The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Wed., May 16, 2001

[Page 3509]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, MAY 16, 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.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect on an introduction.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, we have three young women in our gallery today; three young women very important to the member for Hants East. I would like to take this opportunity to introduce to the House Lydia, Hillary and Kelton MacDonell. Could you stand and receive the greetings of our House and, your father, in particular. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome these young ladies today to watch their dad in action.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West on an introduction.

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[Page 3510]

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, it gives me a great deal of pleasure to introduce to you and through you to all members of the House some rather special people from my constituency. We have with us, in attendance in the west gallery, some 30 Grade 9 students from George D. Lewis School in Louisbourg. Accompanying these very fine young Nova Scotians are Mr. Victor Hanham, Mrs. Betty MacDonald, Philip Burke and Linda Burke, who have been on a two day excursion here to the capital city. I believe they have been enjoying themselves and received a warm welcome even from the Minister of Education today who, I am sure, will be willing to answer some questions on educational matters a little later. I would ask if these guests would rise and receive the warm approbation of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome all the guests to the Legislature today.

Before we begin the daily routine, the subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Kings West:

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House urge the federal Liberal Government to do what is right for the health and safety of our military personnel and complete its 1993 commitment to replace the ageing Sea King helicopter fleet.

This will be debated this evening at 6:00 p.m.

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table the Quarterly Report for the Third Quarter ended December 31, 2000, the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table the Annual Report of the Nova Scotia Alcohol and Gaming Authority.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

[Page 3511]

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

[2:15 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 1180

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

Whereas Meghann Lloyd is the first recipient of Acadia University's Athenaeum Student of the Year Award, which recognizes a student for exemplary achievements; and

Whereas her participation in the Sensory Motor Instructional Leadership Program or SMILE helped her and other instructors motivate an autistic child to swim unassisted after four years of effort; and

Whereas Meghann's experience with SMILE has encouraged her to go further in this area of study at McGill University, where she will work toward a master's degree in adapted physical activity;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Meghann for her perseverance and humanity and wish her the best in her future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

[Page 3512]

RESOLUTION NO. 1181

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

Whereas Scott Swinden, Executive Director of the Department of Natural Resources' Minerals and Energy Branch, will be awarded the Duncan R. Derry Medal from the Geological Association of Canada on May 30th; and

Whereas this medal is the highest award bestowed by the Mineral Deposits Division; and

Whereas the Duncan R. Derry Medal is granted to an outstanding economic geologist who has made significant contributions to the science of economic geology;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Mr. Scott Swinden on this well-deserved honour and for his outstanding dedication and contributions to his profession and the Province 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 Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 1182

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

Whereas the Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development, CEED, works through its international Open for Business project with nine communities province-wide to support Nova Scotia's entrepreneurs; and

[Page 3513]

Whereas CEED has developed an experiential model of entrepreneurship training, which it delivered this week to 24 new staff members from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Sweden; and

Whereas these trainees conducted a confidence-building exercise where each participant planned, started, operated and shut down a small business in one day;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate these 24 entrepreneurship ambassadors and wish them well as they return to their own communities to assist new and aspiring entrepreneurs develop their business ideas.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 1183

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

Whereas Howard Donohoe, a Senior Geologist with the Mineral and Development and Policy Division of the Department of Natural Resources, is being awarded the E.R. Ward Neale Medal by the Geological Association of Canada; and

Whereas this medal is awarded to a person who has made or continues to make significant contributions to the public awareness of geoscience; and

Whereas the association has awarded a number of medals over the years, but this is the first one coming to a member of the provincial Geological Survey Division of the Department of Natural Resources;

[Page 3514]

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Mr. Howard Donohoe on his professional achievement and on his years of dedicated service and work in the area of geoscience.

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 Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 1184

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

Whereas Eastlink Cable Systems intends to consolidate ownership of most cable systems in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas one of the companies subject to this friendly takeover, Shaw Cable, provides a dedicated analog channel for Legislative TV coverage in a great portion of metro Halifax; and

Whereas Eastlink's consolidation would finally make it possible for a dedicated channel for Legislative TV to be broadcast throughout most of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that this House calls upon Eastlink Cable to show its community spirit and dedicate an analog channel to broadcast Legislative TV throughout its soon to be consolidated, province-wide cable system.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 3515]

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 Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 1185

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, the professional organization representing public school teachers in Nova Scotia, is holding is 80th annual council in Halifax this coming weekend; and

Whereas 400 voting delegates, alternate delegates, visitors and guests will be attending this council; and

Whereas the NSTU promotes and advances the teaching profession and quality education in Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend congratulations and best wishes to the NSTU for a rewarding and successful 80th annual council.

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 Eastern Shore.

[Page 3516]

RESOLUTION NO. 1186

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

Whereas for many children, summer camp is only a dream, but today, a simple coffee at Tim Hortons will help make that dream come true;

Whereas today is Tim Hortons annual Camp Day - the largest fundraiser for the Tim Hortons Children's Foundation - and, for 24 hours, all coffee proceeds will go toward giving thousands of deserving children from economically disadvantaged homes a fun-filled camp experience; and

Whereas Tim Hortons store owners work with local schools, churches and agencies to select participants for the camps' programs which are designed to give children confidence, good self-esteem and a positive view of the world and their future in it;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House salute the owners of Tim Hortons - including the new Porter's Lake location where both I and the member for Preston assisted this morning - for their contribution to kids' lives and thank them for providing a simple way for each of us to help out too.

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. 1187

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

Whereas Kimberly-Clark Foundation has awarded college and university scholarships to deserving sons and daughters of Kimberly-Clark employees in Canada and the U.S.; and

[Page 3517]

Whereas five Pictou County high school students have been awarded $20,000 scholarships each; and

Whereas the five Pictou County students honoured with scholarships are: Jennifer L. Davis, Sarah Fraser, Tanya MacKay, Graham Noseworthy, and Blair Williams;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the Legislature congratulate these five students on receiving scholarships from the Kimberly-Clark Bright Futures program.

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. 1188

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 Fortress of Louisbourg is vital to the economic and social development of industrial Cape Breton; and

Whereas more than 130,000 tourists from countries such as the United States, France, Germany, Japan, as well as Canada visit this historic fortress every year; and

Whereas the Fortress of Louisbourg is in immediate need of repairs and capital upgrade;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House request the federal government to make the Fortress of Louisbourg a high priority for repairs and capital upgrade to ensure it remains an integral component of Cape Breton's tourism industry.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 3518]

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 Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 1189

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

Whereas the Campaign for Fairness is a big picture approach to help make Nova Scotia a net contributor to Canada by asking the federal government to live up to its commitment in the offshore accord that this province be the principal beneficiary of its offshore resources; and

Whereas the federal Finance Minister continues to muddy the waters by insisting the campaign is about changing the equalization program; and

Whereas the Campaign for Fairness does not involve any other provinces, even though several provinces and territories support Nova Scotia's position, because they see this issue as one of fundamental fairness;

Therefore be it resolved that this House send a clear message to the federal Finance Minister that the Campaign for Fairness is about engaging the federal government in a bilateral discussion to make Nova Scotia the primary beneficiary of its offshore resources so we can reduce our dependence, so Nova Scotia has a strong and diversified economy. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member might want to put a hard cover on each side of that. (Laughter)

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

[Page 3519]

RESOLUTION NO. 1190

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

Whereas pulp and paper mills have a history of producing more water pollution than any other industry in Canada; and

Whereas a study released yesterday by the Sierra Legal Defence Fund suggests that, from 1995 to 1998, four pulp and paper mills in Nova Scotia alone violated federal pollution laws 240 times without a single prosecution; and

Whereas the enforcement of environmental protection legislation must be a priority in this province to ensure the purity of our drinking water and the protection of our fish habitats;

Therefore be it resolved that this House call upon Environment Canada and the Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Labour to enforce environmental protection legislation, particularly that which covers water quality, vigorously and effectively.

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 Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1191

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 women's auxiliary of the Bridgewater hospital is celebrating its 50th Anniversary; and

[Page 3520]

Whereas over 100 townspeople gathered to celebrate with the group at a gala dinner on Tuesday evening; and

Whereas over 90 members and their many other volunteers donates $175,000 each year to help the hospital buy needed equipment;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House of Assembly commend the ladies auxiliary of the South Shore Regional Hospital for their years of volunteer service to our community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

RESOLUTION NO. 1192

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

Whereas Premier John Hamm stated earlier this week that the trade mission to Atlanta, with the other Premiers from Atlantic Canada, would hopefully result in home runs being hit by Nova Scotia companies; and

Whereas Dartmouth-based Trail Blazer connected on a grand slam yesterday, inking a multimillion dollar deal with Home Depot, the world's largest home improvements retailer; and

Whereas yesterday's deal will result in the international retailer purchasing approximately 50,000 of the popular "bucksaw" and a newer product being made by the company called the "Sawvivor Saw," resulting in the doubling of employment at the Burnside company;

[Page 3521]

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs recognize the entrepreneurship being shown by Shawn Levangie and the employees at Trail Blazer and wish them ever success with their new contract.

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 Kings North on an introduction.

MR. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to introduce to you the Grade 5 class from Kentville Elementary. They are led by their teacher, Ms. June Jain, with chaperones, Mrs. Singh, Mrs. Buchanan and Mrs. Howatt. June has a distinguished teaching career of 40 years, and has been honoured recently for her teaching career. She is retiring this summer, and she has been bringing her Grade 5 class every year, for 30 years, to the Legislature. So, let's give them a warm welcome. I will ask them to stand. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I certainly want to welcome all our young people to the Legislature today, and as well, to your teacher, our congratulations and all the best on your retirement, on behalf of all the members here.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 1193

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

Whereas the art of boxing requires mental and physical endurance and agility; and

Whereas 14 year old Gary Boakes of Middle Musquodoboit became the silver medal recipient at the 2001 National Junior Boxing Championships in a class with 15 and 16 year olds in St. Catherines on April 6th this year; and

Whereas Gary has been the Nova Scotia Provincial Champion for the past two years;

[Page 3522]

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Gary Boakes of Middle Musquodoboit on winning the silver medal in the 2001 National Junior Boxing 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 Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1194

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 experience of a brain injury is debilitating to hundreds of Nova Scotians and their families; and

Whereas Peters Place of Pleasantville, Lunenburg County, provides rehabilitation and housing services to those with brain injury; and

Whereas this organization has sought the assistance of the Department of Health in operating a pilot project providing life skills and community-based programming for those with brain injuries;

[2:30 p.m.]

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health and the department review proposals from this organization and respond promptly to the issues that they presented.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 3523]

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East on an introduction.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce to the Legislature today a constituent of mine from Dartmouth East. He is in the east gallery, Mr. Michael Monk. Michael is a member of the School Advisory Council of Mary Lawson School in Dartmouth East and he is also co-chair of the Mary Lawson School Parents' Group. I would ask Michael to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1195

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

Whereas West Branch Community Hall is a place of gathering for good food, good company and good music; and

Whereas at a recent pancake breakfast, residents enjoyed all three and were treated to the reading of stories from their own community in days past, the way its long-time residents remember it; and

Whereas these stories were part of a new booklet, Stories Around the Branch, which was sold out to the breakfast crowd on behalf of the community hall and are the recollections of the West Branch senior citizens;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Ruth Smith, Jim Ross, Clifford MacKay, Margaret Stuart and Lloyd MacIntosh for their contributions to this booklet and for keeping the history and the memories of West Branch alive for all to enjoy today.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 3524]

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. 1196

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

Whereas McGraths Cove is a beautiful coastal community in the constituency of Timberlea-Prospect; and

Whereas tourists and residents from throughout Nova Scotia continue to visit McGraths Cove; and

Whereas the McGraths Cove Road off Highway No. 333 requires immediate improvements;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation inform the residents of McGraths Cove when the road to their village will receive the attention it needs.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

RESOLUTION NO. 1197

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

Whereas Harold Harwood was shortlisted for the Evelyn Richardson Prize for non-fiction for his book Among the Lions: a lamb in the literary jungle; and

Whereas the Writers' Federation of Nova Scotia annually sponsors the Atlantic Writers' Awards to celebrate the published works of writers in this region; and

Whereas this year's award ceremony will be held on Friday, May 25, 2001 at the Alderney Landing Theatre in Dartmouth;

[Page 3525]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House applaud the efforts of the Writers' Federation for their support of Nova Scotia talent and recognize Mr. Harwood for this literary achievement.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1198

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

Whereas scouting is one of the finest organizations that any young person can become involved in; and

Whereas scouting would not exist without the many volunteers who give freely of their time; and

Whereas at the Municipality of East Hants Volunteer Awards Night April 27, 2001, Ms. Isabel Cook of Shubenacadie was honoured for giving disabled people a chance to ride high on a horse and especially for volunteering to help young people of the Shubie area experience the joys of scouting;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Ms. Cook on her fine sense of community service and wish her well in her future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 3526]

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. 1199

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

Whereas only 16 Canadians won the esteemed Victoria Cross, the highest decoration for bravery under the British flag during World War II; and

Whereas Ernest "Smokey" Smith, a member of the Seaforth Highlanders during World War II is the only living Victoria Cross winner in Canada and was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada in 1995; and

Whereas Mr. Smith, who was in Halifax recently from Vancouver to unveil a monument at Pier 21, celebrated his 87th birthday with members of the Enfield and Elmsdale Royal Canadian Legions on April 29th;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the Legislature recognize and honour the bravery of Canada's only living Victoria Cross winner, retired Sergeant Ernest "Smokey" Smith.

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 Justice.

[Page 3527]

RESOLUTION NO. 1200

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

Whereas May 6th to May 13th was North American Occupational Health and Safety Week; and

Whereas in recognition of the North American Occupational Health and Safety Week, the province created its first annual Occupational Health and Safety Workplace Achievement Awards which went to the companies for their successful effort to prevent workplace injuries; and

Whereas ABCO Industries Limited, Machine Shop Division, was 1 of the 20 companies to be honoured with the Occupational Health and Safety Workplace Achievement Awards;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the employers and employees of ABCO Industries Limited, Machine Shop Division, for their dedication to the prevention of workplace injuries.

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.

RESOLUTION NO. 1201

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 Sackville Business Park is celebrating its 20th year of operation; and

[Page 3528]

Whereas the development of the Sackville Business Park mirrored the rapid growth of the fine community of Sackville; and

Whereas the park has a strategic location and excellent infrastructure and is home to 47 businesses;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Sackville Business Park on its 20th Anniversary of operation.

