The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Thur., May 3, 2001

[Page 2405]

HALIFAX, THURSDAY, MAY 3, 2001

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Second Session

12:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we begin the daily routine, I would like to advise the House that the winner of the late show is the honourable member for Cape Breton South.

Therefore be it resolved that this government is soft on tobacco smuggling which plays into the hands of the criminal element in society.

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Shelburne.

MR. CECIL O'DONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of the honourable member for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley on behalf of the people of Truro. The operative clause reads, "We, the undersigned citizens of Nova Scotia, believe deer-jacking compromises public safety and is unfair to wildlife." I have affixed my signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

2405

[Page 2406]

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I will be tabling in the House, at the conclusion of these introductory remarks, Nova Scotia's Primary and Secondary Highway Systems: 10-year Needs.

Mr. Speaker, I am tabling in the House and releasing to the public a 10 year needs assessment of Nova Scotia highways and road systems. The news is not encouraging. Nova Scotia's highways, roads and bridges will need a $3.4 billion investment over the next 10 years simply to maintain the province's transportation infrastructure at acceptable levels. Our highway infrastructure did not get this way overnight and the reality is it will takes years and these billions of dollars for us to make the improvements we need.

The Department of Transportation and Public Works is responsible for over 23,000 kilometres of roads and highways and more than 3,800 bridges. Improvement needs are clear, when the condition or operation of a highway or bridge deteriorates to a level that is considered unacceptable. This 10 year needs assessment looks at a number of program areas critical to maintaining and building a reliable highway infrastructure including our highway system expansion needs, pavement preservation, new paving requirements, and gravel road and bridge repair and rehabilitation. Mr. Speaker, the numbers are literally staggering.

Here are the pressures. There are over 600 kilometres of highway twinning, new lane and interchange construction that should be done within the next 10 years, and the cost of this is over $780 million.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order. It is very difficult to hear the honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works as he makes his statement.

MR. RUSSELL: Yes, Mr. Speaker, it is important. On our 100-Series Highways, over 1,600 kilometres, or 85 per cent of the system, will require resurfacing during that time, at a cost of $301 million. On our secondary roads, it is much more daunting; some 9,000 kilometres will require repaving at a cost of $1.13 billion.

Mr. Speaker, new paving is something we couldn't even consider these past couple of years, but that doesn't mean that the need is not there. There are some 550 kilometres of gravel-surfaced subdivision roads waiting for cost-shared paving between the province and the municipalities. Our share of this cost is $27.5 million. There are 9,600 kilometres of

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gravel road that require rehabilitation, at a cost of $300 million, over the next 10 years. Bridge repair and rehabilitation is projected to cost some $560 million.

Mr. Speaker, the pressures have compounded after years of neglect, due to underfunding. In the early 1980's, highways alone accounted for approximately 10 per cent of budgetary expenditures. In recent budgets, an expanded department has seen its budget reduced to an average of 5 per cent of total provincial spending. Through the early 1990's, we also had the benefits of cost-shared agreements with the federal government. All of those agreements have now expired.

Mr. Speaker, as time passes, the needs of aging infrastructure increases. The gap between the funding that is needed and that which will likely be available is too large to be closed over the short term. Continued low levels of funding will mean our emphasis will continue to be placed on highway system preservation, with virtually no ability to consider highway system expansion. To meet all our preservation needs and even consider minimal expansion plans, our capital budget must approach the $150 million level plus funding commitments for the rural impact mitigation fund.

Our strategy for meeting the immediate and critical demands is fourfold. First we continue to engage our federal counterparts in negotiations for a new national highways agreement. This funding will allow the province to further leverage its highway infrastructure spending to undertake more work with limited resources.

Secondly, on the provincial level we have increased spending this year reversing a downward trend in funding for roads and highways. Over the next three years, as promised by this government, we will add a further $31 million to the capital budget.

Thirdly, efficiency will continue to be sought from within the Department of Transportation and Public Works. This includes technical efficiencies found, for example, in the use of road salt, finding more efficient asphalt binder and quality control that will continue to save the department money.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is our support of the government's fiscal agenda. I believe as this government continues to make the right decisions around getting its fiscal house in order, a reduced debt and deficit will mean more financial resources for our infrastructure.

The measures we are taking will not be enough to prevent the continued deterioration of our highways and bridges, but it is a beginning. This government is committed to addressing this issue and I am personally determined to work towards meeting the needs in this 10 year assessment. This document provides us with a means to more clearly focus on what must be our funding priorities.

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We must understand that highways are a critical component of highway infrastructure, contributing to our economic and social well-being. In our recent economic growth strategy, Opportunities for Prosperity, infrastructure is identified as one of the seven strategic directions that will be used as tools to develop our economic sectors.

There are many Nova Scotians who appeal to us each day to address their road and highway infrastructure problems. Today I share with all of you the tremendous challenge we face in addressing the critical needs, in upgrading, maintaining and providing new infrastructure to meet the needs of a growing population. We must exhibit responsible strategic planning and patience as we make these decisions for the future. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Shelburne on an introduction.

MR. CECIL O'DONNELL: Mr. Speaker, in the east gallery today we have visiting with us from Shelburne, Linda Bower, Ann Harris and Denise Smith who are home support workers who work for VON Shelburne and Barrington. I would ask that they rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Welcome to the home support workers and all visitors in the gallery. We do wish that you enjoy your stay this afternoon. Another introduction with the indulgence of the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I also would like to introduce home support workers who work for the Antigonish and Area Homemakers, Lila Beshong and Martha MacIntyre. I would ask the House to wish them a warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Again, welcome to our guests.

The honourable member for Richmond on an introduction.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I also have the pleasure, in the east gallery today, we are joined by three Richmond County home support workers. They are Shannon McGrath who is the President of Local 33, Richmond County; she is also the Chairman of the Occupational Council of the Home Support Workers for the NSGEU and on the Board of Directors of the NSGEU. We also have Mary George and Connie LeBlanc who are also home support workers from Richmond which I would claim as one of the best home care support societies there is in this entire province. I would ask them to stand up and get the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

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MR. SPEAKER: Staying with introductions, the honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I also would like to welcome a couple of home support workers from Guysborough County, Carolyn Furlong and Greta Roberts are in the gallery and I would ask the House to give them a warm welcome. (Applause)

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

MR. JON CAREY: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to also introduce from the beautiful Annapolis Valley the home support workers of the VON, Ruth Meister and Audrey Power. If they would stand and be recognized. (Applause)

[12:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition on an introduction.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to introduce to the House the home support workers who work for the Dartmouth Community Homemakers, Mary-Ann Walker and Maria Thomas. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health on an introduction.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, from the Colchester County VON home support workers, who are also visiting with us, in the east gallery, Pauline Oldford and Judy Davis. I would ask the House to give them a warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture on an introduction.

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I, too, would like to recognize a home support worker from my area, West Bay Road, Inverness County, Harriet Petrie. I would ask Harriet to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

If I also might mention, Mr. Speaker, that Patricia Campbell will be joining us later as well. She is also a home support worker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance on an introduction.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I would also like to make an introduction for home support workers who work for the Yarmouth-Argyle Home Support Services who are here with us today, Pam Troop and Rachel Ouellette. I would like to offer the same courtesy of the House and welcome them here today. (Applause)

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

MR. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, it is also with great pride that I rise today to welcome members of the Cape Breton County Homemakers. In the gallery we have Emily Ervin, Vickie Mackie and Clarence Brown. I would ask them to stand and receive a welcome from the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East on an introduction.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to introduce home support workers who work for Home Support Central, serving Halifax and Hants Counties. They are Cheryl MacPherson and Kandi Laffin. I would ask the House to give them a warm welcome as well. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Are there any further introductions? No more introductions but, indeed, greetings to all visitors in the gallery this afternoon.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect in reply to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works' statement.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Firstly, Mr. Speaker, I would like to know how many moments I have to reply to this, because I have some comments to make with some substance as opposed to what we just heard.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member has approximately seven minutes.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Well, let me begin, Mr. Speaker, by saying, and members and visitors in this gallery know today that there is no such road as that in Nova Scotia. There is no such bridge in the areas that we come from, yet this glossy pamphlet and another non-announcement about nothing that is going to happen to the road system in this province over the next year.

Mr. Speaker, this was the year of the road. I want, if I may - it was announced as the year of the road by that bunch over there - quote from the Truro Daily News, with the location of Stewiacke, here is the headline, Province falling down on road repairs, April 5, 1999, by the good MLA for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. When that member sat on this side and replied in this way - and I am going to table this document for the minister. If we are going to deal with issues on roads, then let's deal with what the past has as the history of this problem.

Let's have a look. This is what that good member said at that time, "The Progressive Conservative policy on highway improvements calls for all monies generated, either through provincial gasoline taxes or registry of motor vehicle revenues, to be spent on our highway

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system." Now that's a member that I agreed with at the time. My question is where is that plan now? That is in the blue book. Where is the priority list promised in year two, the non-partisan road priority list? Nothing. That has not been forthcoming.

Instead, do you know what we heard here a few moments ago? We heard about the highway system preservation. Mr. Speaker, you preserve jams, you preserve beans. You don't preserve highways. Are we talking historical, heritage routes here? We are talking about highway improvements with highway plans; we are not talking about preserving highways. That, in my opinion, is an example of the lack of leadership on this issue, an announcement that took the time of this House - you said seven minutes - when we expect that good minister to stand in his place and fulfill some of the commitments that he made, one that we remind him of all the time.

I don't have it in my hand here, but I know that when we went through that summer election there was a plan for an immediate twinning of Highway No. 101 in that member's constituency. Now those are the types of answers that people across this province want to hear. I would like to quote the last line because the last line is the only thing worth quoting out of this non-announcement. "We must exhibit responsible strategic planning and patience as we make these decisions for the future." Patience and prayers that there is no serious accident involving a tourist bus on Highway No. 333, and prayers for good weather when the winter comes around so we don't have to blow the budget.

Is that any way to have a plan for highways in this province, Mr. Speaker? I know in your heart of hearts, like that good member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley said when he was in Opposition, we will - there is the operative word, we will - have a plan when this Progressive Conservative Party forms government. Well they are over there now. This is the year of the road. The year of the road, so what road is it? Is it the Prospect Road? The Minister of Tourism and Culture, does he have any influence in Inverness? Is it, after all, the road that is travelled up to the beautiful Highland National Park? Is that the year of the road? Is it the year of the road some of these people from Queens County have to put up with? Is it the year of the road in some of the other areas across this province? We don't know, but instead I have to reply, as I have done time and time again, to a Minister of Transportation and Public Works who stands in his place and basically says nothing, says nothing, about what the commitments were.

The tourism season is soon to be upon us. People are coming from across North America. You know, we should advertise, come to Nova Scotia and travel on the worst roads in North America, because I know, Mr. Speaker, and you know, some of the areas you are in, there is no such road as that in Timberlea-Prospect and if the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley can find a road of that calibre in his - because he was the member who stood so passionately for so many hours - and I used to willingly listen to his point of view - he used to say, there is not, I believe, a tablespoon of pavement, or was it a teaspoon of pavement?

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AN HON. MEMBER: A teaspoon.

MR. ESTABROOKS: A teaspoon of pavement. Well, Mr. Speaker, we have more excuses. We have more delays. We have no leadership. We have no strategy. We have no non-partisan plan, but I know why I am here and I am here because I am going to continue to embarrass that minister and embarrass that government, and I am here because I am going to continue to speak up about the plans that are needed for roads across this province now. Not tomorrow. Now. Thank you. (Applause)

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I would like to offer my condolences to the minister because it is quite obvious he is living in a time warp. That is essentially what this announcement is all about. I would draw to the attention of the honourable minister the fact that this report, if not a report very similar in nature, was prepared in February 1999 and on the minister's desk since that period of time. It would be quite interesting to see the difference between what is in this particular glossy report and what, in fact, was compiled back almost two years ago. So why the minister is now trying to make an announcement of something that was already dealt with is beyond my comprehension. So I do extend my sympathies to the minister on that the time warp.

Mr. Speaker, what is even more disappointing is the fact that, under this minister's watch, three major highway agreements expired. The Highway Improvement Program, better known as the HIP program, expired. Given the fact that the federal government put over $103.5 million into that program, there is still no new agreement. The Strategic Highway Improvement Program, known as the SHIP program, that expired. That was a $70 million federal government contribution. That expired under this minister's watch. Again, the Atlantic Freight Transition Program, the AFTP, another multi-year agreement with $85 million of federal money, that expired under this minister's watch.

So the question I would raise, Mr. Speaker, is what has this minister done to renew the federal-provincial highway agreements in Nova Scotia? Rather than all these non-announcements and self-gratifications, we would expect the minister to be in Ottawa negotiating on behalf of all Nova Scotians from Yarmouth to the northeastern part of Nova Scotia, Cumberland County and to Cape Breton Island. We would expect some agreements to be put in place. For two years, this government and this minister promised that these agreements would be put in place and, two years later, we have nothing but a glossy report saying what they are going to do.

Mr. Speaker, let's look at the dollar value that the minister puts before us. He would have to increase his capital budget by sixfold to even meet the capital construction objectives that are laid out in this particular plan. It is mathematically impossible, given the budgetary

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figures, unless they are planning on increasing taxes or increasing the debt. That, again, is a very misleading and misguided position that the minister has provided us here today.

Mr. Speaker, the minister indicates that we have some 23,000 kilometres of road here in Nova Scotia. Well, originally, his predecessor indicated that it was some 26,000 kilometres. What happened to the other 3,000 kilometres? Are they downloaded to the municipalities? What happened to 3,000 kilometres? He indicated that there were 3,800 bridges in Nova Scotia. I guess I am being a little bit facetious here, but, in reality, 3,799 because the bridge in North River, Church Bridge, that doesn't exist anymore. The minister is saying he has no plans whatsoever to replace that. So if he can't even replace a bridge that is in need today, how is he going to replace any of the other 3,700 plus? He just can't do it. It is very disappointing.

Mr. Speaker, I notice on Page 4 of the minister's report, he indicates some highway system expansions and he refers to Highway No. 125 in Cape Breton County. If we look at the minister's own documents, he will see that that is not the road that he is referring to. He is referring to Highway No. 104. These are his own documents. So it is quite clear that officials in his own department, and/or the minister, don't even know what they are talking about. In one report, they are saying they are going to do Highway No. 125 and in the federal-provincial agreements, they are going to do Highway No. 104. So is this political optics? Which is the number one priority for this government. This is the type of political spin doctoring that has been going on with this government and continues, as such.

Mr. Speaker, I think it would be better advised for the minister to table the priority listing that he asked all members of this Legislature to participate in and stop making a political charade out of a very serious issue. If there are number one priorities in Yarmouth, Truro, Halifax or where have you, let the minister put those documents on the table and stop playing politics like they did back in the John Buchanan days, a government to which he was part and parcel, and part and parcel for bankrupting this province. (Applause)

[12:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure this afternoon to welcome two international visitors and three other Nova Scotians. First of all, in your gallery, I believe . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruptions)

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure this afternoon to welcome some international visitors to the House, and three other people who are residents of Nova Scotia. First of all, Dr. Shaohong Jin, who is the Deputy Director of the Department of National Institute for the Control of Pharmaceutical and Biological Products in the People's Republic

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of China; Dr. Dian Cai Jiang, who is involved with management of quality control and reviewing of biological products documentation, also in the People's Republic of China; and accompanying these Chinese delegates are Mr. Stephen Sham, who has been in this House before, President and CEO of MedMira Inc.; Mr. Hermes Chan, Chief Operating Officer of MedMira Inc.; and Ms. Kathy Su, Business Development Officer for Asia, MedMira Inc. I would ask these visitors to stand and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Indeed, welcome to our guests. I would like to advise the House that the honourable member for Dartmouth East was kind enough to make my acquaintance with the guests, and I really appreciated that.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would ask that you revert to the order of business, Tabling Reports, Regulations and Other Papers.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table the Annual Report of the Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commission for the year 2000.

[MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.]

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 865

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Agricultural College will confer an honorary degree on the internationally recognized researcher in agricultural and rural geography, Michael Troughton, at its convocation tomorrow; and

[Page 2415]

Whereas Mr. Troughton is considered the father of agricultural geography in Canada; and

Whereas his work has focused on the geography of agriculture and the sustainability of rural communities;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Mr. Troughton and the Nova Scotia Agricultural College for this significant honour.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

RESOLUTION NO. 866

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

Whereas the Aquaculture Association of Canada will be holding its Annual General Meeting in Halifax, Nova Scotia between May 6th and May 9th; and

Whereas aquaculture is one of the fastest growing agri-food sectors in Canada and in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the theme for this year's meeting is, moving forward through partnerships;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the Aquaculture Association of Canada and the Aquaculture Association of Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia aquaculture industry as leaders in a food sector that is providing high-quality, sustainable fish and fish products to worldwide consumers.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 867

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

Whereas the Camp Green, CANADA campaign, was created to eliminate harmful chemicals from campground septic fields and prevent their leaching into groundwater systems; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Labour partnered with the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia and Environment Canada, Parks Canada and the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources to develop said program; and

Whereas this government is committed to protecting the province's environment through the support of innovative approaches and effective partnerships;

Therefore be it resolved that we congratulate the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia on the success of the Camp Green, CANADA pilot campaign in 2000 and on its opportunity to lead the expansion of the campaign across Canada in 2001.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 2417]

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 868

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

Whereas the University of King's College will bestow an honorary Doctor of Civil Laws degree on Terry Kelly at its convocation on May 17th; and

Whereas Mr. Kelly is being honoured for his contribution to humanity as a composer, entertainer, athlete, and motivational speaker; and

Whereas his motivational presentation "We Can Do Anything" has inspired many to overcome their handicaps;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Terry Kelly for this high honour and the University of King's College for its selection.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 48 - Entitled an Act Respecting Fair-marketing Practices in the Sale of Gasoline and Diesel Oil. (Mr. John Holm)

Bill No. 49 - Entitled an Act to Establish the Nova Scotia Energy Council. (Mr. Howard Epstein)

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

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NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 869

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

Whereas the die was cast for the Savage Liberal Government when one of Premier Savage's first decisions was to move his office to the penthouse suite of One Government Place; and

Whereas in April 2001, the Liberals moved their Party office as they proclaimed themselves to be the government in waiting; and

Whereas the Liberals moved into the penthouse floor of the Centennial Building;

Therefore be it resolved that this House welcomes the Liberal return to penthouse quarters and wishes them Savage success as they deal with Nova Scotians from their lofty heights.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 870

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

Whereas the Baddeck Gathering Ceilidhs are a popular evening tourism attraction; and

Whereas these festivals display Cape Breton fiddlers, music, song and dance; and

[Page 2419]

Whereas Manager Nancy MacLean has spent many hours of volunteer time to make this event the success it has been;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Culture and Tourism support the Baddeck Gathering Ceilidhs in their efforts to improve this tourist attraction.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester North.

RESOLUTION NO. 871

MR. WILLIAM LANGILLE: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise and present this resolution on behalf of the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the extending of the provisions of the Maritime Accord on softwood lumber has been a priority of all Atlantic Premiers since the fall of 1999; and

Whereas our softwood lumber industry in Nova Scotia and throughout Atlantic Canada has always played by the rules of free trade; and

Whereas our Premier is now in Washington to press Nova Scotia's case in the softwood lumber dispute with Canada's Ambassador to the United States, Michael Kergin and embassy officials who will be representing the country's interests in talks with the United States Department of Commerce;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House support the Premier and those who are attempting to do all they can to try to find a solution to this ongoing dispute.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 2420]

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 872

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

Whereas the Cub movement has been an important part of life for many of the youth of our province, including myself; and

Whereas 11 year old Steven Laureijs of the 1st Lourdes group of Stellarton has earned all 56 Cub badges available; and

Whereas Steven's hard work in achieving all badges should inspire other young Cubs and even older MLAs;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Steven Laureijs on earning all 56 badges available in the Cub movement.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.

RESOLUTION NO. 873

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

Whereas 10 year old singer and Glace Bay native, Aeslin Debison performed recently in Toronto; and

Whereas the rising young star was invited there by Prime Minister Jean Chretien for a $560 million announcement to boost Canada's cultural community; and

[Page 2421]

Whereas Aeslin is working on a Christmas album with Bruce Guthro;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Aeslin Debison and wish her much success.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 874

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

Whereas sport is an important part of children's development, encouraging team work, fair play and personal drive; and

Whereas community members have an essential role to play in this development, volunteering time and effort and demonstrating patience and reliability; and

Whereas Alan Jankov is one such volunteer and has been recently recognized for his 35 years of dedication to the sport of basketball in Pictou County as coach and referee;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize Alan Jankov's long-time dedication to the sport and congratulate him on his valuable participation in the lives of the youths of Pictou County.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 2422]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 875

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

Whereas earlier this week, the Cape Breton District Health Authority announced the emergency department at Northside General Hospital in North Sydney would have to close from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday to Friday because of a lack of available physicians; and

Whereas by Tuesday of this week, the Government of Nova Scotia was taking credit for resolving this conflict; and

Whereas on Wednesday, the member for Cape Breton North recognized that it was a made in Cape Breton solution to this problem;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Cape Breton District Health Authority on its recruitment efforts in spite of a lack of support from the provincial government.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 876

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

[Page 2423]

Whereas the Sydney School of Kick Boxing will host the 5th Annual Cape Breton's Night of Kick Boxing this Saturday; and

Whereas two dozen of the Maritimes' top kick boxers will take part in this event; and

Whereas every year this event attracts more fans and last year the event attracted over 800 spectators;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House extend best wishes to the competitors and the organizers for another successful competition.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

RESOLUTION NO. 877

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

Whereas the week of April 22nd to April 28th was designated Volunteer Week to honour the more than 7.5 million people across Canada who volunteer their time to help out their community; and

[12:45 p.m.]

Whereas over the years, Canso resident and RCMP member, Phil Feltmate has volunteered his time to many community organizations such as the Canso and Area Minor Hockey, the 5th Canso Scouts and the Eastern Communities Youth Association; and

Whereas in honour of his strong commitment to Canso through his volunteer activities, Mr. Feltmate was selected as Canso Volunteer of the Year;

[Page 2424]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Phil Feltmate on his selection as the Canso Volunteer of the Year and also wish him all the best as he leaves Canso to take on other duties with the RCMP.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 878

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

Whereas elected school board members are ultimately responsible to the public who elected them; and

Whereas Mike Flemming, a member of the Halifax Regional School Board, has had the courage of his convictions by speaking out about the flawed negotiation process in the labour dispute between custodians and the board; and

Whereas Mike Flemming is the school board member for Timberlea-Prospect and my school board member;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate and thank Mike Flemming for the excellent job he is doing on this issue as an elected school board member.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a couple of Noes.

[Page 2425]

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 879

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

Whereas striking Home Support Workers in Queens County earn less than their counterparts in other parts of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas these workers are a vital component of the health care delivery system on the South Shore; and

Whereas these workers are calling for Home Care Nova Scotia to establish wage parity for all home care workers in the province;

Therefore be it resolved that the Government of Nova Scotia settle this dispute by immediately implementing a system of wage parity for these striking workers.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[I hear a No.]

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 880

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

Whereas the inaugural edition of the Millstone appeared in March of this year; and

Whereas the Millstone is a community-run newspaper which will inform the citizens of Sheffield Mills of the people, places and events of their community; and

[Page 2426]

Whereas the Millstone will be provided free of charge to households in the Sheffield Mills area;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate the citizens of Sheffield Mills and wish them all the best in this worthwhile community effort.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 881

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

Whereas awareness by our young people in the accomplishments of our Armed Forces must be encouraged; and

Whereas the Royal Canadian Legion promotes such awareness by conducting a competition for school children; and

Whereas the poster entry by Ms. Katie White of Rawdon District School placed first in the Hants North Royal Canadian Legion competition, first in the provincial competition and has subsequently been forwarded to Ottawa to be judged in the Dominion Command competition, and also the poetry entry by Julie Resch placed second at the branch level;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Assembly congratulate the Royal Canadian Legion for their sponsorship of a meaningful program that will touch the hearts and minds of many Canadian children and also congratulate these two students on the excellence of their efforts, and wish Ms. White all the best for her poster in Ottawa.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 2427]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.

RESOLUTION NO. 882

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

Whereas the provincial government has in the past shown its interest in working with Stream Call Centre; and

Whereas Stream International is very interested in locating a call centre in Glace Bay; and

Whereas the people of Glace Bay are in desperate need of jobs;

Therefore be it resolved that this government recognize the economic and moral necessity of helping the people of Glace Bay.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

[Page 2428]

RESOLUTION NO. 883

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

Whereas small business and entrepreneurship plays a critical role in the development of economies right across this province; and

Whereas small business, by virtue of its very nature, develops skill sets in its employees and creates opportunities for employment and economic stimulus; and

Whereas the TPF Factory Outlet in Amherst has demonstrated leadership in marketing, staff development and sales and has recently been recognized by Star Choice for having the best growth in Atlantic Canada during 2000;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize owners Gerry and Carol Lirette and sales manager Rick Sisco on this major award and their continuing efforts to work for and within their community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 884

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

Whereas tobacco addiction is the major pediatric disease of our time with almost 200,000 youth becoming addicted each year; and

[Page 2429]

Whereas Dr. Andrew Lynk of the Canadian Pediatric Society has warned that current government initiatives are not enough to curb smoking among the almost 30 per cent of young Canadian teenagers who smoke; and

Whereas significant investment is needed to counter the combination of the tobacco industry and nicotine addiction;

Therefore be it resolved that the government should invest the $20 million in extra tax revenue from tobacco sales in the effective anti-smoking measures outlined by Dr. Lynk and other pediatricians.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 885

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

Whereas the Community Enhancement Association of Truro presented a recognition dinner for local African-Nova Scotian RCMP members on Saturday, April 28, 2000; and

Whereas the achievements of Truronians: Corporals Tom Jones and Tony Upshaw; Constables Peter Marshall, Richard Collins and Troy Maxwell; along with Constables Blair Gorman - who happens to be from Port Morien - and Milton Miller who are members of the Bible Hill detachment were celebrated; and

Whereas those recognized have served Nova Scotians with distinction and made their home communities proud;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House thank the Community Enhancement Association for organizing the celebration and congratulate those RCMP officers who were honoured for their ongoing contribution to our province.

[Page 2430]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 886

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

Whereas area residents throughout the growing constituency of Timberlea-Prospect have conscientiously collected the signatures of homeowners on petitions requesting paving; and

Whereas the residents of Fox Ridge, Ashford Crescent, Fox Hollow Drive and Magnolia Court in the community of St. Margarets Village, have submitted these petitions for attention to their roads; and

Whereas these taxpayers have agreed to pay their share of this road paving;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works state clearly for these residents when their roads will be paved.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 887

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

[Page 2431]

Whereas on Monday, April 9th, Branch 47 of the Royal Canadian Legion in Grand Anse held a dinner, medal ceremony and reception for six veterans from Richmond County who served time as peacekeepers; and

Whereas the Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medals are given to Canadians who are deployed outside Canada for a minimum of 30 days in a peacekeeping unit of the Canadian Forces, or acted in direct support of a unit; and

Whereas Joseph Mombourquette, Rick George, Kenneth Pringle, James Jackson, Bill Tanner and Jim Bowden were awarded the medals for their peacekeeping service in areas such as Cyprus, Lebanon, Egypt and Vietnam;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend their sincerest congratulations to these six gentlemen for their service to our country and for their long-awaited recognition.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

RESOLUTION NO. 888

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

Whereas Josie Franklin of Acacia Valley, Digby County, recently celebrated her 90th birthday; and

Whereas part of her birthday celebration included coasting on Shelburne Road with her family; and

Whereas she recently placed third in Rural Route Magazine's annual wood stacking competition for 2000;

[Page 2432]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House applaud the youthful spirit of this lady who demonstrates to us all that you are only as old as you let yourself be.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried. (Applause)

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 889

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

Whereas on April 23rd, the Province of Saskatchewan approved the Alzheimer's drug, Exelon, for coverage on the provincial formulary; and

Whereas now Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Saskatchewan have approved either Exelon or Aricept because of the overwhelming evidence that supports the benefits of these drugs for people living with Alzheimer's;

Whereas the province could cover the cost of providing Alzheimer's drugs if it spent more wisely by cutting back on expensive administrative salaries;

Therefore be it resolved that this government direct the provincial formulary to reconsider the evidence supporting both drugs and, at the same time, remember its promise to offer better health care services by cutting back in administrative costs.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

[Page 2433]

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 890

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

Whereas today marks the 132nd day that the health and safety of the residents of the Strait area has been compromised due to the lack of a daytime emergency physician at the Strait-Richmond Hospital; and

Whereas the Minister of Health, who has claimed they were doing their best to find a physician for the Strait-Richmond Hospital, was able to locate a doctor in Halifax to cover the emergency room of the Northside General Hospital within 48 hours; and

Whereas the member for Cape Breton North made it clear that this was a political solution for a Tory riding and the Opposition members should not expect the same treatment;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House condemn the minister and his government for reaching a new low, by playing politics with the health and safety of Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

RESOLUTION NO. 891

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

Whereas the week of April 22nd to 28th was designated Volunteer Week to honour the more than 7.5 million people across Canada who volunteer their time to help their community; and

Whereas over the years, Mulgrave resident, Kevin O'Neil, has volunteered his time to many community activities including, to mention just a few, Chairman of the Mulgrave Memorial Education School; member of the Mulgrave and Area Medical Centre; and as the town appointee to the Guysborough County Support Home Agency; and

[Page 2434]

Whereas in honour of his strong commitment to Mulgrave, through his volunteer activities, Mr. O'Neil was selected as Mulgrave Volunteer of the Year;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Kevin O'Neil on his selection as Mulgrave Volunteer of the Year, and also applaud the efforts of all who offer their time to help out their community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

RESOLUTION NO. 892

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

Whereas Nova Scotia Business Inc., a private sector led Crown Corporation focused on pursuing economic opportunities for the province, officially came into being on April 1, 2001; and

Whereas 12 outstanding business leaders from across the province were named to the corporation's board in March; and

Whereas Lois Dyer Mann, incoming President of the Metropolitan Halifax Chamber of Commerce, was quoted recently in Business Voice Magazine as saying, "the government made outstanding appointments to the volunteer Board of Directors of Nova Scotia Business Inc.";

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House acknowledge the support of the business community for these appointments to Nova Scotia Business Inc., and wish the Board of Directors well as they help build a stronger economy for Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request wavier of notice.

