported and plays itself out in Nova Scotia. It is a form of politics, it is a form of political practice that I reject entirely and it saddens me to think that we are now in the grasp of a government of elected members of Cabinet and of their paid political staff that are openly pursuing this very divisive form of political practice.

Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 68 reflects this theme. It reflects the consistent pattern of the politics of division that the Hamm Government has adopted in all of its public policy areas. Bill No. 68 gives us a better look at the face of Conservative ideology and it is not a very

[Page 5940]

attractive face. It is a face that has absolutely no difficulty using the power of government to suppress the aspirations of its own citizens, but fails to use the power of government to curb the power of elites. We have to be very concerned about this.

We have seen this government separate Nova Scotians, a small province of not 1 million people, by pitting one group against another. This is a constant pattern in how this government approaches the work of governing the province. We have seen this government pit mainland Nova Scotians against the good residents of Cape Breton Island. We have seen them do that around Sysco and we have seen them do it around the tar ponds. We have seen this government pit Halifax Regional Municipality against the rest of the province with respect to the equalization proposal, based on using property taxes as a form of equalization. We have seen this government pit the working poor and the hard-working middle class person, who has fallen behind over the last 10 years with respect to their standard of living, against the welfare poor. More recently, in the debate around Bill No. 68, we have seen this government pit Nova Scotia against Ottawa.

I have no great love for the federal government and many of its policies with respect to the CHST in particular. That particular initiative took very important dollars away from the Province of Nova Scotia. A billion dollars, it is alleged, have been lost as a result of the cuts at the federal level and they have translated into real harm in our communities. We have seen the closing of military bases and the kinds of good economic spin-offs have disappeared as a result of that. We have seen a loss in funding for our post-secondary institutions. We have seen a loss to health care as a result of this and there have been lost dollars for various forms of infrastructure. It is only in the last few years that the federal government has reintroduced any kind of meaningful infrastructure program for the Province of Nova Scotia. Yet, the federal government sits with billions of dollars in its surplus. Their plan for that surplus is largely for debt reduction and for tax cuts.

So, while I find that agenda hard to accept, I see very little difference between Paul Martin's agenda and the Minister of Finance's agenda. This government, increasingly, is demonstrating that their real agenda with Bill No. 68 is a financial agenda. It is an agenda that is really looking for the kinds of financial dividends required to fulfill their promise to Nova Scotians of a 10 per cent tax cut in year four of their mandate. It is an agenda that, having perpetuated this politics of division - pitting one group against another - of then managing the finances of the province at the expense of public sector workers. Not only health care workers, because it is pretty well assured that after health care there will be other sectors that this government will go after, such as eduction sector workers.

They have already done a bit of a job on that sector. They have been able to see a reduction in the wages of bus drivers, they have been able to roll back the benefits of workers in the education system who do the transporting of children to school. While people like the Minister of Education will claim that this had nothing to do with her, we know very well that

[Page 5941]

it has everything to do with her. Because school boards aren't self-sufficient - they get their money from the Minister of Education. They are not a private industry.

While this government talks about its desire to protect public safety, the reality is, they are provoking a strike. They are also sending a very loud message to other public sector workers that conceivably could provoke these workers as well, rather than bargaining in good faith, rather than operating with respect.

In this debate, I have heard members of the government chide members of the Opposition, particularly members of the Liberal Party for their approach to labour relations, like Bill No. 41 and Bill No. 83, bills that rolled back the wages of public sector workers making more than $25,000 a year, and bills forced on public sector workers in Nova Scotia, unpaid days of leave, which essentially were reductions in wages and wage rollbacks.

Mr. Speaker, it is true, those things did happen, and they weren't okay. But that Party paid, and they paid heavily, politically for those decisions, and they paid for them because they weren't okay. Nova Scotians had an opportunity to express, in very concrete ways, their assessment of that government. I would like to say to members of the government, the fact that the Party in a former government, the Liberal Party, thought it was okay to abuse its workers is not a good reason for you to decide that you can abuse those same workers. If anything, Bill No. 41 and Bill No. 83 are the very reasons why you should withdraw Bill No. 68.

You should have more respect; you should learn the lessons, not just the political, self-serving lessons, that the people of Nova Scotia will have their say, but learn the real lesson that those things were not okay, they did not achieve the results that that Party hoped to achieve. They did not result in greater financial stability for the Province of Nova Scotia. Your bill won't result in greater financial stability for Nova Scotia either. That is where you are sorely mistaken, when you sit there and you are so convinced that the result will be greater financial stability for the Province of Nova Scotia, because you are taking the tough decisions, you are being stubborn, you are digging in. In fact, you will pay financially for the decision that you have taken. You will pay not only politically, but there will be a financial cost to the decisions that you are taking.

What you fail to understand, particularly with respect to health, particularly in the field of health, is if you don't begin your health strategy with understanding that health care rests on a health care human resource strategy that has to respect the entire team in the health care system, that has to be fair to all members of that team and that situates that team in the reality of very competitive health human resources labour market, and that containing the costs and providing a sustainable health care system has to be taken into account and start here, including transforming this system, a transformation that will require - I don't particularly like the term, buy-in but it probably is the one that most adequately reflects what needs to happen.

[Page 5942]

[1:30 p.m.]

All members of the health care team have to participate in the reform, the change, the transformation that is required to find that sustainability. That is something that can't be imposed on people, that can't be forced on people. If you are not able to do that, then you will pay heavily, financially. It is not managerialism that amounts to dictatorship that will save our health care system, it is going to be collective responsibility and participation and consensus building that will save our health care system. Don't you ever kid yourselves about it.

Twelve people, 11 men and 1 woman, sitting down somewhere, deciding the fate of health care workers and, indeed, the health of all Nova Scotians is just not on. It will not result in a sustainable health care system; it will not result in better health for Nova Scotians; and it will not result in financial health for Nova Scotians. If there is any lesson to be learned by the bills of the Savage years that you like to talk about so much, that is the lesson that you should have learned.

I tip my hat to the member for Kings West, who is clearly reflecting on Bill No. 68. I am sure that is not easy for that honourable member to do, and I am sure he is under a fair amount of pressure from his own Party and his own caucus, as he attempts to decide what is the right thing to do in this situation. I guess, like most members, I am a bit curious about the various elements that are contributing to the courage that he is demonstrating in not caving in so quickly on Bill No. 68, as many of the others, as essentially all of the other members of his caucus seem to be.

I can't help but think that perhaps it has something to do with the fact that he is a member in a seat that was held by a former Health Minister, who I and certainly members of this caucus have a great deal of respect for, and that is the honourable George Moody, who, when I was a newly-elected member in this Chamber and the Health Critic at that time for my Party, the NDP, was most helpful and was very courteous, but more than courteous, who on more than one occasion spoke with a great deal of candour about the importance of health care to any political Party and to any government, in terms of public policy. I would say that that honourable member, Mr. Moody, saw health care (Interruptions) I will certainly yield the floor . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank on an introduction.

MR. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I thank the speaker opposite for the time. In our east gallery today, we have a constituent, Debbie Miller-Clancy. She is an RN, for 18 years. Her nursing experience includes the emergency department and intensive care unit. Debbie is here today watching the proceedings of the House. I would ask members of this Chamber to give her the usual warm welcome. (Applause)

[Page 5943]

MR. SPEAKER: Indeed, welcome to all of our guests in the gallery. We hope you enjoy your visit here today on this very warm afternoon.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I, too, would like to welcome all of the guests in the gallery who are here today. I am sure that many of the people who are here are either health care workers or members of the public who are very concerned about Bill No. 68 and are interested in knowing what members of the Legislature are having to say, on all sides of this issue.

Mr. Speaker, I was saying that this government's approach will fail. It is doomed to fail because they have not learned the lessons from previous governments, but it is also doomed to fail because of the excesses of this particular bill. This bill goes much further than any other prior piece of legislation ordering workers back to work in Nova Scotia. As other people have pointed out, this bill violates a number of fundamental rights, and probably there is nothing more fundamental than the right to ask the courts of this land to review whether or not a political body has gone too far in trampling on the legal rights of citizens. What this bill does is it strips that fundamental right away from citizens in Nova Scotia. What a terrible way to treat the citizenry of this province; what an extraordinarily terrible way to treat people, to deny people the right to go to court.

Unbelievable. Do you have so little faith in your own legislation? Do you have so little faith in the rightness of what you are doing that you are not even prepared to allow an independent judiciary to review what it is that you have done here? That is what that says to me. You have so little faith in your own legislation that you are not prepared to go into the courts and argue your case in front of an independent arbitrator, because you know there is absolutely no justification, there can be no arguments that you can put forward. So, what you are attempting to do here is to strip the right of citizens, a basic and fundamental right in a democratic society. For this to occur, shame on you.

This is unbelievable, that we would ever see such a thing in the Province of Nova Scotia, the place where Joseph Howe argued for freedom of the press and fought for responsible government. Responsible government, of the people, by the people, accountable to the people and not to some deity, not to royalty. You are behaving like you think you are royalty. I am wondering when the next piece of legislation comes forward that eliminates elections in the Province of Nova Scotia, will this be next? Is this where you are going next?

Mr. Speaker, there are other aspects, of course, of Bill No. 68 that are extremely troublesome and offensive. People have talked here at length about these, but I haven't had an opportunity to speak specifically - I shouldn't say I haven't had an opportunity, I have had quite a few opportunities actually but, in each of the former opportunities I have had to speak on this bill, I have chosen to speak mostly about the workers themselves. I have attempted to come here and stand in my place and talk about what it is that health care professionals

[Page 5944]

do, who they are and what is it they do, and to talk about health care reform and what health care reform has meant to the quality of the lives of those workers.

I have steered away from speaking specifically on clauses of the bill or on technical aspects of the bill. I purposely did that for two reasons, Mr. Speaker, because I knew I would have more opportunity, as I do now, to address the specifics of the bill, but I also knew that my colleagues and other members of the House would be discussing the particular details of the bill. As the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto says, that really is why we are here, to examine the details of the legislation and to debate the relative merits or weaknesses of the various provisions in the bill and to speculate and bring to bear arguments on what the implications of various aspects of the bill might be.

So I have taken time to listen, with as much attention as I can, to those debates about the technical aspects of the bill. Certainly the arguments that have been made again and again about this government's failure to provide in this bill for binding arbitration has been probably one of the main themes that have characterized much of the debate around Bill No. 68. Many members have pointed out the problems with having the Cabinet be the ultimate arbitrator of collective agreements.

Mr. Speaker, I think it is all the more problematic, that is a very problematic provision in this bill, that it does not send a dispute between employer and employees in the health care sector which has reached an impasse, to binding arbitration, which is, generally speaking, what you see in back-to-work legislation, as I understand it. Generally speaking, that is what is provided for in essential services legislation, where workers are stripped of the right to strike. As one of the former speakers said when he spoke, if you are going to ask Nova Scotians to give up a right, like the right to strike, then it is incumbent on government to be fair and to make provision that they receive some other right in return. That right, although I must say I don't particularly subscribe to workers losing the right to strike at all, I feel quite uncomfortable with this idea, but if, in fact, you are going to impose on people that they lose their right to strike, then they need to be assured that the arbitrator will be independent from the employer, that they stand a good chance of getting a fair and just settlement that will be arrived at through a process that is unimpeachable in terms of the neutrality of the arbitrator.

Mr. Speaker, if this government and if this bill were truly about protecting safety, the health and safety of Nova Scotians, and providing for continuous health care services, then this government would have put this in this bill. This would appear in the bill. So I think there are many problems with Bill No. 68. It is very difficult to take a bad piece of legislation and improve it. It is very difficult and it sticks in the craw of quite a few members, even having to contemplate doing so. But at the very least, this is a crying shame that this government failed to listen to the people, the members of the public who came before the Law Amendments Committee and said, hoist the bill, but if you don't hoist the bill, at the very least, put in place a system of binding arbitration. We will live with that because we think we stand some chance of fairness through that process.

[Page 5945]

[1:45 p.m.]

But, no, this government isn't interested in fairness. It is only interested in getting its own way. It is only interested in winning, it is only interested in dominating. This government is behaving very much like a dictatorship.

I, like probably most members of this House, spent the weekend speaking to members of my constituency about Bill No. 68. I haven't had one call, one e-mail, one letter, I have not received one piece of communication that favours Bill No. 68. Out of all of the communication and contact I have had, I haven't had one piece of communication in favour of Bill No. 68. In the time that I have been in this House, I have heard from people on many issues. Many issues. This is the first time ever that a piece of legislation has come before this House that I haven't had at least one communication that differs from what other people are saying.

I have been through the paramedics' situation, the issue of equalization based on property taxes from HRM to other parts of the province. I have heard from people with respect to various pieces of government legislation - the adoption bill that the Minister of Community Services brought in, the workfare legislation that the Minister of Community Services has brought forward. I have heard from members of my constituency, members of the public, on just about every government initiative that has been dealt with in the past two years. In that process, there are always opposing viewpoints. Some people like what the government is doing and they say we want you to go onto the floor of the Legislature and support this or they say, no, we absolutely, vehemently oppose what is happening and this is what we think. You get that diversity of viewpoints. Not one person from my constituency who has contacted me, has supported Bill No. 68.

Now, the other evening, the Minister of Health told me that he knew of two people in my constituency who supported Bill No. 68. When I pushed him on it a little bit, it turned out it was a family member of the Minister of Health and the Minister of Education. So, neither one of those constituents have spoken to me directly. I take the Minister of Health's word that the Minister of Education, who lives in my constituency, supports Bill No. 68 and his family member who lives in my constituency, supports Bill No. 68, although I haven't heard from that person. But, that is basically it.

I had a call from a nurse who lives in my constituency who told me about - she works at the IWK - she told me that in the particular unit she works in at the IWK, they have been working short-staffed there. Seriously short-staffed since sometime in March. They have been so short-staffed that she and other nurses on that unit became alarmed at the extent to which the health and safety of patients was being compromised and they wrote a letter in which they laid out their concerns. Thankfully, those concerns found a sympathetic ear and there has been some response, but a short-term response, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 5946]

She indicated to me that Bill No. 68 will hurt that unit, it will hurt the ability for that unit to ever get out of the situation that it finds itself in right now. This is her fear. She told me about working four 12-hour shifts and then going home and having time off and never being able, in the last few years, to get through her days off without being called back. It just doesn't happen. She is consistently and constantly called back to work. She told me that mandatory overtime has resulted in situations where she has been told you get back in here right now to do this shift, and it is really too bad that your 12 year old has a junior high school concert tonight that you have been planning to attend, because you have missed all of these other occasions that your daughter has been involved in. Your family doesn't come first. You cannot allow it to come first. You have to come back here.

Well, I am sorry, Mr. Premier, and members of the government caucus, but that is not good enough. We cannot be treating people in this province in that way. We cannot allow that situation to occur, because 12 year olds need their parents too and we do not have the right to demand that these people put their work at the whim of this government. We do not have that right.

What government needs to do is to use the tools that you have at your disposal to assist workers to find a balance between work life and family life. We have to stop. You want to talk about prevention? Let's do something to prevent this pervasive "marketization" of every aspect of our lives. It has gone to the point where working people can't have the time with their family members that they require for decent lives. Let's not forget that we are talking about mainly women - in the nursing profession, 97 per cent of the workforce are women - well if anybody knows anything about women and work, it is this duality between family and household responsibilities, community responsibilities and the pressure for paid employment. This needs to be dealt with fairly and seriously and you cannot enforce on people the choice to put the workplace before the family.

That, conceivably, could result in people choosing their families, and who could blame them? Then where will we be? Where will we be when women who are nurses, say I am going to give up my profession because my family is going to come first, and that is what you are doing to these women, that is what you are doing to health care providers. You are putting a gun to their head, as many of the women and the men who came in front of the Law Amendments Committee had to say.

Mr. Speaker, I also had a call, maybe not on the weekend, well, actually, I guess it was still on the weekend, we have spent so much time here, I am probably as sleep deprived as anybody else. I spoke to a person Sunday night before I came down here for the midnight shift, and this person who called me is an old friend and colleague who I worked with many years ago in a social work setting. She called me at home and she was very concerned about Bill No. 68 and I could feel the emotion in her voice. She was almost in tears, actually. I hadn't talked to her for some time. I was very pleased when I answered the phone and found out who it was. I said, how are you? And she almost burst into tears.

[Page 5947]

She said, well, I am not very good, but I am not going to go into all of that right now. I want to talk to you about Bill No. 68 and I want you to know how difficult things have been for the social work department in the hospital where I have been working for the past few years. I want you to know how difficult it has been to do all of the work that needs doing as positions have disappeared and workloads have increased and the acuity of patients has increased. But something else has increased as well - administration. Administration has increased and the tools that administrators have to do their jobs has increased. The cell phones, the computers, the technology, all of these things have increased in the health care system for managers and for administrators who seem to be reproducing at a remarkable rate, while front-line staff are disappearing.

But, also, front-line staff don't seem to have the same kind of equipment. They don't have access to the tools for their work, the things they need to perform their work in an effective and efficient manner aren't a priority, yet managers have nice offices, they have cell phones, they have computers, they have all kinds of advantages and benefits in order to complete their work, which is significantly away from the front line of the health care provider. She asked, is there any way to find out how much of our health care resources are being consumed by administration and management and lawyers who are providing legal advice and consultants who are providing management advice and what have you?

We had a long conversation about the frustrations that front-line workers feel as they see the way resources are allocated within the system and the unfairness and the inequity of how that is done and the fact that often patients suffer as a result of that inequity. I told her this is an issue members of the Opposition raise over and over again without any good account from the Minister of Health. He seems to be of that genre, himself, who fancies more bureaucrats, more administrators, with their computers, with their cell phones, with the tools they require to protect him from being accountable on behalf of front-line health care patients, workers and what have you.

[2:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I know my time is drawing to a close. I want to use the last minute that I will probably have on Bill No. 68 for awhile to say that the phrase that sticks in my head from Bill No. 68 that I will remember for a long time is, no bed, no nurse, go home. We have heard a nurse on the radio who was at the Law Amendments Committee say this over and over again. My greatest fear is that Bill No. 68, in fact, is going to mean, for more people, there will be no bed, no nurse and they will be at home. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak to the amendment on Bill No. 68. It has been a long journey arriving at this stage, just prior to third reading. This bill has been addressed in various forms through second reading and the Law

[Page 5948]

Amendments Committee - where the abbreviated version took place - and then returned to Committee of the Whole House on Bills where last evening we were again not afforded the opportunity to bring forward amendments. Be that as it may, it may be just as well because really I don't think there is any hope for this bill, that you could possibly amend it in any way. It would mean probably after the first or second clause, just deleting the whole bill because you have three major areas there that are just terribly destructive, regressive and really to the point of no return.

This is not only impacting on a point of no return, impacting on the civil rights and people's rights and freedoms, but impacting so dramatically on health care in this province. Health care across this country is challenged and it is challenged, Mr. Speaker, in ways that have never been challenged before. There is new technology. There is new training requirements. There is new team building requirements. So what this is, Bill No. 68, is a lost opportunity for this government to do something. Times are better now in Nova Scotia than they have been in the past decade or so. They have been better in the areas of general revenues in this province, transfer payments from the federal government are enhanced, again. Generally speaking, the spirit of optimism is throughout the land, largely due to offshore, but also in the small businesses throughout this province and largely, I might say, in this metro Halifax-Dartmouth community.

Underneath this all, Mr. Speaker, has been a system, health care particularly, and in dealing with this bill and speaking to Bill No. 68, we tend to exclude the physicians. I think that is probably appropriate at this time, as they have - as my last understanding from the physician union, the Medical Society - suspended any serious negotiations at least until mid-July. This crisis that this government has brought upon itself and upon the people of Nova Scotia by dropping Bill No. 68 in the middle of negotiations, particularly with one particular group of support workers, LPNs, physiotherapists and technologists and all the other groups that go to make up those health care professionals. In the middle of that, Bill No. 68 was dropped like a thunderbolt from the sky and really just shattered all civility and all trust that, although fragile, was hopefully building as they tend to during those times in negotiations.

Often, collective agreement negotiations are challenging and sometimes very difficult. But, in the end, generally speaking, there is a handshake and people go away and get on with their life and work until the next time, Mr. Speaker. So what we have seen here is complete control over that collective bargaining and the determination of collective agreements throughout that whole period into the year 2004.

So, Mr. Speaker, initially when this bill was introduced, there were various press releases. I have copies of a couple here of June 14th, and June 13th of this year, and the headlines were always to protect health and safety. The bill was introduced, Bill No. 68 introduced, or at least it didn't have a number at that juncture, but it was an Act to Continue Healthcare Services in Nova Scotia. It quickly became evident to all of us that the main thing to do was to, first of all, change the title to an Act to Eliminate Healthcare Services in Nova

[Page 5949]

Scotia because that is really essentially what it was doing. It was brought in to protect health and safety.

Very quickly the Premier injected himself into the whole area of negotiations, if you will, although albeit a third party removed, and as someone said at the Law Amendments Committee, one of the presentations, when you inject yourself as a third party in the fight, it is always the third party that loses in a fight but, anyway, it was there. So very quickly after the introduction of this bill we saw the headlines, in the print media particularly is where I saw it, that the health care workers could not be trusted, essential services, although we know now that there were good agreements, particularly throughout the province, the regions and the district health authorities, that they were strong, well satisfied on the essential services that would be available in the event of a strike. So this strike-breaking action and this cessation of the collective agreement process in this province was halted in midstream by this dropping of Bill No. 68.

Bill No. 68, Mr. Speaker, is not a complicated bill. It is easy to read. It has a total of five pages and with some minor amendments from the government side, it is very clear as to what its intent is and that's why perhaps that we haven't had the opportunity to bring in amendments of any substantive nature that would be accepted, that it is probably just as well to let the government go because there is no way that you could really rescue that bill.

Mr. Speaker, I wish to stand in my place today and say that I am pleased to have the opportunity again to speak on Bill No. 68. This is a sad day. It is a sad day where I have just witnessed in the Red Room here Joan Jessome from the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union tell our Minister of Health that if you hold Bill No. 68, this flawed, dangerous bill, that there will be no strike tomorrow morning. There will be no strike tomorrow morning if this bill is put on hold. That is what I think I heard. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We welcome very much the visitors in the gallery today, but I would ask you to hold your applause or your show of support, or opposition to what's happening on the floor of the Legislature, please.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, over the last few days at 2:00 a.m., 3:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. when you're sitting here, you sort of sometimes wonder about the whole process, but then again you get your faith renewed when you find that we do have the opportunity to come and debate this legislation directly across the floor from the Health Minister who has just had the opportunity to be very instrumental and proactive in an area in avoiding a strike. I say that, and I don't want to go through my dissertation again about what I thought maybe happened in Cabinet, I am not sure how involved this Minister of Health has been in this legislation. I suspect he didn't see it very early. I haven't heard many rumours on the street, but what you hear seems to indicate that there have been two or three people pushing this. I don't know if they are Cabinet Ministers, or consultants, or resource people who have done this, but I think we were all very markedly surprised to see this bill come forward.

[Page 5950]

We were expecting some back-to-work legislation perhaps. We certainly were expecting binding arbitration, I mean the fairness would warrant that, but that wasn't there. We couldn't believe it. I was sitting beside a distinguished labour lawyer and we were talking at this time and we kept looking for this and it wasn't there. So we are still amazed, but I guess to get back to when you have time to think, I am thinking what sort of a government is this? What sort of a government does this government want to be? What does it want to be known as? Is it a compassionate, caring government? Is it a reformist government? Is it stubborn when the head of the union says tomorrow morning there will be no strike if you hold Bill No. 68?

We are doing what we can to hold it. This is the second olive branch that has been held out to this Premier and to this government and it has happened here today just a few minutes ago in this very building where there have been so many historic speeches and representations made by citizens and by members of the Legislature. So this government has a choice and governments are about choices. Will this government be known as a stubborn government? I think that is giving them too much credit, Mr. Speaker. I think it is beyond stubbornness because stubbornness is a general descriptive term. I think there is a more underlying pathology there than stubbornness. Is it elitism? I think it is probably getting closer to the description of it because there are different standards. What is fair for one is not fair for everyone in the eyes of this government, how certain groups are treated.

This again is puzzling in how you describe this government. Where they were dealing with the first group, which were support workers and not necessarily so many of the RNs particularly, but some of the other groups that had Mr. Outhouse as a mediator and, again, the Law Amendments Committee was a great education for me this last while. I have been a member of that committee for some years and had the opportunity to chair it as Minister of Justice, but to hear those people say, we were really pleased. We thought that we had probably one of the best mediators in Canada and we had a great chance to come to some agreement and I think they were prepared to do that.

All of a sudden, again, that thunderbolt hits and Bill No. 68 drops right in the middle of that table and destroys everything and then the rest is history now in a way because the strike vote was taken, but there were people who came to that Law Amendments Committee who privately would say, and I think openly to the Law Amendments Committee said that that was the turning point. That's when they were convinced that this government was mischievous and was saying to them they didn't trust them; that destroyed that whole collective agreement system and, sure enough, there it was.

So I think it is truly a sad day in this province, Mr. Speaker. It is a dark day with apprehension and it is a day marked with uncertainty as to where do we go from here. There are choices. That is what government is all about. Not everyone agrees with you all the time but at the end of the day you like to think that the white stones are higher than the black stones, that you have done what is right.

[Page 5951]

I said one day at the Law Amendments Committee, it is hard to figure out, is this government an elitist government that treats different groups? It looks as if they were going to cut one group out of the three of the health care workers and try to get an agreement there earlier on and then they blew that attempt. So you can't accuse them of being elitist there although I think initially they were going to play sort of one group against the other and maybe treat nurses a little more favourably than some of the other workers and thinking that, again, now that we know about the polls and the Human Resources Department, or committee, or minister who commissioned that poll, they already knew, or they thought they knew what Nova Scotians would be thinking about how they were treating health workers and how they should proceed on the strike, legislation taking away the right to strike, and also the collective agreement. The money thing, they already had a plan for, based on their polling. I think that is the saddest thing of all. Is this an elitist government that does these things?

[2:15 p.m.]

I usually don't pick things out of the paper and save them, but I have collected these over the last few days. They are quick off the mark. They had no problem, after the polling, tailoring their ads. This one here, particularly, I thought was very misrepresentative, a fair offer for nurses. If you look at these, one of the very first ones was that graph, and it has been tabled in this House before, where the salary of nurses goes right up off the graph, heading for the ceiling. That is a clear message, and it is a clear misrepresentation.

Today you have the final one, it is on that same theme, $100 million on the table. Is that for three years? We think it is. It must be. Why wouldn't you say that if you are interested in the truth? If you were a truthful government, wouldn't you want to have your ads reflect how you do business? Is this just good people doing bad things, or is it bad people doing bad things? I would have to ask that. How would you describe this government?

I don't want to dwell, we had a lot to do with polling last evening in Question Period, although it happened to be around 2:00 or 2:30 in the morning. I am not sure that too many people would be watching at that hour, but at least the people in this Chamber - and we were well represented here - are very concerned about the issue of the polling and how those particular questions, those very political questions, were injected in a general government poll. As the Premier said himself, they were doing research. You bet they were doing research, they were doing political research with taxpayers' money.

Anyway, to move on, never again, I believe, from these days of uncertainty, for a long time, will this health care system be the same again. I am thinking particularly of the health care workers in the hospital system, but in home care, long-term care and those areas, all of those people who work in support services, direct patient care, maintenance and all the other areas. It is a lost opportunity. I think that is the sadness, of today, for me, having been a previous Health Minister. There were lots of things that I wasn't happy about that we had

[Page 5952]

done, although I came at the end of some of the changes that had been made, and maybe it wasn't quite as difficult. There were a lot of things that one would like to change. There are changes, and this is the opportunity now to do that. This is a lost opportunity.

Now this government will say that once the bill goes through, everything will be okay. But will the public be safe? Is there really a threat to the safety? Are not the essential service plans that we have quite adequate throughout the province? In the capital region there seemed to be some concerns, but that has been ironed out, the employer and the employee both agree now that essential services are in place. The real threat throughout all of this has really been the way that this government, within a year and a half, almost two years now, has really dismantled and continues to dismantle the infrastructure of health care in this province.

Then, on top of it all, the Premier, immediately, on the threat of job action by the unions, says you cannot be trusted. We cannot trust you, even though you have an agreement with the district health authorities for the provision of essential services, we cannot trust you. Nothing can be further from the truth, but that is the sort of thing that turns young graduate physiotherapists and technologists and nurses away from this province, but it also really makes people wonder if they shouldn't go for that early retirement. We have heard those stories.

While this government is spending huge amounts of money trying to convince Nova Scotians that Bill No. 68 is good for them, they have failed to remind the people of how damaging this course of action really is. This tough-guy approach to health care workers that we are seeing could well backfire, and I think it will backfire on this government. Unfortunately, there will be people hurt, Nova Scotian people, children, people of all ages hurt through the stubbornness, the elitism and, really, just the bad things that this government is doing. Disgruntled workers who can't exercise their right to strike will become further disenchanted.

Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 68 is like pouring gasoline on a smouldering campfire. That is what is happening here today, and that is what was happening in the Red Room, when an olive branch was again being offered, for the second time, by that union leader, Joan Jessome. Joan Jessome offered an olive branch to this government and to this minister, and it was rejected again. When asked what they can do to improve it, the Minister of Health said, well, the main thing they can do is just not go on strike. That is really not an adequate answer, and that is not the mandate they have, to quite legally do that tomorrow morning.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health, the Premier, this Cabinet, and those three or four people in government who designed this bill and had people draft it up for them and bring that forward, they can make those changes. Let them stand up now and be identified, who they are, and speak up, speak up for Nova Scotians. This goes beyond the right to strike, there is no question in my mind, as soon as you read this bill. Many Nova Scotians believe that, perhaps, health care professionals and nurses shouldn't have the right to strike. There

[Page 5953]

are people who believe that. This government knows that. Their polling has shown that. That is part of what they found. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, did somebody jump on somebody's feet over there, or is that somebody who is going to have a seizure? We should maybe think about 911. (Interruptions)

AN HON. MEMBER: Is there a doctor in the House? (Interruptions)

ANOTHER HON. MEMBER: A Baker break.

DR. SMITH: No, no, I still think the Minister of Justice was going to breakfast, I don't think he was going to the bathroom. I never did buy that one. (Interruptions) However, some of these Nova Scotians who you find on the street or wherever you find them, in their homes, they will say that they don't think that the nurses have a right to strike, or the other health care professionals. They are entitled to that opinion, and that is why the government feels comfortable, their polls reflected that. But these same Nova Scotians, don't be fooled by those polls and what some Nova Scotians might say about the right to strike, whether it is a physician, a nurse, a physiotherapist, a health care provider. These Nova Scotians, they want fairness, and they are some of the most fair people in this country.

We, Nova Scotians, are often accused of being a bit dull and slow, sometimes, but it is my experience that the people of Nova Scotia will be thoughtful, they will be fair, and they will make their decision based on how they feel people are being treated. If they are seeing people being taken advantage of, and that they are disadvantaged, that will be a concern to them. I think that is the process. This is why I say these are days of uncertainty. The people themselves are weighing the odds. They have seen the ads, and I hope they understand how misleading the ads are, and that their money has paid for those misleading ads.

But they, in turn, at the end of the day, I believe, will make the right choice. It is public opinion, obviously, that drives this government. When they went into those negotiations initially they had this information, they had that information on May 18th. I think that is an awful way to run a government, on public opinion polls that you insert into the middle of something that you call research.

There is a true sense that people believe that if individuals give up a right, it should in turn be replaced with something. If something is given up, then it is replaced. This something in this Bill No. 68 would be binding arbitration. That is the point. When I see some of the polling questions that said, legislated by the provincial such-and-such, I don't have a copy of the polls right here. I am not sure that some people wouldn't think that was binding arbitration, because, let's face it, a lot of people, including myself, don't have a great knowledge of the law. I think that if they found out what that Clause 6 of the bill would be, that they would find they would be dismayed, that it is was not binding arbitration.

[Page 5954]

This government should have nothing to fear with binding arbitration. If this wage that they are offering, this graph goes directly up off the page, heading skyward, if that is fair, why are they afraid of the arbitrator? Are you saying that the government members have said, and the sadness of many of the comments last evening as various members spoke, was the fact that they didn't want a third person in on the whole process. Well, the third person is already there - it is the Premier. He injected himself into the process on day one when he said that health care workers in this province could not be trusted, and that is a shame.

No wonder the people are uncertain. These are uncertain days, but they do believe that there is a process out there that is fair and is just and it is right because that is where Nova Scotians will come down at the end of the day, they always have, and I have faith that they always will. So this government should have nothing to fear with binding arbitration if this offer - and it is not only the wage here, but it is the other matters, if they are being fair in that.

This government has certainly spent a fair amount of money already on the polling and also on the advertising. They have paid money buying ads telling Nova Scotians that their offer to the health care workers of this province is fair. Then there should be no worry. Why is this government afraid of binding arbitration? That is what I am hearing, what Nova Scotians feel is out there taking place.

It is the second part of that very flawed and destructive bill that is the most difficult for Nova Scotians to understand. They don't believe that this government, this stubborn government, this elitist government, this less informed government, call them what you will, would do anything like that. Nova Scotians, again, and it's maybe not naivety, but the slowness and the trust that they have that the people they send here will do the right thing, generally speaking, I think that is true. There is generally all-Party support at the end of the day on most legislation. Most of us are proud to support.

They have no idea that this bill takes away a very basic right within this province, that they have cherished and they themselves often have benefited and their families have benefited because those types of collective agreements are put in place through a process. So put it to the test, I say to the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Justice - they are there talking with each other now. Maybe they are two of the architects of this bill, so, maybe they are the ones who should stand up and take credit and let the poor Minister of Health off the hook for a few days. He said he hasn't been to bed since Saturday or something like that, and I forget what day it is myself. Let them stand up - between the two of them, probably two-thirds of the people who brought this bill forward - and take responsibility.

Let them tell the Minister of Health that he should pull this bill and stop that strike at 6:00 a.m. tomorrow. They have it in their power. They have the power, they are a majority government and they have the power and it can be done. It can be done easily. It can be done - I was going to say I would sit down, but I don't trust them long enough to sit down, so I would want some reassurance besides their word. I would sit down and take my place, maybe

[Page 5955]

give it to the honourable minister for Inverness and let him take it home for the weekend and show it around on Canada Day. That would be quite a statement on the types of speeches we all enjoy here on Canada Day.

Considering the high demand of the highly qualified health care workers that we have in this province, and time and time again in the Law Amendments Committee, we heard a litany of the education of these persons who have come before us: the ultrasound technologist and those people working in not only the ICU and medical, surgical and the step-down units and all those other areas, but the nurses and all of those LPNs and particularly, those on the floors in those units.

[2:30 p.m.]

Even though I am probably a little more informed than some members, I was truly amazed that almost all units of people that come before us, at least, were short 4, 7, and 10 staff people on those particular units. That is horrendous and that is that smoldering fire that this Bill No. 68 has been the gasoline that has been thrown on that smoldering fire. That is what you are hitting out there. It is certainly not all money - money is helpful, it is mandatory. A fellow up home on the South Shore used to say, son, it is no disgrace to be poor but it is terribly inconvenient. When people are working hard and long hours, yes, they don't want to be inconvenienced by having a salary that is inadequate.

This relative salary to being the highest in Atlantic Canada, that is only going to be for a few months anyway, particularly with the ones out West and others. Then we will be back down again where we were before. Nobody is debating that the middle of the pack is not bad for Nova Scotia - that is fair if everything else is being equal. If there are no numbers of . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is too much noise in the Chamber. I would ask the members to take their conversation outside please.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East has the floor.

DR. SMITH: . . . let them put this to the test and considering the demand that is on the services of these technologists. Technologists, I think, people who came in from away - Alberta, I believe - were down at the Delta Hotel the other night, and I understand about four technologists had booked to have some initial briefing. Anyway, he is a headhunter looking to steal our health care workers. In this case, I think it was medical technologists and I think it ended up being 25 or 30 people went down there to meet with him. In light of all the uncertainty, I am not surprised.

[Page 5956]

This government action, when all of these people are in such demand, it is hard to comprehend the actions of this government. It is beyond comprehension; in high demand and you treat them shamefully. That is pouring gasoline on that smoldering fire when you bring in a bill like Bill No. 68 in that kind of environment. It is not only the nursing units and the LPN units on the floors, it is the people - we heard the people from the blood banks in the hospitals and those types of initiatives where they are just working extra hours. The idea that the shift ends and people go home, that has all gone by the wayside. You are expected to stay an hour, an hour and a half, to clean up, and that double shift. And we know about mandatory callback, I don't want to go through that again. These are the things I think if enough members on the government side did sit in on the Law Amendments Committee would hear these stories.

I just want to say that as long as I have been in this House those presentations that were made, and I kept them all here with me in my desk, these were the most thoughtful, professionally done presentations that I have ever seen. There were often tears in the eyes of people that made those presentations. I am sure all of us had some moments of tension or reflection there, particularly when you realized what some of the people said who were there with tears in their eyes and emotionally telling you and asking you for help. Asking the members of the Law Amendments Committee to bring a message back to this government that they should respond by killing Bill No. 68 or withdrawing it or substantively changing it.

When you have persons like an operating nurse from the neurosurgery, I guess with television and everything being as it is, most people in this Chamber would have some idea of what they do. They take the top and sides off people's heads and they go in and they work around there and they put them back together again and they hope it works. It is life and death. Not as much maybe as car accidents because when I remember when interning, we would be up all night in those days, before seat belts particularly. So, thanks be to God, that has been a change. These people still do this kind of work and they get pretty good at that and they get very professional and they keep their emotions in check. Some days they can't allow themselves to even identify over a short few days they have with a patient if that person is going to live or die and those are the issues. I don't mean to be dramatic here because a lot of medicine isn't about life and death - it is about life, but it is also about living, prevention and those types of initiatives.

There are those people who came to the Law Amendments Committee who deal daily with life and death issues. Even as a physician, I still find this very dramatic and very touching. When you think that you lace on your boots in the morning and you go off to work or you go in the middle of the night or whatever - that is the type of work you are doing - you get pretty resourceful, you get pretty composed and you don't let your emotions show often, you don't wear them too much on your shoulder. These people weren't able to do that when they came here, because they are so frustrated and perhaps even angry with disbelief, and they are asking for help.

[Page 5957]

The Neurosurgery OR nurse asked for help. Send her more people, send people to work with her, send people who are permanent employees so that they can receive benefits, so they don't worry about their two or three children, they have maybe a single parent, and so they can plan a day off this summer to go to the beach and not be afraid to answer the telephone. Very dramatically, the charge nurse from the QE II Health Sciences Centre told us that she was short, I think, seven people in that emergency department at the QE II Health Sciences Centre. Her plea, she said I have been there for 30-some years, and my time is drawing to a close and I am not really asking for a lot more money, I am asking to be treated fairly and justly. You have to send us more people to work.

Mr. Speaker, there is something going on. This is a missed opportunity. This has been building, and this was building when we were government, there is absolutely no question. That is why we had a commitment within our budget that was defeated to do some initiatives. Most of what the Minister of Health has announced was in that budget. Many of the things, we had started, like nurse practitioners and all of those other things, along with the federal government. We had announced those, and those were underway.

Mr. Speaker, the charge nurse from the QE II Health Sciences Centre says, please, just send me some people, some front-line workers, and that was the commitment of this Premier in the election: for $46 million I will fix the health care system that the other group broke, it will be no more money. We will save it in administration; we will cut the fat in administration. Well, I think the day of reckoning has come. It was all going to go into front-line workers, instead it has gotten worse and worse and worse. It has deteriorated badly within this last 18 months.

Mr. Speaker, make no mistake, the largest single threat to the health and safety of Nova Scotians is not the health care professionals, it is this government and it is called Bill No. 68. This government is threatening the very foundation of labour/management relations in this province. While the Premier may view his actions and the behaviour of his Cabinet as very wise and very necessary, all of their tactics will come back to haunt them. Nova Scotians, unfortunately, will pay the price. Unhappy workers make for unhappy working conditions that very quickly affect patient care. It is a given, it has to happen.

It could also fuel the exodus of workers to areas where pay may be better, but most definitely employer-employee relations are friendlier. It almost sounds too good to be true sometimes, when we hear the glowing reports. Those of us who heard Cross Country Checkup with Pamela Wallin on CBC on Sunday evening, people called in from Florida and those places, and told how they are treated there. It is almost too good to be true, but you listened to the people and they sounded like they were telling the truth.

Time and time again we have heard that. It has to do with respect, treating people with their rights, and that they are valued and they are important to the health care system, and they are important to their employer, that they are not just some nuisance that you can drop

[Page 5958]

this Bill No. 68 in the middle of a collective agreement negotiation table and just blow everything to pieces and think that Nova Scotians are going to buy it.

I hope that Nova Scotians take the time - I know they are fair, they are interested and they are caring, and I hope they take the time to find out why we, as Opposition, these last several days, have been making our points as well as we can on this floor in the House of Assembly and in the Red Room in the Law Amendments Committee, to fight this bill, to kill this Bill No. 68. That is why this bill should be killed, and it should be dropped.