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 Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 1202

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

Whereas Kristen Steeves-Greene, a Grade 9 student at North Queens Rural High School, has been chosen to represent the South Shore District School Board at the National Heritage Fair in Kamloops, B.C., in July; and

Whereas Kristen's project, entitled Women Who Shaped Canada, detailed the contributions of 10 great Canadian women; and

Whereas dressed as Nellie McClung, a leader of the Political Equality League who lobbied for social reform through suffrage, Kristen presented her project including the 10 biographies and collages of women past and present;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Kristen and Betty-Jean Aucoin, the Student Development and Heritage Fair Coordinator, for their efforts in celebrating Canada's traditions and heritage.

[Page 3529]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1203

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

Whereas communities can be enriched in so many ways by the addition of people who bring their skills and enthusiasm; and

Whereas so many volunteer organizations need the special leadership skills that management employees have been trained to use every day; and

Whereas on Volunteers Award Night, April 27, 2001, Ms. Sharon Armstrong, who moved to the Shubenacadie area in 1998, was honoured by the Municipality of East Hants for her willingness to accept leadership roles for numerous worthy causes;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Sharon Armstrong for her invaluable and varied contributions to the volunteer organizations of East Hants and share the community's appreciation for her fine efforts.

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.

[Page 3530]

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

RESOLUTION NO. 1204

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

Whereas on Saturday, May 12th, residents were able to join Jean Watson, President of the Waverley Legion, to help open the new Waverley War Memorial Garden and Museum; and

Whereas the new memorial is dedicated to the memories of eight local men who died during the two World Wars;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House extend their thanks to Jean Watson and the members of the Waverley Legion Branch Dieppe No. 90 who help us remember the great men and women of the two World Wars and remind us of their sacrifices.

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 Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 1205

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

Whereas Howard Donohoe, a Senior Geologist with the Mineral Development and Policy Division of the Department of Natural Resources, and a resident of Halifax Chebucto, is being awarded the E.R. Ward Neale medal by the Geological Association of Canada on May 28th in Newfoundland; and

[Page 3531]

Whereas this medal is awarded to a person who has made significant contributions to the public awareness of geoscience, particularly by participating in public lectures, school visits and writing articles; and

Whereas the association has awarded a number of medals over the years, but only once before has a member of a provincial geological survey been a recipient;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Mr. Howard Donohoe on his professional achievement and on his years of dedicated service and work in geoscience.

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 Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 1206

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

Whereas Ash Misquith of Halifax, Nova Scotia, a 16 year old former Halifax West High School student and current student/athlete at the prestigious All-Canadian Excellence Academy in Burlington, Ontario, is ranked number one in the 18-and-under bracket for Atlantic Canada tennis; and

Whereas Mr. Misquith won the Kentville Open at age 14, to become the youngest Nova Scotian to ever win an open championship; and

Whereas Ash Misquith will head to Tyler Junior College in Texas this August, having earned a full scholarship from that institution which includes tennis instruction;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Ash Misquith for his very impressive academic and athletic accomplishments.

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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 Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 1207

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

Whereas lighthouses along our coast are both heritage treasures and essential aids to navigation; and

Whereas Nova Scotia's Third Annual Lighthouse Day will be held Saturday, May 26th; and

Whereas local community groups will celebrate the role, past, present and future, of lighthouses in this province;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the efforts of local community groups in organizing and partaking in celebrations on Lighthouse Day.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 3533]

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 1208

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

Whereas the Palliser Restaurant opened for the season on May 3rd; and

Whereas for the second year in a row the Palliser Restaurant donated the proceeds from all meal sales during the first two days of its season to the Kiwanis Club of Truro for special charitable projects; and

Whereas the Palliser Restaurant and Motel and its owners, Allen and Keltie Bruce, continue to contribute to their community in many ways;

Therefore be it resolved that this House thank Keltie and Allen Bruce for their exemplary commitment to their community, and wish the Palliser Restaurant and Motel every success in this, its 85th year of business.

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. 1209

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

Whereas Windsor-based Etruscan Resources Incorporated have now diversified their company and branched out into diamond mining along with their gold mining initiatives; and

[Page 3534]

Whereas to do this, Etruscan Resources Incorporated has joined forces with Wolfville's Mountain Lake Resources; and

Whereas the two companies are presently reviewing their options, which has included technical and costing issues that were necessary prior to the beginning of a damond mining project approximately 150 kilometre west of Johannesburg, South Africa;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature offer these two mining companies every success in their gold and diamond drilling explorations around the world.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, earlier today I sent you a letter in accordance with the Rules of the House requesting an emergency debate at the end of business today. Today we learned that the Prince Colliery in Cape Breton will be shut down because the federal government cannot find a buyer for the operation. This will result in the loss of hundreds more jobs in an economic climate that is already at the crisis point.

[2:45 p.m.]

Just last week, Statistics Canada released figures showing that Cape Breton's unemployment rate in April rose to 20.5 per cent, a stark contrast to the 7 per cent unemployment rate in Halifax for the same period. The economic impact of massive layoffs such as this one is urgent and deserves immediate consideration of the House. A debate in accordance with Rule No. 43 is a necessary step in determining the actions that need to be taken by this government and this House today. I so move that the business of the House be set aside to debate this urgent matter at the end of the day.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East has put a motion before the House and in determining whether or not this is proper to be discussed, Mr. Speaker has, first of all, received the request at his office two hours prior to the request, which I did, and the

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other issue is whether or not the matter is of importance to the province and to the people, and the decision is mine whether or not I believe that to be the case, and I certainly do believe that this announcement this morning is certainly very urgent, particularly to the people of that area.

Given the fact I am satisfied the matter is proper to be discussed, the motion is that the business of this House be set aside to debate this urgent matter of the closure of the Prince Colliery in Cape Breton. I would ask that the member has leave of the House to discuss this.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[The motion is carried.]

The late debate will be set aside, and for two hours this motion will be debated at 6:00 p.m. I would ask the House Leaders to arrange the scheduling for debate.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The Oral Question Period will begin at 2:47 p.m. and will end at 4:17 p.m.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

DEVCO - PRINCE COLLIERY: CLOSURE - DETAILS

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, certainly as I rise I want to say I appreciate the co-operation of the House to my colleague's earlier request to have an emergency debate at 6:00 p.m. We were certainly all saddened today to learn of the latest blow to Cape Breton. We learned that a long and proud part of Cape Breton history will soon come to an end when the 430 underground miners were told that the Liberals in Ottawa have given up on them. Ottawa gave no hint that the closure was coming and they didn't even tell the union. Of course, the province has a representative on the Devco board, yet they didn't inform Cape Bretoners; instead, the Premier jumped on a plane to Atlanta. I want to ask through you, Mr. Speaker, to the Deputy Premier to explain what his government knows about this betrayal. When did his government find out about it?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question from the House Leader of the New Democratic Party, the Official Opposition. I only learned of the matter myself, this morning. Whether or not there was any communication between Devco and the

[Page 3536]

government, I have not been informed. However, I will certainly check with the authorities from the Department of Natural Resources, who may have been informed, and perhaps that minister may want to answer this question.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, our department received a call from the federal minister's office yesterday afternoon informing us of the announcement. Previous to that, several weeks ago in discussions the federal minister's office assured us that they were in negotiations with a company known as AMCI out of Greenwich, Connecticut. The decision by that company not to exercise that option was delivered to us yesterday afternoon.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, we are talking not only about the 430 direct jobs, we are also talking about the many spinoffs, approximately three times the number of jobs that are going to be lost because of the spinoffs. This government has already overseen a disastrous decline in the Cape Breton economy which, as my colleague pointed out, the official unemployment rate is now over 20.5 per cent and now the ministers are telling us that, obviously, they are out of the loop and Ottawa doesn't even consult with them and give them any advance notice about what is coming down here in Nova Scotia.

So I want to ask, I will start off again with the Deputy Premier, Mr. Speaker, what steps does his government plan to take to attempt to get Ottawa to reconsider its devastating decision to shut down the Prince Mine?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable member that we will be making every effort to talk to the federal government. Certainly it does appear that we were the latecomers on the scene insofar as getting information is concerned with the closing of Prince Mine. The federal government, from what I understand from news reports this morning, will be opening discussions with the United Mine Workers Union, UMW, and they will be attempting to arrange some kind of package for the displaced miners. Certainly this government will be ensuring that the federal government does indeed get to the table very rapidly.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, the people of Cape Breton were told that they would be taken care of if they voted Liberal in the last federal election and they were clearly betrayed. They were told to vote Tory provincially if they wanted help and they got the same results. Yesterday the Minister of Economic Development couldn't come up with or even produce an economic strategy for industrial Cape Breton.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. HOLM: So, Mr. Speaker, I will direct my final question through you, sir, to the Minister of Economic Development. I would like to ask the minister, would he either table a plan for Cape Breton or admit right now that this government never had the slightest intention of developing a long-term solution for that region's economic challenges?

[Page 3537]

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, yesterday, in answer to a question put forward by the members opposite, I responded that we do, in fact, feel very strongly that Cape Breton has unique issues that need to be addressed and we have been there participating. We are participating in the economic growth fund and we have targeted Cape Breton both in the growth strategy and in a number of agendas that we brought forward.

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

DEVCO - PRINCE MINE:

CLOSURE - COMMITTEE (ALL-PARTY) RECALL

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I am sure that every member of this House is concerned about the announced closure of the Prince Mine. I would have hoped that a suitable buyer would have been found by now. When the original Devco closure was announced, an all-Party committee was struck by this House to look into assisting those involved in the industry. My question is to the Minister of Natural Resources. Will the minister recall the committee in light of today's announcement?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, certainly the member poses the proper question and the committee has been there and the committee will become active again.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my first concern today is for those within the industry who work in the industry and their families. There still could be a market for coal in light of the current energy shortage in the United States. My question to the Minister of Natural Resources again, since Cape Breton coal is a provincial resource, will the minister support efforts of the Cape Breton Miners' Co-op to open Donkin Mine?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for his question. The decision to close the Prince Mine is purely a decision of the federal government. The coal industry in Nova Scotia has a proud history but, again, the responsibility with the province is in regard to the leases and until the federal government relinquishes their leases, it is premature to enter into discussions on who will hold those leases in the future.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, again I reiterate that coal is a provincial resource. I am glad that the minister has decided to recall or reconstitute that committee. I am asking the minister in my final supplementary, will that committee hear again from the Cape Breton Miner's Co-op and their proposal concerning the Donkin Mine?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, certainly, it is time for the committee to be active again. As the honourable member knows, as a member of that committee, the committee has never refused to hear from any interested group.

[Page 3538]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

HEALTH - LIGHT RADIATION TREATMENTS:

WAIT LISTS - EXTENSION EXPLAIN

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, thousands of men, women and children in this province suffer from psoriasis. Robert Johnson is one of these people. At times, Mr. Johnson's condition becomes so severe that he requires light radiation treatment. The waiting period used to be 1 to 14 days. Recently Mr. Johnson's specialist prescribed the light radiation treatment for a current flare-up. The waiting period has gone from two weeks to 12 months or longer. Mr. Johnson's extremely painful condition continues to worsen, and there is a threat of infection while this goes untreated. My question to the Minister of Health is, why have you extended wait lists for the necessary light radiation treatment required by people suffering from psoriasis?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is correct, psoriasis is a very unpleasant disease. Those who are afflicted undergo considerable discomfort, depending on the stages. Obviously, if the waiting list has been extended, it means that the demand on the treatment has increased. I am sure that the Capital Health District will be looking at ways to shorten the waiting list for that particular procedure, as it does for all procedures.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, that is no comfort to Mr. Johnson today. The dermatology clinic at the Victoria General Hospital is the only one of its kind in the entire province. People come from all areas of the province for psoriasis treatments. Light radiation treatment used to be available at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital, but the machine is no longer functioning, and those people must now come to Halifax. At one time there were 12 beds dedicated to the dermatology department. Over the last year, the number has dwindled to five. Now there are none. Light radiation treatment can take months for daily exposures to be effective. That minister knows that.

My question to the minister is, this minister has continually claimed that there would be no cuts to front-line health services, would the minister please explain to Robert and others in his condition why they must wait over a year for treatment that they require now?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, waiting lists are not pleasant for anybody, if you are on one. However, in health care, waiting lists are, for the most part, a fact of life here in Canada. I don't like them any better than the honourable member does. We do everything we can, as do the agencies responsible for running the facilities that deliver treatment. Everybody does what they can. Unfortunately, the waiting lists are a little bit longer than we would like, but we do continue our efforts to reduce them.

[Page 3539]

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, the minister is very much aware of how painful this psoriasis disease affects individuals. Here he is telling us that waiting lists of 12 months is totally acceptable. It even goes further than that for front-line health care. When a patient undergoes light radiation treatment, they require, as well, medicated shampoos and soaps. These items used to be supplied to the patients.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. PYE: Now there is a sign at the dermatology clinic telling patients that they must purchase and bring their own medicated shampoo, their medicated soaps and their medicated slippers. My question to the minister is, these medications that are required as part of the treatment can be very expensive for those on fixed incomes, why are you robbing these patients of a necessary part of their treatment?

[3:00 p.m.]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, there are a number of conditions that people in this province and elsewhere have where they are required to participate in the treatment, whether it is the price of pharmaceuticals or other equipment necessary to be used in the treatment process. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

EDUC. - SCHOOL CLOSURE: POLICY - MIN. APPROVAL

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. Under Section 89 of the Education Act, school boards must receive ministerial authorization before implementing policy change on school closure. My question to the minister is, did the minister approve the school closure policy that was implemented by the Halifax Regional School Board, effective November 20, 2000?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, both the Halifax Regional School Board and myself have received legal advice on that school closure. The school board's lawyer said they were absolutely in line in the way they proceeded. I double-checked with my own staff who said exactly the same thing. No special permission was needed because the school procedure was not violated, according to both lawyers.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I spoke to several members of the Halifax Regional School Board early this afternoon and they advised me that they were not notified of the changes to the procedure or the policies for school closure. Was the minister aware that

[Page 3540]

members of the school board were not notified prior to the changes that were made to the policy and procedures?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I guess I wasn't clear enough earlier. They wouldn't have been notified of changes to policy because there were no changes to policy.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I will table two documents that will clearly demonstrate that the minister is wrong. Effective November 20, 2000, the policy for review of facilities for permanent closure was changed without the knowledge or the authorization of the Halifax Regional School Board. My question to the minister is, in light of this rather stunning information to the minister's department, what is she going to do to rectify a violation of the closure procedure and policies manual?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I will take a look at the material. In the meantime, I will have to say that the board consulted its lawyers over school closures and the board was assured that it was within its rights in these school closures.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

SERV. N.S. & MUN. REL. - SISTERS OF CHARITY:

MOTHERHOUSE - TAX ASSESSMENT

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, as we all know, the Sisters of Charity operate a retirement home for nuns at their Motherhouse off the Bedford Highway. They also assist charitable organizations and do plenty of other good work for people in this province. In 1997, they appealed their property tax assessment and as part of that assessment, the province sent out an assessor who increased the Sisters' taxes, not decreased. Most astonishing of all, they rated part of the Motherhouse as commercial, taxable property. My question to the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations is, why does that minister think it is right that a retirement home for nuns should be taxed like a commercial enterprise?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the custom of the House is to thank the honourable member for the question. I will do that. The file in question is one, as he has indicated, has been around for some time and there are in fact, according to the people who have done the assessment, portions of the property that were deemed to be of a commercial nature and they were classified as such.