[Page 2435]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank.

RESOLUTION NO. 893

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

Whereas Lion Laurie Campbell of Kinsac was honoured last night in Sackville for his dedication to his community; and

[1:00 p.m.]

Whereas Lion Campbell was also honoured recently by famous television personality Red Green for his innovative use of duct tape; and

Whereas Laurie's duct tape tale highlights the annual milk carton boat race every July in First Lake;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulated Lion Laurie Campbell for his recognition by both his community and the famous Red Green, and wish him all the best in the upcoming milk carton boat race this summer on First Lake.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 2436]

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will run until 2:01 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HEALTH - HOME SUPPORT WORKERS (QUEENS):

STRIKE - NEGOTIATIONS CONTINUE

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, on April 20th, Queens home support workers went on strike because of unresolved bargaining issues. Since then there have been no new talks. Today these support workers have come to this Legislature, asking this government to help settle the 12 day old strike. These workers are asking for wage parity with home support workers in other counties. My question for the Minister of Health is, will you order your negotiators to return to the bargaining table so that the people in Queens will have the services that they need?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member that the home support workers in Queens, like other home support workers across this province, do valuable work in the health care system. I think all of us who know what they do do appreciate it, however, the fact remains that they are employed by, I believe, the Queens Home Care Society. The negotiations are between them, and I would encourage both sides to get back to the table and settle this.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, these workers are not asking for unrealistic wages. They seek a modest wage that is standard across the province. They are also unhappy with the present increment system. Increments result in an even greater inequity and encourage employers to give assignments to more junior and, therefore, lower-paid workers instead of those with the most seniority. My question for the minister is, do you not agree that these workers deserve a fair and equitable wage?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the position of this government is that all those who are health care workers deserve a fair wage. That is why there is a collective bargaining process. They are engaged in that, and I am confident that if they get back to the table, a fair and reasonable settlement can be worked out that everybody can afford.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, by not ensuring that the bargaining resumes, this minister is failing the home care workers in this province. By not acting immediately, this minister is also failing all those people in this province who rely on the services of home care workers. What possible reason could the minister have to keep from ordering his negotiators

[Page 2437]

back to the table, so that the people in Queens County won't be left without critical home care services?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the negotiations are going on between, I believe it is, CNSAHO along with CUPE. They have to get back to the table to solve this. It is interesting that, as I understand, some substantial wage increases have been promised. A similar settlement was also accepted by the workers in Lunenburg County.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - HOME SUPPORT WORKERS:

WAGE PARITY - LACK EXPLAIN

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, our striking home support workers in Queens County earn less than their counterparts in other areas of this province. Our Liberal Government created wage parity for home care workers, and was urged to do so by the Tory Opposition at that time. My question to the minister is simple, why did this minister not budget to establish wage parity across the province for home support workers?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I believe the honourable member would know there are about 70 different groups of home care workers and individual bargaining agents. One of the things that we have been trying to wrestle with since we came in, and undoubtedly the honourable member did ahead of us when he was in this position, is that one of the things we have with the health care workers across the province, is a mish-mash. We are trying to get some consistency in the system. The honourable Minister of Community Services will tell you the same thing, with his things. The position of the government is that they had asked for parity of personal care workers, and the government is striving to encourage the bargaining agents to get there.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is simply, will the minister now commit to mandating Home Care Nova Scotia to settle the current dispute in Queens County? The minister can do that.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, it is not Home Care Nova Scotia, it is the Queens County Home Support Society - or an agency which has a name very similar to that - that is in negotiations with the workers. It is not Home Care Nova Scotia.

DR. SMITH: The minister himself continues to speak about continuum of care in health care and that is what we are talking about and we are talking about the minister's ability to mandate. My final supplementary to the minister, Mr. Speaker, will the minister commit today to mandating Home Care Nova Scotia to establish wage parity for all home support workers in Nova Scotia?

[Page 2438]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, there have been different agreements right across the province. I guess the inconsistency has been narrowed considerably in the past few years and we hope that it will continue to narrow. Clearly, the people in Queens County are at the bargaining table. We have a great deal of faith in the collective bargaining process and I am optimistic that they will come to a successful agreement in the very near future.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HEALTH - HOME CARE PROG.: AVAILABILITY - ENSURE

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, every day we hear stories of seniors unable to manage in their homes without home care support that simply isn't available. Every day we hear about people who are sick or disabled and who need home support programs when all this government can offer is a spot at the bottom of the waiting list. By not putting adequate funds into home care and assuring that those funds go to front-line workers, this minister is failing people in real need of these services. My question for the Minister of Health is, when will you stop failing Nova Scotians and ensure the Home Care Program is available to those who need it?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, this government added more money this year in the budget for long-term care and for home care. One of the difficulties in the province right now is trying to ensure that the supply of home care workers meets the demand, and I can tell you that we are actively involved in a process that will see the numbers increased.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, front-line health care workers in hospitals and nursing homes have wage parity in this province. The government has agreed that wage parity is not only reasonable, but fair, yet home care workers in this province do not have wage parity. Home care workers earn from $7.14 an hour to $12 an hour. The wage system is dysfunctional. My question to the minister is, will you take immediate action to begin negotiations with home care workers across the province for fair and equitable wage parity?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, there are certain home care workers who are more or less directly employed by the province and there are a lot of home care workers who are not directly employed by the province. In the case of the Queens group, they are not directly employed by the province. The way that these matters are going to be settled is at the bargaining table. I would encourage all members of this House to encourage both sides to get back to the table, get this matter straightened out, and get those people back to work.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, by failing the home care workers in this province, the minister is failing seniors, failing the disabled, failing the sick, and failing their families. When it comes to home care in this province, the minister gets a failing grade. My question for the minister is, when will you stop failing those who work in home care and those who

[Page 2439]

need home care by funding it adequately, allocating funds to front-line workers, and giving wage parity to home care workers?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, there are a number of individual locals that are involved in collective bargaining, or will be involved in collective bargaining, in a short period of time.

We have increased the money this year substantially for long-term care and for home care. We hope that the sides will sit down and work out an agreement. We want all of our health care workers to have fair wage settlements. We also wish to have a health care system that is sustainable and if it is sustainable, it has to be affordable so we have to employ some rationality in this.

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

HEALTH CARE - SYSTEM: WAGE PARITY - MIN. COMMIT

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, maybe if we continue with this, we might eventually get somewhere with this minister. My question is to the Minister of Health. Mr. Minister, the issue of wage parity with health care workers, and in particular home support workers, was one this government praised when the Liberal Government started the process. These workers, on a daily basis, deal with clients who would otherwise be in the acute care setting. Even with pay increases, for the amount and the type of work that these people do, it is a bargain for the system. My question to the minister is, why won't the minister commit to managing the health care system by allowing for wage parity?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, this government is managing the health care system and I want to tell you, the health care system is being managed better now than at any time in the past seven years.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, what is happening in the health care system is it is deteriorating rapidly under this minister. That is what is happening in the health care system, including treatment for these workers who are here today. The minister just doesn't get it. He doesn't understand that home support workers save the system money and they should be rewarded for that, not penalized. They should be paid what they deserve. My supplementary question to the minister is, why won't the minister do the honourable thing and commit to implement wage parity for home support workers across this province?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member would know, across this province there are about 70 different locals or groups of people, employers for home support workers. (Interruptions) Well, it is 70 and what I want to tell the honourable member is that there were substantial differences, or at least some differences across the province. I don't know the extremity but I want to tell you that the issue of bringing the wage closer and also along closer to that of personal care workers is moving ahead and it will be settled at the table. That is where it has to be settled.

[Page 2440]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, repetition and platitudes are this minister's strong suit. Competence in running the health care system in this province is certainly not anywhere light-years close to being his strong suit. In the gallery today are home support workers, representatives from almost every riding in this province. They are our neighbours, they are our friends. (Interruption) They are important caregivers in this province and I want to ask this minister in my final supplementary, is the minister honestly saying here today that he is rejecting the demands of these workers?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, at present the government is not in negotiations with the home support workers in Queens County. There is an agency down there that is and the way they are going to solve that is to get back to the table. I will tell the honourable member what I did do earlier today in meeting with some of the home care workers who did visit Province House is that we are currently putting together a group that is going to take a look at the whole system of provision of health human resources here in Nova Scotia. I invited them to have their organization write me a letter and we would see that they could sit down and talk about their concerns. Now we will do that.

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - WHITNEY PIER:

RELOCATION - GOV'T. (N.S.) INVOLVEMENT

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, this government continually attacks the economically deprived. It finally appears that someone is listening to the people of Whitney Pier. It is not the provincial government though, it is the federal government who are taking action and moving 70 families who live in the toxic cesspool. This provincial government said there was no danger to the people's health.

[1:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Who is the honourable member directing his question to?

MR. CORBETT: The Minister of Transportation and Public Works. I was getting there. Health Canada does feel there is a risk. Health Canada is so concerned, it is now taking measures to get residents away from that health hazard. I want to ask the Minister of Transportation and Public Works what involvement his provincial government has in this move, and how much money are you contributing to it?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, as I have told the honourable member opposite, it isn't the government that is determining the future of the residents in that area. It is the federal health authority and the provincial health authority who have agreed that there is no immediate health risk. As a result of that, we accumulated data, and that data has

[Page 2441]

gone to a gentleman who is world-renowned, to do an analysis, and he will be reporting back to the provincial health authorities within about two weeks' time. Yesterday, Mr. Rock made a statement; I have not had any discussions with Mr. Rock himself. In fact, the only thing that I have heard is what I have heard on the radio with regard to Mr. Rock's intentions.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, it says a lot about this government. Either the feds are ignoring them or they just don't care about the people of Whitney Pier. He couldn't be bothered to make one phone call. This government has failed these people significantly. Sydney has one of the highest rates of cancer, birth defects, miscarriages, and residents are likely to die 10 years earlier than anybody else in this province. Despite this, this government continues to fail these very residents that they are sworn to protect. I want to ask the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, how long will residents be moved, if they are moved, and is this permanent or part-time; which one will it be?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is talking about health problems, and I would like to refer the question to the Minister of Health, who was speaking, I believe, to Mr. Rock.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, I will tell you that I did speak with the federal Health Minister last night. I will also tell you that, to be quite frank, we learned about this announcement very late yesterday afternoon. This morning, our officials - a representative of the Department of Transportation and Public Works, the deputy minister there, as well as the deputy minister from the Department of Health - did meet with two federal representatives. We are still trying to ascertain exactly what Mr. Rock's announcement meant.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, this comedy of errors would be laughable if people's health wasn't at risk. This government, if it is not hiding behind the JAG process, it is hiding behind some airy-fairy study. We need some straight talk here. The Minister of Transportation and Public Works doesn't know what is going on; he says he is out of the loop. You say his deputy was speaking to them. I wonder if the minister will finally admit he was wrong all along. Will the minister admit that he failed to act appropriately when he received the test results showing 60 times the acceptable levels of arsenic present in that area? Will you now say that you were wrong and that you will move those people today?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, Dr. Lewis is a world-renowned expert, and I would take his decision any day in comparison to the opinions forthcoming from the member for Cape Breton Centre.

[Page 2442]

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

ENVIRON. & LBR. - OLD GUYSBOROUGH RD. LANDFILL:

NON-COMPLIANCE - MIN. AWARENESS

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, this is clear, fresh water. This is water that is coming out of a brook going into Buckley Lake, out off the Old Guysborough Road. (Interruptions) Due to the fact that the Minister of Environment and Labour refuses to do his job. Yesterday, the Minister of Environment and Labour revealed that he had knowledge with the construction and demolition debris landfill on the Old Guysborough Road that the contractor in charge was not in compliance with the permits. My question to the minister is, how long has he been aware that the facility has not been in compliance with environmental laws?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I just want to clarify something here. There are a couple of abandoned quarries there that were acidifying the water table. As a result of that, this is a process to try to address that problem. At the end of the day, we hope that, given that we have a lot of those circumstances here in the province, that we will develop new techniques that are not offensive to the neighbours and will solve the problem with the acidification.

MR. MACKINNON: That is the most pathetic answer I have ever heard from a minister in this House. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, the people off Old Guysborough Road deserve better than that. What has the Minister of Environment and Labour done since yesterday to ensure the protection of the environment, particularly the water courses which lead to Buckley Lake?

MR. MORSE: I want to thank the member opposite for his question and I would say personally, it is very rare for the Minister of Environment to go out and take a shovel and do anything to change the flow of the water coming out of any particular site, but I would say that the operator of these two sites has formed a berm which is directing the water into an appropriate place so that it will not be flowing out into the water courses.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, it doesn't look like the berm is working very well because that water is polluted. That water is polluted and the minister is doing nothing about it.

[Page 2443]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Perhaps the honourable member would realize that - well, he did try to table it yesterday - the honourable member should realize that props are not permitted in the Legislature. I understand the point he is trying to make, however, I would ask the honourable member if he would please refrain from using props.

MR. MACKINNON: This here?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member on his final supplementary.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I would dare say the minister wouldn't go out and try and drink anything out of that brook. My question to the minister is, why (Interruptions) . . . maybe he did drink it. Maybe that is why we are not getting answers. Why is the minister hesitating to use the full weight of the Environment Act to enforce the law and protect the environment off the Old Guysborough Road in Halifax County?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member opposite for giving me the opportunity to perhaps explain the purpose of a ministerial order which I think is what he is talking about. A ministerial order is a mechanism that we can use to encourage operators that are perhaps not complying with the regulations. In this case, I am pleased to say that the operator is working to address the problem and we are pleased with the efforts on behalf of that company.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

EDUC. - HFX. REG. SCH. BD.: SCHOOLS - CONDITIONS REMEDY

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Nova Scotia Teachers Union has found some horrible conditions in local schools. Like a water fountain left soiled and unusable for an entire day, toilets that don't work, serious air quality issues and unsanitary conditions in cafeterias.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Honourable members, it is quite difficult to hear the honourable Leader of the Opposition as he is trying to place his question.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the minister has said that no unsafe or unhealthy situations - and I will table her comments if she forgets them - have been discovered. If an extra epidemic of head lice, scabies, pink eye and strep throat doesn't qualify as unhealthy, then what does? If conditions like these are acceptable to the school board, then it is time for the minister to intervene. So I am asking the Minister of Health - she can't deny the problem anymore - what will the minister do today to fix the dirty schools and unsafe conditions in our schools?

[Page 2444]

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, first I must emphasize that the schools are being cleaned, that workers are going in every night and cleaning the schools. Secondly, my advice on health and safety in schools is being taken from the public health officer, not from the NSTU.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, we have listened to the minister tell us over and over again that the responsibility for fixing these problems lies with health inspectors and school boards and not with her, but this is simply passing the buck. This minister is implicated in every stage of this crisis. She set the Education budget; she gave the school boards the spending priorities; she failed to help settle the strike. So she is responsible when teachers give 45 out of 89 schools a failing grade in cleanliness. So I want to know, will the minister admit she has failed students and teachers by not providing clean schools?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the schools are being cleaned by replacement workers. They are not as clean as they would be if the janitorial staff were there.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the issue here is very simple. The condition in many schools has drastically deteriorated since the strike began. If the strike ends, the conditions improve. Parents, students, and teachers are calling on the minister to act now. When will the minister order the school board back to the bargaining table and settle this strike once and for all?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I have said all along that I wish the two sides would get back the bargaining table; that is the best solution for all. Meanwhile, the schools are safe and clean until I am told by the health inspectors that they are not.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Liberal House Leader.

PETROLEUM DIRECTORATE - SABLE TIER II:

N.S. CONTENT - ENSURE

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate. It was reported in the local media that the Premier pressed officials from Exxon Mobil and Shell for greater Nova Scotia content in the Sable Tier II Project. The reports also indicate that the Premier failed in his attempts to get anywhere, which surprised no one in Nova Scotia given the Premier's negotiating track record so far since he became Premier. My question to the minister is, what is the minister doing to ensure greater Nova Scotia content for Sable Tier II?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, we met with officials of Exxon Mobil and discussed the opportunity to have a greater portion of the work coming to Nova Scotians. They recognized that Tier I had been a learning experience, demonstrating that Nova Scotians do have those abilities. I would remind the member opposite that the engineering

[Page 2445]

for Sable Tier II is, in fact, being done through a joint venture that involves Nova Scotia firms.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, again, the Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate gives a non-answer to that question. He talks about Tier I being a learning experience. We are more interested in what is going to happen in the future regarding Nova Scotia jobs and Nova Scotia content. More alarming than the failure of the Premier to win greater concessions for Sable Tier II, the Premier also mused that an undersea pipeline was in the works to bypass Nova Scotia altogether. This will mean no petrochemical industry or any industry related to natural gas on land in Nova Scotia. My supplementary question to the minister is, will the minister force oil companies to transport all natural gas through Nova Scotia rather than bypassing it altogether?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, while we are all very anxious to have the industry develop as quickly as possible, there is not the proven reserves at this point that justify a second pipeline. Certainly, we have had discussions in a conceptual phase around what kinds of proposals pipeline companies would be looking at. Some include landfalls in various locations in Nova Scotia; some include direct to market pipelines and, certainly, as a government, we encourage the pipelines to land in Nova Scotia to ensure maximum benefits.

[1:30 p.m.]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that this minister, once again, is dealing with double-talk and not standing up for the rights of Nova Scotians in the future regarding the offshore. On April 4th, I brought up the issue of PanCanadian proposing to do all its processing offshore. It is becoming apparent that the Premier is being treated like a country bumpkin by the oil companies. When will this minister stand up for Nova Scotia, instead of giving away our energy future when will you stand up for Nova Scotia?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I remind the members opposite that we just returned from an oil trade show mission in Houston that involved some 40 companies and allowed members of the Opposition Party to participate to ensure that the industry realizes that it is a non-partisan agenda.

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

PETROLEUM DIRECTORATE - LAURENTIAN SUB-BASIN:

TRIBUNAL - EXPECTATIONS EXPLAIN

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is also to the Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate. Media reports are saying that the Premier is now indicating that we are going to lose round one of the Laurentian Sub-basin. The Premier, after weeks of pounding his chest and strutting his stuff, he was trying to be Nova Scotia's offshore gas

[Page 2446]

hero, now is backtracking. Only yesterday in the U.S., from a far distance, the Premier changed his tune saying, it looks like Newfoundland will win round one. That means a loss for Cape Breton, since the Laurentian Sub-basin represents a huge economic potential for the Island. I want to ask the minister quite simply this, why are you and your government saying we are going to lose at the tribunal before it even has presented its final decision?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Nova Scotia's position with regard to the Laurentian Sub-basis dispute has been consistent throughout this; that is the line is a line. The determination of what happens next lies with the tribunal. We expect their decision in a matter of weeks.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, he is not listening to his own Leader. It is his Leader who is telling people that they will probably lose round one. The Premier has been going to great lengths to put on a public show. He wants to look like he is the Premier who is bringing natural gas to Cape Breton, and all he is bringing is hot air. He is all talk and no action, because we sure aren't seeing any benefits in Cape Breton. Now, without presenting any new information, the Premier is suddenly bracing us for the worse without waiting for the tribunal's ruling. So I want to ask the minister, has he known all along that Nova Scotia had a weak case and that the government themselves have been putting on a phony show of support anyway?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, the Nova Scotia position was put forward as forcefully as possible. We hired the leading experts in the world in terms of pipeline and jurisdictional disputes of an international nature. So, Nova Scotia has approached this putting every bit of effort forward to win the case. As I say, the decision at this point lies with the tribunal and I would hate to be premature and anticipate what they are going to decide.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I want to make sure that the minister hears this. These aren't my words, these are the words of his Premier who is saying that they are probably going to lose, and brace yourself for that. I want to know why he has been wasting his time pretending to fight the good fight when he is telling people he is going to lose? This is what he is telling. So I then want to ask the minister responsible, if Nova Scotia loses this boundary dispute, will you commit to strict measures to guarantee offshore benefits in Cape Breton from the offshore gas Nova Scotia does control? Will you give us that, Mr. Minister?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, there is a process in place and being undertaken now to determine where the line will exist. Our position has been consistent and will continue to be consistent. That is the line is a line and, in the event that the arbitration panel makes a decision by May that flies in the face of that view, there is another step to the process. So it is premature at this point in time to say that anyone has lost anything.

[Page 2447]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

FIN. - CAN. TAXPAYERS FED.:

INCOME TAX - INCREASE ADMIT

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Finance. Last week I released information from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation which indicated that Nova Scotians are on the hook for an additional $12 million in income taxes because of partial indexation. My question to the minister is, will the minister admit that this represents an income tax increase or tax grab from Nova Scotia families?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, no.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, this minister is burying his head in the sand and the bottom line is he is misleading Nova Scotians by that answer. He is increasing taxes in Nova Scotia, as I speak. Before the 2000 budget of Paul Martin, the province could not change the indexation of the brackets and now they can. Now is the minister's opportunity to make a difference. Now that the minister has greater control over the system, will the minister now commit to freezing the current tax levels?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, when we took over the finances of this province from the previous administration, we were faced with a $500 million deficit. We told Nova Scotians when they would get tax relief and that would be in year four. We said what we would do and we will do it.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, he didn't answer the question because he knows he is misleading Nova Scotians by the fact that he is doing a tax grab out of the pockets of Nova Scotians. The minister maybe doesn't understand. I am not talking about a tax cut. I am not talking about a tax increase. I am talking about a tax freeze - freezing the tax levels in Nova Scotia so he doesn't go in their back pockets and rob another $12 million out of the working Nova Scotians. My question to the minister is, if he won't commit for this year, will he commit for next year to stop the increased taxation on Nova Scotians by freezing indexation for next year?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, if he is saying that I am misleading Nova Scotians, I didn't stand up in my place and tell them that I had a surplus of $1.5 million when I didn't. So if you want to talk about misleading, he is talking to the wrong individual. We told people when they would have tax relief and that is in year four. We will do what we said we would do.

[Page 2448]

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

FIN. - UNEMPLOYMENT LEVELS:

NORTHERN REGION - MIN. AWARENESS

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, unemployment in northern Nova Scotia is quickly on the rise. It has risen significantly in the last year. HRDC just reported that there are 3,000 more people unemployed in northern Nova Scotia than there was last March. I want to ask the Minister of Finance, is he aware of these significant increases, 3,000 more people unemployed in northern Nova Scotia?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, obviously, within Nova Scotia, we do have two types of economies. I think anyone who doesn't believe that the metropolitan area is doing better than the other ones obviously has not travelled this province. We agree that there is work to be done in parts of Nova Scotia and our government is committed to making Nova Scotia better for all its people, whether they are here in the Halifax region or whether they are in Cape Breton or whether they are in my constituency, down in Yarmouth County.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, the latest federal labour market brief says, that the northern region has experienced significant employment declines. Unemployment in Nova Scotia has increased 1.4 per cent. That is the largest month to month increase since 1989, the last time this province had a recession. So my question to the Minister of Finance is, what steps is he taking to address this very serious threat to Nova Scotia's economy?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, our government has put in place an economic strategy, a growth strategy, by my colleague, the Minister of Economic Development. I point to some of the initiatives that we have taken in Cape Breton with regard to the call centre, which was a good announcement; there was one a few weeks ago in the member for Cape Breton North's area and here today we also had the member for Cape Breton East asking us to support a call centre there. When there are opportunities to develop employment, we will take action.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance is trying to tell us that some parts of the province aren't doing as well as others. He says metro is doing well. Let's be clear about the most recent statistics from Statistics Canada. The South Shore has had a 2 per cent increase in unemployment over the last few months and, in metro, 2,000 more people were unemployed in March than were in February. The unemployment rate in Nova Scotia is nearing 11 per cent. I want to ask the Minister the Finance, once again, will he admit that there is a serious economic problem in Nova Scotia, and what will he do to reverse that trend quickly?

[Page 2449]

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, one thing that we will not do is what the NDP would do, because for them governments are supposed to do everything. I believe in the private sector of this province. They are the people who will put their money up at risk, and they will produce the jobs. That is why the economy has grown in Nova Scotia, and that is something that the NDP doesn't agree with. They believe that governments should do everything. That is not my philosophy; that is not the philosophy of our government. People will see that it works. The private sector will make those jobs.

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

SERV. N.S. & MUN. REL.: MUN. TRANSIT (ACCESSIBLE) -

FUNDING ADEQUACY

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations announced $50,000 capital funding to increase municipal transit service for people with disabilities and seniors. We agree with the principle, but it is simply not enough money. A single Access-A-Bus costs $100,000, twice the amount (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, honourable members. I can hardly hear the member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

MR. BOUDREAU: A single Access-A-Bus costs approximately $100,000, twice the amount the minister announced. A single taxi vehicle, modified to transport disabled clients, costs $50,000. My question for the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations is, can he explain how providing one modified taxi vehicle will increase employment opportunities for the one out of every five Nova Scotians who have a disability?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for the question because while he does point out the $50,000 that would be made available to community groups, municipal units to assist them in doing rehabilitation of vehicles or reconfiguration of vehicles, that money will allow for vehicles to be altered. I looked at one yesterday that was done at a much cheaper cost than he indicated. What the honourable member is missing is that he is failing to indicate that there is an additional $500,000 available for people throughout the province to put together programs to assist in accessible transportation throughout this province. That is going to make a tremendous difference, and provide transportation to all classes of people in this province.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, this amount will not really increase the ability of Nova Scotians with disabilities to get to work. This government is obviously out of contact with the 21.4 per cent of our population who have disabilities. I would like to ask the Minister of Community Services, what is this government's plan to truly increase employment and other opportunities for disabled Nova Scotians?

[Page 2450]

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I guess the question was, what is our plan to increase employment. Our plan is to train people, to get them the chance to provide the background and the education they need to be able to go find the employment they need. That is our plan.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, after all that, they still won't be able to get to work, sir. My question to the Acting Premier is, when will this government stop throwing scraps to disabled Nova Scotians, and take action to ensure their equality and full participation in the economic life of Nova Scotia?

AN HON. MEMBER: He is going to build them new roads.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, that is not a bad idea. This government is committed to employment opportunities for the disabled; we are committed to providing efficient and effective, and I mean cost-effective, transportation for the disabled community. That is, quite frankly, just the opposite perhaps of what has occurred in the past.

[1:45 p.m.]

MR SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

ECON. DEV. - PANCAN.:

PIPELINE (N.S.-NEW ENGLAND) - N.S. BENEFIT GUARANTEE

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you, sir, to the Minister of Economic Development. The minister, of course, knows that PanCanadian is considering building an offshore pipeline to deliver our natural gas to Boston and New York. The minister also knows that Nova Scotians are supposed to be the primary benefactor of the development of our offshore resources. He also knows that the Liberals failed to get a fair share of benefits from Sable Phase 1. So I want to ask the minister this question - it is a very simple question - are you prepared to tell PanCanadian that they cannot build their pipeline to New England to transport our natural gas unless you can get a guarantee that Nova Scotians will be the primary benefactor in terms of jobs in that project?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the question and I am sure that he enjoyed the opportunity to see first-hand in Houston exactly what the oil industry can do for Nova Scotia. Certainly we are anxious to make sure that we support the maximum benefits to Nova Scotia but at the same time make it possible for those companies to do business in the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for his answer because it was the clearest answer that I have ever heard him give and the answer was no, he is not prepared to do that.

[Page 2451]

My next question, Mr. Speaker, through you, the minister, I am sure, would agree that the development of an onshore petrochemical industry is one of the major long-term benefits Nova Scotians can expect or should expect that they will gain from offshore gas resources but in order to develop a petrochemical industry here in Nova Scotia, we must reach a critical mass of gas that comes ashore and, as yet, we supposedly have not reached that. So I want to ask the minister a very simple question, what are you prepared to do to protect the Nova Scotia petrochemical industry? Are you prepared to guarantee that the gas and its liquids will not be shipped directly to the U.S. but that it will be available here in Nova Scotia for the development of the much promised but long delayed development of a petrochemical industry?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I would remind the member opposite that regulations that are in place ensure that Nova Scotia will have opportunity to develop the liquids that come with the gas. The difficulty right now is that PanCanadian gas does not have a significant amount of liquids so even if that gas does wind up in Goldboro, it may not be the critical mass that needed to support a petrochemical industry.

