The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House will resume on
April 25, 2017.

Hansard -- Mon., May 14, 2001

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HALIFAX, MONDAY, MAY 14, 2001

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Second Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

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

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 1112

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

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Whereas Dr. Tony Charles of Saint Mary's University has been awarded a Pew Marine Conservation Fellowship and is one of only three Canadians ever to receive this prestigious award; and

Whereas the goal of the award is to help protect the world's oceans while supporting those who rely on the oceans for their livelihood; and

Whereas Dr. Charles will apply his fellowship to provide a positive, conservation-oriented response to Canada's 1999 Marshall Decision that recognizes Native commercial fishing rights;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Dr. Charles and Saint Mary's University for this honour and offer him our best wishes as he embarks on this difficult undertaking.

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. 1113

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

Whereas the week of May 14th to May 18th is National Mining Week; and

Whereas the value of Nova Scotia's mineral production is the second highest per unit area in Canada and contributing about $340 million to our economy; and

Whereas Nova Scotia's mining industry provides some 2,500 direct and mainly full-time jobs with the highest weekly wage of any industrial sector;

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Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize Nova Scotia's diverse geology ensures exciting new mineral discoveries will continue into the future and support this province's prospectors and explorationists in their diligent exploration.

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 1114

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

Whereas Nova Scotia lost one of its most prominent social and labour activists, Alex MacDonald, who died at his home in Port Hawkesbury this past Friday; and

Whereas Alex dedicated his life to fairness for people in the workplace and he served with distinction in various roles with the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour and in the federal and Nova Scotia NDP; and

Whereas Alex's work with the Nova Scotia Voluntary Planning Board, the Topshee Council, the Westray Disaster Memorial Education Fund and in countless other endeavours will be remembered by all who knew him;

Therefore be it resolved that this House express its deep sorrow on the passing of a social and labour activist, Alex MacDonald of Port Hawkesbury, and offer its condolences to his family, friends and associates.

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.

AN HON. MEMBER: Could we have a moment of silence?

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for a moment of silence. Would all members please rise.

[One minute of silence was observed.]

MR. SPEAKER: Please be seated.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 1115

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

Whereas Cape Breton author, Alistair MacLeod, won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award last Monday; and

Whereas this is the world's richest literary prize for a single work of fiction with a value of $172,000 Cdn.; and

Whereas Mr. MacLeod, although not a native Nova Scotian, has been telling the stories of this province, particularly those from Cape Breton, to the world for many years now;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Alistair MacLeod on this prestigious accomplishment and wish him all the best in his future writings.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

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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 Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 1116

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

Whereas solace and the easement of pain is the best care we can bring to the dying; and

Whereas a home-like atmosphere is a simple thing which greatly comforts people who are hospitalized during the final stages of their lives; and

Whereas the Twin Oaks/Birches Healthcare Charitable Foundation is creating a palliative care room for patients at Twin Oaks Hospital and have raised over $18,000 toward the effort at their 10th Annual Spring Gala and Auction;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Twin Oaks/Birches Healthcare Charitable Foundation on their financial success and commend them for bringing more comfort and care to those in need.

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

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RESOLUTION NO. 1117

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 official unemployment rate for Cape Breton has risen once again above 20 per cent; and

Whereas most people realize that the unofficial rate of unemployment is even higher than the official rate; and

Whereas the communities and the good people of Cape Breton deserve more than platitudes, rhetoric and empty promises of the past;

Therefore be it resolved that this House roundly condemn the successive Conservative and Liberal Governments who have failed to come up with policies to sustain the communities and good people of Cape Breton.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 1118

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

Whereas 20 year old Giselle Dugas of Concession, Digby County, is this year's recipient of the Governor General's Medal from Université Sainte-Anne: and

Whereas Giselle won the medal and prize for the most outstanding science student at the university; and

Whereas Giselle plans on studying medicine at Université de Sherbrooke in Quebec;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House of Assembly congratulate Giselle Dugas on achieving this prestigious award and wish her the very best in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

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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 Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 1119

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

Whereas 14 year old athlete, Gary Boake, of Middle Musquodoboit began boxing three years ago; and

Whereas for the past two years Gary has been declared the Nova Scotia Amateur "open fighter" Provincial Champion; and

Whereas just last month Gary brought home the silver medal at the National Junior Boxing Championship held in St. Catherine's, Ontario, competing against - now mind you, Mr. Speaker, I said he was 14 years old - 15 and 16 year olds;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate Gary Boake, while extending best wishes to his proud parents, Bonnie and David, Head Coach Dave MacLeod of the Colchester Amateur Boxing Club, and wish them every future 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 Sackville-Cobequid.

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RESOLUTION NO. 1120

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

Whereas the past Liberal Government showed a distinct lack of judgment when, in its election haste, it signed an offshore resources deal without major benefits for the development of a strong Nova Scotia petrochemical industry; and

Whereas the present Conservative Government seems unaware of the economic advantages of having diversification for our oil and gas industry; and

[2:15 p.m.]

Whereas the development of a vibrant petrochemical industry would have great economic benefits for the Nova Scotia economy;

Therefore be it resolved that this House condemn the present Conservative Government and past Liberal Governments for failing to institute public policies which would facilitate the development of a strong Nova Scotia petrochemical industry.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1121

MR. DONALD DOWNE: 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 awarded three Governor General's medals at the Spring Convocation on May 7, 2001; and

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Whereas the gold medal was awarded to Terra Jamieson of Truro, the silver medal was awarded to Janet Rafuse of New Germany, and the bronze medal was awarded to Christa Dunsford of P.E.I.; and

Whereas during the spring convocation, over 200 students graduated from NSAC;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House of Assembly congratulate the recipients of the Governor General's Award and all those who have graduated this year from the NSAC.

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 East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1122

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

Whereas the Eureka Volunteer Fire Department recently celebrated two special occasions in one evening at their fire hall; and

Whereas the special occasions were the department's 52nd Anniversary and the retiring of Fire Chief Tim Ward; and

Whereas on the same evening, the Eureka Fire Department received a special donation of $4,000 from their Ladies Auxiliary to assist the department with its operation, and James Hirtle was recognized as the department's firefighter of the year and was presented with an award;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislative Assembly recognize all members of the Eureka Fire Department, as well as those who have decided to retire, for providing many faithful years of fire protection and community service.

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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 Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 1123

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

Whereas Susan MacDonald teaches Primary at Churchill School at Prime Brook, on the outskirts of Sydney, and her work with these students was recently highlighted in Maclean's magazine; and

Whereas Ms. MacDonald has devoted her 30 year teaching career to early literacy for the children in her charge, to making sure they learn good reading skills as the building blocks for their future education; and

Whereas Churchill School and, perhaps, Ms. MacDonald now face an uncertain future as this government ponders another round of school closures;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate teacher, Susan MacDonald of Churchill School in Sydney for her devotion to early literacy in her students, and will do all in its power to ensure early literacy will be a priority of our education system.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

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The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1124

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

Whereas A. Garnet Brown of Halifax will be awarded an honorary doctorate of laws at St. Mary's University's spring convocation; and

Whereas Mr. Brown is a former provincial Minister of Highways, Public Works and Tourism, and served the people of Halifax-Eastern Shore as MLA from 1969 to 1978; and

Whereas Mr. Brown founded the brokerage firm A. G. Brown and Son Limited with his father in the 1950's;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House of Assembly congratulate Garnet Brown for receiving this honour, and also show our appreciation for his years of public service to the people of Nova Scotia.

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 Transportation and Public Works.

RESOLUTION NO. 1125

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

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Whereas 2nd Lieutenant Albert Bahri and firefighters, Matt Dunfield and Tim Porter were three Windsor firefighters who went above and beyond the call of duty early Friday morning, pulling 47 year old Leonard Gallagher from a house fire in Mount Denson; and

Whereas due to the intense heat of the fire, firefighter Porter had his department gear burned beyond further use, and Lieutenant Bahri used his own body force to knock down a wall, while firefighter Dunfield went through a window in an attempt to remove the man from the burning structure; and

Whereas tragically, despite the heroic efforts of Tim, Albert and Matt, they were unable to save the life of Mr. Gallagher;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Assembly recognize the danger these three men placed themselves in, while also commending all volunteer firefighters from Windsor, Hantsport, Brooklyn and Wolfville for their quick response to this tragic fire.

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 Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 1126

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 Royal Canadian Legion sponsored a Call to Remembrance 2001 Competition for junior high school students to test their knowledge of Canada's involvement in past conflicts and the Eastern Passage Education Centre team won the provincial contest on May 10th and May 11th in Lower Sackville; and

Whereas Eastern Passage Legion members Kay MacIntyre, Val Mooney, Fred Mate and Florence Crosby, among others, came out to cheer on the winning EPEC team; and

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Whereas Eastern Passage Education Centre Call to Remembrance Team of Alex Boniface, Timothy Anderson, Monica Henneberry, Donald Ebsary and Holly Maclean could not have done it without the able assistance of advisors Dawn Hobson, Tom Currie and Murray Metherall;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Eastern Passage Education Centre team, its advisors and the supportive Eastern Passage Legion members on winning the provincial Royal Canadian Legion's Call to Remembrance 2001 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 Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 1127

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

Whereas last Wednesday, the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board and the RCMP signed an agreement that creates a community policing program; and

Whereas after one year of planning, it was decided that the community policing program will be located in the Boularderie Elementary School; and

Whereas this program will have the community and the RCMP work together to improve the safety of our schools;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House of Assembly congratulate the RCMP, the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board and the community for developing this program.

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 Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 1128

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

Whereas Scotsburn Dairy's success story began in 1900 as a tiny butter-making facility in the Pictou County Village of Scotsburn; and

Whereas now, a leading processor and distributor of fresh milk and quality dairy products, Scotsburn Dairy has become a multimillion dollar operation employing more than 100 people locally and more than 500 people across the Maritimes; and

Whereas with quality and service still their number one priority, this home-grown business is doubling its capacity to make ice-cream by establishing a new $3 million plant in Truro;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House applaud Scotsburn Dairy for its prosperous and proud history and congratulate the company on this expansion and those in the future.

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.

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The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 1129

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

Whereas Skills Canada Nova Scotia recently held a competition in Halifax; and

Whereas awards at that competition were presented to top students from Riverview High School in Cape Breton; and

Whereas Colin McCready earned a gold medal in public speaking and Nafay Choudhury won the silver medal in the same competition, while Laura Miles won silver in graphic arts design competition;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature congratulate Colin McCready, Nafay Choudhury and Laura Miles from Riverview High School on winning medals in the Skills Canada Nova Scotia 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 Cape Breton East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1130

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 Italian Consul General visited Glace Bay on May 9th to announce plans for a major fundraising campaign to build a replica of the Marconi Towers; and

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Whereas a replica of the original four Marconi Towers will be constructed within the Marconi National Historic Site at Table Head; and

Whereas the replica will be a smaller version of the original four 210 feet towers that existed in 1902;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House of Assembly congratulate the Italian Consulate's hard work and this House also recognize the importance of keeping history alive in our communities.

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. 1131

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

Whereas striking Halifax Regional School Board custodians occupied J.L. Ilsley High School today; and

Whereas this recent development underscores the poisoned state of relations between the Halifax Regional School Board and its striking staff; and

Whereas both parties to this labour dispute have called upon the Minister of Environment and Labour to appoint a mediator to help resolve the outstanding issues, but the minister has not acted;

Therefore be it resolved that this House demands that in the interests of labour peace and fairness the Minister of Environment and Labour act immediately and appoint a mediator into the escalating labour dispute between the Halifax Regional School Board and its custodians.

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MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

Order, please. The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect, had you requested waiver of notice?

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1132

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

Whereas the continuing strike by the Halifax Regional School Board janitors and support staff has once again clearly affected students today with the closure of J. L. Ilsley High School; and

Whereas the combined lack of action by the Ministers of Education and Labour are significant contributing factors in the strike's continuation; and

Whereas it would be hard for the Minister of Education to resort to her standard defence that students are not being affected and that the strike is therefore not her problem;

Therefore be it resolved that the Ministers of Education and Labour get their acts together and do their jobs by working towards a reasonable solution to the strike at the Halifax Regional School Board.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

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The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1133

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

Whereas on July 3, 1999, a news release declared that, "Money generated by gasoline sales tax and motor vehicle registration and licensing should be used to repair and upgrade the province's transportation system."; and

Whereas it also said that, "A first class transportation system is the essential element for a strong economy in Nova Scotia."; and

Whereas it added that, "Whether it be forestry, fisheries, agriculture, manufacturing or tourism, our transportation system is the lifeline of hundreds of thousands of Nova Scotian workers and their families.";

Therefore be it resolved that the government should honour the words of that news release which was issued by the Progressive Conservative Leader John Hamm on a campaign trip to Yarmouth.

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. 1134

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

Whereas the Prime Minister's Awards for Teaching Excellence were announced by the Right Honourable Jean Chretien on May 10th; and

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Whereas Catherine Viva from Dr. T. L. Sullivan Junior High School in Florence is the recipient of this award; and

Whereas Ms. Viva earned the award through her outstanding work with her special needs students;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly congratulate Ms. Viva on her work and for being recognized as a leader in her school 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 North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1135

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

Whereas last week the Minister of Health and Community Services announced the same increases in child care that they had announced in the fall and during budget estimates; and

Whereas on August 1st, the new social assistance regulations - which will put mothers back to work - kick in and the need for day care will increase exponentially; and

Whereas not only will the announced increase in child care be woefully inadequate, but there will not be enough child care workers to implement even the meagre increases;

Therefore be it resolved that this House call upon the Minister of Health and the Minister of Community Services to increase funding in child care and training for child care workers to a level that meets both the short-term and the long-term demands for these services.

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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 Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 1136

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

Whereas Cape Breton fiddler/comedian Howie MacDonald is stirring up another batch of Celtic Brew; and

[2:30 p.m.]

Whereas this hit comedy show that debuted last year is coming back after a successful first year; and

Whereas this show will feature such other comedians as Bette MacDonald and Maynard Morrison;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly offer its best wishes to Celtic Brew and its directors for a very successful second year in their efforts to provide entertainment in several venues in the Maritimes.

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.

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The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 1137

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

Whereas Ju-Jitsu is an ancient martial art whose roots go back over 2000 years, and the Kyushu system of Ju-Jitsu was developed on the Japanese Island of Kyushu over 700 years ago; and

Whereas the Kyushu-Ryu Ju-Jitsu system is taught at the Dartmouth YMCA under Sensei Frank Zinck, the creator of Bully Proof and, among other things, the chief N.S. instructor of the internationally renowned Rape Awareness Defence System for women; and

Whereas the Kyushu-Ryu youth instructors, which includes Steve Barteaux, Jamie Hawboldt, Jamie Hetherington, Troy Robertson, Amit Parasram, Rupinder Singh Sekhon and Heather Shuey, will be honoured at their upcoming graduation and banquet by the grandmaster of the system, Master Tadanobu Matsomotto Dionne;

Therefore be it resolved that this House wishes the Kyushu-Ryu Ju-Jitsu program and its graduates at the Dartmouth YMCA the very best on its upcoming graduation and banquet with Master Tadanobu Matsomotto Dionne and especially thank Sensei Frank Zinck and the youth instructors on a job well done.

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 The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 1138

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

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Whereas bridge repair work on Highway No. 105 at Bras d'Or, near the junction of the Point Aconi road, is causing severe delays as long as an hour and lineups of two miles long; and

Whereas temporary traffic lights help guide Highway No. 105 traffic, but lineups make it nearly impossible for vehicles to turn safely onto Highway No. 105 from the Point Aconi Road; and

Whereas local residents believe this is a management problem because these traffic problems could be better coordinated by DOT staff;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works take immediate action to find a long-term solution to the traffic problems and look into the alleged management problems.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 1139

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 Eastern Passage Education Centre, EPEC, maintains a first-class cheerleading program; and

Whereas the EPEC Cheerleading Team is ably coached by Angela Bowden and Robyn Edwards; and

Whereas the EPEC Cheerleading Team won the Mariner Zone and the Halifax Regional Junior High School Championships;

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Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate coaches Angela Bowden and Robyn Edwards and all the members of the Eastern Passage Education Centre Cheerleading Team on winning the Mariner Zone and Halifax Regional Junior High School Championships.

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 West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1140

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

Whereas the Two Rivers Wildlife Park in Marion Bridge provides visitors with up-close encounters with Canadian wildlife; and

Whereas the possibility that domestic animals can be infected with wild diseases is a risk of all zoos and wildlife parks; and

Whereas the Two Rivers Wildlife Park will unveil, this weekend, welcome mats designed to curb the spread of diseases like foot-and-mouth disease.;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Two Rivers Manager, John Huntington, and his staff for developing the vinegar-soaked foot mats safeguarding against the spread of highly contagious agricultural diseases.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

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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. 1141

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

Whereas Indian Harbour resident, Garvie Morash, has served as a school bus driver in this community for 32 years; and

Whereas Garvie over the years was known for his professionalism and his care for individual students; and

Whereas Garvie Morash was recently recognized on his retirement at the East St. Margaret's Bay School;

Therefore be it resolved that this Legislature congratulate Garvie Morash of Indian Harbour on his 32 years of service as a school bus driver with wishes of best luck in his retirement.

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.

Before we go on to the Government House Leader, I just want to bring to the attention of the House, today would happen to be the 52nd birthday of the honourable member for Pictou East. (Applause)

[Page 3377]

ORDERS OF THE DAY

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

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

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

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to rise in my place at the end of last week to sum up my own concerns about Bill No. 20, concerns that I think are shared by my colleagues here on this side of the House.

Mr. Speaker, very briefly, I see this bill as doing three major things, and I have only really spoken about one of them. One is an extensive taking of power by the executive, namely the Cabinet, away from this Legislature. Last time that I rose I pointed out the irony of the fact that the government says that this bill is all about accountability. Accountability of other pieces of the government to them, but at the same time the bill reduces their accountability to this Legislature, and that is an irony that we shouldn't pass over quickly. The second thing that it does is fundamentally reshape the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission, and I will leave it to others to speak about that. The third thing is to introduce quite startling changes in the practice and procedure of collective bargaining in the broad public sector in Nova Scotia. I believe that other members, most particularly the member for Cape Breton Centre will be commenting on that in remarks later this afternoon.

The sections that I particularly focused on last day were the sections that represent a taking of power by the Cabinet and a taking of powers away from the Legislature. For example, this bill would remove the restriction on the number of departments the government can create without coming back to the Legislature. Why does the government need that power? Bill No. 20 permits the Cabinet to create these hitherto unknown beasts called offices of government. We already have two offices: the Office of Aboriginal Affairs and the Petroleum Directorate. The Government House Leader has defended Bill No. 20 on the basis that it is just recognizing restructuring that has already taken place. If that were the case then

[Page 3378]

all that we would need in this bill are the provisions recognizing the Office of Aboriginal Affairs and the Petroleum Directorate; there would be absolutely no need for this broad power.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It is very noisy in the Chamber and it is difficult to hear the member who has the floor.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, another section of the bill gives the Treasury and Policy Board, which is a committee of Cabinet - it is not even the full Cabinet, it is a few Cabinet Ministers - the power to create something called a special operating agency. There has been no explanation whatsoever about what a special operating agency is, what parts of the existing government that the Cabinet wants to designate as special operating agencies, or what the implications are.

Another section of the bill gives any Cabinet Minister - now we are down to the individual Cabinet Minister - the power to enter into a joint agreement on any matter within the member's mandate. Mr. Speaker, this would be legal authority of any contracting out or privatization. Why does the government need that kind of power?

Finally - and I am just hitting the highlights here - the bill gives the Treasury and Policy Board, which is just a committee of Cabinet, the power to issue binding administrative directives, which is a kind of instrument hitherto completely unknown to the law and Nova Scotia Government. It is not clear that those directives would even have to be published, and yet everybody in the public sector would have to follow them.

Mr. Speaker, I am going over this quickly because I talked about it at some length the other day. These parts of Bill No. 20 go far beyond recognizing the restructuring that has already taken place, and that is the public justification that the Government House Leader has offered for this bill. Bill No. 20 does so very much more than that, and yet there is no explanation for why.

Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 20 forces us, on this side of the House, to ask these questions: Why would an open and accountable government need these powers? Why would an open and accountable government go so far to take away the powers of the Legislature in favour of either the Cabinet or the Treasury and Policy Board or, in some cases, individual ministers? Why would a government give itself these powers if it didn't intend to use them? What is it that the government intends to do with these powers that it is giving itself? There has been not one word of explanation to this House or to the public about that.

Another question is, if this government truly wants to make the kind of changes that are contemplated by Bill No. 20, why can't it come back to the Legislature? That is what this place is for. That is why we are elected, to sit here, so that the proposals of the government of the day can receive the scrutiny of this House. Instead, what Bill No. 20 does is it takes

[Page 3379]

away forever the power of this Legislature to examine, to comment on, and vote on, fundamental restructuring of government.

Mr. Speaker, I can hardly believe that that is the right thing to do. Why can they not come back to the Legislature with concrete proposals instead of giving themselves these broad powers? As I pointed out the other day, they are not going to be on that side of the House forever, whether it is 2 years from now or 6 or 20 or 50, they are going to be over on this side of the House eventually. Why is it that they would give not only themselves, but all future governments, these broad powers that take away from this Legislature?

I think it is very important to recognize that this is a very delicate and fragile institution. In other countries, people get shot for the kind of questions that we ask in this House. In other countries, anyone who dares to question the government is taken away and jailed. We have this tremendous privilege in this country that here, to open view, anybody in Nova Scotia can come and sit in those galleries and watch what is going on; anybody in Nova Scotia, anybody in the world can read on the Internet the proceedings of the House in Hansard; and anybody who has the right cable channel can watch the proceedings live. That is what this place is for, so that the government can put forward its proposals in public, have them tested, debated, and commented on, what Bill No. 20 does is ensure that that will not happen in the future.

What it does is it takes the power to create, reshape, rename, give new powers and change old powers of the government, it takes all of those things and puts them in the backrooms, puts them in the office towers that surround this House. There are no cameras there; there are no public galleries in the Cabinet Room; there is no Hansard of the Treasury and Policy Board; no one can see; no one will know what goes on in those rooms. If Bill No. 20 passes, it is in those rooms, those locked, barricaded rooms with security out front, that is where these kinds of decisions will be made.