MR. STEELE: One of the areas that has been classified as commercial taxable is the area of the Motherhouse where the elderly nuns get their hair cut. This minister and his department is placing a heavy financial burden on the Sisters of Charity. They used to pay $263,000 in taxes, this year they are being asked for more than $450,000. The municipality recognizes that this money grab is wrong and last night they granted $116,000 back to the Sisters of Charity for the year. Will the minister explain to the House what it is about a non-

[Page 3541]

profit retirement home for nuns that makes him believe that this assessment as a commercial enterprise is justified?

MR. MACISAAC: The House should know and the honourable member should know that the principles of assessment were applied with respect to this file. Those are the findings that were found and, of course, the procedures are in place and those procedures - to the best of my knowledge - have been followed with respect to this situation.

MR. STEELE: This is the same government that is taking an assessment issue worth millions of dollars and cutting secret deals behind closed doors with big oil companies. This same government that wants to cut a deal with big oil wants to fight the Sisters of Charity all the way to the Utility and Review Board. My question to the minister is, will he do the right thing, drop this money grab and strike a deal with the Sisters of Charity so that they can focus on their charitable work and not on tax appeals?

MR. MACISAAC: I want to say to the honourable member that this file has been dealt with appropriately and that the situation to which he refers is one that has received a great deal of attention by the department over the years and the appeal procedures are available with respect to this case as they are to any other case. Those are matters that are available to this property as well as any other property in the province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

NSRL - 01/12/00-16/05/01: REVENUE - AMOUNT

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for Nova Scotia Resources Limited. Allowing the buyers of NSRL to obtain virtually all the profits from the company from December 1, 2000 is obscene. Even though the deal has not been completed, revenues from NSRL from December to the time of closing will go directly to Emera and Pengrowth Energy Trust. My question to the minister is, how much revenue has NSRL brought in since December 1, 2000?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: First of all, I have to say I am very surprised because when we made the announcement in February of the sale of NSRL, that we had started the process, we clearly articulated that the effective date would be December 1, 2000. That was in the press releases and the fact sheets that were attached to it. When you have a sale, you do valuation of a certain date. This is an asset that is being depleted. We are processing gas, the companies that bid on this project did so as of a date; the date was December 1, 2000 and that is the way that the sale should have been handled and that is the way that it was.

[Page 3542]

MR. DOWNE: Gas prices are still at the highest level we have seen in the past decade. The profits from NSRL belong to the taxpayers of the Province of Nova Scotia until the sale is actually closed. Why won't the minister table how much NSRL profits have slipped out of the minister's hands since December 1, 2000?

MR. LEBLANC: I am having a hard time getting the honourable member to listen. We have sold the asset - or, we are in the process of trying to finalize that sale as of December 1st. This is like selling a car at a point in time and then running up another 50,000 miles in between before we deliver the car. The companies that bid on NSRL did, on the assets that were present in the company as of December 1, 2000. The amount offered for NSRL's assets and the shares and the significant discovery licences was $420 million and if the sale and the shares and the significant discovery licences was $420 million. If the sale becomes final, and I say if, because that same member in the government before made a roll-over agreement which made the sale very difficult, if the sales goes through, we will be paid interest as of the time of December 1st going forward.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, normally when you sell a car you get paid, you don't wait a year or so afterwards to get paid. NSRL's debt was eliminated at the end of November. It seems rather convenient that the profits since then will have to flow into the coffers of Emera Incorporated and Pengrowth Energy Trust. Why has the minister cut such a sweetheart deal with Emera Incorporated and Pengrowth Energy Trust?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, this is the same member who said when he looked at NSRL, it made him want to hurl. I remember reading it in the paper. We, as a government, have put this asset up for sale to limit the risk to the people of Nova Scotia. We have been offered $420 million. We did as a value date of December 1st, that companies that participated in the bidding process did so for the value of the company as of December 1st. Everyone understands that, obviously, but the member opposite.

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

GAMING - PLEBISCITE: MIN. - SUPPORT

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, the people in the Province of New Brunswick just held a plebiscite on video gaming devices. While there has been some question about the fairness of that vote, at least the people in my native province got the opportunity to have their say. My question is for the minister responsible for the Alcohol and Gaming Authority. In light of the province-wide plebiscite held in New Brunswick, will you clearly state in this House if you will support holding a similar province-wide plebiscite in Nova Scotia?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, our platform was clearly articulated in the blue book and that was not one of the commitments made by this Party.

[Page 3543]

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, the gambling industry in New Brunswick has looked at the close vote and they admit that they have more to do. They have offered to dedicate 2 per cent of their profits to help address the problem of gambling addiction in New Brunswick. So my question again is to the minister responsible. I would ask, will you approach the gambling industry here in our province with the recommendation that 2 per cent of gambling revenues be donated to support services for gambling addiction?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out that my understanding is that the casinos contribute, I believe, it is $1 million annually to this, plus each of the VLT operators contribute 1 per cent of their commission which is matched by the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, earlier the minister referred to the blue book and a promise that wasn't in it but there was a promise on Page 5 to give MLAs greater freedom to represent the views of their constituents. I will table that although it has been tabled many times. I thank the honourable member for Dartmouth North. My question is for the Deputy Premier. Will this government allow the members of this House - that side of the House, this side of the House - to have a free vote to determine if a provincial plebiscite should be held on the issue of VLTs in this province?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we make major decisions. The intent of the vote in New Brunswick was to satisfy a commitment made by the government in New Brunswick. In our province, we made several commitments in the blue book, one of them was not to hold a referendum on VLTs in this province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

NSRL - SALE: PROCEEDS - DETAILS

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. We learned today that proceeds from the sale of NSRL in the amount of $140 million would put towards last year's deficit even though the sale has yet to close. Why won't the minister put the proceeds from the sale of NSRL on this year's books?

[3:15 p.m.]

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I find it amazing that the member only learned today, because I stated that very clearly months ago, that that is exactly what would happen, it would be reported in the year ended March 31, 2001, if the sale becomes complete.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, this is the same minister that booked $475 million in Sysco liability in the year 2000, even though that debt was incurred over a 30 year period. It only makes sense that if the revenue comes in this year that it should be booked on this

[Page 3544]

year's budget. The minister could balance the books this year. What possible reason can the minister have for fudging the books, by not balancing the budget this year?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the proper accounting procedures, if this sale becomes finalized, is to have it in last year. That is the time that the contract was entered into. However, there is a complexity, the events to finalize the sale are taking longer. The reason that is is because of the ROFR agreement that that same government gave to two major international companies for zero dollars, which they cannot stand up and defend, and that is why the event hasn't been able to be finalized. The proper accounting procedure is to have it in the year ended March 31, 2001, if it becomes finalized.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General made it very clear that if the deal closed before the end of March, then he said it would reduce the size of the deficit by $140 million. The deal has yet to close. It is past March 31st. The sale of NSRL is not closed, and any proceeds of the sale should be booked this year. Why is the minister so reluctant to try to eliminate the deficit ahead of schedule?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I have stated on many different occasions that anyone who stands up in his place to say that the one-time proceeds from NSRL, if you are going to add that and you are going to consider that part of your operating balance, and stand up and say that you balanced the budget, I think it is totally irresponsible. In regard to the Auditor General, he is the auditor of record of this province. We will do the transaction, if this sale goes forward, and we will have discussions with the Auditor General. Clearly, the proper accounting procedure for this is to have it in the year that the transaction was triggered. If this deal closes, it will be recorded in March 31, 2001. He can throw all the rabbit tracks across the floor that he wants. That is the correct answer.

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

DEVCO - PRINCE MINE: CLOSURE - DETAILS

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, once again, the federal Liberals have put it to Cape Breton. We have a former recreation director planting trees in Glace Bay, and a turnip farmer closing mines. This Liberal Government gives the miners, after shutting down Prince Mine, $28 million. I want to ask the Deputy Premier, will you ensure that this $28 million will be spent - will you tell Ottawa to spend that money - in the areas that are affected, and that is the coal mining towns of New Waterford, Glace Bay, North Sydney and Sydney Mines, will you do that deputy?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the government certainly doesn't need any urging to make sure that the money that is allocated by the federal government is spent in the area.

[Page 3545]

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, well, maybe he should talk to the Minister of Economic Development. The Minister of Economic Development was sure glad to spend their $12 million down in the Strait area, not in industrial Cape Breton where the layoffs were.

Mr. Speaker, when this was announced, when Devco would sell off their other assets originally, they said $68 million and then over and above that $68 million, the province chipped in $12 million. I want to ask the Deputy Premier, will he tell this House what the provincial contribution will be this time and whether he will insist that money will also go to the affected areas?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would refer this question to the Minister of Economic Development. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. If the members want to yell back and forth at each other, I would ask them to go outside and do it, please.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, when we came to government, we committed to honour the obligation the previous government had undertaken, around $12 million being put forward to support the Cape Breton Economic Growth Fund. The $28 million that the federal government has announced, today specifically, to deal with the issue at hand is broken out into $18 million that would be put forward to the growth fund and $10 million which will be allocated directly to those communities that are most affected. We will be there to assist with the way in which those plans unfold.

MR. CORBETT: So, Mr. Speaker, what he is saying is, we will stand on the sideline and watch you spend the money, we are not giving you anything. At least 430 more people will be added to an unemployment rate that is already over 20 per cent. The facts demonstrate that this government cannot manage the economic challenges facing Cape Breton. This government clearly needs some help in dealing with this growing crisis facing Cape Breton. I want to ask the Deputy Premier again today, will he commit to an all-Party committee to meet with the miners and then take that all-Party committee to meet in Ottawa and find out what this federal government plans to do for the economy of industrial Cape Breton?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I am quite prepared to take that proposal under advisement.

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

HEALTH - DHA 2: BUDGET PROCESS - TIME FRAME

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Last week my caucus and I revealed the desperate budget situation in District Health Authority 2. The communities in southern and southwestern Nova Scotia deserve to know what is

[Page 3546]

happening to health services in their area and this minister should be telling them. My question to the minister is, will the minister please indicate when he plans to open the budget process for District Health Authority 2 as well as what he plans to cut?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I could perhaps share with the honourable member and his colleague, the Health Critic, a comment that I received last week when this information was tabled - which, unfortunately, was subsequently released as though it had some fact - that the honourable member is somewhere on the moon and the researchers on that information are in outer space because the situation to which the honourable member refers is simply not the case.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, probably with time we will know who is on the moon. It is hard to believe this is the government that campaigned on promises for openness and accountability. Unfortunately, when it comes to the purse strings, they are hands-off. The minister is going to hand a predetermined budget to the people of District Health Authority 2 and tell them to live with it. Will the minister tell the House what happened to openness and public input into the Health Department?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is still in a time warp. The budget-planning process and the business-planning process for DHA 2 is ongoing. It is the same as it is in all other parts of the other district health authorities as well as the IWK. The district health authority is completing the business plan which will be submitted to the department very shortly. In regard to that one, I am told that the chairman of the board happens to be away at this particular time and they are awaiting his return before they submit it.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the Minister of Health considers the government backbenchers to be not much more than cheerleaders. When the news looked good before the budget was tabled members were out selling it to the public, but now they are nowhere to be found. When will the Minister of Health let his backbencher colleagues do their jobs and serve their communities?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I want to tell this House, and particularly the honourable members over there, that the comment we have received is that the financial process, the budget-planning process, the business-planning process, is light-years ahead of anything that has been in this province in the last 10 years.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

EDUC. - SCHOOL BOARDS:

REPS. (AFRICAN-CANADIAN) - FUNDING ADEQUACY

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. Unlike their colleagues, African-Nova Scotian representatives to the school board

[Page 3547]

are responsible for more than just one district. They represent African-Nova Scotians across an entire school board area. This means that these representatives are responsible for larger geographic areas than most MLAs in this House. Yet, in order to do their jobs, these representatives must be able to reach out to their communities, but they are not receiving a travel allowance to do so. They receive the same amount as other school board members with smaller districts. I want to ask the minister, why has she failed to properly fund the important work of African-Canadian school board representatives on these boards?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, we believe we have properly funded the African-Canadian members of the school boards. I will grant the honourable member that it is a very new process and things are going to have to work themselves out; we may be able to make changes. But when these members were elected, they were elected, yes, to serve a wide area, as all school board members have to serve, and have to travel for their meetings.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the Nova Scotia School Board Association is holding its AGM next week, and at that meeting there will be resolutions brought forward asking this government to properly fund African-Nova Scotian representatives so they can do what they were elected to do. I want to ask the minister if she will listen to the school boards and allocate specific funding for these positions?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, travel expenses and conference expenses are available to all members of school boards, including African-Canadian members. One of the requests we had from the African-Canadian members was to fund them as a group to discuss their own particular issues across the province, and that is something, to date, that we have not funded. Individual school boards are allowed to fund individual members for anything they choose.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, individual school boards have to take money from the global budget because no funds from this Education Minister have been specifically designated for the important work of African-Nova Scotian board representatives. I think the minister's responsibility in this matter is clear. She created this position and the government needs to fund them appropriately, otherwise it is just lip service. My question is, when will the minister provide the necessary funding so African-Nova Scotian representatives to school boards can do their job?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the last I heard, the African-Canadian members were doing their job and they are doing an excellent job. As time goes on they will do an even better one.

[Page 3548]

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - DHA 2: ORTHOPAEDIC SURGERY - CUTS EXPLAIN

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is the Minister of Health. We have learned from the District Health Authority 2 that the potential for residents to continue to receive orthopaedic services such as hip and knee surgeries in the former western region may no longer happen. An orthopaedic budget cut of $150,000 means the fourth surgeon recruited to the western region to support the program will no longer be maintained. This creates a situation where other surgeons may leave; there is indication that that is so.