MR. HOLM: And if you keep allowing it to be diverted, we are never going to reach that critical mass, Mr. Speaker, and we know that we are almost there right now so very little more is needed, especially when you hit the second phase of Sable. We also know that PanCanadian is contemplating processing the natural gas offshore because of the high sulphur content. I want to ask the minister this question. Are you prepared to demand that that not happen but instead that the gas be processed onshore unless you get a guarantee that the jobs in that processing will go to Nova Scotians?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, at this point PanCanadian has not come forward with their final business plan. They are preparing options and looking at the business case to support each of those options. The gas that PanCanadian will be bringing ashore does have sulphur. They have to look at what is the most cost-effective means of dealing with that problem. It is quite possible that the extraction will occur onshore. It is possible that they may look at removing the sulphur offshore. It is a question of what makes business sense.

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

HEALTH - RECOVERY HOUSE:

STAFF (POLITICAL) - APPROPRIATENESS

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is about a response we got in Question Period yesterday. When asking the Minister of Health about the involvement of Tory hack Cyril Reddy and the future of Recovery House in Antigonish, the minister indicated that while Mr. Reddy was not negotiating on behalf of the Department of Health, he was working on a business plan for Recovery House. My question to the Acting Premier,

[Page 2452]

does he not have a problem with political staff being paid with taxpayers' dollars to work for a client of the Department of Health?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: As I understand the matter, Mr. Reddy was working on his own time, but I would refer the question to the Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: I will repeat what I said yesterday. Certainly Mr. Reddy's involvement was not as an agent of the Department of Health, but I have been informed that he did meet with some of the officials from Recovery House as a private citizen, as the honourable minister has, and helped them prepare a business plan, which is pretty generous use of his time.

MR. WILSON: I have been asking about this question. They are blaming it on anything and everybody; the only thing they haven't blamed yet is unusual sunspot activity. The Minister of Health has countless staff people over there around him. You pay Cyril Reddy $41,000 a year, and you say he is working on his own time. My question, again, with all the staff floating around the Minister of Health these days, could that minister please indicate why a Tory crony from Truro is working with his department's clients rather than his department's staff?

MR. MUIR: I can say that we were not approached by Recovery House for help in business planning. I should also inform the honourable member that I believe Mr. Reddy's place of residence is New Glasgow, and he should also know that the chairman of Recovery House is the Mayor of Stellarton; therefore they are probably neighbours and know each other personally and his personal involvement makes a lot of sense. This is the International Year of Volunteers, something that bunch would know nothing about.

MR. WILSON: The minister knows full well that the Tory caucus office pays Cyril Reddy $41,000 a year. Never mind who he hangs around or lives by. The Health Minister didn't know the other day that he was even doing any liaison work with Recovery House. What we have here is a little more than a failure to communicate, let me tell you.

This is the same government that so far has taken $3.8 million from the Sydney Casino profits from charities in this province. Can the Minister of Health stand in this House right now and honestly say that the monies from the Sydney Casino, that would have benefitted organizations like Recovery House, would they have not been better used there? I am asking the minister.

MR. MUIR: Recovery House has performed a valuable service for some years. They did run into some difficulties this year and needed some help. As the honourable members would know, the addiction services have been devolved to the district health authorities and they were asked (Interruptions) to go to the district health authorities to make their case to them and that is what . . .

[Page 2453]

MR. SPEAKER: Order. Honourable members, I absolutely can't hear the Minister of Health and his response. (Interruptions) Well, if you ask a question you probably would like to hear the answer. You may not necessarily agree with it, but I would think you would want to hear it. I would like to hear it too.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HEALTH - RECOVERY HOUSE: CLOSURE - AVERT

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, Recovery House in Antigonish has locked its doors and laid off its staff. Closed because this government is failing those people who either depend on or work at Recovery House. People from seven different counties line up for the programs provided by Recovery House, but now they have been turned away. Recovery House receives ongoing grants from the province, but more than 55 per cent of their funding comes from other sources. Recovery House has been successful in reaching out into the community for financial support and now they are a victim of their success.

In light of the large tax revenue provided through the sale of alcohol and the operation of legalized gambling, and in light of the record of community fundraising success for Recovery House, why is the Minister of Health failing to find a way to keep this valuable resource open?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, Recovery House operates in Antigonish, and as the honourable member probably knows or perhaps doesn't know, that in addition to a grant from the district health authority down there, it gets substantial contribution in kind in terms of their facility is located on the campus, I guess we would say, of the hospital.

Mr. Speaker, Recovery House was requested to approach the district health authority, present a business plan to it. My understanding is that they were in the process of that, the board of directors made the decision to stop the process. I am not entirely sure why.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the minister is right about this. In support of Recovery House, St. Martha's Regional Hospital in Antigonish is doing its part by providing free rent and subsidizing clients' meals. Many companies such as Pictou County's Kimberly-Clark and their employees are doing their part by making financial donations. But a great facility, providing a needed service is closed. Why does this government and the Department of Health not have any faith in the services provided by Recovery House?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, Recovery House has served this province for quite some number of years and, actually, I have visited that, along with a number of my colleagues here a couple of years ago. Like every other organization that operates, addiction services has devolved, to get their funding they are required to work through the district health authority. That's the route that they should be going. My understanding is, that was what - in specific,

[Page 2454]

going back to a question - that is what Mr. Reddy was helping them do, make that presentation.

MR. DEXTER: Well, Mr. Speaker, if this government had faith in Recovery House it would immediately provide an emergency transfusion. Such a course of action would allow the staff and supporters of Recovery House to continue to fund raise. Why does the minister fail to realize that a locked facility is hamstrung when it comes to community fundraising?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, there are a number of organizations in the province that do very good work and also look to the community for support. Indeed, we have a number of them here in the metro area and I expect the good member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour probably supports some of them. The fact is, that for the ongoing operational costs of that, the money is funnelled through the district health authority and they should make their approach to them.

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

ENVIRON. & LBR. - HFX. REG. SCH. BD.:

NEGOTIATION IRREGULARITIES - LBR. RELATIONS BD. INVESTIGATE

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, allegations were made in this House yesterday to the effect that the Halifax Regional School Board is bargaining in bad faith. My question to the Minister of Environment and Labour is, will you direct Labour Relations Board staff to immediately investigate allegations of bad-faith bargaining by the Halifax Regional School Board?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for that question. As a former Minister of Labour he would probably be aware that there is a process in place and, normally, one would expect a request to come from one of the parties to the minister before it would undertake that type of decision.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I believe that the janitor at the Terminal Building would be more effective than that minister on this particular issue. (Interruptions) Well, the minister has refused to answer some vital questions regarding the health and safety of the children of the Halifax Regional School Board. That's the problem with this. It's deplorable. (Interruption) You have been so effective with the home care workers, now haven't you? What steps has the Minister of Environment and Labour taken to explore the possibility of conciliation or other intervention to assist the sides in this labour dispute in resolving their differences?

[Page 2455]

[2:00 p.m.]

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I am glad the member asked that question, it may explain some of the questions he has asked previous to this. The member will be pleased to hear that a conciliator has been on the scene for quite some time, and will continue to be there as the sides request that type of assistance.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, that is what I wanted the minister to say. The reason why is because, obviously, the process - he seems to give some indication he knows the process - is not working. Will he appoint an arbitrator, and bring a closure to this strike?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, as soon as both sides request me to appoint an arbitrator, I would be happy to do so.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The concludes the Oral Question Period for today and this week.

The honourable member for Queens.

MR. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce to you, and to all members of this House, a group of very dedicated home support workers from Queens County, who are in the gallery above me. They are here today to exercise their democratic right to protest at this House during their legal strike, which is in its 13th day. They are: Vickie Conrad, Kathy Whynot, Sheila Munroe, Arlene Wolfe, Brenda Dexter, Ann Williams, Marie Zwicker, Geraldine Whynot, Dale Wentzell, Linda Leslie, Michelle Vienneau, Anne Buchanan, Joyce Parks, Karen Cook, Susan McNutt, Debbie Boudreau, Fawn Smith, Susan Whynot, Bonnie Wentzell, Karen Johnson, Lena Herman, Linda Huss, Julie Labrador, Jackie Mahoney and Cathy Delong. They have with them Kathy MacLeod, CUPE representative. I would ask them to stand and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Welcome, to the hardworking home care support workers and all guests in the Legislature.

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

[Page 2456]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 30, which is still before the House for the question.

Bill No. 30 - Financial Measures (2001) Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 30. Is the House ready for the question? (Interruptions)

A recorded vote is being called for.

Ring the bells. Call in the members.

[2:03 p.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

MR. SPEAKER: Are the Whips satisfied?

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[2:33 p.m.]

YEAS NAYS

Mr. Rodney MacDonald Mr. Corbett

Mr. Christie Mr. Deveaux

Mr. Baker Mr. Dexter

Mr. Russell Mr. Holm

Mr. LeBlanc Mr. Manning MacDonald

Mr. Muir Mr. Downe

Miss Purves Mr. Gaudet

Mr. Fage Dr. Smith

Mr. Balser Mr. MacAskill

Mr. Parent Mr. Wilson

Ms. McGrath Mr. Boudreau

Mr. Ronald Chisholm Mr. Samson

Mr. Olive Mr. MacKinnon

Mr. Morse Mr. Pye

Mr. MacIsaac Mr. MacDonell

Mr. DeWolfe Mr. Eastabrooks

Mr. Dooks Mr. Epstein

Mr. Langille Mr. Steele

Mr. Chataway

[Page 2457]

Mr. Clarke

Mr. Hendsbee

Mrs. Baillie

Mr. Carey

Mr. Morash

Mr. Chipman

Mr. Barnet

Mr. O'Donnell

THE CLERK: For, 27. Against, 18.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 20.

Bill No. 20 - Government Restructuring (2001) Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak on Bill No. 20, An Act to Restructure the Government of Nova Scotia. In March 2000, Premier John Hamm announced plans to make much-needed improvements in how we deliver programs and services to Nova Scotians. It was clear that we needed to better define government's role and to improve service delivery. We recognize how critical it is for this government to acquire accountability at every level of our operations. I am pleased to say that a year later government has accomplished this major restructuring, and the Government Restructuring (2001) Bill is evidence of that.

Mr. Speaker, we have said many times that we want to treat every taxpayer with respect and every tax dollar with care. As you know, around half of government program spending, some $2 billion, is actually spent by arm's-length agencies, boards, commissions and other organizations. Much of this money is probably well spent, but that doesn't relieve the government of the responsibility to double-check that it is well spent. When we provide the bulk of an organization's funding, we must, on behalf of all taxpayers, make sure that they tell us how they are going to spend the money and what the results will be when they do.

[Page 2458]

The importance of such accountability has been stressed by the Auditor General. He feels it is fundamental to getting Nova Scotia's debt problem under control. We, as a government, very much agree with the Auditor General in every respect, including that one. This bill creates the internal infrastructure to monitor our spending through departments or third party agencies, boards and other organizations. Mr. Speaker, we are confident the results will be more efficient government and better control over where our money goes.

I would like to take a few minutes now to explain how these results will be achieved. The Government Restructuring (2001) Bill amends 11 other Acts to create the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission, the Public Service Commission, Treasury and Policy Board. It formalizes changes we have made at the departmental level. This includes amalgamation of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations; the amalgamation of Agriculture and Fisheries; and the amalgamation of Environment and Labour. It includes changing the mandates and names of other departments where smaller but equally important restructuring initiatives have taken place.

Mr. Speaker, as you know, we have been working to streamline our agencies, boards and commissions. This bill provides for the elimination of some of the redundant government agencies and boards. Finally, it changes the Voluntary Planning Act to reflect their current consultation methods. The Government Restructuring (2001) Bill also speaks to the mandate of the newly created organizations, which is geared to improving efficiency and accountability. The Treasury and Policy Board, a Cabinet committee, will be able to define government priorities with both financial and policy objectives considered together. As you know, the former Priorities and Planning Committee did not have the responsibility for the expenditure budget.

The administrative unit that supports the Cabinet committee, also called the Treasury and Policy Board will coordinate and oversee the broader policies and plans of all of government. At the same time, staff will work hand in hand with departments to ensure the best policy development at that level.

Treasury and Policy Board will work closely with the new Public Service Commission to promote good management across government. The PSC, to be headed by a commissioner, will have a broader mandate than the former Department of Human Resources. It will set the policy framework for responsive and accountable human resource management and it will undertake an ordered function. It will also play a more significant role than before in the collective bargaining process. The PSC will be the government's agent for a broader range of Public Service employees, including highway and correctional workers.

This doesn't mean that everything will be controlled from the centre of government. Agencies and departments will have a significant role and well-defined responsibilities to develop and implement policies and budgets.

[Page 2459]

But there are problems. Where a strong, central coordinating role is helpful and necessary, Treasury and Policy Board and the Public Service Commission will be able to provide the leadership that is crucial to effective governance.

The bill also makes reference to Voluntary Planning, an independent forum for public policy debate that has been in place for 37 years. Voluntary Planning will continue to be an arm's-length agency that gathers critical input into public policy.

The Government Restructuring (2001) Bill addresses the plan announced this last year to improve the efficiency in the sale of beverage alcohol in Nova Scotia. We are replacing the old commission model with a new corporate structure. We believe that this will make the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission more responsive, to help it provide better service to the public, to increase selection of products and to improve the lot of licensees. As a corporation, the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission will have more freedom to manage its day-to-day affairs while maintaining accountability for financial performance and social responsibility to its owner, the Province of Nova Scotia. Mr. Speaker, I think I said the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission - I meant to say the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation.

A new board of directors will be larger, as recommended by the Auditor General, and will have members from a variety of backgrounds to reflect the diverse interests involved in the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation. The bill also permits agency stores to be run by licensed private operators. This will allow people in smaller communities to buy alcohol products at a convenient local retailer. It is expected to improve product selection and service and maintain the necessary controls on the sale of liquor.

The government restructuring of this kind is necessary and I believe strongly in its value. I would like to thank staff and other service providers for their ongoing efforts in making this restructuring a success. I am confident that we will all be able to benefit from these improved management structures. The changes outlined in the Government Restructuring (2001) Bill will contribute to government's objectives of delivering services as efficiently as possible within a framework of improved accountability and that is important for all Nova Scotians. It is important for those who deliver government services and it is important for those who depend on government services and, ultimately, efficiency is very important to Nova Scotians who ultimately pay for all government services.

With those few remarks, I move second reading of Bill No. 20.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to speak on Bill No. 20, the Government Restructuring (2001) Act. The NDP caucus has serious concerns about Bill No. 20 and we are not alone in our concerns. This bill is about centralizing more power in its own hands so it can make cuts just for the sake of cuts. That

[Page 2460]

is what they are about. It is not about delivering government services more efficiently as claimed by the Tories. This bill is a formula for more high-priced, downtown civil servants, bigger and more powerful central agencies that are very remote from the front-line services that matter most to Nova Scotians.

[2:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, this government is cutting out teachers and classroom assistants. This government is eliminating nursing jobs. This government is building up empires and engaging in power grabs while singling out janitors, schools, and bus drivers for punitive measures. Specifically, in this bill, there are measures designed to increase their direct political control over a broader public sector, and this is achieved through the establishment of the Public Service Commission and the establishment of the Treasury and Policy Board. Under this legislation, government also does not have to come back to the House of Assembly for authority to establish new departments of government. There used to be a limit; there were two departments that the Governor in Council could create.

Also there are important issues that the Tories have not consulted with the people who will be affected by this bill, the workers and those who use the services that are likely to be cut. It seems that this government is unaware of its history and unaware of the history of the governments that came before it, even though some of the members on that side were members of those former governments. Restructuring government and merging agencies to save money has a long history in Nova Scotia. It took place at considerable cost, while billions were added to the provincial debt and deficits ballooned.

So I want to, in consideration of this bill, have a look at some of the highlights of what restructuring has cost this province, Mr. Speaker. You may remember, as I do, back in February 1991, when Don Cameron eliminated the Small Business, Solicitor General, Mines and Energy, and Advanced Education Departments through amalgamation and achieved a smaller Cabinet, but we no longer have a separate Housing Minister, and by downgrading the Management Board - that is the body charged with control of spending. Cabinet, you may remember, was reduced from 22 to 17 members and Cameron's goal was to cut the number of departments to 17 and to eliminate 500 jobs in 1991 and 1992 alone.

I remember, Mr. Speaker, he said at that time that this is a time for fundamental change in the way our government is managed, real reform in the actual structures of government, reform that results in a reduction in the actual cost of government, eliminate waste and duplication of services. That was in February 1991. At the same time he promised legislation that would blend some boards, agencies and commissions in the departments, and four agencies were then merged into the Utility and Review Board.

[Page 2461]

Mr. Speaker, in 1992, June of the following year, legislation establishes the new Department of Economic Development and Business Development Corporation to streamline economic development agencies and eliminate duplication. In September 1993, the Savage Government's first budget states we are committed to reviewing the operations of all Crown Corporations, agencies, boards and commissions of government. We must ask two fundamental questions: are these operations essential for government? Are they operating as efficiently as possible? The Savage Government's first-year report cited outsourcing of cleaning requirements in most downtown Halifax government buildings, reducing levels of management in Transportation, downsizing of public housing authorities, early retirement incentive programs, and measures to make our health care system sustainable, more effective and more responsive to the needs of Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, then later in that same time John Savage announces a 25 per cent reduction in paper consumption in all government offices to take place over the next year and to save some $281,000. He says it makes sense across the board, environmentally, economically, and socially. Two days later, John Savage announces the departure of nine deputy ministers, part of the government's initiative to revitalize the Public Service of Nova Scotia, part of his government's commitment to change the way the province is administered.

The nine are replaced by eight announced on January 6, 1994. On October 1, 1994, Premier Savage said that the result will be a government that is more responsive and accountable to Nova Scotians. Mr. Speaker, if this is vaguely reminiscent of what the minister has just said in the entry into this debate, it is because it has all been said before. But we will continue with our examination of the past governments.

The Savage Government's first Throne Speech announces the elimination of the Management Board by merging it with the Civil Service Commission to create the Department of Human Resources. He said that reform of the Public Service must result in more efficient governments, more effective government, more open, more client- and service-oriented and less dependent on institutional structures. Two short months later, Mr. Speaker, legislation establishes the Priorities and Planning Committee to replace the former Policy and Management Board, simplifying government and eliminating duplication.

In June 1994, legislation is enacted to eliminate the Department of Tourism and Culture, merging it into the new Department of Economic Development and Tourism, and the Department of Education and Culture. A Nova Scotia Marketing Agency had been established to merge all marketing by the government.

Mr. Speaker, March 1996, John Savage eliminates the Department of Supply and Services, itself created by an earlier Cameron restructuring of the Department of Government Services, and the Department of Housing and Consumer Affairs to provide fast, effective, responsive, user friendly services that are easily available to all Nova Scotians through an amalgamation of nine agencies into one service unit.

[Page 2462]

He said, Mr. Speaker, at that time, changes that will bring better government services to Nova Scotians, this merger will help maximize the benefits to the province from the tax dollars we spend on building and maintaining roads and other capital projects, downstream savings are expected. Those efficiencies, he said, will result in the elimination of some positions. Each one of these restructurings have cost more money but eliminated the jobs of front-line workers in the Nova Scotia Government, the people who provide the service.

In November 1997, Russell MacLellan announces that government has got to get off the back and out of the face of business. That's why the Government of Nova Scotia will proceed with legislation to cut red tape and will accelerate the effort to streamline and eliminate unnecessary licences, permits and other annoying and costly and cumbersome bureaucracy.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, in August 1999, John Hamm re-establishes the Department of Tourism and Culture, which had been eliminated in 1994 as part of the restructuring to achieve more efficient government and to reduce the number of government jobs.

Restructuring after restructuring after restructuring. Do you know, Mr. Speaker, every time they have gone through this restructuring, the members who sat on that side of the floor piously looked down their noses at the Opposition and said, this is all in the way of creating a more effective and streamlined government and delivering better services to the public. But do you know something, the sad truth is that the people who pay every time are the employees of the government, those who are delivering the services to Nova Scotians. It is Nova Scotians who pay through increased user fees, through higher taxes. It is Nova Scotians who receive less and less and less for their money.

Do you know something, Mr. Speaker, do you know what hasn't been said yet in this Legislature? The sad fact is that despite the fact that they have gone ahead with this restructuring, this Conservative Government is now spending more on its yearly budget than any government before it; they are now spending more than any government before it. They are spending more than the former Liberal Government spent, in two short years. They came into this House saying they were going to be able to achieve administrative savings; they were going to be able to balance the books; they were going to be able to put Nova Scotia on a firm financial footing.

Mr. Speaker, despite the fact that they have received more and more money from the federal government, they have spent more money. They are running a more expensive government than the Liberals did when they were in power. Yet, the debt persists. The sad fact about it is that this government is just failing. It is failing, failing, failing. It is failing to achieve its own objectives; it is failing to serve the interests of the people of the province; it is failing to keep its promises; and this restructuring bill may be the biggest failure to date. It may be the biggest failure to date, because, while they are fiddling and the economy is in

[Page 2463]

a spiral, the Minister of Finance refuses to accept responsibility for higher unemployment figures and he refuses to accept his responsibility, the role of government.

He asks piously - well, you know it is not even all that piously - sometimes he remonstrates and he points his finger at the members over here, and he says, well, what we won't do is what they would do. That is true, because they won't do it right, and that is what we would do, we would do it right. That is why we are here, to hold them accountable and to tell them that they should be doing it right; they should be representing the interests of the people of this province; they should be what they pretend to be, which is true servants of the people of this province. Unfortunately, they have washed their hands of their responsibility. I can tell the Minister of Finance that we wouldn't waste our time with this kind of papering over of the cracks in their government.

We would, in fact, co-operate with all of the partners in the economy, with the business sector, with the labour sector, with those people who are engaged in the process of building this province - and not be an obstacle, not be obstinate like the Minister of Finance and say, we are going to sit here; we are not going to engage in this; we are going to run from our responsibility. That is what we would not do. Unlike the Minister of Finance, we would accept the challenge and the responsibility.

Mr. Speaker, this restructuring is taking place; the government is busily amalgamating its departments; it is busily ordering new letterhead; it is busily ordering new cards for their employees. Yet, at the same time, while this restructuring is taking place, you are building this more expensive administration that includes, I don't know how many associate and assistant deputy ministers - at the Department of Health these days, it seems like there is a new one every second day, who knows - between those and the CEOs and the DHAs.

It is such a fiasco, it is such a complete fiasco, a complete dereliction of the duties of the Minister of Health, of his responsibility to the people of this province, that it is almost laughable. If it wasn't costing the people of the province more money every single day, I am sure they would be laughing. But they are not, because they are the ones who are paying the higher user fees.

It is because of the administrative burden that is being created in the Department of Health that seniors - some of the people in our society who, in many cases, are the most vulnerable, the people who have invested their lives in building this province, the retirees, the veterans of the great conflicts of our century, the people who have raised their children in this province, who have contributed to its success - are going to be charged $50 a day if they can't find a long-term care bed to go to after they are to be discharged from hospital. That is a result of the restructuring, of the wrong-headed philosophy contained in Bill No. 20.

[Page 2464]

[3:00 p.m.]

It is not bad enough that the restructuring forces on many of the agencies, on many of the policy-driven boards in this province, a central control. Many of these agencies and boards are meant to be arm's length, but under this legislation the long arm of the government will be able to interfere in those boards and agencies.

AN HON. MEMBER: Tell us some of the boards and agencies that they can interfere with.

MR. DEXTER: Well, I am going to get to what those are in a little while, but I am not through trying to indicate to the government and trying to bring them up on their folly with the results of their restructuring.

I mentioned the cost to seniors. This year it is $50 a night for a long-term care bed; last year it was an increase in the co-pay, despite the fact that we introduced studies that showed that would have a very deleterious effect on our seniors population. Did they listen? No. Because those are not the interests that they are interested in protecting. They leave that to us. It is up to us to protect the interests of seniors and their families, because the government fails consistently to understand the needs that need to be served.

Just take a look at the diagnostic equipment that exists in some of our health care facilities around the province. Much of it is antiquated and needs replacing. Do you think the money that was spent on restructuring could have more effectively been spent in meeting some of their needs? Unless I am mistaken, something like $135 million from this government's budget is allocated just for restructuring. Can you imagine, $135 million?

Every now and then, when there are big deficits in some of their departments, when they realize that they haven't gotten control of the Department of Health, money comes out of that restructuring fund and magically becomes transition money and is shuffled off to the Department of Health to try to cover over some of the gaps that this government is creating.

They have to find the money somewhere to pay for their restructuring. So where do they find it? They made sure there was no money available for the replacement of the needed diagnostic equipment, but they don't stop there. No. What they do next is they take away the meal allowance at the Point Pleasant Lodge. People who are at the Lodge who have been moved out of the hospital, some of them are - and we have had examples in this very House - those who are recovering from a kidney operation, people who are at the eating disorder clinic, cancer care patients. They go to Point Pleasant Lodge and they are there because they are going to save the government money, among other things; they are there because it is cheaper to be at Point Pleasant Lodge than it is to be in a bed in the hospital.

[Page 2465]

When they get there, what do they find? They find that the meal allowance that would have provided them with their nutritional requirements at Point Pleasant Lodge has been cut. Can you imagine someone recovering from a kidney operation getting up first thing in the morning and having to walk to the hospital in order to receive their breakfast? Can you imagine that? But that is the requirement that this government has because instead of investing its money in the institutions that serve the people of the province, they have decided to invest their money in restructuring initiatives that are clearly more costly than they had anticipated and has driven up the cost of their government to the extent that it is greater than the amount that was formally spent by the former Liberal Government.

They are running a more expensive government. They keep talking about restraint and efficiency and putting the government on a sounder footing, but the reality is they are spending more and they are providing less. They are providing less because of the chaos that they have created in many of the departments. People have been restructured out of jobs that they were hired for and into jobs where their qualifications are not being used. That is what is happening through restructuring. It is inefficient. It is a waste of money and it costs, in so many other ways, in all the other departments. Who is asked to pay? The employees, and Nova Scotians who would otherwise receive those services.

Mr. Speaker, just look at the provincially-funded drug program. As it is now, it does not meet the requirements of those who are low income and, in many cases, chronically ill, heart and stroke patients, cancer patients, the working poor. It got so bad this year that the health charities network are looking for meetings to discuss, with the government, their continued role. I don't blame them. They have done good work for many years, but they have a simple message. The message is that the government has a responsibility to respond to the needs of its people. That is who is getting left out here. It is the people who are left out of the equation that the government jots through its budgetary estimates. It is the people who have the right to expect that their representatives are truly going to deliver the services they need. It is the people who suffer as a result of the misguided and misplaced policies of this government.

I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, there are people's representatives on this side of the House who aren't going to allow the government to get away with it. There are people's representatives on this side of the House who are going to hold you accountable, who are going to ensure that you do what you ought to do. It's not an unfortunate part of this job that, as representatives of the people in our constituencies, we have to continue to point out the failures of the government. We would much rather be in here assisting the government with good work. That is what we set out to do when we placed our names before the people of the province. But in order to do that, the obligation of the government is to bring forward some good legislation. The obligation of the government is to bring something forward that is worthy of support. Yet, this government says, well, we have another agenda, we have an agenda that doesn't include people, that doesn't include the needs of cancer care patients, the needs of those who require cochlear implants, as an example.

[Page 2466]

We saw here, just a short time ago, individuals who came forward and indicated to this government and to us and to, I am sure, the other Opposition Party that they were being shut out of Ontario. That Ontario no longer had the resources to be able to handle patients from Nova Scotia, that several of the hospitals in Ottawa and Toronto had already said they weren't going to continue with that service and said, in any event, it is up to the government of the Province of Nova Scotia to put in place that programming. Did they do that, Mr. Speaker? No, rather than take up the challenge of trying to serve those people, they pursue a restructuring agenda that costs the Department of Agriculture its Production Technology Branch.

Every time we look at government action we must remember that for every government action there is somebody who pays. In the case of the restructuring bill, the first people who paid were the Production Technology Branch of the Department of Agriculture. Who benefited? That is a topic of some considerable debate, Mr. Speaker, because it looks like one of the people who benefited . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: One of the few people.

MR. DEXTER: One of the very few people who benefited was the former assistant of the Minister of Agriculture. Now, is that in the best interests of the people, the people that these members were elected to represent? I think not.

Mr. Speaker, this is a government that gets $300,000 from the federal government in order to introduce new programming for those who suffer from hepatitis C. Do they take that money and fulfill that requirement? No, because you see those too are people who don't enter into the government's equation; they are not people that this government represents. But I can tell you they are people that we are prepared to represent. They are people whose interests we are prepared to defend. They are people who we are going to ensure you have to listen to. Maybe you don't have to act because you have the majority, but I am going to tell the members opposite, they are going to listen because that is our job, that's why we are here, to tell the government straight-up that they are not going to get out of this House without listening to the concerns of those who are deleteriously affected by hepatitis C.

That is just one, Mr. Speaker, of the groups that this government chooses to ignore, despite the fact that they made many, many submissions on their behalf when they sat on this side of the House, and despite the fact that they made commitments to these people. But instead of pursuing those commitments, instead of acting on the promises that they made, they pursue, instead, restructuring under Bill No. 20, which in the long run will accomplish little except to cost more money to the people of this province and to cost the jobs of the employees, many of whom who have already been laid off, and provide less service to the people of the province.