Mr. Speaker, unhappy workers, the smouldering of discontent and, on top of that, the whole message to them that they are not trustworthy. You look at the charge nurse in the emergency department and the amount of trust the employer must have in that person, her peers, her staff, colleagues must have trust, this whole system. If you don't understand, if this government doesn't understand, the health care system is a different system than a business somewhere else. It is not a business. This is something that business doesn't do well.

This whole idea is based on trust. I have worked in emergency departments in the middle of the night, back in the days when we weren't as sophisticated, perhaps, as we are now. I remember working with nurses. The whole thing was trust. Many of them had a better idea of what that patient needed at that particular time, and what the dose should be and how we should do it and all those other things. If somebody is going down at 3:00 o'clock in the morning, in those days there was nobody else to call. There were no paramedics, you called them you got the funeral home. You hoped that you didn't have to call them. That is the system.

Mr. Speaker, we have come a long way. The system is based on trust. I, as a physician, had to trust that nurse. I did. I would get to know her, obviously, and know her abilities and her background and her training, but there would be a trust that you would have, that I have never ever seen in any other job that I have ever worked, and I have worked in a few, separate from health care. If you don't understand that - and then to have the Premier of the province, whether he meant it or whatever, but to have the headlines come out that the Premier doesn't trust the health care workers of Nova Scotia, that went to the very basic foundation.

I am not saying that relationships in a bank or in a business, retail or wholesale, aren't based on trust, because I think that you have to have trust in your fellow workers, but it is not the same. You are putting your whole professional reputation and all the knowledge that you have and the experience and training, you are mixing it in in a collective team and you are working. Each one has a part to share, and you share and you trust.

Mr. Speaker, if I say nothing else today I just want to plead with the members across, on the government side, if nothing else you have to understand that the health care system is a different system. It is not an elitist system, because most people - like I said about the

[Page 5959]

neurosurgery nurse who couldn't finish her presentation because of tears, when she is at work, she is a professional, you know that she was, and she could be trusted. That is why she was crying, I believe, that day in the Law Amendment Committee because she was insulted by this government. Without being too dramatic, this person, lives were actually in her hands, she was being told that she could not be trusted.

Mr. Speaker, I must say that the past weeks in the Legislature, for me, have been very enlightening. They have been challenging, they have been stressful. We are all tired. As I said before, I was on the fish boats where I would get about one or two hours sleep for days in a row and I learned to sleep standing up, and that stood me in good stead this last week, although I tried to stay awake most of time for riveting debate. I found last evening, when a lot of people chose the opportunity in the Committee of the Whole, on the government side, that it was getting a little bit challenging to stay awake. In all fairness, no fault to those persons, because they have been pulled along in a vortex, like a drag behind a sailboat, with this bill.

In all fairness, they tried and many of them shared their own personal experiences, the deaths of their parents or some other significant person in their family. I think that was good, because that put a human side on this government. But they have to realize, Mr. Speaker, that they are part of the problem. They have a vote, it is one person, 52 members in this House and we all have a vote and each vote is equal.

[2:45 p.m.]

So don't get up to me and talk about the concern about your parents or your family and all the others and turn around and vote for Bill No. 68 because it ain't going to wash. You are not going to get my sympathy because I am going to tell you that when the next family member has some challenges and ends up in the QE II that the charge nurse told us about that is short seven staff persons, seven RNs, then that is going to be more challenging. That woman said, and I believe she said, that people are dying, have died in her arms because they had gridlock, particularly in the mornings, up in those places. That is what they are saying to this government. Send us more people. Send us the tools and we will do the job, but, for goodness sakes, money is important, but we need your trust and we need your respect.

I don't know how you build this in, Mr. Speaker, I don't know if it is too late for this government, if they have gone over the line. But I think they would be forgiven if they did the right thing. They are good people and if they are good people, do the right thing and pull this bill back. It is almost to the brink. We are heading into third reading and it is just about there, just the Lieutenant Governor to sign from then on. It is not too late and they can do it. This government has the choice. So if you are truly concerned about your parents and your children and your loved ones and your neighbours and the people down the street, or the stranger that you don't even know that collapses up here in the mall, if you truly are concerned, well then don't be part of the problem. Be part of the solution and get your

[Page 5960]

government to pull Bill No. 68. You have a vote. There are 52. They are added up at the end of the day and whichever side has the most votes wins. But in this case, if all the government members vote for this bill, they will win the vote, but they will lose the day and they will lose the trust and the faith of Nova Scotians.

I just wanted to say to many people, please don't attribute the disrespect shown by this government as being representative of all members of this House. Their thoughts and concerns mean a lot to us. I know members are stressed on all sides of the House, but I think the types of presentations - I don't think, I know - the types of presentations that came to the Law Amendments Committee, particularly, and support that we have had as legislators, this has been very important. I don't think I have ever felt the need for that type of support before as greatly as this time from these health care workers. I guess maybe it was the long hours and the fatigue, Mr. Speaker, that that support was so important.

So in case I don't get a further chance to speak to this bill, I want to thank all those people that came into the Law Amendments Committee and supported me. People probably think we are an elitist group, we get all kinds of money and perks and all the other things. They even get us confused with the MPs in Ottawa once in awhile. Mr. Speaker, I believe the people in this Legislature are fair. I have had several jobs and I feel as strongly towards my colleagues and the positive team building that we do within our various caucuses. They are fair people and this is what is so incomprehensible about this legislation, that fair-minded, good people can do bad things and why they would do such bad things.

Not all people feel this way on either side of the House, we know but it is fish-or-cut-bait time and don't pull the ethics bit with me, Mr. Speaker. I will tell any of the members that say that. The ethical thing to do is to pull Bill No. 68. It is evil and it is bad and it is wrong. So don't blame somebody else for what some Liberal Government did or Donnie Cameron took water from the plants in the government offices and killed the plants off or something like that. Don't pull that kind of stuff. That was then, but now is now and we have it today and we have a choice and that is what government is all about. We have a choice. If we need those tools to support our own mental stability, that is one thing, but don't pull that kind of stuff with me, that well, the Liberals did it, so we will do it. Well Hitler did it too, does that make it right?

I would also like to thank all those people who have called and written and faxed us. Their thoughts and beliefs, that meant a great deal to members; I am sure, I speak for all sides of the House here. In hearing and reading the concerns, there is no question as to why our health care system has been able to sustain the disruption that it has over the last weeks and months. Why hasn't it busted apart in the last two days? I have faith, Mr. Speaker, and I think it will hold together in the next two days. I know the Premier said it and he said it well last night, that we need 100 per cent of the health care system up and working. I can appreciate what he is saying, although I don't agree about that the strike in 1970's. He says was that

[Page 5961]

difficult, I don't want to get into that, but strikes are never good and I have said that myself. The other side has quoted me a couple of times, thrown it back at me.

The nurses don't want to be on strike and they gave that option to the Minister of Health a few minutes ago in the Red Room. Pull Bill No. 68, put it on hold, at least, I think it was, and there will be no strike tomorrow morning at 6:00 a.m. So, Mr. Speaker, on reading and hearing the concerns, there is no question that our health care system is able to sustain the disruption that it has over the last two months. Can it survive another couple of years of this Tory Government? I am not sure it is that strong. But I will tell you, if Bill No. 68 goes through and you take away the collective agreements where agents of two parties come together and sign an agreement and you displace that with one party, one signature, one Cabinet, one Premier signing that agreement, then I don't think a health care system as we know it will survive.

You can talk all about Sweden and what they are doing. They have had their problems, Mr. Speaker. They have had a whole different system. For the federal government now to be talking about maybe it was time to look at Sweden and see what they are doing. I would say that that is a very dangerous road to head down, a slippery slope. I don't think we have to go there. When we see the commitment of our health care workers, they will sustain the system. They have, under very difficult situations. The last few weeks have been terribly demanding on these people. Why don't they give up? They don't give up because that is the way they are. They have trust in the system. They have trust in their colleagues and they have trust in Nova Scotians, that Nova Scotians mean it when they say thank you for looking after me, thank you for hooking me up to that machine, thank you for just helping me in and out of bed, thank you. They have faith and they will sustain the system. I am not sure that this bill going out to the year 2004 will allow this system to be sustainable.

So you can have Roy Romanow running up and down the country all you want to and advising the federal government. People say, oh well, they are your Liberals. Well, I have had problems with the federal government lots of times, but I have had lots of positive relationships with Allan Rock, the Minister of Health, the nurse practitioner initiatives and those types of things and the money that they have sent, this government is taking credit for. I will tell you, if that is going to be the recommendation and that sort of thing, I am not sure that that is what Nova Scotians want to hear and I am not sure that is what we have to.

So back to Bill No. 68, Mr. Speaker, because I know I shouldn't get off that. So I don't think, in all fairness, even those of us who have trained in health care, that we really ever sit down and realize what our health care professionals do in the year 2001. My family doctor colleagues that I worked with previously assure me that I wouldn't recognize it now. I said, well, if I discovered some person with a breast lump, I would just take them upstairs to the surgeon and that would be on Thursday and, by Monday or Tuesday, we would have them in the OR at the old Halifax Infirmary. They say, no, that is not the way it works anymore.

[Page 5962]

So things have changed, Mr. Speaker, and even those of us who have worked 30 years in the system, we, I believe, don't understand what these people are doing in what they call their work. So I don't think we realize exactly what happened, but if anyone sat in on the Law Amendments Committee, then I think they would realize that there were just too many people coming in there and telling us a variation of the same theme, that the system needs help and it needs fixing and it needs, most of all, to have trust, trust in the people that are trying to make it work when the rest of us probably don't even understand what the job entails.

I want to thank the health care professionals who do work day in and day out in our health care system. They give of themselves in every way possible to achieve the health and safety of Nova Scotians, the people who are truly concerned with the health and safety of Nova Scotians, and how they do it and how they endure the long hours is amazing. But they do it, Mr. Speaker, and we have seen what has been involved in this past week in the way that we have worked here ourselves. That, for some people, is almost normal work. They have, in their hearts, a feeling of commitment, of caring, of compassion, that you just can't instill in someone.

People get out of the system early; people graduate and never work in the system. That happens in all professions, but those people who do stay, they have it and it is built inside and it is there. It is called compassion. It is caring and it is commitment and, most of all, to keep those elements working, they need to have faith that the system cares and that they are trusted. They conduct themselves professionally and admirably.

Mr. Speaker, their future in this province, working in health care, is at stake. The passing of Bill No. 68 lies with a stroke of the pen of this Cabinet, and can change the collective agreements, which really is not the right definition; the bill even breaks its own definition. If you look at the definition of collective agreement under the Trade Union Act, that says it is the same, then the bill goes on and describes it as something different altogether. So Bill No. 68 breaks itself, and maybe that is what we should do, break it and tear it apart and throw it away. The collective bargaining process with agents of two parties does work. It must be given every chance to work. It must have every opportunity to work. Bill No. 68, arriving at the table, destroyed that. They took it away.

It is tough and it is challenging, but it does work and it usually is rewarding at the end of the day. With Bill No. 68, this government says we don't want this process to work. We are tired of bargaining. Just go back to your workplace and do what we say. Well, this time, I don't think they are going to stay put, Mr. Speaker. Our health care professionals deserve better. We, as a Party, will not vote for Bill No. 68, that is a given. It is based on not only what we think is right, but I would like to think it is based on the health and the respect and the trust that we have in the health care professionals that find themselves at very much of a crossroad. It is not like Yogi Berra, when you come to crossroads, take it. They have to make choices here too, as this government has to make choices.

[Page 5963]

We believe in the collective bargaining process. This is what we have been bringing arguments forward for in addressing this bill at various stages as it has progressed through the House. We do fear the fallout and we ask that the government kill this bill before it is too late and Nova Scotia gets another black eye. The national people are watching, Mr. Speaker, there is no question about that. We don't need another black eye here in Nova Scotia and this bill will do it. It is to the Trade Union Act what the War Measures Act is to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is a wholesale suspension of all the ordinary rules for the duration of the so-called crisis of state. Unfortunately however, the only crisis of state is one that has been created here in Nova Scotia by this government.

This government had the chance to negotiate in good faith, and chose not to for political reasons, and now it is everyone else's fault. Well, Mr. Speaker, I don't think we on this side of the House are prepared to accept that and we know that the health professionals are not. It is not their fault and they are not going to take that. One cannot simply suspend the rules of conduct in labour relations simply because management feels that they are behind the eight ball and they are well behind the eight ball with this one, and that is not fair representation of the people and that is not fair play.

[3:00 p.m.]

The argument that a strike by health care workers would jeopardize essential patient care assumes that essential patient care isn't already being threatened. You can ask anyone, whether they be a patient or a professional working the system, patient care is already being threatened. That is why health care workers are about to strike. That is what it is all about. Government has not heeded their emergency warnings about health care management and the professionals working the system. Nurses and allied health care professionals alike can no longer, in good conscience, share responsibility for a situation they have done their best to correct.

This government has not only revealed its agenda with Bill No. 68, it's revealed its perspective on Nova Scotians and on organizations of Nova Scotians, whether they be trade unions, political Parties, non-profit groups, the list is endless.

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

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I rise once again to speak on Bill No. 68. I want to say that I am speaking on Bill No. 68 not because I want to, but we were forced to be here on behalf of a government who prematurely made a decision to interfere in the collective bargaining process. I want to do some backtracking to show us where we are at today. When I first stood before this Legislature to speak on Bill No. 68, we spoke on an amendment to hoist the bill. That amendment to hoist the bill was in order to allow it to be a six months'

[Page 5964]

hoist so that many Nova Scotians could tell this government exactly what they had felt about Bill No. 68.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians would have had the opportunity in that six month period to present their views before government of what kind of draconian legislation this government was bringing before the Legislature. They had the opportunity to either put those forward by written submission, or to come forward in that six month period to the Minister of Health, to the Premier, to the Minister of Justice, to the Minister of Finance, with exactly their particular views on Bill No. 68.

Well, Mr. Speaker, as we all know, the final decision came down to vote on the amendment to hoist this Bill No. 68. Because the government had a majority, the government killed the notion of Bill No. 68 being hoisted for a six month period. Then what happened, is this Legislature, again, put an amendment before the Legislature and that amendment was to refer this bill the Human Resources Committee. There was tremendous discussion on this bill. Now these amendments had been put forward by the Opposition, so we all know that the Opposition has certainly tried in every possible way to give government an out to kill Bill No. 68.

The government chose not to take an out and kill Bill No. 68, because if it had chosen to do so it would have referred this particular bill to the Human Resources Committee. The Human Resources Committee has a mandate and, Mr. Speaker, I might very well say, has the majority of the members on the government side on that Human Resources Committee. So there was ample opportunity for the government to hear and also ample opportunity for the Human Resources Committee to bring back a recommendation to this Legislature.

Mr. Speaker, that Human Resources Committee could have stayed here in Halifax and heard from one of the largest district health authorities, being the Capital District Health Authority in this particular area, and listened to each and every one of those presenters present before the Human Resources Committee their views with respect to Bill No. 68, or the Human Resources Committee could have gone across this province to all nine district health authorities and sought input from each and every one of those communities that are directly affected by the district health authorities. They could have sought input from each and every Nova Scotian from one end of this province to the other with respect to getting input again from Nova Scotians with respect to Bill No. 68.

But, once again, Mr. Speaker, this government chose to carry out its own mandate and not to seek input from Nova Scotians but it decided to vote against that amendment, which was put forward by the Opposition as well.

Mr. Speaker, one can only assume that there was a preconceived position by this government to bring forward Bill No. 68, and that, in fact, it did not want to adhere to its election mandate of being open, transparent and consultative. It certainly did not want to do

[Page 5965]

that. The Opposition had given the government the ample opportunity in which to bring forward that kind of open, transparent and consultative process, by virtue of going before the six months' hoist or by allowing it to go to the Human Resources Committee. That was ruled out. All of that was ruled out.

We are now on to the previous question. Today, I heard the Government House Leader and the member for Dartmouth South imply that this was simply a stall tactic by the Opposition and that the Opposition will be responsible if, in fact, people die as a result of a strike, and that it will be on our hands if there is a disruption in the health care services. Shame on them. The government has the majority in this House, and it has the ultimate power to withdraw this bill at any particular time.

Mr. Speaker, all I have to do is take my place here, and the Minister of Justice or the Minister of Health or the Premier himself can stand up and agree to withdraw this bill this very minute. I certainly will take my seat in this Legislature and wait for that to happen. I can assure you that that is not going to happen because it is a hard-headed agenda that was taken by individuals within the Cabinet, I would even go so far as to say that every member on that government side and every member of the Cabinet is not necessarily privy or receptive to having Bill No. 68 before this Legislature. I would say that they are getting their information from people in the downtown offices, who crafted this legal bill and who have said, stay the course, show your backbone, show your spine, but whatever you do stay the course.

Mr. Speaker, what I say to you is it is very easy to show backbone and spine by crafting a piece of legislation called Bill No. 68. What really shows backbone and spine and what is really difficult is to allow a collective bargaining process to take its place, despite the peaks and the valleys and the processes that one has to go through, and sometimes, yes, even the disruption. At the end of the day, you can rest assured that, in fact, there will be tentative agreement, and there will be an agreement. Eventually it has to happen.

Mr. Speaker, I don't know about you. I know that you are professional career person and that you have been in the policing services, and I am sure there have been collective agreements negotiated in your profession, as well as a number of professional people in here who have been or formerly were members of the union movement, the teachers union, the policing union and so on. At the end of the day, through all that process, they know that they have come with a collective agreement which everyone can live with.

But to have a gun forced to your head and a process of negotiations, which even the CEOs of the health regions recognized is not a way to negotiate collective agreements, it is totally wrong. There is no value, absolutely no value in the Nurses' Union or any professional in the health care services, both in the NSNU and the NSGEU, going to the table and trying to negotiate a fair collective agreement when they know that the money bag is held in the hands of government, and government has already delivered an ultimatum. The ultimatum comes in the form of a gun called Bill No. 68.

[Page 5966]

Bill No. 68 sends an automatic signal to the CEOs and to those who are negotiating on behalf of management that you don't have to do anything more, there is no need to increase that wage package, because, whatever happens, if they don't agree, we impose legislation. We impose the most draconian form of legislation one can possibly imagine; that draconian form of legislation is, in fact, Bill No. 68, because it takes away the whole collective bargaining process.

It is important to stand here and to speak on Bill No. 68, but it is important not to be repetitive. When you have 21 members of the Opposition speaking on this bill, it is extremely difficult not to be repetitive, but I am certainly trying not to be repetitive because I think it is important to let the government side know that there are new angles to this. The government is very much aware and everyone who has been involved in employee-employer relations, particularly through negotiations, is very much aware, and they do know that there is a process which we go through.

Mr. Speaker, I say to you and I say to the government side, had you allowed that process to follow its course, I don't believe that we would have been here debating Bill No. 68. It goes to show that the government has had a preconceived agenda or, I should say, a predetermined agenda, simply because when we look at some of the polling that the government has done around May 18th to May 20th and then a couple of weeks later, bringing in Bill No. 68. To say that the government knew nothing about this polling is something that every Nova Scotian who is watching Leg. TV today really doesn't believe. If you think that Nova Scotians believe that the government had no idea of those three questions that were put forward on that poll, someone is so wrong and someone is obviously misinformed.

As we sit here today, there are many Nova Scotians who know that government bureaucracies don't do anything unless the minister or the deputy minister or the head managers of those departments are very much aware. Can you imagine a questionnaire going out for polling from the Department of Community Services and the minister not being aware of it? I can assure you that is so out of the question. I can tell you that those kinds of questions that were put forward on that poll, and if every one of those backbenchers believed that it was someone in the Human Resources Department, and only those people in the Human Resources Department knew about this, then they are so wrong.

I don't believe their mental capacity allows them to think that way. I believe that they very well know that, in fact, government was very much aware of these polls that had gone out. The government was orchestrating this Bill No. 68, based upon polls, in which it determined the questions. I don't know and I shouldn't make mention of names, but the name of an individual who might come very close is Dr. Peter Butler. He is usually one of those individuals who is quite familiar with polling, and probably is a good supporter of the Tory Party, and so on and so forth, who might have crafted the language on this poll or helped craft the language on this poll. I am not sure.

[Page 5967]

The point is this, there was expertise in crafting the questions on this poll that went out, and there was expertise, knowing full well that those individuals would get the kind of response and answer back from those polls, in order for them to craft Bill No. 68. I don't believe the Minister of Justice crafted this Bill No. 68. I believe it was crafted by professional lawyers downtown, people outside the government, who, in fact, turned around and passed this bill on to the government, and said, go ahead, this is what you want to do, and this is the way you will carry this message through.

That is the kind of way this government has been continuing to operate. The Premier stood up, in a speech yesterday - and I just happened to be here - and he quoted one of Canada's longest-standing Prime Ministers, MacKenzie King. He made the quote, and I repeat the quote, "It is what we prevent, rather than what we do that counts most in Government." The words could not be so true, but I think the words have been fabricated

in such a way so that the Premier could put that kind of a phrase back into his pocket.

[3:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, on this side of the floor, I want to tell you, it is, indeed, what you prevent and the government has the power to prevent Bill No. 68 from continuing to be debated in this Legislature. As a matter of fact, the government has the power to kill Bill No. 68. Once again, as I have said without being repetitive and trying to be redundant on these things, kill Bill No. 68 by the honourable Government House Leader simply standing up in his place in this Legislature and simply saying to you, Mr. Speaker, that we will withdraw Bill No. 68. Then we can certainly turn around and take a vote on it. I am sure there would be no opposition on this side of the House with respect to carrying Bill No. 68.

So, Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you that once again it is in the hands of this government. Nova Scotians know that and I know that. For members of that political Party to tell me and my Party, in the Opposition, that we are responsible for one single death that occurs as a result of a walkout or a strike by Nova Scotians, and the member for Dartmouth South, who, in fact, has a hospital located in his constituency, makes accusations like that to me or anyone else in this Legislative Assembly, that is so wrong. They have the majority. The government is the majority. The government introduced a bill and the government can pull the bill.

Mr. Speaker, I want you to know that I sat here and I have supported and listened to the health care workers. I want you to know that I left out a part of the involvement that I have actually been involved in. I had the fortunate opportunity to sit on the Law Amendments Committee, from time to time, relieving some of my colleagues, because the government decided to speed the process up through the Law Amendments Committee and put in these 12 hour or 16 hour shifts or more into the Law Amendments Committee, that we had the opportunity of shifting and taking places in that Law Amendments Committee.

[Page 5968]

I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that I heard from a number of people in the health care profession, a number of nurses in the health care profession and a number of people who were technologists, people who were experts in many fields in which I don't profess to know or fully understand, within the health care profession. But I want to tell you, their stories were gut wrenching. They were actually heartbreaking stories. I know there are times in this Legislature when you are not supposed to demonstrate compassion and so on because it is a sign of weakness. However, compassion is certainly there and it is certainly a makeup in the structure of the human being and there are times when you have to be compassionate. I have listened to those stories and I have listened to nurses and professionals in that health care profession who brought premature children in and who had attended in children's hospitals and in hospitals across this Province of Nova Scotia. I have listened to nurses in long-term home care who watched individual elderly people die.

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you that that is from cradle-to-grave involvement. It is your family, my family and it is everyone's family and it is every member's family of this Legislative Assembly who has been touched by a health care professional. It may have been our sons or daughters or grandchildren, it may have been our mothers or fathers or our grandparents, but everyone of us have been touched by the expertise of individuals in the health care profession. We have significantly been in touch with those individuals.

I have had the opportunity to walk through the palliative care unit of some hospitals here in Nova Scotia and I want to tell you that that in itself is an experience which the nursing profession sees every day. I can tell you it is a profession in which I don't profess to have the kind of courage that is needed to carry on such a career, because every day is a new experience. Every day is the opportunity to have stress placed upon you and for us, as a government, to not recognize that contribution over the intent to want to turn around and balance the budget or the deficit in order to bring a 10 per cent tax cut to Nova Scotians is so wrong.

Mr. Speaker, there has to be a balance in this Legislature, and when I made a commitment to come to this Legislative Assembly, I made a commitment to represent the interests of all Nova Scotians, not only a particular handful of Nova Scotians who have a special interest and a special interest of the corporate elite or those particular individuals who are there like the Sobeys or like those individuals who want to grab a $3 million tax break and, if not, they are going to move out of the Province of Nova Scotia. Well nurses have feet too and they can vote by their feet, as well, and leave the province, but you don't see the government coughing up the additional dollars for them to stay in this province. Yet, $3 million to encourage a homegrown company like Sobeys to stay in Nova Scotia; $3 million, just think about that. Yet, it is okay for them to do that, but it is not okay for them to put additional monies in the purse for the nurses, for people in the health care profession to receive an increase.

[Page 5969]

Mr. Speaker, the people of this province, particularly those individuals in the health care profession, witness everyday the high cost of health care in this province. Those people in that health profession know that there is $1.8 billion of taxpayers' money put into that health care profession this year. They also know that that is roughly 39 per cent of the total expenditures of this government. They are not blind sided to that kind of information. They understand the realities of this province. They understand that this province has an $11 billion debt that has been created by the previous Tory and Liberal Governments. They understand that that $11 billion debt has been there.

Mr. Speaker, they understand that and they know that Nova Scotia, in order to move forward, has to come out of that kind of a situation. But they also know the value of their resource, as human beings, has to be counted into as well. I want you to know, when those individuals bargain at the bargaining table, they know that when they set the agenda or the tone, that they are going to go for a 20 per cent increase, but that is probably the ceiling. I am not here to negotiate the collective agreement across this legislative floor, but I can tell you that there are ceilings put in both by management and labour when they set up the negotiating table.

It is the medium in between, Mr. Speaker, that, in fact, is a kind of medium in which you negotiate the difference.You negotiate that not by introducing legislation, but by allowing the existing legislation and its framework to take its place within the bargaining process. That is what you do. I can assure you that the government can turn around here and say, look, we have given them a 10 per cent increase and that 10 per cent increase is hard and fast and that is where we will stay. Well, what would happen if it only took another 2 per cent? Would that bankrupt this province? I would say not. What would happen if it took another 4 per cent? Would that bankrupt this province? I would say not. Particularly, when this government stands here and says that by the year 2003 it will have a balanced budget. That means there will be no more deficit. That means there will be a balanced budget and, in fact, not only will it have a balanced budget, but it will give to Nova Scotians a 10 per cent tax cut.

Mr. Speaker, the last time I looked at the priorities of Nova Scotians, Nova Scotians recognize that their priorities were around health care and that in March, 44 per cent told Nova Scotians that health care was a priority with them. The second major priority was education and we have watched what this government has done, both to health care, education and also to community services. Every single individual in this province has paid the price for the 1999 election campaign of this Tory Government. This government and its blue book - and I know I have it here somewhere, I can assure you - actually this is not the one that is signed by every single Tory, I have decided to save that for some day when I might leave government to (Interruption) Yes, to auction it off in hopes that it will help the Party's fortune with respect to money, that maybe some great Tory will buy it for $100,000 or something.

[Page 5970]

But I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that this is in fact what the Tories campaigned on in 1999. If you look through this blue book and the 243 promises, you would believe that they were New Democrats campaigning on the doorstep because this is a social agreement with Nova Scotians, basically the platform of this agenda. Their number one priority was with respect to health care. I cited the sections of health care more times than enough and I said to you that I would certainly try not to be repetitive, after being here, speaking myself for approximately four hours now and I know that there were 21 other members who have spoken here for four hours or more, a total of 80 some hours and the clock is still ticking, so I am not going to cite out of that book today. I think enough is said.

The book speaks for itself. It was supposed to be open. It was supposed to be transparent and it was supposed to be consulted. Mr. Speaker, if Bill No. 68 was a product of some consultation, it certainly wasn't a product of some consultation with respect to people who are employed within the health care profession. It certainly had not been consulted with those individuals, if not, Bill No. 68 wouldn't be here. This government has the opportunity to address Bill No. 68 simply by killing the bill now.

Yesterday, Mr. Speaker, I have to tell you that I spoke for only a half hour and I did indicate that I was going to only speak for a half hour and it is the first time that I have sat in this Legislature and didn't use the optimum amount of time that was afforded to me. (Interruption) Actually, the Wal-Mart greeter over there has informed me that in fact it was 32 minutes yesterday. I want to thank the Wal-Mart greeter for that statistical information because I am sure that he is accumulating a wealth of statistical information as this Legislature sits.

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, I have to tell you, that in my half hour or 32 minute speech, I decided to sit down because I knew that it would give the government members an opportunity to speak on Bill No. 68. I thought there would be some differences with respect to the government members' position on Bill No. 68, that some of them demonstrated some compassion, some understanding and caring for those people who work in the health care profession and that in fact they recognized how quickly they settled the contract agreement with the paramedics, how quickly they settled the contract with the correctional workers. I am sure that this has nothing to do with the fact that 97 per cent of these people are females that this contract is not being settled. I am sure that that is not the case at all. I am sure that the government is setting a tone and an agenda for future negotiations by way of bringing in Bill No. 68.

As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, the Premier alluded to that by saying that in the fall, there will be some very strong legislation coming forward. He may not have used exactly those same words, but implied to those of us who read and have heard the Premier's statement that in fact in the fall, there will be some very strong legislation coming forward to control or to restrict or to have an effect upon those individuals who will be involved in the collective bargaining process in the future.

[Page 5971]

[3:30 p.m.]

We do know that there are more contracts to come up during this government's term in office and we do know that that legislation will probably be equally as draconian as this legislation, if in fact the government gets by and has the intestinal fortitude to vote for this legislation that is before this House now.

Mr. Speaker, I will tell you, the Premier says that it is a difficult decision, that it is a decision made to prevent the impact of the strike on Nova Scotians, but there is no possible way that the government can prevent that strike on this very day because the strike days are already set and there will be a strike, as a matter of fact, and the government of the day will accuse the Opposition of delaying the progression of this bill through the Legislature and that the government of the day will turn around and if there are any serious occurrences within the health care services, they will blame the Opposition, even though they have the ultimate power to do away with this now. (Interruptions)

I can hear the honourable member for Dartmouth South. The honourable member for Dartmouth South has an opportunity to stand here and speak on Bill No. 68 and he has an opportunity to stand here on third reading and speak on this bill and he has an opportunity to have his say. That, Mr. Speaker, is the opportunity and the right of the government members, as much as it is the right of the Opposition. You would think that having a critical care centre within his constituency he would be the very first person to get up here on third reading and be vocal about this bill. I don't care if he speaks in favour of the bill or not. At least if he gets up on third reading, he gets up there, it is written in Hansard and we can certainly send it out to the constituency in which he represents if he chooses not to send it out to the constituency himself. So there is the opportunity for that honourable member for Dartmouth South to get up on his feet and speak before his constituents.

I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, the honourable member for Dartmouth South is obviously trying to get some information and he ought to know that it is very easy for him to not only get information, but to disseminate that information by getting up here and speaking on this Bill No. 68. He has five senior citizens' residential developments within his constituency, five of them. I know each and every one of those five senior residential developments. I do know that in fact there are some long-term care facilities within his constituency, as well, Oakwood Terrace is one, for example. I can tell you that there are some very serious issues around that, but yet there are professional people who every day give of themselves to make sure that those individuals receive the optimum care.

For this government, Mr. Speaker, to stand in this Legislative Assembly and to tell Nova Scotians that they don't trust people in the health care profession is so wrong. They said the reason why they had to introduce this legislation was because they don't trust the health care profession. The Minister of Health is very much aware that the health care profession has set out an essential services agreement with every one of those district health

[Page 5972]

authorities across this province, all eight of them, including the Capital District Health Authority.

As a matter of fact, Bob Smith, the CEO of the Capital District Health Authority, has recognized that those individuals were quite prepared to make sure that the kind of emergency and essential services that Nova Scotians needed would not be disrupted in the event of a strike. They know that. They have made scare tactics with respect to people who are cancer patients, that cancer patients wouldn't be treated, those serious cases and so on. That is far from the truth.

I do know, Mr. Speaker, that the president of the NSGEU has recognized that those very critical cases will, in fact, be addressed and that there is an essential service agreement with every district health authority across this province to make sure that everyone who is in need of health care in a critical situation will get that. That is not only the nurses, that is the radiologists, that is the technologists, that is the cardiologists, that is everyone all the way down through that stream of health care professionals who deliver those kind of services who have made that commitment to Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say, as I stand in this House, that I am proud of those individuals who have made that commitment, not because they have to, but because they care for Nova Scotians. Because, under the Trade Union Act, they have a right to withdraw their services. It is one of the key elements in allowing individuals to have equal footing with their employer through a negotiating process, that in fact they have a valued resource - themselves and their expertise and their skills - to provide to an employer and if the employer isn't prepared to ante up, then they have the right to withdraw that service. It is much the same as in earlier times that you had the advantage of and that you had the power to pass that on to someone if you wished to do so. In this particular case, those individuals decided not only would they not abuse their power and the authority, which they have under the Trade Union Act, but they decided that, as well, that they would contribute to making sure that Nova Scotians had the best possible health care while there was a cessation of service.

I don't know what more a government can expect of its public employees than to have that kind of a commitment from them, Mr. Speaker, I really don't know. When you look at the alternative and you see what they could have done, but what they chose not to do, you have to congratulate them and recognize the respect that they have for Nova Scotians and not only the respect that they have for Nova Scotians, but the respect that they have for their profession. One can only hope that the government will someday recognize their commitment to Nova Scotians and their commitment to their profession.

When I stood in this House, I took the Oath of Allegiance and also as the Premier has said, when he stood in this House, he took the Oath of Allegiance and an oath of conscience, guided by Nova Scotians. Mr. Speaker, I too took that Oath of Allegiance and I too took that oath of conscience guided by Nova Scotians. For me to stand in this Legislative Assembly

[Page 5973]

and say that everyone in my constituency agreed with my position, I would be wrong because actually I did meet a person who, in fact, supported the government's side on this particular Bill No. 68. I want to tell you that it was only one person and I never even received one single e-mail or one single phone call in support of Bill No. 68 and the actions this government was taking.

Now I have talked to some people in the business community and I want you to know that in the constituency that I live in, there are some 2,000 businesses within the constituency of Dartmouth North who contribute on a full-scale basis to the tax dollars of this province. I have never had one call from those individuals. As a matter of fact, I have spoken to some of those individuals who say that the government has misread this all along and the government will misread this right to its very day.

You know, Mr. Speaker, when you get your feet in this brick and you get your foot stuck in this cement, you can't possibly move, then rigidity sets in and it doesn't matter what we in the Opposition say with respect to this government. We have offered to this government many avenues in which to get themselves out of. But if their feet are stuck in cement, then there is no possible way that you can encourage a government to move. Because as I have said, Mr. Speaker, we have offered by way of the hoist of six months, we have offered by way of the Human Resources Committee, we have attempted to bring in recommendations through the Law Amendments Committee and we have attempted to bring in, through Committee of the Whole House on Bills, amendments to the bill.

As a matter of fact, there was one amendment to this bill that I thought was a very proactive move by the Opposition and that was a 30 day cooling off period whereby the government would have the opportunity to let this sit for 30 days, to let this gel to see what actually comes out of this structure after a 30 day period. Then the government can turn around and say, look, all that the Opposition has said has not worked. It is not working and we need your support and we need to get down to business. The government could have done that. The government also could have imposed binding arbitration, much the same as they agreed to with the paramedics.

Mr. Speaker, if in fact the government was concerned about its budget and if the government was concerned that it did not have the ability to pay, as my colleague for Halifax Chebucto had stated, and he is the legal expert in this particular field and I don't profess to be, he has stated that that is taken into account when the arbitrator makes that decision. I can tell you that binding arbitration comes with an agreement. It comes with an agreement that usually the arbitrator is agreed upon, both by the employer and the employee. They are prepared to commit themselves to the end result. Rarely - and I don't know if there is a record or not - has binding arbitration been turned down and individuals gone on strike. I am sure there have been some cases and I am sure there will be cases in the future where that happens.

[Page 5974]

My understanding is, and from what I am told, and I don't keep any statistical records on this, but what I am told about this is that binding arbitration is usually very successful and, for the most part, binding arbitration is adhered to by all parties. I can only go with that in mind, Mr. Speaker, and it troubles me that the Minister of Health and the Minister of Finance, and particularly the honourable Government House Leader, and I am not talking about the Minister of Justice because I don't know where he is half the time anyway with respect to this Legislature, but I will say that the Minister of Health, the Minister of Finance and the honourable Government House Leader, not even the Premier, but those three individuals do have the opportunity to say, yes, we can talk in Cabinet and, yes, we can bring about that process of binding arbitration.

I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that I am not particularly one who favours binding arbitration. I live with the fact that it is part of the Trade Union Act and it is part of the negotiating process. I firmly believe that the best process is that process of negotiations that is allowed to go forward and is allowed to take place. That is the kind of thing that I take issue with and I firmly believe that ought to be the way to go. I do know that the Premier talked about the strike of 1975. I don't profess to know anything about that strike of 1975, but he gave this fair message to Nova Scotians that for somehow, this strike of 1975 disrupted the health care service in such a way that it was impossible to fix or mend and that it had such a disruption on the delivery of health care to Nova Scotians when in fact that is far from the truth.

I do know that my colleague, the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect, had spoken about one of the articles or journals with respect to the 1975 health strike and that he has even cited sections of The Chronicle-Herald and The Mail-Star, at that particular time, that no one would even recognize that there was a strike going on, but the delivery of essential services was there and they were in place. So I think it is very important to know that the government has been sending messages out there to Nova Scotians that in fact there will be some kind of a disastrous effect on the delivery of health care in Nova Scotia if the individuals are allowed to go on strike, and that somehow legislation like this may make the climate within the workplace a much better place to work.

[3:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, it does quite the opposite. Individuals within that health care profession and all those professional individuals will work the rule. Right now, they are simply stressed out. They deserve to be recognized for the tremendous amount of work that they do. However, when you impose legislation upon individuals, you can rest assured when they are squeezed in a corner they will not deliver the 100 per cent that you have been accustomed to. It is natural to make sure that government recognizes the kind of professional individuals they are, and therefore they will, in fact, remember the government, and they will have a long memory.

[Page 5975]

Mr. Speaker, I want you know that we talk about people having short memories, they have a tendency to forget. I remember when you and your government were on this side of the floor, I remember how you criticized the former Liberal Government for a $640 million health care investment plan and I remember how your government said you could correct the problem for $46 million. I was only here for a short time, but I am one of those individuals who does have a memory. I try to remember some of the things that go on here, and I try to keep it in there so that one day it will come back to haunt the government that turned around and stood here, about the health care profession.

I remember that Minister of Health, who sat right alongside the Premier, in that row over there, after the annual meeting of the Tory Party, which he supported, which the other knives were out and he supported. He used to sit in the back here at first, and when he supported the Premier at that annual convention, all of a sudden, a week later that Minister of Health is up in the front seat. He was in the seat next to the Premier - or the then-Leader of the Tory Party. He sat there and he berated the government, day in and day out, about the health care services that this government was delivering to Nova Scotians. His government was prepared and was going to, in fact, deliver a better health care service for less dollars. Now, all of a sudden, there seems to be a different picture when you get over there.

Mr. Speaker, I want you to know that I read the same budget books that you did, and that the government side read. We were very much aware of the financial position this government was in. We knew that this government, for no apparent reason, was not telling us the truth when it said it had a $1 million surplus; we knew that, and so did anyone who read the budget books. The Finance Minister who now says he wants to be a real Finance Minister is getting the message and getting the lesson of being a real Finance Minister, because every day I am sure he is being educated on this particular matter. I do know that now that real Finance Minister knows very well that that $1 million surplus was non-existent. We knew it then, we knew it when we went into the campaign in July 1999, and that Finance Minister knew very well, as well.

He also knew very well of the passivity of the former Liberal Government, with its colleagues in the federal government, in not bringing forward the dollars through the CHST that should have been brought forward to this province. In fact, that Finance Minister was very much aware of that, that this particular government was extremely passive at a time when Nova Scotians couldn't afford to be. Nova Scotians took the hardest hit and the biggest hit, and the federal cuts, in order for the federal government to turn around and balance its

deficit, Nova Scotians, here, in this province, took the hardest hit.

Mr. Speaker, if you ever wanted to see how hard of a hit that took, all you have to recognize is all the federal employees who could line up across this province, who were former federal employees who lost their jobs, and all those individuals who had wage cuts, simply give them $2.00 bills and let them go through a till and you would have seen how much an effect that had on the economy. You don't have to be an economist to . . .

[Page 5976]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I was wondering if the honourable member for Dartmouth North would entertain a question?

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member for Dartmouth North entertain a question?

MR. PYE: Well, Mr. Speaker, coming from the honourable Minister of Education, and it is not Question Period, I would be delighted.

MS. PURVES: Mr. Speaker, earlier, the honourable member said that you couldn't tell by looking at the newspapers at the time, The Chronicle-Herald, that there was even a strike on. I have here, and I am willing to table, the front pages and turn pages of the paper at the time, detailing the strike. So I was just wondering where the honourable member got his information?