Mr. Minister, it is your government that forced this District Health Authority 2 to make this decision. My question to the minister is, how can he justify cuts of $150,000 to orthopaedic surgery, while at the same time he allows the CEO to earn a salary of $135,000 a year, plus car allowance, plus et ceteras?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the orthopaedic program is at the Valley Regional Hospital, which is not in DHA 2. There were some extension services down there but to my knowledge they haven't had orthopaedic surgeons down in the Yarmouth area, certainly since I have been Minister of Health.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I am talking about the former western region. This issue is far more important than just dollars and cents; it represents a tearing down of the health care system. Residents in the areas may well have to travel to Halifax. Wait lists in Halifax will get longer. People may not get the care that they require in a timely fashion. My question to the minister is, as the overall person responsible for the health care system, does he, the minister, not see the benefit of orthopaedic services being provided in the former western region?

MR. MUIR: I certainly do see the benefit of orthopaedic services being offered there, Mr. Speaker. One of the first things I did as the Minister of Health was to see that another orthopaedic surgeon was added there, something that that bunch wouldn't do.

DR. SMITH: . . . yet and there are lots of problems in that area with maintaining that service. Mr. Speaker, potential loss of the orthopaedic services in the western region could impact on nine full-time nursing positions. That is in the budget. These are specialized nurses working as valuable members of a surgical team. My question to the Minister of Health is, can he guarantee that these nurses will be able to continue working in areas of specialty nursing care here in Nova Scotia?

[Page 3549]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member refers to a situation. I can tell you the DHAs are going through their business planning process; the business planning process has not yet been finalized. He is making allegations or putting information on the floor of this House that I, to be quite frank, haven't heard of.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HEALTH - N.S. NURSES' UNION: NEGOTIATIONS - DETAILS

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the province is headed for a showdown involving underfunded health boards and poorly paid, overworked nurses. Nurses with the NSGEU have been offered 8.5 per cent over three years, which amounts to nothing more than a cost-of-living increase. This type of offer will not retain nurses who can go to other provinces or states and make more with less stress. This government failed the janitors and now they are failing the nurses. They failed to help them reach a fair deal. So I want to ask the Minister of Health, what does he plan to do to address the concerns of the nurses?

HON. JAMES MUIR: I assume that the honourable member is now a member of the NSGEU negotiating team to put that figure on the floor. I wouldn't be surprised. I can tell you that the offer that was presented to the NSGEU nurses was very competitive with their counterparts in Atlantic Canada. Indeed if you look at the Canadian scene, that offer would see the NSGEU nurses being paid - if you would take the provinces and put them in order - in the top half of the provinces in Canada.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health is trying to recruit nurses, but seems to forget that he has to retain the nurses he has. Those nurses are overworked and he is doing nothing to improve their quality of life. My question to the minister is, how can he expect to recruit new nurses when he can't even retain the ones he has in the system?

MR. MUIR: There are more nurses practising in Nova Scotia this year than there were last year. There were more last year than there were the year before. Our salaries for nurses are competitive. He fails to recognize that we recently - well, he should recognize because he got up and supported it, the $5 million that this government announced to enhance the working conditions and workplace conditions for nurses.

MR. DEXTER: I will be pleased to read the minister's comments back to him after these labour negotiations go down the tubes as they are bound to go if the minister keeps up with that kind of attitude. I don't think the Minister of Health understands just how serious the situation is. Conciliation has broken off with the NSGEU and the NSNU is currently in conciliation. This province is headed for big trouble. What is the Minister of Health going to do to make sure that nurses receive a contract that addresses both their quality of working conditions and their financial concerns?

[Page 3550]

MR. MUIR: The conciliator is still available at the NSGEU for the two units here that have NSGEU nurses. I can tell you that the workplace issues are being addressed as well at the bargaining table. There are a number of items and I go back to the nursing strategy. Also, our position has been and we have made no secret about it - we value our health care workers, nurses and all of the others and we want to see them fairly compensated. The offer that was made to them, we believe, was fair and furthermore, it has to be affordable.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - ROSEWAY HEALTH REGISTRY:

SWITCHBOARD - CLOSURE INFORM

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. The sad story of reductions in the health care services in District Health Authority 2 continues. This government, through its budget process, has forced the district health authority to propose closure of the switchboard at the Roseway Health Registry at night. This proposed suggestion will put the public at risk. Eleven fire departments use this as a dispatch centre. My question to the minister is simple, when will the community of Shelburne and the 11 fire departments be notified of this potential loss of service?

HON. JAMES MUIR: I can assure the honourable member that the service that is needed for the volunteer fire departments in Shelburne will be there when it is called for.

DR. SMITH: The proposed budget document then goes on to state that nurses will be expected to pick up the slack in terms of answering incoming calls . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is too much noise in the Chamber and I can't hear the member on the floor.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East has the floor.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, if I could repeat again. The proposed budget document then goes on to state that nurses will be expected to pick up the slack in terms of answering calls and registering patients. These duties are in addition to the burden already being carried out by nurses at the Roseway Hospital. My question to the minister is, can the minister be confident that nurses will be able to handle the extra responsibilities in addition to caring for patients at the Roseway Hospital?

MR. MUIR: One of the reasons that we went from the regional health boards to district health authorities is so that people who know the situations best can make the most appropriate decisions. If that decision was made locally, they did it with knowledge of local conditions, not because somebody in the Annapolis Valley was making decisions for the

[Page 3551]

people in Shelburne like it was before. I want to tell you that decision will be made appropriately.

DR. SMITH: If you believe that, I have two bridges that cross this harbour. Because what we are talking about (Interruptions) for sale for you. (Interruptions) Across this harbour. (Interruptions) Because what we're talking about, but for sale for you. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. Was that the honourable member's question? (Laughter) I can answer that for you.

DR. SMITH: No, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East has the floor.

DR. SMITH: We will only sell the minister, any one minister, one bridge. Okay? One to a minister. The whole change will leave the community of Shelburne very vulnerable, getting back to the question, if we can go back to the question. The question to the minister is a very serious one. Will the minister commit that he will assist in a contingency plan that will ensure that the residents of Shelburne will have access to emergency dispatch services during nighttime hours?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I don't think any decision would be made that would see the residents not have access to emergency dispatch service during the night hours.

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

ECON. DEV. - PIPELINE: PROPOSAL - ROUTE DETAILS

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct a question, through you, sir, to the Minister of Economic Development. While the minister was sounding like the lobbyist for the big oil companies, regarding the proposed pipelines to the United States, by saying it would only have to come ashore if it was going to be in the best business interests of those companies, the Premier, his boss, at least had a little bit more backbone, and said that he would insist that it land in Nova Scotia.

That means it could either kiss the province and then head south; it could be required to travel across a short section of the province; or it could be required to cross the province, as is the Maritimes & Northeast pipeline and, in so doing, bring the greatest number of jobs and benefits for Nova Scotia. My question through you, sir, to the minister is, which of those options have the pipeline companies been told? Have they been instructed that they will have to build the pipeline completely across the province, as Maritimes & Northeast did?

[Page 3552]

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, as the member opposite is aware, all of those proposals have been reviewed and put forward. There has been no concrete plan made at this point in time. Certainly, we have all said that it is in the best interests of Nova Scotia to have the gas arrive on the Nova Scotia shore so that we can extract the maximum benefits from it.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, that sounds a little weaker than the Premier's answer. We know that Nova Scotians are supposed to be getting the maximum benefit from this. One of the things that Nova Scotia stands to benefit from - for example, from the Maritimes & Northeast pipeline - and the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations would be very aware that municipalities stand to benefit between $10 million to $15 million in the way of property taxes from that pipeline. My question to the minister is, if you are not going to be prepared to instruct that that pipeline cross the province, are you prepared to compensate the municipalities and to provide them with the property tax money they will be losing, because you aren't standing up for Nova Scotians?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, at this point in time there is an existing pipeline. There has been no decision to put in additional pipelines or new pipelines. That remains to be determined based on whether or not there are the resources off our shore to justify that.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, the minister is getting a lot clearer in his answers. It is a lot easier to understand when he is saying no, like he just did, than he was before. He is getting a little bit clearer.

My last question then, through you, sir, to the minister is quite simply this, how can you pretend that you are going to be standing up for Nova Scotians to try to make sure that we get the maximum benefits if you are not prepared to ensure that the route that is taken by any future pipeline is going to provide the maximum number of jobs and the maximum number of business opportunities for Nova Scotia businesses, plus maximum taxation for the municipalities in this province?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, the oil and gas industry in this province has been a significant contributor to economic growth, $2 billion in Sable one, $1 billion proposed for the PanCanadian project, another $1 billion in terms of the tier two development that Maritimes & Northeast are already talking about the possibility of adding additional capacities. So there are tremendous benefits from what has gone on to date and certainly we view the future as being very positive around how many jobs will be created and attributable to oil and gas development.

[Page 3553]

[3:45 p.m.]

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

COMMUN. SERV. - EARLY CHILDHOOD INTERVENTION:

FUNDING - CONFIRM

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, recently the Minister of Community Services announced $66 million for early childhood development programs through his department. Yesterday, federal Minister Jane Stewart announced $66 million for the same program. Can the Minister of Community Services confirm my math here and indicate that the total new funding for early childhood intervention over the next five years will be $132 million?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member had the opportunity to be at the announcement last week up at the St. Joseph's Day Care Centre when we announced the program that we were going to do for early childhood intervention. As the member is aware, we share in an agreement with the federal government that we provide some early childhood development and they supplement the program across Canada. What we announced is how we were going to initiate in this province the federal government money to supplement our monies.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, see, this is what has me confused here. The minister is saying that the feds will put in the money, but the province will take the credit. So what the minister is actually saying is that the province is contributing nothing to this program. The estimates for this year suggest the program's budget will be $9.1 million. The federal announcement was for $9 million. So that only leaves an additional $100,000.

Mr. Speaker, can the minister tell the House exactly what the province's contribution in terms of new money to early childhood development programs will be over the next five years?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, in our budget this year, the province has $16 million in for early childhood development and for daycare projects. That, along with the $9.1 million that is coming from the federal government, was all the federal government initiative part of the early childhood development, that was all money coming in to supplement the $16 million that we put in a year.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I am confused no longer because, let me give you the answer, zero, zip, zilch, nothing, absolutely nothing, that is what the minister's government is contributing to the program in new money. Will the minister now tell the House why he misled the people of Nova Scotia by announcing federal money as if it was his own?

[Page 3554]

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I would take it as a serious question if the member had not been at the press conference up at St. Joseph's and heard it. The member was there. I suggest that he go speak to (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. I would allow the honourable minister to finish his answer and I would ask the members to give him his time on the floor, as he has done, please.

MR. CHRISTIE: As I say, the member was at the press conference and I would suggest if the member has concerns about how we are spending that money, I would suggest that he get in contact with the Round Table on Child Care or Child Care Connections, which have endorsed the program we announced. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please, on both sides of the House.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

EDUC. - SCHOOL BDS.: FUNDING - INCREASE

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Education. School boards are beginning to release their financial plans for the coming year and things don't look all that good for the students of Nova Scotia. Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board is cutting 25 teachers. The Strait-Richmond Regional School Board is losing 26 teachers. The Southwest boards are facing $1.3 million in cuts.

The minister has told us again and again she can't do anything about the cuts, but she has shown us that she can produce cash when it comes down to the wire, like last year during the education protests. I want to ask the minister, why won't she fulfill her responsibility and provide school boards with adequate funding?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, as this House knows, we did provide school boards with more funding; all school boards in this province got more funding this year.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Well, Mr. Speaker, when teachers are being cut, clearly it wasn't adequate and that was the question. The minister seems to think that Nova Scotians are easily fooled. If you don't cut too radically, maybe no one will notice just how bad things really are. But people are noticing; even school boards that aren't cutting teachers know the situation isn't good. My question for the minister is, with one of the lowest levels of funding for education in this country, when will the minister admit that she has failed to provide adequate funding for education?

[Page 3555]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the argument about funding levels is for another day, because it is very, very complex and P3 changed that a little bit. We are providing more funding for schools and school boards, more funding for the community college, more funding for the universities. This government values education very, very much, and precisely because we value education is one of the reasons we did not balance the budget this year, as many people in the Opposition said we should have. We value education and Nova Scotia students very much.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, this province provides less money per student than any Canadian province except one, and any American state. The minister would like us to pretend that this is just about the current budget, but it isn't, it is about the accumulative effect of years of cash-starved budgets. So I want to ask the minister, what is her long-term plan for rebuilding this province's education system?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would like to correct one thing. In the statistics the member uses, she is saying we are the lowest except for one. Well even the Nova Scotia Teachers Union in their last communication said we were third lowest, so let's not argue over semantics.

Our long-term plan, Mr. Speaker, is simple. Our long-term plan is to get out of a deficit position. Our long-term plan is to invest Nova Scotians' money where they want it, in health, in education, and not in borrowing more and more money to give everybody everything they want today so we have nothing to give anyone tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - BRAS D'OR BRIDGE:

DECK REPLACEMENT - COMPLETION ACCELERATE

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Transportation and Public Works and again it is about a bridge. (Interruptions)

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

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, there was utter chaos at the Bras d'Or Bridge on Highway No. 105 last weekend. The delays were caused by the fact that traffic is down to one lane because of construction. Construction ends each day at 4:00 p.m. and doesn't take place on weekends and is expected to continue until the end of July. My question to the minister is, will the minister demand that the contractor add a second crew or extend the working day hours and work on the weekends to speed up the completion of this construction?

[Page 3556]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, this is the Little Bras d'Or Bridge that we are speaking of, I believe. We are replacing the deck on that bridge and that necessitates closing off one lane of traffic. When we let contracts, there is a time frame that is allocated to the contractor by which time the contractor is obligated to complete the contract or else face a penalty. So in this case, I presume that the contractor assumes that with just operating on workdays and not during the weekends, he can complete the contract on time.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, the problem we are facing is with the proximity of the Marine Atlantic ferry. When the ferry comes in to North Sydney, only a couple of kilometres away, hundreds of vehicles come off that ferry and hit that bridge, and that bridge only has lights on Highway No. 105 and it is a three-way exit there. It creates terrible chaos, even to the fact that you see motorists out fist fighting on the street. What I am asking the minister to do, if he will (Interruption)

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

MR. MACASKILL: . . . Mr. Speaker, if the minister could understand the situation there. What we are asking is, will the minister ask for an additional crew so this bridge will be completed before the heavy traffic starts at the end of June?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I can understand the honourable member's concern. However, as I have said before, the contract has been let and it may be difficult for us to change the terms of the contract to have double-shifting or work proceeding during the evening hours or, perhaps, over the weekends. However, I will take that matter under advisement and I will have staff contact the contractor and see if some adjustment can be made. I appreciate there is a tremendous amount of traffic going to the ferry, and it is traffic that gets reasonably impatient because of the fact that they want to make the ferry crossing.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, the situation there is unique because of the three-way intersection and the lights and the proximity of the Newfoundland ferry. I am wondering, would the minister consider looking at another arrangement, probably traffic control officers or something because, apparently, the lights are not doing the job they should?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we had an inspector out there, I believe last week, looking at the situation with regard to the lights and whether flag people would be better than the automatic lights; no decision has been made on that particular subject. However, I will, as I said, get back to the honourable member after we have had discussions with the prime contractor.