Mr. Speaker, what I do not understand is why it is that this government believes that it is appropriate and right to take away the powers of this Legislature in favour of themselves. That is my fundamental problem with the principle of Bill No. 20. If they have an idea about some part of government they want to designate as a so-called special operating agency, whatever that is, let them come to this House with a concrete proposal. Let them come with a plan; let them come with the evidence that that is the right thing to do, and bring it here, bring it to this House in the public view.

Why is it that they think it is the right thing for Nova Scotia to take those kinds of plans and proposals and to take them into the backrooms where they will never be seen until it is too late? What makes them think that they have all the answers? What makes them think that they are better than this Legislature and that they don't need the public review and comment that is provided in this House? Who do they think they are?

[Page 3380]

[2:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, when I broke off last day I was talking about the misinformation that I believe members on that side of the House have about some of the reasons behind what they are planning here. I was talking, in particular, about the Workers' Compensation Board, which, by Nova Scotia's standard, is a very old institution, 86 years old this year. It suffered through a dreadful history of political patronage, political interference, incompetence, all to the detriment of the injured workers and employers that it is supposed to serve.

I was talking when I broke off last day that nearly 10 years ago, in 1992, things changed and suddenly at the end of a truly dreadful period in the board's history, some good people were finally appointed to the most senior positions: Dr. Robert Elgie and a very good and committed board of directors that was equally representative of workers and employers and one of the board's first acts was to hire Mr. David Stuewe as Chief Executive Officer.

Thanks, in part, to the operational independence that the Workers' Compensation Board enjoys, some fundamental reforms were undertaken. Mr. Speaker, I was part of that as the board's general counsel. As the chief legal advisor to the board, I was there, I saw what the problems were and I was there as part of the reform.

Now, not everybody agrees that the reforms were entirely good and I am one of them, Mr. Speaker. I was one voice among many. I am not entirely sure that things were done exactly as they could have been. Certainly, in hindsight, we can see that the Workers' Compensation Board is far ahead of its financial projections from 1995, which leads one to wonder whether, in fact, benefit rates weren't cut further faster than they had to be. But that is a debate for another day.

Mr. Speaker, the reason that I raise the Workers' Compensation Board today is that throughout Bill No. 20, the Workers' Compensation Board is being reined in by the central government, not by the Legislature but by the central government. For reasons that I don't understand, this government seems to believe that it has answers that have eluded people over the 85 years of the government's history, that if only it can bark out the right orders from the office towers downtown suddenly something at the Workers' Compensation Board will change. Unfortunately, we don't know what it is, because this government has given very little information or background about their thinking on this bill.

The Board of Directors of the Workers' Compensation Board has an equal number of representatives of employers and workers and has really done a very fine job over 10 years in reaching consensus on very difficult issues. There have been a few lapses along the way, not so much from the board but from governments who have appointed the wrong people but fortunately that is exceptional and by far the majority of the members who have served on that board over the last 10 years have served with distinction and have brought the place a very long way.

[Page 3381]

So why then is it, Mr. Speaker, that this government believes that changing the operational independence of the board is going to be a change for the better? Why is it that they think they are going to do better? If the members on that side believe that salaries are out of whack at the Workers' Compensation Board, I would say, first of all, it is not true, and I hope any members on that side who believe that have actually checked their facts. The second thing is, even if it were true - and it is not - that that is a matter for the board of directors to consider. It is not a matter for somebody in a downtown office tower, in the Treasury and Policy Board, to bark out an order and say, here, do it this way, because that's exactly how the Workers' Compensation Board got into the problem that it did before the reforms started in 1992.

Is it that somebody is going on trips that the members on that side don't think they should be going on, Mr. Speaker? Well, I would love to hear what evidence they have or if they do have any evidence why it is that they feel that it is not a matter for the board of directors rather than barking out an administrative directive from a downtown office tower. The operational independence of the board has allowed it to overcome a history that is quite shameful, looked at from the perspective of injured workers in this province. In the middle of all this, in Bill No. 20, the government is going to come in and say, we know better. We know the answers. We are going to tell you what to do and everything is going to be okay.

Mr. Speaker, at the end of the day, the issues that I have talked about during this debate on second reading really come down to a simple point, how is it that our democracy in Nova Scotia, that our system of government has come down to this, where a government slaps, on the table, a major piece of legislation, very complex and involved, a number of different strands; the minister stands up and offers a very short introduction to the bill, which says practically nothing about any of the controversial issues; then the government sits back, metaphorically, with its arms folded, and waits for the clock to run out.

Mr. Speaker, how did we ever come to that? Why do Nova Scotians have to put up with it? These are serious questions I am raising. Bill No. 20 raises serious issues about accountability and about this government's future plans, and yet the only person who has so far stood on his feet to answer any of these questions is the Government House Leader, when he opened debate on second reading.

Mr. Speaker, I think this House expects better and should be able to demand better. I think that this government owes this House, the people of Nova Scotia, my constituents and their constituents some answers about why they are doing this. Why are they giving themselves these powers? What are they going to do with them? What is the plan? If you don't have a plan, this stuff doesn't belong in Bill No. 20; if you do have a plan, you sure haven't told this House what it is. That, in a nutshell, is the problem I have with Bill No. 20.

[Page 3382]

Mr. Speaker, I will conclude - not with answers, because I certainly don't have the answers - with the questions I think people need to ask. I want to ask the questions that I would like to hear this government try to answer before debate on this bill is over. The questions that this government owes answers to to this House, to my constituents, and to their constituents are as follows: one, why would an open and accountable government need the powers that this government is giving itself in Bill No. 20; two, why would a government give itself these powers if it doesn't intend to use them, and if it does intend to use them how exactly does it intend to use them; and three, why can't this government come back to the Legislature if it wishes to make the kinds of changes that are contemplated by Bill No. 20?

Mr. Speaker, those are serious and important questions, and in the remainder of the debate on this bill, I certainly hope that members on that side of the House will stand up and start to provide some answers.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I want to compliment the previous speaker for bringing forward some very good points, points that we have been talking about for a number of days and weeks, on Bill No. 20. It is sad when you lay out very logical questions, very rational questions, very rational arguments, and yet it seems to fall on deaf ears. It is very frustrating being on this side of the House, bringing these matters forward to Ministers of the Crown and backbenchers, all MLAs who are there to represent their constituencies and who have entered the political arena to try to do what they believe is right for Nova Scotians.

All we are seeing in Bill No. 20 is the ability for this government to control power. This is not anything about the need for government to be smarter about what it does or to be able to look after the social needs of society or the fiscal stability of the province. This is not about trying to bring about anything more than power to the centre of what they call their government. It is about bringing power to a few chosen individuals to be able to do what they want, when they want, and how they feel it should be done without the policing, without the enquiring of the Legislature.

I think the question really posed here is, why are they so afraid? Why are they so insecure or so afraid of what they are doing that they refuse to bring some substantive changes that they are proposing to the floor of the Legislative Assembly. The House, this Legislature is a place for debate so they can bring their rationale to the floor to give their reasons and their study to determine why what they are doing is important, to show the social and economic benefit of why they are doing it but, no, they don't want to do that. They don't want to show that information out and I don't know why. Is it because they are concerned? Are they shy? Maybe they are shy. Maybe the Minister of Health is shy or the Minister of Finance or the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries is shy. I don't think so. I have never seen them shy before. I have seen them stand in their place in this House and debate many issues.

[Page 3383]

Now they seem to be either shy or is it just that they do not want - are we looking at the word shy? Is that a wrong word now? No? I thought I was going to be yelled at for saying shy.

I think it is all about power and control. That is what this government wants, power and control to do whatever they want, when they want. It is going to be given not only to the inner sanctum through the Treasury and Policy Board, but also the power within each and every Cabinet Minister. No government in this province has ever, as I understand it, wielded so much power - once this bill is passed, I don't believe there will be a minister or a Cabinet that will have as much power - to do what they want to do as what this bill will allow this government to have.

That is a concern, Mr. Speaker, because Nova Scotians are asking themselves the question, especially those working for government, what impact will that have on me? What does this mean to me as an individual? What will this mean for my job? What will this mean for my career? They will not give an answer. The power that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works has, he will be able to do whatever he wants in that department. Maybe he wants to privatize the whole department. Maybe he wants to make some changes so, in his view, the individual government employees are going to be working for some private-sector individual. Maybe the Minister of Health is, in a way, going to have power to be able to, in some way, look at putting some aspects of health into private hands. I hope that is not what this is all about.

I am not afraid of the fact that the government has to be more efficient. I support them for looking at ways to be more efficient, more productive. Nova Scotians want governments to do that. They want to make sure that we are seeing productivity in our departments, productivity of the people that are there. They like to see the attitude of our workers and our employees being positive. But you know what? This bill doesn't do any of that. This bill doesn't bring forward the issue of strengthening the commitment of the employees. The 21,000 members of the NSGEU are saying, we want this bill debated. Actually, they wanted it to go to a committee so they could understand what it is all about.

You cannot stimulate and get production and efficiency out of staff by scaring them to death. You cannot treat people with a stick and expect to increase productivity, efficiency and control. What you do is you do it by building trust. What you do is you build that trust by being open and accountable to them, just as though you were a police officer. You don't gain respect in your community because you carry a gun, and you could use that gun, you gain the respect of the people in your community by the fact that you have been fair and that you are prepared to work with people and you are prepared to discuss the issue and you try to help find a resolution. Being a police officer doesn't mean you walk around with a gun to scare people. You walk around to uphold the law and to show common sense and compassion and caring for the people you represent. That is what I think it is about. I don't know if the former police officer that is the Speaker of the House would agree, but it is not a matter of the gun.

[Page 3384]

[3:00 p.m.]

But boy - he agrees? So if he agrees, then why don't you guys agree? Why don't you guys agree that you don't need this Bill No. 20, unless, of course, you have an alternative motive. Would that motive be that we are going to move forward on either broader and deeper privatization of government? If so, why don't you just share that with Nova Scotians? If there are areas that you could show a benefit to the taxpayers, it is responsible and you can do it through measures like attrition or whatever it is, why don't you show it to Nova Scotians?

No. They are shy. They are scared. They don't want to do it because . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Gun shy.

MR. DOWNE: You know the Wal-Mart man in the back, as he stands back there hovering over the back door, I don't know if you are allowed to have one guy to heckle all the time. I think that is his only opportunity of ever accomplishing something is to be some sort of heckler that hangs at the back door of this Legislative Assembly. He is going to be known as the man that when important issues are in the House, he is asleep, down there on the grass with the sun shining. If he's not that, he is standing at the back heckling everybody that stands up. He doesn't have enough strength to stand up and speak his own mind.

The lowest form of democracy is the heckler and shame on that guy back there. My gosh. The only thing is, he will never make Cabinet. That is the only grace we have, that he will never make Cabinet, no matter how hard up that Tory crowd is for quality, he would never make Cabinet. (Interruptions) I think he just got sick on himself. The only glad thing is that he will never make Cabinet because if somebody with that level of intellect ever became a Cabinet Minister and had as much power as this Bill No. 20 is going to give him, gosh only knows what would happen to the rest of the Civil Service in the Province of Nova Scotia. Gosh only knows what would happen to the department that he would ever head up. Thank goodness we are assured of one thing, he will never be in Cabinet. Boy, it would be a sad day for Nova Scotians if the Wal-Mart greeter ever made it to Cabinet. He would probably then wear a whole leather outfit instead of just the pants. Anyway, what a heckler.

This power is going to a government that we have seen mishandle responsibility time and time again. Do you remember the whole issue just recently of the Sempra deal? They mismanaged that for over two years. They mismanaged that for 20-some months and yet they want more power to make decisions. This is the same government that allows the debt to grow each and every year they are in power until past 2007. The debt of the Province of Nova Scotia has grown already since they have been in power by $2 billion. It grew last year at a rate of $3.5 million a day to $1.3 billion last year and even when they project surpluses, the debt will continue to grow. Yet they want more power, to do what? Gosh only knows. Should they have more power?

[Page 3385]

We have a Cumberland County caucus meeting going on over there right now. They are trying to figure out whether or not the guy at the back of the room should have made it to the Cabinet, maybe Speaker of the House next. Anyway, they allowed the debt to grow. (Interruptions) Can you image him being Speaker of the House? The whole Legislature would call him out of order every single day, I am sure. This is a group that wants more power and yet the Auditor General of the Province of Nova Scotia is saying they don't know what they are doing financially. The debt is continuing to grow. They have no specific plan on how they are going to get out of debt. They have no specific plan how they are going to even balance.

The Auditor General has pointed out - now this is the Auditor General that this crowd over here spoke about with reverence, I remember, just some 20 months ago. Whatever the Auditor General said was the absolute truth. They literally spoke his name with reverence and every time he made a comment, they said, this is absolutely the truth and now they ignore it. Shame on that government. Yet they want more power to ignore the facts of what is going on. The Auditor General has said they have no plan and yet now what they are doing - and I think I would like to see what the Auditor General would have to say about Bill No. 20 because really what we have is no real plan. We have legislation to allow them to plan whatever they want, any time they want. They want to shut down a department? Can you imagine.

What are they going to do? Are they going to bring together now Natural Resources, and Fisheries and Agriculture and call it the Natural Resources Department? They have the power to do that. They can do whatever they want now under this bill. Boy, there would be some riots in the streets of the farming community and forestry and others, they would be upset like crazy. This is the same government that is asking for more power when they received $249 million just recently as a windfall from Jean Chretien's Government; Paul Martin's management, gave them another $0.25 billion and they wasted it. They didn't put it down and pay off the operating deficit. What they did is they spent it and they still have an operating deficit. (Interruption) Away they go again, $0.25 billion windfall and they blew it and yet this is the group that said, we are going to be fiscally responsible, we are going to build a fiscally responsible strategy that will take advantage of opportunities and that opportunity came and they blew it. That is what this government is all about and yet they don't want to tell us anything other than give us more power and we will decide what is right.

The liquor stores. This is the same government and the same Premier who is down on the trade mission. I support him going on a trade mission. I support trade missions if they are properly planned, for sure, they do work, and I agree with that. I think it is important he is there but here he goes, he has an opportunity, he talks about equalization, you hear him ranting and ranting about it all over the place. He talks about it in here, brings resolutions in. He is running around all over Canada, the PR road show for the Premier, big PR road show to make people know who the Premier of Nova Scotia is and he has a chance to talk to the

[Page 3386]

most powerful member of the House of Commons, the Prime Minister of this country and he is afraid to talk to him about equalization. He didn't even bring it up.

So what is this? Does that mean that the Premier didn't even understand what was going on? Did somebody forget to give him a briefing note? The two big issues that he said he is going to make sure that the Prime Minister is aware of are softwood lumber and equalization. Well, he didn't think he should talk about equalization and yet this is a crowd that wants more power and yet when he had a chance to show his power to the Prime Minister, he failed. So maybe all this time he is going around talking to all these provinces is really to build his profile, a PR campaign for Premier Hamm.

You ask him about domestic issues. Well, we want to just give him high-powered stuff like important things, like equalization and softwood lumber that affects us. So you ask him about some domestic issues. He did not even know the debt was growing each and every year that they are in power. He did not even know some very basic, well, we talked to him about this bill that allows the Liquor Commission to sell booze in pharmacies, and he looked at us like we had two heads. I don't think the Premier even understood what was going on and yet this bill will allow this Premier and his front bench to do whatever they want. I don't even think this front bench tells the Premier what is going on, enough to know, and yet he is allowing this bill to go forward.

Shame on this government. What are they going to do by hiding the facts from Nova Scotians. Why are they so afraid? Is it because they are scared that that Wal-Mart greeter is going to be the next minister or something? I don't think so. I think what they are afraid of is they don't want to stand in their places in this House and debate against the Opposition because they know they wouldn't win those debates. They might win because they have the stick of power; they have the most votes. Even some of the backbenchers, I am sure they are deep in thought. Some of them look like they are deep, deep in thought. It is like the horizontal neurosis syndrome set in sometimes back there. (Interruptions)

Anyway, this bill gives wide powers to this government, and why do they want to sell alcohol in a pharmacy? Why do they want to do that? Why would they want to use a pharmacy unless maybe they want to start selling alcohol, booze, seven days a week? Is that what their plan is? I hope not. Does the front bench want to sell liquor through pharmacies seven days a week? - Quiet across the room, silence. - You would expect them to stand up and say, no, we don't want to do that, don't be so ridiculous, member, don't set off those kind of fear tactics. I didn't hear that. Did anybody over here hear that? I heard absolute silence. Do you know what? That silence is almost like they are guilty of something. It is almost like them saying maybe that is what their plan is.

Accountability. Isn't that what we are talking about here? I don't know what year we are going to get into a provincial election, but it will be 2003 or 2004, 2005, somewhere around that, and then they are going to have to be accountable; then they are going to have

[Page 3387]

to start explaining. Well, I think really, Mr. Speaker, I will give a revelation. I don't think they are going to have an election because most of those guys got elected just in 1998; their six year term isn't up for pension until sometime in March 2004, so five years and two elections. So whenever that is, whenever those guys got elected in 1998, or 1997, whenever that five year term is up, they won't go to an election until after then, because they are going to be concerned that they are not going to get back in because of bills like Bill No. 20 that are going to actually slice the heart and soul out of departments, but they are afraid to stand up and speak about it today.

Now we probably have an idea when they are going to have the next election. This is another ability for them in this bill that they have, to have the Treasury and Policy Board - now Treasury Board if I recall, back in the old days when some of the front-benchers who we have here today were members of that crowd, was to keep a rein on government spending, that Buchanan Government spending. That rein on spending was a rein on power, control, and manipulation by paying their way to victory year after year. The old asphalt elections were notorious throughout rural Nova Scotia, that skim coat of asphalt all over the place that lasted about eight months, just enough to get elected. Do you remember that?

Anyway, that Treasury Board that was supposed to keep an eye on what is going on in government. They kept an eye all right. They kept an eye on saying what they needed to do to buy their way to victory.

[3:15 p.m.]

That same crowd now is saying, let's get back to control. So we are going to have this Treasury and Policy Board that is going to be the Darth Vader of government. It is faceless. It is going to be faceless. But they are going to be out there with their little sabre and they are going to be slicing wherever they want and they are going to be making new members for Cape Breton into the Cabinet. They are going to do all sorts of little things to pay off enough to strategically try to win the next election. This Treasury and Policy Board should work, but not with this group. I have a concern about that.

The potential of wholesale privatization of the Liquor Commission is real. I talked to some people in the Liquor Commission and they are wondering, well what is this Bill No. 20 all about? Do you think we are in trouble? I said, I hope not. Those people have worked very hard. Did you ever go into a liquor store? They are polite. We have spent a lot of time training and educating these individuals. Years ago, it was who you knew that got you a job in the Liquor Commission. Do you remember those days?

AN HON. MEMBER: I was too young.

[Page 3388]

MR. DOWNE: You were too young? Well, you might be, Mr. Minister, but there are a few on the front benches who aren't as young as you, maybe, who would remember. You got a job at the liquor store because you knew somebody in government. Well, anyway, we changed that. We tried to professionalize that process. We have good, skilled people in there. They have nice uniforms and they try to help. But now, they are talking about privatizing. You know what? The liquor stores make money for the Province of Nova Scotia and now they want to make even more because they are greedy. They want to sell liquor through pharmacies and maybe privatize it. Maybe they are on that slippery slope and that is what they are trying to do.

Freedoms, that is what we are talking about here, the freedom for debate, the freedom of individuals to be able to question the government as to what they are doing, when they are doing it and how they are doing it. Yet, they have a logical reason. They have a rationale. They should not be ashamed to stand up and speak about it. I am sure there are members on that backbench who would love to be able to stand up and be accountable on issues. I think they would be. Whatever they are going to do under Bill No. 20, they would love to be able to say these are things we are doing and this is why we are doing them. This is what is so important about this change in privatizing different aspects of government, or whatever they are going to do.

No, they don't want to do that. They don't want anything in here. They would like to go through this House in about three weeks. They like to get in and get in out because every day they are in here, it is trouble for them. Every time they get in Question Period, they get in trouble and they don't like that. They want to get out of here. They want to keep their head down and they want to get out of here and they want to do all their dirty work in the basement, in the Cabinet Room and they don't want anybody to know about it. Shame on the government.

Power in the hands of the front bench - I don't think, in the history of the province, that the front bench will have as much power as they will have when this bill goes through. No matter how much we over here explain to them about the problem we have with this bill, about the worry we have about this bill, they just laugh it off. It is no big deal. But you know, when this bill passes, because they have the majority of votes, unless of course the backbench wake up to the fact that the least they should do is bring forward to this House legislative changes that change the structure of government so that people will be treated fairly.

I will go back to the analogy of the police officer. I am sure there are some back there saying, just because you are a police officer, you don't walk around with a gun to somebody's head. No police officer would do that. They are trained, skilled individuals and they try to resolve problems in a broader, better way. That is what the backbench can do. They can say to the front benches, don't use that gun of Bill No. 20 to the heads of the workers of Nova Scotia. Be legitimate, be transparent, be fair; come to the floor of the Legislature and bring in legislation and let us debate it. Let us allow Nova Scotians to have

[Page 3389]

a say in what the future of this province will be and what the structure of this government will be. Do you know what, if they have a fair proposal forward, I believe in Nova Scotians and that Nova Scotians are a fair, rational people and they would support it, but if it isn't, they will hold them accountable. During the next election, they will be accountable.

Why is this front bench afraid of bringing this here? Why would the good Minister of Education be afraid to bring anything that she wanted to privatize in the Department of Education to this floor? Why would the Minister of Economic Development be afraid to bring whatever he wants to privatize to the floor of the Legislative Assembly? Why would the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, and Natural Resources, three very important portfolios, ever be afraid about privatizing anything and bring it to the floor of the House? (Interruption) He says he wouldn't be. Well, if he wouldn't, why is he voting for Bill No. 20? I think he will be voting for Bill No. 20. I got a pretty good suspicion that he will be voting for Bill No. 20. If they have nothing to hide, then why don't they bring it here?

People say, who is upset? Well, the NSGEU represents approximately 21,000 employees of government, they are concerned. As a member of the Opposition, my job is to bring the concerns of the public to the government, because invariably this government has lost sight, its ear is not to the ground anymore, they are not hearing what people are saying. They are saying, we know what we are doing, just don't bug us with the facts or the concerns. So our job is to bring forward these concerns. But when you stand in your place in this House and you give forward these concerns and you give them an option of how to deal with it - we had a resolution to hoist the bill for six months, do you remember? Then we recommended that it go to a committee - all the things that we had recommended, just so people would understand what they are doing.