[Page 2467]

What about the other programming that they could be undertaking? What about respite and home care programs? What about that, Mr. Speaker? Now, if the restructuring contained in Bill No. 20 concentrated on creating these kinds of programs, of assigning them some priority, that would be something that we could support. But does it do that? No, in fact this very day we had in this House home care workers specifically from Queens County - but also from other parts of this province, in fact, many, many other parts of this province - who were introduced and applauded by the members opposite. There were ovations given. There were lofty sounding words by the members of the government side. But you know, as soon as the introductions were over and everybody took their seats, it was time to ask the questions.

It was time to put the questions to the government on how they going to help serve these people, how they were going to help accommodate the interest that they represented, how they were going to help seniors in this province who required home care. We put those questions . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: What did they say?

MR. DEXTER: And what was the answer? The answers were, well, Mr. Speaker, there weren't really any answers. They shifted the blame. They did a little misdirection. The minister tried to explain that it wasn't his department or he didn't have control over it. Every now and then, when they really don't want to do anything, they will find somebody else to blame. That's an expected response from the government these days and, in fact, that is exactly what they did. They decided that they would blame it on the negotiations that were taking place and the societies that run the Home Care Programs in those districts.

Well, Mr. Speaker, the reality is that the home care workers across this province deserve wage parity. They deserve some equity. They deserve to be recognized for the important things that they do in this province.

[3:15 p.m.]

The government had an opportunity in the introduction of this bill and, in fact, likely in the bill that we just finished passing, the Financial Measures (2001) Bill, to actually address these problems. Have they done that? Of course not, because the home care workers and the seniors who rely on those services are not the people that they are interested in representing. No, they are not the people they are interested in representing. They are interested in rewarding their friends; they are interested in making sure that big businesses get their slice of the pie; they are interested in seeing to it that Cyril Reddy and Bev Connell and others who are well connected to the Conservative Party and to the ministers - they represent those people.

[Page 2468]

Mr. Speaker, just think about this, just think about a government that takes away a subsidy, or rather yet, a subsidy for the nutritional supplement for children at the IWK, for infants. It wasn't until we embarrassed them into bringing them back that they agreed to bring back the program. It was among one of the saddest days, I think, that I have experienced in this House, to watch the Minister of Health try to justify the cancellation of that program. It was only when it was clear that this was something with which people would not put up with that he decided that he would do the right thing and ensure that that program was reinstituted, reinstated. That is about the most positive restructuring that this government has done to date. That is a pretty sad comment.

They had an opportunity, among other things, to bring in a subsidy program for the transportation of children with behavioural problems to the IWK, so they could get the assistance that they needed. Did they do that? That would have been constructive, that would have been something that benefited some of the people in this province. But, no, that just wasn't on the list, because those people are not the people they consider they represent.

Mr. Speaker, they had an opportunity to bring in proper coverage for Exelon and Aricept, for Alzheimer's patients, something positive, something they could have done. Recognize that the Government of Saskatchewan has brought in a program to support Alzheimer's patients and to meet their drug requirements; a government that listens, in contrast to a government like the one we have here that refuses to listen.

Mr. Speaker, even though it makes good economic sense, even though it makes good sense to the bottom line that the cost of these drugs are about $5.00 day, and yet to keep these patients in long-term care beds it would cost them $95 a day - I think it is something like $34,000 a year - it would make good sense for them to bring in this program, and to acknowledge that these are some of the people they were elected to help. Did they do that? Of course not.

Mr. Speaker, they could have addressed the doctor and nurse shortages in this province; they could have enhanced the recruitment and retention programs that, well, quite frankly, are limping along these days. We have seen the sad results in Cape Breton, with the closure of the emergency room at the Northside General Hospital. It was only because the member for Cape Breton Centre and the members on this side of the House brought forward the concerns of those people, brought forward the commitments that were made by that government during the by-election campaign, it was only because we were here to do our job that the Northside ended up getting the attention, because the other result, the way that government works is in the back rooms. They make their own phone calls between the minister's offices. It is a closed loop. Nobody else is allowed in. The people aren't allowed in because that is not who they represent.

[Page 2469]

Just take a look, Mr. Speaker, at the surgical cancellation rates in Dartmouth. Even the Capital District Health Authority admits that they have established an upward trend. There are more and more surgeries being cancelled. The same is true in Yarmouth. Nothing has been done to address the serious surgery cancellation rate at the QE II. It is just the grossest form of dereliction of duty to understand that all of these problems exist and decide instead of devoting your energy and time to addressing those problems, instead to bring in a bill like Bill No. 20, which is just a power grab for the government, which is just an opportunity for the government to centralize more power in its hands, to do exactly the opposite from what they said they were going to do. They said they were going to listen to communities. They said they were going to put decision-making capacity out into rural communities and from communities from one end of this province to the other. Have they done it? No. It is a part of the dramatic failure of this government.

Mr. Speaker, the measures contained in this bill fly in the face of John Hamm's promise. He promised, to Nova Scotians, that they would be put in control of government, that he would listen to communities, that they would run an open and accountable government. Do you remember that? I remember the campaign promises. They were made with a great flourish. They were often announced on the steps of health care facilities in rural communities, with great fanfare. They had a plan, a clear course they were going to steer.

AN HON. MEMBER: It's a clear curse.

MR. DEXTER: Well, now, it is clear that it is a clear curse. It is not serving the interests of the people of the province. It is not serving the interests of those who rely on government for the provision of services they need. They are running instead a more administrative burden bureaucracy. They are delivering less to the people of the province. That is what is happening.

People thought that John Hamm meant that government would be accountable to them. That is what people thought. It turns out that what the Premier meant was that he would make people more accountable to the government. That is what he meant. Examples of what the Tories really want to do with greater control are the appointments of Leroy Legere and Guy LeBlanc, new and creative ways for finding jobs for the good old boys. Just cutting up the cash. That is all they are doing, Mr. Speaker. It is a way of rewarding their friends, but are they representing the people of the province? No. That is why we are here. That is our job to point out to them that this is just plain wrong. It is not lost though on the public.

People living beyond Halifax will find, Mr. Speaker, with this legislation, the long hand of Cabinet reaching into their community. Instead of decentralizing jobs to Cape Breton or Amherst or Yarmouth, they are going to get micromanagement of local agencies by Halifax. That is what this bill is all about - by-passing accountability to the local community. It is a complete abrogation of the responsibilities and commitments that they set out in their blue book. They could not run away from their commitments fast enough. You only have to

[Page 2470]

remember back to the last session as we tabled, literally, box after box of petitions talking about the way in which this government was negatively affecting the education of the children of the province, because, you see, the children of the province are not people they want to represent. That is not who is represented by this government; the families of those children, that's not who they care about. They care about very narrow interest groups, those who support the government line, those who are worried only that there be a budgetary balance and to heck with what happens in the rest of society. The human deficit is ignored completely.

AN HON. MEMBER: Look at the people in Whitney Pier.

MR. DEXTER: All you have to do, Mr. Speaker, is look at the people in Whitney Pier. Their voice wouldn't be heard at all if it weren't for the member for Cape Breton Centre. Thankfully, those people have a member who is going to stand up for them. They know that there is a member in this House who is going to give voice to their concerns. They know there is somebody who is going to speak up for them because there is nobody on the government side who is going to speak up for them.

I will make a bit of a prediction, Mr. Speaker. It is very unlikely that any of the backbench members will stand up to speak on restructuring. They won't stand up and they won't speak on this legislation because they are just going to follow the very narrow agenda set out by their Cabinet. It is like a mule getting into its traces with the blinders on, furrowing the same ground, following the leader, they don't know where they are being led and it doesn't matter. They just stand in their traces and just pull in that direction regardless of the effect that it is going to have on the people of the province.

But the people from Whitney Pier know, they know. They know that the members on this side of the House are concerned about what is happening to them. They know that we are going to give voice to their concerns. We are not going to allow their issue to be buried under the mountain of announcements made by the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. You will know there will be another Highway No. 101 announcement probably next week or maybe the week after that, announcing weed pulling along the side of the road or, I guess, they will be cutting the bushes again. Will there be any action on Highway No. 101? None, because, again, those are people who don't find a voice on that side of the House. As unfortunate as it is, it is just plainly true.

Mr. Speaker, while the steelworkers in Cape Breton are being laid off, downtown lawyers in Halifax are making a bundle off this government's efforts. While the Department of Agriculture's Production Technology Branch employees are struggling to find new employment, the CEOs at the DHAs are getting raises. The Minister of Health is recruiting a $180,000 deputy minister. Could it get more chronic, could it get more profound than the Minister of Health spending $500,000, one-half million dollars, on an outside consultant for a clinical services footprint and, in the next breath, deciding to take $50 a night out of the

[Page 2471]

pockets of senior citizens who need a long-term care bed? I mean, is that not just the most profound, moral contradiction? Yet, that's what happens here. So it is part of the concern that this caucus has for the provisions that are set out in this bill.

Mr. Speaker, the Public Service Commission, let's just talk about that for a second. One feature of this bill is that it eliminates the Civil Service Commission and the Department of Human Resources and creates a body under the Public Service Act, known as the Public Service Commission.

[3:30 p.m.]

Clause 40 of the bill creates a new Section 17 of the Public Service Act which defines the Public Service - and I won't go through the details of it, but it is very broad. It brings in "(iv) the Workers' Compensation Board of Nova Scotia and its employees,"; "(iii) employees employed pursuant to the Highway Workers Collective Bargaining Act,"; "(v) members, officers, and employees of any government business enterprise or government service organization designated pursuant to the Provincial Finance Act that the Governor in Council, by order, determines to be part of the public service."

As you can see, under this bill the Public Service can be determined by the provincial government to include all public bodies, other than municipalities that receive funding from the province, that manage the assets of the province, or that are contracted to perform services for the province.

Two things should be noted about this definition. It indicates that the Public Service includes various bodies, and Mr. Deputy Speaker, you know and I do that it is just a matter of legal construction that lists that are inclusive are not exclusive. In other words, they can be added to - that the list you see is not necessarily the only list that will be affected.

The second thing to note is that the Public Service is defined as including ". . . employees of any government business enterprise or government service organization . . ." which the government decides is part of the Public Service. A government agency or government agencies for the purpose of the Public Service Commission is given a far-reaching mandate in relation to human resources and collective bargaining.

I know that in this education of the members opposite that I have eaten up a fair amount of my time and I just wanted to find out how much of that time I have left?

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Opposition has a little less than 12 minutes left.

MR. DEXTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This is the only way that the members opposite get to be educated about what the effects of their bills are and I know that often those sitting on the backbenches have little understanding of what the bills are designed to

[Page 2472]

do. I think it is a sad reality that they are given one story by their Cabinet colleagues and it is only when they come here and have the opportunity to listen to the inspired debate of the members on this side that they get an opportunity to truly understand what the effects of their legislation are.

I truly hope that, even though they don't do it here and we don't hear their voices echoing in this Chamber, that they at least ask the questions, behind closed doors, of their Cabinet colleagues. I truly hope that the member for Shelburne has the opportunity to question the minister. I really, truly hope that the Member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury has the opportunity to have that heart-to-heart chat with the minister and try to indicate to him the negative effects in his part of the province.

Perhaps the person who needs to speak the longest and the loudest with the minister is the member for Queens. I am hoping that the member for Queens takes that opportunity to actually speak on behalf of his people, to understand who his people are and to represent them instead of allowing it to fall all on the shoulders of the people on this side of the House. Although, if he does, we are here to shoulder the burden because these are people that we want to represent, and we understand the effects that this legislation is going to have on them.

The Public Service Commission is given very extensive powers which permit the provincial government to maintain centralized control over collective bargaining and human resource policies throughout the broader public sector; that is a very important aspect of this bill. Given the history of this government in bargaining with its own employees, you only have to look as far as what happened with the paramedics. I think some of those employees are rightfully going to be concerned about how the bargaining is going to take place. That was another unfortunate episode in the history of this House and I remember well when the paramedics finally in desperation parked the ambulance in front of the Legislature, who came up and confronted the minister, especially the Minster of Health, and finally the Minster of Health makes certain concessions, essentially. We know it was just to get him out of a tight spot. He was desperate and that had to happen.

Mr. Speaker, the proposed bill calls for the appointment of a Public Service commissioner who will wield very significant powers over the broader public sector. It provides for a minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, and it would seem likely that that minister would be the Minister of Finance. These proposals and the other proposals in the bill, empowering a Treasury and Policy Board to exert greater financial control over the broader public sector, include a significant centralization of government power over the broader public sector. I guess what is so astounding about that is that it is exactly the thing that this government said they were against; it is exactly the thing that they said they wouldn't do.

[Page 2473]

Mr. Speaker, something changed after that hot July day when they came into this Chamber. They decided that they no longer had to represent the people of the province, they had to represent that very narrow set of interests that were going to control the government of the province, the backroom boys, those who are down in the bunker; many of them faceless, many of them we never see, but that is who the government represents, while it is left to those of us on this side of the House to bring forward the interests of the people of the province, to shed some light on the government's initiatives.

Mr. Speaker, it is my belief that a more extensive understanding of this legislation would be greatly beneficial to the people of this province, but not just to those people in communities around the province, but also beneficial to the members of the Opposition. I think it would be a healthy thing for them to hear from those people who are being affected by the very legislation that they are bringing forward.

Mr. Speaker, I know that my time is drawing to an end. I think it is my obligation to try to be as helpful as I can, and to try to assist the government. Therefore, I move that the motion be amended by removing all the words following "that" and inserting therefor the words: the subject matter of Bill No. 20, the Government Restructuring (2001) Act, be referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources. I so move. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is in order. Therefore, we are now discussing the amendment. Does the Leader of the Liberal Party have a copy of the amendment? Just for the record, it is that the motion moved by the Minister of Human Resources and Transportation and Public Works, ". . . be amended by removing all the words following 'that' and inserting therefor the words: the subject matter of Bill No. 20, the Government Restructuring (2001) Act, be referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources."

The motion is in order. That is what we are debating now.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to this amendment. I support the amendment. By referring this bill, Bill No. 20, the Government Restructuring (2001) Act, to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, it will certainly allow the members of the committee to look very closely at the real impacts of Bill No. 20.

Mr. Speaker, the President of the NSGEU, Joan Jessome is in support of this amendment. I will table that letter. Even the president of the NSGEU, Joan Jessome has concerns. What real impact will Bill No. 20 have on government employees and on the people of this province. I certainly agree with Ms. Jessome. The concerns that she expressed certainly will allow us the time to allow this bill to be referred to that committee and very closely looked at as to what impact this bill will have on Nova Scotians, in general.

[Page 2474]

Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 20 is an ominous piece of legislation which amends a series of Acts to conform to the government's new alignment of responsibilities and departments. This bill will create a Public Service Commission that will serve as a hiring agency for government. The Department of Human Resources used to play that role. Before the Department of Human Resources was created, we had the Civil Service Commission here in Nova Scotia that looked after the hiring of government employees. So the fact that the Department of Human Resources will no longer exist, certainly by referring this bill back to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, will allow us to make sure that the Public Service Commission will do what they are claiming it is going to do.

We have a number of concerns. Mr. Speaker, the Public Service Commission will be headed by a commissioner. Maybe when the minister wraps up his comments on second reading, he could probably inform this House, whenever the bill comes back, what type of responsibilities the new commissioner of this Public Service Commission will have. In terms of how will this individual, this commissioner, be chosen? Will it be as they have done in the past in the Department of Education with the CEO of the Southwest Regional School Board, the Regional Educational Inspector for the Western Region? So you have to really wonder if this government is going to continue on their new hiring policy by naming those who are very close to this Party.

At the same time, if we have the Department of Human Resources, what is going to happen to deputy minister within the department? Will she be considered for this new position as commissioner of this new Civil Service Commission? Under the existing system, there were a number of co-operative service units throughout government to help various departments with human resources responsibilities. Again, under this newly proposed structure, what will happen to these various human resources functions that are now being conducted in the various departments? Or again, Mr. Speaker, if these co-operative service units do remain in various departments and provide recommendations to the Public Service Commission, will they be accepted?

So, Mr. Speaker, if the co-operative service units continue to exist, then, at the same time, you create a Public Service Commission, why would this government want to duplicate a hiring service? So by certainly supporting the amendment that is before the members of this House, it will allow the Standing Committee on Human Resources to certainly look at, very closely, whether or not there is going to be a duplication in the services that these corporate service units within the various departments will be offering and, at the same time, with this new Public Service Commission.

Again, Mr. Speaker, with the reorganization, does it mean that the human resource professionals from the different departments will have to move over to the Public Service Commission or, will government be adding more administration to this new Public Service Commission in order to do the same job that is currently being done in various departments throughout government?

[Page 2475]

[3:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, at the end of the day, will we have one minister responsible for all the hiring within government? I am sure that, in itself, and I can understand why the president of the NSGEU would have concerns, if one minister of this government is strictly responsible for all the hirings within government, I can understand why the president would certainly be raising her concerns at this stage.

Mr. Speaker, will we have more employees involved under this new process? Will this new Public Service Commission be more expensive to support than the existing system that we currently have? That information is not available. I am sure, again, referring this bill would certainly allow them the opportunity to look at how more expensive this new system will be to support than the existing system, under the Department of Human Resources. I am still not too clear why this government is looking at creating the Public Service Commission, and I am sure I am not the only individual in this province who has that concern.

Mr. Speaker, in the government's own press release, dated April 5, 2001, it talks about the Public Service Commission will be designated to play a more significant role in collective bargaining. From my past experience with the Department of Human Resources, I know that the department staff always played a very significant role in collective bargaining. Again, I don't see anything changing under this new structure. Again, maybe once the bill does come back for a vote in this Chamber, on second reading of this bill, the minister could provide us with some details in his closing comments on the bill with regard to the Public Service Commission playing a more significant role in collective bargaining.

Mr. Speaker, under this restructuring proposal that is before the House, the government is looking at the process of dismantling the Department of Economic Development. Again, what a good opportunity by referring this bill over to the standing committee, what a great opportunity the members of this committee will have to look at the real impact that this bill will have within the Department of Economic Development.

Mr. Speaker, I can't recall, among the 243 promises this Tory Party made to Nova Scotia in 1999, that they mentioned that they would be dismantling the Department of Economic Development. Why were they not upfront about their intentions? I don't know. Again, here is an opportunity for the government to appear before the Standing Committee on Human Resources and provide them with the information, and make them understand why this government is looking at dismantling the Department of Economic Development.

Mr. Speaker, this government has taken the apparatus of government, dismantled it and have handed it over to a group of people who are not elected but appointed by this Tory Government. This group of unelected individuals will now be responsible for the funding of economic development initiatives in the Province of Nova Scotia.

[Page 2476]

Here is a group of government appointees handing out taxpayers' dollars to individuals without the benefit of public scrutiny and accountability. You have to stop and ask where is the accountability throughout all of this? We have a group of individuals that have been picked by members of this Tory Government to look after the funding for economic development initiatives in our province.

Furthermore, last Friday, we learned that Dan Potter of Halifax has been appointed chairman of the board of the Nova Scotia Business Inc. For everyone in this House, a Mr. Dan Potter is the son of the late Keith Potter of Plympton, Digby County. Mr. Potter was a former Tory MLA for Digby County. He served in this House between 1949 and 1953. Again, here is a group of people that have been picked by this Tory Government and by this Minister of Economic Development that answers only to the Minister of Economic Development.

Also, looking at the list of these 12 individuals who have been appointed to the board of directors of the Nova Scotia Business Inc., there is no one representing the Valley or the western region of our province. I understand that the three individuals representing the southern region are all from the South Shore area. One individual is from the Liverpool area - Mr. Speaker, this is a copy of the OIC on these individuals who were appointed by Cabinet back on March 31st. We had Mr. Keith Boulter of Chester, Lunenburg County; Mr. Maurice Guitton of Lunenburg, Lunenburg County; Mr. James Sapp of Liverpool, Queens County. Again, you have to wonder why the government decided not to appoint anyone from the Valley or from the western region of the province.

Did this government have no intention of supporting economic development initiatives in our area of the province? Well, I hope not. I hope, that with this government's announcement, I am sure many people from the Valley and from the western region are probably wondering why this Tory Government decided not to appoint anyone from our area.

I hope that this Tory Government will review the membership on this committee, the make-up of the board of directors of the Nova Scotia Business Inc. and reconsider the shortfall for our region and appoint someone immediately from our area on this board to ensure that our area will not be ignored. I encourage members on the government benches, members from Kings County, from Annapolis County and the member for Digby-Annapolis and certainly the member for Yarmouth to talk to their colleagues. I think it is critical that we do have and there is a need to have someone representing the Valley and the western region of the province on the board of directors of Nova Scotia Business Inc.

Even my colleague here agrees with me. I am quite sure there are probably members on the government benches who would probably agree with me on that as well. I am sure in the days that will certainly the discussion on this bill, other members on this side of the House will certainly raise some awareness about some other areas of the province that have

[Page 2477]

been neglected when the minister and this government went ahead and appointed members on the Nova Scotia Business Inc.

Mr. Speaker, again under this bill, Bill No. 20, the Small Business Development Act is repealed. Again, you have to try to understand why this Act is being repealed. I am sure by referencing this bill to the Standing Committee of the Human Resources, it certainly will give them an opportunity to understand the reasons behind this bill on why the Small Business Development Act is repealed. So, again, you have to ask yourself, where is the Tory Government's commitment to small business in Nova Scotia?

In the report that was presented in January 2000 by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, they indicated that 73.5 per cent of 29,278 Nova Scotia businesses have five employees or less. So approximately three-quarters of the businesses in Nova Scotia are small businesses. I will table this later on because I will probably need it for now, but at the end I will table this so that you can see that close to three-quarters of the businesses in Nova Scotia are small businesses that hire five or less employees. So I am sure you recognize the important role that small businesses play throughout our province and especially in your own area, Mr. Speaker.

All the jobs that the small businesses provide Nova Scotians are very important to the economy of this province. So whether you are in a rural community in Nova Scotia or downtown Halifax, all these jobs that small businesses provide to Nova Scotians are important. I think it is critical that this government needs to continue to support this vital sector of our economy. So again, by repealing the Small Business Development Act, you have to wonder what is the intention of the government behind this move. So, I hope with the opportunity that the government has been provided by the Leader of the New Democratic Party, by referencing this bill to the Standing Committee of Human Resources, certainly it would give them an opportunity to come forward and tell Nova Scotians why they are planning to repeal this Small Business Development Act.

Mr. Speaker, we know that small business is the backbone of the Nova Scotia economy and it deserves to be recognized. So you have to stop again. Is this any recognition by repealing this Act? I don't think so. Will the new Nova Scotia Business Inc. pay attention to the needs of the small businesses throughout Nova Scotia? Well, let us hope that by turning over the responsibilities to those directors on the Nova Scotia Business Inc. that small businesses will still be recognized, even though the legislation supporting the development of small business in Nova Scotia is being repealed.

[4:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, this bill, again, we are talking about the Liquor Control Act. I want to just raise a couple of my concerns. The amendments being proposed under this bill talks about restructuring the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission as the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation.

[Page 2478]

So, under the proposed amendments we see that the chairman and the board of directors of the corporation will be appointed by an Order in Council for terms and salaries to be determined by the Governor in Council, by Cabinet. So, again, you have to wonder if it is going to be an open process for these individuals to submit their name to sit on the board of the proposed Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation.

Again, we have no understanding, we have no information in terms of how these individuals will be chosen. Mr. Speaker, I think we need to ask the government why the terms and salaries should not be entrenched in this piece of legislation to ensure public accountability. Again, it is an opportunity for this government to tell Nova Scotians exactly what is behind their plan of restructuring the Liquor Commission.

Again, Mr. Speaker, this is not the first piece of legislation that this Tory Government has brought forward in which details are left to Cabinet or to the Governor in Council which enables government to change conditions, terms and remunerations without being accountable in the legislation for doing so. So, again, that is going to be done privately in the Cabinet room.

This new practice allows the government to continue to escape public scrutiny. Mr. Speaker, this is the same Party, and I am sure that you probably remember, as well who ran on an open, transparent, accountable platform. So you probably have to ask yourself, so much for openness and accountability throughout this whole process.

This bill will also allow the Governor in Council to make regulations establishing a consultation committee to advise the minister. So, again, it is a little confusing; on one hand, the minister will appoint the chairman and the directors of the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation and, on the other hand, the minister will appoint a consultation committee to advise him. So, Mr. Speaker, the obvious question that comes to mind is, why would the minister need an advisory committee when he appoints the chairman and the board of the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation to advise him? So we have two boards advising the minister. It is going to be interesting to see how that would work. So, again, the government has an opportunity to come forward, appear before the standing committee and explain in terms of what responsibility each committee will have. Is one reporting to the other board, or are both boards reporting directly to the minister? I think it is an excellent opportunity to allow the minister to appear before the standing committee and explain to the members of that committee how this committee will operate and function.

Mr. Speaker, I hope the minister clarifies the need for these two groups. Also, in this bill, the government is proposing to increase the fines for violations and the illegal sale of liquor. I am surprised, and I am sure that many Nova Scotians are surprised as well, to see this government not decreasing the fines for violations like they did for tobacco smuggling. The government told us the fines for smuggling tobacco couldn't be enforced at the level they were. So, they decided to lower the fines. The fines used to be, on the first offence, not

[Page 2479]

less than $10,000 and not more than $50,000, and now what is being proposed is, fines for smuggling tobacco in Nova Scotia will not be less than $250 and not more than $5,000.

Mr. Speaker, I am sure you are probably wondering, as many Nova Scotians are, how lowering the fines will discourage tobacco smuggling in Nova Scotia. For a Party that wants to be tough on criminals, I think they had an opportunity here. In the end, they decided to lower the fines. From the information that the Minister of Justice provided us with, they had a difficult time enforcing these fines.

Mr. Speaker, we have to wonder, and I think this is the real question, what really happened here? What are the real reasons that this Tory Government is lowering the fines for smuggling tobacco in the Province of Nova Scotia? Lowering the fines sends out the message that this government just doesn't care. By doing it, I am sure it will no doubt bring other concerns forward that the government will have to address in the future. I can think of a couple offhand. By lowering the fines for tobacco smuggling, is this going to encourage more tobacco smuggling? I hope not. What kind of impact would it have on the legal tobacco sales in Nova Scotia?

Mr. Speaker, you really have to question yourself, what is the real motive behind lowering the fines for tobacco smuggling in Nova Scotia? Again, this government will have an opportunity to appear before the standing committee and provide them with the information they have. Why the change, in terms of fighting crime? The Attorney General becomes responsible for the Liquor Corporation under this Government Restructuring (2001) Bill. Why would the Minister of Justice agree to an increase in fine structures under the Liquor Control Act, with he himself imposing a reduction in fines for tobacco smuggling? This is rather inconsistent. It doesn't jive.

AN HON. MEMBER: Caving in to smugglers.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, this Tory Government decided to move towards privately running liquor stores. This is after they hired PricewaterhouseCooper to do a study - I understand this study cost government around $153,000 - to advise them on privatizing liquor stores; they did not recommend this course of action. This move by the government to privatize liquor stores is nothing more than a political decision. That is what it boils down to.

Mr. Speaker, on February 20th, the government decided to call for proposals to establish eight privately run liquor agency stores in Nova Scotia. The eight locations are in Advocate in Cumberland County, Bass River, Freeport, the French Shore, the Iona area of Cape Breton, New Ross, Wentworth Valley and Whycocomagh.

AN HON. MEMBER: The one in Iona is in a phone booth. (Laughter)

[Page 2480]

MR. GAUDET: Tenders were called and the requests for proposal closed on March 21, 2001 at 1400 hours and will be opened at 1430 hours, local time, in Halifax. Again, we have to ask why haven't we heard anything since March 21st? Maybe this government is waiting for this House to rise until they decide to make any announcements on these proposals.

Mr. Speaker, one of those eight private liquor stores is for the French Shore down in my area. I have attempted to try to find what data was used or the criteria used to justify another liquor store in our area. Unfortunately, to this point, I still have not received any information or, at the same time, maybe that information is still not available, I don't know, but I am still waiting, because I have been asked. The only thing I can say is I have asked the minister responsible and I am waiting to hear from him. Something tells me that we know that this government has already made up their minds and they are probably waiting until the House rises and then we probably will be hearing more about, technically, what data, what criteria, where these liquor stores will be going.

Mr. Speaker, I am sure the government will proceed with these eight private liquor stores and then what? Is the government looking at privatizing more liquor stores in the province? Again, I am wondering if there is any connection or reasons why there are talks about restructuring the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission to the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation? Is this to allow government to pursue privatizing more liquor stores in the province? Is this to make it easier for government to sell liquor stores or close liquor stores? It looks to me like this Tory Government is moving towards privatizing liquor stores, regardless of how you look at it. Now they are going to let the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation do the dirty work for them.

Mr. Speaker, you have to wonder what is going to happen to all the employees if this government decides later to privatize liquor stores in Nova Scotia. There are approximately 700 employees involved with the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission. So, again, I know that the employees have been assured, for now, by this government that their jobs are safe. But, that is for now. What is going to happen? This is a great opportunity, again, for this government to sit down with the President of the NSGEU and explain to her exactly what they have in mind for the liquor store employees throughout this province. You can understand why the president would raise concerns over Bill No. 20. I am sure she is not the only one, today, that is asking questions. I know the employees of the liquor store in Weymouth, the liquor store in Meteghan, down home, have been asking me questions with regard to what this government's direction is going to be towards privatizing liquor stores in the province. Again, I have attempted to get some answers for them through the minister responsible and, to this point, I am still waiting. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, yes, I have to say that the minister responsible for liquor stores did respond to my letter, but it said, stay tuned until the proposals have been received and looked at. That was March 21st, so I am waiting to hear from the minister. Chances are that there

[Page 2481]

will be more to come once this House rises. So, yes, I want to thank the minister for acknowledging my letter, but, again, it didn't really say too much - stay tuned, more to come, thank you very much, try again.