[Page 3557]

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - HWY. NO. 113: MIN. - JUSTIFY

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. On May 27th this minister needs to make a tough decision about unlucky Highway No. 113, a $30 million highway that the residents of Bedford and Timberlea-Prospect do not want. This highway will not qualify under the federal government's programs for 100-Series Highways, meaning the province will have to foot the whole bill. My question for the Minister of Transportation is, why is his department considering a new divided highway, Highway No. 113, that is not wanted or needed?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, there has been no decision made on that highway, as yet. The reason we are proceeding with the preliminary stages is simply that, as the honourable member is aware, we have to get environmental approvals for every highway we undertake, and it is a project that probably would not be undertaken for perhaps five to 10 years from now when we are more able to fund that particular stretch of highway.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, this highway would have to cross 1,750 hectares of Crown land that concerned groups have asked to have designed under the Wilderness Areas Protection Act. To date, no wilderness assessment has been done for consideration of this protection. Will the minister ensure that an assessment is done before any further consideration is given to this project by his department?

[4:00 p.m.]

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the member for Halifax Bedford Basin has brought this matter to my attention and we have staff, as I say, at the present time, taking a look at the routing and the feasibility of that particular highway.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I have been contacted by the residents of Bedford and, of course, Timberlea-Prospect and their question has been, why hasn't the member for Halifax Bedford Basin spoken out about this issue publicly? That is the concern. So I want to ask the Minister of Transportation and Public Works to rule this highway out now and concentrate on other projects where spending $13 million would be a lot better received, in all kinds of constituencies across this province?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the member for Halifax Bedford Basin has made some very cogent recommendations and she is being quite forward in putting forward her views. Everything will be taken into consideration, including those of the honourable member opposite.

[Page 3558]

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

PETROLEUM DIRECTORATE - EXPANSION: MIN. - COMMIT

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate. The Petroleum Directorate simply does not have the manpower to appropriately monitor the oil and gas industry in Nova Scotia, given its importance to our future. Most large oil companies have larger legal departments than Nova Scotia has lawyers. My question to the minister responsible is, will the minister commit to an expanded Petroleum Directorate so that Nova Scotians get the full value of our growing oil and gas industry to ensure prosperity in the future for all Nova Scotians?

HON. GORDON BALSER: I thank the member opposite for raising that concern. Obviously, when I talk to my Cabinet colleagues about the allocation of funds for a particular department, I like to know that I have the support of the members opposite. He is right, in fact, that the oil and gas industry is an important part of where we want to go in the province and anytime - once we have dealt with the immediate fiscal issues - we can reallocate funds in strategic ways, certainly, I think that will be given consideration.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, we don't have the luxury of waiting until the Finance Minister, the Sheriff of Nottingham tells him that he can spend more money on probably the most important initiative facing Nova Scotians right now, and its financial future. An expanded Petroleum Directorate is an opportunity to have government expand into areas of high unemployment where there is also potential for growth in the industry. In light of what has happened recently in industrial Cape Breton and, indeed, in all of Cape Breton, and given the importance of the Laurentian Sub-basin, I would ask the minister, will the minister commit to an expanded Petroleum Directorate with offices in Sydney?

MR. BALSER: Down the road, when we have money available and when we make decisions about where we should expand the presence of the Petroleum Directorate, certainly Cape Breton should be given consideration, as should other areas of the province that obviously need the advantages that would come from the oil and gas industry.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, with this minister, it is always down the road when it comes to Cape Breton. You heard it here earlier in Question Period, now you are hearing it again. There is no plan for Cape Breton. There is no interest whatsoever in doing anything for Cape Breton Island. My final supplementary to the minister is - the centre of the petroleum industry will move further east over the next few years. We know that. Most of the developments are taking place off Cape Breton. What is required is a long-term vision for the industry. I would ask the minister, in my final supplementary, why won't the minister allow for Petroleum Directorate offices to be located in Cape Breton, given the importance of that industry in the future to that area of Nova Scotia?

[Page 3559]

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, it is not a question of allowing. It is question of what is appropriate and when it is appropriate. There are many areas of the province that see advantages to the oil and gas industry in having a presence in their community. Certainly, as we move forward through the strategy paper and look at what the energy policy for this province will look like, those issues will be given an opportunity to be aired.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

NAT. RES.: FOREST - LIFESPAN

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I will be directing my question to the Minister of Natural Resources. At one time, I think all Nova Scotians, certainly rural Nova Scotians, considered that it took 100 years to grow a tree. Well, there is only 1 per cent of Nova Scotia's forest that is greater than 100 years old and 3 per cent is between 81 and 100 years old. The forest we are presently cutting is between 61 and 80 years, and that is 32 per cent of our operable forest. The forest, as we know it, is gone. Will this minister admit to this House and to all Nova Scotians that the forest that Nova Scotians used to know has been destroyed and will never return?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the lumber industry and the forestry industry have been a mainstay of rural Nova Scotia for 200 years, and will continue to be. Sustainability and the forest in this province and this government's commitment and the previous government's commitment, I should add, to sustainable forest practices, to regulations, to protecting the supply in the future is paramount. That is why a number of regulatory systems that have come in over the last number of years are ensuring that those forests and opportunities will be here.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, the minister talks about sustainability and what the province is doing. Earlier this year, the minister allowed the mills to pay only 70 per cent toward their allocation of wood, which was a decrease of 30 per cent. They were supposed to pay for 100 per cent of their allocation, into the sustainability fund. I want the minister to tell Nova Scotians how this reduced fund has a hope of saving Nova Scotia's forest, since we are already cutting tomorrow's wood today?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for his question even though his math is difficult to follow. (Interruptions) We have put in force, for the first time, a sustainable forest strategy fund, and that implementation is an agreement between landowners, sawmill operators and roundwood purchasers here in the Province of Nova Scotia. It has been agreed to, 70 per cent is the level they moved to the first year, and 100 per cent the second. I don't know what the member's problem is with coming forward with policies that are there to ensure that the people who benefit from the forest invest in the forest for the first time ever. All other people . . .

[Page 3560]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, it only became 70 per cent after the mills complained they didn't want to pay the 100 per cent. The 1984 Royal Commission on Forestry foresaw expansion of the harvest to 7 million cubic metres by 2040. We are presently at over 6 million cubic metres in 2001. Only an intensive silviculture program with an annual minimum investment of $20 million would allow for that 7 million cubic metres, and that was stated in 1984. Will the minister impose an annual allowable cut to protect what is left of Nova Scotia's forest?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, again, I would say to the honourable member that a sustainable renewable forest is what we promote and have here in Nova Scotia. Again, that is why an increased investment by the Government of Nova Scotia on Crown lands this year for silviculture, on public lands and the sustainable forestry fund, which will allocate an additional approximately $9 million to reforestation in the coming years, will ensure that those opportunities are there and the forest is there for the use of all Nova Scotians in the coming years.

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

EDUC. - SCHOOL CLOSURES:

POLICY REVIEW - CHANGES CONFIRM

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. Earlier in Question Period, the minister indicated there was no change in the review of facilities for permanent closure policy. I would draw to the minister's attention item 5.1, the facilitator will develop a range of closure scenarios for consideration by the committee. That is prior to November 20, 2000. After that, it states that with the assistance of the facilitator the committee will meet and identify preliminary closure scenarios prior to the end of December. My question to the minister is, does she still stand behind her statement that there was no policy change?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, there was no policy change under the regulations under which school closures must take place. But the member is correct in that there was a change in procedure with the Halifax Regional School Board. That change in procedure, the biggest change in procedure was that the board would review a family of schools as opposed to only individual schools and that procedure indeed was changed. But it doesn't change the fact that the Education Act was not changed, the regulations were not changed and the school board was in compliance, and is, with the regulations.

[Page 3561]

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, the deadline for public notification on this process was September 30, 2000. Does the minister believe that it is fair and equitable to the residents involved or affected by the school closures that the rules of engagement have been changed halfway through the school closing process?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the so-called rules of engagement for the process were in line with the regulations. There was a change in procedure, but the school board discussed this with their lawyers. I double-checked on it later (Interruption) And people do not like their schools to close. That doesn't mean there was anything nefarious on the part of the school board. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, clearly the member for Dartmouth South is correct when he says that they were not acting in compliance with the Education Act. My question to the minister is, will the minister agree to table all correspondence concerning this review process from the Halifax Regional School Board?

MISS PURVES: Certainly, Mr. Speaker, I will endeavour to table all correspondence regarding this. I am sure the honourable member realizes this will take several days as there is a multitude of pages of correspondence between the school board and the department.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

SERV. N.S. & MUN. REL. - SISTERS OF CHARITY:

MOTHERHOUSE - TAXATION JUSTIFY

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to go back to the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations on the issue of the taxation of the Sisters of Charity. As I mentioned in my last question, the province upped the Sisters of Charity's assessment in 1999 after the sisters had appealed. The province decided in its wisdom that there was $3 million worth of commercial taxable property at the Motherhouse. This so-called commercial taxable property includes the entrance lobby, administrative offices and the room where these elderly nuns get their hair cut.

My question to the minister, what is it about an entrance lobby to a convent, administrative offices of a religious order, or a hair salon for the exclusive use of elderly nuns, that justifies commercial taxation?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, that very question which was posed by the honourable member is a question that is currently before the Utility and Review Board. The honourable member, being a member of the Bar of this province, would understand that it is inappropriate for me to comment on a question that is before the courts.

[Page 3562]

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I will say as a member of the Bar that the minister is completely wrong and is using that as an excuse not to deal with a serious issue. (Interruptions) After the nuns appealed, that is when the province reassessed them and upped the assessment.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is the point right there.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, there is something else about this case that moves it from the merely embarrassing to the shameful and that is that the room where the deceased nuns are waked - that is the room where these women who have devoted their lives to charity lie in state after their death - that is part of the space that has been rated as commercial taxable. My question to the minister is, what exactly is it about a wake room in a retirement home for nuns that justifies its taxation as commercial taxable?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to tell the honourable member that, again, that is a question currently being dealt with by the Utility and Review Board and we will get the answer to that question very soon.

[4:15 p.m.]

MR. STEELE: There has been a Motherhouse in Rockingham since 1883. This particular building opened in 1959, but it took this government - this hard-hearted, mean-spirted government to rate any part of that property as commercial taxable. So the Sisters of Charity haven't changed, it is that government that changed. My final question to the minister is, when will this government end this nonsense and reassess the Motherhouse property in a way that reflects common sense, fairness and charity?

MR. MACISAAC: Nothing has changed in the last minute and a half to alter the answer I gave to the previous question.

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

JUSTICE - JAIL (BURNSIDE): OCCUPANCY - TIME FRAME

MR. DAVID WILSON: My question is for the Minister of Justice. In the latest batch of OICs for May 11th, the government declared the RCMP lock-ups at Tantallon and Sackville to be correctional facilities for the province from June 1st to September 1st. The government moved a jail to Burnside, adding at least a year's delay to the new jail construction. The reason the government has to use RCMP drunk tanks as provincial jails is because the jail they are building isn't ready for occupancy. I would like the minister to give us a firm date on when the new facility in Burnside will be ready for occupancy.

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

[Page 3563]

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. During debate today in my question to the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Finance indicated to this House that all his press releases indicated that there was a back date of December 1st. I would like to table before the members of the House a number of press releases, of which not one press release indicated there was a back date as this minister told to members of this House. I am asking the minister to take back the comment he made, because he misled this House with regard to that response.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. In response to the honourable member opposite, this is a Nova Scotia Petroleum Directorate Web site which links to a background document and fact sheet dated February 6, 2001. On this letter, it clearly points out when the date of the sale is and it is December 1, 2000, and I table that.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on that point of order. I didn't realize that a Web site was a press release and the minister clearly talked about a press release. I think there may be a disagreement between the two members here, but not only that, I think that the minister maybe - not intentionally - misspoke and didn't have his meaning clear and so should acknowledge his error and apologize for his unintentionally misleading the House.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: The minister did state in his press releases - I didn't know he was the minister of the petroleum secretariat, I thought the minister was sitting over here - the minister said in his press releases, I table four press releases, and there is not one mention in his press releases of a back date. He misled the House and he misled me and I am asking for an apology, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I think this has gone on long enough. It is not a point of order. Order, please. It is a disagreement of facts of the members.

The honourable member for Queens on an introduction. Sorry, just making sure everyone is paying attention.

The honourable member for Shelburne.

MR. CECIL O'DONNELL: Mr. Speaker, in the east gallery, we have visiting with us from the Hillcrest Academy in Shelburne, approximately 80 students who have been split up into two groups. While this group is here listening to the procedure of the House, the other group is touring this historic building. Also, accompanying the students are teachers Stephen Walsh, Barbara MacLean and St. Claire Roache. We have chaperones Juanita d'Eon, Anita Demings, Amanda Goodwin, Susan Nash, Heidi Hallett, Shelley Doane, Shirley Decker, Amber Purdy, Brenda Blanchard, Laura Jeffrey, Shelley Barclay-Spears, Patricia Blakeney,

[Page 3564]

Shirley MacKay, Jocelyn Drane, Dorothy MacDougal, Jill Stewart and Sandra Harris. I would ask that they rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our visitors to the House today.

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 985.

Res. No. 985, N.S. Business Inc.: Value - Recognize - notice given May 8/01 - (Mr. D. Hendsbee)

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it gives me a great deal of pleasure to rise today on this particular resolution because, as you know, this resolution was introduced to the House on May 8th by the honourable member for Preston. At that time, the honourable member for Preston, when he introduced this resolution, asked for unanimous support of the House on the resolution and, of course, he did not get it. In the short time available to me I am going to tell this House why he didn't get it. I hope, as a result of my intervention on this resolution, that he will rise in his place as the author of this resolution, and representing the government, and explain why he felt this resolution should receive the unanimous consent of this House. I, and the members of our caucus are certainly looking forward to the honourable member for Preston coming to his feet in his place here and discussing this resolution and debating the resolution as to why he felt it should be passed unanimously in this House.