I bet you if we had a question and answer period right now or gave them an exam, if we gave that backbench an exam on Bill No. 20, they would all flunk. I bet you if we gave an exam of what this Bill No. 20 really will do, I bet you they would all flunk, because I don't think they understand what Bill No. 20 is all about. I think a couple do, I don't even know if the whole front bench understands the full implication of Bill No. 20. You have some of the smartest minds that are in government, the employees, and they don't know. They are concerned, so how can you expect that group of backbenchers over there to ever be able to say that they have the answers to that. I bet you that they don't.

Blind faith is what it is. (Interruptions) No, no, no, it is not a disease. The biggest disease you got is the Wal-Mart greeter over there. That guy, I think he is a virus back there, who is going to affect the whole backbench. You are going to have no gene pool left whatsoever by the time he gets done with you, I am sure. (Interruption) Pardon me?

AN HON. MEMBER: You have to have a gene pool to start with. (Laughter)

[Page 3390]

MR. DOWNE: Spoken like a real farmer. You have to have a gene pool to start with. Yes, exactly.

The creation of the Public Service Commission does nothing but simply allow this government to run on a program of patronage. When you put the word patronage up, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Now, this is a skill-testing question for you backbenchers over there. Hello? Hello? Anybody there? Knock, knock.

AN HON. MEMBER: We're here.

MR. DOWNE: If you put the word patronage on the wall, what is the first thing that you think about that would come up, that would be close to it? Do you know what it is? It's Tory, the Progressive Conservative Government comes to mind. Tory. Patronage: Tory. Patronage: Tory. That's what I think about. Do you know what they are going to do under this bill? They are going to make John Buchanan look like somebody who has never, ever supported patronage. Under this bill, that's how widespread it is going to be.

They got so ticked off because the Liberals tried to bring integrity back into the system; they tried to bring openness and honesty back into the system. That really bugged them, because now they can't do the games they used to do. What they had to do they said, now that the Liberals have tried to bring integrity back into the system. I remember the day when I took a look at the lawyers' list, there are only certain lawyers on the list. I asked the staff, why do you only have - well, they said, these are lawyers that we normally do business with. Are there no other smarter lawyers in Nova Scotia? Well, no, these are the only ones we are allowed to do business with. I said, the only ones you are allowed to do business with? So we opened it up. The same with every other profession, we tried to open it up so that just one or two people wouldn't get it.

Back home - a little anecdote - there is a lawyer, he is driving around in a nice little Cadillac. He not only wants to be in Cabinet, he wants to be Premier. Obviously there is a revolt in the backbenches. We have the Wal-Mart greeter sitting in the Premier's chair, can you believe it? That is the closest you will ever get, sitting there.

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Closer than you. (Interruptions)

MR. DOWNE: You might be right, but I am not sitting up here heckling all the time. You know what, this guy had a brand new car. He goes around and says, Tory times are good times, we are going to have all sorts of activity now in our law firm. I said, shame on you to do that. The old days should be gone. What this government said is, listen, we are going to get away from what the Liberals did, trying to straighten it up. We are going to go below that, we are going to go back down to the trough and we are going to find a way to make sure that our crony friends, our friends who are paying our way will be looked after. (Interruptions) He is sending his virus up to the front bench. (Interruptions)

[Page 3391]

That is what we are doing. If it isn't, then tell me. If they are saying that that is not what the intent of that is, then explain that to us, explain it to Nova Scotians. We are waiting to hear. I would love to hear that. Quiet, silence, not another word.

Mr. Speaker, there are a number of people who want to talk, and they want to be able to bring the issues to the forefront. What this bill should have been all about is a bill that talks about true accountability; what this bill should have been doing is saying, we want to be a government that will be accountable to Nova Scotians, and we will bring forward to this legislative floor the changes of government we want made, through legislation and not just through regulation.

Instead, we have the opposite. This is a government that is saying they want to start getting on the slippery slope of selling liquor through pharmacies, maybe seven days a week, I don't know. Why aren't they being more forthcoming to Nova Scotians? Why is this government afraid to come and debate the bill in its entirety, in this House? Why are they afraid? Why are they so scared? Why are they so insecure? It is usually because you are guilty. It is usually because you are guilty of something.

No, they sit there, quiet, because they know they have a bigger plan, but Nova Scotians will show them wrong. The Premier signed a commitment not that many years ago, a five point commitment, a five point plan that talked about how he was going to consult and how he was going to involve Nova Scotians in any changes, how he was going to work with the people. He was on the ground, really there. Why did they change him so quickly? Why did he allow the front bench to change him, or the backroom individuals to change him? Overnight, he has changed.

We are going to watch that document he signed, that five point plan he signed back in 1997, and we are going to be watching the changes that Bill No. 20 will bring in, and we will cross-check that to see if, really, he was able to live up to his word. I hope he does, but if he doesn't, we are going to hold him accountable, whether he is in the House or out of the House, to make sure that this government does not revert to the old days, where we saw nothing but problems because of the mismanagement and the lack of vision and the direction that they wanted to go.

[3:30 p.m.]

Now, I know my colleagues to my right are ready to get up and speak and so I have had my chance to express my frustration and concern. When you lay out these issues it is like casting pearls among swine sometimes. You lay out the options for them to make the changes and they won't. Anyway, I trust that they will go back and think about this before this bill is finally dealt with in total and they will come back with some recommendations that allow the House and allow Nova Scotians to truly understand and reflect on the major changes that they have planned for government and government employees. I hope, whatever comes out

[Page 3392]

of that process, that they in turn will never forget that they should be treating people with integrity, honesty and straightforwardness. I trust that at the end of the day their conscience will get to them and they will realize that they need to make the changes to Bill No. 20 that should be made. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I look at Bill No. 20 and I think, essentially, for the good people from Halifax Needham whom I have the privilege and the honour to represent in this Chamber, there is one question. It is a question that people in my riding, I think, very practically speaking, would want me to raise with most legislation - in fact with all legislation that comes onto the floor of this Legislature. That is a question about whether or not Bill No. 20 is going to make life better for Nova Scotians and whether or not it is going to make government work for them in a way that they want.

I know, Mr. Speaker, through the three years that I have been here now in this Chamber, talking to many people in my constituency, their concerns are varied and diverse and their ideas are not always the same but there are certain themes, certain patterns in what people want that have become very clear to me with respect to what it is that Nova Scotians want, that they care about and that they think will make a difference in the quality of their life. When they look at what it is that we do here in the Legislature, they are always very concerned about whether or not government is being open, whether it is being accountable, and whether or not the public services that people need and rely on are going to be there for them.

I think that it wouldn't be an understatement to say that people have become fairly cynical about governments in this province, based on the record of governments in the past 15 years or so. Their real concerns, I think, are very practical concerns about whether or not the health care system is going to be fixed, whether or not the education system is going to be improved and whether or not all of the conflict they see, the polarization that appears to be increasing in our society and in our province, be it polarization between people who have means and people who don't have means or polarization between urban communities and rural communities or polarization between people who have jobs and people who don't have jobs, Mr. Speaker, these are concerns that people have so they ask me, what is happening in the Legislature? What do these bills mean? How will they affect these very practical, day-to-day concerns that people have and concerns that people have rightfully expected their elected representatives to raise and to pursue with some rigour in this Chamber.

This is the approach that I take when I look at Bill No. 20. Bill No. 20 is about more than housekeeping, it is more than putting a set of legislative parameters in place to accommodate what this government already has been doing, which is the rationale that the Government House Leader has provided in introducing Bill No. 20. We have heard now quite a few hours of debate here in the Chamber on Bill No. 20 and we have heard questions

[Page 3393]

raised by people whose job it is to represent people in the Civil Service and people in the Public Service, people in various organizations who are very concerned that Bill No. 20 goes far beyond the routine kind of housekeeping that the Government House Leader would have us believe with respect to Bill No. 20.

Specifically, one of the fears that people have with respect to Bill No. 20 is the extensive power that this bill gives to the Cabinet and the question that has not been answered by the government, by the Government House Leader or any other member of the government, is, why does the Cabinet in Nova Scotia require more power than it already has? And why is it necessary to take accountability of the government away from this legislative Chamber.

After all, the Legislature is the place where it is most likely that members of the Opposition and Opposition Parties can scrutinize the activities of the government, the activities of the Cabinet, can ask questions in Question Period, can engage in debate with respect to the government's approach to issues and to introduce a bill that undermines - I suppose in some ways - or perhaps undermines is too strong a word - but a bill that sidelines the Legislative Assembly as a vehicle for holding government accountable I think is going in the very opposite direction from where Nova Scotians want to see the democratic process go.

There is a very great desire in our community and in our society, certainly, in my community in Halifax Needham, for greater accountability from government. Bill No. 20 is not a bill that will provide greater accountability. On the contrary, Bill No. 20 is a bill that will eliminate certain checks and balances that we have right now. It will mean that more decisions will be made outside of the legislative Chamber, more decisions will be made exclusively by a very small group of people in the Cabinet and these decisions will have a profound impact on public services and on Nova Scotians on what it is they can expect in the health care system, in the education system and elsewhere, particularly with respect to economic development and the use of Nova Scotians' resources as a vehicle for economic growth and development without being accountable in a consistent and systematic and structured way in this Legislature during each subsequent session of the House.

This is a very serious matter. This is not a matter to be treated lightly because it goes to the very root of our democratic process and what it is that people are looking for in terms of a more open, transparent and accountable government. What is very disturbing about Bill No. 20 is that it would appear that Bill No. 20 is a breach of faith with Nova Scotians who supported the Hamm Government in the summer election of 1999 when, certainly, the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, John Hamm, campaigned throughout Nova Scotia and talked about bringing government closer to communities, having a more open and transparent, accountable government. Bill No. 20, in fact, violates those promises that were made and promises that Nova Scotians, obviously, believed when they supported that Leader

[Page 3394]

and that Party and gave him the privilege of forming the government in Nova Scotia and the opportunity then to follow through on the promises that he had made.

Mr. Speaker, part of those promises that the Premier made was the restoration of public services and, specifically, to make health care - restoring, fixing the health care system was a number one priority for that government. When I look at Bill No. 20 and I try to identify what aspects of Bill No. 20 will result in the health care system being fixed in Nova Scotia, I can't find them in Bill No. 20. All I can find is the real possibility of more privatization of health care services, the real possibility of the abdication of responsibility for the provision of public health services by this government. I also see the very distinct possibility of this government being in the shadows directing collective bargaining in the district health authorities and, even beyond that, making a lot of the fundamental decisions about how health care is delivered, by whom it is delivered, how it will be delivered, and doing this in a way that the district health authorities will be the ones that will have to assume the responsibility and the accountability for, when the reality is that it is really the Cabinet who will be making the decisions and playing the tune that the district health authorities will be dancing to.

So, Mr. Speaker, this is a very unfortunate piece of legislation in terms of the direction this government feels it is necessary to move in having convinced Nova Scotians that their objective is to be more open and transparent.

Mr. Speaker, there are provisions in Bill No. 20 that will set up a Public Service Commission. To date, what we have had in Nova Scotia is the Civil Service Commission. It has been a division of government, a department of government, if you will, that is responsible for the hiring, for the evaluation, for the training of personnel who work most directly within the various government departments in the Province of Nova Scotia. Bill No. 20 would eliminate the Civil Service Commission, and replace it with the Public Service Commission and the Public Service Commission would be an entity that would have responsibility for many more government agencies or entities that this bill defines as government services or special operating agencies.

[3:45 p.m.]

This bill gives Treasury and Policy Board the power to designate any part of government as a special operating agency. It gives the power to issue administrative directives and rules and regulations to govern the Public Service. Mr. Speaker, this means that the Cabinet could essentially designate transition houses, for example, as public services and then it could enter into administrative directives and rules and regulations for women's shelters with respect to the operation of those shelters, the hours, the training requirements, the wages, and the benefits. It could decide that, for example, workers in transition houses don't really need a pension plan.

[Page 3395]

Perhaps one of the shelters has a pension plan because it has been a shelter that has had a workforce that has been very stable, and over a period of years as the workers age and their years of service are compounded, the administration and the boards of directors in an agency such as that might say, we need to provide, we need a pension plan in this organization to provide for the retirement of these dedicated women who have worked very hard in this organization for many years.

Perhaps that particular organization will have developed their whole business plan, their whole kind of financial forecast. They handle their money wisely. They go out and they do fundraising and they find ways, Mr. Speaker, to provide a pension plan in that particular organization. Perhaps, as a result of the one organization taking leadership in an area like that, workers in similar organizations may say we would like that kind of a plan too because all of the conditions are the same.

Well, this provision in Bill No. 20 would allow perhaps Cabinet, a senior bureaucrat attached to the Public Service Commission, to question whether or not this is an appropriate expenditure or an appropriate form of compensation in an organization such as a non-profit organization. The result would be the loss of the autonomy at the local level of a non-profit organization or a transition house to make its own decisions based on its awareness and its knowledge of the long-term commitment of its workers to the organization and its desire to be a responsive and a good employer, an employer who has had to work directly with this workforce.

Mr. Speaker, that may not be the same sentiment or the same feeling that members of the Cabinet - meaning in the bunker here at Province House - would have with respect to a small, non-profit organization. If you concentrate too much power and too much decision making in the hands of too small a group, and you do that far away from those organizations and from those constituencies and communities where services are provided, what you get is a very impersonal, a very bureaucratic and, quite often, a very insensitive kind of response from government to the local needs.

Why would we want that, Mr. Speaker? We would only want that, I think, or a government like this would only want that if what was motivating them was not any kind of caring for people in the communities and people who are providing public services, but in fact it is motivated by a desire to find ways to cut public services.

So, Mr. Speaker, this is a very real concern, I suggest, that needs to be answered and needs to be answered by perhaps the Government House Leader or by the Premier, by the Minister of Community Services, by members of the Cabinet. I come back to the question I started with, is Bill No. 20 going to make life better for Nova Scotians? Is it going to give them better government, more open and transparent and accountable government? I don't think so.

[Page 3396]

We have, Mr. Speaker, this week, I think, entered into the eighth week of a very nasty labour dispute between the caretakers and the custodial workers and the maintenance workers of the Halifax Regional School Board. The Minister of Education attempts to lead the public into believing that she has no role in what is occurring here. But, we all know that that is not the case. We know that certain directives have been given to boards all across the province with respect to how boards are to manage the funds that are allocated to them by the Minister of Education. Part of the directive that boards have received is that if the money that they are receiving falls short of what they require for their annual budgets, then they are to go looking in particular places and, specifically, in the area of transportation expenditures and in property management and maintenance. The result of that in the Halifax Regional School Board is that we have this protracted and prolonged strike.

Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 20 opens up the possibility of this very set of circumstances and relations being duplicated over and over again throughout the public sector, as defined by Cabinet and as defined with respect to other service agencies in this bill. So this means that the district health authorities could be in this situation all of the school boards could be in this situation. There is a whole schedule of organizations that is a schedule of organizations that was attached to the Financial Measures (2000) Act from last year. That particular schedule could even get longer than it is right now.

This bill gives the Cabinet unlimited ability to name organizations that Bill No. 20 would apply to and having done that, it would force these organizations then to be completely within the purview of this government and the Cabinet to make really important decisions about the allocation of their funds, the kinds of services they provide and how they go about providing them. So the whole notion of autonomy and the whole notion of having an arm's-length relationship between certain boards and agencies and services is made a mockery of, Mr. Speaker, it is made a complete and absolute mockery of by Bill No 20. This could hardly be said to be just a bit of housekeeping, just a routine bill providing the legal parameters for the restructuring that has always occurred.

Mr. Speaker, this bill smacks of a very serious hidden agenda of seizing more power, seizing it for Cabinet, seizing it for very senior people in the bureaucracy in downtown Halifax, people who are faceless and people who benefit greatly from the public purse. We have seen, over the years, the large six figure salaries at the very top of the Public Service, without the kind of openness, transparency and accountability that Nova Scotians are demanding, and without the kind of restoration of public services that Nova Scotians are expecting in return for these high salaries. This is very much a concern with Bill No. 20.

Mr. Speaker, this bill permits the Cabinet to create new departments in government, without coming to the floor of this Legislature and introducing legislation, without answering questions about the decisions to implement or introduce new departments. This would allow government to do things that, perhaps, members of the public would want members of the Opposition to raise questions around, and to have an opportunity for government members

[Page 3397]

to answer questions, to stand in their place and give an account for themselves, give an account of what it is they are doing and why, of what information they are relying when they make these decisions, and to really demonstrate to Nova Scotians that the decisions are based on important information and imperatives, and that they are not motivated politically.

We have a very sorry record of politically-motivated decision making in this province. The only way to move away from politically-motivated decision making is to have a more open, a more transparent and a more accountable process of decision making, and one that includes this Chamber. If this government or any government has no hidden agenda, if the decisions they are making are good decisions and they are decisions that they can justify, that will stand the scrutiny of assessment and analysis, then what does this government have to hide? Nothing. They have nothing to fear.

They should bring their decisions here to the floor of the Legislature, and stand by those decisions, and stand up and lay out what it is they are doing and why. Nova Scotians are a very pragmatic and practical people. They are fully capable of assessing what their government is doing, and seeing what it is that government is doing, and they can judge for themselves on the merits of the arguments and on the merits of the debate.

Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 20 would lead you to believe that this is a government that doesn't really feel it is capable of arguing, of presenting the facts, of demonstrating the common sense in its approaches. This is a government that wants to hide from public scrutiny. So, one has to ask oneself, what is it this government has to fear from the scrutiny and the accountability here of the Legislature? Why do they feel they are not able to come to this Legislature and make their case in a way that people will respect the decisions that are being made and will support the decisions that are being made? Why is it necessary to move away from one of the few oportunities, one of the few locations, that Nova Scotians actually get to know about what it is that this government is doing or any government is doing?

[4:00 p.m.]

You know, I think we need to question not only Bill No. 20, we need to question what this government's real agenda is in bringing forward a bill like Bill No. 20 that leaves us in a situation where we have more questions than we have answers.

Now I won't take too much more time except to say that I am very disappointed that this government has seen fit to bring forward legislation like Bill No. 20 that is more about them than it is about Nova Scotians. Nova Scotians are good people, they are good, hard-working people and they desperately, certainly the good people in Halifax Needham are desperately hoping that someone, some political Party will restore public services in Nova Scotia, that they will fix the health care system.

[Page 3398]

I have people in my constituency who are in desperate need of health care services, home care in particular. They are absolutely devastated that the idea that they had that as hospital beds were closed that the money that was allocated for those facilities was moved to the home care services that would help people stay in their own homnes. What they are finding is that those dollars weren't moved in that direction at all, and they don't know where those dollars have been moved. It is clear that dollars aren't in the emergency departments, they aren't in the acute care facilities, they are not in the long-term-care faciltiies, and they don't appear to be in home care anymore either.

Nova Scotians are very worried about the off-loading and the downloading onto private health insurance and into their own household budgets, the requirement that if you need health care you are going to have to purchase it out of your disposable monthly income. That is what Nova Scotians thought they were paying income tax for and sales tax for, and increasingly they are seeing that there is this kind of abdication of responsibility on the part of government. Bill No. 20 will do nothing to make life better for Nova Scotians; it will do nothing to fix the health care system. It will mean that, more and more, the long arm of this government will have reached into our health care system and our education system, but not to fix those systems, not to fix them at all, but to control expenditures in those systems and to control the way that business is done in those systems without government being more open, transparent and accountable.

So, in a way, Bill No. 20 is a cowardly bill because it does not make any pretense that this is a government that is prepared to be open and accountable and transparent, Mr. Speaker, and this is sad and I doubt very much that I or members of this caucus will be able to support Bill No. 20.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to make a number of interventions on Bill No. 20 on second reading for a number of reasons. I believe what is happening here before the House is absolutely critical to how the government will be managing the public's affairs in the weeks, months, indeed, years to come.

Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, as I saw you sitting in the Chair, I couldn't help but do a little reminiscing about a very important task that was given to members of the Legislature last year, in your previous life, not as Speaker as you sit today but indeed, with regard to the Red Tape Reduction Task Force Interim Report, November 2000. I am going to fast-forward to some of the recommendations of that particular task force.

I was a little disappointed because the recommendations that came from this particular task force we would have expected some rather open and lively and collaborative results to be included in this restructuring process. But given the secretive nature of the government and the way they are trying to ram Bill No. 20 through the House, I guess we will never really

[Page 3399]

know. Maybe that's why, Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, you, in your previous life, had the astute and insightful nature to withdraw yourself from that particular committee. I could be wrong, but it is rather perplexing that this elaborate exercise that took months and months to prepare, a long detailed report with over 50 pages of discussions with various stakeholders from across the province, from individuals and corporations and labour groups and, indeed, some rather distinguished groups such as the PC Women's Organization of Nova Scotia and so on, made all these recommendations that we would have thought would have been included into this particular bill, Bill No. 20.

One of the objectives of this Red Tape Reduction Task Force was "ii) to submit recommendations to the Minister Responsible for Priorities and Planning on which regulations should be repealed or revised," and also to "iii) advise the Minister Responsible for Priorities and Planning on the results of the review of the existing regulatory framework and operations to streamline administration and promote the goals of the Red Tape Reduction Initiative."

Mr. Speaker, we haven't heard either at the committee level, at the legislative level or, indeed, Nova Scotians haven't even seen the final report and now we have Bill No. 20 before the House? What is the government trying to hide? Or is it, as the Opposition has conjectured, that this was nothing but an exercise in futility to get a few frustrated Tory backbenchers out of the hair of the Cabinet for a few months and kind of make it look like we are addressing all these inequities in the Province of Nova Scotia? That is very, very frustrating. I see one of my honourable colleagues leaving the Chamber and we are not allowed to mention names and I won't do that but in generality, as a member of the Executive Council, that honourable member I am sure would have enjoyed some of the points that will be made during this dissertation.

Also, the requirement of the red tape task force to "iv) establish a framework or set of guidelines which will allow for the ongoing review of business impact regulations." Again, Mr. Speaker, when we look at Bill No. 20, we see that the government is unilaterally restructuring government without any input from Nova Scotians or, indeed, before even having the final report of this red tape task force. What happened? Why did the recommendations of this group of five Tory backbenchers have such little impact on the government that they didn't even wait for the final report before they introduced Bill No. 20.