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, if the honourable member will check Hansard she will see that I said the strike had a negative effect. I didn't say that you couldn't tell a strike was on because you could always tell a strike was on and, if the Hansard report is different, then I will certainly recognize the honourable member with that. But I want you to know that I said that it did not have a negative effect on the delivery of critical health care services in this province. I want to thank the honourable Minister of Education for the question and I feel like I am in government already, on this side of the House. I want to tell the honourable minister that I will take the information in which the honourable minister has passed before this Legislature and I will certainly read it and absorb it and should I, at a future day, get the opportunity to speak, I will speak with more clarity on that particular subject than the Minister of Education has said is not forthcoming today.

So having said that, Mr. Speaker, I don't want to get off track here but, prior to the question, I was talking about what the present Finance Minister knew when he was in Opposition; the kind of things that were happening; and the kind of things that were happening at the federal government level. He was also very much aware of the kind of hits that the Province of Nova Scotia took by the Liberal cousins, for those Liberals who were in government at the time. But that makes no excuse and gives this government no excuse for not delivering up on its platform that it has put out to Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, that government, despite all of that, had known - if we in the Opposition knew and when we campaigned and we told Nova Scotians the truth that it was not a balanced budget and we knew that there were deficits and there were financial matters not accounted for, then surely that minister and that government over there knew as well. Instead, they chose to go forward. They chose to push themselves forward as recognizing that there

[Page 5977]

was oodles of money in the Province of Nova Scotia and that they were going to deliver their number one priority of health care.

That just reminds me, Mr. Speaker. I am glad the Minister of Education did get up to speak because I remember a postcard that was in the campaign while the Minister of Education was campaigning. I never heard mention of that postcard through this entire health bill, Bill No. 68. Yet, I expected members from the Cape Breton area to bring it up. That was, close Sysco, more hospital beds. Well, that just didn't happen. There are no more hospital beds and not only that, there is less money - I shouldn't say that, I better be careful, there is more chaos in the health care profession today than there was back in 1998 that is partly responsible for those collective agreements that are now coming forward. That is, in fact, what this government knew and this government was aware they had to address these issues and that there would be financial commitments by this government.

As I said earlier, Mr. Speaker, and I want to harken back and I want to say that there is no bag of money in the Province of Nova Scotia, but that is the fault of this government. It is the fault of the Minister of Economic Development, as well. They can rewrite contractual agreements. It may cost money, but they can rewrite contractual agreements on the use of our natural resources. We are selling our natural resources for a song, for the most part. All you have to do is get up and you don't have to sing Out on the Mira, that may not be a requirement as under the former John Buchanan Government, but you might have to stand up and sing another song, Farewell to Nova Scotia, or whatever the case may be.

Mr. Speaker, there is the opportunity for Nova Scotians to gain more out of their natural resources, be it forestry, be it agriculture, be it mining, be it offshore oil developments. There are opportunities for each and every one of us to gain additional revenue so that we can pay people in our province those kinds of dollars. I don't know what the stumpage fee is in the Province of Nova Scotia, I leave that up to our critic, the member for Hants East, who is the Natural Resources Critic, John MacDonell. I leave that up to him to find out. But I can assure you that our stumpage fees are probably far less than what they ought to be and that in fact, even if we were to up them 10 per cent or add another 25 cents or 50 cents to those stumpage fees, how much revenue that could generate into this province or from strip mining and how many additional dollars we could possibly get from that natural resource so that all Nova Scotians have the right to benefit from those mining resources that are out there.

The natural gas that is offshore, I can understand that there is some difficulty with the previous government in having to live with already signed agreements with respect to the offshore, Mr. Speaker. But I can tell you, having said that, there is more exploration going on in the offshore with respect to oil developments and also on land, inshore as well, with respect to oil developments, that in fact we can ask for a greater share. Someone made a comment that we are putting that exploration off for 11 cents an acre. You might as well give it away. What does 11 cents an acre entail? Does the Department of Natural Resources, the

[Page 5978]

Department of Environment and Labour actually get the real dollars should there be an environmental disaster as a result of that, who covers those costs and so on? Those are all the kinds of things in which we can turn around and generate additional dollars into the purse so that Bill No. 68 could never have been in this Legislature and that people could actually get paid a reasonable worth.

Once again, Mr Speaker, I know that my time is drawing near and I must say that I have had the opportunity now to speak for about four and a half hours to my maximum five hours of speaking on Bill No. 68. I must tell you, having looked at this Bill No. 68 and trying to rationalize it from the government side of the floor, not only from the Opposition side of the floor, but trying to rationalize it from the government side of the floor, it makes no economic sense. You can be penny wise, but you can be pound foolish. I believe that that is an old British phrase that came forward through with the half-pence and so on. I don't want to be quoted on that, but I believe that in fact it is an old British phrase and it goes way back to implying that someone who tries to save a penny today can lose a pound tomorrow.

It is the kind of thing that Bill No. 68 does, Mr. Speaker. It dehumanizes everyone of those individuals who are professionals in their particular fields, particularly now that we are talking about health care. It demonstrates the lack of respect, the lack of value, the lack of understanding, the lack of knowing the kind of professional services that each and every one of these 89 different professional careers that are in the health services deliver. That is something I didn't know until I got through Bill No. 68, but there are approximately, I believe, 80 to 89 different professional careers within the health services sector. Each and every one of those different health careers are melded together to deliver to Nova Scotians the kind of services that every day they pay their tax dollars for through the health services tax, and hope they never get the opportunity to ever have to use it. Yet, Nova Scotians willingly pay for that service.

[4:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I, too, want to thank each and every one of those within the health profession, and each and every one of those careers within the health profession and those individuals attached to those careers for the kind of services they provide to Nova Scotians. I thank you for having the opportunity to speak.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, again I have the opportunity to rise and speak against Bill No. 68. I believe it is the fourth time I have been on my feet regarding this bill since the debate started a couple of weeks ago. I want to tell you that I consider this to be the last appeal that I will have to government members to try and exact some conscience out of the minds of those government members who are over there, regarding Bill No. 68.

[Page 5979]

Mr. Speaker, before I go too far I want to make some reference to something my good friend, the member for Dartmouth North, talked about regarding the infamous postcard the Minister of Education sent around. Her sentiments were certainly echoed and supported by the present member for Cape Breton North regarding Sysco. I want to tell this House that she missed something on the postcard, and the something on the postcard, shouldn't have been close Sysco and open beds, it should have been close Sysco and everything else. That is what is happening with this government, we are not opening beds, we are shutting down the health care system. While the election ploy worked at that time for that member, it is certainly is not going to work for her in the next election, I can tell you that.

Mr. Speaker, I want to make reference to Bill No. 68, An Act to Continue Healthcare Services in Nova Scotia, introduced by the gang that couldn't shoot straight, the government. This gang over here, whether they realize it or not, has a majority in this House, and they fumbled this bill to the point where, here we are today on the eve of perhaps the worst strike in the history of the Province of Nova Scotia, this government, sitting there with a majority, fumbled, dropped the ball on this issue.

Mr. Speaker, the reason they dropped the ball is reason itself. Reason did not prevail, and that is what brought us to this point. This government had ample opportunity to go back to the bargaining table to discuss this very serious situation with the stakeholders, the health care people in this province but they chose not to because that was never the agenda. What the agenda is is what is in today's Daily News: Tories eye wider anti-strike law - that is the agenda - Proposed bill will remove right to strike from other public sector employees.

This government used the health care workers as pawns in this game to get at the entire labour movement in this province next fall. That is what is going on here. It had nothing to do with the quality of health care in this province, because what happened with that was that one day the Premier was out there talking to the press and he said that we couldn't allow this to go because we were afraid that essential health care services would not be available to the people of Nova Scotia.

That is what he said on one day, Mr. Speaker. The next day I heard him in a scrum out there and he said it is a money issue. The first reason didn't wash with anybody, so then he came back with another reason. Now it is $100 million issue, which they are trying to tell Nova Scotians, by misleading Nova Scotians into thinking that $100 million is coming out of the coffers right now, this year, to pay for this, when they, themselves, know that is not true. No one has ever demonstrated that a $100 million cost is going to be on the books of this province this year to settle this contract.

Mr. Speaker, I thought when this government came into this Legislature this year with the kind of bills they brought, Bill No. 20, I thought that bill was bad, and we spoke on that bill at length, then along came Bill No. 30, which was worse, then came the Barrington bill, which was a bill that effectively tells Nova Scotians that if you want to get a doctor in your

[Page 5980]

community then go see your mayor or your councillor because we are not in the business of recruiting doctors any more, we gave that right to the municipalities. They snuck it in the door, in a Private Member's Bill. They duped the poor member for Shelburne into bringing that bill in here because they already wrote him off anyway. They said we might as well get him to bring this bill in here, he can sneak this bill through in a Private Member's Bill, and that stage is set, the municipalities will now have to go out and pit one against the other to try to get doctors into their communities.

I thought that bill was bad enough, until along came Bill No. 68. We are in third reading on that particular bill, and we are winding it down. The government has fumbled and fumbled through this whole debacle, to the point where, tomorrow morning, there is going to be a strike in this province. It is unfortunate, because it could have been avoided. It could have been avoided with meaningful negotiations. Again, time and time again, we have to remind Nova Scotians that this is a wider agenda for this crowd of right-wing demigods who are sitting over there posing as a responsible government.

Mr. Speaker, I know, my colleagues know and the Opposition knows that this agenda is much wider than that. This agenda is about control. If Donnie Cameron was sitting over there, he would be smiling from ear to ear, or Mike Harris, if he was sitting there. This is a reincarnation of previous right-wing governments that set out to totally destroy everybody but their rich friends. This particular government wants control by Cabinet decree of just about everything in this province, including the giving away of taxpayers' dollars to corporations all the way down to deciding what public servants are going to make in the future and what their working conditions are going to be.

Mr. Speaker, that is going to drive professionals from this province as sure as I am standing in my place. How in the name of heavens is anybody going to be able to recruit anybody in this province with the legislation that is before this House? Who in their right minds is going to come to Nova Scotia to work under these conditions where they would have to subject their entire being, their workplace and their future to the whim of a Cabinet? Imagine. Not even providing for compulsory or binding arbitration in this province. They are not even doing that in this bill.

What they are doing here is taking complete control of the agenda and saying we, as a Cabinet, know what is best. In other words, we have you under our thumb. That is what is going on here in this province. Worse than that, once again they are showing their contempt for the courts of this province. Once again, they are saying there is no redress to the court, sorry, but we are the final court of appeal. Twelve politicians sitting on the front benches here, of which two or three have any say, will tell the other nine, and the other nine will tell the caucus, and the deed will be done. The deed will be done by a few people running the agenda of this province.

[Page 5981]

I said it here the other day, that democracy died with this bill in Nova Scotia. Democracy died with this bill. We are in the worst form of autocratic government, bordering on fascism, that this province has ever seen. People opposite think this is funny. They sat through this whole two weeks smiling and telling jokes to one another and introducing people from their constituencies who were coming up here to see how they are going to vote, and who will go out there in hall and tell us they are never going to vote for them again. They couldn't care how many times they got introduced in here by these members.

I spoke to a gentleman today, out at the CBC station on Bell Road, who worked for CBC. He told me he was a good friend of the member for Eastern Shore, I believe it is. I don't know whether he works for CBC but he was there when I was doing an interview anyway. His wife is a nurse, and they are very good friends of the member for Eastern Shore. He said, and he was echoing the sentiments of his wife, that as good a friend as they were of that member, they would never vote for him or the Tory Party again. That is a good friend of this member.

Mr. Speaker, today we were presented, the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union, with the Ipsos Reid survey that was out today, and 7 in 10 Nova Scotians agree with the nurses that they are not paid enough; 7 in 10 Nova Scotians, and this government has the gall to sit over there and defy that number.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the reason why we are here tonight still discussing this bill is the fact that we are going to the last possible challenge we have in order to see if there is any conscience at all over there to hoist this bill, take it, throw it out the window and go back to the bargaining process that they should never have left. Again, I remind Nova Scotians and those stakeholders who are here today, that was never their agenda in the first place. How can you trust a crowd that appoints a mediator one day and then brings in a bill the next day and recalls the Legislature? What kind of bargaining was that? There was never any intention to do any bargaining by that crowd opposite. Never. They wanted to use the health care workers as pawns in this chess game they are playing with the lives of Nova Scotians in the future. That is exactly why we are here today discussing this bill, because there are other bills going to be coming before this House that are probably going to be worse than this one, if that is possible.

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you that our Party was extremely upset with the fact that this government did not even provide for any kind of third party litigation here. That the Cabinet and the Cabinet only were going to decide what people are going to be paid in this province, what health care professionals are going to be paid. That is a terrible indictment on this government. That is a terrible indictment on a government that was elected to represent all Nova Scotians. That is a terrible indictment on a government whose sole purpose is to look after their friends, the rich and the powerful in this province, and you can see that by every single piece of legislation that has come before this House. From privatization to the

[Page 5982]

distribution of Economic Development dollars, or what is left of Economic Development dollars in this province.

It has been asked many times in the last couple of days, why are you, the Liberal Party and the NDP, holding this bill up? The Government House Leader said it out there, that we are responsible for this. We are responsible for this because we are exercising our democratic right to speak against a bill that is bad. We are exercising our democratic right in this place, the House of the people, to tell Nova Scotians that we do not agree with this bill, that we will never agree with this bill and we will talk against this bill until we run the clock out and we can no longer speak because of legislative restrictions.

That is why we are here. We are here because this bill is bad for Nova Scotia, this bill is bad for the future of the health care system in this province and, yes, the only people this bill is good for is the Tory Government and their rich friends. I said it before in this House, there are a number of MLAs over there who think they are part of the government here. But they are not. They are backbenchers that are no different than the backbenchers on this side of the House except that they happen to sit in the government caucus.

[4:15 p.m.]

But they aren't told very much, they are told when to vote, how to vote, and those who can't bring themselves to stand on their feet and vote for this bill are told to get lost. In other words, don't sit in here and vote against us. If you don't like what we are doing, go hide somewhere, so you can go back home and say I didn't vote for that bill, but they didn't vote against the bill either. They just hid. Did the Premier or the Minister of Finance give those people an option? If you vote against it, you are out of the caucus. If you hide, we may decide whether you can stay or go in the future. But there will be no other options.

We witnessed a spectacle here yesterday when the member for Kings North was here all day and got up and spoke on the bill, quoted from the Bible. But where was he when the vote was taken? He disappeared. He did a Harry Houdini escape act. He went out the door just minutes before the vote was taken. He has yet to explain and the Premier has yet to explain why that member is ducking his responsibilities here. I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, because he was told in no uncertain terms, you stay here and vote against that bill and it is hit-the-road time for you.

Some of these members over here - for some strange reason - think they are on the side of the angels in this debate. They think the majority of Nova Scotians are on their side. Of all the things that are wrong with this bill, for the health care workers, for the people of this province, for all kinds of stakeholders, there is another implication here. It is a political implication for these members who, if they do nothing else, should realize that they are gone after the next election because of this bill. They are gone. They are not going to be re-elected, they might as well come to that realization now. I have a list here of a number of these MLAs

[Page 5983]

- 12 to be exact - that had majorities of under 800 votes in the last election. I would suggest to you that - the member for Shelburne won by a tie, so he has a huge majority. The member for Antigonish won by 17 votes, another huge majority. Now, do you mean to tell me that these people who were elected by those slim majorities - and I can go through the list - are going to be re-elected again when the health care workers in those areas are going to turn against them 100 per cent? They are gone. The only chance they have is to repent in the next few hours and if nothing else, if they can't vote their conscience, then vote for their own survival, because they are going down the tubes. If they can't vote for it for the right reasons, then vote for it for their own political survival. That is the only way they are going to get re-elected.

Like I said, I have 12 here, including the member for Cape Breton North, who was talking so boldly down in Cape Breton that he is the second coming for that area. Let me read, the Tories win Cape Breton North and I will table this, that Cape Breton North voters elected Conservative Cecil Clarke by 453 votes. Speaking from experience in Cape Breton, I would be very nervous if I won an election by 453 votes. As a matter of fact, I get very nervous when my majority drops below 2,500 votes in any particular election. I start getting very nervous. Now, 453 votes and Clarke says, his victory is an endorsement for John Hamm's Government. An endorsement for John Hamm's Government. Well, he should tell the people that were on the picket lines down there yesterday about John Hamm's Government. He says that he will begin fulfilling his campaign promises to represent his constituents.

Well, the first thing he did last weekend was tell a number of nurses - first of all, there was a mass meeting which he wasn't at; I was there. He held a smaller meeting later on, but before he held the meeting, Mr. Speaker, he told them he wasn't going to support them. He was going to toe the government line. Before he went to the meeting, he told that to the press, so what chance did they have to convince that member of the folly of his ways. None, because he is toeing the Party line. Again, 453 votes is not a lot of votes to overturn, just the people who work at the Northside General Hospital will do that. They will send that member to one of the shortest careers in the history of this province in the Legislature.

Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 68 is a war against labour in this province. It is a war against collective bargaining and, more importantly, in the larger picture, it is a war against this place, the place of the people. It is a war against democracy, and I will explain what I am getting at here. It is a war against this place, a war against the Legislative Assembly, because this place of the people will become nothing but a rubber stamp. A couple of times a year, they will trot the Lieutenant Governor in here, she will sign a bunch of proclamations and we will all go out there and have tea and we will go home because all of the decisions will have been made downstairs in the Cabinet bunker. They will all be made down there, out of the sight and the minds of the people of Nova Scotia but, more importantly, out of the scrutiny of the members of this Legislature, because this Cabinet doesn't believe in any form of democracy.

[Page 5984]

It is only a nuisance to them. Democracy is only a nuisance to them. This whole process is only a nuisance. The Premier has the gall to go out there and tell the press that their agenda is being held up because of debate in the House.

AN HON. MEMBER: It is all our fault.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Well, you know, it is all our fault because we are engaging in the democratic process of debate and the democratic process of trying to convince this government that this bill, in particular, is bad. If this government thinks that they are going to get an easier ride this fall when they come in with this proposed bill that is going to remove the right for everybody in the province to strike - and I suggest that compulsory arbitration won't be part of that scenario either - but there will be more Cabinet decisions made, and when that happens, there will be no need to come here anymore. In Economic Development, they solved that problem. They took all the decision-making out of the Legislature in terms of putting development dollars to work and put it in the hands of 12 Tory hacks who will go around the province giving out the money to its own friends.

Mr. Speaker, I said it here before. This government is embarking on the same agenda that it had in this province before, which bankrupted this province and left people very unsure of their futures. The only thing this government is doing that I think is smart for them is they're making sure they look after their friends. You know what? They have the backbenchers over there convinced that they are going down the right road on this bill. Well I don't know who they are talking to, but if they could give me a list of the people who tell them they are doing the right thing here, I am willing to pick up the phone and call those people and talk to them myself about this issue.

I haven't had anybody, not a soul, not a single breathing soul in this province tell me that this bill is right for Nova Scotia. So why is it here? We all know why it is here; we all know why it didn't go to compulsory arbitration; we all know why it wasn't altered; and we all know why they didn't accept amendments. Because it is only part of a larger program for this government, a program of absolute control, marching them down the road to the next election with the slush fund that will suddenly become available to them because of the actions of the Leader and Premier, Prince John, and the Sheriff of Nottingham, the Finance Minister, who have gone and picked the pockets of Nova Scotians and called it user fees instead of taxes.

They are socking that away for the next election and not giving it to the nurses or the health care workers or anybody else that is under negotiation here. What they are doing is putting that money away, combining that with the money they absconded on the tax rake at the federal level. They kept that, put that in their pockets and didn't pass it through to Nova Scotians because they are going to pass that back to Nova Scotians during the election year and say, aren't we a wonderful bunch. We gave you a 10 per cent tax break, the 10 per cent tax break that was given to Nova Scotians three years ago by the federal government.

[Page 5985]

Now, Mr. Speaker, in addition to that, they had a windfall. They are going around blaming the federal government for this whole problem when they had a windfall of over $600 million more from the federal government to deal with. To further go down that road, the government puts a drop-dead date in here for this legislation and that date just happens to coincide with after the next provincial election. So not only are they putting it to the health care workers now, they are making sure they can't strike until after the next provincial election. So they are not going to have to put up with the nuisance of health care workers being out on the picket lines during an election campaign.

Machiavelli would be proud of this group. Whoever is controlling that agenda over there should get a medal. I wouldn't want to put a name on it, but anyway, devious would be a soft word to use here. But I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, I run the risk of getting on the wrong side of your good office there today if I don't watch myself, because the last thing I would want to do is to have to leave these Chambers this afternoon with the important next 16 or 18 or 24 hours in this House. Because as long as we are in this House and talking, we are going to make sure that we leave no stone unturned to get this government to see the error of their ways, to let reason prevail here and get this issue back to the bargaining table where it belongs.

Mr. Speaker, these people are desperate. They have no other recourse but to hit the streets because this government is blind to their needs. This government is blind to the bargaining process and this government, quite frankly, couldn't care less about the health care of Nova Scotians, because if they did, they would treat these workers fairly and not subject them to walking the streets tomorrow morning in desperation. Now after tomorrow's date, the government is probably going to move quickly when this bill passes and order these people back to work.

Mr. Speaker, I look to the future. What kind of fractured relations are we going to have in Nova Scotia between the health care workers and this crowd opposite? Very poor, I would suggest. I would suggest the health care system is going to suffer greatly as a result of this impasse. It is not appropriate for this government to try and get re-elected and save money on the backs of health care workers of this province. I'm telling you that this crowd took on the wrong group in Nova Scotia when they tried to use them as pawns in this game they are playing here with the lives of Nova Scotians. Bill No. 68 is wrong, wrong, wrong. As I said earlier, an Act to destroy health care would be a better title than An Act to Continue Healthcare.

[4:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk a little bit about the government's chance to negotiate in good faith. The government is out there, every chance they get, with the press telling story after story and the story changes by the hour. One minute it is money; the next minute it is health care; the next minute the Opposition Parties are holding it up; and, then they blamed

[Page 5986]

the federal government; then they blamed health care workers themselves; and, well then they blamed everybody. The only people they haven't looked at is themselves.

They haven't looked inward and suggested, maybe we are a part of this problem, maybe we should collectively be talking to the three people who run the show over there, and believe me the Minister of Health is not one of them, nor is the Minister of Education, nor is the Minister of Community Services, but the Government House Leader is and the Sheriff of Nottingham is, the Finance Minister, and the Justice Minister is. Those are the three who are running the show, and what an exhibition the Minister of Justice put on the other night. What an exhibition that was. He should get an Academy Award for failure on that one. But he is one of the "three wisemen" over there running the show, the other Cabinet Ministers are just bookends, that is all. Pawns in the game because these guys and the Premier - he is told what to say everyday, and he goes out there and says something different.

Can you imagine last night, after the bells rang and two Tory backbenchers disappeared, flew the coop before the vote - well I believe the member for Kings South or whatever, he wasn't here. I will give him credit for that for awhile, but the other member was here, the member for Kings North, and he broke Roger Bannister's record for running the mile when he sprinted out of here yesterday; conscience and all, out the door - the Premier has the nerve to go out there and say that the bells weren't ringing long enough. That was his excuse. Was that the excuse for second reading? No. Didn't use any excuse there. But now he used the excuse that the member for Kings North didn't have enough time to get back. But he had enough time to get out, all you could see was a blur, and he took his conscience with him.

So, where is he going to be on third reading? Is he going to be in his chair, or is he going to explain to his constituents why he is ducking the votes on this issue? Is it because of his conscience, or is it because he has been told that if he votes against it he is gone out of the caucus?

I guess the Premier has never heard of the phrase: Are the Whips satisfied? Because last evening we said we would ring the bells on that vote until the Whips were satisfied. So we come back in here and they ask the government: Whip, are you satisfied? Yes. The member for Kings North wasn't in his seat, so we held the vote and he couldn't have gotten very far, it was only five minutes. He must have been hiding in the library or something, but he showed up later. No problem finding his way back here then.

Nova Scotians want to know where each and every member of that government stands on Bill No. 68. They don't want people disappearing. They don't want the "blue flu", people who don't want to be in here. They want people to have the courage of their convictions and stand up and be counted, and if they persist in voting against this bill, then they will surely suffer the consequences.

[Page 5987]

But, you know the Premier waxes eloquently all the time, all the time about freedom of votes of his members, but ask him to give you one circumstance where he would allow that and he can't do that. He won't tell you.

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, yeah, he will. He will let them. They can decide what will I have. Will I have chicken tonight or will I have the ham tonight?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Well, if it is Bill No. 68, I suggest, is not going to be one of them. I suggest to you that there is no freedom for anybody over there. They have been told that they toe the line, the right-wing line of this Party controlled by right-wing demagogues that give a new meaning to the word, right. And I said that word in this House earlier and I will say it again; it is bordering on fascism, and I never thought I would ever see that in this province, that we are dealing with a fascist government in this province. I am going to tell you, anybody who would bring in a piece of legislation, Mr. Government House Leader, that would cut out all basic rights of negotiation, is a fascist, as far as I am concerned. I will stand by that statement, Mr. Government House Leader, and you know better than to argue there.

There is no more collective bargaining for anybody in this province with this bill going through the House and the future bills that are coming behind it here. There is no more collective bargaining in this province for anybody. If you don't think that is fascism, well that is just too bad. You tell me what it is. It is not democracy, when the government would say that we are holding up legislation because we are talking about it in the House of the people here. The place we were sent to talk on behalf of our constituents and try and represent the wishes of those constituents.

The government has no time for that kind of agenda at all. No time for it. I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that this government still has an opportunity to do the right thing here. But it is not doing what the member for Cape Breton North did in the Cape Breton Post by blaming it on the federal government; the whole issue blamed on the federal government, the whole issue. It has nothing to do with the provincial government. The Health Minister must work for the federal government, the Finance Minister must work for the federal government. They have $100-something million they can't even account for, may as well blame that on the federal government. But I want to say that the MP for Bras d'Or in response to that nonsense that the member for Cape Breton North was trying to make people believe, Cuzner said that $21 billion was reinvested into health care by the federal government with the signing of the Canada Health Accord in the year 2000. An agreement that Premier Hamm also signed. That's the agreement that was signed.

[Page 5988]

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. There was no signatory to that. The Premier had stated at that time that the CHST did not address the situation in Nova Scotia, whereby we have more older people than a lot of other provinces and more serious health, and the CHST was not taking that into consideration. There was no signatory to it, that was imposed by the federal government.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Well, first of all, it was not a point of order. Are you going to rule on that?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Yes, I apologize. Seeing as how the honourable member asked . . .

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: And secondly, . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. No, it was not a point of order. It seems to be merely a dispute between two honourable members. The honourable member for Cape Breton South does have the floor.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: . . . say to you, Mr. Speaker, the dispute is between that honourable member and the member for Bras d'Or. Not the honourable member for Cape Breton South. But I am going to tell you something, Mr. Speaker, he should be talking about his own finances and not the finances of the federal government. He should be talking about why he didn't give that tax relief from the federal government back to Nova Scotians like every other province in this country did this year. Why he didn't do that? Because, they are salting that away along with the money they should be paying health care workers this year, instead of socking it away for the next election. That is what the minister is doing.

The Finance Minister has been leading the charge against this bill. We know that and some backbenchers have been warned by that minister to toe the Party line or find a new Party. We know what game is being played over there and that game in the future does not include the present Premier. I think he has come to the resignation that is going to be the case as well. Any Premier who didn't even know they were going to run a debt in the next three years, or any Premier who didn't know what was going on with negotiations, didn't know there was even a poll being taken, well, if he didn't know there was a poll being taken, then one of two things have happened here; his staff didn't bother to tell him or the Cabinet Ministers who are running the show over there didn't bother to tell him. But I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that this group in Nova Scotia does not deserve to be dealt with the way they are being dealt with by this government. This is the worst case of trampling on the rights of organized workers in this province that I have ever witnessed.

[Page 5989]

Mr. Speaker, I knew from day one that this was a wider agenda and it just got confirmed when the Premier said it earlier today, or I believe it might have been yesterday, whenever he said it. He said it out there and I heard him say it, that we are bringing in more legislation this fall, called essential services legislation. When we bring that legislation in this fall, we are going to make sure that all public servants have the right to strike removed, all public servants and essential services. What is an essential service? It will be a service that they deem to be essential. What services will they be? All of them because this government doesn't want any more problems with labour or professional organizations that deal with government in this province until after the next election. They don't want the nuisance of anybody carrying a picket sign or showing up at their constituency offices while they are preparing for their next campaign.

Mr. Speaker, when they have the guts to go back to the people of this province, they are going to be asked questions about their labour record, about their fiscal record, about their record in health care, about their record in education. Do you know what? When it all comes out, it is not going to be pretty. I have seen governments in this country wiped out because of issues like this and I suggest to you that it is not beyond the realm of possibility that this government will be cleaned out of office in the next election, every single man and woman.

I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that the people I have talked to, even the people who supported them in the last election wanted to give them a chance. They are now realizing what they did was wrong, to even give them a chance. They should have known better because you know what happens when the Tories take over. Donnie Cameron is one of the architects, I am sure, of these developments in here. That great lover of Cape Breton, Donnie Cameron that he is. He couldn't stand to see anybody pay a toll to go to Cape Breton, so he took the toll booths down. He said, no one should have to pay to go to Cape Breton, even though it was making the government $1 million a year at the time, or slightly less than that. That didn't matter with that great lover of Cape Breton. We have other great lovers of Cape Breton on that side of the House, too.

But you know, Mr. Speaker, this is an issue that doesn't involve Cape Breton only, it involves all of Nova Scotia. Yes, Cape Breton is near and dear to my heart and the people who toil in the regional hospital and the regional health board down there are near and dear to me and yes, I said it in this House before, my own daughter, who is a nurse, is near and dear to me as well. All of those things being said, Nova Scotians are getting hoodwinked here because I am going to tell you and they will pay them back for that, this particular bill is going to destroy whatever good will existed between health care workers and this government.

[Page 5990]

Now, Mr. Speaker, it wasn't too long ago in this House, when the Health Minister stood in his place during Question Period, and said, from time to time, we are not the employer here, the health boards are the employer. This is a hands-off procedure for us. We are once removed from the process. What happened to that? Suddenly, now, they have gone from that premise to taking full control of Bill No. 68. They are the employer. Now what a spectacle they are making of collective bargaining in this province when they are going to determine, the Cabinet, what people are going to make. They are the employer. What employer is going to give a fair break to its employees when their employees have no further bargaining chip? There is no redress to binding arbitration in here, no redress to the courts in here, none. The Cabinet knows what is best for Nova Scotians and for its workers. The whole ploy is to get this crowd re-elected. The first group they are taking on to get them out of the way so they won't be able to strike anymore are the health care workers.

[4:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I suggest to you that they will tackle the education people next because they certainly don't want a teachers strike while the next election is going on, so the teachers are next. That is next year. We will be standing here again, trying to fight for them, under no illusions that there is still a majority over there, if that majority is still around by this time next year. This government will stoop to nothing to get re-elected.

Mr. Speaker, as I said before, the gang that couldn't shoot straight, here we are at the eleventh hour arguing a bill against a majority government. We are still here trying to hold this bill up for as long as we can to get somebody over there to come to their senses and throw this bill out and go back to the negotiating table. That is why we are here. But you know, the scribes are going to have a great time with this in the future. Here we have a majority government being held up by two Parties who are in the minority over here because we believe that this bill is bad and, yes, we used every manoeuvre we could to get to this stage because we don't want this bill going through this House and we are going to make sure that every breathing Nova Scotian knows that we are in this House fighting this bill because this bill is bad for Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, the government still has an opportunity to do the right thing here. You know, they wouldn't do the right thing with the Barrington bill because it was an issue of pride. They tried to sneak that doctor bill in the back door so that municipalities will now have to recruit doctors, they will have to charge property taxpayers and collect a fund like you would for a charity auction; collect all the money, put the tin pots on the corner so they can go out and get a doctor. So the doctor recruitment program is gone. But they wouldn't back up on that bill, they wouldn't let one amendment stand because of pride. Well, I suggest to you that it is time this government threw the pride out the window on this bill and got back to negotiating an honourable settlement with this very valuable group of public servants in this province, who are being treated shabbily by this government; they are treating these workers with contempt, utter contempt.

[Page 5991]

What they are telling them is, if you don't like the rules of the game here, hit the road, go somewhere else. That is what they are saying. I haven't heard one spokesman for the government say, we don't want these people to leave the province. Do you know what they are saying? We're paying as good as the other Atlantic Provinces. Mr. Speaker, they just don't get it. These nurses and other health care professionals are not going to the other Atlantic Provinces, which, by the way, will catch up and pass this group in their next round of negotiations. So who in hell do they think they are fooling here? Who do they think is believing that malarkey? They are not even trying to say to health care professionals, we will do everything we can to keep you here. They are not doing that. What they are saying is, if you don't like it, hit the road. That is what they are saying. It is utter contempt for the health care workers of this province.

You know, Mr. Speaker, I never thought I would ever have to stand in my place here and watch and listen to the reactions of government members on this particular bill, government members having the nerve to sit over there and introduce people from their constituencies who are in the health care field and then going to vote against them.

You know, Mr. Speaker, there is not going to be any more Trade Union Act in this province. It is as simple as that, if this bill goes through, and that bill is introduced in the fall. I don't have a copy of the bill but this is close enough, and I will table this if anybody is interested, when I am finished with it. I know the Minister of Education probably doesn't read The Daily News, but that is up to her, that headline tells it all. That headline tells it all, more essential service legislation to come, more anti-trade union legislation to hit the floor of this place for debate.

Mr. Speaker, no decisions will be made here on the future of those people, they will all be made by the Cabinet. There will be no more debate, other than the nuisance of the parliamentary procedure that goes on in this place. This is our last attempt by the Opposition Parties in this province to make a difference in this particular bill, because once it clears this House it is never going to be back here again, at least not until after the next election. You know what their game is there, if they get elected in the next election, they will deal with it then. If they don't get elected, it is somebody else's problem to deal with. That is the Machiavellian agenda there. That is not hard to figure out.

Stop them from striking before the next election, stop all the public servants from striking before the next election, so we will have labour peace. Well, they may not have work interruptions, legally, but they won't have labour peace, I will guarantee you that. The people of this province are fed up with this crowd already, and they are not even here two years yet.

Mr. Speaker, this bill is nothing more than a betrayal of health care workers in this province. This is probably the group of individuals in this province that enjoys more respect than any other public or private sector group in this province, and what do they get for that, this is what they get, Bill No. 68. This is what they get, Bill No. 68. The Government House

[Page 5992]

Leader takes exception to some of the names that I have been calling the government, some of the political ideology I have been throwing around here, the right-wing ideology of this government. Right wing, they have gone over the cliff to the right on this one.

Mr. Speaker, I know some of the members over there personally, and I can't believe that they would sit in their chairs in this place and vote for this bill. I am going to be amazed if everyone over there sits there on third reading and gets up and toes the government line on this bill. Quite frankly, if that happens, I will be wrong, I will have judged some of those members wrong. This bill is wrong. This bill is a betrayal of health care workers. It is the denial of basic human rights in contract negotiations.

Mr. Speaker, they are telling these people, if you don't like it hit the road. Hit the road, good-bye, somebody else will come in here. Well, with this bill, who is the somebody else who is going to come to Nova Scotia to work with this bill, when they can go other places and be better paid and better appreciated and have decent working conditions and decent contracts that will allow them sufficient time off to be with their families? Who is going to come to Nova Scotia if this bill goes through?

This place is fast becoming a banana republic. This crew is only interested in one thing, political survival, Tory political survival, right-wing political survival, looking after the rich and powerful of this province and the hell with everybody else. That is what this bill is all about, this bill and the bills that are going come behind it, this fall. Whatever happened to that phrase that people were using about the good country doctor, Dr. Hamm, the milk-drinking doctor from Pictou County? Well, that is not the same guy who is sitting in here, I will tell you. That is not the same guy who is over there agreeing with this oppressive legislation that is here before this House. Is this a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde situation? We know where the Finance Minister is coming from, he is not even pretending that he is a country doctor or even interested in basic human rights. But I am going to tell you there are a lot of people in this province disappointed with the Premier today, because every time he has gone out there he has told a different story because his handlers haven't been telling him anything. That must be the case, or he is misleading the public to try to get from day to day to day. That may be the case here.

[5:00 p.m.]

The end justifies the means. The end is to destroy collective bargaining in the Public Service of this province; the means is Bill No. 68, for starters. The pawns in the whole game are the health care workers of this province. They are the pawns that are being used for a much wider agenda, the destruction of collective bargaining and the assumption of total control by the Cabinet of this province, not the courts, not binding arbitration, not third party intervention, conciliation or anything else, but Cabinet decree on every single thing that happens in this province. So the rest of us, as MLAs, are only along for the ride. Sure, we will upset them like we are doing today, using our democratic process in this place to try to

[Page 5993]

stop this insidious bill. We will do that, we will go all night to do it, but at the end of the day we can also count. Unless somebody over there changes their mind and develops a conscience, this bill is going through. This bill is going through.

Mr. Speaker, I am going to tell you that this bill and the day this bill passes will live in infamy in Nova Scotia. Democracy will die on that day, in Nova Scotia. You are also going to see a mass exodus of people who we cherish in this province, our health care workers. They are going to be gone, because they are not going to hang around and have to work at the whim of a Cabinet that knows nothing about the work they are doing, and is not interested in anything else but looking after their Tory friends. They are not interested in the future of the health care system in this province. They are interested in getting re-elected.

So, in the second term, for those who might not be aware, they can then do everything they couldn't do in the first term, in terms of looking after their friends. Right now they are dealing with the nuisance of collective bargaining, they are dealing with the nuisance of people in the House daring to argue against their policies. I am sorry, but we were sent to this place by our constituents to do just that, to exercise our democratic right. We don't consider it a nuisance, we consider it our destiny to do that when we get here, our authority to do that from the people who sent us here.

Mr. Speaker, I know my time is drawing to an end here today. I want to tell you that I want to issue a challenge to that crowd over there and the two who didn't vote so far. The member for Kings North who ran out of here on two votes, I want him to come clean and tell this House and the people of Nova Scotia whether this Premier or this Finance Minister told him not to vote on this bill or he would be kicked out of that caucus. I want to ask that member to stand on his feet in third reading and tell Nova Scotians where he stands. I also want the Premier to stand in his place and allow his members a free vote on Bill No. 68, and promise that there will be no retribution. If he really means what he says, he will let his members vote their conscience on this particular bill, instead of acting like lemmings and toeing the Party line on a bill that is set out here to destroy democracy in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I can see the worried looks on some of the faces over there, and rightfully so. The hour of decision is drawing close on this particular bill; it is drawing close, it is drawing near. You people on that side of the House still have an opportunity to do the right thing, you still have an opportunity to vote your conscience, you still have an opportunity to vote for the health care system in this province, which is to protect the workers and the environment they work in and provide them with a decent wage while they are doing it.

Mr. Speaker, it is an issue of respect here. It is an issue of respect for the good and valuable health care workers of this province. This Party, the Liberal Party, will settle for nothing less in this bill than to have this bill hoisted, to have this bill torn up, like I just did, and thrown on the floor of that Legislature, and get back to the bargaining table and settle this contract. Thank you.

[Page 5994]

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I can't honestly say that this is one of the highlights of my political career. There have been many times when I have stood in this House and I could quite honestly say that I was pleased to have the opportunity to rise. Many times, in fact more times than not, I rose in this House to speak, normally briefly in support of a piece of legislation because quite contrary to what the perception is out there, more often than not there is common agreement on bills. The majority of bills go through this Legislature with the unanimous support of all sides.

I have, on other times, stood in my place over the last 17 years and fought and argued strenuously against legislation that was introduced by the government. But never have I been more convinced in my gut, as well as in my head, that what the government is doing is wrong. This legislation, cut it whatever way you want, dress it up in whatever pretty outfit the government wants to try to decorate it in, the flavour of the moment, this legislation is wrong, it is dictatorial, it is unjust, it is insulting, and anybody who supports it is committing a tremendous shame against not only health care workers but against Nova Scotians generally, to say nothing about democracy.

Mr. Speaker, we have had many reasons given as to why this bill has to be here. One of them is probably quite true. I am sure, quite honestly, that the members on the government benches have no idea what the real reasons are. You are just given the flavour of the moment as to, here is your little seat, these are the lines you are supposed to be using today, this is how you are supposed to answer questions, just be good little sheep, be good little lambs, do what we tell you, and don't, whatever you do, think; don't think for yourselves, don't question the wisdom that is coming from somewhere.

Mr. Speaker, although this does not excuse them, I don't believe for one minute that the honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin was involved in the consultation on this bill. I don't believe she was. She was told that there was something being worked out, as were the honourable members for Pictou West and Cumberland Counties. In fact, I don't believe that most Cabinet Ministers were even directly involved. They, like you, have been told.

I think, Mr. Speaker, that real driving force from this is coming from that T&P, Treasury and Policy Board. People like - oh, I don't see Mr. Madill up there today. I don't see Mr. MacGregor. I don't see Ms. Oldford. Those kinds of people, the behind-the-scenes people in the Premier's Office and the Treasury and Policy Board, they are driving the government agenda and you members on the government benches aren't even questioning it. You're good little Do Bees. You do what you are told, not what your conscience dictates to you because your position in caucus is on the line.