Mr. Speaker, the "Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the great value and importance of Nova Scotia Business Inc. . . ." is probably the operative clause here. What it says, in other words, is that the government has now moved towards political control of how they do business in this province. You might say it is out with the old and in with the older, going back to the days of Stanfield and his government and then on to Premier Buchanan when the control of the monies that were spent in this province rested with a few, namely the members of the Cabinet and their rich and powerful friends throughout Nova Scotia.

[Page 3565]

Now what we have here, Mr. Speaker, is a situation where we are taking accountability of the distribution of funds in the Department of Economic Development away from the floor of this place and placing it in the hands of a select group of 12 people who will have at their control approximately $30 million in public money from the taxpayers of this province to do their bidding throughout the province and cherry-pick where they want to spend this particular money without the scrutiny, on a regular basis, of the House of Assembly.

This is quite a departure, Mr. Speaker, from the former Business Development Corporation, which was responsible to the Legislature through the minister on a regular basis and, indeed, every single deal that was done with the Department of Economic Development in assisting business, be it small business or be it larger-type industries in this province, had to go through the scrutiny of this place in Question Period or in estimates. That was the rule and I can tell you in the time that I was minister of that particular department, we had a success rate of 97 per cent in terms of what we did in this province, how we assisted small business, the new business ventures that were brought to this province and also the control that was exhibited over the spending of money by the minister having to answer questions on a regular basis and justify why public money was being spent.

Now, Mr. Speaker, you might ask yourself the question, and I am sure Nova Scotians would want to know, if you had a 97 per cent success rate in dealing with public finances through the Department of Economic Development, why would you want to change it? Why would you want to fool around with something that was working?

Every single member on this side of the House or that side of the House, their constituencies were impacted positively by the former Department of Economic Development's mandate through its Business Development Corporation. The only reason I can figure is that the government wants to get control over where it spends the monies available to them through that department by decree in Cabinet with this 12-member committee that was hand-picked to distribute these funds throughout the province, to cherry-pick throughout the province where they are going to spend this money and, I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that friends of the government are going to have a field day with this slush fund that is being given to this particular group.

Mr. Speaker, I want to, again, say in my place in this House that I am disappointed with the makeup of this committee. One of the reasons that I voted against this resolution, when the honourable member for Preston raised the resolution, was that there was almost no involvement from anybody on the Island of Cape Breton on this committee. One member of the 12 was appointed to this board, but that member didn't apply. There are a number of people from Cape Breton who applied to this board, as I understand it. During the course of debate on estimates, I asked the minister for a list of those people who had applied, so that we could go and find out why they weren't suitable for this particular board, and I have yet to receive that list. This list was requested at least three weeks ago.

[Page 3566]

I know there were a number of Cape Bretoners who applied for this board. A lot of good people applied for this board from the Island of Cape Breton, but none of them were good enough to be placed on this Nova Scotia Business Inc. None of them. (Interruption) That is "in the future" that the minister keeps talking about; down the road they are going to look after Cape Breton. This is another example of down the road.

The Nova Scotia Business Inc. has been set up with a mandate to spend public money in this province and there is nobody sitting at that table, except one Tory hack from Cape Breton who is going to decide where these funds are going to be spent; the president of the board of trade who, I understand, didn't even apply. Much like the appointment they were making to the workers' compensation situation where that particular Tory didn't apply either, but was appointed, and a more recent appointment of a former Cabinet Minister in this province, just appointed by that crowd over there to oversee some business in the Petroleum Directorate. He probably didn't even apply.

Mr. Speaker, my point here, in raising this resolution and talking about it today, is that once again we have a difference of what the government states it is going to do in regard to the economy of the poorer parts of this province and what they are actually doing. They wax eloquent from time to time about what they are going to do about the economy of this province, and in reality they do nothing, absolutely nothing. That is what is happening with this particular government. (Interruptions)

We had a situation where the hardworking professionals of the Department of Economic Development searched out opportunities throughout this province to create employment, and they did it very successfully, but they were under the control of the minister of that department and, ultimately, the Legislature. This is now not going to be the case; I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that the Cabinet, in the bunker, will decide who is going to get what, and when, and how much, over the next couple of years. I would hope that this board of 12 people are able to resist the political influence that will surely come in the distribution of these funds, because the distribution of these funds will not be subject to the scrutiny of this Legislature on a regular basis, and that is wrong.

That is not accountability, not the kind of accountability that the people of this province should demand of their elected representatives. For the member for Preston to take a resolution like this and try to get it through the House to support the government and what they are doing here is nothing short of disgraceful. He knows, and the government knows, that this is nothing but a political resolution, it is nothing but a political board set up by the Department of Economic Development, for the Cabinet and the members to have their way with taxpayers' money in this province, with no accountability.

[Page 3567]

[4:30 p.m.]

Now, Mr. Speaker, you and I and the members of this House know that what happens in departments of government should eventually be accountable to this Legislature and ultimately to the people of Nova Scotia, who should be able to judge as to whether or not a particular department is operating in their best interests or operating in the best interests of themselves. In this particular case, the mechanism, which is also contained in Bill No. 20, is being put into place so that this particular crowd over here, or in government for at least another year and a half or two years and then, hopefully, we won't have to put up with that kind of bill anymore, in Bill No. 20, and we will spend the next four years, when we take government again, trying to unravel some of the political mess that was created over here.

I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, the people I talk to are very uneasy about the way this process is going to unfold; when you have a 12 member board not responsible to the Legislature, who are going to cherry-pick throughout this province what projects are going to be approved or not approved. Can you imagine, a small businessman from Sydney trying to get his voice heard before this committee, when you are dealing with a limited amount of funds in this province, up against the powerful, rich friends of the government, looking to get their hands on that money? Can you imagine what chance that small businessman from Cape Breton is going to have?

Now, Mr. Speaker, we debated whether or not we would call this government resolution. We did, just to point out and to show the kind of resolution that a member would dare present to this House and ask for unanimous support when indeed, it is nothing more than a political football being set up by the Department of Economic Development, to have its own way with $30 million of taxpayers' money.

I would hope, Mr. Speaker, that in the next 10 or 15 minutes we will hear from the honourable member for Preston, to try to justify why he brought this ridiculous resolution, a political pork barrel resolution, to the floor of this Legislature. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, it gives me some pleasure to rise today and enter into the debate on Resolution No. 985, a resolution that was brought forward by the government member for Preston. It is a fact that this is a very rare occasion, that the Opposition members would be calling a resolution that the government had put forward. In fact, it speaks volumes, I believe - either the members opposite are so bereft of ideas of their own that they have to rely on us to set the agenda, even when it is an Opposition Day, even when it is an opportunity for them to bring forward concerns they may have. Certainly I take that as a testament to the type of things this government is attempting to accomplish, that they would see the value and wisdom in bringing forward a government resolution to discuss on Opposition Day.

[Page 3568]

One can read quite a bit into that; on one hand it may simply be a reflection of a lack of originality of the members opposite, or perhaps it may be that the members opposite want to make some mischief at government expense. I can see that, perhaps. Using the government's resolution could potentially be a very strategic, tactical move. It would have merit if there was, in fact, some validity to the assumption they would be making if they were to do that.

However, in this case there is absolutely no doubt that the resolution has merit and value. In fact, the Liberal caucus that brought this forward, from 1993 to 1998, talked about and had the opportunity to undertake some Economic Development restructuring. It was an agenda item that they talked about but, in fact, they were not successful. Now one can question why they were not successful. Was it, in fact, a result of internal bickering, that they couldn't come together as a government, to decide what would be the appropriate course of action? In any event, they failed to deliver on a restructuring agenda.

Now, obviously the New Democratic Party will have an opportunity to talk about this resolution and the restructuring, but I have to wonder if the very fact that they have been Opposition so very long would cause their vision of what would be right and appropriate in terms of economic development and restructuring to become somewhat myopic in scope. Also, if one looks at the philosophical or practical perspective that they would bring to the discussion, that is their historic aversion to business success, their apparent aversion to companies that make profit and the apparent aversion they have to the free enterprise structure, that possibly that may taint the position that they would take in this discussion.

I believe, Mr. Speaker, that this government has listened to the people of this province, through over more than 100 public meetings regarding the restructuring of this department. We heard from communities from one end of this province to the other. We heard from community leaders, we heard from business leaders, we heard from taxpayers, we heard from federal and other provincial governments. We talked to national and international leaders about what was the appropriate course of action, what was the best practice model that we should incorporate and we, in fact, delivered on that agenda. We listened to what was suggested and, more importantly, we brought forward a plan.

Nova Scotia Business Inc. and the residual economic development agency are reflective of the best practice models that we heard about and analyzed. These models work in a global economy. Whether those models were brought forth in Ireland or in the Carolinas, North and South, or in fact in Scotland - which is an area that we have a great deal in common with - or the economic development model that has been so successful in Alberta or in Ontario. We looked at the structures and strategies that had worked and we replicated them. At the same time we incorporated those things which are unique about Nova Scotia.

[Page 3569]

This government in its very first year brought forward a strong, well-founded economic development strategy for this province. It is the first strategy in over a decade, Mr. Speaker. The document has been referenced by a number of non-partisan organizations as having been not only overdue, but also visionary in terms of its scope. I commend the participants, both in government and outside of government, who gave of their time on a voluntary basis to make this happen. I can tell you that Nova Scotia and Nova Scotians owe these people a debt of gratitude and a debt of thanks.

Opposition members often rise in their place and rail against the government, whatever the government of the day may be, about the lack of focus and the planning with regard to economic development - today is no different. The Towards Prosperity document and the business community's support of that document and the process and the end result are a very clear indication to me and to Nova Scotians generally that this government is delivering on its commitment to the people of this province. We have put forward a strategy that will stand the test of time.

The creation of Nova Scotia Business Inc. is about recognizing and celebrating success. Nova Scotians must believe in themselves; in fact, that is one of the traits that I think we are known for, that we are, to some degree, self-deprecating and we don't necessarily tout our own virtues. I will tell you, Mr. Speaker, that we are improving and we will do more of that. It was Henry Ford who said that you must believe in yourself. He once said, if you believe you can accomplish something or you believe you can't accomplish something, you are right either way. I believe, and I believe Nova Scotians believe, that they have the right stuff to be successful.

Nova Scotia has a great deal to celebrate. We need to tell the world who we are and what we can do. We are, in fact, world leaders in the field of education; we are world leaders in manufacturing; we are world leaders in research and development. We can tout our ability to compete in a knowledge-based economy. Oil and gas exploration is helping to raise Nova Scotia's presence in the global economy. Who better to help promote and develop this province than those successful entrepreneurs who are doing just that on a daily basis. They are leading by example.

Mr. Speaker, my colleague, the honourable member for Preston, who brought forward this resolution has indicated that he has much to say in support of the resolution, so I will let him say it.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Mr. Speaker, it is great to have an opportunity to rise in this House to speak on this resolution. I guess I get the notorious distinction from the Opposition benches that I have an opportunity to speak on a government resolution that sometimes the Opposition Parties frown on trying to debate. I think the member for Hants

[Page 3570]

West has stated that very rarely has he ever seen this situation arise in this House, and I think it is a great opportunity.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to talk about the resolution, in particular the three whereas clauses. Whereas Nova Scotia Business Inc. was created to stimulate, announced Mr. Dan Potter as its chairman. Mr. Dan Potter is a very credible individual who serves this province. Perhaps, just recently, the members of the Opposition haven't seen an ad that appeared in yesterday's paper, The Halifax Chronicle-Herald, The Mail-Star, Tuesday, May 15, 2001, an appointment notice where Mr. David Glenn Fountain, the campaign chairman announced, ". . . the appointment of Mr. Dan Potter to Chair, Nova Scotia Division for It's About Family, the Campaign for the IWK Health Centre." It says in this ad:

"Mr. Potter is Chair and CEO of Knowledge House Inc., a corporation which focuses on e-learning, particularly in the secondary and post-secondary education environments. After receiving an arts degree from Acadia and a law degree from Dalhousie, Mr. Potter entered a career in information technology and education, serving as Chair and CEO of ITI Education Corporation until 1998. Last year, Mr. Potter was honoured by Atlantic Business magazine as one of the Top 50 CEOs of 2000. Mr. Potter resides in Halifax with his wife, Fiona Imrie, and their five children."

I would like to table this particular ad for the benefit of the House records. (Interruption) A very credible individual who is going to be serving this board; I am sure the Opposition knows that the IWK-Grace Health Centre is an institution that serves this province and this region very well. I am sure that the reputation of Mr. Potter is not going to discredit that institution in any way, form or matter. I am sure that Mr. Potter is going to serve this province, especially the Nova Scotia Business Inc., to the same capacity.

Furthermore, in regard to the body, Mr. Ron l'Esperance, a long-time civil servant with the Department of Community Services and now the Deputy Minister of Economic Development; this gentleman has a long credible record with this government and with the department. Mr. l'Esperance, his service to this province will be recognized for many years to come, for his long-term service.

Also, but I would like to point out that I am looking forward to Nova Scotia Business Inc. working with the regional development agencies across this province in providing services to the people of this province in developing economic opportunities in this province. The field workers across this province will be working with the regional RDAs in providing the programs and getting businesses established across this province.

[Page 3571]

Mr. Speaker, under my watch as the Chairperson of the Halifax Regional Development Agency, I saw to it that the political voting members of that board be removed, all municipal councillors and now ex officio, and that is one of the leading boards across the province that have done so. Perhaps the members of the Opposition should recall that a lot of times, time and time again, politicians have been accused of participating in some decision making processes that perhaps weren't viable. This way, politicians have been removed from the board.

That is one way that Nova Scotia Business Inc. is going to do that, is that it is going to be credible decisions built and based on business case decisions; no more political interfering, no more gerrymandering, no more arm-twisting, no more backroom boys doing their favours, no more lobbying, no more lobbying done by the people who have done it in the past. (Interruptions)

AN HON. MEMBER: He was one of the backroom boys.

MR. HENDSBEE: Mr. Speaker, one of the . . .

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

AN HON. MEMBER: No, say no, Dave.

MR. HENDSBEE: I finally have an opportunity to speak my piece and rise on the floor, and now they want to interrupt my time. (Interruptions) I am sure the honourable member, if he wishes to ask me a question, I would certainly entertain the question outside these Chambers, but right now I have this opportunity to speak on this resolution.

[4:45 p.m.]