Mr. Speaker, again, another recommendation, "v) advise on any other matters the task force may deem necessary as a result of information coming to its attention during the course of the review." I think what we are seeing here is clearly the government spinning out the big story - we are not allowed to use certain words in the House, but we have heard the adage that if the government wants somebody to believe something very badly they will say it often and long enough whether it is true or it is not true. There is a phrase for that but we are not allowed to use that phrase in the House because in the eventuality it may not be true. We are going to give the government the benefit of the doubt.

[Page 3400]

Mr. Speaker, what is concerning is that the government hasn't been able to back up many of the substantive issues that are now in Bill No. 20. The government is saying on the issue of tobacco - now they are coming down fearful on tobacco smugglers - $250. Yet, if somebody, a corner store owner sells tobacco to a minor it is a $10,000 fine. Wouldn't we want to increase the fine at the source of the problem before this illegal tobacco sale propagates to the point where it is out of control? Wouldn't the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Health want to be proactive and send out a strong signal to all Nova Scotians that $250 for tobacco smuggling is not good enough? But yet, once the smuggled tobacco comes into Nova Scotia it is $10,000 if a store owner or someone sells it to a minor.

[4:15 p.m.]

It seems to me, Mr. Speaker, that the government has its priorities mixed up. Yet, if you listened to the Minister of Health and the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Finance you would think that they have some of the most extreme measures that any government could implement to deal with tobacco smuggling and the elimination of smoking, with children in this province.

Mr. Speaker, that is not the case because the evidence speaks quite to the contrary. The Premier, by his own admission has publicly stated that there are more young people smoking today than there were when he came into the House of Assembly, and even more so when he became Premier. Clearly, the government is not succeeding in its measures. As well, the fact that the Minister of Health has only been able to convince his Cabinet colleagues that going with half measures is going to solve the problem, is another indication that his health committee recommendation was of little value when the government brought down its budget.

We won't get into the Rambo Justice Minister and his rather haughty attitude about justice issues in this province. We know how he feels about gun legislation. He hasn't even given members of the Legislature, indeed, all Nova Scotians, the courtesy of knowing how much taxpayers' money has been spent on the challenge before the Supreme Court of Canada on that issue. Rather than taking that money and using it towards educational programs or other justice initiatives to stop violations of our justice laws in this province, the best that minister has done so far is to prepare a video telling seniors how to lock their own doors in an effort to curb any break and enter and violence to their person.

Mr. Speaker, you didn't have to be a rocket scientist to know how to lock your own door or a locksmith, but that is the type of initiative we expect from that right-wing minister who would rather perpetuate the initiatives and the philosophy of the right Brian Mulroney and I mean right right Brian Mulroney. Then we have the Wal-Mart greeter for Preston saying, right on, but we wouldn't expect much better because he hasn't even been able to stand in his place and defend Bill No. 20.

[Page 3401]

More so, Mr. Speaker, I am wondering if he is even allowed to stand in his place and defend Bill No. 20. We have a better chance of getting hit with a Soviet missile than we do of having one of those government members defend Bill No. 20, outside of the Minister responsible for the Priorities and Planning Committee.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member is referencing Brian Mulroney, Soviet missiles and gun registration, et cetera. Although I have permitted the honourable member, and other honourable members, to stray quite a distance in debate, I wonder if the honourable member could come back to the Restructuring of Government (2001) Act, that is before the House.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, that is the very point I made. This government is so off-base with Bill No. 20, they are so consumed by the dogma of other philosophies that go beyond the demands of what the people of Nova Scotia are asking for that Bill No. 20 is not a measure of what Nova Scotians stand for. That is the point.

We see what is happening when it comes to the sale of liquor in Nova Scotia. The Minister responsible for P & P wants to restructure government so that we can now have liquor outlets in drugstores, corner stores and convenience stores, Mr. Speaker. Yes, it goes beyond just having it in drugstores because when we read the definition of what the corporation is, then we will see that they have the same rights as a natural citizen.

Mr. Speaker, what the government is doing is going soft on tobacco smuggling and they are going to make it easier to access liquor in corner stores and drugstores and what about gambling? The government was going to be so tough on gambling, but yet as a percentage of revenue, Nova Scotia compared with all other provinces has the highest percentage of revenue generated from gambling than any other province, and that is a documented fact, as a percentage of its total budget. So this government is relying more and more on gambling, tobacco and liquor sales to meet its financial objectives.

That is why perhaps, Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 20 is so important to them because they can do things unilaterally that they can't do now. For example, let's look at the workers' compensation system. Putting the workers' compensation system in Bill No. 20 under the purview of the Policy and Treasury Board is not good. It is not good, because after what we have gone through to clean up a lot of the mismanagement, and I don't know - some people would say corruption in that system - I don't have evidence to support that, but I do know there is enough documented evidence to clearly, unequivocally state that there was a lot of political interference during the John Buchanan Regime that, for all intents and purposes, bankrupted that system. Had it not been rescued under the tenure of Labour Minister Jay Abbass and the previous administration, in all likelihood, we wouldn't have a workers' compensation system here today.

[Page 3402]

Mr. Speaker, to go back to that, in my view, is the kiss of death for that no-fault insurance plan. The government is embarking on a rather dangerous political initiative. What we will witness, with the takeover of the workers' compensation system into the political arena, is a manipulation of the rates for industry; we will see that injured workers, who can now go before fair and independent tribunals, could very well be in jeopardy, because of the decision-making processes that will be made internally at the Workers Compensation Board level. As we know, there is quite a power struggle for chairman of that system right now, even as we speak, between the existing chairman and the former president of the Tory Party for Nova Scotia, who has also just applied for that position. Both have been interviewed.

Mr. Speaker, I would dare say, whoever takes over at the helm, that will signal the type of co-operative effort into the politicization of the workers' compensation system, one way or the other. If ever industry and labour had a cause to worry, it is on this particular section of Bill No. 20. We have some 30,000 small, medium and large businesses in Nova Scotia. This is not government money. This is not government money, and they shouldn't be allowed to put their grubby paws on it. They have no business interfering with the workers' compensation system and its day-to-day operations.

Mr. Speaker, the workers in this province have a lot of cause to worry, because the annual report that was just released by the minister, from the Workers Compensation Board, here in the House several weeks ago, paints the picture as to why we should put the brakes on this particular section of Bill No. 20. The evidence is quite clear. Since the Minister of Environment and Labour and the government, last year, amended the Occupational Health and Safety Act, bringing in these sunset clauses, and sending the signal out to industry and labour, and in particular to the experts within the Department of Environment and Labour, and the Occupational Health and Safety Division and other divisions within that department, that they are going to go soft on breaches and violations of the Act and the regulations thereunder, this is what we can expect more of.

By the minister's own report that he tabled, the report of the Workers' Compensation Board of Nova Scotia, Annual Report 2000, on Page 34, "The total number of time-loss claims in 2000 is 9,061. This represents an 11% increase . . .", an 11 per cent increase over the previous year. That is the message Bill No. 20 is sending to the people of Nova Scotia, industry and labour.

If government thinks for one moment by trying to appease certain interest in industry that they are doing everybody a favour or friends of the government a favour by moving with this initiative, they are far from being correct. I will read further, Mr. Speaker, from the Workers' Compensation Board report that was tabled, "The average duration of time-loss claims increased 3.5% . . .", over the previous year. Again, another signal that the government has politicized the safety and well-being of the workers of this province. When in the name of heaven is it going to come to its senses that good politics of the day is not

[Page 3403]

necessarily good public policy for the people of Nova Scotia? That is what Bill No. 20 is representing - good politics, bad public policy.

Mr. Speaker, that is not good for the people of Nova Scotia and I would be very doubtful if this issue would make its way from this Chamber to the Red Room before the Law Amendments Committee and back into the Committee of the Whole House on Bills without some serious presentation and serious concerns raised by stakeholders, both from industry and labour. We have seen, on several occasions, the Minister of Environment and Labour, through the forces of his office, order labour inspectors to do things that they felt were not right; Amherst Fabricators is a classic example.

If that is not good enough, Mr. Speaker, let's look at the Valley Regional Hospital and the Yarmouth Regional Hospital. Again, we have one set of laws. The inspectors went in, issued some orders of violations and then they were ordered to rescind those orders, despite what the law said. Do you know what the reason given was? The reason given was, we are contemplating changing the law. Yes, that was the reason given by the Minister of Environment and Labour, that we are going to change the law to suit the political need. Now have you ever seen such bizarre, irresponsible leadership from a minister or a Crown agency?

We saw just what the minister did in the last week with regards to appointing a mediator. It is all about confidence in Bill No. 20, Mr. Speaker. If you spoke to or you read the articles from at least four different media outlets last Thursday and Friday, the Minister of Environment and Labour had four different positions on appointing a mediator, four positions on something that was so simple. Yes, or no. But he had to come up with this long, complicated, convoluted, mumbo-jumbo diatribe as an example of his strong leadership. Is it any wonder that the custodians have taken occupation over at J.L. Ilsley High School?

Mr. Speaker, we don't support illegal activity on this side of the House, make no mistake about it, but something is amiss when we can't even get a mediator appointed when both parties are willing to sit down and communicate through that mediator and have indicated as such. So is the Minister of Environment and Labour the messenger? Is he the choirboy for another agenda that the government doesn't seem to want to put on the table? What really is the methodology, the science, the rationale, for such bizarre behaviour by this government and certainly this minister?

[4:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, recently we heard the Premier stand in his place in response to a question from my colleague, the member for Lunenburg West, with regard to the growing deficit and debt in this province. The Premier, and it is noted in Hansard, clearly and unequivocally stated that the debt would not grow after his budget of next year with a balanced budget.

[Page 3404]

Well, Mr. Speaker, let's refer you to the projected consolidated statement of the net direct debt that was issued by the Department of Finance. Clearly the Department of Finance has a totally different picture about the reality of the debt continuing to grow than the Premier does. How does Bill No. 20 address such dichotomies? The estimate for the year 2002-03 shows that we will have a projected surplus of $8.6 million, but the debt will increase by approximately $65 million. So that is not a reduction or a no increase, that is an increase. Let's look into the year 2003-04. The government is projecting an $11.4 million surplus. Well, the debt increases another $49 million.

Mr. Speaker, these are figures from the Department of Finance. Let's look again at the year 2004-05. The government is saying a $39.4 million surplus. Let's see what the Department of Finance is saying, his own officials are saying. Again, it increases by $14 million. So what the Minister of Finance is saying and what his Department of Finance officials are saying are two different things, notwithstanding that the Deputy Minister of Finance has stated that that could possibly continue until the year 2007 before they even get control of the growth of the debt and that is only a guess.

Mr. Speaker, the government says that it wants to restructure government to meet the needs of the people of Nova Scotia into the 21st Century. What about the Premier's Campaign for Fairness and the resolutions that came before the House on the government side, calling and asking for all-Party support? We gave them the benefit of the doubt. We supported that resolution when it first came before the House, but it didn't take long, it didn't take any more than hours, or days, or weeks, before the truth came out of what the government's real agenda was.

Today's Chronicle-Herald, Mr. Speaker, says it all. It says it all. The Premier actually downplayed his Campaign for Fairness on his trip with the Prime Minister, on this trade mission, and here is what the Premier says, "Clearly, we cannot let domestic issues overtake why we have come down here . . .", referring to the trade mission, "Mr. Hamm said before arriving in Atlanta that the two issues he wanted to discuss with Mr. Chretien were softwood lumber and the Campaign for Fairness."

What happened? Was there something that happened when he travelled over the American border into the American skies? Is it the ozone layer that is hitting him? What is the problem? Has he got amnesia all of a sudden? Why is Nova Scotia not an important issue for the Premier of this province? They were the two main issues that he boasted about and asked for all members of this House to support him. Even on his trip to Atlanta, he said they were the two top priorities - the softwood lumber dispute and his Campaign for Fairness. Now, he is saying we shouldn't bother other people with our problems?

That is what he's saying. You wonder why we would have little confidence in Bill No. 20. Clearly what we have is that the government has been slipping in its popularity as of late, according to the public opinion polls, and it really has to get all these pieces of legislation

[Page 3405]

through. These political documents, because they are not documents for a good public policy, so they have to get them through as quickly as possible before the people of Nova Scotia catch on to what is happening.

Sometimes it takes the smallest of issues and the most obscure and unrelated issues to ignite the fire to the people of Nova Scotia as to what this government is trying to do with Bill No. 20. Do you know what I think it is? It will be the occupation over at J. L. Ilsley. That will draw the entire issue of Bill No. 20 to the open. We saw what the Minister of Finance did last session with his piece of legislation, changing the Financial Measures (2000) Act mandate to allow the Minister of Finance to effectively order all municipal governments, all school boards, all Crown Corporations, all agencies of the government to go in under the provincial government computer management systems.

What is the next step? Let's look at the big agencies - Department of Health, Department of Education. Let's look at education. What happens? The Minister of Education in the last session of the Legislature amends the Education Act to give her the authority, give the government the authority to take over in part or all the administration of school boards in this province. What happened in Public Accounts last Wednesday was the telling tale when Mr. Dave Reid, Superintendent for the school board, publicly admitted that the Deputy Minister of Education approached and met with all the superintendents for the province and that it was the province's expressed intent to take over facilities and transportation and leave the school boards with policy on curriculum.

What does that mean in Bill No. 20? It means that Bill No. 20 is another step of an authoritarian style government where people have input only after the fact. That is what is happening. We have seen the centralization of the Department of Health when the Minister of Health brought his health bill in and now we are seeing the same thing with the Minister of Education. That is the rubber stamp that Bill No. 20 will provide.

Bill No. 20 will remove the stakeholders who are most important from the process. Mr. Speaker, there has been a lot of debate over the years about the funding of education and about the input that people should have in education. We recall the Graham Commission report that was prepared, then the Walker Commission report and all the different approaches to the management of our educational system. I haven't been around too, too long, but I am able to read and write - and thanks to these glasses I can read a little more about some of the chicanery that is going on over there in that government and what it is being perpetrated on the people of Nova Scotia.

If they don't want people to have input, if they just want this authoritarian style government where everything is from the ivory towers down on Hollis Street or over at the Trade Mart Building, just say so. Just say so and at least people will be able to come to terms with it. It will make it a lot easier to get rid of this lot in the next election, but at least will

[Page 3406]

give the government credit for being honest with the people. At this point, Mr. Speaker, I don't think it has.

Mr. Speaker, I think to remove a lot of the parents' organizations, these parent-teacher organizations, the home and school organizations, the student bodies, all these different important stakeholders; the teachers, the teachers union, the custodians, the teachers aides; all these individuals, to remove them or to marginalize them in any way, any more than what the government has already done, will leave us in a very vulnerable state. Perhaps that is the rationale why the Minister of Education is so determined with Knowledge House. Maybe privatization is the way of education in Nova Scotia under this government because effectively, Bill No. 20 rubber stamps what has been done under the changes to the Health Act, changes that have been made under the Education Act and it just gives them that licence to kind of push all the people aside, all the stakeholders and the major stakeholders at that, because they are the taxpayers. They are the ones who are footing the bill and I believe should have a say in the process.

The incident at J.L. Ilsley will ignite a series of events that I don't believe even this government can try and control with its spin doctors, Mr. Speaker, even with what has taken place with the closure of some of these schools in the Halifax Regional School Board. For the school administration and/or the school board to change the policy and procedures when they are halfway through a closing process, putting the onus on the parents to go out and ferret out the financial implications of school closures, when in fact, under the stated policy it is the responsibility of the school board and the superintendent - or as what is referred to in the document, the facilitator - is an abdication of their legal responsibility. That is not democracy. That, Mr. Speaker, is clearly the type of backroom politics that drives the current Conservative philosophy in this government.

We will do for the people of Nova Scotia what we believe is right and let's not listen to them because they know not what they speak. That is the philosophy of the Conservative Government of this province today as we speak.

[4:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, any time a minister is asked a question that would have some implication on Bill No. 20, we get a rather, somewhat sarcastic off-the-wall remark. Let's go back. Let's go back to the commitments that were made by the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations during the budgetary process. He gave an undertaking to this Legislature that he would provide a list of the recommendations made by Service Nova Scotia to the minister concerning the program review, and he hasn't done it. What does that say on Bill No. 20? There could very well be, in those recommendations, some critical information that would either help the government in making its argument for the support of Bill No. 20, or indeed clearly demonstrate what many suspect, that Bill No. 20 is nothing short of a political

[Page 3407]

document for the government to control and manipulate as much as it can in a very vain effort to buy the next election.

Mr. Speaker, we will see lots of that next year. We will see lots of that; the Buchananites will be in full flight, because they are masters at spinning out stories that may or may not be in the best interests of Nova Scotia. What does Bill No. 20 do when it comes to our offshore industry? What does Bill No. 20 do? Well, PanCanadian themselves have indicated that they may or may not do onshore processing. In fact, the Premier is in an ideal position to be able to guarantee jobs and spinoff industries here in Nova Scotia if they were to put the stipulation in for any further leases to PanCanadian, or such companies, that they have to do onshore processing.

What has the Premier done? He has become a wimp. He has become a wimp against the oil giants of the United States. What confidence would we have in the Premier going to Atlanta, let alone to Texas or to Scatarie Island, for that matter? It is just as well we send him to Timbuktu for what good he is doing in protecting the interests of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, when he was Leader of the Third Party on this side of the House, he was demanding jobs for Nova Scotians; he was demanding that the government guarantee more jobs, and that we were failing by not getting our 50 per cent. What has he gotten since he has been on that side of the House? He has a bigger paycheque; that is about the extent of it. What about the people in Nova Scotia who have been counting on him? Even by his own admission, his own staff on the Island of Cape Breton, only 2 per cent, less than 2 per cent of all the offshore activity have gone to the Island. Less than 2 per cent on a multibillion dollar development.

Mr. Speaker, where is the Premier's Campaign for Fairness when it comes to Nova Scotia? Where is the Premier's Campaign for Fairness in his own backyard? It is bad enough he goes on the national stage and embarrasses himself by saying that he is not going to raise the issues that he gave a commitment he was going to raise, but now he doesn't even want to address it in his own backyard. Is he going to be a closet politician for Nova Scotia? I have never in my living daylights witnessed such a Premier that could vacillate on so many issues in such a short period of time. He doesn't know anything about the budgetary process, that is evident from his statements. He doesn't have the ability to stand up to those large American oil companies because he can't guarantee any of those jobs in Nova Scotia from the offshore processing that they are contemplating. Is he really in charge of the ship? Who is in charge of the ship over there? (Interruption) Well, we will stay away from slick and slack for the time being.

What is happening is the government knows that it can't meet its political commitments. What about, what does Bill No. 20 do for the government's commitment that all the road taxes, all the fuel taxes that would be collected in the second year of its mandate, 100 per cent would go towards capital road construction, road maintenance and the like?

[Page 3408]

Then the Minister of Transportation and Public Works stands up and says, it is our intent to do that at the end of our mandate. Well, we don't want more promises. We don't want false promises. We want a minister to stand in this House and live up to his commitment. He is the same minister that is introducing Bill No. 20 and can't wait to implement a gag order at every twist and turn in the road.

What have we gotten so far in Bill No. 20? Well, let's recap; we have a softening of taxes for smugglers; we have expanded our liquor operations by putting liquor outlets in drugstores, corner stores and what have you; we have an Education Act that has now positioned itself under the leadership of the Minister of Education to dissect and destroy school boards as we know them and eliminate students, parents, teachers, custodians, teachers' aides, and what have you from the process.

What do we have? There won't be too many left to teach. Why wouldn't the Minister of Education push for Knowledge House because that fits with their philosophy. Only the fit will survive; never mind the weak, never mind the underprivileged, never mind those in society who need the help of those who are a little better off, never mind social justice, never mind the compassion.

Mr. Speaker, what about the Speech from the Throne? What was the key phrase that they used? See, it has become only a memory, that's what. It was like they had a heart of gold but they had a spine, they were going to be, they forgot the l-e-s-s, spineless. All it is, it is just gobbledygook. Spin out the words, sell it to the people of Nova Scotia, make them happy for today and then we will get on to the next issue and the spin doctors will look after it. Even though what we witnessed before committee last week, they are even trying to politicize the Public Service against their own will.

At the Resources Committee, it was revealed that the members of that committee couldn't even articulate their own questions, they had to be supplied a series of questions by the staff from the Department of Environment and Labour. They were supplied the questions by the employees from the Department of Environment and Labour. Now are they that vacuous on ideas, on what to ask about water management and water strategies for the Province of Nova Scotia? Does the minister or ministers of this government have such little confidence in the backbenchers that they can't even trust them to ask a question? Here, schoolchildren, ask this list of questions, one to seven, stick to the script because this will help me look good as a minister.

How pathetic, Mr. Speaker, that the Ministers of the Crown don't have enough confidence in their backbenchers to ask a few questions at a committee. How often has this been going on? It would be interesting. Let's fax it from the Department of Environment and Labour over to the Tory caucus and the spin doctor from the Tory caucus will hand it out - subject to sending it to the wrong Party - to all the Tory backbenchers and their job is to stick to the script. I mean, let's be realistic. Ministers of the Crown in all political Parties would

[Page 3409]

certainly encourage their colleagues to accent some of the highlights of the government's accomplishments, policies and initiatives. Let's not be naive, but to go to the point of saying, well, here is your list of questions, here is your script, don't get off the script, stick with it. First of all, that is not what the Public Service at the Department of Environment and Labour is for, or any other government department.

Mr. Speaker, that is why Bill No. 20 does little to engender confidence in the people of Nova Scotia. Certainly the Opposition is somewhat suspect.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Want some help?

MR. MACKINNON: My colleague, the member for Sackville-Cobequid, is offering his services and, certainly, he will have an opportunity, he will have a whole hour to jump in on this debate. I am pleased he agrees with me that this bill is an issue of people's lack of confidence in this government.

When we pick up the paper, Mr. Speaker, and read the headlines in today's The Chronicle-Herald, "Campaign for Fairness downplayed", well really, what does that say about the government and Bill No. 20? It says what we have suspected for some time. It demonstrates quite clearly what we have suspected for some time. Let's look at this document, and I will table it, I believe all members may have it anyway. It is called Fiscal Responsibilities A Look at Micro Issues, a Presentation by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, January 12, 2000.