Mr. Speaker, I want to go back to an article that appeared in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, May 25, 2000, where the General Manager of the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission, Mr. Gary Findlay, told the Public Accounts Committee when asked if the province needed more liquor stores, well, Mr. Findlay said, "we have pretty much reached the saturation point" So, Mr. Speaker, even though the General Manager of the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission said we didn't need any more liquor stores in the province, you have to ask, what did the government decide to do?

[4:15 p.m.]

Well, shortly after Mr. Findlay's appearance before the Public Accounts Committee they called a request for proposals to establish eight privately-run liquor agency stores in the province. So again, Mr. Speaker, if the government could decide to do the opposite of what staff recommended, I am wondering if government can repeat that same performance, after telling employees of the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission that their jobs were safe - safe for how long? What kind of assurances do these employees have from this government.

Again, Mr. Speaker, I think there is an opportunity for this government to appear before the Standing Committee on Human Resources and reassure the employees of the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission that their jobs will be safe, that they have no intention of privatizing more liquor stores in this province. So this is a great opportunity.

Mr. Speaker, quite a few members are trying to be helpful and I appreciate all their help and I want to thank them. They don't want me to forget and I appreciate their help.

Again, Mr. Speaker, in regard to restructuring, another item that comes to mind is the three provincially-run resorts. It seems that part of this government's restructuring plan is to turn over or privitize whatever they can put their hand on. So let's look at the three provincially-run resort hotels: one in Cape Breton, Keltic Lodge; one in Guysborough County, Liscomb Lodge, and one at home in Digby County, the Digby Pines.

Mr. Speaker, I want to make reference to an article that appeared in the local Digby paper on January 31st. It says that discussions are underway with four companies interested in taking over management of The Pines resort and the other two. We understand that it is the government's intention to try to have this new plan in place very soon. It says that the government's goal is to have contracts for management duties in place before the resorts open in May. So again, these are concerns that have been raised by members on this side of the House. What kind of guarantee will this government provide to those employees working in those three resorts?

[Page 2482]

Mr. Speaker, again, you have to wonder what is really behind this whole plan of government restructuring. In closing, the details of this bill, of course, are not available, they are in the regulations that will certainly be brought before Cabinet, approved by the Governor in Council. They are not in this piece of legislation. This government continues to be very secretive, behind this whole deal of restructuring. This is definitely not what this Party talked about back on the campaign trail in 1999 - that they wanted to run their government on an open, transparent and accountable platform - that they promised Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, it is not too late. This government has an opportunity. There are still a number of years in their mandate. They can start today on that very same promise they made to Nova Scotians throughout this province, back in the summer of 1999. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to debate the amendment to Bill No. 20, and I am pleased for a couple of reasons. One is that I am a member of that Human Resources Committee that the Leader of the Opposition has proposed this bill be referred to. It is a committee that when I was elected I asked if I could be on, I wanted to be on that committee. I think it does very - I was going to say that it does very important and necessary work, but you see that is a problem, it doesn't do important and necessary work. It has a very important and necessary mandate, but this government doesn't allow it to fulfill that mandate. That is a topic, perhaps, depending on how things go, for later in my remarks today or, perhaps, for another day, if I have the opportunity to address Bill No. 20 itself as opposed to the amendment, about why it is that the Human Resources Committee is falling so far short of its potential.

Certainly this amendment would allow that committee to do some constructive work, constructive work that has been sadly missing for quite some time. I don't mean that in any sense, not in the least to reflect on the members of the committee nor on our very capable chairman, the member for Kings North. All of us on that committee, on the government side, on the Liberal side, and certainly on the NDP side, are working under constraints imposed upon us by the Cabinet, by the executive, by the government. I think we all wish that that committee could do more constructive work, come a little bit closer to fulfilling its mandate, to fulfilling the possibilities. That is not happening. If I have time later on, I will go into that thought in a little bit more depth.

The second reason that I am pleased to rise to discuss and debate the amendment to Bill No. 20 is, although I am sure it is a character flaw of mine, I find the Civil Service and bureaucracies fascinating. It has certainly been the subject of my study in university, both in undergraduate days when I studied, principally, public administration and economics, and when I got to law school it continued to be the basis of my interest. So, I developed a bit of an interest and, perhaps I might even say, a bit of an expertise in the legal side of the Civil Service and bureaucracies. That work, which has led me to work for a number of years inside

[Page 2483]

a very large government organization in a fairly senior position, has continued my interest in what I would call, maybe, the psychology or the sociology of government bureaucracies, about what it is about government structures or how it is that government structures work that lead people to make the decisions that they do and to act the way that they do.

Mr. Speaker, for a very long time this subject has been of great interest to me, and I am pleased to be able to discuss it a little bit today.

One of the fundamental problems with Bill No. 20 is that, in many respects, with some exceptions which I will go into, it doesn't propose anything new. Nova Scotia has had a public service commission before, although it went under the name of the Civil Service Commission. When was the Civil Service Commission created? It was created in Nova Scotia in 1935 so to the government I say, welcome to the 1930's, because with this government everything old is new again. Everything old is new again, Mr. Speaker, because Nova Scotia had a Royal Commission known as the Jones Commission back in the 1930's which examined broadly - this was in the midst of the Depression you have to understand - so a commission was appointed to examine the economic state and the development process for Nova Scotia.

It was a very wide-ranging Royal Commission and one of the things it looked at was the Nova Scotia Civil Service. It said, after examining a little of the history of the civil service in Canada and Nova Scotia, we need to have a civil service commission. There has been too much patronage, it said, the quality of the civil service is not what it could be if we had an arm's length civil service commission set up to ensure the highest quality, and only the highest quality, civil servants. The Jones Commission reported in 1934 and a year later in due course the Liberal Government of the day - the Government of Angus L. Macdonald, as a matter of fact - passed the Civil Service Act.

Mr. Speaker, one of the principal advisers to the Jones Commission on this subject was a very well-known academic, at least well known to those of us who have spent some time studying this subject, named R. McGregor Dawson. I believe he was a Nova Scotian and he became not just the Nova Scotia expert but the Canadian expert, the national expert on the civil service. He wrote a book called the Civil Service of Canada in 1929. It lays out the history of the Canadian civil service and why the Civil Service Act was needed. The Jones Commission was fortunate to be able to engage the service of Professor Dawson and he wrote a report recommending to them what a Nova Scotia Civil Service Commission would look like.

So one was duly set up and after 10 years of operation in 1944 Professor Dawson looked at it again to see how it was working in practice. He wrote a report, this time to another Royal Commission, the Royal Commission on Provincial Development and Rehabilitation and he wrote this in 1944. There is a paragraph in this report from Professor Dawson that I would like to read because I think it summarizes what it is that I am getting

[Page 2484]

at here in my remarks today. Professor Dawson said this - and bear in mind that this is the person who at the time was the national expert on the civil service and civil service commissions and he was a Nova Scotian. Here is what he said - this is after examining 10 years of the operation of the Civil Service Act and the Civil Service Commission in Nova Scotia. He said:

". . . anyone who has . . . experience in observing the operation of civil service Acts elsewhere realizes that superficial excellences mean little; that the most important consideration is the spirit in which the Act is administered and applied, and that, unless perpetual vigilance is observed, there will always be excuses found for evading and circumventing its provisions. Nova Scotia seems to have followed in the well-worn track of other governments, and there are unmistakable signs that the reality is far removed from the smooth perfection of the . . . Act."

What Professor Dawson was getting at was that you can have the most excellent Act in the world, you can have something that looks good on paper. You can have, for example, Bill No. 20, all 34 pages of it, many, many clauses and it can be the most perfect thing in the world, but what matters is the spirit that animates it, the spirit that the government breathes into it because the government can essentially do what it likes with this legislation. So I am going to talk a little bit about what I see.

[4:30 p.m.]

The first point that I will make, Mr. Speaker, and I won't spend a great deal of time on it, but it is a very important one and it is one that the Leader of the Opposition alluded to in his remarks today, and that is that this has all been done before. As I said to the government, welcome to the 1930's. We are creating a Public Service Commission. That is great. Well, guess what? We had one 65 years ago and, in due course, it was abolished. It was done away with, as the government thought, well, we are going to reform things. Now this government is coming back and saying, well, let's re-establish it, because part of what the Leader of the Opposition was saying, there is no government in Canada that has been more reformed, that has been taken apart and put back together again more times than the Government of Nova Scotia.

You only have to look, Mr. Speaker, not over the last 60 years - although there are plenty of examples of the last 60 years - over the last 10 or 12 years. You only have to look, for example, at how many different shapes the Economic Renewal Agency has taken, whatever it has been called. Under the Liberals, they reformed it again and called it Economic Renewal Agency. Before that, it was something else and then they changed it again to the Department of Economic Development and they had a few spin-offs; the Business Development Corporation and lots of other spin-offs. Now this government has

[Page 2485]

abolished that and it has established Nova Scotia Business Incorporated. But nothing fundamental has changed, because, as the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, despite all the grand words, despite all the fine promises, this government is actually spending more money on administration, more money on government than any other government in Nova Scotia history.

Now they say that this reform is going to make things better. But, unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, like every government that has come before it that is all they have. They say that it will, but where is the proof? Is there any proof at all it is going to make things better? Is there the least bit of evidence that this is actually going to deliver more effective government to my constituents? There isn't. There is not one shred of evidence, because, after all, surely that has to be what we are looking for when we look at a piece of legislation. It is what I look for - what does this mean to the people in my constituency? I would like to be able to go to them and say, Bill No. 20 means better government for you. That is what I would like to be able to say, but I can't. I can't prove it. It looks to me like it is much the same as the last government's reforms and the last government's reforms before they found it necessary to reform things again, which was just after the previous government's reforms. That would be the Cameron Government's reforms. Because, of course, Premier Cameron felt that he had to reform things because things had gotten kind of messed up under the Buchanan Government, which had reformed things themselves.

A lot of reform, Mr. Speaker, but do you think there is anyone who seriously believes that all of those reforms led to just one bit of better government? No, I don't think so. Do you think there is anybody in my constituency who believes for one second that a decade of reforms in the Nova Scotia Government has led to one tax dollar being better spent? No, I can tell you, I know the answer to that question. The answer is that they don't. They don't believe that for one second. I would like to be able to go to my constituents and say, look, this is the answer, this is different from everything that has come before Bill No. 20, An Act to Restructure the Government of Nova Scotia, but I can't because the government hasn't come forward with any proof. None at all. In fact, it has been the opposite. It has been exactly the opposite of proof. Instead of proving to me and my colleagues in the NDP that this is going to actually make government better, what did this government do in this year's budget? They brought forward Estimates Books that made it impossible - not just difficult but impossible - to compare the projected performance for this fiscal year with the projected performance for the last fiscal year.

Mr. Speaker, there is one very important thing that I think everybody needs to know, and that is that a lot of the restructuring in Bill No. 20 simply legitimizes changes that have already happened. This government, in its executive wisdom, decided that they didn't really need to have the approval of the Legislature before they moved ahead with a lot of this restructuring. They thought they would do it first, then bring it to the House to legitimize it because they knew they could count on the votes from their backbenches; they knew that nobody would step out of line and say, wait a minute, is this really good for my constituents?

[Page 2486]

They knew they had the votes and then could do what they wanted and they come to the Legislature and say, is it okay with all of you folks in the Legislature if we do this?

It is not okay, for the reasons that the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out and certainly for the reasons that I am pointing out now and my colleagues will point out over the course of the debate. It is not okay to work that way. But you would think that if it was such a good thing to do all this restructuring, that the government wouldn't have the least hesitation in bringing forward the evidence and shouting to the hilltops, look, here is the evidence, it is actually saving you money or, I think more importantly, Mr. Speaker, even more important than saving money, this is delivering more effective government to the people of Nova Scotia. You would think they would be shouting that from the rooftops and the hilltops but they are not. Instead, they brought forward a budget that was clearly designed to make it impossible for the members of the Opposition, for the public, for anyone to decide for themselves whether this restructuring is actually going to deliver to them more effective government.

It seems to me that one of the principles of the bill, and one of the things that I am sure the Department of Human Resources will want to take a close look at when this bill is referred for their consideration, or when the subject of government restructuring is referred for their consideration, it seems to me that the principle of the bill that we are dealing with is even more executive control, even more control by the Cabinet over the government.

Now I would like to not debate the specific clauses of the bill, Mr. Speaker, but to illustrate the point I would like to go over some of the clauses of the bill to illustrate what I mean by that. Now I am relatively new to this House, I was sworn in only just a little over a month ago. Perhaps members will say, he doesn't understand; perhaps they will say, he doesn't really know what goes on here. They might say that but there are some things that I hope I never understand.

One of the things that I hope I never understand is why the members on the government backbenches won't speak out on behalf of their constituents in this House, on the record, not behind closed doors which is what they say they do, but out here in public. It is on television so everybody who wants to watch can watch it. It is being recorded so that anybody who wants to read it can read it. I am pleased and proud to be accountable for every word that I utter in this House, every word that I utter to hold that government accountable. That is why I am here; if it is not to speak out, why are we here? Why are those members there, if it is not to speak out on behalf of their constituents and express the concerns?

How many of us on this side of the House have heard of constituents who go to a member on that side and the member on that side says, my hands are tied, can't do anything. We hear it all the time; the members say to their constituents, my hands are tied, I can't speak for you, I can't do anything for you, my hands are tied.

[Page 2487]

I think it is a bit of a shame, really, that those members aren't speaking out. I wonder if any of the members on that side reflect - perhaps they do, they don't speak out so I don't know - on how it is they have allowed the executive of the government, the Cabinet, to take such control. I wonder if any of them have reflected on why it is that the principal spokesperson for the government is a 25 year old from Ontario. I don't remember Rob Batherson running for office. No, actually, he did run for office once and he was defeated. He was defeated by my colleague - quite handily, I might add - the member for Sackville-Cobequid. I wonder sometimes how it is that person who was soundly defeated at the polls has become the principal spokesperson for that government.

I wonder if the members on that side reflect on why it is that they say and do what Dale Madill tells them to do or Cyril Reddy or Dave MacGregor, for example. I don't remember any of those people offering their names to the public to see if the public wanted them to decide what to do. No, the members on that side did - it was they who trudged down the streets. It was they who drove down the country back roads. It was they who knocked on the doors until they knocked on so many doors, that they got to the point where they probably felt they couldn't knock on another door

They are the ones whose constituency offices receive all those phone calls and e-mails from the constituents who want them to speak out on their behalf. They are the ones who are catching all the trouble for what the government is doing, but they are not speaking out. They are letting the executive take control. This is a bit of a theme that I have returned to in my Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne and in the debate on the other bills that have come before the House about how it is that we are letting the rights that have been so hard to win, how it is that we are letting them slip away so that the executive - how it is that they don't respond to this slipping away of executive control. Because it seems to me that one of the principles of this bill, one that I think human resources need to take a close look at, is that the principle of the bill is not restructuring the government, it is giving the executive more control over government.

As an illustration of that, I would now like to refer to a few sections of the bill as examples because I am sure that members on that side of the House have only had time to read the bill through a couple of times. I am sure they have read it from beginning to end, from side to side, from top to bottom; we have on this side of the House. I am sure they have only had a couple of times to go through it, but for the members who have only had a couple of times to go through it and haven't been told what to say or think about it, I want to refer to a few sections that may not have come to their attention or the implications of which may not have come to their attention. I do want to, as a bit of a theme perhaps, of what I want to say today, go back to that quotation from Professor Dawson where it is not the words that count, it is the spirit with which they are administered.

[Page 2488]

First of all, I would like to refer to Clause 4 of the bill. I know that second reading is debate in principle and there is time for debating individual sections later, but I do want to reassure you that I am simply referring to these sections as illustrations of a broader point.

Clause 4 of the bill says that Section 8 of the Civil Service Act is amended by striking out the words, "with the approval of the Governor in Council". Well, what does that mean? It doesn't say very much on the page. Well, I thought I would go back and check to see what section of the Civil Service Act as being amended and that is the delegation section where the powers under the Civil Service Act can be delegated to someone else. At least they used to have to be approved by the Governor in Council, and the reason why that is important is that Orders in Council, the instruments of the Cabinet, are public documents. Now that it no longer has to go through the Governor in Council, there is no longer any record available to the public of what has been done under the delegation section. The ministers can delegate the powers under the Civil Service Act to whomever they please, and there need be no record available to the public. That is shocking. It is shocking, and it is just another scraping away, shaving away of the responsibilities and the duties of this Legislature in favour of the Cabinet.

[4:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, there is another one which jumps out of the page at one a little bit more than that one, perhaps. Clause 38(1), "Subsection 38(1) of Chapter 376 is amended by striking out, 'not exceeding two in number,'". Okay, I guess that is not that clear. Again, I thought it was important and necessary that I, as a member of the Legislature, go back and check to see what it is that the government is proposing to do, because, after all, that is why I am here. I am here to hold them accountable, to make sure that nothing goes by without close examination and public debate. That is why we are here.

Mr. Speaker, because it is so clear to me why I am here, I do reflect, often, on why they are here, because they don't do any of this. I went back to check to see what that would do, and what it does is, what the Act says now is that the Governor in Council can create up to two departments without coming back to the Legislature. That is fine, governments need a little bit of flexibility, it is a fast-moving world. The important thing is that it was no more than two, without coming back to the Legislature. What they are doing is dropping that requirement.

AN HON. MEMBER: What? No.

MR. STEELE: The member for Sackville-Cobequid is expressing disbelief, and I am not surprised because it is shocking. It is shocking. Do you know what the implication of that is? I hope the members on that side of the House realize it; that means that the Government of Nova Scotia never again needs to come to this Legislature to restructure the Government of Nova Scotia. It used to be that if they changed more than two departments, they had to

[Page 2489]

come back here and at least get some kind of nominal approval. Now that is gone, they don't have to get the approval for any number of departments. They could create two; they could create 20; they could create 200 - restructure, reform, restructure, reform, restructure, reform.

There is now, if this bill passes, no longer any requirement to come back to this House. I wonder if the members on that side realize that? I wonder if the members on that side, if they realize it, think it is a bad thing? The members in that Party, the Third Party, who did things like this when they were in government, they are kind of realizing now, when they are in Opposition, it is not such a good thing, because now they are feeling the sharp end of some of the rules they passed; they are feeling the sharp end of some of the laws they passed.

Although, for the members on that side of the House it may appear okay now, it may appear like a good thing, just remember, you won't be there forever. No government has been there forever. You won't be there forever. Just wait until they are back on this side of the House. Whether it is two years, six years or 20 years, they will be back on this side of the House. They have to remember that they have a responsibility to pass laws that are good for the province, to pass laws that are good for their constituents, to pass laws that are good for my constituents, because that is why I am here, to make sure that is what they do.

I wonder if they realize just what they are doing here. They are, undercutting, yet again, the powers, the responsibilities of this House in favour of the executive. Now, there is another section here that does much the same thing. Again, I am offering these simply as illustrations of my broader points, that there is something going on that is not a good thing at all. It needs to be very carefully examined. I think the Human Resources Committee, of which I am proud to be a member, needs to take a look at it. Clause 40 of Bill No. 20 allows the government to create any number of offices of government that it pleases. Now this is a funny thing because everybody knows what a department does, and then there are other agencies, boards and commissions but the government is empowering itself to create something called an office. That is not an ordinary use of the word office. I have a constituency office which is the place where I receive the calls and e-mails and visits to serve the people of my constituency. I think it is important that I serve them. I remember at all times that that is why I am here, to serve them and to give voice to their concerns.

Now I have an office but that is not the sense in which the government is using the word office; in fact, it is not at all clear in what sense they are using the word office but they are giving themselves the power to create offices. It is not at all clear what they mean, Mr. Speaker. I think the Human Resources Committee really ought to look into this.

Now if I could - I know I have stayed tightly on points so far - Mr. Speaker, but if I may seek the Speaker's indulgence, I am going to veer off just slightly here, to talk about another very small problem with Bill No. 20 that I think needs to be brought to the government's attention because this is a serious concern - that is that it is not at all clear in every spot about what it is the government is trying to do.

[Page 2490]

If I might, Mr. Speaker - and I will - I would like to read one single sentence from this bill and I defy anyone on that side of the House or anyone on this side of the House, or anyone in the gallery or anyone reading Hansard or anyone watching Legislative Television, I defy the world to tell me what this sentence means - and this is in the bill that this government expects us to pass without careful examination by the Human Resources Committee. I am going to read that sentence: The proposed Clause 40, Section 4C(2) of the Public Service Act, if passed, would read as follows, Mr. Speaker: "Whenever any affairs or matters are assigned as aforesaid to any office or to a member of the Executive Council and such affairs or matters have theretofore been assigned or have theretofore belonged to some other office, to some department or to some other member of the Executive Council, then any reference in any Act of the Legislature or in any rule, order, regulation, by-law or ordinance or in any document whatsoever to such other office or department, or to the head of such other office or department, or such other member of the Executive Council, whether such reference is by official name or otherwise shall, as regards any subsequent transaction, matter or thing relating to the affairs or matters or any of them assigned as aforesaid to such first-mentioned office or department, or to such first-mentioned member of the Executive Council, be held and construed to be a reference to such first-mentioned office or department and to the head thereof or to such first mentioned member of the Executive Council."

Mr. Speaker, that is nonsense. That is a sentence that defies the English language, defies any reasonable interpretation. I don't mean this to be a slight to the Office of the Legislative Counsel which drafts bill at the government's instruction because I know why that is there - is there because similar words are already in the Public Service Act and I am sure the Legislative Counsel Office's instructions were just to use the same words because we have been using them for 60 years, why change them now? So much for restructuring, so much for reform, so much for plain English, so much for laws that the people of Nova Scotia can understand, so much for laws that their constituents can understand, so much for laws that my constituents can understand. If we can't expect that, if we can't expect a law that is written in language that people can understand, why are we here? What does this government expect when it proposes legislation like that? I don't know. I think the government needs time to examine a bill that contains such nonsense. That is why this bill needs to be referred to the Human Resources Committee.

Mr. Speaker, these are, I think, shocking take-aways from the powers of the Legislature in favour of the executive, of the Cabinet, or I think more precisely in favour of the civil servants who advise the Cabinet, because with the number of ministers we have, they are far too busy to take any meaningful interest in the affairs of their department, to question at all the advice they are given. So let's be clear about who gets power when a bill like this is being passed. Those are not even the worst examples because here is another illustration of how the powers of this House are being undercut. I am not even sure this is the worst one, but it is getting right up there. I think the worst one comes a little later, but this is right up there, it is certainly on my top three list.

[Page 2491]

Clause 41 of this unexamined bill, Mr. Speaker, proposes a new Section 6 of the Public Service Act. I want to read that section - it is just another sentence - because the implications of it are astonishing. For those members on that side who have only had time to read the bill through a couple of times - I am being generous assuming they have at least read a bill that their government has put before the House - let me read this and then talk about the implications of it for the people of Nova Scotia, the implications for their constituents, and the implications for my constituents.

Here is what this proposed Clause 41, Section 6 says, "A member of the Executive Council may, subject to the approval of the Governor in Council, enter into an agreement with the Government of Canada or the government of a province, or agency thereof," - here is the kicker, Mr. Speaker - "or with any institution or person, or any of them, providing for a joint undertaking with the Government of Canada, or with the government of a province, or any agency thereof, or with any institution or person, or any of them, of any project within the member's mandate under this Act."

Mr. Speaker, that is astonishing. I don't have any problem with the beginning bit and that is the bit about having agreements for joint undertakings with the Government of Canada. Heaven knows we need those and more, for example to fix roads, but that is a topic for another day. It doesn't bother me in the least that there is a provision here for agreements with other provinces, because Heaven knows, we need those. We need a lot of interprovincial co-operation in order to serve their constituents and to serve my constituents.

It doesn't stop there. It goes on to say, "an agreement with "any institution or person". Of course, as everybody knows, the word person includes any corporation. So this provision gives the government, the Executive, the Cabinet - not this House, but the Executive - gives them the power to enter into an agreement with anybody to do anything in their mandate. This is the thin edge of the wedge, Mr. Speaker. This clause justifies any kind of privatization, any kind of contracting-out. In this one provision, all they need to do is point to this clause and say we can do whatever we want. We never have to come back to the Legislature again, this government's dream.

Mr. Speaker, if I may, I would like to put on the record a comment that the member for Halifax Bedford Basin has just made. In response to my very great and deep and real and sincere concern about the way the executive is taking power from this House, the member for Halifax Bedford Basin says that the taxpayers would love it if this House never had to meet again. (Interruptions)

[Page 2492]

[5:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, this government that knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing would put a price tag on democracy; would put a price tag on this House; would put a price tag on free and open debate. I know they would like to do away with it; I know they would like to do away with it, but we won't let them. That is why we are here.

AN HON. MEMBER: They know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

MR. STEELE: They know the price of everything and the value of nothing. They see the Legislature as just another expense, just another expense. Well, let me tell you something, Mr. Speaker, and let me tell the member for Halifax Bedford Basin, my constituents want this House to meet, they want their voices heard loud and clear in this Assembly, and they have elected me to make sure that that happens. Although this government would dearly love to shut this place down because, after all, it only gets in the way, we won't let them.

As long as I have breath, I will draw attention to clauses like this that, if passed, would mean this government never has to come to this Legislature ever again, ever again to legitimatize any agreement, any contracting out, any privatization. Mr. Speaker, that is shocking. That is profoundly disturbing. And that is not even the worst clause.

Let me give you another example of how the executive is taking power from this House, and when I say it is taking power from this House, it is not just from me and my colleagues in the NDP, it is taking power from them, it is taking power from their backbenchers who, I am sure, will nevertheless vote for this bill because that is what they are told to do. They are trying to take power from this Legislature with an array of mysterious instruments that are unknown to the law.

Now this is an area that has been of very great interest to me throughout my legal career, something that I have thought about and read about and talked about. It is something I care about a great deal, and that is the powers of the executive must be properly regulated and they must be public.

AN HON. MEMBER: Aren't they?

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, one would expect that they would be, but if this bill passes, a whole other array of instruments unknown to the law and unknown to the public will be created. This bill, if passed, would allow the government or parts of the government controlled by the executive, to pass rules, regulations, a beast unknown to the law called administrative directives, an administrative directive which must be followed throughout government, no matter what it says, no matter to whom it is directed. According to this bill,

[Page 2493]

an administrative directive must be followed. But, Mr. Speaker, that administrative directive need not be published anywhere. The public need never know the contents . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please I would just caution the honourable member that he has referenced the bill several times, and I wonder if the honourable member would speak to the hoist amendment. As I understand the debate on second reading now, we are dealing with the six months' hoist (Interruptions)

AN HON. MEMBER: No. No. Send it back to committee. Send it back to committee.

MR. SPEAKER: All right. I do apologize, I stand to be corrected, honourable member. We are supposed to, nonetheless, be talking about a motion to refer it to the Committee on Human Resources.

MR. STEELE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I certainly take your point. Certainly, I opened my remarks by saying, as a member of the Human Resources Committee, I very much looked forward to examining these questions. There is so much that is unclear and unknown - I wouldn't go so far as to say contrary to law, although one might say that - that I think there is a great deal here that needs to be examined by the Human Resources Committee. Certainly, a referral to the Human Resources Committee would allow us to do exactly that. I will certainly address my remarks more tightly to the amendment that has been proposed.

Mr. Speaker, one of the other items in this bill that certainly needs to be examined by the Human Resources Committee is the proposed Clause 41, Section 16 of the bill. I was talking about these beasts known as administrative directives, which may not be published anywhere, may not be known to the public, but must be followed throughout government. This bill would create not just dark rules, but a whole new kind of organization other than the "office" that I spoke about earlier because the proposed Clause 41, Section 16 allows the government, but not even this time the Cabinet, but the Treasury and Policy Board, not even the whole Cabinet now. It is only a few of them that can designate something as what they call a special operating agency.

What is a special operating agency, Mr. Speaker? One may look in Bill No. 20 in vain because there is absolutely no information in Bill No. 20 about what a special operating agency is. It says the Treasury and Policy Board can designate a department, office, division, branch or program as a special operating agency, so they can take a department that has been authorized by this Legislature and wave their magic wand and say, hey, presto, you are now a special operating agency. The other power that this crowd would give themselves is the power to give that special operating agency an operating charter. What is an operating charter? One may look in vain in this bill because it is simply not there. It says, [Clause 41, Section 16(1)(b)], ". . . containing the objects of the special operating agency and terms, conditions and other provisions governing its operations."

[Page 2494]

Mr. Speaker, that is shocking. I can't believe that this government would expect this House to pass a bill that gives them the power to simply wave a magic wand and designate any part of government as a special operating agency that only has to abide by rules that they set. It used to be, and not so long ago, certainly in my day and I am not that old, this kind of provision would be expected to come before the Legislature. If somebody wanted to create a special agency with special terms and conditions, which could include all manner of contracting out or privatization or Heaven knows what, because the Treasury and Policy Board gets to set the conditions. In my day, one would have thought, one would have expected, one would have demanded that this would come before this House.