[Page 5995]

If you are in Cabinet and you disagree, you are gone. You are history. If you are in the backbenches, if you aspire for the Cabinet, dream on. Don't even voice any loud objections because, oh, you have a mind of your own. We can't have that. So you stay on the backbenches and if you are to criticize too strongly, this Premier, who when he was on this side of the House leading the Third Party, said that he believed that members should have a free vote. Yeah, right, Mr. Speaker.

We have had a number of reasons given. We have been told that it is all about health care and public safety. We have been told that it is all about money. We can't afford it, and I will get to those kinds of issues again. We have been told that it is because the Premier knows. He has been through a strike of health care workers and of the nurses. Well, Mr. Speaker, he talks about the strike of 1975. I don't know, does anybody know? The member from Pictou is leaving, was the Premier a doctor in Pictou in the 1975 strike?

AN HON. MEMBER: I think he was.

MR. HOLM: I couldn't read his lips as he was going out. I don't know if he was or not, Mr. Speaker. There was a strike at that time and it was a strike of support staff at that hospital. It was cleaners and kitchen staff, but not the nursing staff. I don't know where the Premier was. He might have been practising elsewhere. But, in fact, the back-to-work legislation says, in terms of the agreement (Interruption) I don't know. Honestly, I don't know. It is interesting what you learn when you talk to nurses outside. But I was told by a couple of nurses from the northern district that the nurses at the Aberdeen Hospital, for example, have never been on strike and the back-to-work legislation lists the hospitals that the nursing staff were being ordered back to work on.

AN HON. MEMBER: Which ones?

MR. HOLM: There was the Halifax Infirmary, the Grace Maternity Hospital, the Abbie J. Lane Memorial Hospital, the Halifax County Hospital, the Cape Breton Hospital, St. Rita's Hospital, Sydney City Hospital, Glace Bay General Hospital, St. Joseph's Hospital, New Waterford Consolidated Hospital, Northside General Hospital and Harbourview Hospital.

Mr. Speaker, the Aberdeen Hospital, the Colchester Regional Hospital and the hospital in Antigonish aren't mentioned here. I don't know, maybe (Interruption) Honestly, and I say this quite sincerely, I don't know where the Premier was practising at that time. But I do know that in the article he said he recalls patients dying because of the inadequate care provided during that strike, though he didn't cite specific examples. So he must have worked in one of those hospitals if he is talking about a nursing strike. The article doesn't state where he works. That is one of the things that maybe the Premier can explain to us.

[Page 5996]

Mr. Speaker, we have also heard a great deal from the Tories about how fair they are. I heard my colleague, the honourable member for Hants East, this morning, I had to. That was on another motion, so I am not being repetitive when I refer to something that he did and said. But you know, he also referred to a quote in the article from, I think it was last Sunday's Daily News, Eyes wide open, the title of the article. Those who are in the gallery and those outside, Nova Scotians, I think, they are getting their eyes wide opened, that is for darn sure. But under that, the Premier said - now get the logic to this - "We can't allow fairness to get out of our hands.", whatever that means.

If fairness is in your hands, if you support fairness, "When you go to unfettered arbitration, then who knows how fairness will be defined?" So in other words, the Premier is saying that only whatever he deems, and those who are pulling his strings, have the wisdom, the knowledge, the insight to define what fairness is. My colleague, Mr. Speaker, was even helpful to the Premier and I want to be helpful to the government members as well because they, including yourself, you can walk down the hall or, to save you the effort, you could even ask a Page, who is working very hard, run off his feet serving us here in this hot weather, but you can ask him, would you be so kind as to go down to the library and ask one of the librarians, who also are working very hard during this heat, as they do all the time, if they would be so kind as to photocopy the dictionary so that government members could have a copy to know what fairness means.

This is what the Premier doesn't want to get out of his hand because somebody else might define it. You know, Mr. Speaker, if somebody else tries to define it for the Premier, the Premier could always give them the definition and I am sure the Premier would fight very hard. Oh, excuse me, I missed something. The article that was published in the paper on Sunday said, "Hamm has been through a health strike before, in 1975 while working as a doctor at the Aberdeen Hospital . . ." It is not listed in the list. (Interruption)

Well, no, there was a strike, but not by nurses. As I understand it, Mr. Speaker, there was a strike back in that time dealing with support staff, but it was not . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: And patients died.

MR. HOLM: And patients died. The kitchen staff, cleaning staff and support staff were, as I was told, the ones who were on strike, not the nursing staff. All I can do is tell you, Mr. Speaker, what I was told.

Back to the definition. Fair and what does fair mean? Just, equitable, impartial, unbiased, dispassionate, objective shared meaning elements, free from favour towards either/or any side. Fair implies elimination of personal feelings, interests or prejudices, so as to achieve a proper balance of conflicting needs, rights or demands. That is the definition of fairness, not my definition, that is out of the Webster's Dictionary.

[Page 5997]

[5:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, maybe the Premier takes exception, maybe the Minister of Health takes exception to Webster's. They don't agree with it, but he is afraid to let fairness get out of hand because somebody else might define it differently. I suggest to you that somebody is defining it differently, and it is each and every one on the government benches who are voting in favour of Bill No. 68. Bill No. 68 fails every single test of fairness. Let me start by looking at Bill No. 68. If I can put it in the - what do you call it? - the "books for dummies," you can buy them for computers, you can even get a History for Dummies.

As simple as I can put it, Bill No. 68 gives the Cabinet, the people who control the negotiations, who control the purse strings, it gives that same bunch, that same privileged lot of 12 the power to not only make an insignificant offer to set the limits on what the negotiators can do, but it also gives that same Cabinet the power to decide on their own when they determine that negotiations have ended and then impose their will. You tell me - to this business-minded government - you tell me one single business that you would do business with who would accept you going to them and saying look, let's negotiate over the price for this product. We will negotiate, and if we can't come to an agreement on price, we have the power to set exactly what it will be, and we can tell you when it will be delivered and what the penalties will be if you don't deliver. Businesses would tell you where to go so fast your head would spin.

That is what you are saying to these employees and, Mr. Speaker, that is wrong. It is deplorable; it is an insult. I ask each and every one of you over there to look at what is being done. It is not too late to back off. It is not too late. Listening to people speak outside can be very interesting. As well, when I am running back and forth here, I am not only trying to figure out, although I do this, trying to strategize as to how one can throw this government off, how you can come up with a little strategy or a little plan to derail the government's plans, you also sometimes listen, and listen as often as you can.

This afternoon there were some nurses speaking with the Premier, and asking him questions. He was pretty good there, as he is in here, at not answering a question directly. But there were two questions that I made a specific note of, all of them were good, but one of them was, Mr. Premier, why are you putting our backs to the wall? Why are you doing this, and putting us in the position where we have no choice but to fight back? Why are you doing that? A second question that was asked, which I thought was another very telling and very excellent question was, Mr. Speaker, how is Bill No. 68 going to assist with the government's nursing strategy to attract new nurses and new health care workers to this province and to keep those who are here?

[Page 5998]

Now the Premier's answer to that last question was very interesting. The Premier started out by saying, oh, I understand. Here is how it is, the couple of things I want to see most, because I understand the conditions and I wouldn't want to work 24 hours a day when it used to be when I was starting out - of course, the nurses told him things really haven't changed very much, Mr. Speaker - what I want to see is there being enough staff so that when it is your day off, you will be able to have that day off. I also want to see that when you come into work there is a full complement of staff there so they are not, as they are now, running a staff of maybe two or three short on a shift in a ward or in an area. I want to see those things.

Well, that is wonderful. It doesn't come within a country mile of answering the question about how Bill No. 68 helps to attract or maintain health care workers. In fact, Mr. Speaker, this bill, from everything that we hear, is going to have the exact opposite effect. One of the nurses I spoke with outside said I am not going to give up any more of my free time. I am not going to just be on recall. I have a right and I have a need to spend some time with my family. What is unreasonable with that? To be put on mandatory recall, where you have to give up all of your days off, or a goodly number of them, because of this government's policy, which will drive young nurses away and cause others to leave, whether they are nurses or technicians or others, the nurse said, and it was a nurse I was talking to, I will quit. I won't leave Nova Scotia, but I will quit my job as a nurse and I will take a job in another facility, but I will not continue to do that job in the hospital, because I can't. This is somebody who says, I will never leave my patients as long as I am there. I will always care for them, but I cannot take it anymore.

Ask yourselves, look inside yourselves and go back. You are not going to do it here on the floor. I don't expect that you will. Ask yourselves, is it possible for there to be another way? Is it possible, even at this late date, to try to come up with a compromise to say, look - and the union, I understand, today, I didn't hear it, made an offer - withdraw the bill and we won't go on strike tomorrow. Well that is a start. Let's take history and throw it away, who cares about the history? What is important is that we move forward in a constructive way.

I don't know, Mr. Speaker, I have no idea if some of the things that we hear, you hear are right or wrong. I really don't know. I don't know what did happen in 1975 or didn't happen in 1975 and, truthfully, it really doesn't matter. What is important is what is happening in 2001. That is what counts and what counts is how many of the health care workers who are with us here in the gallery tonight and how many health care workers who are outside and how many health care workers who are, right as I am speaking here, in the health care facility caring for our loved ones and our neighbours' loved ones and our communities' loved ones. How many of them will be able to stay, be willing to stay and feel that they are actually being respected by this government.

[Page 5999]

I have heard government members stand up and say, how much money is enough? We made this great offer, but when is enough, enough? They always want more and more. Well, you know, that is not the message that I have heard from the health care workers. That is not what I heard at all. Yes, Mr. Speaker, money is important. Let's not kid yourself. Without it, you don't feed your family, without it, you can't put a roof over your head and that of your family and enjoy the things that hard-working Nova Scotians have a right to expect.

Mr. Speaker, being offered a decent wage, a decent salary for the work that you do is one important sign of respect. But you also know, and I don't know, but I think you sat in on the Law Amendments Committee sometimes, you heard health care worker after health care worker telling the very personal stories about the trauma in their lives, the hardships that are being posed upon them and their families, the sacrifices that they make because we do not have sufficient health care workers in the Province of Nova Scotia.

So maybe those people who are off behind the closed doors, the inner sanctum, the non-elected people who may be advising this government, maybe they can come forward too. Maybe they can tell you on the government benches and then you can enlighten us how, honestly, Bill No. 68 is going to help to attract and maintain health care workers in the Province of Nova Scotia? Tell us that. It is not an unreasonable request. Don't tell us your wish list. Don't tell us, well, I hope or it is my wish. Let's hear something concrete.

We all, Mr. Speaker, or most of us anyway, can tell personal stories of how well we were treated and the excellent service that we received at the hands of our health care workers. I am one who is lucky to be here, as are others in here, because we have, in this province, some very highly-skilled people. You have highly-skilled people who can do the mechanical work, the fine surgery, who are all very valued. You also have those who are coming in and who are doing the medications, checking on you and also doing something that probably those in hospitals and so on remember the most. I don't really remember who stuck the needle in my arm, gave me the injection, although that can make an impression, but the person who put their hand on your shoulder, the person who smiled and asked how are you feeling today, is there anything I can do to make you feel a little better or to explain something to you, and that is an extremely valuable gift that most health care workers in our system have and it is something that they don't have the time for in the same way any more; that is important.

[5:30 p.m.]

This government says that you respect. I say to the Government House Leader, he has probably more clout than anybody else on the benches. Mr. Speaker, even though this is a health care bill, the Government House Leader probably has more clout than anybody on the government benches. Go to the Premier and ask the Premier not just to come out and sound conciliatory, sound concerned, sound pleasant, but actually put an offer on the table - and I am not talking about an offer for the contract, I am suggesting an offer of a process so that

[Page 6000]

we can back away from this - offer, look we will leave the bill here, we will set it there, we will adjourn the House. We would like you to get back to the table and negotiate.

Is that unreasonable? Really, ask yourself, is that unreasonable? If this has anything to do with health care and trying to build a sense of trust, what would be unreasonable about proposing, let's both of us back off, allow the rhetoric to ease up, to let us stop on both sides, pressuring and pushing the issue, rattling sabres, as the government is doing, and allow in a calm way, without this legislation hanging over your heads, negotiations to go ahead. Offers have been made, and offers have been rejected. This, I think, is crucially important.

What does the legislation do? I talked about that. The Government House Leader said, on June 13th the bill, Mr. Speaker, to recall House, or the news release under the heading, House Recalled to Protect Health and Safety. Really, that byline from this government has been dropped. It has been to save our 10 per cent refund or rebate in the income tax as the election rolls around. That is what this is about, but let's see what he said. The Government House Leader, in his release, now he wouldn't have written this, he wouldn't have crafted this, it might have been one of the press people in the Treasury Board who wrote it - said, "'Despite our best efforts to reach agreements through collective bargaining, the threat of multiple strikes now places the well-being of Nova Scotians in jeopardy,' . . . 'We value our health care employees. Without them, the system can't meet people's needs. We must act to protect Nova Scotians.'"

What he didn't say in that press release of June 13th was that a poll had been conduct - a poll that the Premier and the Minister of Health supposedly know nothing about - about a month before that and had been in the planning stages even before that, to ask Nova Scotians, what should we do? Should we legislate? Should we force health care workers back to work or prevent them from going out on strike?

Mr. Speaker, somehow that secret little poll that the government members, all of them, surprisingly - I haven't heard of one of them knowing anything about it, maybe some day we will find out how much taxpayers paid for that poll - knew nothing about, but all of a sudden this crisis of their making became a crisis. Well, another poll was conducted this past weekend, while the debate in this House was going on.

What did that poll find? Should nurses get more of a raise? Well, 62 per cent supported that. Should they stop forced overtime, should the government stop the forced overtime? I am told that health care workers were excluded from answering this poll, 86 per cent of the respondents said yes. Is 10.5 per cent, the government's best offer they said, is that enough, over three years, after years of rollbacks and freezes and 75 per cent said no.

Asked about who is considered more fair in the dispute - remember we had a definition of fair - but who was being more fair, the nurses or the government? Lo and behold - I am sure it is not coming as any surprise to government members who are hearing from their

[Page 6001]

constituents, I hope, as well - 78 per cent favoured the nurses. And 89 per cent trust nurses to provide services under a work-to-rule, they trust the nurses, they don't trust the government.

Yet, this government has said that you do not trust health care workers. When the union said that if a strike is to occur, we will ensure that staff are there for those patients who are in critical need, those patients who are in serious condition or whose life could be at risk, we will have staff there. The government said, oh no, we don't trust you, we don't believe your plan. Now you tell me, is there something wrong with this picture?

The contract, the offer that they are being told is the best in Atlantic Canada, the best raise, 10.5 per cent, the highest-paid, well first of all, the wage itself doesn't address all the working condition issues. Secondly, this month they may be the highest-paid - at the end of the contract, mind you, when the three years would be up - but other provinces are within a matter of months going into negotiations with their health care workers, so for a few months, maybe they could be paid more, and then for two years, six months, they are back at the bottom again.

If the government is so convinced that what it's doing is fair, why is it that the government members do not believe in having an independent arbitrator appointed. Why? Could it be that the arbitrator would not define fairness the way the government wants to define fairness? As the Premier said in the article: can't let fairness get out of our hands. They also say that you can't appeal to the courts, the exclusion clause at the end, no imposed Cabinet contracts or settlements can be appealed to the courts.

That clause in itself, as I understand it, and I am not a lawyer - like yourself, Mr. Speaker, we aren't learned in the law, but that doesn't stop us from talking to those who are - those who are learned in the law and who understand labour laws, that kind of a clause, an exclusionary clause that prohibits you from appealing to the courts is not uncommon. But - and here is the big but - the Premier always uses the phrase on the other hand, well, I will use his on-the-other-hand phrase, when those exclusionary clauses are in agreements, those are quite common if an arbitrator has ruled, then the arbitrator's decision cannot be appealed to the court, because the arbitrator is an independent third body or person. If it is a decision made by a labour tribunal, then that independent labour tribunal, it is quite common, those decision cannot be then appealed to the court because that is seen to be an independent third party, third person who is ruling on the decisions, and the decisions of facts and making the decision.

But there is absolutely no way that the Cabinet can be called an independent third party. Supposedly government isn't the employer. You talk to people up in the galleries, they supposedly don't work for the provincial government, they work for a health authority or a health board. The provincial government is not the direct employer, but when the Minister of Health and the Premier talk, they say we made this offer. Sounds like the employer to me.

[Page 6002]

It also means, as we know from Bill No. 20, the government sets the amount of money that those health boards and authorities have. We also know, from Bill No. 20, that no agreement can be ratified or accepted without the approval of Cabinet.

[5:45 p.m.]

Does that sound like an independent third body? The truth is, no question at all, why this government will not allow it to be appealed to the courts, because they know that they have no intention of being fair. You hear loud horns going on outside, you hear people chanting, "Kill Bill 68." Oh, a couple of members on the government benches, I am not out there so unfortunately I don't know how many, they say one person in a van. (Interruptions) I bet you, if you were to ask people to raise their hands - but we can't ask people to do anything like that so I won't - if you were asking people to raise their hands if they wanted Bill No. 68 to be killed, I think you would see a lot more hands.

Justice? This is about control. That is what this legislation is about. We know from the Premier, probably this fall, but within the next year he is going to come in with more legislation, more of what he calls essential services legislation or something to that effect, taking away rights to strike. Could you tell me - the government benches - has he consulted with you on that yet? Or has he told you - when he strips it away from others, we don't have a clue - who it is going to include? It could be teachers quite possibly, it could be anybody whom the government decides is essential. Are you going to give them binding arbitration? Or are you going to say to them too, hey, look, we have a precedent in Bill No. 68, we are going to decide. Do you tell that to ExxonMobil? Do you tell them? Do you stand up to them and say what we are going to get for our resources? Did you say that to the Sobeys when they came looking for money, or Michelin or the bank?

Tell me, why is it more important - and I am not demeaning the jobs in a call centre - why is having people working in a call centre more worthy of government dollars than having health care workers working in our hospitals and in our communities, caring for our loved ones and the loved ones of members in our communities? Tell me why. (Applause)

That is something that each and every one of you have to look into your hearts and ask. You have the say. You may be being told what to do, decisions may be coming from across the road, up in the Premier's penthouse, and I don't even believe in this case that the bunker is where those decisions are being made, that the bunker is even being told. I don't, honestly, because I have a lot of respect, as individuals, we may battle in here, but on a personal basis, truthfully, as individuals, I like and have friends on the government benches. I wouldn't vote for them, mind you, but I have friends on the government benches.

I believe, from what I know of them, that they are quite compassionate people as individuals. Some of them are, yes, as individuals. So what I cannot understand, what doesn't equate, is, how is it possible for you to support what you are doing? I truly cannot understand

[Page 6003]

it. Is getting re-elected, is your paycheque in here, is it so important to you that you are afraid to offend the Premier and those who are telling him and advising him that you will not stand up and oppose something like this? If that is the reason, then I suggest your logic is a little off because your chances of getting your paycheque after the next election are much reduced if you continue to support this bill.

But the reality is - and I have said it in this House a number of times - who is here doesn't really matter. If I am gone tomorrow, if I resign, or if I - for some reason - disappear, if my time comes, if you get my drift - it almost did in here once - my seat will be filled very quickly. There will be people who will be lining up to put their name on the ballot to run in my seat to replace me, just, Mr. Speaker, as they would be in yours, in the Minister of Education's, the Minister of Natural Resources' and in every one of ours. We can be replaced.

When a health care worker leaves, when the nurses are leaving, do you know what? Those positions, many of them, are left unfilled. They are advertised, they try to get replacements, but they can't find them. We are much easier to replace than health care workers. So, if you put it on that scale of things, I guess that means that they are more important than us. We talk about things and we want to have the most capable and the brightest people to get elected in politics - that is what they say. Some might say that we didn't do a very good recruiting job, but I can tell you when it comes to those who are caring for my loved ones, I want the best, I want the brightest, I want the most dedicated and compassionate, knowledegable people I can possibly have there.

So, why? It is not just money. Why are you being so disrespectful? You talk about respect in the government - the government says we respect our health care workers. If I was one and somebody told me that from the government, I think I would hurl. So, I suggest they jump back. It is not a very poetic way of putting it, but I listen and see what is being done and I have to wonder, why aren't you choking on those words? If you respect me as a health care worker, why are you telling me you don't trust me? Why are you saying to me that you do not believe that I would be there even in a strike to care for those patients who I am sworn to. I take an oath to ensure that I do all that I can for them. Is their oath less meaningful than our oath?

MR. SPEAKER: Would you permit an introduction by the honourable member for Colchester North?

MR. HOLM: Sure.

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

[Page 6004]

MR. WILLIAM LANGILLE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for allowing me this introduction. Today in the Speaker's Gallery, we have a person who resides in the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. Her name is Theresa Penman and she is a nurse at the Colchester Regional Hospital and she resides in Gays River near Shubenacadie. I would like the members to give her the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, good afternoon, Ms. Penman, and all our guests in the gallery. Good afternoon on this hot day. We are in third reading - a phase of the bill. Of course, and the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid has the floor. Shortly, we will be adjourning for one-half hour for late debate, but I won't eat away at any more of his time. I know he wants every valuable minute that he has.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I, too, welcome our guests to the gallery and I apologize that they chose to be here at a time when I was blathering on the way I was, and I wish it were more pleasant times in here. But I don't apologize for standing up for what I believe.

My time is actually winding down. I have about three or four minutes left. We are at a stage where we are going to do what we have been doing - everything that we possibly can to delay this bill. I don't apologize. In fact, I am quite pleased to have had my part in doing that. I have been accused, or I have been told that if a strike occurs, it is our fault; my fault. I have been told and I have heard from government members, and I have heard the Premier and others say if the Opposition will only shut up, sit down - they didn't use those terms, they were more polite - then this bill will pass and the strike will be averted. So it is all our fault. It is all the fault of the union members who voted down some contract offers that were made to them and of the union membership. It is interesting when you listen to government leaders speak, what is happening right now is the fault of somebody else. It could be the federal government, it is the Opposition, it is the workers, but you know it is rather interesting that not once have I heard from anybody in the government that they accept any responsibility for what has happened. Or for anything that has happened.

Excuse me, but something just does not compute. Government is the one who started this process. Government is the one who started the whole process in your mind train when you are contemplating what you are doing as you were preparing that poll. The House was in session and already you were scheming what you were going to do. It was the government that brought in Bill No. 68. It was the government that was controlling what the employers were able to negotiate at the bargaining table. It has been the government that has consistently insulted the health care workers.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member adjourn debate? He would have one and a half or so minutes left.

[Page 6005]

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, it is the government members who have rejected each and every offer, olive branch, that has been put forward to try to avert what is happening. I have about one minute and forty seconds left of my time. I may come up at 6:30 p.m. to use up that extra minute or I may forego one minute of this very pleasant debate. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and I . . .

MR. SPEAKER: We have reached the moment of interruption. The subject of this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid:

"Therefore be it resolved that this government should respect Nova Scotians' historic right to be heard without limitation at the Law Amendments Committee."

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

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

LAW AMENDMENTS COMM. - ACCESS: GOV'T. (N.S.) - RESPECT

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have an opportunity to speak in late debate, which is normally known as the Adjournment debate but, with the extended hours, we take a half hour in the middle at 6:00 p.m. to have this debate. It is one of the Rules of this House that no matter the business and unless there is an emergency debate that supersedes it, this House will adjourn at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and debate an Adjournment debate which is usually chosen by backbenchers or Opposition members as an opportunity to talk about issues that are of concern to them. In the past we've had the member for Kings West talk about the Sea Kings having to be replaced at Shearwater or we've had others who have come forward with the same debates.

[6:00 p.m.]

My point, Mr. Speaker, is this, that these are the Rules of the House and these are the traditions and the customs that have developed that have created the democratic process in Nova Scotia. This is why we are here. We are elected to speak on behalf of our constituents, but when we come in here, we abide by certain rules, certain democratic processes. As I and others have said in this House before, we are not here other than as guardians of the democratic process. The traditions and customs that were there before we came will be maintained after we leave. In 10, 20, 2 or 100 years from now, those democratic traditions will be there because it is the parliamentary tradition of England, because it is in our Charter of Rights, because it is in our Constitution, that we, as people, have certain inalienable rights, the right to free speech, the right to expression, the right to assembly and, as part of all that, we have the right to come to the Law Amendments Committee, the people of Nova Scotia

[Page 6006]

have the right to come to the Law Amendments Committee and testify, to speak their mind, to say what they believe they need to say on legislation.

That is one of the unique conditions of the Nova Scotia bill process, that the government does not have absolute control over that process and yesterday I had the opportunity to sit in here and listen to the Minister of Justice in the Committee of the Whole House say he doesn't like it. He doesn't like the fact that the bill process takes this long, clearly hinting, Mr. Speaker, that he wants it shut down. He wants it tightened. He wants to limit even more the debate that the people of Nova Scotia have an opportunity to partake in. As long as I am sitting in this chair, as long as Opposition sits in these chairs on this side of the House, we will not put up with the minister of injustice telling us that he is going to shut down the democratic process, that he is going to stop people from being able to voice their concerns.

Earlier today I heard someone interviewing the Minister of Finance, Mr. Speaker, on a radio station. I am going to paraphrase it, but his comment or his question went along like this, you know, it is not only a matter of balancing the books, it is not only a matter of our finances being put in order, but the test of a government is being able to do that while providing essential services and while respecting the democratic process. That's what it is to live in a democracy. That is what it is to be an elected government in the western world, in Canada and in Nova Scotia. Your job is not to just whitewash the people of Nova Scotia or to ram through legislation and, therefore, prevent people from having their democratic say, to have the rights that they want to express their opinion.

That is not what it is about. It is about ensuring that if this government has a majority and it wants to do legislation that is undemocratic, or unconstitutional, so be it, but let it follow the democratic processes that are in place, let the courts have their ability to review that legislation. Let's have the checks and balances that our constitution has created so that the people of Nova Scotia, the courts of Nova Scotia will be able to judge this government, not only come next election, but to be able to judge it now if it feels that this is wrong.

Otherwise, we would live in a quasi-democracy, Mr. Speaker. We would have a democracy every four years where there would be an election and, do you know what, some people in Canada already have gone through that, the likes of Premier Duplessis in Quebec, and if you think of what he did - and my friend, the member for Timberlea-Prospect, during the Law Amendments Committee raised his name - as a Premier and, do you know what, this government isn't very far from that, twisting arms, idle threats, misleading people, misleading the House as to what has happened, all in the name of trying to settle and to ensure that what they want gets through.

We know that Premier Duplessis went even further. I am not going to suggest that this government may do that to keep itself in power, but the point is that these democratic processes are here between elections to ensure the people of Nova Scotia are able to voice

[Page 6007]

their opinion. That's what the Law Amendments Committee is about and when we were here last week, we observed a fiasco. We saw the minister of injustice stand and sit in that room and ignore the people of Nova Scotia, ignore the women of Nova Scotia. The gall of him to leave that room as women were coming forward in testimonial to the hardships of being nurses, the hardships of being lab technologists, the hardships of being in the health care system; Mr. Speaker, and he would so glibly leave the room.

When it was time for him to try to get this bill back here, he didn't care. He didn't care how many wanted to speak. He didn't care how many wanted to be heard. He didn't care what we, as members in this House, had to say. He didn't care that we might have had points of privilege. He didn't care that we had amendments that we wanted to make. The minister of injustice, Mr. Speaker, had his own opinion and democracy began, because he was going to walk over from that room over to here and he didn't care. That's the problem. That is what is so difficult about Bill No. 68.

Yes, this is about workers' rights, absolutely, this is about health care, but as the editorial in The Halifax Chronicle-Herald - a paper that from to time has been known to be supportive of this government - said on Saturday, it is democracy that is in crisis in this province. It is democracy that is in crisis because this government is either too inept to have planned enough time to be able to pass legislation considering the democratic process or is so disrespectful of the people of Nova Scotia, is so disrespectful of our democratic process that it believes it doesn't care, that the will of two or three people on that side of the House and some of their underlings or overlings, depending on how you want to look at it, in the backrooms of One Government Place, Mr. Speaker, those six or seven people are going to decide that democracy doesn't matter in this province anymore as long as they get what they want.

That's not what they were elected for. That's not why we were elected. That's why we have Opposition Parties. That's why we have these debates. That's why we go through the process of the House, so that this government and any government, instead of trying to ram through, like a banana republic, its legislation or rubber-stamp it - Mr. Speaker, I had an opportunity to do a little work in China and you watch the National People's Congress and you watch the rubber-stamp process. You watch how that Legislature is nothing more than a sham, nothing more than some friends of the government who are appointed to sit there and maybe they will have some sort of ridiculous - I won't call it kangaroo court - kangaroo election in order to try to show that the people were elected, but, in the end, all we have is a government that basically does what it wants without any opposition and stifles it in every way possible. We saw what happened with places like Tiananmen Square. The problem is it is a slippery slope.

This government will say there is no Tiananmen Square here. We are allowing protests. Sometimes they may say we're not burning down the Reichstag, we're not getting rid of democracy, we kept this House open, but it is a slippery slope, Mr. Speaker. It is pretty easy

[Page 6008]

from time to time to ignore democratic process. It is easy to turn a blind eye when people are asking that their rights be respected, but like the old saying goes, you turn away when someone was taken away and you keep turning away and suddenly they're coming for you and there is no one there to say anything.

Now, that is a bad paraphrase of a statement, but my point is that this government, if it continues to ignore democracy, if it continues to ignore Nova Scotians, if it continues to ignore the rights of these members and the rights of all Nova Scotians to have their voices heard, is on the trail towards eliminating democracy in this province and that's what Nova Scotians did not vote for. That's what Nova Scotians will continue to not vote for. This government, unless Premier Hamm is intending to be the next Duplessis, he is going to have to do things different. He is going to have to start listening to the people of Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time has expired. There is no one from the government side speaking.

The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Well, well, well, how ironic. If the arrogance could not get any higher, if the affront to democracy could not get any higher after the speech given by the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, for those of you watching here today and here in the gallery, the tradition is when we have the late debate, when it is sponsored by either the NDP caucus or the Liberal caucus, the government responds first and then it goes to whichever caucus other than the one who sponsored it. So today you see that with what was asked for debate today by the NDP caucus, the government has now become so ashamed that they won't even respond in debate to the motion that is being brought before this House.

I was talking to someone, Mr. Speaker, and they told me, you can't shame the shameless, but somehow it appears that we have reached a point that we have shamed this Tory Government because they would rather sit down than have to stand up to try to explain what happened Thursday night at the Law Amendments Committee and what happened from the beginning at the Law Amendments Committee, and the fact that now, when they have a chance to stand in their place, to take 10 minutes and to explain to Nova Scotians, explain to the people who are here in the gallery, waving to their fans, it is extremely warm and muggy, they would rather sit in silence, once again turning their backs to the democratic traditions of this House.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand in my place to talk about the complete disregard that this Tory Government has for the proud and democratic traditions in this House. Many would say that democracy is a nuisance for this government and I would have to agree. This became abundantly clear last Monday during the course of debate in the House of Assembly. The Minister of Justice, the same Minister of Justice who walked away from a presentation by Joan Jessome in the Law Amendments Committee, had the gall to stand in his place

[Page 6009]

during debate and state that the longer the Opposition continues to speak, the shorter the time-frame for the Law Amendments process. The message being quite clear - threatening the Opposition - saying you stop talking or we will not give Nova Scotians a chance to speak on this bill, again, showing his willingness to trample and violate the democratic traditions of this House.

Mr. Speaker, that was simply wrong. It was wrong then and public reaction and your own ruling of the actions of the Minister of Justice show that it was wrong. It was a violation then and it is a violation now. At last count over 556 Nova Scotians concerned and affected by this legislation made their intentions known to the government that they wanted to convince this government of the error of their ways and they wanted to be able to make their presentation before the Law Amendments Committee. I can tell you, having been a member of the Law Amendments Committee for the three years I have had the privilege of being elected in this House, that is the most presenters who have ever requested to appear before that committee. I would argue that it is not a surprise because Bill No. 68 is historical in itself. It is historical legislation, not good historical legislation, but historical in the idea that it tramples on the rights of Nova Scotians. It is shameful legislation.

Mr. Speaker, each and every one of those 556 Nova Scotians had the right to be heard at the Law Amendments Committee.

AN HON. MEMBER: Over 300 were denied.

MR. SAMSON: As pointed out by one of the members, over 300 Nova Scotians were denied. I can tell you, having been on that committee for three years, not once was that committee ever shut down to hear Nova Scotians in the three years I have been here. Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance says I wasn't here long enough, but if they keep up with Bill No. 68, he is quickly making sure that I am going to be here for quite some time longer if his government continues with Bill No. 68 and their other affronts to democracy in this House.

Mr. Speaker, now the government will say that in the best interest of health and safety of Nova Scotians, they needed to move on. They didn't have time to listen to everyone and, at the same time, avoid a strike. What a joke that was when it first came out. It became an even bigger joke because Joan Jessome is the one who fooled the Tories when she came and provided an olive branch to the Tory Government at the Law Amendments Committee. She

indicated quite clearly that if the government extended the amount of the time the Law Amendments Committee sat to hear more Nova Scotians, she would delay the 48-hour strike notice so that this government would be able to hear from all Nova Scotians. At the same time the union said listen, we want our membership, we want Nova Scotians to be heard, and in return we are willing to offer this. So once again the union shows they are willing to negotiate, they are willing to compromise, they are willing to give and take, something this government had absolutely no intention of doing after the May 18th poll that was commissioned by the government.

[Page 6010]

[6:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, at that point, the pressure was off the government. A strike could be averted for as many days as they were willing to sit in the Law Amendments Committee. We certainly wouldn't be where we are today if this government had allowed democracy to take place. I would contend that they didn't want to listen because they actually didn't really like what was being said. You could see it on the face of their members, having to listen to nurses, having to listen to health care workers, having to listen to Nova Scotians concerned about this.

I have to tell you, having been here during the paramedics strike, the expression on the Tory members' faces in the Law Amendments Committee was very similar to the expression on their faces during the paramedics strike, yet one would have thought they would have learned, during the paramedics strike, the error of their ways. But, once again, here they are, back in the exact same situation, once again having to hear Nova Scotians plead with them to respect their democratic rights, to provide them with a fair compensation and to allow democracy to take place in this House.

Mr. Speaker, they knew themselves that the longer their backbenchers endured presenter after presenter, the greater chance that this bill would not pass. Now those of you who may have heard me speak today - and I know many may not have been there at that time, it is extremely warm here and it almost kills you to have to sit down during these long hours - what I pointed out today is we have witnessed now, on two occasions, the disappearing act of the members for Kings North and Kings West. It is a magical act that they have and we have seen it twice here in this House. They haven't started charging admission yet to any of the members to see their magical act, but they disappear on the second reading vote and then they disappear again on the Committee of the Whole House on Bills vote, and one has to ask will we be treated to another magical act where they will disappear on third reading vote, both being government members, both musing that they may not support this.

That is why the government did not want them to continue in the Law Amendments Committee, because they knew the longer they continued the chance there was going to be more disappearing acts, and you can only have so many disappearing acts when you are a government before you lose votes.

Mr. Speaker, this government didn't like the truth that they were being told. They didn't like to be reminded that what they were doing was unnecessary and the fact that we sit here today on the eve of a strike, this government sits in this House of Assembly rather than sitting at the negotiating table, yet they continue to say to members of this House and Nova Scotians, we want a negotiated settlement. Well, by God, you can't have a negotiated settlement when you are sitting on your arse here in this House and not at the negotiating table. Really, how can you expect anyone to believe or to think they have any credibility in saying we want to negotiate a settlement when the last time you were at the table was last

[Page 6011]

Thursday and now you are willing to go five days leading up to a strike without once trying to get back at that table? Yet, the government will say we tried to do everything, we had no choice with Bill No. 68. Nobody is buying it; nobody is believing it.

Mr. Speaker, we in this caucus - and I am sure the NDP caucus would agree - are proud of the traditions of this House. Many members before us have stood in these places and have fought for the democratic principles we have. I could go back and speak of our veterans and the democratic traditions that they fought for. I think every Nova Scotian knows that. We see the picture of Joseph Howe hanging here in this Chamber, who fought so hard for freedom of the press and for a better democracy in this province, yet this government tramples over it time and time again. The idea that the Minister of Justice himself, the man who is entrusted with the Great Seal of this province, was the one who violated the privileges of members of this House is absolutely disgraceful, and he should do the appropriate thing and he should step down from his ministry.

Mr. Speaker, the Law Amendments Committee should have been able to continue. Nova Scotians will remember what this government did and we will continue to fight so that the Law Amendments process can continue for a long time and for years to come in this House and in the traditions of this House. Thank you.

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

The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, this is an issue that came up this week, and I have heard a lot of the debate. Actually, the member opposite, the member for Richmond, especially, has made a lot of passionate speeches in this House regarding the Law Amendments Committee. I think, sometimes you have to look at what the Law Amendments Committee does. It is a committee that I have served on in the past, when I was a backbencher. I have heard a lot of presentations come forward, and I think we in Nova Scotia look at the Law Amendments Committee with pride.

It is a committee that is not present in many provinces in Canada. There are many provinces in Canada where the bill goes through from first reading to third reading without a public process. I think the people who put the Law Amendments Committee in place in the Province of Nova Scotia did so for a reason, so that there would be a chance for people to come forward and make presentations to it. Oftentimes, there are ideas which are encompassed in legislation, but oftentimes there are not. There are times when people come forward to put their voices on the record as to their feelings about the bill. Oftentimes, there are no changes that come forward, but there are times when good suggestions come forward from people making presentations.

[Page 6012]

Mr. Speaker, I will say here that there are times when good suggestions come from Opposition members, that may not be brought up, whatsoever, by the people making the presentations. I say that in all sincerity. I have been in this House long enough to have seen all types of things come forward. There are times when we have political philosophy differences as to how to proceed. Sometimes I have seen the NDP come up with something they would like to have and that we don't agree with. There are passionate reasons on both sides, whether we should do it or whether we shouldn't.

Mr. Speaker, the whole point of this resolution being here today is whether or not there should have been more hearings at the Law Amendments Committee. I know that what happened the other day has been portrayed as the Minister of Justice coming out of the blue and making a suggestion to bring this forward to this House. I saw a transcript of what happened at the previous point in time (Interruptions) Members opposite said, why did I get to see it? Because I asked for it. If the member opposite wanted to ask for it, he has the same privileges as I, as a member of this House.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say that what happened is there was a suggestion put forward, and I am not sure whether it was our Party or other Parties but there were discussions among all three Parties as to whether or not there would be concurrence to have more time for the Law Amendments Committee to meet. So, what happened is that there were discussions going on whereby there would still be a vote before Tuesday, and we happened to be on Tuesday. There were suggestions, there were discussions at that committee, and it was stated that they wanted to bring it back to the caucus to have the caucus look at it.

A motion was put forward to adjourn, for their caucus to look at the information and to come back, but that the bill would be referred back to the House of Assembly by 8:00 o'clock. What happened is our chairman, the Minister of Justice, who happens to be the Chairman of the Law Amendments Committee, took in good faith that the members would do exactly what I just stated. When it came back, what happened is that the member opposite, the member for Richmond, starting putting forward points of personal privilege, points of order and delayed the proceedings whereby it became more obvious that there was no way that all of the amendments that they would have had, or the NDP, would have been able to be dealt with before 8:00 o'clock.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Clearly, and I think this was in your ruling, I believe this is a direct challenge - and no surprise - to the ruling you made the other night. There was no agreement that the bill would be reported back by 8:00 o'clock. I would suggest that if there had been that type of agreement and unanimous consent, you may not have ruled that there was a violation of the privileges of the members.

I would also ask you, I did rise and I did speak on points of personal privilege at that committee, and for the Minister of Finance, here in this House, to suggest that was a delaying tactic, once again shows a complete arrogance towards the Rules of this House. I believe,

[Page 6013]

once again, it is a violation of the privileges of members to accuse a member rising on a point of personal privilege of using it as a delaying tactic. I would ask you to make a ruling. Rather than rising on a point of personal privilege, I would hope that you would indicate to the Minister of Finance that . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member rose on a point of order. It is not a point of order and it is not a point of privilege because it doesn't prevent the honourable member from carrying out his business.

The honourable Minister of Finance has the floor.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member for Richmond has given a perfect example of what happened. He used the same type of rhetoric to continue talking so that the chairman would not be able to deal with any possible amendments that would be put forward by that Party or the Party opposite. He gave an exact example of what happened.

Mr. Speaker, as it got even closer, and the chairman was trying to put questions forward, the member for Dartmouth South started screaming - sorry, Cape Breton South started screaming. The reason I know that is because I was here and I could hear the member screaming from the Red Room. I believe the member for Cape Breton The Lakes was also screaming, as he is now, to give you another example.