Last year, Mr. Speaker, here is what the Federation of Independent Business said with regard to total funded staff within the Nova Scotia Government: 10,267, of which 6,100 are employees of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, approximately 1,300 excluded staff would include managers, lawyers and confidential staff. I might be wrong, but that would suggest that we have one manager for every five funded staff within the department, aside from the casual, term and contract employees. Clearly the government is looking at the wrong approach. It is taking the wrong approach. Why beat up on all the staff? Why not look at the hierarchy within government?

My colleague, the member for Cape Breton The Lakes, clearly demonstrated, during estimates, that with all the reorganization, I am not sure which particular department it was, Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, I believe - they are still spending more money. They are still spending more money at the administration level than they ever were.

[5:00 p.m.]

So what is the difference? All they have done is move some bodies around. Yet, they had lots of money to bank-up the political body over at Priorities and Planning when they were cutting back to the low income, the fixed income, the underprivileged, and seniors in

[Page 3410]

hospitals. Bill No. 20 doesn't do anything to address those inequities because one thing you can't do in politics, is legislate opinion and that, Mr. Speaker, is what this government is trying to do. They are trying to legislate opinion by telling people this is what they have to believe. This is what they have to accept. This is the law. This is the command from the Cabinet office. This is what we are going to do. It is right for you, whether you like it or not. They are in the Conservative philosophy - we do as we say only if we so choose.

Bill No. 20, Mr. Speaker, in my view, in its present form, is an affront, an affront to the democratic process. It is an affront to the people of Nova Scotia, industry, labour, those in health care, those in education, those involved with the justice system. What about our water resources? How does Bill No. 20 address this? We saw what happened at the Resources Committee. We saw that the Province of Nova Scotia is now allowing the export of our precious water supply, yes. Does this government have any idea what the implications on NAFTA are, now that we have opened up Pandora's box? (Interruption)

Well, somebody says, let's refer to Newfoundland. I am worried about Nova Scotia and so should that member for the Annapolis Valley be, where they are now purging the water supply from the Annapolis Basin to help the farmers in a critical need, Mr. Speaker, without a proper water management and crisis strategy. That member would be well-advised to read Hansard from the Resources Committee. That is what Bill No. 20 does not do. It does not engender confidence. It does not address some of the critical issues that are before this province.

Mr. Speaker, it is not about good management. This is about politics, crass politics, trying to manipulate the process for political control to try to buy the next election. That is exactly the same pattern that took place from 1978 to 1993. The evidence is clear. We don't want to go back to that type of activity. I realize my time is running short on this bill for second reading, but I will take lots of opportunity to address some other issues in more detail when it comes back to Committee of the Whole House on Bills. I can say that I do not support sending this bill off to the Law Amendments Committee in its present state. I am very disappointed that the government has proven itself so vacuous on the promises that it made. It is a piece of legislation that I believe this government will find will meet with considerable resistance before its final reading. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: If it were allowable under the rules, Mr. Speaker, I would have been happy to allow the previous speaker some of my time. I was enjoying his presentation so greatly. It seemed to canvass a great deal of ground. But, under the rules, we are not allowed to do that, but I do welcome the opportunity to speak now for a third time concerning Bill No. 20.

[Page 3411]

The reason I welcome this opportunity is that this bill is a complicated one and deserves our close scrutiny. In the previous two speeches I have made on this bill, I got to address what I thought were two of the major provisions of the bill, but I am going to turn today to a third aspect that has been troubling and concerning me which I have not yet had the opportunity to speak. Just to recap, the first two matters that concern me are as follows.

First was the thrust of the bill that would allow for privatization of the Liquor Commission. Members will recall that this has now been fairly thoroughly canvassed and is certainly one of the main problems with the bill, that it is possible under Bill No. 20 for the Cabinet to make a decision to privatize the Liquor Commission as a whole without ever coming back to this chamber. They could do it by Executive Order. That is not what I think any of us would regard as being an appropriate model for governance of this province.

The second main aspect of the bill is that it allows the Cabinet to redefine the ambit of the public sector. It is enabled to do that by Cabinet order in order to reach out and affect bargaining that may be going on - particularly in the university and school sectors. It may be that the ambit goes beyond that, but it is certainly clear that they can define, should they wish, the public sector in any way that they choose. That is if Bill No. 20 goes through in its present form. Again, they could do that without coming back to this House.

I and many others have spoken against this accretion of power to the Cabinet. Precedent has been that if the government ever wished to involve itself in detail in the labour negotiations that are going on in the broader public sector, that they should do so only upon the receipt of special authority through the means of legislation brought to this House. That has been the tradition, we have seen it on a couple of previous occasions - very regrettably, but the government of the day has seen fit to come forward with that kind of legislation. What we miss out on if Bill No. 20 goes through will be the opportunity to reconsider such measures - well, to consider them at all because there will be no obligation to come forward to this House to ask for authority.

Both of those are problematic. We have discussed them and we have seen what it is that is wrong with this as a model of government. What is at heart the model that is proposed is one that tends to minimize the importance of debate in this House. I know there has been some suggestion that the way in which speeches have been offered about Bill No. 20 amounts to an attempt at filibuster. Not to say that doesn't seem to me to be quite correct. I don't think that this is a filibuster, I don't think that it is a trivial attempt to obstruct which I think is the implication when people use the word filibuster in such a negative way.

What it has been and continues to be is an attempt to offer positive suggestions both to the government and - more broadly - to the affected entities and to the people of Nova Scotia about what might be a better model for, in the terms of this bill, ways to restructure the Government of Nova Scotia.

[Page 3412]

I have to say, we certainly don't see in the bill that has come before us anything that is particularly inspiring. All we are doing is laying out what it is that we think would be a better way. When I turn to the third aspect of the bill that concerns me at the moment, I am at something of a loss to figure out what might indeed be a better way of suggesting how to go about managing the problem. Not an entire loss, because I do have a suggestion to make, but I think where my loss comes, really, is in trying to understand what it is that the government is about in the sections of this bill that have to do with the ambit of powers of the Treasury and Policy Board.

Let's just think about that for a moment. What is a Treasury and Policy Board? What is this entity? It is not a government department. It is not like the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, and it is not like the Department of Justice, and it is not like the Department of Community Services. It is not an entity that has a direct Cabinet Minister responsible for it, with a series of pieces of legislation for which it is responsible and a segment of the public that it relates to. It is not quite like that.

The idea behind the Treasury and Policy Board is that it is a committee of Cabinet. Well, this legislation says that this entity has to be at least five members of Cabinet. It is going to get together, and what is it going to do? Well, see, this is the problem. This is the third aspect of this bill that puzzles me and that worries me. No one, of course, can say to the government that they shouldn't have committees of Cabinet. It makes sense for members of the Cabinet who have common interests or common problems to get together to discuss them; certainly that would work towards the efficient administration of the government. At least one would hope. It makes sense.

Now, the Treasury and Policy Board however seems to have some kind of special status under this bill . . .

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

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, thank you very much. I was just saying that the Treasury and Policy Board, as contemplated by Bill No. 20, seems to have a special status. It is not a question of a few Cabinet Ministers getting together to discuss a common problem that they might have, as one might imagine, say the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Community Services getting together to discuss ways in which to create a more peaceable society. It doesn't seem to have that character.

The Treasury and Policy Board seems designed as an instrument for oversight of all the other government departments; that seems a very peculiar function. The thrust of that is quite clearly that there will be an inner Cabinet. That is what it amounts to. Yet, just think about that for a moment. It is not as if we have something akin to the federal government, where maybe there are 30 or 40 departments and there might have to be some kind of subset

[Page 3413]

of that that might be 10 or 12. We only have 10 or 12 here right now anyway. There are only 10 or 12 government departments at the moment, and that is the Cabinet. It is there; it is just one front bench; there they are. It is not as if it is such an unwieldy kind of entity. Many of us will have the experience of sitting around with that kind of number of persons, holding discussions about policy and keeping everyone up to speed.

Our own caucus is of about that size. We meet all together and we have ideas of what it is that is fair, everyone being in the same place, the same space, and coming along together and understanding each other. We regard our meetings as exchanges of ideas in which it seems only fair for everyone to know what is going on.

What on earth can they have in mind that with a group of 11 - is it just 11, I think - Cabinet Ministers that this government has, along with the Premier maybe 12, and how is it that they can think that a group of five members of Cabinet should be made up into this body known as the Treasury and Policy Board? Why should there be an inner Cabinet? I have been referring to it as an inner Cabinet, but I better justify that before I continue to do it. Let's just look at what it is that leaps off the page when you read Bill No. 20.

[5:15 p.m.]

You don't have to get very far into it, Clause 41, and here it is. There is a vast accretion of power of a supervisory nature that the Treasury and Policy Board is meant to have with respect to all kinds of cross-governmental activities. There it is, it is to develop and implement plans and strategies for the effective administration and operation of government. Well, those are broad words. One finds it hard to imagine broader words; it could be right there, ". . . plans and strategies for the effective administration and operation of government;" That seems pretty broad, but it goes on, there is language here that just goes beyond that, "identification and prioritization of policy issues . . .", is another power that the Treasury and Policy Board is meant to exercise and it can be, at their selection, of any policy initiatives and direction of action on policy. Again, extremely broad words that are designed to give to this inner Cabinet the power of decision making over government decisions.

I would have thought that all the rest of the Cabinet members would be quite interested in knowing who are going to be the five who are going to be making all these decisions. Who are the ones who are going to have all these powers and why should they? It goes beyond that. The Treasury and Policy Board is to review and analyze business plans of all departments. Furthermore, it is to review their finances, not just their requests for money, but how it is they spend the money.

Just to leap ahead a little bit, it looks very much as if the Treasury and Policy Board, in the contemplation of the authors of Bill No. 20, will be doing something like the Auditor General is supposed to do. One of the things the Treasury and Policy Board is supposed to do is examine and report, to the rest of Cabinet, ". . . on all matters related to the financial

[Page 3414]

management, commitment of funds, and expenditure of funds provided by the Province to departments, offices and government agencies.

Doesn't that sound like the Auditor General to you? Doesn't that sound like what we have Roy Salmon and his staff to do? Isn't it what we have an established entity appointed by and responsible to the whole of this Chamber? That is what the Auditor General does and, yet, here, the Treasury and Policy Board is supposed to be doing that, according to Bill No. 20. Why? Why are they supposed to be doing that? Are they going to duplicate the functions of the Auditor General? What on earth can that possibly mean? Examine and report on all matters related to financial management and expenditure of funds in any department. Nothing could be clearer than that. This is a pure duplication of the Auditor General's function.

This seems a very peculiar thrust. What can explain it? I don't just mean what can explain this apparent duplication of the Auditor General's function. When I ask that question, I am saying why is it that this whole array of powers is being given, under Bill No. 20, to the Treasury and Policy Board? That goes beyond the ones I have already cited because Treasury and Policy Board gets to establish values, standards, targets for the administration and operation and management of all government departments. Well, it's going to set the values? The values and standards? Well, again, this sounds partly like the Auditor General, but it also sounds amazingly like the kind of thing that ought to be debated and discussed in this Chamber.

There is a part of what it is that the Treasury and Policy Board is supposed to do that has kind of an administrative function to it. I can understand that when it gets to management information systems and to try to promote inside efficiency government that that probably makes a certain amount of sense. When it lists that reporting requirements may be established by the Treasury and Policy Board, well, that probably makes sense, again. There is sort of a managerial and an internal administrative function to coordinating government departments that seems to be contemplated there. Yet, just think about the language here. I don't want to stray into clause by clause discussion and I am aware that is not what second reading debate is about and that we will get the opportunity in front of Law Amendments Committee and when it comes back to Committee of the Whole House to talk about that, but just in passing I want to note some of the language.

Here is how it goes: it talks about functions that the Treasury and Policy Board may carry out including a rule-making function. Normally, rules if they are to be, in effect, objective and known are going to be regulations and regulations can only be made by the Cabinet. Now we do see that the language is subject to the approval of the Governor in Council the Treasury and Policy Board may make rules and regulations. Well that sails closely but accurately within the appropriate limits of the law because it is not the Treasury and Policy Board that would actually be making regulations, it is the Cabinet, that is what is subject to the approval of the Governor in Council means. If that is the case, why mention

[Page 3415]

the Treasury and Policy Board at all? If it were the Cabinet that were truly making the regulations, then the clauses in this bill would simply speak about the Cabinet making regulations.

Quite clearly what is contemplated here is that the Cabinet will rubber stamp what it is that the Treasury and Policy Board does. They will rubber stamp the regulations. This is why along with the rest of the very broad but plain language of these clauses of the bill, I conclude that what is being done is to create an inner Cabinet which will be the real locus of power inside this government. Do we want that? Is this what we want? Is this what the people of Nova Scotia have been promised? Is this, in the classic words that we have heard so often, open and accountable government? It doesn't sound like it. When there is an inner Cabinet with special powers, that does not tend towards an ideal of an open and accountable government. It tends towards an idea of what is to be a centralized top-down administrative structure run by a small handful of people.

When this is combined with the powers that are set out elsewhere in Bill No. 20, it becomes abundantly clear what it is that this government has as its conception of how government in our province ought to be run. It is not to be open and accountable, it is not to be democratic, it is not to be inclusive, it is not even to be inclusive of its full caucus, even of its full Cabinet. There is going to be a small group running things inside the government here. I don't find that a very attractive model. This is the beginning of an executive model of government; this is an executive model of government, not a responsible government model. This is not reliance upon Cabinet which is a collection of colleagues of equal standing who have abilities, who have respect for each other, who talk to each other, who share power and information. That is not what this model is all about.

Just to continue again for a moment on the powers of the Treasury and Policy Board when it comes to rule making. It has been pointed out by a couple of other speakers that although they won't be able, this group of five, to make regulations, they can however issue administrative directives as they consider necessary for the performance of their duties. So it is quite clear that this is going to be a body that will make policy, that will give directives, that will even make administrative directives, which are quite clearly rules, to be followed by all other government departments and agencies. Not only that, the Treasury and Policy Board can determine its own rules and procedures.Will notes be kept or minutes be kept? Who knows? Maybe some day we will find out. On the other hand, maybe we never will. Maybe when there is a change in government and they look through the files, they won't find anything there.

I said that this was the third main aspect of what it is that is in this bill that causes me concern. It certainly is and I cannot think that there are people out there, students of government, who would find this a very attractive model. I think when they look at this, they would say to themselves, how is it that the Government of Nova Scotia at this point in its

[Page 3416]

history would benefit from this model? What is the advantage, and that is the question I pose. What is the advantage?

We are left to speculate because with respect to any of the main points that are contained in this bill, the government has not chosen to offer any kind of detailed explanation. The longer we have had the opportunity to delve into the details of this bill, the more it becomes apparent that this bill is problematic. At every turn, at every moment as we proceed through this House, each time one of the speakers from the Opposition Parties sits down, there could arise a speaker from the government benches to explain what is the advantage to the people of Nova Scotia from this bill and yet it doesn't happen.

It hasn't happened. We just don't have any kind of detailed explanation. We don't have anyone from the government standing up and explaining to us exactly what their plan is with respect to the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission and we don't have anyone from the government benches standing up and saying to us why they want to be able to interfere with bargaining in the broader public sector. Now that we have drawn it to their attention, we again don't have anyone from the government benches standing up and saying to us why it is that their conception of Cabinet government is one that relies upon an inner Cabinet, a group of five, who is going to have all the power.

This model begins to look like the kind of model that has emerged at the federal level and that is a widely criticized model. One of the main criticisms that is made these days about how it is that Cabinet government has evolved in Ottawa, is that entirely too much power is now in the hands of the Prime Minister's Office, the PMO is a huge apparatus. The PMO is a huge bureaucracy in and of itself and this model is seen as completely antithetical to what the basic idea of Cabinet government was all about in the first place. Is this the model that is being followed here?

Well, it is entirely possible because Treasury and Policy Board can appoint all kinds of staff if it wants. It can begin to be a large grouping of staff responsible to a small number of Cabinet members and given the mandate that Bill No. 20 would give to the Treasury and Policy Board, it is easy to imagine how very quickly the locus of power could well shift to the Treasury and Policy Board. We all know that this question of where power lies is a subtle matter. In part, it has to do with what is written in the Statutes, but in part it has to do with practice. It has to do with the extent of resources. It has to do with the number of dollars that a group can spend. It has to do with the number of staff that is attached to a particular office and it has to do with the respect that people are told informally that they have to accord to a particular office or function.

[Page 3417]

[5:30 p.m.]

So we see that and we are beginning to see it here with respect to the Treasury and Policy Board. That is what it is that the government is saying to the people of Nova Scotia is the ideal that they want to pursue. They are coming and saying, well, you know, Cabinet responsibility, Cabinet government may have had its day, but we are prepared to think about its passing from the scene.

That is a hard point. I think that if anyone wanted to move away from the tried and true method that has served this province well for a long time, that there is a heavy burden of justification that lies on them. They should come and say exactly what their plans are. They should come and say, here is what we hope to accomplish. They should come and say, here is why it is that, for some limited purpose, it might be necessary to have this body with this array of powers. They haven't done it. In and of itself, that indicates a lack of respect for this Chamber and a lack of respect for the public.

That is worrisome enough, even if it weren't for the plain words on the page in this bill. So what is it in the end that the principle of Bill No. 20 actually is? It has an intriguing title, An Act to Restructure the Government of Nova Scotia. I remember when I first had the chance to speak about the bill, I suggested that a true and useful restructuring of the government would be policy driven, that it would embody some attempt to make life better for the people of the province, that it would perhaps create a department charged with a mandate to eradicate poverty. That would be something that would be for the good of the people of Nova Scotia. It might, for example, create a department of sustainability that would tackle the problem of transformation of the different economic sectors that we have to engage with. That would make life better for the people of Nova Scotia.

But you know, this transformation, this restructuring of the Government of Nova Scotia is all about making life better for five Cabinet Ministers. It gives them major power. That is what it is about. Here is what it is that this bill does in the end. This is what it is all about. This restructuring is all about accretion of power to five Cabinet Ministers, the inner Cabinet. The decision about privatization of the Liquor Commission, will that be made by the public? Not under Bill No. 20. Will it be made by the Legislature? Not under Bill No. 20. Will it be made by the full Cabinet? Probably not under Bill No. 20. It is a decision that will probably be made by the inner Cabinet that is being set up under Bill No. 20.

If the government decides that it is interested in the possibility in engaging, as part of the labour relations of the broader public sector, is that a decision that will be made by this Legislature? Not under Bill No. 20. Is that a decision that will be made by the full Cabinet? Not necessarily. That is the kind of decision that could be made by this inner Cabinet, the Treasury and Policy Board, the five special members of the Cabinet, first among equals indeed.

[Page 3418]

So it seems abundantly clear what it is that the principle of Bill No. 20 is. The principle is to give power to a few. The principle is to say, we think Cabinet government has probably outlived its day. We think. We have the opportunity because we have a majority who are apparently prepared to go along with us, that it is time to achieve something, not for the people of Nova Scotia but for the five people who are members of Cabinet. Well, that is not a model that I like, this is not a model that I find attractive, this is not a model that I think the people of Nova Scotia will enjoy experiencing. I suspect that as we go into the next couple of years of the mandate of this government, if this bill goes through Nova Scotians will live to regret this kind of centralization of power. I guess we will get the opportunity to see what it is that Nova Scotians think as we move into the next phase of deliberation over this bill.

Having had the chance to offer my thoughts on the different aspects of this bill, I am prepared to relinquish the floor to another speaker. I hope that they will find other aspects of this bill that may be problematic because it seems that the bill is replete with problems. There is yet the chance that there may be changes to this bill. In our analysis we offer the opportunity to government members to rethink what their instinct seems to have been. We are asking them with our votes against this bill to rethink whether this is really what they do want. In doing so the standard that they ought to apply is what is in the best interests of the public. As we move into the Law Amendments process, I look forward to hearing not just from other members of this Chamber but from members of the public. With that said, Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to have given my observations about this third thrust of Bill No. 20. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, again I want to take some time of the House to talk about Bill No. 20. I don't know if it is a coincidence or my luck that I follow the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto and indeed for the most part it is a hard act to follow, but I will endeavour to do my best.

Mr. Speaker, as we often state, Bill No. 20 is an omnibus piece of legislation which amends a series of Acts to conform to the government's new alignment of responsibilities and departments. In other words, what we are talking about is centralization of government powers in the hands of the Cabinet, and a smaller Cabinet at that. The bill creates a Public Service Commission, or known to many as a hiring agency, and makes it the body responsible for the Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act, the Highway Workers Collective Bargaining Act and the Corrections Act. It establishes the following departments: Agriculture and Fisheries; Community Services; Economic Development; Education; Environment and Labour; Finance; Health; Intergovernmental Affairs; Justice; Natural Resources; Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations; Tourism and Culture; and Transportation and Public Works.

[Page 3419]

Mr. Speaker, it also establishes offices, directorates, commissions and corporations, notably the Office of Aboriginal Affairs, Petroleum Directorate, Treasury and Policy Board, which was formerly Priorities and Planning, the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation elevating the commission to a Crown Corporation. We also note that the Department of Economic Development and the Department Human Resources will disappear. Acts such as the Labour Department Act will be repealed, giving effect to the new ministerial alignments.

Mr. Speaker, even at the height of Buchanan patronage, no government has ever wielded so much power as this one will if this bill is passed and no doubt this bill will be passed by the majority government. They have the power to pass the bill, however, we will keep it on the floor of the Legislature as long as possible to see if we can make some points and hopefully the government will appreciate some of the points we raise. Who knows, there may be changes to the bill. There may be changes to the bill at Law Amendments.

Mr. Speaker, we believe, at the end of the day, that there is nothing that government will do to this bill on the issues that we raise. We believe there are many fundamental flaws in this piece of legislation. The reason the new centralization of power is different from the Buchanan days is that government has more influence on our lives than ever before. This is a new generation; people think differently. One time we thought that was not possible, but now many Nova Scotians are believing that this is getting as bad today as it was from 1978 to 1993.

Mr. Speaker, even in a democracy, power is wielded by a few people, but at least in a democracy, those people have to compete for the public's approval. Generally, in a democracy, competing groups are on a level playing field unless - and this is very important - the government of the day erects barriers to public participation. Another way is by erecting barriers so that our elected representatives are cut off from any influence with the Executive Branch or with the Cabinet. That is precisely what is happening here in this Chamber as we speak.