Mr. Speaker, if that government gets its way, the executive of that government gets its way, the civil servants who are advising the executive of that government get their way, that kind of provision need never come before this House again and that is a shame. Although I try to be aware of the meaning of words and not hurl epithets without carefully considering the meaning of my words, I would say it is disgraceful. It is autocratic, it is undemocratic, it is dictatorial, it is disgraceful. It is disgraceful they have so little regard for this House, the home of responsible government in Canada. This is a dark day, a dark day that will only be lightened if this motion is passed and the Human Resources Committee has an opportunity to, very carefully, examine the implications of this bill.

Mr. Speaker, that is not even the worst one. I am coming to the worst one. This is another one of my top three list. Again, this is an illustration of what I see as the principle of the bill which is the executive seizing control of government so that it never has to listen to this House again. It will just be a line item in the minister's budget which he can cut some year when nobody is looking, just like the member for Halifax Bedford Basin said.

The proposed Clause 49 of the bill - here is the real kicker because these dictators, these authoritarians, these people who want to command every aspect of every part, not only of government but of life in the province, are proposing a new Section 89(1) which I think needs to be brought to the attention of the House. What it says is that "The Governor in Council may make regulations designating a body or class of bodies, other than municipalities, that receive funding from the Province, that manage assets of the Province or that are contracted to perform services for the Province pursuant to an enactment or otherwise . . . "

They then may pass regulations expanding the definition of public service to include employees of any of those agencies, but what I passed over so lightly and I would like to return to now is those words, "a body or class of bodies . . . that receive funding from the Province . . ." There is an entire array of bodies that receive funding from the government. United Way receives money from the government, plenty of community agencies receive money from the government, and if this passes the Governor in Council - that is not the House - and the Governor in Council of course is the legal phrase for the Cabinet, the Cabinet can pass regulations designating any body that receives funding from the government

[Page 2495]

- it might be the Sandy Lake Residents' Association or the Bedford Lions Club who are developing Sandy Lake that I spoke about yesterday, they received funding from the province - according to this they can be designated as an agency under the complete human resources and financial control of the government. That is what it says. I am only reading what it says. I am not making it up; that is what the words on the page say. Shocking, shocking expansion of the powers of the executive of government.

There is another section that I want to talk about, which is unrelated to what I have been talking about up to now, because it is so important to me, but I do just want to sum up what I am saying by saying the principle of this bill is the executive seizing control over the government, the entire broad Public Service over parts of government like the Liquor Commission and the Workers' Compensation Board that they do not currently control, legally. They do not currently control and they want to take control of collective bargaining at school boards. They want to take control of collective bargaining throughout the broad public sector - the only exception is municipalities - the entire public sector and they say they are going to have control. That is shocking. It is not this House that is going to have control. There are any number of things that if the government wants to do, well then they can darn well bring it before this House and ask for the approval of this House.

The way our democratic government works, the majority is entitled to vote for what they want, but they have to bring it before this House. What this bill does is allow them to sidestep the House and do whatever they please by executive order. Have they never heard of the Magna Carta? Have they never heard of the hard-won rights of the people, the common law tradition, the slow accretion of rights over the centuries, the civil law tradition that has been added by Quebec? Have they never heard of these things? Have they never heard of the Statute of Westminster, responsible government, have they never heard of the Bill of Rights that was passed by a Conservative Government in Ottawa? Have they never heard of the Charter of Rights that was brought forward by a Liberal Government? Have they never heard of any of these things? Because what they want to do is seize executive control of government and that is a shame.

[5:15 p.m.]

The other clause I want to talk about, Mr. Speaker, in the few minutes left to me, on what is almost an entirely different topic, but one that I hope the government is listening to because this is an important topic, is the anti-discrimination provision that it is currently in the Civil Service Act. There is an anti-discrimination provision currently in the Civil Service Act and I am just looking through the bill here to see where it is. Here it is, I have found it. If there was ever anything that was a matter of principle, this is it.

Clause 6 of Bill No. 20, the Act to Restructure the Government of Nova Scotia, says simply that, "Section 20 of Chapter 70 is repealed." What does that mean, Mr. Speaker? Well, the Act being referred to is the Civil Service Act and I checked to see what that section

[Page 2496]

says and it is a section that outlaws discrimination of any kind based on race, colour, creed, religion and a number of other things, in the Civil Service. That is what it does and this government is repealing it.

Now in fairness to the government, there is a reason offered in the notes to the bill and here is what it says. "Clause 6 repeals a prohibition on discrimination that is narrower than the protection afforded by the Human Rights Act and that appears to provide less protection to applicants to the Civil Service." Mr. Speaker, on the surface that sounds plausible. Certainly, if that is what they told the backbenchers on that side, I am sure the backbenchers accepted that because if you skip over it quickly, it kind of makes sense.

But here is the thing. If you have one provision here in the Civil Service Act and another one over here in the Human Rights Act and one appears to be broader than the other, why don't you just leave the two of them alone? Why don't you just leave it the way it is because the Human Rights Act says, and has been interpreted by the Supreme Court of Canada, certainly, as superseding every other law in any province, and federally, or that every other law is interpreted in light of human rights legislation so there is not the least question that if the Human Rights Act provision is broader - now that may be a debatable item - that it would supersede the Civil Service Act protection.

So at the very least, Mr. Speaker, and here is one very helpful suggestion coming from this side, for heaven's sake just leave it alone. Don't touch it. Just leave it alone. It is not doing any harm there. Who knows, it might help somebody some day if some tribunal or court finds that it offers some protection that the Human Rights Act doesn't offer. Just leave it alone. Why are you repealing this provision? I wonder if the members on that side of the House have asked that question?

There is another more important point, Mr. Speaker, and that is this, that if all you have left for people is the Human Rights Act, then the only mechanism to enforce it is the Human Rights Act. But the reality is that the Human Rights Commission is very badly backlogged. It takes years sometimes for an investigation to be completed and for the matter to be concluded.

In fact, there is a matter on this very point where somebody is alleging discrimination on the basis of political affiliation. How long ago was that complaint filed? It was filed five years ago. Not five months, not five weeks, not five days, it was filed five years ago. So the reality is that the protection of the Human Rights Act can be very little protection at all.

Mr. Speaker, I believe I have a minute and a half left. Is that correct?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member has until 4:22 p.m., two minutes and a little bit.

[Page 2497]

MR. STEELE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, because I didn't want to be cut off in mid-sentence here because this is a very important point. If it takes five years for some complaints to go through the system, that is hardly any protection at all. But if it remains in the Civil Service Act, that is a very real protection that can be brought to play, for example, in labour arbitrations or in a wrongful dismissal suit. No one should have to rely on a system that is as seriously backlogged as the Human Rights Commission.

So I say to the members on that side of the House again, if there is one clause of the bill, only one, on which you listen to the Opposition, if you are determined to pass this no matter what, no matter how much it whittles away the powers of this House, no matter how much it adds to the powers of the executive, if you are determined to pass this bill and there is only one thing you listen to, listen to this. That section of the Civil Service Act should stay exactly as it is because if we can't count on there being no discrimination in the Civil Service, then there is very little that we can rely on.

This provision is doing no harm and it seems to me a perfect subject for the Human Resources Committee of the Legislature to study to see whether there is any merit whatsoever in having this provision repealed. I believe I am putting it forward for the consideration of this House in the true spirit of democratic debate. I am putting forward the idea that this provision, if passed, will harm the people of Nova Scotia, will harm their constituents and will harm my constituents.

So, Mr. Speaker, with those words, I have explained why I think this bill should be referred to the Human Resources Committee, and I have no doubt when the full bill comes forward for reading I will have more to say. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to stand for a spell this afternoon and talk about the NDP amendment to Bill No. 20, the Government Restructuring (2001) Act. I always find myself at a bit of a disadvantage when I have to follow an act just like we heard the last hour. (Interruption) I must admit it was quite easy to listen to and it puts me at a disadvantage to follow that speaker. As somebody who has not had any training in the legal field, maybe if it was to follow a blueprint or to follow mechanical schematics maybe I could challenge the former speaker on that. Certainly not dissecting Bill No. 20, I wouldn't dare try to challenge him.

With that opening statement, Mr. Speaker, I will do my best to stay as close as I can to the former speaker. The amendment put forward today by the NDP caucus, the Opposition Party, to send this Bill No. 20 to the Standing Committee on Human Resources is, I think, a wise move by the Opposition. What we see in this bill before us today, which is an omnibus piece of legislation, the demands, the serious effects to conform to the government's new alignment of responsibilities and departments.

[Page 2498]

The bill creates a Public Service Commission, a hiring agency, so to speak, and makes it the body responsible for the Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act, the Highway Workers Collective Bargaining Act, and the Corrections Act. The bill established the following departments: Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Department of Community Services, Department of Economic Development, Department of Education, Department of Environment and Labour, Department of Finance, Department of Health, Department of Intergovernmental Affairs, Department of Justice, Department of Natural Resources, Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, Department of Tourism and Culture, Department of Transportation and Public Works.

The bill also establishes offices, directorates, commissions and corporations, notably the Office of Aboriginal Affairs; Petroleum Directorate; Treasury and Policy Board, which was essentially the former Priorities and Planning; Public Service Commission, which was essentially the former Human Resources Department, which used to be the Civil Service Commission; and last but not least, the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation, elevating a commission to a Crown Corporation.

Mr. Speaker, that is probably the one I will talk on most this afternoon. It is interesting to note that the Department of Economic Development and the Department of Human Resources disappear, and Acts such as the Labour Department Act are repealed, giving effect to new ministerial alignments. The bill eliminates a number of other public bodies by repealing the Acts that created them, one would be the Natural Products Advisory Commission, that Act is repealed; Small Business Development Act, which was repealed; and the Tidal Power Corporation Act is repealed, the corporation ceases to exist; and the Trade Development Authority Act is repealed.

Mr. Speaker, the bill also alters Voluntary Planning so that the Voluntary Planning Board, appointed by Governor in Council, can make its own appointments to committees of Voluntary Planning. Thus, the appointees of the government, themselves not publicly accountable, get to make public appointments without benefit of public knowledge or scrutiny. That is something that we want to question, the validity of its scheme. The bill in itself is lengthy, 63 clauses, running a full 32 pages, plus 4 pages of explanatory notes. It is neither plausible nor useful to review each clause, at least in preparation for the general discussion on the amendment we are talking to today. These are some points that our caucus wanted to raise.

Mr. Speaker, during the election of 1999, the government ran on 253 specific promises contained in its platform document, Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course. In the so-called blue book of promises, nowhere did they come out and say that they would dismantle Economic Development, but a careful reading between the lines showed this intention. Why? Why were they not upfront about this intention? Was it because of popularity? Instead, we have a blue chip panel of unelected government appointees, Nova Scotia Business Inc. What

[Page 2499]

are they? Mostly Tories. What is their goal? Handing out taxpayers' money to business without benefit of public scrutiny or accountability.

Mr. Speaker, this government has taken the apparatus of government and dismantled it and handed it over to supporters who are not elected or accountable to run for them. This is not a Liberal vision of democracy. This is rule by a privileged few, behind the scenes where media and the public cannot scrutinize their actions. Clause 12 amends sections of the Liquor Control Act. Clause 7, allows for the Chair and board of directors to be appointed by Order in Council, for terms and salaries determined by Governor in Council.

Mr. Speaker, why not entrench terms in the legislation to ensure the public will have scrutiny and accountability? The general theme throughout is the degree to which details are left up to Governor in Council, which enables government to change conditions without coming to the Legislature and without public scrutiny. The backroom documents being Cabinet papers and, thus, we all know that they are confidential. This place is where this government doesn't want to be, in this House of Assembly.

[5:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, Clause 11 allows the Governor in Council to set salaries, allowable expenses and so on by Order in Council. Clause 12, Section 7C, Subsection (3) and (4) require that the president of the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation have no other employment and reports to the board of directors, but is accountable to the minister. What we find here and what we want to question is the two-tiered accountability. Some Crown Corporation presidents are directly accountable to the Legislature. For example, Clause 12, Section 7D allows the corporation to set remuneration for its staff, yet Subsection (3) brings all corporation employees under the Public Service Superannuation Act, that is, extend Civil Service pensions to them.

Mr. Speaker, Clause 12, Section 7F establishes conflict of interest standards, but refers to conflict of interest rules established in the regulations.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Was the honourable member going to speak to the amendment?

MR. MACASKILL: Yes, Mr. Speaker. I am getting to that. I will begin by referring to the amendment which is before me here. The amendment to refer Bill No. 20 to the Standing Committee on Human Resources. I thank the Speaker for reminding me. It is a slight oversight.

Mr. Speaker, the letter, which I will table, comes from the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, who are certainly not supportive of Bill No. 20 and they will be pleased to see that we are allowing this bill to be debated on the floor of this Legislature as long as

[Page 2500]

we possibly can so that they will have some input and maybe government will have a heart and make some changes that would be in their favour.

Mr. Speaker, Joan Jessome, President of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, writes, and I will read portions of this letter. It says, "In our view, this Bill should not be allowed to go any further in the Legislature at least beyond Second Reading until there has been a full opportunity for public consultation and review before being reintroduced in the Fall Sitting. Such a process could easily be conducted by either the Legislature's Human Resources Committee or the Law Amendments Committee.".

Mr. Speaker, Clause 12, Section 7H(3) allows the Governor in Council to make regulations, to establish a consultation committee to advise the minister. What else would be new? All terms of reference, appointment and employment are to be set in regulation. First, why, we ask, would these not be entrenched in the legislation itself? Second, we ask why would the minister also need an advisory committee when he appointed the president and the board of the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation and they report to him? I am thinking here of an advisory committee of Sobeys and like influence, not advising, influencing government decision making in respect to Crown Corporations. That is something we certainly don't support. That is why I support this amendment today to have the government refer this bill to the Standing Committee on Human Resources.

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, the bill restructures the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission as the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation. We heard on the floor already today where . . .

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I find it extremely distracting that the door is open on the government side of the floor and I find it to be an extension of the Legislative Chamber so I am wondering if the door could possibly be closed.

MR. SPEAKER: Well, honourable member, I would caution the honourable member, with all respect, that it is not the door that is making the noise and I do have discretion, as Speaker, to request the door be closed or left open. Quite frankly, I am not having any difficulty at this particular time but I do appreciate the honourable member's concern.

MR. MACASKILL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will continue. I want to refer to a press release of October 27, 2000, and I will also table this. The statement by the minister at the time was that the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission will not be sold outright but increased private sector involvement in the liquor business will be permitted and the Liquor Commission itself will become a more service-oriented operation. It goes on to say, in addition, a third major irritant to licensed operators and special occasion license holders, a 9.3 per cent surcharge on all liquors, will be cut in half.

[Page 2501]

Mr. Speaker, in order to offer private liquor outlets, the Liquor Control Act is amended to change the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission to the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation. Now we all know that this clause allows the Governor in Council to appoint by Order in Council the chairman and the board of directors and according to terms and conditions for the remuneration to be set by the Governor in Council by Order in Council. One could argue that in the interests of public accountability and transparency, the salary range and the terms and conditions of employment be entrenched in the body of the legislation, rather than being addressed later by the Governor in Council, Mr. Speaker, Cabinet by Cabinet order.

Mr. Speaker, as we move on into Part V, that is the reason that we do support the amendment for this bill to be referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources. This is an example of a trend towards what we call government by regulation, that is determine details and establish them as regulations, without benefit of public scrutiny and debate by elected officials in the Legislature.

Mr. Speaker, because Cabinet papers are considered confidential and the FOIPOP Act contains escape clauses, there is a potential for government to act without legislative or public scrutiny and that is what we talk about over and over. Even after the fact, certain documents may be protected from public scrutiny. This challenged the government's stated commitment to openness and accountability. Indeed, every effort to escape public or Opposition scrutiny is taken by this government in composing this and other bills.

Clause 12 on Page 4 replaces Sections 4 to 7, 10 and 11 of the existing Public Service Act. The new Section, 7H(3) allows Cabinet to create, by Order in Council, a committee to advise the minister. All terms or references, appointments and employment under this section may be set by regulation. Again, Order In Council.

There is an effort here, again, as we repeat, to avoid the public scrutiny of the Legislature. Moreover, why would the minister require an advisory committee on liquor matters when the bill creates a corporation with its own board of directors.

Given the close relationship of this government and certain private companies and corporations, our concern with an advisory committee is that, apart from the board of the corporation, the minister responsible can accept private advice. No protection against an advisory committee recommending action which is of personal, private or business benefit to certain individuals. We find that troubling. Without public knowledge that may exist, that is of great concern to us. It is a grave concern with this because it opens the door on influence. One could even argue it promotes private influence behind the backs of both the corporation itself, and this House of Assembly, the Legislature.

Mr. Speaker, there are a number of reasons why we believe that this bill should be sent to the Standing Committee on Human Resources for them to look at it, give us some time and to have all the stakeholders involved in this Bill No. 20 to have a say or to have some

[Page 2502]

input. We believe an advisory committee reporting directly to the minister has the potential to skirt public accountability. For this reason we oppose this section and seek to have the advisory committee, if need be, established at all, established to report to the board of directors of the corporation and not the minister, as it stands now. As it stands now, the minister can create a committee to give advice that is apart and potentially at variance with the recommendations of the board of directors.

This begs the question, who does the government intend to run the Liquor Corporation? The minister or the corporation? The board of directors or is it the minister's private committee? The potential for the advisory committee to overrule the board of directors exists and, that in turn, potentially threatens the public trust.

It is because of this government's partisan cronyism that neither our caucus nor the people of this province trust the government to conduct itself with transparency and fairness. This government encourages the cynicism of the populous by enabling private decision making. This leaves the impression that the government of the day holds in contempt the principle of public transparency and accountability and the practice of respecting the public trust.

For this reason, we are anxious to see those clauses enabling regulatory roles altered to require consideration by the elected Legislature. That is why our caucus is supporting the amendment to Bill No. 20, that this bill be referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources.

Mr. Speaker, Clause 15 of the bill enables the proposed Liquor Corporation to borrow with the approval of the Minister of Finance only, not with the benefit of legislative notice or scrutiny and not even with the benefit of Cabinet scrutiny. Clause 26 amends the Liquor Control Act by increasing fines for violation for the illegal sale of liquor.

[5:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member once again is going into the specific clauses and even on second reading - which we are not, we are into an amendment - you are not supposed to, honourable member, refer to it clause by clause. I have extended a lot of latitude to the honourable member and I would ask the honourable member if he would speak to the amendment of the subject matter being referred to the committee.

Further, if I could be helpful to the honourable member, Beauchesne points out that on an amendment it is the principle of the amendment, not the principle of the Act which is the business under consideration. Debate must therefore relate exclusively to the principle of the amending bill, the amendment.

[Page 2503]

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I will try to stay as close to the amendment as I can and refer to the principle of the bill.

Let me change my course of direction if it is your wish, Mr. Speaker. Let me tell you why we believe that this bill should be sent to the Standing Committee on Human Resources. The proposed privatization of the Liquor Commission is one that leaves many questions to be asked. That is why we want to see this go to the Committee on Human Resources for their scrutiny.

I want to talk about the government's decision when it made it easier to get cash to play VLTs in bars. Why did that happen? Well, I will tell you why it happened. It was because of the lobbying of two former Conservative Cabinet Ministers. It was last fall when we learned that former ministers, the honourable George Moody and the honourable George Archibald worked on behalf of bar owners. Not only were they successful in getting some VLT restrictions lifted, they won tax cuts for their clients as well.

Mr. Speaker, the reason for the lobbying of these two former ministers was because the bar owners wanted the province to change the rule that said cash machines had to be 50 feet from video lottery terminals. Their argument was the restriction was inconvenient and unfair since it didn't apply to casinos. So, what happened? The government of the day lifted the restrictions in December of last year. They also agreed last fall to cut in half the 10 per cent surcharge on liquor paid by bar owners.

I don't know if that applies to fire departments, community halls or any other community groups that apply for a special occasion license. The minister is nodding his head so apparently it does. I thank the minister for giving me that advice, I hope you won't rein him in, Mr. Speaker. I'm not saying that is a bad move because I don't think it is, but the fact that we had to have two former Cabinet Ministers lobby on behalf of the bar owners and restaurant owners, it leaves a question to be answered.

Now the other part of that lobbying, Mr. Speaker, there was someone else involved in that lobbying who was the Finance Minister of the day. Basically I did my discussions with the association, says the minister. I didn't look at this as being any different than anyone else coming through my door.

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt the surcharge dropped in half for the bar owners and other retailers of liquor-related products will certainly be a help to those communities. But the privatization of the liquor stores themselves, and it was mentioned earlier in the Legislature today, an outlet in Iona. Somebody made a reference to it that it probably should be in the phone book. I don't think I would go that far because I am sure there are a lot of people in that part of Cape Breton Island, central Cape Breton, who would appreciate having the liquor store but I question where the clientele is coming from in that area, where I don't believe there is a gas station, I don't believe there is a corner store. It begs the question,

[Page 2504]

where is the clientele going to come from for all these eight new outlets proposed by the minister? Are we going to drop the age from 19 to a lower age, so we can bring in new clientele? I just beg to ask, where is this new clientele coming from where we are going to make extra money by issuing new outlets?

Mr. Speaker, the head of the Liquor Commission, Mr. Findlay, told the Public Accounts Committee last fall that we were already saturated with liquor stores in the province; we had enough to supply the demand. We are opening up new stores and I wonder where the clientele is coming from for eight new stores. It is going to take from other stores that are already established. What becomes of those properties? (Interruption) And they would have to sell the booze at a discount rate. There are a lot of questions to be asked relative to how the government expects to raise more money with more outlets when the Liquor Commission, itself, was making huge profits for this government for the last number of years. Do we expect more people to start drinking? I don't know if that is the idea. Do we make it more attractive for more people? Where are the clientele going to come from for an outlet at Iona?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member for Victoria entertain a question?

MR. MACASKILL: Well, I don't think so. If I may, Mr. Speaker (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Victoria does have the floor and I was requesting on behalf of an honourable member, if he would take a question. He has every right to say no.

MR. MACASKILL: I want to tell the ministers, when we ask them questions they don't answer, so why (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Does the honourable member for Cape Breton South want to ask a question?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: No, I don't want to ask him a question. I am rising on a point of order. The honourable Minister of Tourism rose and asked if he could ask a question. I might remind the honourable minister that he is free to enter this debate any time and when our member sits down, government members are perfectly able, if they are willing, to get up and enter this debate and they can get all their questions answered at that time.

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

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for getting up on a point of order, but also the minister can get up on a point of order, if he wishes.

[Page 2505]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I know the honourable member for Victoria realizes that these points of order are ticking away at his time and I just thought I should make that clear.

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Perhaps the honourable member could go back and do a little research and see how many stores the previous government opened up from the time they took government over in 1993 until 1999. He would be very interested in seeing the number of stores.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I really believe that there were enough liquor stores opened up and it took a number of years to reach the saturation point. I don't see anything wrong with that. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member does have the floor.

MR. MACASKILL: I want to talk about a new outlet that could be coming in Whycocomagh. Mr. Speaker, this could be a very popular spot. It is a good place for a liquor store. I am wondering if the best proposal comes from the First Nations Reserve in Whycocomagh, would the minister entertain that proposal or would he not put it in the bill because the First Nations Reserve is one-quarter mile from the village, if the minister moves in that direction? I know the Waycobah First Nation, they are good business people, they are very aggressive. They are active in trying to develop the community and create jobs there. But I am wondering if the best proposal comes and the minister decides that the First Nations should get the liquor store there because they, probably, would provide the best proposal, do we open up more reserves for liquor stores? There are many, many questions relative to the location of private liquor outlets. Again, the more private outlets we open up, it is going to take from good paying jobs in the Liquor Commission as it is established today. Jobs will disappear.

Mr. Speaker, what about specialty products? Will we still have the same amount of products? I am sure the store in Iona is not going to have specialty brands on the shelf that they are only going to sell a bottle or two a year. So there are many, many questions relative to the privatization of liquor stores. None the least of which is it is going to take good paying jobs because the people in Iona have to drive to a town or a village to buy groceries. They have to drive a distance to get gas so why should we feel that we have to move the Liquor Commission closer to them? It is a question that I beg to ask. The same could be said in other small areas of the province like Wentworth and the other areas where the eight stores are designated.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I know the honourable member is in full flight, but would he want to adjourn debate until after the late debate?

[Page 2506]

MR. MACASKILL: At your wish, Mr. Speaker, I will adjourn debate. I will be better prepared when I come back.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member wishes to adjourn debate.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The debate is adjourned.

The late debate tonight has been submitted by the honourable member for Cape Breton South.

"Therefore be it resolved that this government is soft on tobacco smuggling which plays into the hands of the criminal element in society."

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

FIN. - TOBACCO SMUGGLING: GOV'T. (N.S.) - STANCE

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise in this place today to talk about the issue that was brought up in the House on a number of occasions and that is with regard to the penalty, which was part of Bill No. 30, for which smugglers who are illegally smuggling tobacco products into Nova Scotia, were getting off with less penalties than what were previously there. I remember, previously, the penalty fines were between $10,000 and $50,000 for the different offences. I understand now, under the new bill, the rate is from $250, I believe, up to $5,000.

[6:00 p.m.]

I believe that the ministers responsible, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Justice, were saying it is because the court could not impose those fines. I think that is not accurate. The court has the right to be able to impose those fines on criminal activity in the Province of Nova Scotia. We talk about having deterrents in the system. When we talk about establishing a deterrent so that people do not continue to do illegal activity, so what does this government do, they hold back, they say, well, we don't think it should be as tough as it was, so we are only going to have a minimum amount for a penalty. People have been charged,

[Page 2507]

I understand, by the courts, those numbers, those $10,000 fines. It was only recently that some of those have been in question.

The reality is those fines were a deterrent. It is like Ronald Reagan used his arguments against the former Soviet Union, building up nuclear armament was a deterrent. Well, this government here is turning around and saying, instead of having a financial deterrent against illegal smuggling, they are going to lower it. That is like welcoming them in, bring them in with open arms. Our question was, who got to who, in convincing this government that lowering the fines would be a benefit for illegal activity in the Province of Nova Scotia. Go figure, just go figure how anybody in their right mind could understand that by lowering the fines you are going to slow down illegal activity in tobacco smuggling in the Province of Nova Scotia.

People are laughing at us. The criminal component in the Province of Nova Scotia is saying, gosh, this Progressive Conservative Government is doing the right thing for us criminals, and we obviously are going to be supporting them in the next election because they are the ones who have taken away the deterrent, the deterrent against illegal activity. I know that the member for Preston is saying that we should lower it even more. I don't understand that.

The bottom line is that they are taking away the deterrent against illegal activity in the Province of Nova Scotia.

AN HON. MEMBER: They are aiding and abetting criminal activity, that is what is going on there.

MR. DOWNE: The smugglers of the Province of Nova Scotia are happy. The smugglers are happy. Then we hear from the Minister of Justice that the judges will not impose those fines, so why have them? What do you mean the judges will not impose those fines? There is a bill before the House. It was passed. This Legislature deemed that they should have a deterrent that would have enough teeth in it to stop that illegal activity. What does that mean to have that illegal activity? It means somebody is getting tobacco cheaper, and ultimately are selling it cheaper, promoting people to smoke in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Yet, this is a government that says we shouldn't be promoting smoking in Nova Scotia. (Interruptions) Well, maybe some members on the backbench are saying we want young kids to smoke. The members on this side of the House do not want the young people smoking in the Province of Nova Scotia. Shame on that member back there for even alluding to the fact that they promote people to smoke in the Province of Nova Scotia. (Interruptions) If he wants to keep going on about things like that, I think it is quite bad.

[Page 2508]

We, on this side of the House, especially the Liberal Party on this side of the House, are saying that we should be using all in our power to help people not to get into tobacco smoking situations. The cheaper the tobacco is, the more people will smoke.

AN HON. MEMBER: Good point.

MR. DOWNE: What do they say to the smugglers of the Province of Nova Scotia? You come on over here, if you are in New Brunswick, you come on over to Nova Scotia; if you are in any other province, you come to Nova Scotia, because you are only going to get a $250 fine, if you are caught smuggling tobacco. That stolen tobacco, that illegal tobacco is coming in, and ultimately ends up on the black market . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Those people think that is funny.

MR. DOWNE: Yes, I see a few more laughing back there.

AN HON. MEMBER: They think that is funny, over there.

MR. DOWNE: Well, I don't think it's very funny and I don't think Nova Scotians feel that it's very funny; I think it's disgraceful what this government is doing with regard to abetting organized crime in their pursuit of profit on illegal activity. So what we have said to the minister and what we said to the Minister of Justice, going from $10,000 down to $250 is a bit of a long slide; it's like they fell right off the face of the earth when they made that decision. If they are going to go on a scale, why don't they bring in a scale that at least shows this government is committed to stopping the illegal activity of tobacco and the illegal selling of tobacco to individuals at a cheaper rate.