Mr. Speaker, what we had there was not a travesty of justice by the Minister of Justice, it was a travesty of justice by the members opposite. It was obstructionist. Now, the member for Richmond just stated that closure had never been used in the committee, and he said, I have been here for three years. It is amazing, when that Party was in power they brought in a bill called the BST, now you can figure out what BS stands for, but they did it. They enacted closure and they cut off debate at the Law Amendments Committee. There is no justification on this earth for you to say there was a pressing need to pass the BST. There is no way you could say there was a strike going to happen; there is no way that you could say there should have been limits on the debate. But they did that.

So, for the member to say that we did something inappropriate is not true. The member opposite, when he says that that honourable member, the Minister of Justice did something wrong in committee, he has no one to blame but himself. For him to ask for an apology and ask for the Minister of Justice to give back the Great Seal, as he so speaks, is just ridiculous. I heard the events from here, whereby the member for Cape Breton South was screaming and so was the member for Cape Breton The Lakes. When the chairman can't even put a question forward so that people can hear it, and that is what the member for Richmond said, we couldn't even hear the question, what is going on . . .

[Page 6014]

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The honourable minister just indicated that he heard me inside this House from the Red Room. In fact, the recorded tape will clearly show that I was not even in that room when that minister indicates he heard me. For the record, I want an apology from that minister, in public, on the record, right now. Thank you. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. Obviously, it is not a point of order, but it certainly is a good point, if the honourable member wasn't there.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, if the member wasn't there, I apologize. However, maybe it is because I hear you here too often. I should ask the Minister of Justice who the other Liberal MLA was who was screaming in the House and I will have a better idea. I do know the member for Cape Breton South was there, and I could hear the screams from here. For any member of this House to disrupt a meeting to that extent is totally inappropriate, and he should be ashamed of himself. I will stand by my Minister of Justice any day, any time. He has served well in his capacity, and I have no hesitation whatsoever giving him my full co-operation and full confidence, not only in this House but in the committee.

Mr. Speaker, in closing I want to say, again to the member for Cape Breton The Lakes, if you weren't there, I do apologize. There was another gentleman there if it wasn't you. I will try to find out who it is and get up at the end of the day.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes. You have about five seconds. (Interruptions)

Order, please. The time for the late debate has expired.

[PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING]

Bill No. 68 - Healthcare Services Continuation (2001) Act. [Debate resumed.]

MR. SPEAKER: We are back on third reading of Bill No. 68.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, it is certainly an honour for me to rise this evening. It is still a great day, despite the rhetoric from across the floor. It is still a great day, at least for some of us, to be Nova Scotians. And a proud day for me to be a member of this House and have an opportunity to rise again on this bill.

[Page 6015]

[6:30 p.m.]

During late debate, it is interesting to note that at least the Finance Minister indicated that he is beginning to hear someone. He is hearing voices. I don't know which ones they are but I certainly hope and pray . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is too much noise in the Chamber. I would ask the members to take their conversation outside. The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes has the floor.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I certainly hope and pray that the good minister is listening and hearing the debate on this particular bill. It is a sorry day for this government, very sorry day. Ever since these whole shenanigans began, those of us, members of this House, have witnessed unbelievable events. Unbelievable. We are not going to get into too much of that.

I just want to recognize a few things. I hope the backbenchers are paying attention because really, I am concerned for some of my former fellow colleagues in municipal government. It is obvious that they don't know anything that is going on here, but the nurses do and the health care professionals of this province - and we witnessed them, each and every day in the hallways outside and in the foyers, everywhere the health care professionals could capture them to try to express their opinions on this particular piece of legislation.

In particular, I want to refer to the great Leader they have over there, to begin my time here this evening. As I indicated, it is a sorry day for that Tory Party. Pictou Centre, Pictou West and Pictou East, all health care professionals voted 95 per cent in favour of strike action. That is right in the home area of the good Premier. It is an area where I believe he practised as a doctor for some 30 years. Yet, it is very clear that the nursing profession, as well as all health care professionals in that area where the good doctor practised for some 30 years, do not support his direction and his comments with regard to Bill No. 68.

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated in a couple of my other speeches, I was an embarrassed member of this House. Embarrassed. I think anybody who has followed the events of the last couple of years knows it takes a lot to get me embarrassed. But I was actually embarrassed to listen to that Premier and that Minister of Health stand on national TV and tell all Canadians that he doesn't trust the nursing profession in this province. That is a shame on that government, a shame on those backbenchers and a shame on that gang up front.

Mr. Speaker, I want to go back a little bit in time this evening, to May, when this - nobody over there, they have a 13th minister over there. The only thing we can find out is his name is Mr. Nobody. That is all we can come up with so far, because nobody commissioned this poll. Nobody. There is not one member of that gang over there in the front rows, that I am aware of, who admitted they knew that poll was being commissioned.

[Page 6016]

Now, I would like to know who paid for it. In a question, the honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works and the Government House Leader - he has a few titles - indicated last night that the results of that poll were included in the creation of this bill. Someone knew over there, but it is not "Mr. Nobody", that is all we know, Mr. Nobody. That reminds me when I go home on the weekend and maybe something is broken, I say to the children, what happened? Who broke this? Nobody. That is the same way that these people are behaving, like kindergarten children who would probably have better respect for their teachers than this gang over here has for the people they represent in this province. They haven't got the courage to stand up and accept the responsibility for the direction that they are going in.

Last May, as we all know, the nurses were in negotiating sessions. Behind their backs, without their knowledge, this government - this Mr. Nobody over there - went about and took this poll. Then they used that poll. They had the poll for quite some time during this negotiation stage and used the results of that poll in negotiations against the nurses and the health care professionals of this province.

I may not be too intelligent or too bright, but even I can understand that is not fair bargaining in any sense of the norm. One thing I am surprised at on that side of the House is my former municipal colleagues who sit over there and allow this participation by that front gang over there and that minister, the waste and destruction they are causing in Nova Scotia is unheard of in the history of this province, in fact, in the history of this House. Never have the shenanigans that we have witnessed occurred in this place before.

In May, they didn't tell the health care workers that they had the results of this poll. In fact, Mr. Nobody didn't tell anybody they had the results. They didn't tell the nurses or the health care professionals' negotiators - they were not aware - which created an unfair bargaining atmosphere. Secondly, they didn't tell the backbenchers, which indicates very clearly they have no respect for them, very clearly, in my opinion. They have no respect whatsoever for those backbenchers or they would have been told about this bill. In fact, even when they became aware that this poll was commissioned and real, because we do have copies of it, it is real - nobody over there will take responsibility for doing what they did.

What is wrong with those former municipal councillors over there? I am shocked, because, we, as municipal councillors, go about our community and often - I read an article just the other day in the paper - municipal councillors are famous for bragging that they are the closest to the people. They are the individuals who are in the community each and every day and know the affairs and the issues that affect the community. I haven't a short memory and I was a municipal councillor just a short two years ago, as were those honourable members were across the floor. I am short - you can see I am short, it is one of my fine points perhaps - but my memory is not short and I know their memories are not short. I can assure you of another thing, Mr. Speaker, their constituents' memories are is not short either. Mr.

[Page 6017]

Nobody who is over there, wherever he may be, will not be knocking on any doors with those individuals come election time.

This government has botched this whole affair since day one - $300 million, we are heading for $400 million spent on health care to date since that government took over, $400 million spent in health in this province. Where, I ask - and I will challenge any one of them, including the minister, to rise to his feet and tell all Nova Scotians right now, while he has the opportunity and when he is on record - where that money went and where it is, because by the sound of the noise out in front, protesters all around this House, it certainly wasn't spent on the health care professionals in this province.

In fact, the federal government is very eager to learn what that minister, that Premier, and that whole gang over there did with $15 million that it gave that government to buy equipment for the hospitals in our province, and guess what, Mr. Premier, there's not one nickel spent, there is nowhere it can be found; in fact, they don't know where it is. Well, Mr. Speaker, rise to the occasion and tell us where it is, that's the challenge. I hear them mumbling over there and babbling, but they never rise to their feet and go on record and tell Nova Scotians what they did with $15 million of their money; not one of them.

Mr. Speaker, we have an honourable Minister of Economic Development who went to Cape Breton and treated steelworkers in the same manner as they are treating health care professionals in this province. I can assure you that the steelworkers today don't feel so separated from the rest of the province after they see what these people did to the professionals in health care - $300 million, heading for $400 million, $15 million in equipment that can't be found, doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, nurses crying each and every day in this province for new equipment that's required so those people can provide the service that is necessary to the well-being of each and every individual in Nova Scotia and Mr. Nobody over there knows where the money is or where it was spent.

That minister, Mr. Speaker, has imported the highest-paid guns in the history of this province, imported from outside the province to come in and advise that government and, in fact, take over control of the health care system in this province without one shot fired from that backbench. You can look at history and any progressive or positive government that has ever been in the Province of Nova Scotia, you can look at their backbench and you can see the strength in their backbench. Look across the floor, what do you see? Nothing but weaknesses, because they will not stand, and I am not suggesting for one minute that they stand up here in this House, or the gang up there, I am not suggesting that, that's done behind the closed doors at the caucus meetings, in their little meetings they have each and every day before they come into this House, downstairs in the Cabinet Chambers. That's where the strength comes out in a government.

[Page 6018]

Well, Mr. Speaker, we see no such strength in this backbench because it isn't visible and perhaps it isn't there. I sit here in my place and I hear them, standing up like the good Minister of Finance just did, and you know, the Liberals did this, they did that and they did this, you know, John Savage this and John Savage that. Well, Mr. Speaker, I wasn't too happy with everything John Savage did and I don't think many Nova Scotians were, but I will tell you one thing about that honourable Premier, he wouldn't be a slice off that ham, I can tell you that, and that is quite obvious.

[6:45 p.m.]

These honourable gentlemen over here, Mr. Speaker, they can't identify with what's wrong with Bill No. 68. They can't get it into their heads that it is not only salaries, it is not the salaries only. The nurses want a real plan to better train our nurses and a real plan to attract new nurses to this province. There are no incentives to be a health care professional, none, and there is no activity and that's quite obvious from what we have seen just down in a couple of areas, I will mention Richmond. The Minister of Tourism and Culture shares that facility among the others, there are three constituencies, I believe, that that hospital serves and his constituency is served by that hospital. Yet for months the emergency ward has been closed. Where are the efforts?

There are no efforts and that, Mr. Speaker, is what health care professionals want. They want activity, positive activity, something that is going to positively impact. They don't want overtime rates. They are worn out because this government refuses to recognize the fact that these - and many of them are mothers and they need home time with their husbands and their children and even the male health care professionals have wives and children at home. You work three days on and you get called out every day you're off and, yes, the overtime comes in handy probably, but the government refuses to recognize the need to recruit nurses to health care in Nova Scotia.

Close to $400 million later and all they have succeeded in in health care is bringing in a gang from outside the province that, obviously, couldn't run a vacant farm along with the rest of that gang up in front and my former colleagues stand idly by and allow it to happen and occur. They don't say a word. Well, shame on them I say, Mr. Speaker. It is time that backbench realized that they have a role to play in that government over there and it is time that they realize that they represent real people, not nobodies, and it is those individuals that those people chose to bring their concerns to that government.

Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that that is not occurring. It is obvious. They're weak. The Premier, if you watch him here in the House, he goes from seat to seat to seat. He is worn out from moving and all he does is go around and I don't know what he says to them, but whatever he says, it sure is working. It sure is working because there is not one sentence out of any of them over there. In fact, I witnessed the other day one of them being shushed off his feet by the honourable Minister of Justice. Then another minister got up and babbled on

[Page 6019]

like he didn't even know what he was talking about. They're a total embarrassment. I don't think they realize that there are other provinces and other Canadians watching what's taking place and how we're treating our health care professionals in this province. It is about time somebody over there shook them up.

Mr. Speaker, as I did indicate the other day, when I was in the committee, the day that the honourable minister said I was. I am not talking about the same day, it was an opposite day to what he said I was in. In any event, that government over there had a real chance and they still have the opportunity to save their bacon and their ham, too.

Mr. Speaker, I don't see any indication that that is going to happen. That surprises me, to be honest. It really does. It surprises me knowing the background of some of those individuals over there. All Nova Scotians, and particularly the Nova Scotians in the Halifax area, I am sure, think back to when we used to watch the televised sittings of the municipal council here in Halifax and we see the members that are over there now on their feet fighting the issues and sticking up for the constituents that they represented. Well, I don't know what ever happened when they got elected provincially. I don't know and I am shocked. There are members over there - and I am not going to single them out - that were very verbal and aggressive and they pursued the issues that were important to their communities.

The good Premier would like them to believe that health care is not important in their community and that all nurses and health care professionals can't be trusted and that they are being offered a fair wage settlement. Well, Mr. Speaker, that is not what Nova Scotians say and this was referred to in this House today, the latest poll which indicates that their poll, that they took in May, is nothing but baloney. That is all it is - baloney, perhaps baloney mixes well with ham, I am not sure - 7 out of 10 Nova Scotians agree with the nursing and the health care professionals in this province. This is a real poll. This is not a sham, it is a real poll. That 62 per cent believe nurses should get at least a 20 per cent wage increase.

That minister over there, he would like all Nova Scotians to believe he doesn't have any money. First of all, what they tried to do was set themselves up in the negotiating stage where they cooked the ham and they cooked the negotiation level. That didn't work, Mr. Speaker. So then when it finally got out and about, they said they had no money. Then they blamed it on the Opposition. Then they blamed it on the NDP. They blamed it on the Liberals. They blamed it on the combination. The good member for Cape Breton North was in the Cape Breton Post today, blaming the federal government. Then they blamed the nurses because they weren't trustworthy.

Sooner or later, Mr. Speaker, they are going to come to their senses and they are going to accept the fact, the responsibility that belongs on your doorstep, the whole lot of you over there. I know there are 11 Cabinet Ministers over there, so there are 20 backbenchers, 20 backbenchers who didn't know the poll, and I believe that, because that gang didn't tell them.

[Page 6020]

But whose fault is that that they didn't tell them? It is not mine and it certainly isn't the health care professionals. Who should they hold responsible for that?

If they were a strong bunch back in the backrooms, on the backbenches, they could ensure that nursing professionals will be treated fairly, but they aren't strong. That is obvious and that is what shocks me because - I am on record as saying it before and I will say it again in this House - they are not bad people. I met them. I know some of them. I am familiar with some of them from my municipal days. They are good individuals. However, they are Tories and they are not only just plain Tories like we have seen with the John Buchanan era, these are crazy Tories and they will be sorry Tories before this is over because Nova Scotians are not going to have a short memory like they do.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians, once again, and for once I can stand in this House and hear all the rhetoric that is directed towards Cape Breton, but I can assure you, look at the results. They weren't fooled. Cape Bretoners weren't fooled, but Nova Scotians trusted those Tories, each and every one of them over there. Now you know, all Nova Scotians know, yes, myself included, and the entire Liberal caucus and all our candidates pleaded with Nova Scotians not to trust the Tories. Well, that is what you get. There is the result over there when you trust those Tories, right there. They will say what they want. They do what they want. They stand up and make untruthful comments right in front of cameras. Any Premier of a province who would suggest that their health care professionals cannot be trusted doesn't deserve to be the Premier of that province, whether it is in Nova Scotia, Ontario, British Columbia, New Brunswick, I don't care where.

You wonder why health care is in shambles in this province. You wonder why the Minister of Finance doesn't have the money. He has $50 billion to $60 billion in a slush fund that they are going to try buy their re-election over there. We know and Nova Scotians should know. We don't forget. The minister jumps up and goes on about this and that. He never mentions things like toilet seats and bridges that have no roads going to them and roads that have no bridges. That gang over there is worse.

The good Minister of Health, and I said it in the House many times and I will say it again, as an individual, he is not a bad guy. I am not here this evening to assassinate his character or pick on him personally or anything else. He is just a simple Tory that doesn't know how to manage anything. That is the explanation I have and it is clear, even to me, Mr. Speaker, that these people, particularly on the front benches, are out of control and they don't know how to manage the affairs of Nova Scotia. Trust me. Vote for me. I can show you some of the things that that minister and that Premier said before and during the election, in the campaign. It is all on record. Check the Tory blue book and see what he said he was going to do for health care and health care workers in this province.

[Page 6021]

This is the way that Premier and the minister and the whole Cabinet manage the affairs of Nova Scotia, the same way they managed the destruction of the steel plant. Now they are out to disrupt the health care system in this province. You know what, Mr. Speaker? I have to give them credit, they are doing a mighty good job at it, they are. They really are. When a nurse has to work 12 hour shifts and come down here and have to protest against that government, then those people over there should be that embarrassed. No wonder they stay and hang around in here and won't go out and talk to their constituents when they come here.

[7:00 p.m.]

Then I spent yesterday in here, Mr. Speaker, and I almost vomited listening to those members stand up and defend what they're doing. Our health care professionals deserve better. They deserve better and they deserve a heck of a lot better than what they're delivering for them. They don't have any abilities over there. Don't ever expect them, the health care, they don't need to expect, the steelworkers, the health care professionals, the teachers, they're next - that's the rumour spreading about the backrooms here when you sit down to have coffee - teachers are next, you know they are going to conquer the teachers now just like they're conquering the health care professionals.

Well, Mr. Speaker, democracy is still in place in this province, thank heavens; until of course they vote on this bill. All members over there should be aware of what they're voting on, and they better realize that this is not funny. This is not something that you can put a band-aid on and go up to the hospital and get stitched up and the nurses are going to take care of it. This is something that is in the hands of that gang in the front over there and it is their responsibility and they will be held accountable; they can be assured of that.

You know, Mr. Speaker, you hear it all the time: well we have two years, don't forget, nobody will even think about this in two years. Well, I have news for that gang over there, because I, for one, will be alive and very verbal in reminding Nova Scotians what that crew did to them. They added $3.5 million per day, average on the debt; $70 million to $80 million this year we are paying the banks in this province, more, because of the direction that Finance Minister is taking us - and he has the gall to stand before the people and tell them he hasn't got any money for health care. What's wrong with that backbench?

You know, Mr. Speaker, when they don't want to hear what you're saying and they know you're right, they hang their heads and they pretend they're reading, or they're doing some work over there. The Premier must have sent them some homework or something, you know, he must have given them something to do over there. I recognize the fact most of them are here a lot of hours and they're tired, but the plan was they were going to wear the Opposition down. They were going to wear us down with 24 hour a day sessions. The Opposition is weak, they will bend and buckle. Well, take a look at a sorry lot and see who is buckling; come into this House, in this Chamber at 5:00 a.m. and see who is slouched about sleeping, trying to catch a catnap. It is not the Opposition members. (Interruptions)

[Page 6022]

The Opposition members aren't here, they shout out, Mr. Speaker. Well, we are here and we are alive and well, and democracy will prevail over that group over there. That crew will not defeat democracy, and I see the honourable Government House Leader looking across, that individual fought in the war for democracy, to give people the rights that they deserve, and he is about to vote, sit in his place, stand in his place, and take those rights away without one shot fired. He should hang his head in shame. (Interruption)

Yes, you can mention Pierre Trudeau. Pierre Trudeau was well above you, I can assure you. Pierre Trudeau, Mr. Speaker, is one of the reasons why we have rights in this country. You should check and see why, honourable member.

That's the rhetoric you hear in this House 24 hours a day, each and every day, the same thing, when they don't want to hear what you're saying because they know you're right. They go about doing their homework that the good Premier gave them and they put their heads down and pretend they don't hear or they try to shout you down like that honourable member just did. I am not going to mention the member because I don't want to embarrass any individual member. I am not here to embarrass the members.

I am here, Mr. Speaker, because this bill affects the residents who I represent in this House, and not just the health care workers who live in my constituency, this issue affects all the residents I represent, as all members in this House. As I said the other day, I feel very fortunate that so far in my life I have had relatively good health, but sooner or later the law of averages says, look in the gallery gentlemen, you are going to need those individuals and what is more important your children may need them someday, or your grandchildren, and you would think you would be proud to leave a legacy of importance instead of a legacy like you're about to do - destruction. You have an opportunity over there to give the tools necessary to the nursing and the health care professionals in this province so they can be the best they can be, and the best in this country, and that's what health care is all about.

That is why health care was invented and, Mr. Speaker, that is why this Party believes so strongly in health care workers in the system in this province, that's why. Because those efforts those workers are putting into their jobs, which you people think are their jobs, is second to none in this entire province and they have no money. They have no money. Well, perhaps they should tell Nova Scotians what they did - maybe they can pave roads with the $15 million the federal government gave them for equipment. If that backbench had any backbone at all over there, they would demand to know from that gang up front where that money is on behalf of the people in Nova Scotia.

As I indicated, Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be here this evening to speak on behalf of all residents of Cape Breton The Lakes because we recognize the efforts that are being put forth by these health care workers in this province. They must be given the tools that are necessary to deliver the services that are necessary. I even had a telephone call from an individual who is on the verge of his heart exploding at any moment. He is in need of

[Page 6023]

very important, necessary surgery as quickly as he can obtain it. Do you know what? That individual, and I spoke to that individual, isn't angry at the nursing professionals, he is not angry at the health care providers, he is upset with that minister and what he is doing. Just imagine being in that type of a situation and not being upset about it. He told me that he felt that it was necessary, what the health care professionals are doing, for the benefit of his grandkids. That is the type of sacrifice Nova Scotians are prepared to make. What sacrifice is that gang over there prepared to make? None, at least to date. There is none.

Mr. Speaker, in 1993, when the Liberal Government took over from the John Buchanan gang, the province was in a deficit of approximately $1.8 billion. I know that government had a tough row to hoe, and I wasn't here so I can't really comment on why they did what they did and what they did or anything. I was like all Nova Scotians, I certainly didn't agree with everything they did. Some of the things they did were necessary, and I recognize that. But there were things that were done that I didn't agree with. They did what they believed in. They certainly did not steal the rights of any Nova Scotians.

This bill that is before this House, that is just about as close as you can go to being a thief in the middle of the night. It robs health care professionals, and they are only the first, the Premier is on record saying it, of taking those rights away. I would suggest that is not why Nova Scotians trusted that gang over there. I can't, for the life of me, after watching the last two years here in this House, why Nova Scotians did trust them. I don't know why. Maybe, perhaps, they are wondering the same thing this evening.

Mr. Speaker, I do know one thing, you can look at the equalization scheme process for the municipalities in this province. The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations was willing to take the low income earners in the Halifax Regional Municipality - that is the people who work at Tim Hortons, service stations, convenience stores, and yes, perhaps, even shopping malls - and they were going to make them, those individuals, subsidize property taxes in other areas of the province, in all other areas of the province. That is the scheme they thought up, over there.

I stood in this place and fought for the compliance officers. They are sort of getting lost in the shuffle with all this. Again, they don't seem so lonely anymore, after they think about what has been done to the steelworkers, and what they see this government doing to our health care professionals. They are not as lonely anymore. Imagine the Minister of Justice poking his nose into the affairs of another minister and directing that minister to bring the RCMP in to take over their jobs.

Now, there may only be 20, but they are 20 of the most dedicated, well-trained Nova Scotians that you will find in that particular industry in this country. What are they doing now to those individuals? The Premier promised the five point plan, do we remember that? Another election - well, it was a - promise but I don't know what you would call it today. Those compliance officers were just pushed out of the way, and now we learn that the RCMP

[Page 6024]

are about to start a training session on July 23rd to assume the duties of those compliance officers. This government didn't have the courtesy to discuss or consult with those individuals.

[7:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, isn't that what they are doing to health care workers in this province? It is like I said in this House on previous occasions, it is like these guys, this government doesn't even want to put the effort into governing Nova Scotia. Here is the football, we just want to fumble it and let somebody else take it, because they are out of control and cannot manage the affairs of Nova Scotia. Think about it, compliance officers, health care, equalization, the Campaign for Fairness, just another embarrassment for all Nova Scotians, when a Premier will go about the country promoting the increase of equalization when he receives the largest amount now, in Canada.

If the federal government was gullible enough to fall for his rhetoric, then Quebec would be the beneficiary - imagine. That is the kind of activity of this Premier. We have a Finance Minister, when I challenged him here the other day, I went fishing, to be honest, and threw a little bait out on a hook, and he bit it. I said - when I made the statement I was almost certain it wasn't true, to be honest with the House - that he went to New York and spent $900 in one night at a motel in New York. The minister jumped right to his feet and said that is not true, I was there two nights. I know people in my constituency who live on less than $450 for the month, for the entire month, let alone one night in a fancy motel in New York.

That minister has the gall to stand before the people of Nova Scotia and the health care professionals and tell them he has no money. He has added approximately $3.5 million on the debt, per day, in this province since he took over those duties, at a cost of $70 million to $80 million in interest charges that we pay to rich bankers down the street, each and every year; and he has no money for health care.

Remember bracket creep. He didn't have any idea what bracket creep meant until my colleague, the honourable member for Lunenburg West, educated him on bracket creep. He had no idea what bracket creep was. That minister didn't even know that the debt in this province was going to accumulate each and every year to the year 2007. He had no knowledge, whatsoever. He claims he does, but I say he doesn't. Do you know why I say that? It is because the Premier admitted in this House and publicly that he had no knowledge of that. If the Finance Minister knew, I am sure he would have told his colleagues in caucus, at least, or in Cabinet and certainly the Premier should have been made aware of it, but that makes me wonder who really is in control over there. Who is filling the agenda?

Mr. Speaker, you can hear the noise outside this Chamber, and I would suggest the noise is going to get a lot louder because we are going to be reminding Nova Scotians exactly what this group is doing to this province. We are going to be reminding Nova Scotians, along

[Page 6025]

with the other things that I already mentioned, the $15 million in health care that the honourable federal minister, Allan Rock, provided that minister to buy equipment so that he could shore-up the support to the health care professionals in this province, in our hospitals where it is needed. There was not one dime spent. Nobody can even tell us where the money is. They can't find it. Where did that money go? That Minister of Finance has the gall to stand before the people and tell them he has no money to pay these individuals or to support health care.

Highway No. 101, Mr. Speaker, do we remember those commitments and promises? They have done nothing but cut the weeds along the road to date. Promise after promise after promise; they are a government of broken commitments and broken promises. What surprises me more than anything is that my former municipal colleagues are part of it. They are part of it. It is alarming. In the two years they have governed this province, the damage they have done is unbelievable. You have to witness what these people do. You really have to witness it. Mr. Speaker, my colleague, the honourable member for Lunenburg West, who is the Finance Critic for our caucus - and yes he is the former Finance Minister - can tell you where it is at. But they have a little pool over there of about $50 million to $60 million set aside and they tell health care workers they have no money. The Premier stands in front of the cameras and says, well, we can't give them any more money because we have education and roads.

Mr. Speaker, in Cape Breton County, in an area I represent, there has not been one paving project to date, other than one on Route No. 4 where the guardrail fell into the lake and there was no other option but to replace that section of highway. Not one paving project. A local high school in my constituency - I had a call on the weekend, this is how they are supporting education and improving education - three support staff were laid off and two teachers are gone from the staff; five individuals out of that one building are gone. That minister has the gall to stand before Nova Scotians and say they are improving the education system in our province. It is hard to believe.

Mr. Speaker, the Baker break that some of the health care professionals witnessed, that is the kind of ignorance that we see each and every day, ignorance and irresponsibility; that is what we witness on this side of the House each and every day. My former colleagues - and yes I still like them and they will probably be mad at me when I sit down, but so be it - those former municipal colleagues of mine, they are the members over there that I thought had the backbone to ensure Nova Scotians would receive fair representation from that gang in front.

Mr. Speaker, what we witnessed with the steelworkers in Sydney, this gang is not done yet. All you had to do was listen to the Premier, yesterday, publicly state that most likely teachers are next, police are next, the list will go on and on, and he alone will define what an essential service is, in the same manner as he stated very clearly in a newspaper article on the weekend that he expects to define the meaning of fairness. That is what we have here.

[Page 6026]

Mr. Speaker, all Nova Scotians should take into account the results that nursing and health care professionals in Pictou, Pictou Centre, Pictou West, and Pictou East recognize from that good doctor that he sold himself on. The Premier, I believe, wrote his last prescription because Nova Scotians are going to remember. They are going to remember, regardless of what my former colleagues believe, whatever garbage they have them believing in over there, they better smell the coffee real soon, because the time is ticking. This vote is more than about money; in fact I don't believe it is about salaries. It has nothing to do with salaries. That Finance Minister, that Premier, and that whole gang over there, the whole lot of them, have the money. They say $100 million; over three years, nurses don't get the top salary.

They have radio advertisements trying to turn everybody against the nursing care professionals in this province and it is not going to work, because, Mr. Speaker, that government - and this is what health care professionals are telling them - that they must spend the money in the system to recruit new nurses and spend the $15 million that Ottawa gave them on equipment. That is not an unreasonable request. I know my time is about to wind down, but I am not getting off my feet - as I indicated the other morning, if it is 10 seconds or 30 seconds - because after two years I am afraid of what they are able to do in 30 seconds, particularly to the health care in this province and particularly to the workers.

If the backbenchers are listening over there, get a little bit of backbone like you used to show in those council meetings. The next time you have your little group . . .

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, well, you know this is the third time I have risen in debate on Bill No. 68 and I have heard lots of things. I have heard many really disturbing things at the beginning of this week. While there is a grain of truth in what the governing Party was saying earlier this week about transfer payments and so on, I could be tempted to join in on that debate and use this time to attack the Third Party, but, no, I am not going to do that. Again, before I move on from that, I should tell you that it would be much easier for me and much more beneficial for me from where I come from, to attack the Third Party. I think this is one of those instances where you have to keep your eye on the ball. The ball, in this instance, is clearly the governing Party in this province, that being the Progressive Conservative Party.

[7:30 p.m.]

This is the Party that told people two years ago that they were going to fix health care. That is what they came in for. The blue book partially states that they are going to fix finances, but what was the number one priority before they would give anything, any tax

[Page 6027]

break or anything, what were they going to do before they could afford a tax break? Simple. It was a simple solution. They were going to fix health care.

If this is any indication, what is going on outside these doors now, some 10 and a half hours before the strike is officially to begin, that tells me that this government has got a long way to fixing health care. It has a long way to go.

I look around and I see in the gallery many health care workers and I wonder - you know, my colleagues and I took a journey of the Tory Web site today. Do you know what is going on today for the Tory Party? A golf tournament. A golf tournament that costs you $500 to enter. How many health care workers do you think are at that golf tournament? It goes beyond the ability of good taste. We are asking these health care workers to suck it up, but they are going to go and ask people to give their Party $500 so you can play a round of golf and you may get the Premier's ear even. But, $500, $2,000 for a foursome. I find that extremely offensive. It is extremely offensive when I look up and see health care professionals, that is a week's salary, for one round of golf with selected members of the Tory Party. I find that extremely offensive and I thought, if this Premier was really concerned about showing that he is fiscally responsible and that he is the Premier for all people in this province, he wouldn't do such an elitist event.

No, he, in his wisdom - a day away from a major strike and a day or so away from ramming a piece of legislation down the throats of Nova Scotians - what does he do? He pulls this Marie Antoinette-style, let them eat cake. He says here is my $500, I am going golfing. It was strange - just about three weeks ago, I played golf with some of the members on the other side. They were at a charity event out in Chester. Glad to go. I think it was $100 or something like that. We went and it was for the Boys and Girls Clubs and it was put on

by the mainland building trades and I was proud to go. It went to a good cause. But, in the middle of this debate, for the Tory Party to put on a $500-a-person golf tournament, shows the complete arrogance of this government and who their friends are. I don't think too many people that were on strike with the custodial workers against HRM school board will be at that golf tournament. They are probably chowing down about now, it is after 6:00 p.m. It was to run from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., so it is over. They are probably all in the clubhouse by now.

When I first came across this information, I thought of it as just bad timing. But when you start looking at all the things this government does, it is this "I don't care" attitude. It is, let them do whatever they want. I think it was Peter the Great who had a saying and he said: My people and I have an understanding; they say what they want and I do what I want. I think that is the page this government is taking from Peter the Great. They certainly have said, we are going to do - you people can make all the noise you want. Workers in this province, you can holler and moan about this all you want, but I am going to do what I want when the dust settles. That is the problem here, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 6028]

I want to clearly state that I hold one person and one person only responsible for where we are at today. That is clearly the Premier. He is the guy where the proverbial buck stops. He could have been John the conciliator or John the dictator. In my estimation, he will go down in the history of this province as John the dictator. As much as I like to fill my speeches with hyperbole, I will try not to tonight because we are at a very serious time. We are in the vicinity of roughly 10 hours for a major work stoppage in this province and we have been at this precipice once before, we were here with the EMTs, the emergency medical technicians and their dispatchers and so on. We were there and this government got itself all in a bind when it wouldn't negotiate. This is the problem, this government will not negotiate.

I think, moreover, what we have seen in the last two weeks or so is the erosion of the confidence of this province in their Premier; in a Premier who has vacillated over and over again on what the problems are here; on a Premier who says, oh, I remember the nurses strike at the Aberdeen Hospital - that phantom strike that never happened. We are losing confidence in that Premier when he makes statements that aren't accurate. What are Nova Scotians to believe?

When he and his Minister of Health tell people that there is no contingency plan. They didn't say there wasn't an adequate contingency plan, they said there was no contingency plan. Clearly, in the collective agreement, it stated there was a contingency plan and at the table, both parties were working towards a system that would provide a 24 hour expedited arbitration if there was a disagreement over what was an emergency but, no, our Premier, sadly enough, stood outside this House and said there was none. That was inaccurate.

So, Mr. Speaker, how can we have any confidence in what he tells us around a settlement. He tells us, oh, it is not about money, it is about a contingency plan, but this past weekend in the ads that he has been compliant to, the Premier has been saying it is about money. How much more money, what will it take to satisfy these people, you know, as if you're feeding hay to horses, he wants to know, can we just keep stuffing it in there. That's not what these people are about. These people are about the ability to bargain collectively. The Premier misses a major point in what's going on here, an extremely important and finite point that he and his government, for what they've done, have caused the rejection of these tentative settlements.

Mr. Speaker, we have seen a mediated settlement by probably, I would suspect that the mediator involved, and he is an arbitrator also, Mr. Outhouse, would be considered easily within the top five in that category in this country. We're not talking about this province, we are talking about this country. He was sought out in many national disputes. Quite honestly, he arbitrated my personal dismissal and he judged on my side so I am somewhat biased about his abilities. It wasn't a thorough victory, but it was a victory nonetheless for myself. I have had the occasion to present argument in front of that arbitrator and he is widely thought of on both sides. I mean, it is one of those things, if you weren't fair and equitable in your judgments and gave good rationale why your judgment was made, neither party would seek

[Page 6029]

you because it would become too much of a gamble or a crap shoot. People wouldn't want that. People want to know that when the facts are being heard, that the interpretation is going to be made on fact and not supposition.

Well, Mr. Speaker, that's the type of reputation Mr. Outhouse has across this country, but what this government did and what this Premier did, the Premier got this House recalled because it was his wish. I mean he has to go through certain channels. The Government House Leader doesn't wake up in the morning, yawn and say I will have my coffee and give the Speaker a call and we will call the House back. That's not how it happens. We all know that. It comes from the top. I am sure it is discussed at Cabinet and moves forward, but he's the boss. He is the Premier.

So when he gets up and he makes the decision we are going forward with recalling the House, so he recalls the House right in the middle of mediation. Mediation is going on. All the parties know, and I am sure the government side knew, the government knew that there was - pardon the pun - a drop-dead date and time. It was midnight, that night, that was it, all bets were off, was getting out of mediation and was going to file the report, rather than wait until midnight and let the mediated process go on, which everyone seemed to think from the information that was leaking out that it was progressing well. But what did the government do? The government sends out a notice to all the members, through you, Mr. Speaker, because you're the Speaker, recalling this House, telling all assembled that it was going to introduce this bill which later became Bill No. 68 and its ramifications. Needless to say, the Parties, when they found this, were quite ticked. Why would you set something up to fail? Why wouldn't you let that go and allow them that vote, because they voted the next weekend?

[7:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, it didn't take a genius to figure out what the reaction was going to be. I think, if you watched people voting, they said that they were going to send a message to this government that they weren't going to listen to them. The Nova Scotia Government Employees Union said, no, we're not going to be pushed around. We have been pushed and pulled and tugged at for 10 years and we're not going to take it. They sent a clear message to the Premier. Now, they don't have his ear, but I am sure those people who were golfing today, spending $500 a head to golf with certain members of the Tory Party to get the Premier's ear, but they had to do it through the ballot box, they couldn't do it through the golf links. They had to go and tell this Premier this is wrong, what you're doing is wrong.

We went and we signed on good faith, we signed on one of the finest mediators in this country to get an agreement, and what did this government do, what did this government do while all parties were supposedly at the table trying to get an agreement? This government did an end run, Mr. Speaker. This Premier went and did an end run and said, no, we will have none of that. We are going to legislate you back and that's it and we're going to build a box

[Page 6030]

around you. At that time there were many members who were saying this is only the beginning, many members sitting beside me here, this is only the beginning.

So what does the Mike Harris East do on Monday, the Premier of Nova Scotia, he says this is only the beginning. I am going to build in more legislation that is going to restrict the rights of workers, Mr. Speaker.

I want to stay on that subject a bit about the rights of workers because it is something very near and dear to me, the right to bargain collectively. It is the right to sit down and rather than a pat on the top of the head to tell you that you're doing a good job, it is one of the few ways for you to really have a say on the shop floor in the workplace, wherever. It is one of your few democratic rights, especially in this province, where you can sit down and get something and be as an equal with the employer.

They don't sit up here and you're down there. The whole idea is you're level and you're trying to bargain collectively and what you're trying to do is get an agreement that certainly is the best for the employees and that's fine, as is the employer trying to do what's best for them. Mr. Speaker, at the end of the day it is those two parties that know the envelope in which they can live, financially and in other jurisdictional matters. It is not 12 people in a bunker here on Hollis Street that know that. It is not somebody sitting in one of the large offices at the Department of Health, Mr. Speaker, no, it is those people.

If you remember when this government brought in the district health authorities, that's what it was all about, giving the ability to the local areas to govern their health care needs. Part of the health care needs is negotiating with your employees but, Mr. Speaker, with a stroke of the pen, probably somewhere within the next 36 to 48 hours, that's going to be taken away from a large group of individuals and what's even worse, it will never be returned to them. They will never have the right to lay down their tools and say that's it, the process didn't work, I am taking the only recourse that's open to me and that is the right to stop and have a legal strike.

Mr. Speaker, it would be different if we were standing here talking about a sector of this province that has been plagued with work stoppage after work stoppage after work stoppage, but no, we are talking about Nova Scotia having a good track record when it comes to people standing to fight for their rights but not going to that final hammer of the strike. Most workers in this province understand the value of what a work stoppage is and they understand the inherent dangers of a work stoppage. Unlike other provinces, there is no anti-scab legislation. The employer has the right, the inherent right in this province to bring in replacement workers.

[Page 6031]

We tried to bring in - and we tabled in the last sitting of the House - progressive legislation around those things, but this government didn't want anything to do with it. You wondered why at the time, why when you are out there trying to bring forward legislation that will improve the lot of workers and workers' rights, why this government wouldn't have been receptive to it. It wasn't Machiavellian, it was open, we explained what we thought of replacement workers and how this could work. When we introduced the bill, there were replacement workers in the school board situation, with the custodial workers.

Yet, this government wanted nothing to do with that. We introduced another bill, changing certain clauses as it relates to the Labour Standards Code. What we tried to do there was, we realized that because it is so hard to organize in this province collectively, and get a trade union in the workshop, what we wanted to do was to allow the government to be enlightened and see the workplace for what it is. One of the crowns in that piece of legislation dealt with reducing the overtime level in Nova Scotia from 48 hours to 40 hours. That was a quality of life issue, as was parental leave days, family leave days. These were things that we saw that would give Nova Scotians a chance to spend more quality time with their families. That is a large part of what is happening with this government today.

If you really listen to what a lot of workers are saying, sure, they want more money, sure, at the end of the day they want more money in their envelopes, but they want what we thought over 75 years ago, they want a 40 hour work week. They want the ability to go home at night, have supper, do the dishes, talk to your family, help your children with their homework, maybe take them to a swimming lesson, go to a ball game, a hockey game, maybe even something crazy like going out with your partner to a movie, or go out someplace and have a drink and a bit to eat and just talk. That is all they want.

They are not looking to gouge, they are not looking to break this province. Heaven knows, you can't solve the financial problems of this province on the backs of workers. It has been proven time and time again, in this province, federally and from province to province right across this country. That is not where it lies. The problem, I challenge the Minister of Finance, is a fairer taxation system, not with taking the rights of workers away. That is where the problem lies. That is where, if this Premier was truly a visionary who saw beyond his golf game today, it would be; that is where the fight would be. The fight would be, let's find a way to tax fairly, rather than saying no, more of the same. There are no new ideas. What they blame the Third Party for is what they are guilty of; they are just doing it in a different way. They are blaming the federal government for not giving them enough money. Was that part of their election campaign? Not a word.

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about the ghosts of deficits past, and I want to talk about a former Tory Premier, John MacLennan Buchanan. They want to act as if that regime never existed, they want to go on like he didn't do the things he did to this province. I would have some sympathy, maybe only that much, but I would have some sympathy for this government

[Page 6032]

if they would own up to their past transgressions. But no, they want us to believe that they had no part in driving this province so far in debt.