I want to direct this to the backbench because this is important. Mr. Speaker, backbenchers already lack power in government. I would argue that backbenchers have less power - and we see it here with this government - than Opposition members. This bill makes the situation worse. The more power that is centralized in the hands of Cabinet, the less power backbenchers have in this piece of legislation and the less power they will continue to have as we move forward. What it means is the voter has no recourse. No wonder voter turn-out was so low in the last election. The next time around, turn-out won't be so low. There will be a strong vote against this government because voters are beginning to realize that government will do what it wants when it wants to, no matter what the people think. This bill will continue down that path.

[Page 3420]

Mr. Speaker, while many of us don't condone the protestors in Quebec City, we remember what happened in Quebec that weekend. As I say, many of us don't share their views or their beliefs, but they believed that they had no other option. In the next election, Nova Scotians will have an option. They believe that participatory democracy has been replaced by globalization and corporate culture. But, you know, the greatest threat to the democracy are bills like Bill No. 20. What Bill No. 20 does is water down the power of our representatives in this Legislature. It puts power in the hands of the few for the benefit of a few.

[5:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, we always knew that this government was government for the benefit of the Premier's friends and the government's friends. Now we know that the power will be concentrated in the hands of a few members in the Cabinet of this government, the Premier and members of his Cabinet. Power of the few is represented by the Treasury and Policy Board, and they govern for the benefit of the few who are represented by that group, groups of friends of the Premier who may share a fishing lodge or may have other ties to our Premier.

Mr. Speaker, it may be a land of milk and honey for some Tories, and what we see happening is these friends of the government are more equal than others. Those of us who have written about democracy in the past understand that concentrating power in the hands of the executive branch of government means freedoms are taken away from the people, the people who put us here. This bill does the same thing. It concentrates power in the hands of Cabinet, and takes it away from the Legislature.

Mr. Speaker, the legislative branch of government is becoming weaker with this bill that is before us today, Bill No. 20. It is time the power pendulum went back the other way. There is too much power concentrated in one branch of government. Many people have warned that the Constitution Act of 1982 gives too much power to the judiciary and that is a threat to our democracy. I say that the greatest threat to our democracy is the watering down of legislative power, that privilege that we have in this House.

Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 20 is an affront to democracy, plain and simple. We don't like it. This is the fourth time I have been on my feet speaking against Bill No. 20. Each time we talk about the same thing, we talk about why this government has not consulted enough on this piece of legislation. Recently, we learned that the Premier did not have any idea that drugstores would be able to sell alcohol. That could happen, seven days a week.

Mr. Speaker, when the Premier himself is unaware of his government's own legislation, there is definitely a lack of consultation and a definite lack of democracy. In fact, it is a sign that the government is dysfunctional. When the top politician in the province doesn't understand his own legislation, then we have no option but to be opposed to this bill.

[Page 3421]

This bill has no input from the public, and the public had no chance to reflect on the implications of Bill No. 20.

Mr. Speaker, turning the liquor store into a corporate entity also raises the spectre that all liquor stores will or could be privatized, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but if the government decides, when and if they do, if they wish, it will only be a matter of time until the final document will be signed. That has been the practice of this government, to raise the spectre of privatization, whether it be in transportation or our provincial resorts. They fly the balloon and then fall silent.

This government has left many workers wondering about their future, wondering about where their paycheques will come from, how they will be able to support their families, if we see privatization of transportation, liquor stores. Where will it end? Provincial resorts? We have always contended on this side of the House that the public system is the best option. We can make improvements to the service while government still should control, I believe, the sale and distribution of liquor products.

We believe the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission has done a superb job over the last number of years and we do believe that changes could be made. We believe that changes could possibly be made to make it better and I mentioned that just recently, the use of credit cards was a positive step forward and we agree with that. This is a service improvement within the public system. It does not require the whole sell-off of government liquor stores.

We believe that in many areas of rural Nova Scotia private liquor stores or agency stores will not provide the service or the products available to us at this point in time. We believe that by having a blanket product, blanket hours and a system with great security, we believe that is what is needed right across the province so the low volume stores can compete or can operate in the smaller communities. The urban stores would pick up the slack for areas of low volume. We believe that agency stores will never be able to maintain the level of products for residents in our rural areas. But with this bill, we now see that agency stores could be drugstores and they could be selling alcohol on Sundays. We believe that agency stores are not the best option for rural Nova Scotia.

Has the government consulted with the municipalities? Have they given municipalities or citizens the opportunity to organize petitions or plebiscites to see whether the people want agency stores? Has that been done? I remind members that under Section 43(1) of the Liquor Control Act, there are two conditions that would set a motion for a plebiscite; " . . . when the commission receives (a) a copy of a resolution of the council of a municipality; or (b) a petition of at least twenty per cent of the resident electors of a municipality, requesting that a vote of the resident electors of the municipality be taken on the question of the operation by the Commission of a store for the sale of liquor in the municipality the Commission may, subject to Section 46, take a vote of those electors in the manner prescribed in this Act and the regulations."

[Page 3422]

This bill rightfully changes commission and turns the power over to the chief electoral officer, but the conditions remain the same. If 20 per cent of the residents want a plebiscite, a plebiscite must take place, this bill, if the public was aware of it and they had the time, if they wish, or a municipality if they had time to organize such plebiscites. If this government is serious about openness and accountability, it will allow the people to decide whether they want agency stores or not. This whole privatization process has brought unnecessary strain to the employees and their families.

Mr. Speaker, I believe it is imperative and I believe Nova Scotians would support us when we say we must keep liquor stores public to ensure another monopoly, like the Sobeys empire, does not unduly benefit. Now that we know Lawtons Drugs will be able to sell liquor if they wish, we believe those fears now have merit. Our caucus is very concerned that the government is turning the liquor stores into a Crown Corporation and this will make it much easier to sell the entire operation lock, stock, and barrel to anyone the government chooses. If the government or the Premier himself is friends with the directors of a large corporation, then that puts the public system in peril.

Mr. Speaker, there could also be a question of potential conflict of interest. What happens if a board of directors is made up of those with a vested interest in the liquor business or any other retail operation? Could that be a conflict of interest? It could be. Instead of pursuing the privatization option, the government should have been working with management and unionized employees to improve services if that was needed, but we don't believe it was needed.

Mr. Speaker, as I said before, we could have made changes, if there were changes needed. With such things as the option of credit cards, that is fine, but to change the whole structure is what we do not agree with. If the government moves down that road, we cannot support such an initiative, but this government is moving towards what is profitable to their friends, and if the government pursues the privatization option any further we will continue to be opposed to it and we will continue to talk about Bill No. 20. Even after all the study, no one has asked the people what they want and that is precisely why we must talk about this bill as long as we can.

Mr. Speaker, the idea of drugstore liquor stores might make sense to some because many believe that alcohol is a drug, but unfortunately that sends out the wrong message. There are very few therapeutic uses for whiskey, rum, or beer. They are generally drunk for the purpose of pleasure for the most part, and we all agree, nothing wrong with pleasure. Drugs from a drugstore are meant to heal us or relieve the symptoms of illness. Alcohol sold at a Liquor Commission is not sold to relieve illness, although some people may feel good for a short time, but we don't believe that is reason enough to privatize our liquor stores.

[Page 3423]

Mr. Speaker, our government removed tobacco from the drugstores because we all know the risks associated with tobacco, and we all know that a place designed to promote health should not be selling tobacco products or any other products that destroy your health. It is the same with alcohol. Alcohol abuse is still, even in this day and age, a severe health problem for many. Promoting the lightest drink next to the Anacin and Advil is not proper. There is also a movement in North America to put warning labels on alcohol for expectant mothers. If those warnings are on alcohol, then alcohol does not belong in drugstores.

[6:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, the people must have a say and that is why we are so opposed to this bill. This government ran on 253 specific promises contained in its platform document, Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course. In this so-called book of promises, nowhere did they come out and say they would dismantle Economic Development but careful reading between the lines show this intention. Why is this government not upfront about this intention? Was it because of popularity? Now we have a blue-chip panel of unelected government appointees, Nova Scotia Business Inc., mostly friends of the government handing out taxpayers' money to business without benefit of public scrutiny or accountability.

Mr. Speaker, this government has taken the apparatus of government, 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 a government ruled by a privileged few behind the scenes, where media and public cannot scrutinize its actions. We will continue to delay this bill. We will continue to point to the government the many flaws in it and I can very firmly say, on behalf of all of our caucus members, that we will be fighting this bill to the very end. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: 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." The first few sentences that I have started my speech with in this debate were actually the words of the Government House Leader. I would say that if I was to read his speech, maybe not quite verbatim, but if I were to make the necessary changes that would indicate a difference in the tone of the speech, then I think we could say that one would never know, really, as far as content, whether or not this speech could be delivered only by the government side of the House. That is exactly the indication that I am trying to deliver.

[Page 3424]

The speech that was delivered to introduce second reading of Bill No. 20 by the Government House Leader is a speech that is fraught with contradiction and is so vague that Nova Scotians would never know from hearing it what exactly it was that the government intended to do with this bill. Now, to his credit, the Government House Leader is, I guess, doing what Government House Leaders do. His responsibilities under Priorities and Planning give him this role, I guess, to introduce this piece of legislation which basically gets rid of Priorities and Planning and creates a Treasury and Policy Board as well as a Public Service Commission.

Mr. Speaker, in the piece of legislation itself, it really is up to the Opposition to ferret out exactly what it is that the government's intention is with this bill. The members opposite would purely say that those of us on the Opposition side of the House are purely pessimists and we are doing what we are supposed to be doing only in regard to politics, that we are seeking out the worst or that we are trying to interpret the worst in this bill.

Mr. Speaker, I would say that perhaps that is fair game but we can also say that if the government members so choose they certainly have an opportunity to stand in this House and explain to the members of the Opposition what there is that is particularly good about this bill so that we understand it. In the tradition of having the Opposition ferret out the information, all we can do is look at the piece of legislation, try to analyze the comparison between the honourable Government House Leader's speech on the introduction and the clauses in the bill that would indicate that the bill does exactly what the minister is saying. I would say that if history is worth anything, we have learned that this government, if it sets its mind to something - usually it is something we don't like - then more than likely they will come back to it time and time again.

We have seen it with the fees for 911 calls, we have seen a government that although it emphasizes the need to be open and accountable, we have seen it abdicate its responsibilities on so many occasions with the development of the district health authorities, even the development of Nova Scotia Business Inc. We see that we have indiviuals appointed to the board of Nova Scotia Business Inc., and then they have the power to reappoint the next group of members who will be members of the board. Those appointments don't come before any committees of the House, they don't come back to the Legislature and therefore the people of Nova Scotia actually have no say in those appointments. So, just as the government in a way has abdicated its responsibility to ensure to Nova Scotians that it is making decisions in their best interest, it has thrown away that responsibilty and left it in the hands of their friends knowing that their friends will choose more of their own friends and so on. That is a regrettable turn of events in this province and as time goes on we see more and more of this.

The Minister of Health will stand in the House when we bring items before him in Question Period and he will blame negative decisions that are made that affect Nova Scotians in the most serious of ways with regard to their health, he will say that is not my fault, that

[Page 3425]

is the fault of the district health authorities, even though the minister is responsible for funding for the district health authorities. We have seen the same thing with the creation of the Agriculture Development Institute. The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries will say no, decisions that are made by the Agriculture Development Institute are not made by me, it is an arm's-length organization so you can't blame me for their decisions even though the minister has the ultimate authority there and he is using taxpayers' dollars to fund the institute.

I can't think of a paradox that is more convenient. In one case the government says, look, these organizations are responsible for the spending of dollars and the care for Nova Scotians, we don't have a responsibility there. In the next turn we see a bill, Bill No. 20, The Government Restructuring (2001) Act, where the government actually takes greater control of power than is usually considered in the province and will try to run things with very few members of the Cabinet. We would say that it will never be clear to Nova Scotians, it will never be transparent as to why the government feels that it must do that. Nor will it be transparent as to the decision the government makes because there is absolutely no way that any of this information will ever get back to the floor of the House. There is no involvement by committees so that Nova Scotians will be aware at least through the efforts of the Opposition, of exactly what it is that the government is doing. That is regrettable.

Mr. Speaker, the plaque on the wall opposite, behind the government benches, I will read what that plaque says,

"FIRST RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT IN THE BRITISH EMPIRE OVERSEAS

THE FIRST EXECUTIVE COUNCIL CHOSEN EXCLUSIVELY FROM THE PARTY HAVING A MAJORITY IN THE REPRESENTATIVE BRANCH OF A COLONIAL LEGISLATURE, WAS FORMED IN NOVA SCOTIA, ON THE 2ND FEBRUARY, 1848, FOLLOWING A VOTE OF WANT OF CONFIDENCE BY THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY IN THE PRECEDING COUNCIL. JAMES BOYLE UNIACKE, WHO HAD MOVED THE RESOLUTION, BECAME ATTORNEY GENERAL AND JOSEPH HOWE, WHO HAD LONG STRIVEN WITH VOICE AND PEN FOR THIS "PEACEABLE REVOLUTION," PROVINCIAL SECRETARY . . ."

Then it goes on to list other members.

Mr. Speaker, actually what this was was the first time in the history of Nova Scotia that the Executive Council came from the elected members of the government and from the people responsible to those elected members and the Assembly to the people of Nova Scotia, rather than being chosen by the Lieutenant Governor. I would say what we are doing, in this case by moving to what is referred to as an inner Cabinet, we are moving closer and closer

[Page 3426]

to a system more similar to having the laws and the authority in Nova Scotia the way it was run by a Governor rather than by the people. It is more and more power in the hands of fewer and fewer.

That certainly has been obvious to us on this side of the House when we look at the response to any piece of legislation from the backbench of this government that doesn't rise to speak about the effect of a piece of legislation, they don't rise to speak even in support of their own legislation, and decisions of severe importance to the people of Nova Scotia are made by a handful of individuals in the Cabinet. The members who represent constituencies all across this province have no say, and have had no say in the implementation, the drafting or the effects of this piece of legislation.

Mr. Speaker, I will assume that the members of the backbench maybe know less about this bill than the members of the Opposition. Even though we have spent time trying to understand this bill, trying to recognize the impact on Nova Scotians we still are only assuming a number of things. There is no clear indication of exactly how this bill will work. I would have to say that even in the case of the section of the bill that will recognize special operating agencies, we have no idea how that will work in this province, exactly what that means, and even though we are troubled by it, for two reasons, because we think that this may take particular services that are offered now by the government and set up private agencies to deliver those services, we are not sure of that. If that is true, there is no indication of exactly how those services are going to be delivered.

Mr. Speaker, these are questions that should be answered so Nova Scotians know what this bill does and the impact it will have on their lives. I remember in past election campaigns . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is a little bit too much chit-chat in the room. I would suggest that if people have private conversations they take them outside.

The honourable member for Hants East has the floor.

[6:15 p.m.]

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I remember from past election campaigns the cry from the other Parties was that the New Democratic Party was lusting for power. I do have

to say that I found that somewhat confusing why it was the case that the New Democratic Party - which was running like the other Parties to try to form the government - why was there something wrong with the New Democratic Party to seek power when it was okay for the other Parties to seek power? I have never been able to understand where we were in error in trying to do that when it was fine for other Parties.

[Page 3427]

Yet, here we have a government formed from those seats that they were able to win - and I am assuming the people who elected those members assumed that if they elected enough of them, that they would form a government. Then they would have power. I mean, the two things seem to go hand in hand. But what we have seen happen in this piece of legislation, of Bill No. 20, we have seen the concentration of power go, really, from the members of the Cabinet to a much smaller group in the Cabinet and I would have to ask what it is about that that is different than, lusting for power? What is there about that that would tell Nova Scotians that all the members who sit on the government side are going to have some influence in the decisions that affect the lives of Nova Scotians and affect the lives of their constituents?

I have to say that when I get up in the morning and I get my children off to school and I do whatever other things I need to do before I head to my office or head to this House of Assembly, I assume that the things that I want for my family are not really that much different than what anybody else in this House of Assembly would want for their family. It would seem perfectly apparent to me that good health, education, et cetera, services delivered to my family for my tax dollar would somehow secure them for the future.

I think that is not an unrealistic goal to try to seek and I think that is part of the reason that I am here. That is why I decided to run for election so that we were able to deliver the things that we think Nova Scotians deem to be priorities for them and their families.

The question is, how different can what I see to be significant for my family be to what the members opposite would see for their families? I can't believe that there can be that much difference. The question is, why is it that they always require a third party to deliver those services? Why is it that they can't take responsibility to prioritize what it is that Nova Scotians want? Why is it that they seem to believe that there is another group of people out there that somehow have to be involved in delivering services to Nova Scotians that the government really should have responsibility for delivering? That Nova Scotians have elected them with that responsibility in the hopes that they will use that responsibility wisely and in the best interests of Nova Scotians and deliver the services that Nova Scotians deem important to them and their families.

I would say that for me, that really gets to the crux of the difference between the New Democratic Party and the Progressive Conservative Party, or even in some cases, with the Liberal Party as well. To not take delivery of services for the tax dollars that are paid to be the number one item that a government should be thinking about, then I think it represents a lack of concern for the people who put you there. It shows that the government feels an obligation to meet the needs of a very small group of people in this province and those are not the major electors in the province. It is something that Nova Scotians have come to recognize with the Conservative Party and it is a worry because when they vote a government in power, then they are going to have to expect part of that mandate is going to be loss of service because that is what is going to happen.

[Page 3428]

The reality is that this government really has only a tiny hold on power in the sense that if we look at where the distribution of votes for all three Parties has gone, and we might as well say that somewhere in the range of 60 per cent of the voters of Nova Scotia didn't vote for the Party in power. I think that the government should consider this when they are making decisions that severely impact the delivery of service to Nova Scotians, because there are those things that Nova Scotians hold dear whether they are New Democrats, Liberals, or Tories.

If this government proceeds in eroding those services even more than it has already, and I expect that this bill, Bill No. 20, will do that, the clause that gives the executive the power to enter into an agreement with any person or corporation to do anything under their mandate is clearly a clause that allows for the privatization of services. Since it is not limited to what services it can deliver, then we will assume that the government will feel that whatever can be delivered under their mandate - that would include health, that would include education, and that would include transportation - that these are all things that the government feels that it can privatize.

Well, for a government that campaigned on what has turned out to be cliché now, when we say open and accountable, then this government has exhibited, certainly to us - whether or not that message is getting out to Nova Scotians - that this government is neither one or the other of those. It is neither open nor accountable, and the fact that we were even told that we had to ferret out this information indicates the openess of this government. The fact that we had to take this government to court to get information shows that this government is not open and the information that we got when from that court case indicates that there was no justifiable reason for the cuts that this government made, so therefore it is not accountable. It had no legitimate reason to make those cuts to the services that is has removed that would benefit Nova Scotians.

Certainly the evidence is there that this government is not open and it is not accountable. Bill No. 20 is only going to move this government and this province farther down that road to privatization to a delivery of service that has actually been proven in other jurisdictions that it does not work, Mr. Speaker. It has been poorer quality service, no benefit to the taxpayer and it has only served to benefit a small group of friends of the government. Actually for a government that requires those friends to keep it in power, then I guess this is the first step in planning for the next election. Certainly Nova Scotians on the street who will realize that governments have a responsibility to take care of their own people, in not doing that, hopefully they will know how much they have been abandoned by this government.

Mr. Speaker, I will not be supporting this piece of legislation and I yield the floor to other members who may want to speak.

[Page 3429]

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

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, it is certainly an honour for me to rise this evening and speak against this bill. That is obvious. I see all the government members all of a sudden looked up at me as if I were going to stand up and speak in favour of the bill, but that won't happen, gentlemen, I can assure you. It is kind of disappointing to have to rise and speak on such a bill. The more I read it the more alarmed I become, particularly for the Civil Service workers in this province. I think this government has a lot of things planned for those individuals and they have a hidden agenda. I don't think they are good things, in my opinion. I think this government has a hidden agenda that they are about to snooker a lot of people. We have seen that in the last 20 months here in this House.

The other day I was asked if I trust this government and I said, well, maybe we should ask the nuns if they trust this government. Perhaps we should ask the people who run food banks if they trust this government. My answer is obvious - no, I don't trust this government, and for very good reason, Mr. Speaker. I will refer to the compliance officers. We are tinkering with the compliance and the safety network in this province into an area that is second to none in the entire country in its record of road safety and highway safety in this province. We see this government tinkering with the entire operation.

Mr. Speaker, if it isn't working, then you fix it. I agree. But if it works, then why tinker with it? Why break it? There are approximately 32 compliance officers in this province. Under the proposed plan, what we are learning, is that there will be approximately 12 left. Now what happens to the other 20? That is a good question because the Opposition members and particularly myself, I certainly can't get a straightforward answer on this particular issue. In fact, when I questioned the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations on where this proposal came from, he indicated to me that the RCMP approached his department with a proposal to take over this service.

Mr. Speaker, that is remarkable, because you know, in all fairness to the minister, that wasn't untrue. It was actually the truth. But what he failed to tell me was that the Deputy Minister of Justice was the one who initiated the entire process. In fact, that Deputy Minister of Justice wrote a letter to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and requested that they put forward a proposal to take over that service in this province and forward that proposal to the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. So it is obvious that the good Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations didn't lie to me. He didn't make an untruthful statement. He just didn't tell us the entire truth. That is why Nova Scotians are beginning to distrust this government, right from day one. Because they never tell you the full package. They never tell you the whole story.

I enjoy the weekends, although they are becoming much shorter, I have to admit, and the hours in the day. But I have been around my constituency this past weekend and this government is certainly a hot topic in my constituency, Mr. Speaker. In fact, I visited

[Page 3430]

Westmount, Coxheath, Georges River, Edwardsville. I was in Frenchvale this past weekend. Actually, I dropped by a couple of houses in the Boisdale area. I was in Alder Point, I was in Little Pond and I was in Bras d'Or. Everywhere I go it is the same story and the same question I am asked. When are we going to get another shot at this government? So people are out there now already just waiting for the day that they can cast their vote and judge this government. Then those backbenchers are going to get the message that we have been trying to tell them over on this side of the House for the past 20 months, but they don't want to hear us.