As I stated, I am looking forward to the opportunity when the field workers for the Nova Scotia Business Inc., from their offices across this province, will be working with the regional development agencies across this province to bring opportunities of community economic development, small business, medium and large-size business to this province. We as a province will benefit from the credible individuals who are going to be serving on this board. No more will we have the days of patronage. No more will we have the days of political partisanship. No more will we have the days of backroom negotiating. Everything is going to be above-board, on the board and by the board.

Mr. Speaker, I guess my time is about to expire and I am looking forward to the rest of the debate by the others members across the floor.

[Page 3572]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, the audience at home, the public who watch and indeed do watch us on Legislative TV must be a little puzzled as to what it is that is exactly going on here. I suppose I just better take a few moments and explain to them. We are actually debating a resolution and here is what goes on with resolutions, particularly resolutions which come forward from members who seek the unanimous consent of the House.

Usually when unanimous consent of the House is sought for a resolution, it is because the resolution is seen as having no serious political dimension. It is seen as being congratulatory of some achievement of someone who is a resident perhaps of that member's district. That is the typical kind of resolution for which people will really seek unanimous consent of the House to vote upon it right away. What is unusual about the resolution that we are debating today is that it is a resolution for which unanimous consent was sought when it was brought forward by a government member and yet it was clear that there was a political dimension to the resolution. It was political because it was seeking to congratulate the government for setting up Nova Scotia Business Inc..

It is doubly unusual to be dealing with this, not just because of the way it came forward, but because of the way it came forward today. That is, it was the Liberal Party that called a government resolution for debate on its own time. Well, that is an interesting little twist. I have to say, it gives us the opportunity to reflect upon the joint failings of the two Parties that have so far put up speakers on this resolution. The problem has been, of course, when we think about what it is that those Parties have accomplished in the past with respect to economic development for this province, you know what they have in common? Both of those Parties have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. That is what they have both done over the years.

The economic sector of our province has been very poorly served by the governments of those two Parties in the past. That is what stands out when anyone looks at the economic history of this province. It has been a disaster when the governments of the day have tried to become involved in developing the economy. I heard attack statements from the previous speakers about what it is that our Party might be interested in doing, should we have the opportunity. I heard the suggestion that we had, and I believe these were the words, an aversion to business success. Nothing could be farther from the truth. That is not the NDP vision. It is the vision of this Party that indeed there is a role for the private sector to play in the economic development of this province. Of course there is. Who can doubt that? We don't expect anything different.

We, in Canada, have a mixed economy. Everyone knows that. The private sector has its role. The government has its role and the volunteer, non-profit sector has its role. That is the way it has always been in Canada. That is the way we expect it to be, but better, in the

[Page 3573]

future in Nova Scotia. What we worry about is not what it is that we would do in government. We are worried about what the Liberals have done in the past, the Tories have done in the past and what they are setting out to do again right now.

What is the problem with Nova Scotia Business Inc.? Unfortunately, it is all too apparent what the problem is. Here is what goes on in the Department of Economic Development. The department has a fair bit of money to spend on economic development. Now it has about $60 million as part of its budget each year. The problem has been that in the past there has been a tradition of give-aways of that money. The tradition has been that in order to attract business or to stimulate business in this province, there has been nothing but a history of give-aways.

Now our history in this Legislature has been that we brought forward bills to stop that. We brought forward bills that say, no give-aways, it can't happen. We brought forward bills that say, if the government has a mind to put money into any enterprises, then it should do so not through simple grants, it should do so through innovative things like, for example, loan guarantees, if appropriate. A loan guarantee is not a give-away but it needs careful consideration if it is ever going to be done.

There are very limited circumstances in which those kinds of decisions should be made. These are public dollars; these are dollars that the government administers on a trust. These are not dollars that are there simply to be given away.

Unfortunately, the record has been one of close dealings between the companies that come and ask for money and are given money and the network has been extensive of their connections with the government of the day. This is wrong. Unfortunately, this has been too much part of our history in this province. In fact, it has not, of course, served us well.

What the government has now invented is a slightly different mechanism but not one which gives us any confidence. They have talked about being at arm's-length from the government; they have talked about setting up an entity, Nova Scotia Business Inc., that is no longer, of course, a government department headed by a minister and, as part of a Cabinet, being able to make business investment decisions. The theory is that Nova Scotia Business Inc., will be at arm's-length, from the government and will make those kinds of decisions.

Well, if that were actually the case, then there would be virtually no role left for the government with respect to the dollars allocated to the Department of Economic Development. That is not what has happened. All they have done is split the money in half; about $30 million is under the control of Nova Scotia Business Inc., and the remaining $30 million is under the control of the minister and the Cabinet, so there has been no complete removal to arm's-length, make no mistake about that, that hasn't happened.

[Page 3574]

The way the system will now work, apparently, is that if, when an applicant comes to Nova Scotia Business Inc., the supposedly arm's-length entity, and is turned down, there will still be an opportunity to go to the government and ask again. That is the only implication. Otherwise, all the money would have been given over to this supposedly arm's-length entity.

Let's look at the other $30 million, the $30 million that Nova Scotia Business Inc., has. How do we measure whether it is a truly independent entity? Well, the only thing you can do is look at the people who have been appointed and the process through which they have been appointed. There are 12 directors of Nova Scotia Business Inc.; 9 of the 12 were solicited by the Minister of Economic Development to serve on that board. What that means is that not all Nova Scotians got the opportunity to come forward and say they would like to be members of the Board of Nova Scotia Business Inc.; 9 of the 12 were specifically recruited by the minister. We know this because as part of the appointments process, the documents have to be filed and examined by the Legislature's Committee on Human Resources. Part of the documentation asks that specific question: were you solicited to make this application for membership on this agency, board or commission? In 9 of the 12 who the government put forward, that was answered, yes, I was solicited. Furthermore, in the review done by that committee, the members of the committee and therefore, the members of this Legislature and therefore, the public never get to see who else might have applied. We just don't know whether these are the best people available.

Let's look in a little more detail at who some of these people are. We know, among them, that they represent some of the largest and most influential business entities already in the province. The former Sobeys president is one of the members. John Risley is another one of the members from Clearwater and Dan Potter, the person who has been referred to as the chair, is from Knowledge House, the company that is now doing such good business with the Department of Education. They are familiar names. There is a Mr. Thomas Stanfield - there is a familiar name. There is a Thomas Rose - there is a name that is also familiar, perhaps particularly familiar to the member for Halifax Citadel since he has involvement in her constituency association.

When we look at this, one has to be very concerned about the nature of the network that exists of connectedness between the people who the government solicited and put forward and approved as the members of the board of Nova Scotia Business Inc. Never mind that they have personal connections, that is bad enough, but a number of these entities have benefitted from government largesse in the past and one might expect would hope to benefit in the future. We know that there are huge interconnectednesses between all of the large corporate entities in our province.

Everyone of us as taxpayers, everyone of us as citizens and in this Chamber, everyone of us as legislators has good reason to be worried about whether indeed there is a true arm's-length relationship between the new board of Nova Scotia Business Inc. and the government. We will be looking to see and to scrutinize in detail whether indeed Nova Scotia Business

[Page 3575]

Inc. does its job. That is the problem. Will they actually do the job that they were appointed to do in a thorough fashion? Will they, in fact, act in an arm's-length objective way in order to promote business in Nova Scotia?

Well, they might promote their own businesses or associated businesses. The real question isn't whether those who are already at the top get to accumulate more. The question is whether there is widespread economic benefit for all of us in the province, whether all areas of the province will equally benefit. The question is whether those at the bottom, those who are unemployed, those who live in areas that are in areas of crisis, like Cape Breton, will have the opportunity to benefit from any kind of stimulus that the government might be in a position to put in place.

We have heard them say that they are beginning to put in place an overall economic development plan as a framework within which these kinds of decisions could be made. The strategy that has been issued by the government is only the beginnings. Although the minister spoke and patted himself on the back for the work that he and his government have done, it is only a small step, although, of course, having a strategy is a good idea, the particular strategy that his government has generated is not one to inspire the public. It is not one to inspire confidence. There are serious problems with that strategy that has been put out. No doubt, as they say, it will evolve over time. We look forward to seeing the evolution because the decisions of entities like Nova Scotia Business Inc. have to be made within a context that allows for serious and correct decisions to be made. I see my time has expired, thank you.

[5:00 p.m.]

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: I am pleased to rise to speak on this particular resolution that was introduced by the member for Preston. I will read the operative clause here:

"Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the great value and importance of Nova Scotia Business Inc. in developing Nova Scotia's resources and expanding the vast economic potential of the province."

It sounds like motherhood and apple pie, doesn't it? It sounds pretty crisp. It sounds fresh. It sounds positive but, Mr. Speaker, we listened to the Elmer Fudd of the Cabinet over there trying to defend the indefensible with absolutely no substance in fact to that which he speaks. Let's go back and look at the last time the government, a Progressive Conservative Government, privatized the Department of Economic Development. There is, in the annals of history, IEL, Industrial Estates Limited, and let's see what happened when the government of the day privatized the Department of Economic Development.

[Page 3576]

Do you know, Mr. Speaker, it is a strange, strange coincidence, there were only two constituencies in this province that got the lion's share, Pictou County and Colchester County. What a coincidence (Interruptions) yes, and members on the government benches are saying, what is your source? Well, I will give them the source. Do you remember that book? It would be good reading for members of the Legislature, especially government backbenchers, to go to the Legislative Library and read the Life and the Times of Industrial Estates Ltd. by Professor Roy E. George, from the Institute of Public Affairs, Dalhousie University.

Mr. Speaker, here is what happened once they started to privatize and distance government and make it non-political and take, as the member for Preston would say, "the pork barrel politics away from this process". This is what happened. In Pictou County they received $773 per capita; Colchester County received $467 per capita; and all others received less than $100; and, coincidentally, in the Liberal held ridings of the day, they received less than $50 per capita. So is that the pork barrel politics that the member for Preston is talking about? He should be ashamed of himself to stand up. That is absolutely silly nonsense for the member for Preston to believe that there will be no pork barrel politics with this type of (Interruption)

Well, Mr. Speaker, it is all about credibility, isn't it? Let's look at the credibility from the source therein. In the Legislative Library - and I will read this rather unique document, it is a press clipping from The Chronicle-Herald dated May 22, 1992, and I will quote, the headlines read: Scandal Dominates House Debate "An aide to Deputy Premier Tom McInnis has resigned after reportedly supplying confidential tax commission lists used in a controversial Tory fund-raising campaign."

Mr. Speaker, this is all public. It was addressed to Public Accounts. It was addressed to the police and the name - "David Hendsbee received the list from an unidentified tax commission employee and passed them on to Tory fund raisers, . . ." It is all about credibility, isn't it, and he expects us to believe that there will be no pork barrel politics. Consider the source. He should be embarrassed to introduce such a resolution in this House. (Interruptions) The Minister of Economic Development says we are bereft of ideas, that is why we had to use a government resolution. Well, we used the government resolution to prove that the government is completely off the rails and going back to the old pork barrel politics, going back to the old John Buchanan-style of politics and, do you know what, we now have another clone, we refer to him as the Wal-Mart greeter.

The only opportunity he has to speak, when he is asked, would he accept a question, he says, well, Mr. Speaker, this is the first chance I have had to speak. He has been in here for two months and finally the Cabinet had enough confidence to let him speak for one minute and 45 seconds. Well, isn't that impressive. Just enough time to tell people who he is. That is an absolute embarrassment, when a member who introduces a resolution is not allowed to stand up and defend it.

[Page 3577]

They had to get a pinch-hitter, the same minister who oversaw his budget slashed by almost 70 per cent; his capital expenditures for the upcoming fiscal year, less than $20 million when, on average, over the last six or seven years, it was what, somewhere in the vicinity of $80 million - $60 million to $80 million a year - and he is proud of that? Mr. Speaker, it is an absolute disgrace to have . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Elmer Fudd, the Minister of Economic Development.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JANE PURVES: I was wondering if . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Is the honourable Minister of Education on a point of order?

MISS PURVES: No, Mr. Speaker, I was wondering if the member opposite would take a question.

MR. SPEAKER: Oh. Would the honourable member take a question?

MR. MACKINNON: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

MISS PURVES: I was just checking, Mr. Speaker, thank you. (Laughter)

MR. MACKINNON: Well, thank you, Mr. Speaker. Isn't that what I said right from the start? Silly, silly, silly. That is all we get from that government and now we have got the tag team of slick and slack over there, who think this is a big joke. Their own resolutions are a big joke. In the name of heavens, what in the name of heavens is this place coming to (Interruptions) Have they no control in the government benches? (Interruptions)

AN HON. MEMBER: The member for Preston for two minutes is sitting in the Premier's chair.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, the best that the honourable member for Preston can hope for (Interruptions) that is as close as he'll ever get to being Premier. Sit in the chair when the Premier's not here, because if this was a real, honest, genuine resolution, we would have no problem supporting it. The evidence is so overwhelming, so obvious, so clear to any Nova Scotian, to any individual, even to the member for Preston it is clear, that it is a silly resolution because it is not supportable, because there is no basis in fact other than some silly diatribe about trying to incorporate some credible people into the operative clauses to make it look like that was the reason the resolution was brought in. How silly that the Wal-Mart greeter would bring this before the House.

[Page 3578]

The Deputy Minister of Economic Development is a very honourable and credible individual, no doubt about it, but that is not the issue. He is a public servant commissioned to give advice on matters of public policy. He is not there to be a pawn on a political chess board for silly, silly resolutions. That is the disappointing part about this resolution, Mr. Speaker. (Interruptions) Then he says, well, what about Mr. Potter? Mr. Speaker, there was never any question about the credentials of the individuals. It was the process and the design of public government policy. It is all a political sham to try and buffer the government from the impact of the failings of the Minister of Economic Development and that department, as the budget was slashed and slashed to the point of being completely of little or no substance on the big picture.

That is the disappointing part and it is too bad that the cheerleader from John Buchanan's days still can't get it out of his system, still can't get it out of his blood that the people of Nova Scotia don't buy into that style of politics anymore. It is very disappointing.

Mr. Speaker, I would be interested to see some of the recommendations that that honourable member would make to this new independent Nova Scotia Business Inc., board for economic and social development. The Minister of Economic Development hasn't even tabled this so-called plan that he has for Nova Scotia. He keeps saying that he has one. Where is it? Where is the action plan? He says, stay tuned. Well, the silly member for Preston is back at it again - stay tuned.

Mr. Speaker, people in Nova Scotia expect much better from their provincial politicians than silly resolutions and sidebars. Well, the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank says, well, how did I get here? I will put my record against that honourable member any day. The confidence of the people that sent me here, I trust their judgment. If they decided tomorrow not to send me here, I respect their decision. I don't go on with little silly tirades from the backbenches yelping, just as I have said on a previous day, the Chihuahuas barking on the permission of certain Cabinet elitists. That is not economic and social development and that is not what this resolution should say.