This is a government that entered the last election saying that they will be a force, they will be tough on criminals; they said they were going to be tough on criminals. If they were in power, they would have the ability to be able to enforce laws so that criminals would suffer; there would be deterrents given to criminals. For one, the first pieces of legislation with regard to criminal activity, what do they do? They say, gosh, we don't want to hurt you too badly; in fact, we are going to reduce the fines and penalties against criminal activity to the point of a couple hundred bucks. These guys are laughing; the criminals in the province are laughing at what this windfall benefit for them will be under a Progressive Conservative Government.

Shame on this government. They talk one way during the election campaign and they do the exact opposite after it's over. The minister is back there talking about smoking again, I think; I don't know what he's saying, he's mumbling back there to the backbencher, but if he has something to say, then his time is coming.

[Page 2509]

AN HON. MEMBER: Put it on the record; you have been here two years, you aren't on it yet.

MR. DOWNE: Stand up and be counted.

Mr. Speaker, there is another side of this debate that I think is important, and that is the fact that this government originally said they were going to do all within their power to stop smoking in the Province of Nova Scotia. They talked about increasing the taxation on tobacco, for which I think most members of the House supported because the higher the cost of tobacco, the less able people are to buy those cigarettes and the healthier a society we are, the less cost to the Department of Health. So what did they do? They had a chance to go to $8.00 and then went to $4.00. But I think most people believed that that $4.00 tax was going to be used for health prevention, for helping people get away from tobacco smoking, to help those who are addicted to tobacco to be helped through a program. They are going to receive $20.7 million in that tax, for which $5.7 million is being used; $15 million is going into the coffers of the Province of Nova Scotia.

AN HON. MEMBER: Slush fund.

MR. DOWNE: It was not part of the revenue stream that was put into the budget just a few days ago, it is a new windfall profit to the Province of Nova Scotia. Why aren't they doing something about helping those who are addicted to tobacco? Instead of helping them, they are taking that money and instead of getting the money from the criminals, they are giving it back to them. They are taking from those taxpayers of Nova Scotia who are addicted to tobacco smoking and using it in general revenue to pay down some of the $1.3 billion debt that grew last year under the Tory Government; over $2 billion in less than two years, and they are using that money to pay down the debt that they couldn't manage. At the same time, they are saying to the individuals who are out there smuggling and stealing tobacco, we are going to give you a benefit. They won't give a tax benefit on bracket creep to working Nova Scotians, but they are going to give a benefit to the smugglers of tobacco in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Shame on this Progressive Conservative Government, shame on those on the front bench, shame on that Minister of Justice and that Minister of Finance to say to the people of Nova Scotia that we are condoning and supporting tobacco smuggling in the Province of Nova Scotia. We are going to allow them to get away with very little penalty; we are actually, in a way, condoning what they are doing.

Mr. Speaker, I hope Nova Scotians heard and will continue to bring that message forward to the Progressive Conservative Party that tobacco smuggling is not one that we want to support, but in fact they should be increasing the penalties against them and not allowing it to be smaller.

[Page 2510]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, what hypocrisy. What pure, unmitigated, unadulterated hypocrisy.

Mr. Speaker, why are we here dealing with the question of tobacco fines? Why are we here? They don't want to hear the hypocrisy, they are leaving, they are fleeing the Chamber. Why are we here? We are here . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I think the member knows not to refer to whether or not a member is in the Chamber. Thank you.

MR. MACISAAC: I didn't say they weren't here, Mr. Speaker, I made reference to what their intentions were.

Now, Mr. Speaker - and if I should not have indicated their intentions then I will retract their intentions because they, in fact, backtracked and came back to their seats.

AN HON. MEMBER: You apologize.

MR. MACISAAC: I did apologize and I retracted it, but I will not apologize for the hypocrisy that we have listened to in the last 10 minutes from the previous speaker, Mr. Speaker.

Why are we dealing with this subject? We are dealing with this subject, because the courts of this province struck down the previous fines in existence. Why did they strike them down? They struck those fines down because they violated the Charter of Rights brought forward by the former Liberal Prime Minister, the late Right Honourable Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

AN HON. MEMBER: A Liberal.

MR. MACISAAC: Pardon? He was a Liberal, of course he was, in latter years.

Now, Mr. Speaker, why did they strike down the fines? They struck down those fines, and I will quote from the document, which I will table. I will table the page I am quoting from, and this is the Honourable Judge R. Brian Gibson, and this decision was rendered in Dartmouth on September 15, 1998. I want to note who was in power in September 1998 when this fine was struck down by the court. We know who was in power. That crowd over there were in power when this fine was struck down. The crowd who are here with their hypocritical complaining today about fines, they were in power and they didn't do anything about restoring the fine struck down by the court.

[Page 2511]

Here is what the judge had to say, "I conclude that a fine approximately ten times greater than that which I would consider to be an appropriate fine is not only disproportionate but is grossly disproportionate and therefore so unfit as to infringe the right embodied by s.12 of the Charter." That, Mr. Speaker, is what we heard from the judge.

I will further quote, Mr. Speaker, one further citation from his ruling, "Based upon the foregoing analysis I concluded on June 26, 1998 that the minimum fine provisions of s. 89(1) and s. 91 of the Revenue Act, when read together, would constitute a cruel and unusual punishment contrary to s. 12 of the Charter both in relation to the offender and the offence before me and also in relation to reasonable hypotheticals. The minimum fine would, under both aspects of this analysis, lead to results that would 'outrage standards of decency' as stated by Lamer C.J.C. in R. v. Smith." Mr. Speaker, I will table the sheet that that quote is taken from.

What is important to note here is the date upon which this ruling was rendered. The date was in June 1998. That crew over there was in power and from that point on the fines were useless, Mr. Speaker. From that point on they were little more than paper tiger fines; that is all they were. They sat on their butts and did nothing - absolutely nothing. I ask you, who was in collusion with the criminal element if that is what they want to bring forward here today? Who was in collusion?

[6:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The phrase that the member is using is unparliamentary. I would ask him to retract it immediately, please.

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, if that is your ruling, I will retract it, but I note that when there was reference made to the PC Government and the criminal element, there was no ruling forthcoming from you. Perhaps collusion was too strong a word and I will take that back and I apologize for it. (Interruptions)

The fact is, that they did nothing for over a year. Is it any wonder I choose words beyond the capacity of the parliament to express their behaviour? (Applause)

That is why we are here today because there were no fines in place, none whatever, and that crew over there (Interruptions). Mr. Speaker, who allowed criminals to get away with illegal activity, no fines, paper tiger fines, that is the group that allowed the criminal element to get away with their activity. That group over there. We are correcting that and we are bringing forward fines that are in line with the fines right across this country. He doesn't like what he is hearing because his mouth is going faster than it did when he was on his feet. (Interruptions) Yes, you might ask what was being smoked when they were speaking.

We are bringing forward fines . . .

[Page 2512]

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I have listened to the individual basically take personal attacks at our Party and now he is taking personal attacks at me, alluding that there has been smoking, alluding to the fact that I was committing a criminal offence. I don't even smoke and I think that minister should apologize to me for leaving that false impression. It is like me saying that he is drunk and I think that is unfair.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The member rose on a point of order that is not actually a point of order. The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations has the floor.

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, we are putting in effect fines that have real teeth. They are fines that will be a real deterrent, not paper tiger fines. They are fines from a real government. They are fines that will fill the gap that was left vacant by that group over there, left vacant in 1998, left vacant in 1999. That is what we are doing today, we are filling the gap and that is why we are here. (Applause)

Unfortunately, I got sidetracked with the hypocrisy that came from the other side and it leaves me without the opportunity to outline the fine structure, but I will tell you that the fines that we are imposing through the legislation currently before the House are in keeping with the fine structure right across this country. They will be a deterrent. This government will address the criminal element when it comes to the smuggling of tobacco and we will not be like the crew on the other side who sat on their hands while the criminal element was allowed to go free without any fines - paper tiger fines, that is the solution that they presented.

So, the fine structure will be a deterrent, the fine structure will allow us to address the criminal element when it comes to the issue of tobacco smuggling and this government is determined to assist individuals in this province to break the habit, get away from the use of tobacco products. We are also determined to ensure that the criminal element will stop. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have some opportunity, on behalf of the NDP, the Opposition Party, to speak on this resolution. I will start by saying that the Finance Critic, the member for Lunenburg West, has put forward, I think, a very good resolution.

Here is the problem with what this government is doing with regard to the Financial Measures (2001) Bill. They have created a minimum fine that is $250, I believe, for less than 50 cartons of cigarettes and, I think, it is a minimum of $500 if it is more. I sort of said to

[Page 2513]

myself when I read that originally, why would they bring it down so much? Maybe there was a constitutional - I think the minimum before was $10,000 or something, why did they bring it down from $10,000 to $250? Then it dawned on me. They are not going to be going out there and charging people if they are caught with cigarettes, they are going to be issuing the equivalent of a speeding ticket. They are telling people who smuggle tobacco, you are going to get the equivalent of a speeding ticket if you are caught smuggling cigarettes. That is a shame, it really is.

Let's be clear, because having written legislation for the government before, any fine that is under $500 is issued by way of what they call an SOT, a summary offence ticket. It is the equivalent of a speeding ticket that this government will be imposing on the people who are caught smuggling and that is not a fine, that is a slap on the wrist, and that is a problem because we are going to encourage people to go out and continue to smuggle cigarettes.

If they were serious there are other measures they could have taken beyond issuing the equivalent of a speeding ticket, Mr. Speaker. What about seizing the equipment which they use to actually smuggle cigarettes? Maybe it is a boat, maybe it is a truck. There are many different things that could be done. This government is quick to jump on johns and seize their vehicles, they are quick to jump on other people and seize their vehicles but when it comes to tobacco smugglers, for some unknown reason, they take the light road.

We have a Minister of Justice who, on a regular basis, is telling us how tough he is. I am going to make drunk drivers pay for their stay in jail; that is what he says, even though it is unconstitutional. We are going to take away the cars of johns which, again, is probably unconstitutional and that is why that bill still lies dormant on the order paper. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, the fact is - well, the third time we are back on the johns bill and the third time the bill has been put away, shelved. (Interruption)

Well, Mr. Speaker, the point is that this government, when it comes to tobacco is taking the easy road. Constitutionally, maybe $10,000 was unconstitutional, I don't know, I haven't read the case, but the fact is this government, I don't believe, appealed that decision and, second of all, with regard to the issue, did not impose a fine that is actually going to be a deterrent. That is what fines are for. Maybe fines can be too high and that might be considered unconstitutional but I would say a $250 or $500 fine is not high enough. All it is is a means of police officers issuing speeding tickets, or the equivalent of a speeding ticket to someone who is smuggling tobacco, someone who will be selling illegal smokes to our children. That is much worse than a speeding ticket. I think it deserves a fine that reflects the serious nature of what they are doing, smuggling, using contraband goods and trying to sell them in our province and yet all we can do is say a $250 fine is okay.

[Page 2514]

Well, Mr. Speaker, in a province where this government seems to have no problem imposing $50 bed fees on seniors or imposing Pharmacare increases or shutting down emergency rooms or imposing user fees on the child register, this is a government that has no problem saying that if you want to find out whether the person applying for your job is a child abuser, you are going to have to pay us money. If you are a farmer, you are going to have to pay us money to get an application to ask for money from us.

This government has no problem finding a litany of ways in which to impose user fees, Mr. Speaker, and at the same time, when they have an opportunity to impose serious fines that are going to really deter people from smuggling tobacco, they balk at it. They walk away from it and say, we are going to issue speeding tickets to these people. Well, I find that hypocritical. I think that kind of attitude is the reason why the people of Nova Scotia are so frustrated with this government. They see on one hand a government that keeps taking out of their pocket and on the other hand they seem to be doing things that are just inconsistent with a government that truly is trying to reform government, is trying to ensure we have a healthier society.

We keep talking about health care and we keep talking about the fact that health care costs are spiralling out of control. We have a Health Minister who tells us that on a regular basis, Mr. Speaker. Health care costs are spiralling out of control, faster than the rate of inflation while at the same time things that could be done to help ensure that primary health is being addressed - what do I mean by that? Well, things that would stop people from smoking, so 10, 20, 30, 40 years from now we are going to have fewer smokers and, therefore, we are going to have lower health care costs. Long-term investment in primary health care would include serious fines against people who smuggle illegal tobacco into this province, that then is used by children and others for smoking cheap cigarettes.

Mr. Speaker, this government had an opportunity to address, in the long term, an investment in primary health by many means, one of them being serious fines, not speeding tickets, but serious fines that can be imposed on the people who smuggle tobacco, and they balked at that. The Minister of Health stands up the next time and says, we have health care costs spiralling out of control and I don't know what to do, I can't blame the district health authority any more, what I am going to do? He should look back at the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations and the Minister of Finance and say, why didn't you raise those fines. Why didn't you raise those fines on the people who are smuggling, so we could have a legitimate form of deterrence against smuggling in this province?

Mr. Speaker, that is a problem. It is a problem this government is not willing to address. I think that is pitiful. I think it is important that the people of Nova Scotia know exactly what this government has been doing and will continue to do. With one hand they are imposing user fees on people and, on the other hand, they are not putting legitimate fines on the people of Nova Scotia. I think that is wrong. That is why I support this resolution.

[Page 2515]

MR. SPEAKER: We have reached the end of debate. (Interruptions)

SOME HON. MEMBERS: No, no.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture, you have three minutes.

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it surely is a . . .

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The member for Victoria was on his feet, first, to speak.

MR. SPEAKER: I did not see the member for Victoria standing. What I did see was the Minister of Tourism and Culture standing, in the remaining time left for the late debate. There is still time remaining for the late debate.

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I was clearly on my feet, some members from over there said I was on my feet.

MR. SPEAKER: That is fine. There were a number of members on their feet on this side of the House. We are still in late debate. There is still time left.

The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture, if he wants, has the floor. I did recognize him. There are two minutes left in the late debate.

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to rise on my feet, with the remaining time left. Unfortunately, I know there is not a whole lot of time to talk about tonight's late debate, which is focused on the fines with respect to the tobacco smuggling situation. It is something I haven't had the opportunity to - I missed the beginning of the debate - hear my honourable colleague, the member for Antigonish speak on this very important issue. I did hear him straighten out the member for Lunenburg West on one or two or three occasions. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, of course, I heard the main component, when I heard him, because (Interruptions) the member for Lunenburg West, no wonder he is all smiles, he just came back from vacation. He went down to Houston, I believe, and the good member for Digby . . .

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The minister referred to a vacation, I would like the House to know that I was asked on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Government to attend a conference on an OTC, offshore, with the Premier, which I did. They asked me to go down over the weekend, so that it would be a cheaper flight, so I did. I was at the conference over the week, as was the minister and a member of

[Page 2516]

the New Democratic Party. The minister misled this House. I ask that he retract that statement.

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

The Minister of Tourism and Culture, you have 15 seconds.

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: I would like to thank the member for clarifying that indeed, he wasn't on vacation. He was good enough to start listening to this side of the House and do what he was told, to go on the trip. (Interruptions) I would like to thank him for doing so. Unfortunately, I ran out of time. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. Thankfully, the time allotted for debate on the Adjournment motion has expired. (Laughter)

[PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING]

Bill No. 20 - Government Restructuring (2001) Act. [Debate Resumed.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria has 22 minutes left.

[6:30 p.m.]

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I will continue on where I left off or at least try to entertain the House for another few minutes. What we are talking about here is a bill about restructuring government. When we talk on the bill we talk about the perception or the perceived governance of this Party. We listened to a very lively debate during the late debate. It was interesting that I heard, on several occasions, the word hypocrisy. It is interesting where it was coming from over there because I think the honourable minister made several promises to his people down in Antigonish to get elected and one of them was a road which he promised to the people. Of course, we have all seen the big sign when we were driving home. I am sure if we asked the people in Antigonish about hypocrisy, they will explain that to us.

Mr. Speaker, back to the bill, we were talking about An Act to Restructure the Government of Nova Scotia and the amendment to that bill was that we believe this should go to the Standing Committee on Human Resources. We talked about the inability of this Tory Government to govern. Is this going to make any difference to restructure government? What is that going to do? It is like putting them all on the merry-go-round, turning them around and letting them off at the bottom and see how they will go from there.

[Page 2517]

Mr. Speaker, this bill creates a Public Service Commission. What else is new? What is this, this Public Service Commission? It is a hiring agency. This centralizes the hiring functions of this government. Does this mean that hiring will be more suspect as a result of the change? I wonder, is it going to be clearer to us? People that they hire, how are they going to be selected? What does this mean to the various human resource functions now being conducted in the various departments? Will the human resource professionals in the various departments do the recommending only to have their decisions vetoed by the Public Service Commission? Is that what restructuring is all about?

Mr. Speaker, all valid questions from the public and to the public, what they are looking for is what is happening to the restructuring of the government in this bill, as I mentioned earlier. Why would this government want to duplicate a hiring service? Will the creation of the Public Service Commission mean that human resource professionals from the department move over to the Public Service Commission or will the government be adding more administration to the Public Service Commission in order to do the same job that is currently being done by those departments at the present time? I believe, at the end of the day, we will have one minister responsible for hiring for government. Indeed, we believe that is quite a heavy burden.

Mr. Speaker, we will see, through the economic development, the blue chip panel of unelected individuals responsible for the funding of economic development initiatives in Nova Scotia. Who will these people be, we wonder? It will likely be a group of people handing out taxpayers dollars, selected by this government, with leanings to this government and supporting this government, handing out public money and without any public scrutiny and accountability. We ask, where is the accountability here? This government has taken the apparatus of government apart. It has dismantled it and what is it doing? It is handing it over to a group of people who are not elected or who are not accountable to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, the Business Development Act is repealed. Where is this government's commitment to small business? Will we see the Nova Scotia Business Inc. pay attention to the needs of small business? We all know that small business is the backbone of this province. It is the backbone of the economy of this province. That is why this province is doing fairly well and some sections of the province are doing very well because of small business and their contribution to the government. We should never lose sight of the fact that small business in this province deserves to be recognized. Let's hope that by turning over business to those in Nova Scotia Business Inc., small business will still be recognized in the face of the loss of the legislation supporting the development of small business, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, there are many things we could talk about on this bill. That is the reason we ask that this be referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources.

[Page 2518]

The general theme of all pieces of legislation brought in by this government is the degree to which the details are left up to the Governor in Council, which enables government to change conditions, to change terms and remunerations without being accountable in the Legislature or the House for doing so. These changes will also enable government to escape public scrutiny as the background documents are Cabinet documents, hence they are considered confidential. So, Mr. Speaker, that is why we talk about accountability and openness; a clear course, a new direction and the clear course.

Mr. Speaker, in closing, this bill is no different than any other government bill we have seen. The prime example is the Employment Supports Bill. The main thrust is enshrined in this Order in Council regulations, not in legislation. This is a secretive government, not an open and accountable government as they promised.

Mr. Speaker, that is why we support the amendment on the floor today because we believe and we ask and we beg of this government to make a commitment to what they promised, to be open and accountable to all taxpayers of Nova Scotia. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to have an opportunity to stand in my place and speak to the amendment to Bill No. 20, the Government Restructuring (2001) Act that was moved by my colleague and the Leader of our Party, the honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

This amendment would require that Bill No. 20 be referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources. This is a very sensible amendment and one that deserves to be supported, I think, because it is such a sensible amendment. The bill itself, which I am not going to go into in any detail, is a source of great concern to me and to members of the NDP caucus. If we were to refer this bill to the Human Resources Committee, that committee would have an opportunity to examine, in much greater detail, the implications of Bill No. 20 that has been brought here by the Minister of Human Resources.

Mr. Speaker, the committee process of the Legislature, as you will be aware, but not everyone would be aware, is a very good process. It is a fair process. The Standing Committees of the Legislature, and there are nine Standing Committees of this Legislature, are made up of members of all Parties. As such, it gives every Party an opportunity to participate in examining documents and having witnesses come before the committee to really interrogate a very broad range of issues. With respect to this bill there certainly would be, I think, a number of organizations that would have an interest in coming forward. It is not just organizations that would be interested in coming and speaking about this bill with the Standing Committee on Human Resources, but I think that Nova Scotians quite generally should have an opportunity to come forward and express their views on Bill No. 20.

[Page 2519]

The fear that I have and certainly that members of the NDP caucus have with respect to Bill No. 20 is the continuing, insatiable hunger that this government has for more and more . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I am hearing about 15 or 20 conversations when I should only be hearing one, I believe. If the members would come to order, it would be appreciated. Thank you.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham has the floor.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, I think that I am concerned and members of this caucus are concerned about the insatiable hunger that this government has for more and more high-priced administrative help with less and less accountability to this Legislature and to the people of Nova Scotia. Where is it going to end?

AN HON. MEMBER: Who knows?

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: This government is really sticking it to Nova Scotians, hard-working Nova Scotians who are struggling every day, from paycheque to paycheque quite often, to try to be able to afford to put their children through school or to provide for the health care, the nursing home services, the home care services for elderly relatives. They are really sticking it to those who have fallen on hard times. Yet they have no difficulty being preoccupied with more and more high-priced administrative - the restructuring that is going on has contributed to an ongoing increase in the cost of government in this province. At the same time the quality, the quantity, the availability and the accessibility of services to the ordinary Nova Scotian is decreasing.

Nova Scotians are asking why is this happening. They are angry about it, they are sickened by this and by the folly of the government. They feel quite betrayed, they have relied on this government to do the things that they promised, they relied on them to provide some stability in the provision of public services. They did not imagine that what would be occurring would be an ongoing reorganization with more and more administration, higher costs for high-priced help, less accountability for people in powerful positions and less services to Nova Scotians. Our fear is that's what Bill No. 20 is all about.

[6:45 p.m.]

So this amendment is an amendment that would allow for a more thorough examination of the implications in Bill No. 20. We would have an opportunity perhaps to question the minister about what his intentions are with respect to Bill No. 20, and we would have an opportunity to hear from Nova Scotians about how they really feel about this ongoing building of a high-paid, unaccountable administrative layer of government in this

[Page 2520]

province that really does not often take into account the interests of communities and the people themselves.

Mr. Speaker, I was in this House prior to the 1999 election, and I listened to members of that Party when they were over here on this side of the House. I remember all too well their rhetoric with respect to the need for more community control and say over the provisions of public services. These are things that are certainly very important to me and to people in the NDP caucus and to people I represent. That's why I'm here, to stand up for the communities that have put us here.

All of a sudden that rhetoric of communities having more control and having more say has been completely forgotten by the members. Just having made a small stroll across eight or nine feet of floor, all of a sudden they are more interested in having control and decision making made in downtown Halifax, in the backrooms, in the bunker downstairs, and without ever having to be accountable in any real way for the direction in which this government is going.

Mr. Speaker, the Standing Committee on Human Resources would be a very good committee to look at this, as you know, because this is the committee that is given the power - or the responsibility, if you will - to look at the Civil Service, to look at the Public Service, to look at Human Resources. What Bill No. 20 does is a significant reorganization, restructuring of public services, the Civil Service; in fact a redefinition in many respects.

Many people, Mr. Speaker, they use these words, Civil Service and Public Service interchangeably, which isn't necessarily an accurate characterization. The Civil Service is that group of employees who work directly for government in a government department, like the Department of Community Services, like the Department of Transportation and Public Works, but the Public Service is a much broader group of people. This particular bill would establish a Public Service Commission and would bring under the control of the Public Service Commission a very large number of government services.

Mr. Speaker, the Financial Measures (2000) Act of last year had a schedule attached to it where it laid out what a government service organization in the Province of Nova Scotia was and these are groups whose employees would be covered by this new Public Service Commission. The Annapolis Valley Regional School Board and, in fact, all of the regional school boards in Nova Scotia - the Halifax Regional School Board, Chignecto-Central Regional School Board and so on. All of the district health authority boards and many, many other groups and organizations. The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia will be brought in under the Public Service Commission. The Cape Breton Health Care Complex, the Bedford Waterfront Development Corporation, the IWK. On this list is the Law Reform Commission but, we know that this government have seen fit to get rid of the Law Reform Commission; but the Nova Scotia Arts Council, the Nova Scotia Gaming Foundation, the Public Archives, the QE II Health Sciences Centre. This means that employees of these organizations defined here in

[Page 2521]

Schedule "A" of the Financial Measures (2001) Bill, would all be brought in under the Public Service Commission.

This government claims that this bill is about restructuring, the restructuring of government. But you can see if you look at all of the government services organizations in this schedule that are intended to be brought in under the Public Service Commission, you can start to see quite clearly that this isn't about restructuring at all. This is about government - this government - taking greater control over the affairs of all of these organizations, but not having to be accountable, a government not being accountable for the decisions that they will be making in the backrooms that will profoundly affect these organizations.

This is why we need to send Bill No. 20 to the Standing Committee on Human Resources. We need to do this so that we have an opportunity to have a full and comprehensive examination of the implications of Bill No. 20 on these organizations, on the services they provide, on the employees of these organizations, on the boards of directors in many cases in these organizations. We need to, in that process, look at ways to require that this government is accountable - or any other government is accountable - for their actions and their decisions with respect to the provision of government services.

A broader public discussion or review around Bill No. 20 would also give us an opportunity to understand more fully what this government anticipates its role would be with respect to collective bargaining in the Public Service, as they define it with respect to these organizations. This would be a very timely discussion in light of the current labour dispute in the Halifax Regional School Board with the cleaners and the custodial workers. It has been a frustrating few weeks dealing with this government on this particular labour dispute. It has been a frustrating few weeks, because we consistently have seen the Minister of Education sidestep and dance around her responsibility in this dispute.

Mr. Speaker, my fear and the fear of members of the NDP caucus is that what Bill No. 20 is doing is laying the groundwork for a continuation of the pattern that is becoming well-established in the Hamm Government, to be pulling the purse strings, to be calling the tune for the various boards and organizations around the province, but then not taking responsibility, not being accountable for decisions that are being made. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. Order, please. Perhaps the members aren't hearing me, I am pretty sure I said order, please.

The member for Halifax Needham has the floor.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, what I was saying was that this is a government that doesn't want to take any responsibility for many of the situations that have developed with respect to collective bargaining in the school boards, for example, the Halifax Regional School Board. What Bill No. 20 does is it extends the power of this government,

[Page 2522]

without the accountability that is required to ensure that we are able to hold this government accountable here on behalf of Nova Scotians, in the Legislature, because that is what we have to do. That is our job.

The Human Resources Committee would be in a position, I think, to really examine and to hear from various labour groups, to hear from some of the management groups representing these organizations that are now going to be pulled into the Public Service Commission, about what their views are about the extent to which any autonomy that they currently have will be lost and how they feel about that. What kind of an impact this would have on them and on their ability to respond to the local issues and respond to the needs of people in the communities where they operate. This is a very important point, and it is one that this government talked about when they were on this side of the House, but have clearly forgotten, as they crossed the floor. All this government has offered is rhetoric about self-reliance and their plan for self-reliance.

Mr. Speaker, I am convinced now that the government has a five-point plan for self-reliance. It is called, bring your own doctor to the emergency room, bring your own nurse to the hospital, bring your own lunch to cancer treatments, bring your own infant or preschoolers to workfare programs, and bring your own toilet paper to school. (Interruptions) That is the five-point plan. John Hamm's five-point plan for self-reliance in Nova Scotia. That is as far as the restructuring goes. There is no restructuring that is in the interests of Nova Scotians here, the only restructuring that we see is about centralizing power in downtown Halifax, it is about not having to assume responsibility for the greater power that you now have, it is about hiding behind these boards, these authorities, these various commissions that you establish. It is about having more and more high-priced help who are faceless and unaccountable to the people of Nova Scotia because they weren't elected and they are the people who make the decisions.

[7:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, all that results from this is more and more frustration on the part of Nova Scotians who are getting pretty discouraged that the government they elected and relied on to keep their word, a word that included promising Nova Scotians greater accountability, greater transparency in government and more decision-making closer to where people lived in their day-to-day lives, all those promises and those things that Nova Scotians believe now lie in ruins. It is very apparent that this government had another plan, a secret plan, and unfortunately this Bill No. 20 embodies some of that plan. So this is another reason why I think we need an opportunity for an all-Party Standing Committee of this House to take some time to hear from Nova Scotians, to do some analysis and to have an opportunity to reach some conclusions that would be sensible conclusions and that might restore some of the trust and faith and hope that Nova Scotians have in their government. I think that would be time well spent.

[Page 2523]

Mr. Speaker, I happen to be a member of the Standing Committee on Human Resources. I certainly would be very prepared to spend my time hearing from Nova Scotians with respect to Bill No. 20. I would consider that time very well spent. I would hope that other members of the committee would be prepared to hear from Nova Scotians and take an objective look at this bill and really have an opportunity to look perhaps at the whole history of restructuring that has gone on in Nova Scotia and really ask ourselves exactly what have Nova Scotians gotten from the long and costly history of restructuring in the Province of Nova Scotia since 1991.

You know this pattern or this tendency to try to reorganize government is a very thin, veiled attempt at cutting government services. That is what we have seen with restructuring for the past 10 years in Nova Scotia, that generally speaking, the people whose jobs disappear are often people on the front lines and people who are casual workers and people throughout the Civil Service and the Public Service, not at the high administrative end. We have seen an increase in managers in many government departments. This is a pattern that has been repeated over and over again. Nova Scotians are really cynical about it because they know that at the end of the day they are left with fewer services, still paying the same amount of money for public services but they get less. It would seem that their elected representatives are less accountable than they used to be and they wonder why the legislative process isn't more effective for them. So I think these are all valid questions for the Standing Committee on Human Resources to examine as they look at the approach that this government is taking in Bill No. 20.