Mr. Speaker, I know there are only a couple on that bench over there who were members of that government, but on the other side there were a whole lot of them who supported them and were members of Tory constituency associations and so on, and were quite happy to tag along with Senator John and his group of merry men as they bankrupted this province. That is one of the reasons why we are here today if you are going to talk about debt, but they don't want to own up to that. It is something they caused, but don't want to stand up and say I am the blame, we have to shoulder some of this.

What they are trying to do, and the Premier is the guy who has to wear this because he is leading the charge, is come out and say how much money will it take to satisfy these people? He just doesn't get it; he just doesn't get it at all. What it would take to satisfy these people is to kill Bill No. 68. It is simple; let them negotiate freely and I will bet you that they would get an agreement. If you would rip up that bill and call the parties back together, I would be willing to bet that there wouldn't be a walkout tomorrow morning at 6:00 o'clock.

We saw, in the Law Amendments Committee, the olive branch extended and we saw it slapped away. I don't think that idea was fully vetted with everybody involved. It was slapped away, because, obviously, when it starts to open up you realize that there are solutions. But the government doesn't want to be part of the solution, the government has an agenda. I heard, when the Tories got elected, all the old, used sayings that Tory times are tough times and that type of stuff that goes on and I really didn't pay any attention to it. I sat next to a lot of the people, who are over on that side, when they were in Opposition and quite liked most of them - probably the highlighter being on 'most of them' - but, Mr. Speaker, I said these aren't your extreme neo-conservative Tories. These are people who I agreed with in situations, and I disagreed with others, but there didn't seem to be that over-the-top, that Mike Harris-form of I am going to stake out the tough turf, and this is what I am going to be.

The people I had spent time with, some I travelled across this province on committees with and quite liked and didn't see them as that dogmatic extreme right. Boy was I wrong. Not of that group so much, but I think what inherently happened was we had a Party come to power that saw how the Harris Regime worked and said, and it was fuelled. If you look within the inner circle, and I don't mean the elected inner circle, but the ones over at One Government Place inner circle, you see a lot of Harrisites, sounds an awful lot like parasites, that are over there and they are the ones that are counselling.

[8:00 p.m.]

Now you could say that they are the bad guys. No, the Premier is the bad guy because he should know Nova Scotians. He should know that we are not made up like that, that we are fair-minded people, who want people to be treated fairly. But, no, this Premier, rather

[Page 6033]

than listen to the hard-working people of Nova Scotia, is listening to that little group that have been brought in here from Ontario. There are some remnants of the old Mulroney days. There are some of those hanging around and they are the ones that are being talked about. (Interruption)

Mr. Speaker, if I can only get a note. I didn't hear you there. Well, you know, as I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted, the fact is that there are even remnants of the old Mulroney days, people from that era that are floating around and giving this government counsel and it is not right. I believe that it is all wrong. It is a lot like being in the batter's box with three on and someone telling you to bunt. Anyway, these people are giving counsel and they are not understanding the fibre of this province, not understanding where we are at. Do these people who supplanted themselves in this province realize that most health care workers in this province, because of rollbacks and freezes, since 1990, have fundamentally lost 7.5 per cent of their wages because of inflation and so on? Since 1990, they have 7.5 per cent less buying power. That is what they have.

That is interesting to know, Mr. Speaker, because even with these raises, it is not going to make a big difference financially for them. If the government was to give them a decent raise, where do you think that money is going to be spent? Do you think that money is going to be spent in the Caribbean, in the Turks and Caicos Islands? I have got a sneaky suspicion that that money earned here, the vast majority of it, I will go on record as saying 95 per cent of it, will be spent on goods and services in Nova Scotia. It will be spent on vacations around this province this summer. It will be spent on buying school supplies in August to send their children back to school and it will be spent on getting themselves ready to go back to work. It will be spent on groceries in this province. It will be spent on buying cars in this province. They will be spent on some buying homes in this province. If this bill passes and this government takes its heavy hand to it, what we are going to see is people not buying those things in Nova Scotia. You are going to see people put their homes up for sale and you are going to see them leave.

Mr. Speaker, people on the government side will say that is an idle threat and it is all talk. You know, to some point, it may be talk. It is anger talking and I hope it is. I hope that whatever happens that these good women and men stay in this province and work. That is my desire. That is why I am here fighting this bill. But my desire, no matter what happens to this bill, is that they stay here and they work for the good of Nova Scotia. When is enough, enough? When is it?

Mr. Speaker, all who say they are going to resign, will they resign? Possibly not. But if 5 per cent, 10 per cent, 20 per cent, 50 per cent or 75 per cent of those who say they are resigning, resign, they are good Nova Scotians who are leaving here. Nova Scotians by and large we have paid to educate, we have invested in them, this government has turned its back on them and said, we don't trust you. This Premier, who has told us he lived through a nurses strike at the Aberdeen Hospital that didn't exist. Who can we trust? Can we trust our health

[Page 6034]

care providers or can we trust a Premier who talks about a strike that didn't exist? They are talking about reality. They are talking about going away. They are talking about leaving the province. I believe them. I don't believe in a fairy tale about a strike that didn't happen from a Premier that has waffled on this legislation since he has introduced it; he has waffled on how and who he supports since you introduced it, Mr. Speaker.

These aren't unusual people looking for unusual results, they are regular Nova Scotians who want to work and this bill does nothing for them. This bill, I wonder out loud, what it does to save or repair any problems in the health care system. Yes, Mr. Speaker, the Premier may be right that it may put the people back to work. We are not so sure of that. We don't know the result. We saw them backlash the introduction of the bill, is there going to be a backlash to the enactment of the bill? That is what the Premier is going to have to wear whatever happens there.

Mr. Speaker, the government has miscalculated right down the line to what was happening here. We have seen many changes in health care in this province since the 1975 strike happened. We have also seen the nursing and major health care providers in this province negotiate collectively, negotiate honestly and negotiate fairly when they were allowed, when they weren't infringed upon by governments. They did these within reason and they weren't militant about it, as most Nova Scotian workers aren't militant. I heard somebody categorize that nurses are no better than lumberjacks. Well, I know some lumberjacks, they are fine people, as nurses are fine people. What is this idea of separating people out who are good and bad? That is silly.

These are workers who want rights. They want the ability to sit down and look across the table at their employer and say this is not working. They want to be able to say, if the employer isn't going to listen, to have that final threat and that final threat is a strike. Mr. Speaker, why is the government so afraid of that? Why has the government, on one hand, the Premier, in particular, pushed them into a corner and forced them to strike? It gave them no option. Is it the fact that he didn't think they would take mediation, so he offered it? When he found out mediation wouldn't work for him he said oh, that wasn't a good idea, they are being reasonable and we expected them to be so unreasonable. The union was very reasonable and went to the table and boing, before the midnight hour, got a tentative agreement.

Before they can reach that point, its members are out there working and they are hearing news shows and so on and the Premier slinks around and gets the House recalled and circumvents that. The workers, I am sure, in labs and so on, are saying, look, we can't trust this fellow. He is beyond contempt here. We have got workers in here, we have got our representatives trying to do our work, and he just basically cuts them off at the knees.

[Page 6035]

Mr. Speaker, I want you to understand, I guess, that if there is a strike tomorrow morning at 6:00 a.m., it is on the government's head. If the government had allowed free and unfettered collective bargaining to take place, I would suspect we would have had a deal. There is no doubt in my mind, but the Premier wants a strike. The Premier wants a strike so bad that he is blaming everybody but himself. So what does he do? He has his Minister of Justice stand up and blame us and blame the House Rules, that the House Rules are too cumbersome, they're too unwieldy to get this legislation through.

As you are well aware, Mr. Speaker, a lot of times legislation takes place in a give-and-take between the Opposition Parties and the government. Yet this government wants to blame the Opposition. They're saying by you taking your democratic rights and standing in your place and debating this bill, that you're causing a work stoppage, oblivious to the fact that they're doing it, oblivious to the fact that by bringing in this bill that Nova Scotians find so repugnant that they have caused this. Yet they don't want to take any responsibility for it. So, you know, if you recall the Premier's great speech around the paramedics' work stoppage, his whole speech was around poor me, poor Premier, I have got all the weight of the province on my shoulders, poor me, nobody worries about poor Premier, he's got all the work, he has got to do all this, and at no time did he worry about people regularly having to work 70 hours a week with no overtime, with getting $6.00, $7.00, $8.00 an hour for it.

No, Mr. Speaker, it was all about the poor Premier. He couldn't care less about workers. Workers were just so much chattel that he had to deal with. He had absolutely no respect for them. Well, I figured back then that the Premier would have learned his lesson. He would have learned his lesson when those paramedics took those emergency vehicles and parked them in the driveway and said, John, you take the keys, you're running it, you take the keys.

[8:15 p.m.]

No, Mr. Speaker, what we saw is a Premier who became more arrogant. We saw a Premier who showed his utter contempt for workers of this province and it continues into Bill No. 68 and beyond when he is talking about bringing in more drastic worker-related legislation. We're talking about stripping the rights from more workers in this province. Who they are we don't know because he doesn't have the intestinal fortitude to say look, I am going to show it all to Nova Scotians now what we're planning to do. He is the same Premier, the good doctor from Pictou County, you know when he put out a flawed budget, did he say here is what's in it? No, he had the unmitigated gall to tell the Opposition Parties to ferret it out; we've hidden these things in here, but you ferret them out. We are not going to show you; that's not our job. Our job is to hide things from Nova Scotians. Our job isn't to be open and up front with Nova Scotians, it is to hide things from Nova Scotians.

[Page 6036]

So what he has done now, he has put another sword of Damocles over the heads of workers in this province. What he has done, he said do you know what? You think I had contempt for health care workers? You ain't seen nothing yet. John the dictator is going to take on workers that he feels essential from Yarmouth to Glace Bay and he is going to take them on because he wants to take them on, because he has no respect for the working rights of the women and men of this province. He doesn't care. He hasn't had to work in the trenches, work for the remuneration that some people have seen, the pittance. If he showed some enlightenment and he wanted to say I don't really believe in unions, but I will be benevolent in my leadership and make sure that right across this province people are paid a fair wage, but no, this Premier does not have the intestinal fortitude to do that.

By virtue of coming in and warning other unions that next spring, or next fall, I am going to be even harder on you, he is spreading the word of John the dictator, that he is going to be way more mean-spirited next year. He is going to solve the ills of this province on the backs of workers and, Mr. Speaker, is he in for an awakening, if he thinks that what he hears outside this House tonight and possibly within the next few days as a revolt against him, as his "Peter the Great" attitude of my people say what they want and I do what I want, the Peter the Great attitude of John the dictator, if that's what he thinks.

Nobody has been fooled by him, Mr. Speaker. He may have ridden in as Premier of this province and fooled some people for a short time on being John the friendly country doctor, but we have seen him for the vile dictator that he is, how he trods over people's rights, how he doesn't care, how he doesn't stand up for the ordinary working women and men of this province, when he is off at a $500-a-person golf tournament for funds for the Tory Party rather than fighting for the rights of workers, when those people, certainly we know now who has the ear of this Premier. I feel sorry for those people outside this House who are making noise because they could triple the decibels out there and John the dictator will not hear them; he has effectively shut them out. It is a government run by a neo-Progressive Conservative right-wing agenda that doesn't include the rights of working men and women in this province.

Mr. Speaker, those people will remember, in two years, who took away their rights, who took away their ability to act as grown-ups, who took away their ability to say I don't want this to go on in my workplace anymore, who took away the ability for them to say that is not enough money for the work I do, who took away their rights to say I want to spend time with my family. They will remember that it was John the dictator who did that. They will remember him, and they will remember him with his phony promise of a tax reduction, because that is all it is, it is phony, it is a lot of bull that isn't going to work in this province. All he is doing is taking money out of their pockets and giving it back with no interest. They know what this game is all about. They know that this government can't be trusted when it comes to individual rights, they are taking away individual rights, they are taking away collective rights.

[Page 6037]

Mr. Speaker, that noise outside the House is going to build. I said, if it triples in decibels, the Premier won't hear it, because he is blinded by an ideology that says let them eat cake. He doesn't care. I appeal to the less strident members of that Party on the other side, hear the noise, hear what that is saying, hear what it is telling you. It is telling you Nova Scotians don't do business this way. Nova Scotians are fair; they are fair from Yarmouth to Glace Bay. Don't do this. Give me my rights back. Let me go home. I don't want to be out in front here blowing a whistle, hitting a knocker, chanting. I don't want to be up there in the gallery watching this in this heat.

No, Mr. Speaker, they want to be with their families. They want to be at their workplace looking after patients, doing their jobs. But they are here, not because they want to be, because John the dictator has driven them to this. They are here to be heard. I want the backbenchers to hear them. If your strident, hard-core, heartless, government Leader won't hear you, let the backbenchers hear you.

Mr. Speaker, this is not a speech, as I told you, full of hyperbole and rhetoric. It is a speech that I feel truly from the heart, because it is an area that I have lived in all my life. I watched my father, my late father, work in the coal mines for 47 years. I lived within earshot of where he worked most of his working life, No. 12 mine. We were less than from here to One Government Place away from there. You are familiar with coal yards and you know what it is like. The seminal strike in this province was the 1925 UMW strike against the coal owners, and they were absentee owners. I would put forward as the seminal strike in this province, that a lot of what we see today in this province as labour legislation.

Mr. Speaker, I lived with that. I lived with the stories. Some of it, yes, embellished through the years, but as in any kind of history in a folklore context it is always interesting. I remember a gentleman who lived next door to our house and who was severely injured in the coal mines. He had this huge barn in his yard. A lot of the miners would walk through his yard, coming from No. 12. They would be going down to what is referred to in New Waterford as the Avenues, Wood Avenue, Wilson Avenue, Pellatt Avenue, Duggan Avenue, and so on. They would go and they would stop in Randall Gillis' barn, and some of them would have more than a cup of tea there. As a kid, you could go in there because these giants, in my mind, would talk about work that day, and so on. You would go in and I, as a child, would be playing and would be in and out of there, and some of them would try to give us a boot to get us out of the way from time to time, they would have the big pit boots on. But they were such good people, because we could run in and out of there, and as rugged and as big and as mean and as burly and as surly as they could be, they never ever cursed. They respected the women coming out and hanging clothes on the line and all that, and there would be us kids.

They knew. Maybe they said some pretty raw stuff in the mines when they were with their buddies, but there it was a different set of rules. There was respect for the women, it was a different time, I don't mean to use clichés, because that is what I grew up with a stay-

[Page 6038]

at-home mother who worked at home. That is what it was, that is what I grew up with, respect. They respected me as a young kid running in and out of there. That respect stayed with me to this day. I respected them because they were working Nova Scotians, they did something for their province, they were fuelling the engines of this province. They probably didn't all see it that way, they were like the rest of us, trying to get a paycheque.

Mr. Speaker, that respect has stayed with me for as long as I can remember. That is what I accuse this Premier of here, of having no respect for workers in this province. He is going to get meaner, it is going to get uglier in this province. This Premier has to realize that the way to balancing a book is not through the paycheques of these women and men who are in the gallery up here. The way to do that is earning respect. This government, if they earn it they will get it back twofold, they will get back forthright respect. I think they will get it back in respect by the way of votes.

Mr. Speaker, this has gone beyond votes, this has gone into an extremist, right-wing ideology of this Premier. This Premier who doesn't know what it is like to be the son or daughter of a coal miner. It is about a Premier who has been privileged, and he doesn't understand the working class of this province. Some of his backbenchers, the majority of his backbenchers understand that. I ask them, when it comes time to vote on this bill, think back to that place in their youth, when you were so proud of your neighbours, you were so proud, when you think of it, that they were Nova Scotians, you were so proud that they looked after each other. What this Premier is doing is not looking after people, he is inviting people to disaster. He is being mean-spirited; he is being nasty for his own reasons that aren't known to anybody else but him and a small group over at One Government Place.

Mr. Speaker, it has to stop. He has to give workers their right for a work stoppage if all else fails. I implore the backbenchers to understand that. Before I take my place, I wish to adjourn the debate for this evening.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn debate.

A recorded vote has been called for.

We will ring the bells to the satisfaction of the Whips.

[8:29 p.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre moved adjournment of debate. A recorded vote was called for.

[Page 6039]

[The Speaker calls the roll.]

[9:29 p.m.]

YEAS NAYS

Mr. Corbett Mr. Baker

Mr. Deveaux Mr. Russell

Mr. Dexter Dr. Hamm

Mr. Holm Mr. LeBlanc

Mr. Manning MacDonald Miss Purves

Mr. Downe Mr. Fage

Mr. Gaudet Mr. Balser

Dr. Smith Ms. McGrath

Mr. MacAskill Mr. Ronald Chisholm

Mr. Wilson Mr. Olive

Mr. Boudreau Mr. MacIsaac

Mr. Samson Mr. DeWolfe

Mr. Robert Chisholm Mr. Dooks

Mr. Steele Mr. Langille

Mr. Chataway

Mr. Hendsbee

Mrs. Baillie

Mr. Morash

Mr. Chipman

Mr. Barnet

Mr. O'Donnell

Mr. Hurlburt

THE CLERK: For, 14. Against, 22.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is defeated.

The honourable member for Victoria, the next speaker on Bill No. 68.

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: It gives me pleasure to stand on my feet for the second time today to entertain the House I may add, or whatever the case may be, entertain or bore them, or whatever. Whatever it takes, I am prepared to do it in an effort to fight Bill No. 68, a bill entitled, Health Care Services Continuation (2001) Act.

[Page 6040]

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier in the day, this bill is nothing but a red herring. This bill is an attempt by this government to manipulate its own agenda, an agenda which misleads the people of Nova Scotia into believing that this bill is all about the protection of their health and safety. This can't be further from the truth.

Let's go back to almost two weeks ago on June 14th, the day this bill was tabled. Prior to that date, we had both parties at the bargaining table negotiating in good faith. Even the groups at that time that weren't in conciliation, were scheduled to be in conciliation. Health care services were still being provided without interruption. But what happened? This government didn't trust the nurses and the health care workers. Then came Bill No. 68.

If Nova Scotians reflect back, it is when this bill was tabled that the continuation of health care services were at an immediate risk and rightly so, Mr. Speaker, it was after this bill that health care workers in some cases and in some areas began the work-to-rule. It was post-June 14th that the health and safety of Nova Scotians was placed in jeopardy. Contrary to the title, Bill No. 68 is about two distinct things, none of which are about continuation of health care services in this province.

First and foremost Bill No. 68 is about a lack of respect for all our health care professionals in the province. We believe, and many Nova Scotians believe, we are convinced there were satisfactory contingency plans in place in the event of a strike. Yet, even though government was not aware of the contents of the contingency plans, they were simply not good enough in the government's eyes. What government is doing is sending a message to health care professionals that they don't trust them to carry out their contingency plans. They don't trust them to provide services and they don't trust them to care for people in times of emergency. If health care professionals adhere to this bill, the government thinks everything will be all right. Again, nothing can be further from the truth.

How can any government ever expect that the services that will be provided after the passing of this bill will be of the same high quality as pre-June 14th. Young professionals will turn to other jurisdictions where they know they will be respected, leaving a further strain on our already strained system. Yes, some health care professionals will stay - those who have maybe five years or so left before they retire. However, put yourselves in their shoes for a moment. How would anyone like to work in a workplace where the employer doesn't trust them and beyond that, doesn't respect them. Again, morale will be low and the ability of the health care system to sustain itself down the road will be greatly jeopardized with the passage of Bill No. 68.

While this bill may be a finger-in-the-dike approach, in terms of providing for the continuation of health care services post-June 27th or even the first couple of weeks of July, it does nothing but jeopardize the continuation of health care services months and weeks down the road.

[Page 6041]

It is a strange view that this government takes in their belief that the continuation of health care services in this province is at risk. That is truly frightening. The government fails to recognize the negative spiral effect that this bill will have on the recruitment of not only those affected by the bill directly, but those not even mentioned in the bill and that is many other health care workers, many other professionals in the province. If this bill passes, all unionized employees in this province are at risk.

Let's think for a moment. If and when a specialist looks at settling in the region, they first and foremost look at the team that will be there to support them. Just imagine for a moment that a pediatric cardiologist is looking to make a career change and is looking to settle in our province. He or she will first look at whether there is a well-motivated experienced team of health care professionals to support his or her practice. Bill No. 68 threatens the existence of these experienced, motivated teams of health care professionals. Specialists looking to settle in Nova Scotia will take a very hard look and consider it long and hard and they will even think twice. Those specialists already here will think about leaving our great province. Bill No. 68 pure and simple, will likely mark the deterioration of specialist service being offered in our province today.

Let's then think about health care professionals like lab technicians and nurses, those directly affected by this bill who may think of coming to Nova Scotia to work. What person in their right mind would like to come to work in a jurisdiction where government just told them that we have no respect for what you do and worse yet, we don't trust you.

I would bet that this government did not even think of these types of ramifications when they tabled Bill No. 68. How then can the government say that Bill No. 68 is about the continuation of health care services in our province? Perhaps a better name for the title of the bill, a name which better reflects its context and intent would be, Bill No. 68, "health care services elimination Act."

This government is failing to be upfront with Nova Scotians and Bill No. 68 is about exacting a settlement with health care professionals that will not jeopardize their ability to provide a 10 per cent tax cut before going to the polls in the next election.

This government, Mr. Speaker, is receiving record amounts of revenue and will continue to do so for the next year. Then, we beg the question, why is the government doing this? They say it is such a drain on the finances of this province, but look what the economists tell us, that this province is doing quite fine in the expected revenues over the next four, five or six years. To state otherwise is misleading Nova Scotians. This government has forecasted more money in their restructuring fund last year but, in this year's budget, a large chunk of what they have forecasted seems to have gone missing, seems to have gone to other departments, which the Finance Minister has said, don't worry, this money has gone to other departments. The question is, for what purpose?

[Page 6042]

Let's not kid ourselves. This government has led Nova Scotians down a garden path. Instead of the bill being about the continuation of health care services, it is all about having extra money at their disposal to buy off their friends just prior to the next election. Perhaps the government's efforts would have been better spent if they polled Nova Scotians with the following question: Given that we have record revenues coming into Nova Scotia, would you rather see this government invest these revenues to ensure that we maintain a sustainable health care system, or would you rather we spent it to pay off our friends so that we can win the next election? Mr. Speaker, it would appear that this government forgot to ask Nova Scotians this very fundamental question. As I said, it would appear this was a question that was not on the minds of this government.

Given this government's true agenda in terms of exacting a settlement that suits their political purpose, a better name for this bill would be, Bill No. 68, protection of the Tory re-election fund 2001 Act. Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 68 is quite clearly misnamed. If this bill was about assuring Nova Scotians that health care service is to continue in Nova Scotia, then this government should have put in it a provision for binding arbitration; a very important word, binding arbitration. It is very sad to think that the day after an arbitrator was appointed, the government calls the House into session to deal with Bill No. 68, one day after a mediator was appointed. If the government had let the arbitrator do his or her job, in that way health care professionals would have known that their offer was being judged not by a government who doesn't trust them, but from someone outside who would judge it for the merits contained within the offer that was presented.

Mr. Speaker, health care professionals and, indeed, all Nova Scotians are fair-minded, but if you take away a right, you replace the right with something in return. That is a fair trade. If you put an offer of binding arbitration, the people of Nova Scotia would have known that their government was treating their very valuable health care professionals with respect and fairness. In every jurisdiction in this country that has removed the right to strike with health care professionals, they have replaced it with binding arbitration. Why would this government, who spent a large sum of money to advertise that their offer is fair, not be willing to place this offer in front of an independent arbitrator to judge it as such, and to tell Nova Scotians if the offer was fair or not and let Nova Scotians decide? Instead, this government is determined to jeopardize the continuation and, indeed, the sustainability of health care services in Nova Scotia by proceeding with this terrible bill, Bill No. 68, as it is.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians may not realize it, but this government is leading them down a very dangerous path, a path with a very dangerous cliff at the end. The cliff at the end represents this government's inability to not only retain the health care professionals that we have, but jeopardizes our ability to recruit down the road or in years to come. This does not sound like a bill that will provide for the continuation of health care services, but one that will jeopardize and eliminate them in the future months and years ahead.

[Page 6043]

[9:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, later on, Nova Scotians will judge this government on their campaign promises to fix the health care system. This bill, Bill No. 68, will ensure a health care system that will be permanently damaged. We believe that all Nova Scotians care about their health care professionals, care about a system that will be there for them when needed. We ask and we beg and remind the government that this is a very dangerous bill, a bill that will create a health care system that will never be able to recover as a result of this Bill No. 68.

Mr. Speaker, the repeated government phrase, we are doing this for the health and safety of Nova Scotians, we believe is a red herring. Simply misleading Nova Scotians by selling this bill as necessary to protect the health and safety of Nova Scotians, in itself is reason enough to be opposed to it. After all, the Capital District Health Authority and the unions affected have developed an emergency plan. We have heard over and over, and we have seen it in the media, where most hospitals believe that there was an emergency plan and it worked in this province for years. We heard a number of members mention the great strike back in 1975, but patients were cared for at that time through an emergency plan. There is no evidence that the public is or will be at any significant risk as a result of job action, given the agreement reached on an emergency plan.

Mr. Speaker, other district health authorities have said that their emergency plans are fine should there be a strike, therefore, this government should do the right thing and give up the battle on Bill No. 68 and get back to the negotiation table, where they should be, and hammer out a true collective agreement. A collective agreement is one that is agreed upon by two parties. If the employer dictates a settlement, then one can assume that the other party has not had the opportunity to bargain in good faith. The very fact that this bill contains the word collective agreement, yet enables the government to dictate a settlement, is ample reason why this government should not proceed with this bill.

Mr. Speaker, there is another compelling reason why this Bill No. 68 should be before us tonight, as presented by this government. Because we believe it is more of a threat to public safety than the strike will be. This is adding fuel to our already raging fire. Bill No. 68 will ensure that there will be short-staffed hospitals and overworked health care workers for many years to come. The health care professionals are not giving up. They are not going to give up easily. Just because the government thinks that they can force people to do whatever government thinks that they feel is right, may or may not necessarily be the answer.

Mr. Speaker, there are many other reasons why this bill should be removed, because the government's stated intent in no way, shape or form reconciles with the true content of the bill. This bill is all about the government extracting a wage agreement on favourable terms for the government and nothing else. If the government thinks that their offer is so fair, why are they unwilling to put its offer to the test of an arbitrator. Indeed, the government should, for no other reason, remove this bill and amend it so that it is fair to all those

[Page 6044]

involved, government, all health care workers and nurses. Workers should know that they are being treated fairly and independently from government. Nova Scotians would know once and for all that the offer that was made was fair and reasonable.

Again, Mr. Speaker, there are many reasons why this bill should not proceed but, most importantly, because it does absolutely nothing to ensure the health and safety of Nova Scotians. It does nothing to address the fundamental health care workers or nurses shortage in Nova Scotia. That is a key issue here, the shortage of health care professionals in Nova Scotia. What it does do is give the Cabinet extraordinary powers which will do nothing but drive health care professionals away. I think this government should pull this bill right away, and get back to the bargaining table.

Mr. Speaker, if the Premier is so concerned about the state of the province's finances, why won't there be any debt payment in 2007? And don't forget, the government has received $753 million more in revenues than expected since the fall of 1999. According to the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, Nova Scotia will receive an extra $636 million in additional federal transfers from 2000 to 2005. That is a huge sum of money. A grand total of $1.389 billion.

Mr. Speaker, we beg the question, how much more money does this government need? If you can't balance the books and pay health care workers a decent wage with that kind of money, we believe that this government is not fit to govern. Finally, in this text, John Hamm said that he could fix the health care system with $46 million. What happened? I want to briefly quote some comments from some newspaper articles that we recently picked from the papers.

This one is dated February 19, 1998, entitled, Hamm pledges more funds and more staff in health care. This happened in Ingonish, where John Hamm promised more doctors and nurses, raises for health care workers and more beds for patients, as he visited St. Martha's Regional Hospital in Antigonish on Wednesday. As we go down a few paragraphs, this is a very interesting comment, I want to read it, the Premier, then-Leader of the Tory Party says, somehow, somehow if a wildcat strike brings this government to its senses - of course he is talking about the former Liberal Government - then that is good strategy. I wonder, does he feel that way today? He goes on to say that health care workers have been abused by this government. John Hamm said that at the conference at the end of his tour.

There is another one here, Mr. Speaker, which is entitled, Nursing shortage critical, says Dr. Hamm. Tory Leader, John Hamm, said the problem is particularly severe in rural areas. In December, he said, the Yarmouth Hospital closed six beds due to the lack of staff and Mr. Hamm recently spoke to an intensive care nurse at the Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow who was exhausted due to the lack of casual staff available to provide relief. Those are comments that are documented from the Premier, then Leader of the Tory Party. He goes on to say in another article, Pain of health care cuts being felt, says Mr. Hamm. He says, you

[Page 6045]

can't build a health care system by hiring people as casuals. Mr. Hamm said, nursing graduates are leaving this province for jobs elsewhere. That was evident in 1999. So what are we doing to correct that today? We are throwing more fuel on the already blazing fire.

Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 68 is not your average run-of-the-mill, back-to-work legislation. It is bad enough that this bill takes away the right to strike, but it also gives the government unprecedented powers by allowing the Cabinet to impose wage settlements without negotiations. The precedent being set here is dangerous because it will poison worker employee relations for years to come. In the case of health care workers, this means the quality of care will suffer. It means that already overworked and underpaid workers will know that their employer has no respect for their years of training and their years of dedicated service to the profession.

Mr. Speaker, some nurses will put up with a lot to remain in this province and there is no doubt they, like many of us, love their province, love their hometowns and love the areas where they raise their children. But, for some, will that be enough to keep them in this great province? Some health care workers will put up with the assaults of this Tory Government, knowing that their families can grow up in the same stability 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 may be able to retire. In fact, many may be able to retire in less than that, probably 5 years or 3 years.

Mr. Speaker, it is not right. It is not fair and on the part of this government, it is downright mean. The Health Minister, the Premier and the entire Tory caucus do not realize, however, that those few nurses that are graduating will not put up with the disrespect and scorn being heaped upon them by this government. These new nurses know that they can go to the United States, they can go to Boston and receive $64,000 for their services. They know that many American hospitals would be glad to have them and will also give them a signing bonus, ranging from $3,000 to $10,000. Nurses know that if they go to the States, they can work two 12 hour shifts and know they can't be called back for a third without overtime pay. They know they can work flexible hours and spend more time with their families, with their friends and with their loved ones. They know that they can take education upgrades paid for by their employer, knowing full well that they will have the time to study. They know that if they leave Nova Scotia, they will get what we fail to provide for them and that, simply put, is respect.

Mr. Speaker, that is exactly what nurses and other health care professionals will do. They will vote with their feet. They will leave Nova Scotia, not because they want to, but because their government not care about health care in Nova Scotia. That is what this bill is all about, it is about attacking the integrity of nurses and other health care workers. This bill is a threat to the health and safety of Nova Scotians, not only our nurses. By driving nurses out of the province, this bill will close beds, increase wait times and cause elective surgeries to be cancelled on a daily basis.

[Page 6046]

[10:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, as we mentioned many times over the course of debate on this bill, the amount of taxpayers' dollars that this government is spending on advertising and trying to make Nova Scotians believe that what they are doing is right, millions of dollars advertising the salaries of nurses. We all know that this government didn't live up to the promises they made in the blue book because we begin with the advertising on the salaries of nurses, paid for by taxpayers' dollars. But from the blue book, "A John Hamm Government will: Stop spending taxpayers money on politically-motivated advertising;".

Mr. Speaker, what happened to that promise? It happened as many other promises in the blue book, they got to be government, then they put the blue book away, but they didn't put it away far enough because many of us still see it and make reference to it on every opportunity that we can. The advertisements in the newspapers are politically-motivated advertising and that is exactly what the Premier and his government said they would not do. In typical Tory fashion, they have ignored this promise, and there were others.

Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, we should turn to salaries for awhile because this bill is about limiting the salaries of nurses. But there are other issues, and probably more important issues, but this government says it cannot afford to increase the salaries of nurses. No, not for nurses, but let's look at the following employees of the Department of Health and the salaries of senior staff of our district health authorities and others. These are maximum salaries, but that is what the government used as a figure in the House.

Mr. Speaker, what do they pay their Deputy Minister of Health? They pay him $188,000 a year; the Associate Deputy Minister of Health, $100,000; the Assistant Deputy Minister of Health, $100,000; CIO, the Chief Information Officer, $100,000; CEO of the Capital District Health Authority, $350,000; Vice-President of Human Resources for the Capital District Health Authority, $145,000; Vice-President, System Development and Performance, Capital Health District, $145,000; Vice-President, Public Affairs, Capital District Health Authority, $145,000; Vice-President, Administration, Capital District Health Authority, $165,000; Vice-President, Diagnostic and Support Services, Capital District Health Authority, $165,000; Vice-President, Capital District Health Authority, $200,000, and we don't know what that individual does; Vice-President of Medicine, Capital District Health Authority, $260,000; Director, Information Technology, Capital District Health Authority, $80,500; Director of Finance, Capital District Health Authority, $80,500; Director of Human Resources, Capital District Health Authority, $80,500; Director of Environmental Services, Capital Health District, $80,500; Director of Laboratory Services for the Capital Health District, $80,500; Director of Pharmacy Services for the Capital Health District, $80,500; Director of Diagnostic and Imaging Health, Capital Health District, $80,500; Director of Pharmacy Services, Capital Health District, $80,500; Director of Food and Nutrition Services for the Capital Health District, $80,500; and the CEO, District Health Authority 2, $126,000.

[Page 6047]

If any of the above employees miss work for a week, do you think health care would suffer? Do you really believe it would, Mr. Speaker? Does anyone in this government believe it would suffer if any of the above employees missed work? Not likely. Now, I am sure that they are all good people and, indeed, we're not standing here criticizing any of those people, they are very good people I am sure but, let's face it, a Public Affairs Vice-President does not have to deal with life and death on a daily basis like the nurses and the other health care professionals. We have said, and we will continue to say, we need fewer spin doctors and more nurses, fewer CEOs and more physiotherapists, fewer vice-presidents and more technologists.

In fact, that is what the government promised, Mr. Speaker, more front-line health care workers and fewer administrative positions. What happened to that promise? That was a promise that Dr. Hamm made prior to the last election. 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 (as opposed to bureaucratically driven) boards."

Now, Mr. Speaker, certainly what we can see here before us is not what the government is doing. So again, what happened to that promise? What do the community health boards have to say 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 the creature of the Cabinet, a sole creature, almost a robot of the Cabinet, a robot that they can manipulate and they can steer in any direction. It is a politically motivated neo-Progressive Conservative bill that takes away a vital component of labour relations in this province and it takes away the collective bargaining rights of workers. Community health boards have no say in the system, but CEOs do. In fact, the CEO of the Capital Health District claims that this bill does not take away the collective bargaining rights of nurses. Well, it is pretty clear that the CEO who made that statement has not read the bill.

Mr. Speaker, the Tories made more promises. In the speech at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital on July 26, 1999, the Premier said, "That is why our health care platform lays out very specific commitments . . . with very specific time frames . . . that includes care givers as an integral and important part of finding answers to our health care challenges." So how many caregivers did the Cabinet consult before they introduced this bill, or when this bill was being drafted? I doubt they have consulted anyone. In fact, this bill is about telling health care workers that they have no choice or 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 it, you can't appeal to any court.

Mr. Speaker, 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, in this bill, is this is being forced on health care workers with the full complicity of the backbenchers. We can look at any backbencher in the Progressive Conservative

[Page 6048]

Government living in the Halifax Regional Municipality, any member, and any member from this Halifax Regional Municipality could have many health care workers live in their riding. There could be as many as thousands. So each and every member, Tory backbencher in this government, at least owes it to the workers and to the nurses to explain why they support such draconian legislation and if they don't explain their position to the people of Nova Scotia on the floor of this House, how can they explain it when it is time to visit them at the doorsteps in the next election. If we cannot appeal to their humanity, we can at least appeal to their political instincts, those of the backbenchers or caucus members who have any.

Mr. Speaker, we talked earlier today about the member for Kings North who has become a self-style conscience of the Tory caucus. He has columns in The Daily News where recently he talked about the power of apologies. I believe the member to be a good member, but how can this member apologize to nurses for forcing them to take a contract without negotiations, without any negotiations whatsoever? If he, as well as any other member back there, has a conscience, they will at least speak about this bill to the health care workers whom they represent.

Mr. Speaker, the member for Kings North always says that substantial debate never happens in this House and I know that member spoke on this bill, as many other backbenchers and members of that government, but if there was ever a time to speak in this House, it is now; and to speak about Bill No. 68 and discuss it with their constituents. This is perhaps the most sustainable piece of legislation to hit the floor of this House this year or many years. It is the most controversial piece of legislation that I have seen since I came to this House 14 years ago, not because it protects the safety of Nova Scotians, but because it jeopardizes the safety of Nova Scotians. It means there will be fewer nurses and more overworked nurses. It means delays in lab tests, it means delays in surgeries and delays for every procedure.

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if you would tell me how much time I have?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member has approximately 17 minutes or a little bit less there. I think you asked for the time.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, mostly everyone who spoke on this bill talked about the delays that are going to happen in labs and in surgeries and delays for almost every procedure but, for whatever reason, we seem to think that this government for some reason doesn't understand or doesn't get it relative to Bill No. 68 and what it is going to create in terms of health care services in this province. We talked about the nursing shortages throughout North America and we question, does any Tory member understand that, that we are facing severe shortages because we know that the Tories are big fans of the marketplace and they are big supporters of Adam Smith and the laws of supply and demand.

[Page 6049]

[10:15 p.m.]

Well, Mr. Speaker, I am sure most of them know about 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. That's a very strong-arm tactic, to take away the right of appeal. Simply put, 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 better working conditions for nurses and other health care workers. If they do not, nurses will simply go where they will get the price that supply demands. We may be able to keep our existing nurses, but no nurses will come to Nova Scotia and no new nurses will stay in this province.

Mr. Speaker, we are at the threshold relative to maintaining just the numbers of nurses that we can barely get by with, but still, for some reason, this government doesn't seem to understand. The government's defence is simply we do not have enough money. Many of us believe that they can find enough money. Whose fault is it that the government has no money? I am sure it is not the nurses', but is it the taxpayers'? We have heard the government blame the shortage of cash on everybody and everything but their managing. If this government is short of money, it is because they are mismanaging the money and the funds that come to this province and that have accumulated in the province.

Since the fall of 1999 this government has received $613 million in additional revenue. In fact, if you add the $140 million from the sale of NSRL, this government has received $753 million in extra revenue. If you can't balance your budget with that kind of money, I don't believe they ever will and if you can't balance a budget and have money left over for the health of our citizens, I don't think they ever will. If it is not enough, according to the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, this government will receive an additional $600 million in federal transfers. Can you imagine the hundreds of millions of dollars that have come into this province from the federal government and they point a finger at the federal government wanting more and more and more.

What this government is really saying is that we have to nickel and dime health care workers so we can pay for a tax cut prior to the next election, as they say, a tax cut in year four. Mr. Speaker, we all know why they would target year four because, strangely enough, it is common practice for governments to go to the polls every four years.

Mr. Speaker, we have heard it almost every day that it is bad enough that the taxes are going through the back door because of what is referred to as bracket creep. It is bad enough that the provincial portion of the federal tax cut was taken away from Nova Scotians. Now they are picking the pockets of our health care workers to pay for a tax cut in four years' time. The nursing crisis, as I stated earlier, is about simple supply and demand. This government is comparing the salaries of Nova Scotia with the other Atlantic Provinces, but we are not losing nurses to the other Atlantic Provinces. We are losing nurses to New England where they get paid $64,000 a year. We are losing nurses to Ontario where the

[Page 6050]

maximum salary is $60,000. We are losing nurses to Alberta where salaries are $55,000, better living conditions and no sales tax.

Mr. Speaker, this government can say what they like. They can bury their heads in the sand if they like but Nova Scotia will lose nurses and other health care workers because we all know that the North American shortage of nurses, which amounts to 126,000 in the U.S. alone, what does that mean? It simply means that Nova Scotia will have to step up to the plate or nurses will leave. There are no two ways about it. We don't train nurses, we don't pay for training nurses, we don't pay nurses compatible salaries to other jurisdictions. We are simply not going to keep them. That is very plain and simple.

Mr. Speaker, there are other health care workers where there are shortages across the United States. The United States also needs 46,000 pharmacists, lab technicians, X-ray technicians and physiotherapists. There are shortages of all health care professionals. So we better realize that we better step up to the plate and we better put a deal forward that will maintain and retain our health care professionals in this province.

Mr. Speaker, here is what the Premier said about health care workers on Saturday, June 19, 1999, at the QE II Health Sciences Centre. You know he said: I applaud the effort of each and every health care worker, doctors, nurses, technicians, orderlies and cooks. They are all doing their part to provide health care in this province. I wonder would he say the same today or what does the Premier say now? He stood for awhile in the House the other day and spoke about the bill and he spoke about the need of the bill in his opinion but the bill or the Premier's comments just don't wash with ordinary Nova Scotians.