Mr. Speaker, one gentleman described this government over the weekend, and this is neat, I thought, I will just share this with my colleagues in this House. In fact, I sat at his table and he started talking about the government and telling us all this wonderful stuff they are doing like eliminating jobs, not repairing potholes, increasing taxes was what he said, not fees. The word fee did not enter the conversation, the words, increased taxes did. Then he told me that this government seemed like a chocolate bar that you would eat on a warm day. You know how you get the chocolate all over your hands, it is like guck and you can't get it off. Well, that is what this older gentleman referred to this government as. They are like guck and you can't them off for at least two more years.

[6:30 p.m.]

I can assure you that Nova Scotians will get them off. I guarantee that, and then the backbenchers over there, my former colleagues, the closest to the people colleagues, remember that? Many of my former municipal colleagues perhaps don't recall those days. I am sure that the people they represent will remind them in fine fashion come the next time they come banging at their door.

Mr. Speaker, this bill is so scary it is hard to believe it is even in here. I am only a rookie in this House and I am only here, just like many of my former colleagues on that side of that House, but I can assure you that I never dreamed for one minute that government operated like this. I am shocked and appalled. (Interruptions) You ask questions, you don't get any answers. When you do get answers, you can't believe them. You have to go check the answers to make sure they are accurate and truthful. It is pathetic.

Mr. Speaker, nobody can convince me that Nova Scotians voted for this type of government in 1999. They thought they were going to get something else. (Interruption) I am delighted to let you know that that government will have to come forward - sooner or later, gentlemen, it will happen - when the Premier pulls the plug and issues the writ. Then we will be back at it again. We are looking forward to that over on this side of the House. We can talk about health care, the chaos being created in health care in this province is unheard of, these guys are actually making history.

[Page 3431]

They were able to waste $300 million to date, $300 million and the only thing that they succeeded in was importing the highest paid hired hands in the history of Nova Scotia. Imagine. What a message to send out to your most vital service in this province and right across the country, your health care workers. What a way to treat them. Send the message that we don't feel you can provide any advice or direction to the minister, we have to bring in this high paid hired hand from out West. He came riding in on his white horse, cowboy hat and all, at the highest value possible.

Mr. Speaker, that is just one issue. Health care is a mess, and we all know that. It is getting into a deeper and deeper mess. All they have to do, if they want to look at health care, is look at the Liberal plan. If they had taken some direction from my colleague, the honourable member for Dartmouth East, the former Minister of Health, then, perhaps, they could bring some prosperity to the Department of Health. But, no, that is too easy. These guys would rather learn as they go.

Mr. Speaker, you can look at education, in Cape Breton, in the industrial area, 50 teachers. They may have saved five just last week, and that is important to note because it is five teachers, but what about the other 45? What about rural Nova Scotia? What about rural Nova Scotia when that school board in industrial Cape Breton has to close schools next year? I don't suggest they will be looking at closing urban schools. It will be rural schools. The government of rural Nova Scotia over there are going to close rural schools. It is some way to boast that they are the government of rural Nova Scotia, close the schools, shut down the hospitals, eliminate half the services.

Mr. Speaker, it gets worse and worse. They are teetering on the brink of insanity. Mr. Speaker, look at the Civil Service throughout the province, second to none right across the country, and I will even refer to the cuts in 1993 and 1994 by the John Savage Government. But at least they knew where to stop; they knew what level to stop, but not these guys. They have to go right to the bone. Don't leave any flesh, no skin, right to the bone, zilch. Those same individuals will mark an x, and I am sure their families will mark an x. Their relatives will mark an x and their neighbours will mark an x. That government will not only be judged by those individuals, but they will answer to those people sooner or later. They may not provide too many now, but they will in the future.

There are so many Acts that this bill is changing, it is shocking. They are going to go anywhere, Mr. Speaker, from the Civil Service, civil workers, social workers, there are even rumours over there now where they are going to eliminate one-half the social workers in the province and hire, of all things, call centres to take incoming calls. So now when you get into trouble in this province and you lose your job and you need some help on an emergency basis, all you have to do is call a call centre. That is this government's direction on helping the poor in this province. Imagine, you call a call centre, and I would suggest it won't be in the area where you are calling from. For instance, if you are calling from Cape Breton, you will probably get a call centre down the South Shore, and if you are in the South Shore you

[Page 3432]

will get a call centre down in Cape Breton. They don't care and they show no compassion; it is as simple as that.

I remember just recently during the by-election in Cape Breton North, Mr. Speaker, the honourable member for Cape Breton North went door to door and told everybody don't pay, don't listen to John Hamm, don't think of John Hamm, think of me. Vote for me. I will go to Halifax and I will straighten John Hamm out. I will straighten all this wonderful stuff out. Don't worry about it, and if they don't listen to me I will huff and I will puff and I will blow all their houses down. Well, I did not see any houses falling lately. When I walk through the City of Halifax, I don't see any rubble anywhere. They are full tear ahead.

Not only that, Mr. Speaker, I even hear the honourable member occasionally, when he has the gall, when he thinks nobody is listening back home, he rises in his place and he brags about John Hamm and the Finance Minister, you know, the champion minister of slush funds. It is no secret. He just wants to get a little titch of it, but what he forgets is that he has got 30 other little titches over there who are trying to draw from the Finance Minister's slush fund, too. So they are all going to get a little titch and it will end up into a big piece, but it is all taxpayers' money. Like, who cares? It is only taxpayers' money. You know, millions of dollars in a slush fund.

Now, I wonder what that would be in there for, Mr. Speaker? Re-election time, I will bet. Nova Scotians will be above that this time, just as they were in 1993 when Donnie Cameron tried to pull the wool over all Nova Scotians eyes. That honourable gentleman got taught a lesson, and I would say if history repeats itself, there is another group over there, that gang over there are going to be taught a lesson very soon, too. It will be history repeating itself, but the pain will not be eased, I can assure those individuals over there.

Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of them over there, you know, I don't want to sound like I am trying to beat up on those honourable people over there because, in all fairness, you know, I see some of my former colleagues over there, sitting there smirking, and that is fine. They are getting away with it and they probably got another 20 months or so if they dare to go that far, but sooner or later they are going to have to go back on those same doorsteps where they conned the first time. Will they get away with it again? I would suggest not. I think Nova Scotians are just too smart for this lot, to be honest with you.

There are about 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 - all 12, if we count those headhunters over there - they call themselves Cabinet Ministers - I would suggest there are about 12. So every one of their departments is going to be restructured to put all the power and glory right in their palms. Then they will hold everybody hostage within the departments for fear that they will be laid off and sent home and have no income. They will hold that over them for a period of time and then, that is exactly what they will do. They will send them home, they will lay them off, they will tell Nova Scotians they are going to cut the deficit and they are

[Page 3433]

going to save taxes and in order to do that, it is necessary to lay off half the social network in this province.

The government is obviously out of control. They don't know where they are going, they don't know what they want to do, they haven't any insight or any direction of where they want to take the province. We can see that in almost any department. They were doing all right for the first few months because, of course, there is no secret, they had the Liberal agenda still in place. They fulfilled that and they moved forward with their Liberal agenda. Now they are in a real bind over there because they don't know where to go or what to do because they are, basically, at the end of the Liberal agenda, because the Liberal agenda of my former colleagues who were all in Cabinet, only provided a certain length of time for direction.

That length of time now is up. Of course, this caucus over here, my colleagues would know - bingo - the direction that they wanted to go in. I would suggest it would be in a very positive light because this province was headed in a very positive direction when this gang took over, of course. The Liberal agenda didn't include what they did to the food banks when they took the money from the Casino in Sydney and put it into their coffers. The Liberal agenda didn't include that. The Liberal agenda would have continued to provide the necessary assistance to those necessary groups that are feeding poor people in this province. They wouldn't have taken that money and given it to the Bank of Nova Scotia which is exactly what they did within a week after they took that money, they turned around and gave it to the Bank of Nova Scotia. A multi-billion dollar corporation and you have to rob from the poor and give to the rich. There is something wrong with that equation, it just doesn't add up. For one minute we don't forget other things this government has done.

We are not going to touch on that too much. What I want to touch on is where we are going; for instance, with the Liquor Control Act, changes to liquor control. Imagine the Premier of the province, the head of government, unaware that they are about to permit drugstores to sell liquor. That will tell you just exactly what is going on over there.

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I rose on a point of order the last few days in this House. Obviously the member either wasn't here or wasn't listening. If he would read the bill, he would see that clause he is referring to is doing nothing more than what his government already started with regard to having a building which houses a liquor boutique with an outdoor entrance and a pharmacy. His government, the Liberal Government, started that before we came into office and we are simply making sure that is set into legislation. I just wanted to put that as clarification.

MR. SPEAKER: Certainly a point of clarification. The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes may want to expound upon that. (Laughter)

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes has the floor.

[Page 3434]

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, if it's not such an important clause, take it out. It is quite simple. Take it out. If that clause is a problem, take it out. It is as simple as that.

[6:45 p.m.]

As a suggestion to the good Minister of Tourism and Culture - and he is a good minister, an honourable gentleman - I think he should pay more attention to the Department of Tourism, in all fairness, since he took over and we will be reminding him of that very shortly, Mr. Speaker, because he is going to have an election campaign as well as the rest of us. It is not just the backbenchers over there who are going to be going before the people - 31 of them will be going before the people. The people will judge them on their own merits, not on the merits that I bring up here or the merits the good minister brings forth. They will be judging them on their own opinions and that is when this government is going to find out what a fee is and what a tax is. I say a fee is a tax and I say Nova Scotians agree with that. That government is going to find that out.

We will be able to stand here, someday, some of us, maybe, and where will they be when Nova Scotians tell them what a fee is? Do you know where they are going to be, Mr. Speaker? They are going to get the same treatment over there as they are about to treat the social workers in the province. That is the same treatment they are going to get. Nova Scotians don't forget. We can refer back to Westray or any other disaster that ever hit home over there in that caucus and Nova Scotians did not forget Westray. Nova Scotians will not forget this government. It is unbelievable. They will not forget for one minute. Now that is what these guys over here would prefer, that Nova Scotians forget about what they are doing to them. No, no. They are not going to forget what they are doing to them.

Nova Scotians are not going to forget about the $50 a day hospital stay charges, gentlemen. They won't forget that. You know why they won't forget them, Mr. Speaker, because we, on this side of the House, are not going to let them forget, that is why. They also won't forget a lot of other issues that are going on in this province, I can assure you of that, particularly when you look at the occupational health and safety issues that are ongoing in this province. What about the treatment of the steel plant and the steelworkers? I don't have one doubt in my mind that Nova Scotians, as a whole, wanted that steel plant closed. I don't have any doubt about that and we agree with that on this side of the House. But I have yet to meet one Nova Scotian, other than over there, who wanted those steelworkers treated in the manner that they were. I haven't met a Nova Scotian yet on the mainland that came up and said, hey, I am glad to see what they did to those steelworkers and their families.

I would challenge any one of them over there to bring an ordinary Nova Scotian before me so I could hear them say that they are happy to see somebody's family down begging on the food banks, because that is what they did. They took steelworkers who had worked under contract and were after exhausting all their employment insurance benefits, they took those individuals and locked them out from that plant and from their place of work. That is what

[Page 3435]

they did. They all know they did it. That is the funny part. They all know they did it and they won't admit it. They know they handled it wrong. But it was deliberate. That is obvious.

The steelworkers won't let them forget, either. The steelworkers, are just very intelligent, hardworking Nova Scotians, same as the good people in Cape Breton North and they voted with their intelligence. I would be the first one to say that, Mr. Speaker, and I take my hat off to them. You know why they did that? Because they know traditionally and historically what those Tory Governments are capable of. It was fear, if nothing else, that they felt they had better vote Tory because if they didn't heaven knows what they would have done.

I know the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations doesn't want me to even mention the equalization formula. He doesn't want me to mention that at all, Mr. Speaker. He doesn't want me to mention it because it is just gross, what he did. It is unbelievable. Every municipal unit in the province bickering and snickering; divide and conquer. Now I remember one individual in history and I won't dare say his name, did the same type of stuff, divide and conquer. Get everybody bickering and snickering and create conflicts among neighbours, friends and municipal units that traditionally across this province have strengthened the very backbone, the very heart of Nova Scotia.

The minister does not have to be too concerned, I can assure him of that, because I am familiar with the municipal administrators across this province and they are very capable of solving any problem that that crew can throw at them. Not only that, Mr. Speaker, this time they also have the elected mayors and councillors supporting the administrators in their fight to come up with a solution for what they created over there. Mr. Speaker, they have one proposal in now, and we are all aware of that, but there were two things that the UNSM called for during that shemozzle or whatever you want to call it over there. Two things, one thing was for a 30 day extension and the second thing, the most important thing, the good minister should have recognized, was that they were looking for leadership. Leadership was what they called for, in writing. They called upon the Premier for his government to provide leadership.

Mr. Speaker, if that government over there couldn't recognize the fact that what they were doing with equalization to every municipal unit, those municipal taxpayers who are being monkeyed around with - they are increasing taxes. With the downloading schemes that they have going they are forcing up municipal tax rates Nova Scotians won't forget.

Mr. Speaker, my time is limited this evening. I am about to take my place because I know we have other speakers who want to speak on this issue and I really do appreciate the opportunity to rise in my place and have an opportunity to condemn that gang over there. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 3436]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise (Interruption) I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise and speak for a few moments on Bill No. 20 before we see it move forward on to the Law Amendments Committee.

Mr. Speaker, what the Opposition has attempted to do in debate on Bill No. 20 is to point out a number of the concerns that we have about the bill itself. The bill is a fairly significant restructuring of decision making and accountability within the government, something which I have acknowledged is within the purview of this government, to take it in the direction that they want to take it in and to set up the decision making processes the way they want to do them.

What I have tried to argue is that the changes are sufficiently significant that I believe they should be done in consultation with those groups, those organizations, those employees directly impacted by those decisions, whether they be organizations like the Workers' Compensation Board or whether it be the district health boards who very well may see their authority affected, school boards may see their authority affected by this reorganization. In a number of different ways, agencies, boards, commissions and departments will be affected by what is set up in Bill No. 20 for decision making.

The reorganization will centralize power, it will centralize power in the hands of fewer ministers but, more ominously, it will centralize power in the hands of non-elected officials even more than is the case today. I think that is something that we all should be concerned about. I believe that before we head down this road, we need to have some discussion with Nova Scotians about the direction that is being taken; not to stop the government from taking whatever course it decides it will take with its wisdom, but to make sure that those decisions regarding that direction are somewhat modified, that the dangers are considered so that they don't become less democratic, so that their powers don't become overly onerous and cumbersome and that the people, as I said earlier, that will be impacted will have an opportunity to have a say.

This government when they were running for election in 1999 said that they would work with their employees. They considered their employees their greatest asset. The experience, the wisdom, the skills of those employees, they said, needed to be brought into the decision making process before government went forward. Well, I think what we have seen with Bill No. 20 is that that wasn't done. The government has turned its back on its employees and it is carrying out a reorganization which we believe will have a wide-ranging impact and is a matter of some considerable concern.

On matters with respect to collective bargaining, on matters with respect to privatization, there are provisions in this bill that allow government ministers and/or those appointed by the Public Service Commission to participate in agreements, to set direction in

[Page 3437]

collective bargaining for groups not directly aligned with the government or under a minister's responsibility. We believe that is a matter that needs to be considered.

The issue of the Liquor Control Act changes that are being made there, we have talked about that. We are concerned that the government is trying to back door privatization of liquor distribution sales in the Province of Nova Scotia. It is an issue that has undergone some considerable debate in this province over the past ten years. Where a lot of facts and figures, a lot of argument has been presented on either side. But ultimately, this government decided after having retained the services of, I believe it was, PricewaterhouseCoopers, that it was not the right decision to make, that keeping the sale and distribution of liquor in the Province of Nova Scotia in public hands was the best thing to do for the Province of Nova Scotia. That was a decision this government made and yet now with Bill No. 20 it appears that they are backdooring a change in that particular decision.

[7:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, members of this caucus do not believe that is a decision that should be taken - number one - but, more importantly, if this government is going to make a change or a decision that is made already publicly, then they should have the courage of their conviction to say so and to engage again in a debate out of respect for Nova Scotians and out of respect for the employees of the Liquor Commission. We think that is the best way to go.

So what this caucus, the Opposition, has tried to do in the debate on Bill No. 20 is to highlight those concerns, and others, to discuss the issues around Bill No. 20 with Nova Scotians, with organizations directly affected by this bill, to give them an opportunity to review and to analyze the bill and consider its implications so that they can then participate in hearings at the Law Amendments Committee.

We hope, Mr. Speaker, given the concerns that have been raised here in this Chamber and outside the Chamber, that this government will consider the possibility of changes, will recognize the legitimacy of concerns that have been raised and will be raised in Law Amendments, and in order to ensure that this House produces the best piece of legislation possible that they ensure that they will entertain the changes that make sense, and recognize their prerogative as a majority government to carry things forward but, importantly, recognize that because they are government doesn't mean they are the only ones that have the right answers, that other people who make submissions in this House and outside may have something valuable to add with respect to the tailoring of legislation.

So that is what we have tried to do. That is what I have tried to do and my colleagues have tried to do in this debate, whether it be through amendment at second reading or whether it be to its final stage, which is debate on the final bill. We would prefer to see this legislation be delayed for some time, whether it be six months or whatever, so that Nova Scotians can have a better sense of what it is that the government is trying to do. But having

[Page 3438]

failed at that, Mr. Speaker, we have been able to use the few parliamentary levers we have in this House to slow some debate down or slow the passage of this bill so that we can debate it and more Nova Scotians can learn about the implications of Bill No. 20.

In that respect, this morning I was speaking with a group of people in Spryfield, in my constituency, Mr. Speaker, and a couple of people have heard about the concerns that have been raised with respect to Bill No. 20. People were asking me what is going to happen and where did I see this heading. They were concerned about the impact that this bill would have on them with respect to collective bargaining.

So the message, to some degree, has gotten out and I know that some of those people I refer to will be appearing before the Law Amendments Committee to make their concerns known. I look forward to hearing those submissions. I look forward to taking some of the content of those debates, bringing some of that information forward, but ultimately we know that this government has a majority and if they want to be somewhat bullheaded, if they want to just impose the rule of the majority on all members of this House and not consider changes to any legislation, they can do that. They have the numbers to do that; they can wait us out and pass the bill through as it is.

But, as I said, I hope that being reasonable women and men they will consider the submissions that will come forth in the next few days in the Law Amendments Committee, and if it appears to be helpful, to make the legislation better, take away some of the more onerous parts of it, that they will entertain those amendments and we can have a debate here in the Committee of the Whole House on Bills, after the Law Amendments Committee stage, that is more constructive than is often the case.

Mr. Speaker, that having been said, I would indicate to you that at this point, I am not supporting this Bill No. 20. I haven't heard any explanation from the government, especially from the minister who sponsors this bill, the Government House Leader, the Minister responsible for Priorities and Planning, I haven't heard him respond to any of the concerns I have raised, to give me some comfort. So at this stage, I am not voting in support of this bill. I do understand that it will go forward to the Law Amendments Committee, and I look forward to listening to the submissions that will come from the public, and then participating in more detail, clause by clause when we get into the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

Who knows - some of the concerns I have raised or some of the sections that I have pointed out that I have particular concerns with - if we are able to get some changes to those that would satisfy some of those concerns, then I might be in a position come third reading to vote in favour of this legislation. As I acknowledged the first time I took to my feet, this bill indicates a decision by a government to, in this case, centralize power, but it is a process by which they will make decisions as a government, that they feel are most efficient and most effective. Other governments have gone in this direction. Therefore, what I am saying is, I

[Page 3439]

understand they have the right to do that. All I am trying to do in debate here is to make sure that some of the parts of the bill which are the most onerous, that caused me some concerns, in terms of the impact they have on employees and on others, that we are able to do something about that, at least, before the bill is passed through by this majority government.

Again, I would certainly like to be in a position where I could vote in the affirmative, later on in this stage, and maybe I will do that if we can get the kind of changes made. At this point, I will indicate that I won't be supporting the bill at second reading, but I look forward to participating at a later date in further debate. I pass on my time to a member from the Liberal Party.

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

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and have another opportunity to speak on Bill No. 20, the Government Restructuring (2001) Act. It is not the entire bill that our caucus objects to. Things in this legislation that we do object to are really fivefold. First, we could easily call the return to Tory good old days by bringing back the Public Service Commission and the Treasury Board, which are both old staples of the Buchanan days. Then, with the continuing trend of government by regulation, wherein regulations and not legislation set out the specific details of a law. This process not only circumvents the authority of the House, it does a sidestep around the people of Nova Scotia.

Thirdly, the potential for the wholesale privatization of the Liquor Commission. Not only would this be a tremendous blow to the workers in those stores, but smaller, less profitable communities would also end up suffering the most. Fourth, permitting of alcohol sales in pharmacies. The government has said this is not something that would happen, it is just in case. Well, that is exactly what they said about the 911 tax they introduced last fall, and we all know what happened with that. Our fifth major concern is for the public servants of Nova Scotia. This bill opens the Civil Service to future privatization of not only the Liquor Commission but of all other government agencies as well.

Mr. Speaker, this government is moving in some very scary directions for workers in this province. The reintroduction of the Public Service Commission will be a huge throwback to negotiating with the province. All unions will negotiate with the same body, and what would happen if one union represented several groups of workers? We will see the same thing as we now see with the Attorney General, who is also Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, when he is negotiating with Natives. The outcome of one set of negotiations will be contingent on the outcome of another completely unrelated matter.

Mr. Speaker, this bill is about uncertainty. As the Opposition, we have a great deal of uncertainty about the results of passing this bill. As my colleague, the member for Cape Breton West, mentioned earlier, the uncertainty with the Workers' Compensation Board and its future. As representatives of workers and their families, the NSGEU and the Federation

[Page 3440]

of Labour have expressed uncertainty about the future of jobs like the ones in liquor stores, but one thing that isn't uncertain is the future of Tory friends. Nova Scotia Business Inc., a clearing house for Tory cronies and the five new seats on the board of the newly minted Liquor Corporation, should provide ample new places to use as rewards for Party faithfuls. Hopefully, they will at least ask before they appoint people to these positions. Another home for the Tory faithful will undoubtedly be the Advisory Committee established to assist the Board of the Liquor Corporation. This clearly seems to be a method for skirting public accountability. Not only does this committee report to the minister, and not the board, there seems to be no forum for public input into the process.