When I look at the history of the reorganization of Government Services, Mr. Speaker, it is a sorry history and there has been a lot of it, unfortunately. It started with a former Tory Premier, Don Cameron, back in 1991 when he eliminated the Small Business, Solicitor General, Mines and Energy and Advanced Education Departments through amalgamation. He had a smaller Cabinet. There was no longer a separate Housing Minister. He downgraded the Management Board. But did he save any money? Absolutely not. He didn't save any money whatsoever. Jobs were eliminated and services to Nova Scotia were significantly eroded.

Mr. Speaker, the Savage Government continued on this path to cut public services under the guise of making government more efficient and of achieving savings. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is a little too much chit chat in the room, I think, for whatever reason. (Interruptions) I don't know if it was a shift change, or what have you.

The honourable Minister of Education on an introduction.

[Page 2524]

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the attention of the House to some visitors in the Speaker's Gallery, two distinguished parliamentarians the member for Calgary Centre and former Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Joe Clark, and the member for Kings-Hants, Scott Brison. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Welcome to our honoured guests. (Laughter) Order, please.

AN HON. MEMBER: It is your own members.

MR. SPEAKER: I know. I will have to have a chat with them afterwards. To our honoured guests, just so they know, we are debating Bill No. 20, Government Restructuring (2001) Act. The member for Halifax Needham has the floor debating an amendment to refer the bill to committee.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to welcome our very honoured, distinguished guests. We have seen so much restructuring in this province that people are sick to death of the ongoing instability that this endless parade of reorganization, of downsizing has led to.

People don't know any more, what to expect the next day, from their government. All they know is that they can expect less, they expect less public services from their government, and they can expect that it is going to cost them more. They know in their hearts that the money that is being generated through their taxes, their hard-earned dollars and taxation, there is no equity in the way in which it is being distributed. They see six figure salaries, they see perks, they see benefits for high-priced help, people who are unelected, unaccountable, and quite often unknown to the people in this province.

Then they look around and they look at their neighbours, they look at their family members, seniors look at their children and their grandchildren, and they say, where in the world are our hard-earned dollars going, because they are not going into public services. They are going for the Minister of Education's coffee fund. They are going to powerful friends of the government. At the same time, they see this government charging cancer care patients for meals while they are in Point Pleasant Lodge.

Mr. Speaker, people in this province are calling the NDP caucus and they are saying, we are calling you because we know whose side you are on; we are calling you because we know you will stand in your place and raise these issues; we are calling you because you will hold this government accountable; we are calling you because you have a voice in the Legislature, and we want you to use that voice to stand up and fight for us.

Mr. Speaker, people were very angry in Nova Scotia when the Savage Government was in power, and they went on a rampage of restructuring and reorganization that decimated public services; that threw the health care system into the worst crisis that this province has

[Page 2525]

ever seen; that took education back 10, 15 years, in terms of its development and progress in this province. They restructured; they eliminated; they cut, but did they save money? Were they able to achieve those financial savings that would put this province on a healthy footing? No, they didn't. If there were any savings, they certainly squandered them.

But one has to question whether or not this approach is an approach that works. I would suggest that this an approach that doesn't work; it doesn't work at all. That would be a good reason for the Human Resources Committee to take some time and have a look at Bill No. 20. So, we should support this amendment, because it might give this government an opportunity to reflect further on its plans, and whether or not they are plans that will result in the kind of objective they say they want. You have to wonder if they are telling us one thing and really thinking about another. I suspect this is really a power grab. Mr. Speaker, I am going to have to sit down because I am losing my voice again.

[7:15 p.m.]

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I was kind of taken by surprise there for a moment but nevertheless it gives me an opportunity to rise on Bill No. 20 and the amendment to Bill No. 20 which we are now debating. I want to characterize this bill as a Tory privatization bill, cover to cover, that is what it looks like. Also it is a manifesto, I guess, to bring this province into a new style of government, government Tory style.

What I mean by that is that this bill is going to pave the way for every single breathing Tory in Nova Scotia to belly up to the bar. The process is being put in place so that every breathing Tory in Nova Scotia will have an opportunity, at one point or another, to belly up to the bar. That is what we are setting in place here; we are setting up a series of departmental structures that are going to result in quite a different style of government.

A lot of the decisions made by this government will be quite different from the decisions made by previous governments in that most of the decisions, once this bill passes the House, this omnibus bill or, as it is better known, an ominous bill, the same as Bill No. 30 was but this one is even worse. It will enable most of the decisions to be made by the government by OIC, down in the bunker, by the Cabinet, out of sight, out of the public eye and out of the scrutiny of the House of Assembly.

In other words, it will be government by decree in the Cabinet. It is called, welcome back to the good old days of Tory patronage. This is what is going on here, cover to cover. It is going to be a litany of decisions that are going to come out of the Executive Council that are going to mean that this government is going to have a clear road to make appointments, to make political appointments, to look after all the people who were missed between 1979 and 1993. Whoever wasn't looked after in that era - the Buchanan-Cameron era, the good old

[Page 2526]

Tory machine that bankrupted this province in that 14 or 15 year span - whatever Tories were missed in that span are now going to have another opportunity to get looked after.

A lot of the legislation that was put into place in various government departments to prevent that type of thing from happening again is now being unravelled. I refer to some of the government departments that are included in the Government Restructuring (2001) Bill, creating a Public Service Commission - a hiring agency, that is what it is - a patronage body that is going to make the minister, the all-powerful minister of hiring, whoever is lucky enough to get that over there to look after their Tory friends, they will be in charge of doing all the hiring, all the appointments to boards and commissions, to do away with that foolishness of democracy when you go to a committee and put the best names forward - just send Tories, thank you very much, and we will look after them - and we will hope that this time around, before they get booted from office, they will be able to look after every single, breathing Tory who didn't get looked after before because the word is already out, belly up to the bar, the enabling legislation is coming and we are going to look after you because that is the good old Tory way. The good old Tory boy's club looking after their friends. That is what is going to happen with this Bill No. 20, make no mistake about it.

I will get into a bit more detail on some of the provisions of this bill, Mr. Speaker, but the one I want to touch on is the one my good friend the member for Victoria touched on earlier, the liquor store issue. Now, anybody who is remotely following this issue will know that the big con has started in the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission by the minister responsible and the government. The first step was to go and seek some advice. Well, they did and the advice came back and said we should have a mix of private and public sector stores. So what do they do? They set out to set up some private stores in places throughout Nova Scotia, mostly in small areas in rural Nova Scotia as I mentioned earlier, places like Iona and Advocate, I believe, and places like that. So they set up private liquor stores there, or they are going to, maybe some of them are already set up. That is the crack, the door is now open.

We now have private liquor stores going to be operating in Nova Scotia on a more sustained basis. Never mind if they may not be able to operate successfully, can anybody in their right mind believe that a liquor store can make money in Iona, when they don't even have a grocery store there? They don't have a service station there, no, they don't have those, but they are going to have a liquor store there. Why? They picked these spots to set up the private stores just to open the privatization door. That is what they have done, just to open the privatization door. The next logical step is to bring in legislation setting up a corporation. That is the next step.

I will back up a little bit until the last session of the House when the liquor store employees found out that they weren't going to be instantly privatized, they collectively had a sigh of relief. They left here and they thought, everything is going to be okay. Well, I can tell them and I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, and tell the people of Nova Scotia that is not going

[Page 2527]

to be the case. The Liquor Commission has been a valuable source of revenue to the Province of Nova Scotia over the past number of years and it has been successful.

Now, why would a government fool around with something that is successful, brings in all kinds of money to the government coffers, provides a good service - and if there is any problem with the service in certain areas then the government has a responsibility to improve that service. Never mind putting a cloud over the whole issue and saying that things aren't working well because if you make the kind of profits the Liquor Commission has been making, then the Liquor Commission has been working. The only thing that I can figure here is that no friends of the government are getting looked after here in the present system of selling liquor in this province. There are not enough Tory hacks getting looked after in this province.

So, what is the government going to do? We can go through every single government department here, Mr. Speaker, and I can give you example after example of where we are going with this government. In this particular instance I can tell you we are heading towards privatization, we are galloping towards privatization with this particular piece of legislation as it affects liquor stores. Who is going to end up with the liquor stores? We know who is going to end up with the liquor stores, friends of the government. The provincial employees are going to be left wondering what happened. The public is going to be left wondering what happened because then the service will be delivered on a profit basis from those stores and not on service to the public of Nova Scotia. In other words, the stores will only be open on the hours that they feel they can make a profit, if it is not, if nobody comes through the door they will close and go home.

The only thing I can figure out here is if it isn't broken, why are we fixing it? Well, we are fixing it because we want to look after friends of the government. No other reason to do that. It is the same way that my colleague (Interruption) yes, like them and like your good friend Martin Chernin, too, since you are throwing names around, why don't you get up and say that on the record? Why don't you get up and talk on the record about businessmen on Cape Breton Island like Martin Chernin. I am doing that. There are backbenchers over there who don't get a chance to go on the record if ever. Most of them will never get on the record because they won't be here long enough to get on it, including the member for Preston, who hasn't said anything worthwhile in the two years he has been here.

I want to talk about friends of the government, as it pertains to liquor stores. It might be very interesting that the chief bagman for the Tory Party, Mr. Martin Chernin, in Sydney, just happens to have a liquor store now in one of his buildings. I would expect that liquor store is doing very well. It is still run by - it is only a rented premise, but I can see where he is acquiring more property, and I wouldn't be surprised that in the next couple of years you will find other Liquor Commission outlets finding their way into his properties. I wouldn't be surprised at that at all. Just like I think the courthouse found its way into his property from Glace Bay at triple the rent they were paying before.

[Page 2528]

I can tell you that this bill paves the way for a lot of that type of activity from cover to cover. I don't for one second blame Mr. Chernin or any other Tory hack in this province. I don't blame them. If this government is ready to lay the largesse in front of them, they are certainly going to take it. They would be foolish not to.

Mr. Speaker, I have to tell you that when you look at some of these government departments, a new bill establishing the departments is going to be responsible to the Public Service Commission, the hiring agency is going to have the rights, the body, responsible for the Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act, the Highway Workers Collective Bargaining Act, and it establishes the following departments. They list them all, from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries right down to the Department of Transportation and Public Works. The bill also establishes offices, directories, commissions, corporations, office of Aboriginal Affairs, et cetera.

It is rather a lengthy ominous bill, and I say ominous, not omnibus, because it is ominous. It is going to be ominous for Nova Scotians just as Bill No. 30 was. It is going to completely change the way we do business, as I said before. That is why this amendment is on the table here. This amendment is there to give people like the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union a chance to canvass across the province to see how Nova Scotians, their membership and other Nova Scotians feel about this particular wide-ranging piece of legislation.

It has broad ramifications for the whole structure and functioning of government. Is it any wonder that the Government House Leader wants to get this through and is it any wonder that the Government House Leader wants to get out of here once he gets this and Bill No. 30 through? Because, these are the two pieces of legislation that are going to actually give government carte blanche to do what they want without the bother of coming back to the legislative authority in this place. In other words, the deeds that they want to do can be done out of sight and scrutiny of the House of Assembly.

To me, that is a backward step in democracy. That is taking the democratic process from the floor of this place and putting it in the hands of the Executive Council and friends of the government. Friends of the government. Who are those friends of the government? Well, they certainly aren't low-income families in this province. They certainly are not government employees and they certainly are not people who are working hard for a living. Friends of this government are those in high places, the rich and powerful, the people who have everything and still want more. Those are the friends of this government.

[7:30 p.m.]

My colleague, the Finance Critic, when he was speaking earlier today, talked about the tobacco legislation, which is in Bill No. 30, but also has ramifications in here because it is one of the departments that we are talking about. He was mocked for suggesting that the

[Page 2529]

government was wrong in reducing fines for smuggling and helping criminals to operate in this province. He was mocked by government backbenchers and by members of the Executive Council. He made a statement that there must be another agenda because nobody in Nova Scotia is going to believe that this government is putting in place a system whereby it would make it easier for smugglers to operate in Nova Scotia without the fear of incurring large fines if they are caught.

In other words, they are going to make it so easy that if they get caught, the first offence could be as little as $250. At the same time this government increased taxes on cigarettes in this province. So they increased taxes and then made it easier for smugglers to bring them in illegally. So people who want to deal in illegal contraband - tobacco - in this province will almost have a free ride to do it. Mr. Speaker, the government blames it on the courts again. It is all their fault; they won't enforce the fine structure. So what does the government do? We will reduce the fine structure. I don't see any logic in that. The government should be going the other way and encouraging the courts to levy stiffer fines on criminals operating in this province.

Our Finance Critic and other members of our Party have continuously asked the question, why would a government want to reduce fines for criminals operating illegally, smuggling tobacco into this province? Nobody is buying the argument that it is only because the courts won't enforce the fines and levy the fines. So there has to be another reason.

AN HON. MEMBER: What is it?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: The member for Preston asks, what it is. Well, I will tell him what it is. Somebody has got to the government here. That is what I am implying to the member for Preston. Either that, or the Sheriff of Nottingham and his boss, Prince John, are simply fooling around with the tax structure here, like they have done with every other thing that is moving in this province right now. There is another reason. Somebody convinced the Executive Council, particularly the sheriff and his people in his Finance Department, that it is a good idea to make it easier for criminals to bring tobacco into this province.

Somebody has convinced him that it might be good for the underground economy in this province. For a government that increases taxes to try to curb smoking in this province and then, at the same time, reduces fines for those smuggling tobacco into this province, one has to wonder just what is going on with that government. I am sure that if we bring it to the attention of Nova Scotians - as we intend to do on a regular basis over the next few weeks - hopefully we will be able to convince this government to see the error of their ways in terms of the foolish, ridiculous and self-serving legislation that is coming before this House. (Interruptions)

[Page 2530]

My good friend, the member for Victoria, reminds me that there are a number of tobacco companies that are actively supporting the government. We know that, but that is something that might be expected. In this particular case, I think there has to be something else going on here. I just can't believe that this government would even entertain such a resolution as that, to lower fines for criminals in this province. The fine will be less for smuggling tobacco on a first offence in this province than it will be for a second offence for speeding.

AN HON. MEMBER: What about the taxes . . .

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: The member for Preston is cackling again over there in his corner. The member for Preston who is close to the exit door over there, and will be closer after the next election, has been here two years and has yet to go on the record. He sits back there cackling, by the exit door, talking foolishness, and I can't believe the people of Preston, I can't believe . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. If the honourable member for Cape Breton South believes I have never spoken in this House, he may want to check Hansard. Plenty of times my name has been in Hansard, quite a bit. Plus, my representation of the riding, in my Throne Speech reply, as well I have spoken in the House about the so-called equalization proposal. Check the record for yourself, sir, and you will find that I have been speaking about the matters in this House. I should also ask the member a question, if I could? I would love to ask the member a question.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. First, let me rule on the point of order. It is, in fact, a point of order. The honourable member has spoken, and he has been on the record before, yes. He would like to know if the honourable member would entertain a question?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: First of all, I didn't hear him say that. What I am talking about, by being on the record, I mean talking on legislation in this House, talking on bills in this House, talking about some of the implementation policies this government is bringing to the people of Nova Scotia. I am talking about taking part in debate in this House. I am not talking about the foolish cackling of that member, every once in a while, from the corner, or the fact that now he tries to get up and justify to the good people of Preston why he is even here.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. On the point of order, I do believe it was a point of order, taken in the context that the honourable member for Preston understood the comments made previous to his point of order, however, the honourable member does have the floor.

[Page 2531]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would suggest to you, and through you to the backbenchers over there, this is a bill that is being debated, this is an amendment on Bill No. 20.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Preston.

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to know if the member would answer a question, because I think he is misrepresenting the House on a few matters, in this particular bill.

MR. SPEAKER: That is up to the honourable member. If he wants to entertain a question, he can decide for himself. Does the honourable member wish to take a question from the member for Preston?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would think that the member would do this House a favour if he went back out there and went back to sleep under the tree he was caught under last year. (Interruptions) That is what I would suggest that member do. That was the only time that he came to any prominence in this House was when he was caught sleeping under the tree in the parking lot. Any more questions? (Interruptions)

I was about to say that Bill No. 20 is being debated on the floor of this House at the present time, and government backbenchers, including the member for Preston, have the right, as a matter of fact, have the duty as elected members of this House to get up, take their place in this House and debate this bill. (Interruptions) Ah, they are not allowed. I would say that my good, helpful friend, the member for Sackville, is perhaps right, but only partially right. They are not allowed, but they have a duty as backbenchers. They are not constrained by . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Could the honourable member please speak to the amendment. We have digressed quite a bit here. I have extended latitude to all honourable members, but we are getting a little bit too much off track here right now.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I am making a point on the amendment, that the amendment is an amendment that all members of this House have a right to speak to. Is that correct? That is correct. Including government members. The government members, I think, have a duty to speak to this amendment. Their silence will tell me that they blindly agree with everything in Bill No. 20, cover to cover, when I will bet you that there isn't 10 per cent of those backbenchers who even know what is in this bill, from cover to cover, because it is a bill designed by the Executive Council for the Executive Council to make decisions in the future, to look after Tories in this province without the bother of coming to the Legislature to get any work done. The decisions will be made in the

[Page 2532]

bunker and every single Tory that was missed in the last 15 year reign of that government will be caught up this time and looked after. That is the story I hear, that there were Tories missed before who are still looking to get on boards and commissions.

I will give you a good example, Mr. Speaker. Nova Scotia Business Inc., which is the group that has taken democracy away from the Department of Economic Development and placed it in the hands of a 12 member private board to do its bidding on behalf of about $30 million of taxpayers' money, it is going to be doled out selectively and guess where it is going to go? It is going to go to selected ridings, Tory ridings wherever possible. They will be lining up at the trough, just like the old Industrial Estates and a few other agencies that were around.

You know what, Mr. Speaker? The Minister of Economic Development and the Premier, Prince John, and his deputy, the Sheriff, have all said in this House that they are concerned about the Cape Breton economy, they are concerned there has to be a new direction for Cape Breton. So the very agency that looks after this type of thing in Nova Scotia, the Department of Economic Development, now has a new board, Mr. Speaker. It is made up of 12 people. How many of them are from Cape Breton? One out of the 12 is from Cape Breton. Now how much clout is that person going to have on that board to draw economic development money down into Cape Breton?

There are no members from Victoria County; there are no members from Richmond County; there are no members from Port Hawkesbury, from Guysborough County; there are no members from Inverness County and one from industrial Cape Breton, Cape Breton County. Mr. Speaker, that member didn't even apply. There were a number of applications from Cape Breton for that board but that member didn't apply. The people who were doing the selecting said oh, wait a minute, we can't have any one of those people because they are not Tories, or they won't do our bidding. People like Father Greg MacLeod and other people, we don't want them because they are independent thinkers; we have to get a guy who is going to do our bidding here. That is what they did. So they went out and seconded the one and only representative from the Business Development Corporation from Cape Breton. They went out and got him as their token Tory.

The reason that gentleman was selected is because they had difficulty finding Tories at all down in industrial Cape Breton who were suitable for this board. The member for Cape Breton North gets on his feet and praises Father Greg MacLeod and the holding company he has down there, BCA Holdings, praises them up, has the nerve to do that, the other day. Well, if they are such a good organization, why isn't one of them on the board of the Business Development Corporation, to protect Cape Breton's interests? Can anybody on that side of the House answer me that question? Because they don't want anybody from Cape Breton on that Business Development Corporation because some money may find its way down there if they do that and they want to make sure that doesn't happen. They have too many other seats to look after up here, in Pictou County, Colchester County, Cumberland

[Page 2533]

County. They all have to be looked after first before Cape Breton. Then what is left might find its way into Cape Breton but I will suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, there won't be anything left.

Now the grand plan to look after the economy of Cape Breton that the minister and the Premier talk about, the Finance Minister and everybody else on the front benches talk about when they are asked, is a plan that means nothing. The plan is hollow, shallow; they have no intentions of doing anything down there that is not led by the federal government. The only time the provincial government has gotten involved in anything down there was the payroll tax rebate following the lead of the federal government. There is not one initiative in Cape Breton that was started by this government, not one. The ones that have been done down there, Mr. Speaker, in the past couple of years have been started by the federal government, and they put into place their tax credit, which was put into place by the previous government of this province. That is the sum total of their interest in Cape Breton to date. There hasn't been one dollar put on the table down there.

[7:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I would have thought that we would have seen something in Bill No. 20 setting up a corporation to spend $300 million on remediation which is needed in industrial Cape Breton.

AN HON. MEMBER: Didn't they book that money?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: No, that money is still sitting there.

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes, but they booked it.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: They booked it. Oh, yes, they booked it. They don't have any intention of spending it, but they booked it. I would have thought that if this government meant what it says it is going to do that it would have put something in place, a board in place provincially, to look after the needs of the people of Cape Breton in terms of employment. I am going to tell you, Mr. Speaker, there is enough work in remediation in industrial Cape Breton to put 1,000 people to work for 10 years, if the political will was there to do it instead of the grandiose talking we get from the front benches over there. It is a government responsibility to clean up that mess that is down there. It is a government responsibility to get on with remediation projects they said they favoured. But what do we get? All we get is lip service instead; that is all we get.

Mr. Speaker, there is a good reason why this amendment is on the floor here today, because this bill, like Bill No. 30, is not going to go through this House quickly. As a matter of fact, we are going to be here quite some time on this bill and on Bill No. 30 when it comes back from the Law Amendments Committee. I suggest that, over the next couple of weeks,

[Page 2534]

unless we get some answers to some of the questions we have been asking and get some consideration in terms of some of these amendments that are on the floor, then we are going to be debating this bill and Bill No. 30 for a long time. Why? Because they deserve to be debated for a long time. They are very important pieces of legislation that Nova Scotians have a right to know everything possible about, and they know very little about it.

We had Bill No. 30 given one day's notice, go to the Law Amendments Committee, sail out of there, come back here. It will be sailing out tomorrow.

AN HON. MEMBER: It is there tomorrow.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: It is there tomorrow. If it is there tomorrow, if they think that one day, or one and a half days, in the Law Amendments Committee is enough, why doesn't the government put the contents of Bill No. 30 before the public of this province by way of newspaper ads and let Nova Scotians know. Just don't tell a few people that, look, we are slipping it in and we are slipping it out of the Law Amendments Committee. Why don't you tell Nova Scotians what really is in Bill No. 30 and in Bill No. 20 and let Nova Scotians have their say at the Law Amendments Committee or in some hearings over the next few weeks, which is what the amendment suggests in this particular bill.

The government doesn't want to do this. The government will sit back and use their majority, and eventually we will run out of time and they will put them through. The Government House Leader knows that. Even with the help of the cackling of people like the member for Preston over there they will get the bill through. He will have to tell the people of Preston why he favours lower fines for criminals, smugglers in this province and higher tax measures, why he favours, and other members favour, the debt of this province going up over $400 million in the next four years. It is not an accident. It is not something that may happen it is something that is projected to happen by this government.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is restructuring.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: That is restructuring. They are going back to the polls paying the highest amount per year in debt repayment ever in the history of this province. Over $1 billion a year we will be paying on debt repayment charges in this province, starting this year, and this government has the gall to say that it is acting responsibly, that it has responsible government in Nova Scotia. Well, I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that despite the fact that Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham over there have taxed just about everything that moves in Nova Scotia, they are still going to pay over $1 billion in interest payments this year on behalf of the taxpayers, $1 billion right out of their pockets that could be used for health care and education.

[Page 2535]

Where do we see those two departments going? That way. Where do we see the tax increases going? That way, in this province. Because this government doesn't have a plan. This government is taxing everything in sight, at the same time the debt is rising. Those aren't my figures, those are figures that are proven to be correct that the debt of this province is going to go up steadily in the next four years and also so will the debt repayment charges.

We are going to pay over $1 billion in revenue out of the pockets of the people of Nova Scotia in the next year to satisfy that government's political agenda before they go back to the polls. We know what is going on here. This is a political agenda, an agenda that has been set up to do two things. One, look after Tory friends, privatize as much as you can, get as much into the hands of their friends as they possibly can. Secondly, to rob the taxpayers of this province of their money now and give it back to them in the year of the election.

The federal tax relief program that was put into place was stopped at the boundary of Nova Scotia. Every other province let it flow through to the benefit of their taxpayers except Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia stole that money from the people of this province, stole it right out of their pockets and are going to give it back to them . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member is imputing motives that aren't agreed to by honourable members opposite and he knows that is unparliamentary, and I would ask him to refrain from that type of discourse.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: You're editorializing a bit there. You are saying I am out of order? I am not out of order.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I am telling you what the parliamentary - order, please. (Interruptions) I didn't ask the honourable member to retract anything. I told the honourable member that he is imputing motives that aren't agreed to by other honourable members and according to parliamentary rules and forms . . .

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Well, Mr. Speaker, let me put it this way. The government of this province, led by the Finance Minister - the Sheriff of Nottingham - has lifted additional monies out of the pockets of Nova Scotians that was bound for them by federal government legislation on tax relief. It flowed through in every province of this country except Nova Scotia. That government, that Finance Minister stopped that tax relief from getting into the pockets of Nova Scotians. If that is not lifting it from them, I don't know what it is. But, I am telling you that government is going to use the taxpayer's money of this province in two years to try to get re-elected. Take it from them now and give half back to them in two years' time and tell them what wonderful people we are. At the same time, the debt of this province is rising dramatically and the interest payments that are going to be paid by this province are rising dramatically.

[Page 2536]

People in this House - you can say I am imputing anything I want, but I am talking fact in this place when I am talking about taxation that these people are taxing everything that moves in this province and calling it user fees. If I am using unparliamentary language from time to time, it is because I am frustrated with what this government is able to get away with simply because they have a majority over there and they know that.

They are smiling and laughing and cackling and they think this is fun. They think this is fun that they are looking after Tory friends quicker than anybody I ever saw, quicker than the group from 1978-93, I will tell you that. It took them 15 years to do what this crowd is doing in two years. I will tell you, there are two veterans there, the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, and the Minister of Finance, who were part of the group that bankrupted this province from 1978-93. They should be so ashamed that they wouldn't even sit in this House because the taxpayers have given them a second crack at bankrupting this province again. You can see the figures when the debt of this province is rising for the next four years, when the interest payments are going over $1 billion for the first time in the history of this province. When that is allowed to happen, there is nobody imputing anything. I am telling the truth in this House of what is going on. I will stand here and tell you that I am telling the truth because the taxpayers will find out exactly what is going on over there.

This bill paves the way for this government to literally do whatever they want for their friends in this province, and they know that and they know they can get away with it. All they have to do is wait us out and then they can have their way.

Mr. Speaker, the Public Service Commission, the way this is structured here, is nothing more than a pork-barrel strategy, to do the hiring. Gone will be things like the committees that select people for boards and commissions; of course, since this government took over, that didn't make any difference anyway, because they had a Tory majority on the committee, so they just listened to the other two Parties talk about the rules and who should be hired, and then they went out and hired people anyway. It doesn't make any difference.

I know some very good people who were on some commissions that I am familiar with, excellent people, and they were hired by the process in a minority government situation. They were hired or some of them volunteered and were put on these commissions. They are not even going to bother to apply for the commissions now because they have no hope of getting on. They know that. They might as well forget about it. They know that all these boards and commissions are going to have no one on them but Tories. There is going to be nobody on any board or commission - I will guarantee you, Mr. Speaker - but Tories, after this is over. That is the way they do business in this province. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I have been listening to the honourable gentleman rave on here, but I just want to remind him that the president of

[Page 2537]

Liberal Party of Nova Scotia, at least he was, prior to the last convention, he may still be, is on the Capital District Health Authority. (Interruptions)

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton South does have the floor. (Interruptions)

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health has given us one example of somebody who is qualified, at least, on a board or commission. It is the only one he has that is qualified, I guess. Anyway.

Mr. Speaker, I know the hour is getting late, but I can assure you that we will be back at this tomorrow morning. I have other things to say on this particular bill. In conclusion, I do want to say that I sincerely believe that Nova Scotians have a right to know exactly what is happening to this government, with this government, and with these two bills that are before the House right now, including Bill No. 20. What is happening is that the road is being paved for a patronage system in Nova Scotia, the likes of which this province has never seen. Not only that, it will make the patronage system of 1978-93 look like a walk in the park compared to what is going to happen in this province.

Mr. Speaker, I would now move adjournment of the debate.

MR. SPEAKER: Just before we speak to the adjournment as put forward by the honourable member, I would like to advise all honourable members that it has been ruled unparliamentary to impute bad motives or motives different from those acknowledged by a member to make a personal charge against a member. It has also been ruled that an expression which is deemed to be unparliamentary today does not necessarily have to be deemed unparliamentary next week. Since 1960, in debates, using the terminology, stealing, stolen, is also unparliamentary. I do want to point out for all honourable members that some terminology is ruled to be unparliamentary.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I have taken your point. I would say to you that I haven't said anything in this House that is not true, and I might ask the Speaker, what is your point? Give me that point. You ruled me out of order before, and I sat down.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

The motion is to adjourn debate. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

[The motion is carried.]

[Page 2538]

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now rise to meet again on the morrow at the hour of 9:00 a.m. We will sit until 3:00 p.m. The order of business will be Public Bills for Second Reading, including Bill No. 20.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

[The House rose at 8:00 p.m.]