Again, Mr. Speaker, the Health Minister stood in his place and defended the bill but we believe, and many Nova Scotians believe, that this is not a good bill. It is going to create chaos. In fact, we believe, as many Nova Scotians do, the majority of Nova Scotians believe, that this bill, simply put, is an attack on health workers and an attack on our health care system as it now exists. The government says they need this bill to protect public safety but this bill has nothing to do with public safety.

Do you honestly think a government that would not pass a bill to protect children by requiring them to wear helmets when they are on scooters or roller blades, do you really think they care about public safety? If this government cared about public safety, it would twin Highway No. 101, as the Minister of Transportation and Public Works said prior to the election. He said, we will twin Highway No. 101 with or without federal money. Mr. Speaker, that is a safety hazard. That deals with public safety and if the government cared about public safety, they would not have lowered fines for the tobacco smuggling. That is public safety and if the government cared about public safety, they would clean up the tar ponds in Sydney. That is another issue that people are concerned about, another public safety issue, and if this government cared about public safety, it would implement concrete crime prevention initiatives instead of trying to deal and table a bill which was known to many of

[Page 6051]

us as the johns bill. If this government cared about public safety, they would devote every new tax dollar they bring in to help fight tobacco use among our younger generations.

Those are all public safety issues but the government doesn't consider them public safety, they consider forcing workers back to work against their will, without any recourse whatsoever, they consider that public safety. If this government cared about public safety, they would not allow cuts to physical education programs and if this government cared about public safety, they would treat health care workers with respect and dignity. That is public safety. If this government cared about public safety, they would not require nurses to work 12 hour shifts, as many as four in a row or five in a row, because there are laws that forbid truck drivers and bus drivers to limit their hours on the road. What is this government telling our nurses? You just keep working shift after shift without any overtime.

Simply put, this government is about flexing its muscles. This bill is about taking away collective bargaining rights. This bill is about taking the right of appeal away from Nova Scotians. It is about dictating the terms of a contract without input from the health care professionals. This bill has nothing to do with public safety and everything to do with satisfying the ego of our Premier. Many speakers who spoke on this bill refer to the Premier as he was perceived before he became Premier, a kind, country doctor. That is not what people think today. They think of him as a former doctor and the man who is in over his head, who thinks that when he asks nurses to jump, they will just turn to him and say, how high.

Mr. Speaker, health care workers are not going to do that. Health care workers are going to stand up and they are going to be counted and they will continue to demand that their human rights be respected. This government may or may not listen and if that is the case, I can tell you here tonight, it won't be the nurses who are putting public safety at risk in this province, it will be that government. You mark my words. This bill, if passed, will come back to haunt this government for years and years to come. Nova Scotians have a long memory. They will remember.

Many of us received this flyer today and for those who didn't, I will table it when I am finished. It has a very simple title. "Bill 68 . . . What a Sham!" I would assume that is a picture of the Premier but it says:

"I am Sam

A Health Care Worker

Is what I am

Do you like that Premier Hamm?

I do not like that Premier Hamm

Bill 68 is such a sham!

[Page 6052]

To take my democratic right

Just like a thief within the night

And not expect for me to fight?

And what about that Jamie Muir?

He thinks he's right, of that I'm sure

Methinks he's full of horse manure

I do not like that Jamie Muir

I do not like that Premier Hamm

Bill 68 is such a sham!"

Pretty good poetry, Mr. Speaker.

"And what about those back-bench lambs?

Who snap in line upon command

And raise their hands when told by Hamm

Do they not have thoughts of their own?

A little spine, perhaps backbone?

It would be nice if some were shown!

I do not like those backbench lambs

I do not like that Jamie Muir

I do not like the Premier Hamm

Bill 68 is such a sham!"

One minute, Mr. Speaker, I think I have time to finish this because it is very interesting. Great poetry.

"'Safety & Health! Safety & Health!'

That is their cry - 'Safety & Health!'

But we know that it's really wealth

Handouts for Michelin, Sobeys stores

For friends of Tories

There's always more

But Health Care Workers?

Do we get more?

We work until our backs are sore

[Page 6053]

In every hospital, on every floor

Throughout this province,

from shore to shore

But for us . . . there is no more

We work here, we work there

In fact, we work most everywhere

But for us . . . the vault is bare

I do not like the backbench lambs

I do not like that Jamie Muir

I do not like that Premier Hamm

Bill 68 is such a sham!"

[10:30 p.m.]

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member is always parliamentary, as per usual.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, I, as well, got a copy. The member for Victoria tabled "Bill 68 . . . What a Sham!" It is quite a coincidence that earlier, on the weekend, I was up in your riding, actually, in Middle Musquodoboit, part of the beautiful Musquodoboit Valley and the place we were visiting, Ed and Catherine Balser had a copy of Cat in the Hat and I was reading it to my young son and began to really appreciate Dr. Seuss. It is nice to see that someone has taken Dr. Seuss and has begun to use it for good political purposes, being able to explain exactly what this government is doing. I am glad this was tabled because it is a very good use of Dr. Seuss. I, on the other hand, put notes on the back for my speech. I knew that the member for Victoria was going to table it.

I want to talk about the fact, in my limited, brief time that I am able to stand on third reading - and let's be clear, third reading will be my last opportunity to talk on Bill No. 68, at least directly on this bill. If this government still believes it wants to pass this legislation whenever the vote comes in the next 48 hours, if they still want to pass this bill, if it is passed, I am sure I will be talking about Bill No. 68 for the next couple of years. I will be talking about Bill No. 68 when I go back on the hustings in the next election because every door I go to, whether it be in Colby Village or Colby South or Willowdale or Innishowen or Eastern Passage or Shearwater or Woodside, I will be reminding people of Bill No. 68 and I will be telling them about Bill No. 68. Maybe this will be my last opportunity to talk to the bill in this House but between now and the next election, I will be constantly - and so will

[Page 6054]

my Party and so, I am sure, will the Third Party be - reminding those people over there of Bill No. 68. Come the next election, we will be reminding people about Bill No. 68.

When I go to a door, the first thing I am going to ask is, do you work in health care? Do you have a parent or child who is involved in the health care system, either as a patient or as a worker? Do you know what? A good number of the people I am going to talk to are going to be in that situation. They are going to be a nurse or their husband or their wife will be a nurse or a medical laboratory technologist or support staff or clerical staff or a doctor or maybe they have a parent who is in a long-term care facility or maybe they are a paramedic or maybe they are getting home care in some form or another or maybe their child is constantly going to the hospital because of asthma and because of the sick schools that our government isn't able to fix.

Mr. Speaker, I will be talking to them about Bill No. 68. When they tell me our health care system is devastated, when they talk to me about the fact that there are longer waiting lists for tests, pulmonary tests or blood tests or surgery or maybe they can't find a doctor at all or maybe because there aren't enough technologists or nurses in the unit that they are required to deal with or maybe they are working overtime or maybe they have not had a break or a decent vacation in a long time because this government has destroyed our health care system, I will mention Bill No. 68 and everyone will know exactly what I am saying. It has become that much a part of our lexicon in two short weeks.

Bill No. 68, or as you have heard on the street, kill the bill or kill Bill 68. There are various phrases we have heard, Mr. Speaker. These are things that are going to resonate from Yarmouth to Meat Cove. The people of Nova Scotia aren't going to forget Bill No. 68. They are not going to forget the government that introduced Bill No. 68 and as I talk more about this in this speech, most importantly they are not going to forget the government that destroyed democracy in order to ram through Bill No. 68. The people of Nova Scotia aren't going to forget this. This is not just about health care, this is not just about workers' rights, it is about democracy and it is about a government that has a disrespect for democracy, has a disrespect for the rule of law, has a disrespect for the people who elected them.

The most blatant form of arrogance is when you believe that you don't have to listen to the people and that is what this government has now, two short years into its term. In two short years it will have to go back to the polls, and all I will have to say is remember Bill No. 68, and the people of Nova Scotia will know that that's a rallying cry for them to save their health care system.

Maybe, God forbid, I hope it's not too late. I hope we haven't gotten to the point where our health care system is devastated, I hope we haven't gotten to the point by then that our workers are so overworked that we have massive numbers of people on stress leave or medical leave or sick leave. I hope we are not at such a point, Mr. Speaker, in two years, come the next election, that we have a long-term care system that is completely destroyed.

[Page 6055]

I hope that the workers in the system, even though every shred of dignity they have has been ripped away from them by this government, even though every shred of respect they deserve has been trampled on by this government, even though the workers have been told they have no rights in the workplace, I hope they continue to struggle on. I hope they continue to provide the best they can in a health care system that is falling apart, and I hope they continue to do what they can, despite this government.

It is pretty clear that this government has no desire to help our health care system. It is pretty clear this government has no desire to provide the health care they promised Nova Scotians they could do for $40 million, let alone $200 million more, which is where we are at on a running tally after two years. This government still can't do it, this government still doesn't get the fact it's not about money, it's about investment, it's about a plan, it's about a long-term vision for our health care system, it's about explaining to Nova Scotians that there is a journey we must take in order to ensure our health care system is there in 5 or 10 or 20 or 50 years and that that means choices, that means changes, that means leadership, but this government isn't willing to do that. This government isn't willing, they like to think that they are making tough decisions.

The tough decisions aren't the ones you make in here. The tough decisions aren't the ones that get you a short-term solution to a long-term crisis. The tough decisions are sitting down with health care workers, sitting down with Nova Scotians and talking about how we can save our health care system. The tough decisions, the leadership is shown when they show they have a plan that goes beyond the next election, that goes beyond a tax cut for their cronies, but actually provides Nova Scotians with solutions. Not always the right answers, not always the answers Nova Scotians want to hear, but tells them in the long run we can survive, we can have a sustainable health care system, we can provide Nova Scotians with a system that works, but we don't even have a plan. We have a Health Minister who is too busy taking Maalox and worrying too much about short-term problems, when what he should be worrying about is the long-term solutions.

He is like the little Dutch boy, he keeps trying to put his finger in the dike, keep plugging the holes. He is running out of fingers and the holes are getting bigger and bigger. The cracks are coming into this dam that is our health care system, Mr. Speaker. It is going to collapse. Actually, I take it back. He is not like the little Dutch boy because the little Dutch boy at least tried to plug the holes. He is like the little Dutch boy with a drill or a jackhammer. With this bill, they are actually trying to make bigger holes in our health care system, because the shortages this will cause, the people who will resign, the people who will move away, the new nurses, the new health care technologists, the new staff who will just graduate if they are in Nova Scotia or other provinces - if they are from here - and just keep going, whether it be to New Brunswick or Ontario or British Columbia or Texas or North Carolina or Saudi Arabia or anywhere else on the face of this earth.

[Page 6056]

This government likes to talk about globalization. Well, do you know what? The workforce has become globalized, Mr. Speaker, and a globalized workforce isn't going to stand for a government that doesn't play by the rules. They will leave. They will go, and there are other places in this country, on this continent, in the world, that will treat them with dignity, that's the real problem. That's the real problem with this government and with Nova Scotia, they have this sense - and maybe it's because the Government House Leader, he cut his teeth in politics back in 1978, that was only 23 years ago, but that is a long time in how the world economy, and how the world, operates.

Mr. Speaker, you know, you can't keep them down on the farm anymore. Capital moves around this world at a rapid pace and so does labour. It used to be in maybe 1978, or in the case of the Regan Government, 1975, you could shut people down and they would stay. They are not going to do that anymore. We are a highly mobile society and they are willing to pickup and move, whether they be 20 or 30 or 40 or even 50 years old, they will leave this province. They will go somewhere else. You can slam the door on their rights, but you can't stop them from leaving and that is what is going to happen.

The devastation to our health care system is going to be massive. The shortages we have will get worse. The people in this province who are on waiting lists will be waiting longer; the people who are waiting for surgery will be waiting longer, and the people who are waiting for a doctor. What doctor is going to come to this province when we have just told them and we have told the staff that we are going to destroy their rights? It is going to be a lot harder to attract them, yet this government seems to think that if we lower ourselves to the lowest common denominator, if we just wipe out workers rights, we can attract a good health care system and a good economy.

You know, Mr. Speaker, it is not a coincidence that this is the same lot who, 10 years ago, killed 26 workers in the Westray Mine. This is exactly the same reason. They believe that if we treat the workers with disrespect, if we don't give them any rights, if we take away whatever shred of rights they have, what will happen is that they will end up having to take jobs, they will keep their mouths shut and we will be able to ensure that this government, the Tory Government, can attract jobs. We will not only be the Mississippi of Canada, we will be the Indonesia of Canada, we will be the Myanmar of Canada. Who cares about rights? We will just continue to trample on them.

You did it with Westray and you are doing it 10 years later with the health care system and the exact same thing will happen. You can't build a stable economy and you can't build a sustainable health care system by ripping away the rights of workers, and that is what this government hasn't learned, that is what this honourable Government House Leader and that is what this Finance Minister, who are the same ones sitting at the Cabinet table when 26 workers were killed, they are the same ones who are doing this now.

[Page 6057]

They have not learned their lesson. They think that when they got elected in 1999 that it was business as usual, like it was in the 1980's. Things have changed. They changed on the world stage, and they have changed in this province and they haven't realized that, Mr. Speaker, and the workers of this province aren't going to put up with it. The health care workers of this province aren't going to put up with it and those in this province, which I believe is every citizen other than the 31 of you, will not put up with the ignorance and the disrespect towards democracy in this province, and that is what we have in this government. That is what this is about at many levels. Let's talk about the assault, and that is what it is. That is a violent term, but let's talk about the fact that this government is assaulting the workers of this province, is assaulting our health care system, and it is assaulting democracy. People are starting to fight back; that is what happens when they are assaulted.

Let's talk about workers. Mr. Speaker, before I was elected to this House, I spent 9 or 10 years working in the field of labour law. In Ontario, I represented the Crown as a Crown Attorney, helping to prosecute corporations that killed workers. It was one of the best jobs that I ever held, because I felt every day when I went to work I was doing something to make the lives better of individual citizens. I was fighting for their rights to protection under an Occupational Health and Safety Act. I was fighting to ensure that those workers had an opportunity to go to work and come home, without dying, without getting sick, without being injured. That is a right that we should all have. It is a right that the United Nations recognizes. It is the right that every civilized, decent government in the western world recognizes, but of course that doesn't include a Tory Government in Nova Scotia.

I came back here, Mr. Speaker, because I wanted to move back to Nova Scotia. I learned a lot in Ontario, and I wanted to come back here to put some of that to work. The irony is, it was actually the last Tory Cabinet meeting before they lost power in 1993 that they appointed me, through OIC, to help rewrite the Occupational Health and Safety Act. They must have got in under someone's nose, I guess. They didn't realize that I was in that position or what my politics were at the time.

[10:45 p.m.]

But, Mr. Speaker, what is important to know is that after Westray, there was some belief that we had to change the laws of this province and there was movement. You know, I wasn't always happy with the Liberals when they were in government with regard to health and safety, but they were at least moving the regulations forward. They were moving forward protection of workers and harmonizing our laws across Canada, recognizing that Nova Scotia was no longer going to be the Mississippi of Canada. We weren't going to attract jobs through pitiful working standards. Yes, we need a new Labour Standards Code. Yes, we need a new Trade Union Act, but at least we were going to have a new Occupational Health and Safety Act, which was passed, and new regulations.

[Page 6058]

Now maybe, at the last minute, it was the conversion on the road to Damascus by the Liberals before the 1999 election, that the minister, Russell MacKinnon, the honourable member for Cape Breton West, at the time, the Minister of Labour, decided he was going to pass those regulations. But when they got into power, a matter of days after getting into power, it is that honourable Government House Leader, Mr. Speaker, who was then the Minister of Labour, who said he was going to put a stop to those regulations. Business as usual. Let's go back to the 1980's and let's make sure that we are not going to be forcing companies, as he would probably put it, to protect their workers, to provide a standard that meets those of other provinces, that we will still be the Mississippi of Canada.

Well, they passed some water-downed version of the regulations after the permeated it through, a red tape commission who, Mr. Speaker, you had the good sense to walk away from. Unfortunately, many others didn't. Water-downed regulations that don't protect the workers is another sign of this government's lack of respect for the workers of this province and a lack of respect for their rights. That is what this government doesn't understand. The Premier talks about wanting this to be a have province. The Premier talks about us wanting to have a health care system, an education system, to have prosperity from the oil and gas off our shores. It just doesn't come through royalties. It just doesn't come through building pretty buildings or new factories. It comes through ensuring that the workers of this province have the right to protection and the democratic right to negotiate working conditions in their workplace - rate of pay, safety, health. These are the things they need because only then can we begin to ensure that wealth will be distributed throughout all workplaces and throughout all Nova Scotia.

That is what has kept Nova Scotia down and that is what this government doesn't understand, Mr. Speaker. We are not a poor province because some people want to improve regulations, improve the standards of workers and give them more rights. We are a poor province because this Tory Government and the Tory Governments that preceded them have trampled on those rights. You do not make a prosperous province by slamming the door on the rights of workers. To the contrary - prosperity comes when workers have the right, at the table, to negotiate their conditions and their wages and only then can they ensure that wealth will begin to be distributed, that they will begin to improve their life, that they will begin to be able to send their children to university or community college and their children will be able to have a better education and their children will then be able to put more money into the economy and prosperity will build and we can have a have province. But it starts with democracy in the workplace and this Tory Government has missed that rule from day one.

So the same government that killed 26 workers in Pictou County, the same government that turned a blind eye to safety in the workplaces of Nova Scotia, the same government that has never passed one piece of legislation friendly towards the workers of this province and supportive of their rights to ensure we can build prosperity for all Nova Scotians, Mr. Speaker, is the same government that, 10 years later, when it gets back into power, does the exact same thing. It continues to trample on the rights of workers under some perverse and

[Page 6059]

confusing rule that they must have that short-term solutions, whether they be fiscal, whether they be social justice oriented, are very conservative choices on their part, that those short-term solutions are more important than the long-term solutions that will create a prosperous province. Prosperity does not come from austerity. This government has not learned that rule either.

Or as my friend from Hants East told me the other day, and how did he put it? I am trying to remember. You can't starve your livestock into producing a profit. You have to invest. You have to provide them with the feed. You have to provide them with the shelter to ensure that they are going to be healthy livestock. You have to be wise. You have to be smart on where you spend your money, but you have to ensure that you are investing in the things that create prosperity in the long run and this government is doing the exact opposite.

I want to talk about the health care system, the assault on the health care system that this government is doing. I talked about them assaulting workers. I talked about how, in a violent way, they are destroying the rights of workers again. Let's talk about our health care system. When I talked about this on second reading, Mr. Speaker, I talked about the fact that the medical laboratory technologists are retiring at such a rapid rate that in the next four years, 17 per cent of them will retire in Nova Scotia. By 2016, two-thirds of them will have retired and yet we have, on average, less than one new technologist graduating and moving back to this province very year. We don't even have our own program here.

This government again, instead of doing something to help promote, to help encourage more technologists, has sent a signal across Nova Scotia, across Canada, that we are not going to allow you to come here and have a good standard of living, to be able to prosper. We are going to keep you under our thumb. We are going to prevent you from getting the wages and getting the working conditions and getting the dignity and getting the respect that you deserve.

No one in their right mind is going to come here when Alberta is offering them more money or a better lifestyle, or British Columbia or Ontario or New Brunswick, for heaven's sake. No one is going to come here and we will continue to have a greater and greater shortage of medical laboratory technologists. Mr. Speaker, between 70 per cent and 80 per cent of all the services that doctors require, all their diagnoses require some form of testing by medical laboratory technologists. Yet, when we have a greater and greater shortage, it is going to take longer and longer for those test results to get back. A doctor or a nurse cannot do their job until those test results are in place. If we do nothing, and indeed what this government is doing is actually destroying any sense of dignity and respect for these workers, these technologists, we are going to create a worse waiting list. We are going to create a worse stress on the health care system and that is a problem for all Nova Scotians.

[Page 6060]

That same shortage problem is within the nursing profession. The only thing we can say about the silver lining is at least we have nursing schools here. We have no medical laboratory technologist school. We got rid of that in 1996 and this government, part of its grand plan - being sarcastic - has not actually provided any schools. When I asked the Minister of Health that in Question Period the other day, Mr. Speaker, his answer to me was, well we didn't do it, the Liberals did. That must be one of the five envelopes they pull open. Well, you know what? It is a tiring one. They have been in government two years. If they have known there has been a shortage of medical laboratory technologists for two years, they had two years to deal with the problem. It is no longer the Liberals' fault. It is their fault for not addressing it and that is a problem.

The nurses are in a tight spot, as well, Mr. Speaker, and they can walk away. They can leave this province and they are going to vote with their feet, whether it is the ones who are just graduating and the large numbers who don't even stay, to the ones who are being recruited to Ontario or British Columbia or Alberta or up north or down south or east or west. They are not staying here and this government has done nothing to try to help them want to stay. Some nursing strategy, great. A recruiter, great. What is that recruiter going to do? Is that recruiter going to go to British Columbia now and say, come to Nova Scotia. We treat nurses with respect and dignity and you are not going to have to work any overtime.

Well, it would all be lies and they know. It is on the news and they are listening. They are going to say, wait a minute. I have heard what is happening in Nova Scotia. I have heard how nurses are treated. I am not going there. Every nursing fair across Canada or the United States a recruiter goes to, they are going to be pretty lonely. There are not going to be a lot of people stopping to ask questions. That is a waste of money now.

Quite honestly, I would say, in this House, for the record, that hiring a nursing recruiter is a waste of money if Bill No. 68 is passed because this government has just ensured that no nursing recruiter in their right mind is going to be able to convince anyone to come here. The ones who are here will leave. Our nursing recruiter, actually, had better spend time just trying to convince people to stay. But that is not going to happen either.

People are going to continue to leave. Our nursing system is going to collapse, and this government seems to think that it is more important that in the next two years they give $130 million in tax cuts to its cronies than it is to maintain and sustain our health care system. That is why their priorities are wrong; that is why they don't have an understanding of why they are elected. I read the Premier's article with his favourite yellow journalist, Mr. Rodenhiser, the other day. The personal interview with the Premier was on the front page, and there were so many funny lines. One of them was the Premier saying, I was elected to balance the books.

I have said in this House once, I have said it a dozen times, he was not elected to balance the books, the government was not elected to balance the books, they were elected to balance the books while ensuring our health care system is sustainable, our education

[Page 6061]

system is sustainable and essential services are provided and, now we will add a third condition, that they do it while they respect the democratic institutions of this province. It ain't that hard an equation. It isn't that complicated; it isn't rocket science. Yet, this government, the day it got elected, forgot two parts of the three-part equation, balance the books, democracy be damned, health care system be damned, balance the books. It doesn't work that way.

I have said it before, I will say it again, prosperity does not come from austerity; it comes from investing, it comes from promoting, it comes from ensuring that we have a system that is sustainable. Maybe it takes a couple of extra years to balance the books, but in the long run we will have a system that works for all Nova Scotians, but yet this government can't do that. Maybe that is some condition every Tory Government has. I remember reading the Discipline of Power by Jeffery Simpson about the 1979 minority government of Joe Clarke. Joe Clarke forgot what his mandate was as well, and he paid the price. The first thing a government has to remember, when you are elected, remember what your mandate was.

I was talking about this outside. The Ralph Kleins and the Mike Harris of the world can get re-elected when governments like this will not for one reason, they went to the people, in the case of Mr. Harris in 1995 and in the case of Ralph Klein recently and before that as well, since 1992 he has been elected three times - I don't like what they believe, I don't believe in the same ideology, but why did they re-elected - because when they go out, they tell it like it is. Mike Harris said he was going to do x y z and he went out and did it. Ralph Klein said this is what you got and this is what you are going to get if you elect me, and they did. People respect that.

On the other hand we have the likes of John Savage. What did John Savage promise when he was running in 1993? Jobs, jobs, jobs, I believe, was his promise. What did he get? The complete opposite. People tossed him out on his ear because of it. This government promised to sustain and produce a sustainable health care system, and they are doing the complete opposite. The people of Nova Scotia know why they elected this government, the mandate was to do it differently than the Liberals; yes, be fiscally disciplined; yes, be fiscally responsible, but ensure our health care system, and our education system, is better than it was. For God's sake, at least make it as good as it was before. This government forgot that. They have become fiscally obsessed, and they have forgotten about the real reason they were elected, and they will pay the price.

Mr. Speaker, I want to take a moment to talk about health care and why this government is so short-sighted. I want to read a couple of excerpts from people at the Law Amendments Committee who are constituents of mine. I have heard from a lot, and when I was getting ready for my hour I wrote down a couple of people who are members of my riding. I have heard from many others, dozens of nurses, technologists, health care workers,

[Page 6062]

people who have no connection to them but are just average citizens who are appalled by the lack of democratic respect from this government.

Lisa Morris, who is a physiotherapist and vice-president of her local, lives in Colby Village. Sharon Chapman, who lives in Cole Harbour, is a mental health nurse with the Outreach Program at the Nova Scotia Hospital. Gillian MacLean, I am going to read a statement from Gillian because she wasn't able to do it at the Law Amendments Committee. Gillian MacLean, who is a pharmacy technician at the Dartmouth General Hospital. Beryl Traves, who is a medical laboratory technologist. I don't think she is still here, she was here earlier. Paula Mann, who is another pharmaceutical technician at the Dartmouth General Hospital. Paul Wright, who is a nurse I heard from. Steve Barkhouse, who I will talk a bit more about in a minute, but Steve Barkhouse who I have known for a long time, he and his wife, good hard-working citizens of Eastern Passage. Melody Lewis, who was here earlier in the week, is a nurse in Cole Harbour. Catherine Burke, who lives in Cow Bay, just down the road from me, and her concerns about the medical technologists I think are covered in one of the other letters that I am going to read quotes from.

[11:00 p.m.]

The first one is from Lisa Morris, which I thought was very interesting. I will table this when I am done. She says in her statement to the Law Amendments Committee, but I think it is important to put on the record here. "We all know that it is the almighty dollar that is driving this legislation not the integrity of Health Care providers." How many different messages have we seen from this government? First, before they even introduced the bill, it was we can't trust health care providers. Well, that was stupid. If I must say, that is the most stupid message I have ever heard coming from any government in the history of Nova Scotia. You cannot trust health care workers? The Minister of Health should be ashamed, as a politician, as a human being, he should be ashamed for blaming health care workers for a health care system that is collapsing.

She is right, this isn't about health care providers, this is not about their respect for their profession, their respect for, let's call it, a vocation. Their dedication to the job is second to none and, yet, this government seems to want to pin the blame on them. More recently that changed. Last week the Premier was saying it is because we have given them enough money. So it wasn't about the health care system any more, it was about money. This week, I think, when I first walked in the door yesterday for my shift, the federal government was to blame. Those bloody Liberals, I think were some of the words coming out of the minister of injustice when he was up talking. He was talking about the fact that the Liberals, federally, aren't giving us enough money.

In fact, I think at one point someone tried to claim that the Campaign for Fairness was about more money for health care. I don't think that was ever what it was about. I don't think it was. It was about making Nova Scotia a have-province, yes, but it never talked about

[Page 6063]

health care systems specifically. Let's talk about it now. Let me see, plan A didn't work, blame the nurses; plan B didn't work, we need this because we can't afford it; plan C didn't work, which was blame the feds; plan D, I guess, was we need a Campaign for Fairness for health care. Somewhere in there is probably a plan E or a plan F. It's pretty clear this government continues to try to blame others for its own problems and its mistakes.

Lisa Morris goes on to say, "The government knows we are worth much more than they are willing to offer, or else there would be a binding arbitration clause in this bill. The government is afraid that we would get what we are actually worth." You hear the Premier say that in his interview, his sit-down interview with Mr. Rodenhiser. He says, how fair can we be? Well, you know what, it's the free-market system. In the free-market system you have to pay what they are worth. There is a shortage of nurses, there is a shortage of medical laboratory technologists, and they have the option of walking with their feet out of this province if you don't pay them what they are worth. That is the fair-market system. (Interruptions)

Well, that's true, that's right, considering what they pay the Deputy Minister of Health or the Assistant Deputy Minister of Health or the associate or the assistant associate, or whatever you want to call them. Again, I don't want to disrespectful to them, in fact one of them, Bill Lahey, I know. He graduated law school the same year I did, from U of T, when I graduated from York. We were both in the Department of Labour for awhile, and he is a good man. I know him personally, and they are good people.

But let's make it clear, those health care workers are good people as well, and I am sure all of you have had an opportunity to meet and talk with many of them. They deserve a wage that reflects the work that they do and the fair free market dictates that they have an opportunity to go out and determine what that is. That is what collective bargaining is about. This government may try to put a wall up to prevent that kind of system, but then they will just all run out around the sides, they will leave this province. You can't put a wall up between here and New Brunswick, you can't put a wall up between here and the rest of the world. They will walk with their feet because that is the way the market system works.

Lisa Morris goes on to say, "It also has the potential to take away or modify the rights that we have fought so hard to preserve." That is true, there is a clause in this bill that says this government can just lay out all the terms, they can redefine what the bargaining units are. She says, in bold print, "Now the government can take them away . . ." talking about their rights ". . . with the stroke of a pen." That is shocking. I talked earlier about the rights of workers, but more importantly or just as importantly this will destroy our health care system.

My last quote from her, "This bill takes away the dignity and respect of Health Care workers. In a time when there are shortages and many more impending in the near future, this government should be concentrating its efforts on keeping the skilled workers they have not forcing them to leave." That is what this government has not understood. In a global

[Page 6064]

economy, which they so often want to put in our face as to why they have to do certain things - the Premier, earlier today, tried to claim, well, we have to give a tax cut because that is what everyone else is doing.

Well, you know what? If that is the case, then you better start paying your nurses and your medical laboratory technologists a bit more because that is what everyone else is doing as well, because that is the way the system works. They will leave, they will go, they won't come back and the shortages will get worse, the surgery waiting lists will get worse, and the lack of doctors in our system will get worse, because this government is so short-sighted. I will table that, Mr. Speaker.

Today, Beryl Traves from my riding, from Eastern Passage, I believe she is, she came by, and I am just going to have a couple of quotes from her statement that she read at the Law Amendments Committee. Unfortunately, I couldn't stay for that one, I had other commitments. She is in the Anatomical Pathology Department - I guess that makes her an anatomical pathology technologist, I don't know if that is her official title - at the QE II Health Sciences Centre. She says, talking about why she was at the Law Amendments Committee, she was ashamed to be there. "Ashamed that I was partially responsible for voting this Conservative Government into power." - I should talk to her about that, I guess, she lives in my riding - "Ashamed to feel it is necessary in our free country to attempt to delay a bill that is so personally and professionally restrictive it has a profound effect on our basic Constitutional Rights as Canadian Citizens."

Those are strong words. This is an average citizen, and they understand what this government is doing. She goes on to say: "Over the past decade a crisis situation has developed which can no longer be ignored by this or subsequent Governments." She is right. "There is no training program for Medical Laboratory Technologists in Nova Scotia."

I mentioned that earlier. We have had 18 people from this province, this government has paid $600,000 in the last six years, five years, to send people to New Brunswick, as seats we had designated so we could have technologists come home. We didn't guarantee they would come, and of the 18, 3 have returned, I think it is 2 have returned. That is less than one a year.

That is a problem. We are wasting our tax dollars in a system we can't even ensure we are going to get the technologists we need, and they are retiring at a rate, their own study of the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Sciences, I think that is what it is called, has said that Nova Scotia is in the most precarious situation of all provinces with regard to the shortage, and yet we do nothing.

Ms. Traves goes on to say, "Technologists are currently being recruited by a team from Alberta. To date dozens are being lured with the promise of higher salaries, signing bonuses, lower taxes and moving expenses. Who can blame them for leaving?" She told me that there

[Page 6065]

was a recruiter who was coming into town from Alberta. Originally there was only supposed to be a few people meeting with them. After Bill No. 68 was introduced, out of two labs where there was 40 people, 21 of them were going to go talk to that person. They were serious about moving. And this government thinks that Bill No. 68 is a solution to the problem, that it is not exacerbating the problem.

Ms. Traves goes on to say: "I would like to give you a very brief overview of our jobs in the Anatomical Pathology Laboratory." - I think it is important people understand what type of work these people do - "We are responsible for testing cardiac and kidney tissues to determine if a patient is rejecting their transplanted organ or has another pathological process ongoing. We are called in during the middle of the night to test a donor kidney" - that takes up to three and a half hours - "for suitability while the Transplant Team awaits word from our Pathologist who will make the decision. We still have to report for our regular shift in the morning."

That is a hell of a system; that is a bad system if we can't ensure the technologists get a decent amount of time off. These are major life-affecting decisions that these people are making and yet we are making them work horrible hours. She goes on to say "Doctors would be unable to deliver our reports to their patients without the highly technical skilled staff throughout the Province's laboratories. Patient's information regarding diagnosis, treatments and prognosis are results of our dedicated work. In fact, eighty per cent of hospital procedures are based on Laboratory results. Daily risks of our profession include the handling of specimens infected with AIDS, Hepatitis, Tuberculosis, and Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (commonly know as mad cow disease) to mention a few. Additionally, we handle known toxic substances and carcinogens such as Formalin" - which must be a form of formaldehyde, I assume - "and Xylene, as well as others."

Mr. Speaker, this is the type of work they do. All they are looking for is a little respect so they can stay here. They want to say here. They live here now, they want to live in this province, yet this government puts up so many hurdles for them to allow them to stay. They are opening the gate to go and people are going to take it. This government seems to think that this is a solution, it is not part of the problem.

The last one I want to read from - Mr. Speaker, I asked you this before that I could read directly from it. It is from Gillian MacLean. She was supposed to present to the Law Amendments Committee. It is a somewhat touching story. She was about to present, she was very nervous, there were many people there. She understood she wasn't going to have to present in front of a whole lot of people. She's a very introverted woman, I presume, I don't know her that well, but I had talked to her before and after this. She provided me with a copy of her statement and I promised her I would read it into the record.

She says - it is June 19, 2001, to the Law Amendments Committee, but I will read this at third reading:

[Page 6066]

"My name is Gillian MacLean. I am a Pharmacy technician at the Dartmouth General Hospital and have been for the past 7 years.

Eight years ago I was a single mother on social assistance, and with determination I decided that was not going to be my fate. Through a job experience program I was placed at the Dartmouth General Hospital Pharmacy Department for six months of on the job training. Upon completion, I volunteered in the department for a further six months, completed a Pharmacy Technician course, was hired on as casual and finally, two and a half years ago I acquired a full time position."

She goes on to say,

"I'm here today to express my disgust and my anger and to let you know BILL 68 will not be forgotten come election time.!! I'm here to tell you that I'm not leaving Nova Scotia. I will be here for the next election. I will be voting against the Tories, and I will do everything possible to make sure everyone remembers what this government has done to health care and to all union members."

She goes on to say,

"Mr. Muir and Mr. Hamm have stated that they don't trust that the health care workers will provide emergency services! I've seen health care workers come together and work as a team in emergency situations, from Swiss Air, where employees from Dartmouth General Hospital worked hours and hours of overtime at Shearwater and most recently during the train derailment in Stewiacke . . ." in your riding, Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, ". . . where staff in the Pharmacy Department were about to leave for the day when a Code Orange was called. We immediately scrambled to the phones to make arrangements for our families to do without us for an unknown amount of time.

So, Mr. Muir, Mr. Hamm, please explain to us what emergency situation you're referring to that backs up that ridiculous statement!! I know for a fact that staffing in the Pharmacy Department in preparation for a strike was more than adequate to handle any emergency that we would be faced with. I also know that if an emergency arose that could not be handled with staff on hand, picket signs would be dropped and we would be back in the hospital to help."

She talks about this as of June 19.

[Page 6067]

"I was here last night for the rally and listened with a sinking heart to Tory members say yes. I find it hard to believe that you people have no back bone to stand and disagree with Mr. Muir and Mr. Hamm. I am here asking you not to attend for the final vote. Support health care in this province. Show us that you CARE."

That is Gillian MacLean, she lives in my riding in Cole Harbour. That is a woman who wanted to come forward and talk, but just one story amongst many; many that were heard by this government, many others that didn't have an opportunity to speak and many across this province that are telling others about their stories. That is the problem with this government, it has forgotten itself, it has forgotten why it was elected and it has forgotten what democracy is all about.

I have talked about the fact that they have put an assault on the workers' rights of this province, they have put an assault on our health care system. I want to wrap up by talking about the fact that they are putting an assault on democracy.

I just want to finish, actually, one last thing on health care. Steve Barkhouse, I said I would mention him. I got a letter from him and his wife, Jackie, who is an EPA in the school board. They were talking about the fact of how difficult it is for them to stay in this province, given everything that has been happening. Like many, there are a lot of tough decisions that are going to have to be made over the next little while because this government is pushing people out the door. They are not helping our health care system. They are not creating a have province, they are not building a prosperous province - no matter how you define it. They are destroying our province, they are destroying our health care system and in the long run, as I have said before, prosperity does not come from austerity. This government will learn that lesson the hard way.

But, notwithstanding this government's historic, horrible record with regard to workers, it's less than stellar - indeed, it's a difficult record with regard to health care, what has shocked many people as anything this time is, democracy and how democracy is being assaulted by this government. When I first stood up, I thought how surreal this is. I had the member for Victoria reading from a paraphrase of a Dr. Seuss poem, I hear the banging outside of health care workers banging on the railings that the Speaker of this House imposed for security reasons. How ironic that is. Then I thought to myself, did I ever imagine when I was elected that I would be standing here at 11:15 p.m., pressured by a deadline of 24 hours a day, listening to Dr. Seuss poems while this government is forced to listen to people outside clanging in protest of what they are doing.

[Page 6068]

[11:15 p.m.]

Then I remembered, I have been through this before. Not the Dr. Seuss part, but I have been through this before with - I can't remember the name, but the paramedics bill. This province had not had back-to-work legislation that was passed and proclaimed in some 60 years, maybe 70 if you go back to the 1920s and this government has done it, not once, but twice - assuming they are going to vote in favour of this bill - in two short years, in a year and a half.

What does that say? It says that this government is willing to do an end run around negotiating. Is willing to do an end run around democracy in order for its stubbornness, in order for its sense of what I will call injustice, what they may call justice, to prevail. The people of Nova Scotia have had enough.

Democracy is based on a lot of things. It is based on freedom of speech, freedom of association, the fact that you are innocent until proven guilty - these are all tenets that are entrenched in our charter - but, there is one overriding one that those include and many others. It is called the rule of law. Many may have heard of it, many may have not. You can debate this for days and years as to what exactly it is, but let me be clear. The rule of law is that invisible sort of rule that no matter how disgusted you are, no matter how upset you are, no matter how expeditiously you want things to move, you must obey the law. If you don't you will face the repercussions of penalties within the law.

Our society works on that basis. People stop at stop signs because it is the law. If they do not stop at stop signs and stop lights, they will receive a fine. If they continue to do it, they will lose their license. If they still continue to do it, they may even go to jail. People don't drink and drive because it is a crime and it is against the law. People don't go around punching each other on a regular basis and assaulting each other because we have laws that say they can't do that. People do not stop others from expressing their opinion because we have the right to freedom of speech and that is a law we protect and cherish in this province and in this country.

These are the rules. This is the rule of law. People respect it because they know others respect it as well. Most importantly, people respect it because their government respects it. Because we elect governments to follow the rules that are put in place by previous governments, by this Legislature. As long as we know our governments are following the rules, the people of this province will follow the rules.

The problem is, Mr. Speaker, how can we ask the people of Nova Scotia to obey laws like Bill No. 68? I don't know what is going to happen after it passes, but how can we ask them to obey these laws or any laws when this government is disobeying and disregarding the laws of this House and the law of privilege. The right of privilege of members of this House. The member of the government says what laws? There is a law in the House of

[Page 6069]

Assembly with regard to the privileges of the members of this House. It was trampled on last week. It will, maybe again, be trampled on in another hour.

For now, that is one of the laws that this government has ignored. The right to expression, the right to say their piece. These are the rights of citizens who come forward in the Law Amendments Committee to be heard. That is a rule we have always had in this House. That is a rule of democracy in our province and again, this government has ignored it, for expeditious reasons. Because - like the Keystone Kops - they can't get straight when they introduce legislation, so they can get it through in a timely manner while respecting democratic process. They ignore the laws, yet they expect others to obey them.

That doesn't sound like a democracy and it isn't the basis of why people will respect the rule of law. People respect the rule of law when they believe their government is respecting the rule of law. As long as they see a government that is ignorant towards the rule of law, disrespectful towards the rule of law, they may very well feel that they have to be as well. I don't know what's going to happen, but I assure you we don't build a strong democracy, we don't build healthy debate in a province with a government that is willing to run roughshod over the Rules of this House, wanting to run roughshod over the Charter of Rights and Freedoms of this province and this country, wanting to run roughshod over the rights of citizens to have a democratic workplace.