Mr. Speaker, that is the real theme this government is developing - government in seclusion. It certainly isn't the openness and accountability they promised two years ago. They can't wait to get out of the House so they are out of the limelight for another six months. They promised to be a government that was accountable to the people, but they are trying their best to ignore the people at every turn. Rural Nova Scotia, in particular, has been almost completely neglected by this Tory Government. Last year the budget brought protestors to the House practically daily. This year most protestors coming to the House are focusing on the strike of the Halifax Regional School Board, and this Tory Government certainly hasn't done anything to end the strike. I think it is about time someone on that side of the House takes some responsibility.

However, Mr. Speaker, the budget seems to have taken time to sink in this year. The Government House Leader has accused the Opposition of wasting time and money by delaying proceedings on this bill. However, he conveniently forgets that it was his government that had to twice introduce the Financial Measures (2001) Act. So the truth is that the only time the people of Nova Scotia have ready access to this government is when they are in the House of Assembly. In the time we have spent on extended debate on these bills, we have seen that the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board has brought down its difficult budget. Last week, my Party raised concerns about the budgets for District Health Authority 2 in Southwestern Nova Scotia and, as you know, the longer we keep them here, the more questions there will be. While we may never actually get answers to our questions at least while we are here, we will have the chance to ask the questions that are important to Nova Scotians.

[7:15 p.m.]

Many of my colleagues on this side of the House have said time and time again throughout this debate, what real impact this bill will have on Nova Scotians, will have on public servants and will have on their families. This government is proposing to do a lot of restructuring within government. To highlight a few of those changes proposed: to eliminate the Department of Human Resources; to create a Civil Service Commission; to eliminate the Department of Agriculture and Marketing; to create a new Department of Agriculture and

[Page 3441]

Fisheries; and to replace the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission with the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation.

A large section of Bill No. 20 is focused on the sale of liquor in Nova Scotia. This bill will also eliminate the Department of Business and Consumer Services and will amalgamate it with the Department of Municipal Affairs which will now be called Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. The Small Business Development Act is repealed under this bill.

With this restructuring you can start to understand why the President of the NSGEU, representing 21,000 public sector employees, has questions with regard to Bill No. 20. I am sure by now many government employees are asking themselves if this bill is going to affect them personally. One thing is for sure, this bill is going to affect someone. With everything that is being proposed here in this bill, this Tory Government has decided to move towards privately run liquor stores. This was after they spent $153,000 hiring PricewaterhouseCoopers to do a study for government on privatizing liquor stores in Nova Scotia which, I might add, recommended against privatization.

This move by this government to privatize liquor stores is nothing more than a political decision. Government went ahead . . .

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The PricewaterhouseCoopers report did not make recommendations. It provided options. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: A point of clarification, I guess.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party has the floor.

MR. GAUDET: Maybe the next time the minister responsible for liquor stores stands up in the House, he can maybe tell liquor store workers in the Province of Nova Scotia what to expect once this Bill No. 20 goes through the House. That is what liquor store workers are waiting to hear from that minister.

This move by this government to privatize liquor stores is nothing more than a political decision. Tenders were called and the request for proposals closed on March 21st of this year. One of those eight private liquor agencies that are being called for, one of those is for the French shore, down in my area. I have attempted, and I will try again and I will continue to do so, to try to find out why our area was identified. Currently, our area is being served by liquor stores in Weymouth and Meteghan and Yarmouth. Unfortunately, to this point, I have not been able to get that information. It is still not available, as I understand. I am sure the government will eventually proceed with these eight private liquor stores, and then what? Is the government looking at privatizing more liquor stores in the province?

[Page 3442]

Mr. Speaker, it looks to me like this Tory Government is moving towards privatizing liquor stores in the province. I want to go back to an article that appeared in The Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, May 24th of last year, 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, he said, "we have pretty much reached the saturation point".

Mr. Speaker, even though the general manager of the Liquor Commission said we didn't need any more liquor stores in the province, what did the government decide to do? Call a request for proposals to establish eight privately-run liquor agencies. Well, again, if the government could decide to do the opposite of what staff recommended, I am wondering if government can repeat this again. After telling the 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 the government?

Mr. Speaker, after this bill goes through second reading, the bill will then go to the Law Amendments Committee. I will not be surprised to see some liquor store workers come before the Law Amendments Committee looking for answers. I have been asked by Liquor Commission workers what the government has in mind to do with this bill. I told them that the government has not yet come out and provided details on how this bill will impact on them, once this bill goes through the House.

Mr. Speaker, this bill eventually will go through the House. The Tory Government has a majority government in this House. They have the numbers to carry this bill through. The role of the Opposition, as we have said time and time again, is to hold this government accountable to the people of Nova Scotia. Also, with amending the Liquor Control Act under Bill No. 20, pharmacies in Nova Scotia will be able to sell liquor. As you are aware, drug stores are allowed to open on Sundays. Selling liquor in pharmacies and allowing them to sell it seven days a week raises concerns with many Nova Scotians. Do Nova Scotians want liquor sold in drug stores in Nova Scotia, and selling liquor on Sundays? Maybe for this government, instead of pursuing this privatization option, I believe the government should have sat down, met with management and staff, to look at how they could go about improving services.

Mr. Speaker, this Tory Government appears to be convinced, within their restructuring plan, they should probably look at privatizing the government's three provincially-run resorts: Keltic Lodge, Liscombe Lodge and Digby Pines. I raised this earlier. There are reports that the government is currently in discussion with four companies, and I suspect by now we are down to two companies, as the minister indicates. We understand that it is government's plan to have this new plan in place by the end of the month. I am sure the decisions are probably coming down very shortly. I suspect if the House adjourns, decisions will be forthcoming a little quicker.

[Page 3443]

Mr. Speaker, we have approximately 400 hospitality jobs in rural Nova Scotia that could be affected if this Tory Government decides to go forward with their plan to contract out the management of these three resorts. The government here has an opportunity to reassure the employees and their families that no jobs will be lost, that the employees' salaries will not be affected negatively or, yet, employees working at any given resort will not be transferred without their consent.

Mr. Speaker, on this restructuring piece of legislation, the Department of Human Resources will be replaced by the Public Service Commission. What is going to happen to the employees within the department and to the deputy minister after this bill goes through? Will they have jobs? Will they have to apply for the positions within the Public Service Commission? Under the existing system, there are a number of human service Corporate Services Units within government to help various departments with human resources responsibilities. Will they continue to exist?

Mr. Speaker, under this bill, the Department of Economic Development is being dismantled and government has appointed a group of 12 unelected individuals which will now be responsible for the funding of economic development initiatives in Nova Scotia. So here is a group of government appointees handing out taxpayers' money to individuals without the benefit of public scrutiny or accountability.

Mr. Speaker, under this bill the Small Business Development Act is repealed. Where, again, is this Tory Government's commitment to small businesses in Nova Scotia? In Nova Scotia, three-quarters of the businesses are small businesses. We know that small business is the backbone of the Nova Scotia economy and it needs to be recognized. All the jobs that the small businesses provide Nova Scotians are very important to the economy of the province. So whether these jobs are in a rural community in Nova Scotia or right here in downtown Halifax, they are all important jobs and government needs to continue to support this vital sector of our economy.

Mr. Speaker, in closing, this Tory Government has left many government employees worrying about their future, worrying if this bill is going to impact on them and their families. Yes, this bill will eventually go through this House and then we will find out what real impact Bill No. 20 will have in the days ahead. I hope that the government recognizes that this whole privatization process and restructuring process has brought unnecessary strain for the government employees and their families. If this Tory Government is serious about openness and accountability, then they should start practising what they have been promising the people of Nova Scotia. Thank you.

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I would like to take the hour allotted to me and bring up a few points that I feel are very serious about this bill. There has been much said

[Page 3444]

about the fact that this bill will have a large impact on patronage in this province. That is a large concern to me. What is a real problem with this - because you know what? - sadly enough, in Nova Scotia, it has been almost an accepted practice of patronage, but I will tell you something that, oddly enough, was kind of accepted in this province as a way of life, was free and open collective bargaining.

Mr. Speaker, we had hoped that this would go on. Now certainly we can make an argument that this government in no way aids what I would call free and collective bargaining, but I didn't think it would go to the depth of what it does in Bill No. 20. What Bill No. 20 does is put another set of fingers, another set of hands at the bargaining table without a body attached, if you will, because they are off at a distance. They are not at the table. They are not in there when the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union is trying to bang out a deal.

[7:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, what is even worse than that, and I will come back to the plight that our provincial civil servants face, but if you read this bill what happens is any body that accepts funding from this provincial government will have this huge ministry hanging over their heads while doing such things as striking a budget. In a large part, as we all know about budgeting, one of your largest factors is your wages. So, they are trying to negotiate wages in a unionized environment and you have a third party that has really no connection whatsoever with your group but it has the hammer over it.

I guess one of them, by way of example, would be a women's shelter, and a lot of the women's shelters are organized. So they are sitting down and they have a budget and they are trying to work within that budget and they feel they have banged out a fair and equitable collective agreement with their employees. What happens? Both parties walk away and then the employer calls the employees back to the table and says, we don't have a deal. So they start saying, why don't we have a deal? You agreed on hours of work, you agreed on scheduling, you agreed on vacation, you have agreed on the benefits package. They will say, well you know we do, and finally they say, well look you agreed on wages. Usually the kind of volunteer board that represents those groups will say, yes we did and we tried to do that in good faith but we just got the word back from the government that they don't want us to set a precedent so they want us to settle at 2 per cent not at the 6 per cent that brings you up to a livable wage and that is it.

This bill allows the long arm of the government to come into areas like this. So what happens? You have an area, especially when I use an area like women's shelters and so on, you have a workforce that is stressed beyond in this province and I think, without fear of contradiction, not getting a great wage and I would suspect from province to province they would be at the low end of the wage spectrum. If they are trying to go in there and negotiate a deal that would bring them up to some kind of industry standards, this government because

[Page 3445]

of some form of - in their own mind of some kind of fiscal restraint, would prevent that because they see down the road - they want to set a base limit of 2 per cent for across the province. That is what we end up with, we end up with the inability of people - to freely in this province - there will be no free collective bargaining in this province as long as we have the person or persons in the bunkers here on Hollis Street pulling the chains.

We see that today, Mr. Speaker. I can give you an expressed example of that today as there is a strike at the daycare centre in Whitney Pier. Now, if they were to resolve outstanding issues and tried to get those people back to work, this government could step in and basically nullify that collective agreement because it is outside an arbitrary, one could say an ill-advised, set of rules as it relates to straight wages. It is something that causes the process of collective bargaining to cease in a meaningful way. So, that is a small perspective of how this bill intrudes outside of the public domain.

As I said in other speeches about this very bill, as a government that purports to want to stay out of the day-to-day lives of people just to run what we would consider state business, this bill goes way beyond what they have ever said to anybody openly or contemplated during election campaigns. I don't believe that this government told anybody, when they were out looking for votes in that hot summer of 1999, that one of the things we are going to do is we are going to go after public workers' money; we are going to go after the ability for people in transition houses; we are going to go after in daycare centres; we are going to go after their money. They are balancing the books, again, on the people who can least afford it. It seems extremely hypocritical when they go around and tell us that they are trying to revive the economy in underserved areas of this province, and the same ones they purport to help are the ones they are going to hurt.

Mr. Speaker, we had talked earlier about the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, and what is interesting is, as you know, they have gone to conciliation in their collective bargaining talks with this government. Now, there is someone out there that would even preclude them going to binding arbitration. This government is setting out a financial mandate that will supersede everything. It will almost be like a superministry with Bill No. 20. What are we to do? What are Nova Scotians to do?

If I can move away from the sheer collective bargaining process, let's talk about the creation of agency stores under the auspices of this new liquor czar. That troubles me. I think the minister had said about those agency stores, in a report around the agency stores or the overall report on the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission, that there were recommendations, that the minister said that he had been given regarding changes at the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission and its privatization. I am trying to think if it was recommendations, options. Options, of what was available. Primarily, I would think the greatest option would be the status quo here.

[Page 3446]

It is not a problem, by many that there is a problem with the delivery of spirits and beer and wine in this province. There is much talk when people say, oh, wish we had the American system where you can go to the corner store and buy. Well, we don't have it, and I think that is good. I think the other misnomer is our laws, if you pardon the word I am going to use, are fairly liberal. We do have it. As I told the minister responsible, back in 1998, the then-minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission, in collective bargaining with NSGEU, put in the wording that they could be open on Sundays.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

Would the honourable member allow for an introduction?

MR. CORBETT: Sure.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce to the House this evening, in the west gallery, Mr. Joseph Jebailey. Joseph graduates tomorrow from Saint Mary's University in criminology. He is hoping to get into law school. He has been introduced to several lawyers here this evening, and he still hasn't changed his mind. I would ask Joseph to stand and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I certainly welcome our guest to the gallery this evening.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre has the floor.

MR. CORBETT: Obviously, he was introduced to a doctor, and that had no positive effect. (Interruptions) As I was saying, back in 1998, the minister then responsible for the Liquor Commission allowed in a collective agreement - and clearly it was at the government inference, it was not from the workers' perspective - to allow store openings on Sunday. The workers being the ones who wanted to help the province said, certainly, if those stores are going to open on Sunday, we may as well be the ones operating them.

There is a real problem here when we start talking about agency stores and who is going to work in them. I am not satisfied with the parameters around these agency stores and who will be working in them. Are we talking about convenience-style stores, and we know in the evenings who works in those, usually high school or university kids who are trying to make a few bucks. I am worried about the security aspect for a few reasons. From the perspective of what type of training those workers will receive, and you talk to the educated members of the NSGEU - and by educated I mean for the purpose of identifying or knowing to look for certain things around intoxication and underage and so on they go through those . . .

[Page 3447]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is too much noise in the Chamber.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, obviously, across the way it isn't important that underage drinking and the ability to sell alcohol to people that may be intoxicated, maybe that is the reason for the noise.

Mr. Speaker, this is an important item to me, that is why I am not satisfied with this bill from that perspective. I will say unequivocally on the floor of this House that I believe the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages should be the domain of the province, plain and simple, from the wholesale and the retail perspective; that is my position and I have no problem with saying that.

Part of that reason comes out of what I just said. I think, whether it is a young person or it is a person of my age or an elderly person, or whatever, they are working in a store, and I said this in a speech before, that we all know that commodities that are topics for thieves are alcohol and tobacco. We know very well that tobacco companies, when selling tobacco to convenience stores will sell them a kind of chain apparatus or gate-type apparatus and when the store closes they will pull them down and lock them up and make that product more secure. If you have that product in there and you have alcohol in there and you have these small stores, I am thinking not so much about the B & E perspective of it, I am thinking more about some form of armed robbery, which I am sure you have some knowledge of - from the solving aspect, not the perpetrating aspect - Mr. Speaker.

I am thinking, you know, is that an enticement? We talked originally about this, and this is what I will get into a bit later, was these are areas that are rural by nature because they are seen as underserved and do not have the clientele, if you will, the possible clientele to bring in enough to open a full liquor store, so they will allot a corner of it to somebody. So you are living in a fairly rural area without the police response time that you would have in an urban area, so that causes me a problem.

Another problem with these agency stores is one from a revenue perspective. I know the minister keeps saying about 1 per cent; that is projected, that is not real. We are taking off, I think, a layer from us. He and I will always disagree over that. He can turn his little mind over there, but I disagree with him fundamentally on that; that 1 per cent is only an assumption by himself and certain people that want to do this. (Interruptions.) Mr. Speaker, if the minister wants to ask me to question, I am open for it.

Those things are questions that aren't answered in this bill and that is how it relates, from my perspective, for the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission. Now there is a whole idea of this large hammer used against the workers. I have touched on the fact of the collective bargaining process with groups that we would consider at arm's-length from government, whether it is Big Brothers, that type of group, or whether it is a daycare centre that receives funding or maybe some other group. But, clearly, the bill says any group that receives, I am

[Page 3448]

paraphrasing, financial funding from this province is eligible under this bill and it will be under the domain of this group.

So, therefore, what we have is the long arm of government getting involved there and it is beyond the scope of, I think, what Nova Scotians want. What is doubly troubling again is a government that purports to want to move away from that, is really, in major terms, getting deeper. I would submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that this government doesn't put the caveat on large corporations when it gives them money. Will it sit at the table with Sobeys and tell them how the collective bargaining process should look? Should they say, no, no, you have to go hire? You are offering three and with our money in there, you should go to five.

I will probably state here, without fear of contradiction, that they are not going to be in any way, shape or form infringing on how the Sobeys corporation or some one like the Bank of Nova Scotia uses its money that it garners from this province. But yet, it will certainly come in and impact on these small groups that need the money to do, what I would say, the social activist type of work that the government has pulled out of.

I think government should be more involved here, but they are abdicating their responsibilities. So it is left up to these community-minded groups to get involved and do these things, Mr. Speaker. That leaves it open for and this comes in line, I guess, with the patronage side of it. If there is a group that has a board of directors that, in nice terms, isn't politically favourable to the government in power, then does the government use its hammer? It doesn't overtly come in and fire everybody, but what it does is it makes it so hard for them to operate with the constraints they put on them that they walk away and then they fill those boards with people who, we could call, more favourable to the government and indeed we have that problem.

So, Mr. Speaker, then we have to look in the large context of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union. Every time a government finds itself in some kind of financial peril, they become the people that are whipped over an economic circumstance. For some unbeknownst reason, if you work for the federal, as we have seen before, or the provincial government, when times are tough, you are the one responsible, not governments in power, for making bad economic decisions, making economic decisions of hiring friends and wasting millions of dollars, not spending millions of dollars on an Airbus situation that didn't go anywhere. When people come in and say, my goodness, the mess of the public purse and the first thing we have to do is rein in the clerical staff that is making $24,000 a year. That is going to right the financial problems in this province. They are the ones causing us financial ruin.

Well, Mr. Speaker, I would say to you that when you go into 95 per cent of the agencies, you go into this area downtown, I would submit to you that 95 per cent of the time when you make your visit, you make your visit and these people are helpful, qualified,

[Page 3449]

friendly, professional and want to do the job right and, I say, are underpaid for the work they have to do. But, what this government wants to do is intrude in one of the few things they have left to them, collective bargaining. They can do this through Bill No. 20. Clearly, they will go out and use the big hammer against these employees, that there will be a third party - I almost said the Third Party at the table, but that is not going to be the case through Bill No. 20 - they are going to have a third party sitting here in a bunker on Hollis Street dictating how negotiations should go.

The people at the table will have no real authority, Mr. Speaker. You will walk away from that believing we have an agreement and then the super ministry will say, no, you do not have an agreement because we looked at it and you agreed in your financial package and you costed your financial packages at being 6 per cent overall if you include increased benefits, direct wages and maybe some other benefits around vacations and so on, so they are going to say, no, that is too rich for us. We were thinking around the 4 per cent deal so you have got to go back and bang that out.

So, the people are not served by that, Mr. Speaker, and, who again, is hurt? Are you hurt at the high paying deputy minister who the Department of Health hired? No. Even in that aspect he may be worth every cent of it, I don't know, I just find it an inordinate, large amount of money to go up while you are fighting with your own workers who are, I think fair to say, six to seven times below his base scale. I would also say that they probably do not have near the benefits package he has.

Mr. Speaker, before I close tonight I would like to summarize a bit because I think that this government just doesn't get it. This bill is like there is a fire in a wastebasket and this government has made it a five-alarm fire. They have gone way overboard with it. They are willing to enter into an area where they clearly don't belong and they say they don't want to do this, but this is what the bill does. So if this is not what they are intending to do, bring forth amendments that will clarify this.

I challenge the minister to live by his own words. As he said here a week ago Friday, all this bill does is ratify what we had already started and what is done already. There is nothing new. Well, I challenge you, Mr. Minister, live by your words. Just pass the bill with the amended version so all it does is reflect the changes that are already made, to give us wording that will show us if you are going to go with agency stores, that you are going to go with just the eight, put parameters around there for the health and safety of the workers who have to work there and the safety of the community, and that these will be let in a timely way, they will be done in an open way and in a fair way, that this is not done for political expediency or for political friends.

Mr. Speaker, this bill is in bad shape and I don't know if it could be fixed totally at the Law Amendments Committee, but I hope that the minister responsible for this bill understands its impact, understands that Nova Scotians don't want this far-reaching bill, that

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Nova Scotians are against it, and that he will show that he is a reasonable human being, will give reasoned amendments and then give Nova Scotians the government they voted for, not the type of government these guys want to give us. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I am closing the debate, I take it?

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable Government House Leader it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of Bill No. 20.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 20. Is the House ready for the question?

I hear a recorded vote being requested.

The bells will ring to the satisfaction of the Whips.

[7:55 p.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

MR. SPEAKER: Are the Whips satisfied?

A recorded vote has been called on Bill No. 20, the Government Restructuring (2001) Act. I would ask the members to keep the noise down while the Clerk is calling the roll, please.

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[8:25 p.m.]

YEAS NAYS

Mr. Rodney MacDonald Mr. Corbett

Mr. Baker Mr. Deveaux

Mr. Russell Ms. Maureen MacDonald

Mr. LeBlanc Mr. Manning MacDonald

Miss Purves Mr. Gaudet

[Page 3451]

Mr. Fage Dr. Smith

Mr. Balser Mr. MacAskill

Mr. Parent Mr. Wilson

Ms. McGrath Mr. Boudreau

Mr. Ronald Chisholm Mr. MacKinnon

Mr. Olive Mr. MacDonell

Mr. Morse Mr. Robert Chisholm

Mr. MacIsaac Mr. Estabrooks

Mr. DeWolfe Mr. Epstein

Mr. Taylor Mr. Steele

Mr. Dooks

Mr. Chataway

Mr. Clarke

Mr. Hendsbee

Mrs. Baillie

Mr. Carey

Mr. Morash

Mr. Chipman

Mr. Barnet

Mr. O'Donnell

THE CLERK: For, 25. Against, 15.

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, I move that the House do now adjourn to meet on the morrow at the hour of 12:00 noon, and the House will sit until 10:00 p.m. The order of business will be Committee of the Whole House on Bills, and it will be Bill No. 30.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House do now adjourn until 12:00 noon tomorrow, until 12:00 p.m.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

We are adjourned until 12:00 noon tomorrow.

[The House rose at 8:28 p.m.]