These are the things this government has run roughshod over yet they expect others to obey the law. It is that kind of disrespect for democracy that creates a trauma in our democratic system. The Chronicle-Herald, a paper that from time to time has been known to support a Tory or two - the Minister of Education smiles as I say that, Mr. Speaker - that is a paper that on Saturday said, yes, this is about health care yes, this is about workers' rights, but our democracy is in crisis because of what this government is doing. Anyone who was here or who observed what happened last Thursday night and what this government tried to do knows that this government has had disrespect for the rule of law, has had disrespect for the Rules of the House and that does not ensure that the people of Nova Scotia should follow the rules as well.

Democracy, Mr. Speaker, is something that is very tenuous. We see it disappear so easily from time to time, usually in other countries. You can see it in places like Belarus which was a democracy and then suddenly became much more autocratic. You can see it in Quebec under Duplessis, a province that had elections, had elected a Premier, and then suddenly you had a very autocratic system, a thin veil of some sham of democracy that Duplessis was able to set up but, in fact, it was run much more like an autocracy. These are the thin lines that the people of Nova Scotia see in how this government operates. I am not saying we're going to do what Duplessis did with regard to elections. I am not saying we're going to do what Belarus does or Marcos did with regard to elections in the Philippines or in Russia but the fact is that Nova Scotians expect their government to obey the law and they themselves will obey the law as well.

[Page 6070]

The only problem comes when this government begins to go down the slippery slope of ignoring democracy, of ignoring the democratic rights of the citizens of Nova Scotia, and that is what they have done and that is why Nova Scotians, you hear them outside. This government can pass this bill, but we have seen historically, not necessarily in this province because Nova Scotians really do respect the law, but we have seen in other places in the world when laws are passed, they are ignored.

This government may try to stifle democracy here in Nova Scotia. They may try and stifle democracy in this House. They may try to stifle the right to speak on behalf of the members who are elected, or on behalf of the people who come to the Law Amendments Committee, Mr. Speaker, but they cannot stifle democracy. They cannot stifle people coming into the streets and protesting. They cannot stifle their right to walk away and move to another province. These are all rights that Nova Scotians will cherish and they will exercise. You can pass all the laws you want, it is nothing but paper with ink on it, unless you have the respect of the people of Nova Scotia that you will obey the law and they will obey it as well.

Mr. Speaker, that is what it is about. That is what the rule of law is about. That is what democracy is about. Democracy is a very dynamic thing. Democracy is something that, as I said, can easily be ripped apart by a government that seems eager to try to pass legislation quickly. There is always an excuse to ignore democratic rules. We don't want a strike. There seems to be an uprising in Quebec and we have to pass the War Measures Act. There is always an excuse to usurp the democratic rights of citizens. The true test of a government is how they protect democracy, not how they try to get around it. It is easy to get around democracy. We see that when you have a majority. You can ram through legislation, you can shut down debate, but that's only what you do in this House and the people of Nova Scotia won't put up with it. The people of Nova Scotia will challenge the laws that you pass.

When we have a situation, Mr. Speaker, that the government becomes disrespectful of the law and the people of Nova Scotia react by becoming disrespectful of the law, then we have a real problem that will not be resolved until the next election when this government goes back to the polls, when this government goes back and tries to tell Nova Scotians, we promised you we would fix your health care system, we never. We promised you we would fix your education system, we never. We promised you we would make this province prosperous, we never.

Mr. Speaker, this is where this government places itself today. Bill No. 68 is not necessarily just about workers' rights, it is not just about our health care system. It is about how the government works with the people of Nova Scotia within our democratic structures to ensure that these pictures of Joseph Howe that we see, or the statues of Joseph Howe we see in this building aren't just there as decoration, but are there to remind us that Nova Scotia was the birthplace of responsible government in Canada, in the British Empire. Nova Scotia was the birthplace of freedom of speech in Nova Scotia, in Canada, and maybe even the

[Page 6071]

British Empire. Nova Scotia has a long and proud history of fighting for workers' rights. Bill No. 68 may go down in history as a bill that is undemocratic, that points the way towards a government that is undemocratic, and points the way towards a province that will not take any more, lying down, a government that is willing to be disrespectful of the law.

In time, Mr. Speaker, this government will pay the price for Bill No. 68. I started this speech by saying this would be my last speech on Bill No. 68, but that in the next two years I will be reminding the people in my riding, I will be reminding the members in this House, and so will all the others in Opposition and so will all the health care workers in this province and their families and their neighbours, Bill No. 68 will be two words that will stand for what this government means. It will stand for a lack of democratic respect. It will stand for a lack of ability to fix our health care system. Those two words will stand for a government that has no ability to ensure that our democratic processes will be maintained, that freedom of speech will be ignored, that freedom of expression will be ignored.

Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 68 will be a phrase that will be on the lips of every Nova Scotian. Remember Bill No. 68, people will say. Remember what the Tories did, they will do it again. They broke their promises. They misled the people of Nova Scotia. That is what Bill No. 68, two little words, when said, will mean to the people of Nova Scotia. That's what people will be talking about. You can end debate in this House. This government cannot end debate about Bill No. 68, about its tactics, about its respect for people, respect for its democratic processes.

These are the things people will continue to talk about, Mr. Speaker. These are the things that Nova Scotians will continue to talk about. Bill No. 68 will be a two-word phrase that Nova Scotians will say. They will continue to talk. They will continue to say it, remember Bill No. 68, and Nova Scotians will remember the next time these guys have to go back to the polls, the next time they try to argue they gave some tax cut to their cronies. Remember Bill No. 68 will be the rallying cry for all Nova Scotians who are sick and tired of a government that has no respect for workers, has no respect for our health care system, has no respect for democracy, and Bill No. 68 will be a rallying cry, maybe once and for all for Nova Scotians to say, we have had enough of governments that make promises they don't keep.

Bill No. 68 will be a rallying cry for a government, to say maybe we have had enough of governments that are disrespectful of us, are disrespectful of our democratic institutions. Maybe Bill No. 68 will be a rallying cry for Nova Scotians to say we have to do things differently. We have to do things in a different way. Maybe in 100 years we will look back and we will thank this government for what they did, not about Bill No. 68, but for making Nova Scotians stand up and be counted for protection of what they believe in, protection of our democracy, protection of our health care system and protection of workers' rights.

[Page 6072]

In the end that is what Bill No. 68 will be, a rallying cry, Mr. Speaker, a rallying cry for Nova Scotians to get in the debate in here. They will not end the debate on the streets of this province. Thank you.

[11:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my learned friend has made some arguments in his speech about the rights in this province that are being stripped away from workers right now. Can you hear the noise that we've been hearing for the last several hours outside, and the health care professionals and nurses who are outside of this Legislature beating on barricades that are set up around this place? Those barricades are taking an awful beating from those workers outside, but it doesn't even compare to the beating that democracy has been taking over the past few days in this province. It doesn't even compare.

Mr. Speaker, what happened here and what is going to happen and what will continue to happen as long as this government is in power is that workers such as nurses and health care professionals will be stripped of everything that they have a right to, and they won't be the only ones. The Premier has already told us to look out because Bill No. 68 is a pussycat compared to legislation that is being planned for later on in this Legislature. If you can compare Bill No. 68 as a pussycat to any other piece of legislation, I would hate to see what's on the tables being planned by this government because Bill No. 68 is, without a doubt, the worst piece of legislation that has ever come before this House.

Mr. Speaker, the health care system, if it is in a mess, why are we blaming the health care workers, such as the Premier is doing? Why are we blaming the people who have put everything they have into making the health care system as good as it possibly can be? Why are we punishing the people who work within that system? I don't know, I have lost track of time, this is either the fifth or sixth time I have stood in my place to speak against Bill No. 68. I would stand six more times, I would stand 60 more times to speak against this piece of legislation because that's how bad it is but, let me tell you, each time that I have stood in my place to speak against Bill No. 68 I had a presence almost alongside me - and I am not going to get too deep here or too emotional - I can tell you that that presence who stood alongside me, and continues to stand there, is my mother who passed away in 1988.

My mother, who spent close to 20 years in the nursing profession, working as hard as she possibly could, and dedicated to a job that she loved. Mr. Speaker, I will tell you my mother was a great person and I often miss her and I wish that she was still here, but every time I have stood in this Legislature to vote against Bill No. 68 - do you know what? - she is here. I can feel her patting me on the back and saying, David, you are doing the right thing. You are doing the right thing. You know the difference between right and wrong, and what

[Page 6073]

you are doing is the right thing by speaking against this legislation and by voting against this legislation.

Mr. Speaker, you know we have talked about how dedicated health care professionals are, and I have talked on many occasions about my family because this is a personal thing for me. You can't get any more personal than this. When you talk about and crap on health care workers in this province, then you're walking on the fighting side of me, let me tell you, because these are my people. These are the people I grew up with. These are the people I love, who have spent their lives taking care of other people in this province, and I am not just talking about Cape Breton, I have family who work in other parts of this province. I have spent days on end up here meeting with people who unfortunately have had to leave Cape Breton to find a job, and they found it here in the Capital Health District in the health care industry.

I talked with a nurse tonight, a psychologist actually, from the QE II who has been up here for 29 years working in the health care industry and, as she said, she is looking forward to parole. I said, don't you mean retirement? She said, no, parole, because I will finally be getting out of jail pretty soon. It has been hard work, but it has been decent work and it is worthwhile work and it is work that they are proud of, extremely proud.

Mr. Speaker, I can recall running for election in Glace Bay not too long ago. I have only been here two years. To give you an example of just how people in my area, and I would assume the whole province, think about health care workers. As I mentioned, my mother was a nurse who spent 20 some years in the nursing profession, most of it, ironically, in a maternity department, after having 10 children. When I was knocking on doors during the campaign, in particular, on one street, a woman came up to me and said, oh my God, I can't believe you are here. Let me get my daughter, I want her to meet you. Well, I was pretty flattered that the woman would want her daughter to meet me. Here I am, the Liberal candidate and I am pretty important and she wants to bring her daughter out to meet me.

So she ran and left me standing at the door and came back with a 25 or 26 year old girl and introduced me. I said, well, I am very proud to have met you and thank you. The woman stopped me and she said, no, no, no. I didn't want her to meet you because you are the candidate, I wanted her to meet you because your mother birthed her. Your mother was there when she was born and there were no doctors and she brought this girl into the world. That is how proud that woman was of my mother the nurse, my mother the health care professional and that stayed with her - of course it would, it was her daughter - for 25 or 26 years until I came to the door and knocked on the door and she wanted to tell me about how proud she was of my mother, my mother the health care worker, the nurse who brought that girl into this world.

[Page 6074]

Now, that is only one example, Mr. Speaker, of the work that is done out there by nurses and health care professionals throughout this province. Here we are, on this very day, to those very same people who exemplify what my mother stood for and we are doing this to them? We are proposing to take away everything that they have worked for over the years. We are proposing to take away their rights. We are proposing to just throw democracy into a trash heap and no matter what rules you have to contravene or change or whatever you have to do with it, we will do whatever is necessary to ram this legislation down the throats of Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, to me, that is wrong. There is no other word to describe it. There are a lot of words to describe it. One of the few that I can use in here is wrong. This government says that once this bill goes through that everything is okay and that the public is safe. The public is okay now that we have taken away the right to strike from health care professionals. Nothing could be further from the truth. This government, while it spends what will soon amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars, trying to convince Nova Scotians that Bill No. 68 is good for them and that has got to be the biggest PR failure in the history of this province already because nobody believes it. But while they are spending all that money trying to convince everyone that the bill is okay, they fail to remind the people of how damaging the action really is, the course that they are following, how much irreparable damage that it is going to cause in this province to health care professionals, to the labour movement.

Again, I am no expert on democracy. I think, as I said before, my learned friend had some great points about the democratic process. I would say, Mr. Speaker, that if the Minister of Health has anything to say to me then he can stand on his feet and say it loud and clear because there are lots of people wanting to hear from the Minister of Health, but if he doesn't have the intestinal fortitude to stand on his feet and say it in front of those people, then don't bother muttering it over in his chair where he slumped the other night sound asleep while this went on. When the final time comes that the Minister of Health rises up and closes debate on this draconian piece of legislation, we will hear from him then and let's see what he has to say. But until that time, mind your own business, Mr. Minister.

That is a good example, Mr. Speaker, of the tough-guy approach that this government is taking right now with health care workers in this province - bullies. Every one of you is nothing but a bully and that is what you are trying to do, bully this piece of legislation through until finally there is nothing that can be done about it. But you know what, for an example, we could start with the biggest bully of them all, the Justice Minister over there, the minister of injustice, who the other night tried his bullying tactics in the Law Amendments Committee, but it didn't work. Now, we see all of the other ministers - the Minister of Finance was up in this Legislature earlier today trying to defend his buddy, the Minister of Justice; my buddy is doing a good job. Stand by your man, Mr. Finance Minister.

[Page 6075]

Well, I can tell you one thing - who was it that sang that song? Who sang that song, Stand by your Man? - Tammy Wynette, right now, would probably have to rewrite the song after she heard what you had to say about the Minister of Justice and stand by your man. Again, it is another example, Mr. Speaker. As I said, those are the bullying tactics on Bill No. 68 and it is the same way this government goes about all of its business. They are nothing but a big bunch of cowards and bullies that will push this through no matter what.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Honourable member, I would ask you to refrain from that terminology. You know full well that that is unparliamentary.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, are you talking about bully or coward?

MR. SPEAKER: Both.

MR. WILSON: Okay, Mr. Speaker, if you said that bully and coward are unparliamentary, I won't say bully and coward anymore, I promise you. One of my colleagues has said, perhaps they are fascists. I don't know if that is unparliamentary or not, but those are the closet things to fascists that you will find in Nova Scotia right now. That is exactly what is happening here.

Mr. Speaker, this whole issue goes beyond just the right to strike here. It goes further than that because Nova Scotians believe, or many of them do anyway, and there are differing opinions out there, perhaps there are some people out there who believe that nurses and health care professionals shouldn't have the right to strike. But I bet those same Nova Scotians are some of the most caring Nova Scotians that you would have and they would be free-thinking Nova Scotians. At least they would be willing to listen to both sides of the debate and then sit back and make up their minds. But that is not what has happened here at all.

Mr. Speaker, this government had the chance to negotiate in good faith and it chose not to for political reasons and now that they have made that decision, what is going to happen with a health care strike is everybody else's fault except the government. They are going to blame everybody. (Interruption) Well, they can blame anybody they want. They blame the nurses. They blame the health care professionals. They blame the Opposition members over here. They blame the Rules of Parliament, the rules of order, that they didn't fit their bill so they changed them.

AN HON. MEMBER: They blame the federal government.

MR. WILSON: Oh, they blame the federal government. The member for Cape Breton North was in the paper back at home that the federal government is to blame. Can you imagine having the audacity to blame the federal government which has put more money in the coffers of that Finance Minister than any other time in the history of Nova Scotia? Can

[Page 6076]

you imagine the audacity of the member for Cape Breton North to blame the federal government for a bill that the John Hamm Government has put forward?

Now you ask me, Mr. Speaker . . .

[11:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. Will the honourable member for Lunenburg West bring himself to order. The honourable member, his colleague for Glace Bay, has the floor.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I love hearing the honourable member for Lunenburg West because he speaks the truth, and when he is talking to that Finance Minister, who I don't think has any idea of what the truth is, then I will listen to the member for Lunenburg West over the Minister of Finance any day.

Mr. Speaker, what has happened here is that the government had the chance, as I said, to negotiate in good faith. They chose not to. It is purely for political reasons, that's all. Now those political reasons are backfiring on this government.

I don't know if any of the government MLAs over there, especially the backbenchers, when they walk out of here perhaps they wear earplugs because it is impossible that they would not hear the comments of nurses and health care workers who are talking to them on the way out and who are talking to them on the streets, because we are hearing them. The Official Opposition caucus is hearing them. These are the same people who would be talking to the government MLAs and the government Cabinet Ministers. I know for a fact, I talked with a health care worker, outside, tonight from Inverness who said, look, I was talking with the Minister of Tourism, I am trying to get through to him but I can't get through about Bill No. 68. Is there anything I can do?

AN HON. MEMBER: The line is busy.

MR. WILSON: I don't know. I should have said the line is busy there. Try again. The line has been busy in a lot of other places. In some places the phone is off the hook altogether. Tory MLAs don't have call waiting, I guess; I am not sure.

Mr. Speaker, this government, in what it is doing with Bill No. 68, is threatening the very foundation of labour/management relations in this province. This Premier may view his actions and the behaviour of some of his Cabinet as wise and necessary but I am going to tell you that all of those tactics will come back to haunt that government. That is not a hard prediction to make because all you have to do is listen to the people who are affected and the general public, if you have been talking to them and listening to them, will tell you, I don't

[Page 6077]

care if it is two years or three years or a year and a half, however long it takes, we will get them because of Bill No. 68 and it will come back to haunt them.

You know the sad part, Mr. Speaker, is that when you have unhappy workers what happens is you have unhappy working conditions. I know, I have worked in similar conditions where workers were unhappy and it did not make for a very nice place to work. As a matter of fact it is even more critical in what we are talking about tonight because what we are talking about is emergency services, perhaps, essential services. We are talking about patient care. If you have unhappy working conditions, that could eventually affect things like patient care very easily. It could also fuel what will become an exodus of workers from this province. They are going to go to areas where the pay is better and, most definitely, they are going to go where employee and employer relations are a lot more friendlier than in Nova Scotia. Who is going to want to continue to work for a government that will shove something down their throats without even consulting with them first?

Mr. Speaker, I have to say that for the last few weeks, this Legislature certainly has been enlightening in a lot of respects. I would personally like to thank the countless people who have appeared before the Law Amendments Committee, myself and my colleagues and others and also the government backbench MLAs who were there. They were at the Law Amendments Committee and they heard all of these people sharing their concerns, not only for Bill No. 68, that is not all of why they were there, they were sharing their concerns with us about, in general, health care and the health care system in Nova Scotia.

I would also like to thank those who were denied the opportunity to speak before the Law Amendments Committee, too, Mr. Speaker, and shame on that government for denying that large number of people what is their democratic right in this province to appear before a Law Amendments Committee and be heard by members of this Legislature.

AN HON. MEMBER: Over 400 people.

MR. WILSON: There were over 400 people who didn't get the chance to tell this government what they thought about, among other things, Bill No. 68. But I want to remind those people that I hope they don't attribute the disrespect shown by this government as being representative of all members of this House because that is not the way it is, Mr. Speaker. Their thoughts and concerns meant a lot to us and I don't want it to stop them from sharing or caring for what they do, despite what this government has done. I also know that these workers are professional enough that they are not going to do that in the first place.

Mr. Speaker, one of the biggest ironies in this whole mess is that if someone across the way right now were to drop in their place and be taken out of here by ambulance to an emergency ward, these very same people who are telling you that they don't agree with Bill No. 68 would be the same people to save your life. That is how professional they are. I hope that doesn't happen to any member of this House because I know how serious it would be.

[Page 6078]

Mr. Speaker, in hearing and reading of all of the concerns, I don't think any of us ever realized what our health care professionals do on a daily basis. I think maybe I had some understanding of it because my family is involved in the health care profession, but I have heard countless stories over the past number of days and I have heard them from my sisters who are involved, but now I have heard them from so many other people, I really did not know the depth of what is going on out there and the seriousness of what is happening in our health care profession.

AN HON. MEMBER: They don't care over there.

MR. WILSON: They don't care. If they don't care, they can't have a conscience, Mr. Speaker. But I don't believe that. I know they have consciences and I know (Interruptions)

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: They were sworn in as members . . .

MR. WILSON: That is right. My honourable colleague, the member for Richmond says, when we were sworn in as members, that it was referred to in the oath that we took, which said something regarding an oath of conscience, I believe it is called.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: The Premier called it.

MR. WILSON: Well, the Premier called it and we all took it. I think we took the same oath, I am not sure. As I said, Mr. Speaker, I had no idea of what they achieved, what they stand for, health care professionals and what they go through on a daily basis and the conditions that they are working under and the stress that they are working under on a daily basis. It is absolutely phenomenal and I can't understand how members on the government side have not heard the same thing and cannot comprehend the same thing.

We know, Mr. Speaker, that these professionals give of themselves in every way possible and what they give of themselves, they achieve the health and safety of Nova Scotians. As I said, it doesn't matter to them, your background, when you come into a hospital and you are looking for care. It doesn't matter if you are rich or you are poor; it doesn't matter if you are politician or not a politician; it doesn't matter what you do.

They are there to do their jobs and, Mr. Speaker, this is how we treat them for doing that. Believe me, they have, in their hearts, a feeling of commitment, of caring and of compassionate that you just do not instill in someone, it is there from the very beginning. I have seen it time and time again.

While I am at it, through this very highly-charged ordeal, the visitors who have come to this Legislature, the ones who have been allowed in, and who sat in the gallery throughout all of this debate . . .

[Page 6079]

AN HON. MEMBER: Through the locked gates.

MR. WILSON: Through the locked gates, the police, and that is intimidating, I know that, it is intimidating to walk through that sort of thing, but I want to tell you those people who sat here in the galleries, night after night after night and morning after morning, have conducted themselves admirably, very admirably. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, as I have said, this is a very highly-charged ordeal that they are going through, more so for them than anybody else. They are the ones who have their futures at stake here. They are ones who have their jobs, their families on the line. That has to be taken seriously. Our health care professionals deserve better. We will not vote for Bill No. 68. We will not, in this Party, ever vote for a piece of legislation like Bill No. 68. Never. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, we have more respect for health care professionals, we have a lot more respect for health care professionals and we believe in a collective bargaining process. What we fear most of all, out of this fiasco, is the fallout from Bill No. 68. That is what we fear. This is just the beginning. As I referred to before, the Premier has given us - what do they call that when you can foresee something coming?

AN HON. MEMBER: A premonition.

ANOTHER HON. MEMBER: A forerunner.

MR. WILSON: A premonition or a forerunner, I thank my honourable colleagues. The Premier has said here is the forerunner of what is to come. If anybody out there right now thinks that it is just going to be health care professionals and nurses, he has already told us that when it comes down the pipe, essential services legislation, it is going to include everybody. I witnessed an interesting conversation the other day, outside of the Legislature, in front of the gates, when a nurse turned around and said to a police officer - the police officer said something to her, don't get hit on the road - he was a very nice police officer - step in there, don't get hit, the nurse turned around and said hey, you're next. The police officer said, I know, I know. The word is on the street, Mr. Premier, the word is on the street.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allocated for today's business, honourable member, has expired.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise to meet immediately on completion of the business of Tuesday or 12:01 a.m. Wednesday morning, whichever is later, and that the House sit until 11:59 on Wednesday. The order of business shall be the daily routine, Question Period, and Liberal Opposition business for a period of four hours, when measured, commencing with the start of the daily routine (Interruptions)

[Page 6080]

Followed by Government Business for the rest of the day, which will be Third Reading of Public Bills for the remainder of the day. (Interruptions)

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. This is another end run on democracy. In all the years that I have been in this House, I have not heard anybody in this House suggest that the Opposition Day would be anything else but the regular Opposition hours of 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. on a Wednesday, with no government business conducted during that period of time. I will refer, and ask the Speaker to rule on this, to the Rules and Forms of Procedure of this House, Rule 5A(4) "On a Wednesday the first four hours shall be devoted to the daily routine and the Orders of the Day up to and including the order of business . . ." I will go down a bit, ". . . and if so how many, up to a maximum of four . . ." to conduct government business ". . . will be determined after discussions between the Government House Leader and the House Leader of the opposition party whose day it is." That Opposition Day is the Liberal Opposition Day. The only discussion I have had with the Government House Leader is the fact that he came over here and told me he was going to call the House at 12:01.

[12:00 midnight]

Mr. Speaker, we have consulted with many people on this particular rule. Over the past few hours, we have consulted with a number of people who have never heard of a Government House Leader standing in his place and calling this House for 12:01. It's unprecedented in this House; it's an end run on democracy, again; it's a government that wants to run roughshod over the Rules of this House for its own means.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask you to rule that motion out of order, and I would ask you to set the regular business hours for the Opposition Party tomorrow. I will call those business hours when the Government House Leader asks me to. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would like to respond to the honourable member's point of order as he asked me a question. (Interruptions) Order, please. (Interruptions) Yes, you can speak on the point of order.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Yes, even before we get to those, and I have a lot that I would like to say, as others do, on that matter as well. First, I would suggest to you that the Government House Leader's motion is out of order. The debate that was on the floor was never adjourned. You have to move adjournment of the debate before you can call upon the Government House Leader to introduce the business and call the hours.

Mr. Speaker, the hour of 12:00 had not yet been reached, the debate had not been adjourned and, therefore, the Government House Leader cannot make both motions at once. It's unprecedented and, therefore, it's out of order. You cannot make two separate motions at the same time. (Interruptions) It has never been done, except on one occasion, and that was

[Page 6081]

on a previous question motion that was later ruled to be one that was unacceptable and out of order.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I would draw the attention of the two House Leaders across the way to Page 11 of our Rules, Sitting hours on motion of Government House Leader, 5C(1), which says, "Notwithstanding Rules 3, 4, 5A and 5B, the time for the meeting of the House, the time for the adjournment of the House and the maximum number of hours the House may sit during a day may be determined by the House by majority vote on the motion of the Government House Leader or the Leader's substitute." (Interruptions) That is not wrong. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. First, I want to clarify, do you want to rule on the member for Sackville-Cobequid's issue of whether there has to be a motion to adjourn debate prior to a motion to adjourn the House? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would like to indicate that I have been advised, as all members in the House were advised, that the hours for yesterday, now Tuesday, June 26th, were 12:01 a.m. until 11:59 p.m. I indicated to the honourable member for Glace Bay that he had a minute remaining, he talked it out to 11:59, therefore, the time allocated for yesterday's business has concluded. As per usual, we go to the Government House Leader, which I did. (Interruptions) Order, please.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. That would have been the time to move adjournment.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. HOLM: You have to adjourn the business.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruptions) Order, please.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Just so I am clear, your decision is that there is no need for the motion to adjourn debate because the time ran out. Just so I am clear. Okay. If I can talk for a moment, Mr. Speaker, in response to the Government House Leader's issue of Rule 5C. He is correct that Rule 5C does say, let's be clear, notwithstanding any of the rules with regard to setting the times of the House, the time for the meeting of the House, the time for adjournment of the House, and the time for the maximum number of hours the House may sit during a day may be determined by the House by a motion made by the Government House Leader.

[Page 6082]

That means Rule 5C is limited, Mr. Speaker, to the government being able to do an end run with regard to the time of the House, with regard to adjournment and with regard to maximum hours, not with regard to the business of the House. On Wednesdays, the business of the House is determined by the Opposition. I want to read, if I can, I actually have Hansard from 1996, I just want to read from it if you would indulge for a moment.

Rule 5C was adopted on December 6, 1996 to help the then-Liberal Government gain approval of the BST legislation before the deadline for it to take effect. The then-Government House Leader made it very clear in his brief speech that the purpose was simply to permit longer hours, nothing else - that speech was on Page 2775 of Hansard, which I have attached. No other change in the existing rules was intended according to the only person who could know and say, Richie Mann, the Government House Leader of the time.

He made no reference to a change in the rules regarding the order of business on Opposition Day, not surprising since Rule 5C did not deal with the business of the House. The Liberals did make immediate use of Rule 5C to extend the hours on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays for the next two weeks. However, the government made it clear at the first opportunity that Rule 5C did not give them the authority to call Government Business on a Wednesday without the agreement of the Opposition House Leader for the day, who, by the way, is the Government House Leader today, Mr. Ronald Russell.

Mr. Speaker, the government indicated that it was the Opposition House Leader who had to indicate the business of the House on the following Wednesday, December 11th, the record is on Page 3592, which I have also attached, from the 1996 Hansard. The government turned to the Opposition to set the business on December 18th also, and did not attempt or suggest that they could unilaterally set down government business on that day.

The interpretation of Rule 5C provided, in December 1996, by the then-Government House Leader has prevailed since then, never overruled by any other Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: Not once.

MR. DEVEAUX: Government Business is dealt with on Wednesdays, only by agreement with the Opposition House Leader, according to these rules, and Rule 5C is an exception, it only deals with hours not with the order of business on those days. There is no need to infer meaning into Rule 5C to explain that it does not deal with the order of business and, therefore, does not empower the government to unilaterally call its business on a Wednesday. Rule 5C deals only with hours and only overrides other rules to the extent that they deal with hours of the House, not any other matter and definitely not the business of the House.

And since you are talking to the Clerk as I am talking, Mr. Speaker, I know you are not listening to me, so let me be clear . . .

[Page 6083]

AN HON. MEMBER: Where is the Speaker, by the way?

AN HON. MEMBER: They didn't like the call they got last week. (Interruptions) They didn't like the call they got last week. (Interruptions)

MR. DEVEAUX: I am going to stand here, Mr. Speaker, until you are listening.

AN HON. MEMBER: Hear! Hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Go ahead, honourable member.

MR. DEVEAUX: I have a funny feeling what the Clerk is advising you, as well, which is that government, Rule 5C - his interpretation, I believe, and I am going to anticipate that - is that this is something that the government has to have as a way of ensuring that Rule 5C can be interpreted to allow them to control the business of the House. But let's be clear, they control the business of the House on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, not on Wednesdays. That is what has always been the tradition, the democratic tradition in this House. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, I will ask you to at least take a look at the Hansards, recess, read what it says, read what the intent was at the time of the then-Government House Leader, and, as accepted by the Official Opposition House Leader, the now-Government House Leader. Read the Hansard, take a look at it, compare it to Rule 5C, make a decision. I will give you a copy.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, this motion that I made was specifically directed to permit the Opposition to carry out their business for the first four hours and, in fact, it says the order of business shall be the daily routine, Question Period, and Liberal Opposition business for the first period of four hours, from the commencement of the daily routine. That is way that the Opposition Day business is set up. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I would suggest to you that the notwithstanding clause in Rule 5C(1) does not apply because it doesn't deal with the business of the day. I would further suggest to you that the hours of the day, a normal Opposition Day, in this case it is our Opposition Day, that the hours would be from 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. tomorrow or today, and that any government business might be considered only after the 2:00 p.m. start-up and 6:00 p.m. finish of our business, and then the late show that is from 6:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., and then the government business for four

[Page 6084]

hours, perhaps, if the Government House Leader would then consult with the Opposition House Leader of that day, in this case the Liberal Party.

There has been no such discussion. He is trying to tell this House now that he is going to allow us to go into Opposition Day business at 1:00 o'clock in the morning, have Question Period at 3:00 o'clock in the morning, perhaps because nobody would pick up on what questions we might want to ask the Premier on this very important issue, and then, when that is dispensed with, then the government would pick up and go the rest of the day to try to ram this bill through.

I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that it is an end run on democracy. It does not apply to Opposition Day on a Wednesday, and I suggest to you that that is the only fair ruling that can come from this Chair this evening. (Interruptions)

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, you have been around this House for some considerable period of time, of course, nobody has been around longer than the Government House Leader. We all know that if there is any question on clarity, the customs and traditions of this House are the rules. The customs and traditions. I have only been here for 17 years, not the 20, what is 26, 2,400 it feels like, the Government House Leader says, and it feels like that to us over here, that he has been here that long as well, sometimes.

However, the Government House Leader knows that never on a Wednesday has the government imposed hours and called Government Business on an Opposition Day without the prior agreement of the Opposition Party. I, as the Opposition House Leader for the NDP, in the past, have occasionally, on a Wednesday, agreed to allow the government to have some business conducted at the conclusion of the Opposition Day business. That was by agreement, and that was agreed to the previous day. It was never at 3:00 o'clock in the morning or at midnight. That has never happened.

Rule 5C is quite clear. The Mann Rule applies to hours. There is absolutely no mention of government setting business, none. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, customs and traditions, if it isn't written down, customs and traditions are the rule. Therefore, you know, you have to know because you have been here long enough, as well, to know that it has never been done in here during your time and, therefore, it can only be a travesty if the customs and traditions are violated and they are allowed to be violated by a ruling that upholds what the government is trying to do, which is an end run around, certainly, the democratic practices that have been held in this House in the past.

[Page 6085]

SPEAKER'S RULING: Changes to Opposition Day Hours

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. I am not going to entertain any more points of order relative to the motion that was put forward by the honourable Government House Leader. I have received advice, from all honourable members, on this eventuality. The advice I have received is that the Rules and Forms of Procedure supersede all other rules whether it is Beauchesne, and I want to advise all members of the House that it very clearly states that sitting hours on a motion of the Government House Leader, notwithstanding Rules 3, 4, 5A and 5B, the time for the meeting of the House, the time for the adjournment of the House and the maximum number of hours (Interruptions) Order, please. And the maximum number of hours the House may sit during a day may be determined by the House by majority vote, by majority vote.

Therefore, I rule the motion is in order.

Is the House ready for the question? (Interruptions)

A recorded vote has been called for.

The bells can ring up until 1:14 a.m. or until the Whips are satisfied.

Ring the bells. Call in the members.

[12:14 a.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Honourable members, the motion before the House is that the House do now rise to meet immediately on completion of the business of Tuesday or 12:01 a.m. Wednesday morning, whichever is later, and that the House sit until 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday. The order of business shall be the daily routine, Question Period, and Liberal Opposition Business for a period of four hours, when measured, commencing with the start of the daily routine, followed by Government Business for the rest of the day. Government Business will be Public Bills for Third Reading, Bill No. 68. A recorded vote has been called for. Before we call for the recorded vote, the honourable member for Cape Breton South.

[1:15 a.m.]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I am just wondering, for clarification, does Opposition Day start at the conclusion of this vote or at 12:01? (Interruptions) The later time. Fine. The second point is we don't seem to have order papers. Will they be forwarded? (Interruptions) They're out. Well, they must have forgotten us. Do we get them or . . .

[Page 6086]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: That is another problem. I guess, Mr. Speaker, the only one who gets . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I will ensure that you get order papers. Excellent point.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of personal privilege. I would like to rise and report what I consider to be a serious abrogation of my rights as a member of this House. As we were leaving the Chamber, when the bells were being rung, the Premier crossed the floor and, with finger wagging in my face, stated that we, referring to my caucus colleagues and I, bullied our way through the Law Amendments Committee process. In fact, the Premier even went so far as to refer to this whole thing as pay back for the inconvenience we caused in the Law Amendments Committee.

Mr. Speaker, this is completely unacceptable. If the Premier considers members exercising their full rights and privileges as bullying, then it is becoming much clearer as to why we are here with this bill. I would ask you to consider this point and rule on it immediately. I would also strongly encourage the Speaker to consider censuring the Premier for his actions and, at the very least, for an apology. I would ask your indulgence on the matter. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the member opposite didn't understand what I had said to him. What I had said to the member is, clearly, that they are reaping what they have sown. What happened in the (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, the members on this side listened while the member opposite had his say, and I would request the same privilege. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. The Premier does have the floor.

THE PREMIER: What had happened the other day, Mr. Speaker, in committee, which, since I have come here, the Rules of the House were never applied. In other words, there were never members asking for an hour to speak in committee, and there was a much different approach to conducting business in committee. Now, what happened, there appears now to be a request that the Rules of the House apply literally in committee and that the custom and habit, as was the case, is no longer to be followed. (Interruptions)

Now, what you saw tonight and what I said is, the argument of the government is that the Rules of the House relative to a Wednesday sitting are very clear. They do allow that we, in fact, can do Government Business even though it is not the custom and habit to have Government Business on Wednesday. What I said to the member opposite is that if the

[Page 6087]

custom and habit of the committee is not to be held, then in fact the custom and habit of the House is not to be held and we will, in fact, follow the rules literally. And that is what I meant to the member opposite . . .

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

The honourable member who raised the point of personal privilege, I will assure the honourable member for Dartmouth East that before the conclusion of today's business the Speaker will render a decision. (Interruptions)

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage on a response.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: I am sorry if my right to speak is annoying you, Mr. Speaker, but I did believe that on behalf of caucus I should be able to respond to the point of privilege. I will just say this, the Premier got up and basically admitted that he did tell the member for Dartmouth East what he stood up and said. Mr. Speaker, let's be clear, he stood up and said if you are going to apply the Rules of the House over there, then we are going to apply them here the way we want. Which is basically a nice way of saying what he said to the member for Dartmouth East, which was if you are going to bully us over there, this is pay-back time. The Premier, in this House, on the record, admitted that - and I wish the member for Preston would stand up if he has something important to say. (Interruption) Yeah? Well why don't you wait until I sit down? Why don't you wait until I am done talking?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Honourable members, please, you will have your, order, please, honourable member for Preston, please take your seat. The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage has the floor and he is in response to a privilege. I would appreciate hearing the honourable member (Interruptions) Order, please, privilege precedes points of order.

MR. DEVEAUX: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My point is simple. The member for Dartmouth East has raised the point of privilege. The Premier, though trying to obfuscate it with certain rhetoric, stood up and admitted in this House just now that he actually did what the member for Dartmouth East said he did. When you review the record, I appreciate the Speaker is going to review the record, but I am glad to see the Premier stood up and admitted that he said that this is pay back.

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. If those comments have been said by the honourable Premier, they were done after the House adjourned and across the floor. It is no longer the House business. Those things (Interruptions) there is no recording of Hansard, no copy of Hansard, the House had risen.

[Page 6088]

Also, if those hearsay comments are to be believed by the honourable member for Dartmouth East that had been said, then also he should realize the statement or comments that are stated by the honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage - the comments he alluded to you as the Speaker, he made some fascist comments toward you, Mr. Speaker . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. As I indicated about five minutes earlier, a recorded vote relative (Interruptions) The honourable Premier on a point of order.

THE PREMIER: I hope, Mr. Speaker, that you will review what was said, because clearly what I said is that you will reap what you have sown, in relation to a literal interpretation of the rules. At no time did I indicate that it was payback. What I said is they will reap what they have sown.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: On a point of order. In response to the Premier, Mr. Speaker. Quite clearly, what we have seen today and what we have seen the last few weeks, since the entry of Bill No. 68, is the true face of this Premier and the true face of this government, that they are willing to trample over the rights of not only members of this House, but each and every Nova Scotian. The message today by the Premier was quite clear to the member for Dartmouth East. He said we tried to screw you in Law Amendments, it didn't work, so we are going to screw you here in the House on your Opposition day today. That is what the message was. It was loud and clear. It was heard by members on this side. The Premier even crossed the floor to come on this side of the House to say what he had to say. Nova Scotians are seeing the real face of John Hamm. It is unacceptable conduct and, you as Speaker, it is unacceptable the way you have ruled already tonight. You have a right to . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. The honourable member will take his seat. I have indicated that I will rule on the point of personal privilege as raised by the honourable member for Dartmouth East. Now we are going to carry out a roll call as was agreed by the House.

[1:25 a.m.]

YEAS NAYS

Mr. Rodney MacDonald Mr. Corbett

Mr. Christie Mr. Deveaux

Mr. Baker Ms. Maureen MacDonald

Mr. Russell Mr. Dexter

Dr. Hamm Mr. Manning MacDonald

Mr. LeBlanc Mr. Downe

Mr. Muir Mr. Gaudet

[Page 6089]

Miss Purves Dr. Smith

Mr. Fage Mr. MacAskill

Mr. Balser Mr. Wilson

Mr. Parent Mr. Boudreau

Ms. McGrath Mr. Samson

Mr. Ronald Chisholm Mr. Pye

Mr. Olive Mr. Robert Chisholm

Mr. Morse

Mr. MacIsaac

Mr. DeWolfe

Mr. Dooks

Mr. Langille

Mr. Chataway

Mr. Clarke

Mr. Hendsbee

Mrs. Baillie

Mr. Carey

Mr. Morash

Mr. Chipman

Mr. Barnet

Mr. O'Donnell

Mr. Hurlburt

THE CLERK: For, 29. Against, 14.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

The House is adjourned.

[The House rose at 1:27 a.m.]

[Page 6090]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 1892

By: Mr. Mark Parent (Kings North)

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

Whereas quilting is an art with a long history incorporating practicality with beauty; and

Whereas the Annapolis Valley Branch of the Victorian Order of Nurses utilized this age-old tradition to raise funds in its 3rd Annual Quilt Auction and art sale; and

Whereas an impressive $10,000 was raised at the event held at the Kentville Fire Hall through the auction of 25 quilts as well as a variety of donated art pieces;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend the organizers of this successful silent auction as well as its donors who, through their combined efforts, have raised needed funds for a very worthwhile organization.

RESOLUTION NO. 1893

By: Mr. John Chataway (Chester-St. Margaret's)

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

Whereas the Taste of Nova Scotia Quality Food Program is an association of Nova Scotian food and beverage companies who are committed to providing the finest locally- produced products; and

Whereas Taste of Nova Scotia's Restaurant of the Year 2000 was introduced in 1999 to celebrate members' commitment to providing a quality Nova Scotia dining experience with the winner chosen from nominations by consumers from all over Canada, the United States and many parts of Europe; and

Whereas Hubbards' own Dauphinee Inn has been named the Taste of Nova Scotia's Restaurant of the Year for the year 2000 in recognition of its fine menu, excellent service and wonderful dining experience;

[Page 6091]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Rhys Harnish, owner/operator of Dauphinee Inn, and his staff on this reputable award and thank them for maintaining such high standards which reflect well on everyone along the South Shore.