Then, of course, we have the other member who is the milk and cookies lady. That is about all we will get from that honourable member. She tabled a box of cookies. What a legacy on economic and social development in Nova Scotia. She tabled three boxes of cookies.

AN HON. MEMBER: I never got any.

MR. MACKINNON: And I didn't get any either, Mr. Speaker. (Laughter) Knowing that honourable member, it might be better if I didn't get any, because I am not so sure it would be good for my health.

AN HON. MEMBER: I have a funny feeling you are not going to get one either.

[Page 3579]

MR. MACKINNON: And I don't think I am going to get any after that comment. Mr. Speaker, it is very disappointing. The evidence for this silly resolution is so overwhelming that people would be actually against (Interruption) The Minister of Health, he should check his health and check his hearing, because I said the evidence against is overwhelming. I think it would be irresponsible for members of this House to support this resolution. That is why we called it, to prove to all Nova Scotians what silly, silly resolutions backbenchers are allowed to bring before the House with Cabinet approval and then not be allowed to speak on them.

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: I spoke for five minutes.

MR. MACKINNON: Well, he stood up long enough to introduce himself, list the names of two people on the board with their CVs and then sit down. Well, wasn't that impressive. Mr. Speaker, silly resolutions don't deserve the support of members of this side of the House. I am sure it doesn't deserve the support of members of the government caucus either. He said it is a government resolution. It is not a government resolution. The fact of the matter is, it is a resolution from a member of the governing Party. That is how little he knows about the democratic process. He is not a member of the government unless he . . .

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

The honourable Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Private Members' Public Bills for Second Reading.

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 50.

Bill No. 50 - Fundamental Tax Reform Committee Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand today to debate Bill No. 50, Fundamental Tax Reform Committee Act. This was brought in just a few weeks ago. Our caucus has brought forward the issue of taxation and stated that the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia is continuing to grow, a revelation, that only this Premier and many of the front benchers did not realize was happening in the province of Nova Scotia.

[Page 3580]

Four weeks ago, our Premier, the Progressive Conservative Party had no idea the debt was going up each and every year to the year 2007, even though they were projecting surpluses over the next three years. Three weeks ago, the Premier had no idea that income taxes in the Province of Nova Scotia were going up because of a backdoor tax measure known as bracket creep, that this government has refused to acknowledge, refused to pass on to Nova Scotians.

[5:15 p.m.]

Two weeks ago the Minister of Finance denied that income taxes would rise in this coming year, a level of ignorance and arrogance that I feel is unacceptable of a Minister of Finance and unacceptable as a Premier-in-waiting in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Just for clarification, this bill is about tax reform. It is not about the New Democratic Party fair tax bill designed to stick it to the rich, as it were. That is why we have a clause which states very clearly that we are recommending that there will not be a rise in taxes in the Province of Nova Scotia. (Interruptions) I am not running it down, I am just clarifying the difference.

I state again, just for clarification, this bill is about tax reform; it is not about an NDP fair tax designed to stick it to the rich. I believe that is what they said when they introduced it. That is why we have a clause which states very clearly that we are recommending that no tax increases would come forward. (Interruption) According to Alexa McDonough, that is anybody making more than $60,000 a year. Alexa McDonough indicated that anybody making $60,000 a year or more is rich. Information provided by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has made it very clear - and I know that the members have been able to check this out - families making between $15,000 and $30,000 in the Province of Nova Scotia will pay approximately $2 million more in income taxes this year than last. That is $2 million more in income taxes this year than last year. Families earning between $40,000 and $50,000 a year will pay an additional $3 million in provincial income taxes this year than they did last year.

To deny the impact of bracket creep on lower and middle income people is to deny the facts before us. After the 2000 federal budget, all provinces decoupled and set their own tax rate. This provided this province and the Government of Nova Scotia with an opportunity to freeze taxes by full indexation of credits and that of brackets. The opportunity for this minister to do it was there - it wasn't there before, but it was there after the year 2000 and he ignored it.

Part of this decoupling, the province could not have acted on ending or getting rid of bracket creep. Decoupling, in effect, gave - this is when the minister decoupled from the federal tax - the Nova Scotia Government control over our own tax system. Our caucus is

[Page 3581]

calling on the Government of Nova Scotia to immediately implement a full indexation to the tax system and relieve the growing tax burden on Nova Scotians.

I might add that there are many Nova Scotians in this province who would agree that the taxes in this province are far too high and it is time that this government allowed some of it to go back, some of their own money of Nova Scotians to go back into their pockets. Full indexation would amount to a tax freeze and a fundamental reform of the provincial tax system. Indexing tax credits and tax brackets to inflation would provide fairness, transparency and accountability to the tax system, something that I understand the Tory Government said they wanted to do. Based on replies to our question, the Minister of Finance does not comprehend what we asked for. We asked the minister to stop raising taxes in the Province of Nova Scotia. In fact, the Minister of Finance won't even admit that bracket creep represents tax increases in the Province of Nova Scotia. How naive the minister really is.

By this refusal, the minister cannot give a true 10 per cent tax cut in year four of his government, unless he stops the bleeding by ending the issue of bracket creep now. The bill I have tabled calls for a committee on fundamental tax reform to be established by the Minister of Finance, so that other ideas on tax reform can be generated. This is not to preclude any other options that we feel are probably willing to be brought forward by either the New Democratic Party or even the Conservative Party or obviously the Federation of Labour in the private sector. We have staked out a modest position to this bill, which only asks that the taxes be frozen at current levels. We cannot repair the damage that bracket creep has caused since 1986, but we can correct the problem. So if any tax relief comes the way of taxpayers, they will get a full value of the cut.

The bill, in essence, creates an all-Party committee with representatives of each individual Party as well as representatives of the business community, the chambers of commerce would appoint one individual from the province and labour would choose an individual to sit on that committee and, of course, a representative of the Auditor General's Office. The goal would be to collect as much information as possible from public and expert sources.

The committee must report back to the Legislature no later than November 30, 2001, allowing time for the Minister of Finance to put some of those recommendations into action. The recommendations would provide fundamental tax reform for the budget year of 2002-03. This committee follows the spirit of the Voluntary Planning Fiscal Management Task Force which the Tory Government brought in which calls for greater pre-budget consultation. I understand what the minister does in budget consultation, very similar, we did the same thing, but they had said that we need to do even more.

I support that principle, Mr. Speaker, and so what we are doing is actually supporting what the government said they wanted to do. Unfortunately, no such consultation has been implemented and brought forward with regard to any kind of legislation. Granted, this

[Page 3582]

committee focuses on only one part of the budget process - taxation - and in a small way it goes toward implementing the issues of fairness, transparency and accountability within the tax system, something that I understood that Minister of Finance had wanted to do.

We also want to make sure that such a committee will not place any more burden on the taxpayers so a clause in the bill would ensure that no recommendations will suggest higher taxes to Nova Scotians. Granted, this will be seen as unfair by those who feel that the rich do not pay enough taxes. I grant that. The reason for this clause is that we do not feel it is fair for us to decide who is wealthy or who is not. We didn't think that that would be a decision that this Party would want to make.

We also do not believe that you have to punish one taxpayer in order to help another. We feel that anybody who is out working and worked hard to receive the remuneration they have made deserves it. We want to treat every taxpayer with respect. We also want to ensure that the committee does not incur a large expenditure in doing this process. Submissions will be encouraged by e-mail, mail, or by fax, and public meetings could take the form of a real time interactive Web site; in other words, opportunities for people. Now we have CAP sites throughout the province, people could actually do their communication through the webcasts.

In this way the committee could have contact with people from their own homes or from other locations or public access sites throughout the Province of Nova Scotia. The committee is also only established for the special time that we had recommended in the bill so that we are not entrenching a bureaucratic process for the future. What we are saying is that this will not be a major cost to taxpayers and it would be dissolved at the time the material would be brought forward to the Legislature and to the minister.

I am being sincere here when I say this, I sincerely hope that the government and those called to participate on this committee would see the usefulness of this exercise. The minister has an opportunity to go forward with a recommendation that I think is reasonable and fair. He has an opportunity to bring forward that recommendation. Now, he will probably get up and rant about something else. This is a very sincere request asking this government to support this legislation so that we, as a Legislature, can actually try to implement many of the recommendations that he and his government had indicated they wanted to do.

High taxation will begin to drive business and jobs from our province. Unless the bleeding stops now, we will see a decline in opportunity in our province. People also need to know that the system is, as I said before, fair and transparent and, above all, accountable. We believe that this committee can - and if they are prepared to work together, which we are on this side prepared to work very hard to establish that - achieve the goals that they really want to set.

[Page 3583]

We urge the government, and we urge the minister to pass this bill, to pass this for the Finance Minister to assemble a committee without delay. We ask the minister for his support. In the meantime, I would proceed to step up the pressure on government to freeze taxes and urge Nova Scotians to contact the Minister of Finance and members of the Conservative caucus to indicate to them the pain that is currently being felt by working Nova Scotians. We have asked and we have stated and staked out a position, which I believe is a fair position, on behalf of the majority of Nova Scotians who are busy out there working, creating revenue, creating wealth, creating tax revenue for the Province of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, with those few words, I would like to thank you very much, and I will now turn it over to the next speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I have about 10 or 12 minutes. It is very difficult to get into depth on this, but I will try to make a few comments with regard to the member opposite. This bill, Bill No. 50, is essentially a bill that would create a committee that would go around the province, have three political Parties attend it, the office of the Auditor General, which I am not really sure why we would have that, then you would have trade unions and business community representatives.

The point of this committee is to come up with new and innovative ways of cutting taxes. I guess it goes to the fundamental question of whether or not we should be cutting taxes now or whether or not we should be cutting taxes in year four. I stand in this House and say that our Party clearly said when people would get tax relief in our mandate. That was going to be in year four after we have tackled that very difficult problem, which is the deficit. When we took office, I tabled the first budget, basically taking over the budget that had been defeated, which was tabled by the honourable member opposite a few months before. When we tabled it we were faced with an operating deficit of about $500 million. Extremely frightening. It re-emphasizes why there had to be a plan to deal with that deficit, and subsequently, after that, to deal with the problem that is serious, in the sense that we have to have tax relief in this province to bring about competitiveness.

We told Nova Scotians when they would have that tax relief, and that was in year four. The members are suggesting that we set up a committee, and we do it in legislation. I am not a strong believer, a lot of times, of doing things in legislation. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. For ourselves, I am looking at this and saying, personally, I am not in agreement with it. I will tell the member upfront. That is what debate is all about, standing up and defending your position along those lines.

I want to look, for ourselves, part of the reason this is here, and the honourable member opposite talked about the fact that we should consult. He asked me last week, with regard to the Voluntary Planning Fiscal Management Task Force report which was tabled in this

[Page 3584]

House, which was commissioned by our government to go around and listen to Nova Scotians as to what they should do.

One of the things they said is that we should legislate public consultation. I think any government should consult before they prepare a budget, and I can tell you in all honesty that I consulted on all three of the budgets I have tabled in this House, and I have talked with a diversity of different groups, whether or not they be labour groups, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, Chambers of Commerce, different groups, whether or not they be from the forest industry, I looked at the Federation of Agriculture, I have met with them on numerous occasions. I have tried to be open-minded; I have tried to listen to other groups, because the situation is that it is imperative that we listen to those groups and at least hear some of the frustrations.

I can honestly say that some of the recommendations they have made have had an impact on the budget. It doesn't mean that everything suggested we did, if I said that, it would not be accurate. What we heard from some of those people, talking about their viewpoints, how concerned they are with the different sectors of the economy they are in but at the same time, there is a common thread. The one thing that we have to do is deal with the deficit problem that we have, because I think all of them feel threatened by the fact that we have not put our fiscal house in order.

Mr. Speaker, that is a situation that will be very difficult for our children to inherit, and I think all three Parties here agree that it is a serious problem as to how we approach and deal with that problem, we often have differences of opinion, and that is fair. That is open debate and it is good and that is important.

[5:30 p.m.]

Let's take a look at the recommendation that was there. That was Recommendation No. 25 that the honourable member for Lunenburg West stood in this House last week and asked me whether or not I would legislate consultation. He asked me and I said at that time that I didn't feel legislation was required, that I was doing that anyway. I want to point out the very same report that he referred to also had another recommendation. It was Recommendation No. 16 in the same report. The same report had another recommendation that he just happened to forget. He talked about, that the government should ensure the revenues from personal or corporate provincial income tax remain at current levels until the province balances its books. In the same report. It is amazing how we have selective memory here and we use certain parts of the report and, when we want to, another one.

Just for the edification of the members who are asking, it is taking control of our future, and that is the report of the Voluntary Planning Fiscal Management Task Force. Just to point out for the members opposite and I want to thank them for their interest in this.

[Page 3585]

If you listen to the people who served on that task force, that went across this province - and I should say that Voluntary Planning was made up of a diversity of groups. It was not just any one sector, it was people from all facets and I think that they did a lot of good work and a lot of the recommendations that they put forward, we agreed with; there are some that we didn't and the one he suggested about whether we legislate consultation, we didn't accept that one - they said, especially, balance the budget first and then give Nova Scotians a tax cut. That is the responsible way to implement tax relief.

I think the decisions we have made for Nova Scotians have been difficult. We knew they would be difficult and that is why we told them that after we brought about fiscal responsibility, then they would have the reward and they would get tax cuts. That is why we told them when it would happen, and that would be in year four.

This approach is not only responsible, but I believe it is proper. I think it is the only logical way that we could have approached the issue, and that is why we put it in our platform and that is why we, as a Party, told Nova Scotians what we would do, so they could expect it. I remember there were people saying that we were doing something different than we said we did. I remember Rick Clarke, who happens to be the President of the Federation of Labour and he told Nova Scotians that John Hamm is doing exactly what he said he would do. That shows that we are doing what we were going to do, so when the members opposite say that we are not, I take exception to that.

Let's take a look and let's compare Nova Scotia to Ottawa. The honourable members opposite are saying that Ottawa is giving a tax break, why don't we do that? So, let's take a look. (Interruptions) I am being corrected by the NDP that the Liberals were saying that, and I stand corrected. They are saying we should give tax relief right now. It doesn't matter whether we have a balanced budget, it doesn't matter what the consequences are in the future. Now, did Paul Martin do indexing of those brackets right off the bat when he took office? No, I guess he didn't. It took him seven years before he gave tax relief. Why is that? It may be because he wanted to tackle his deficit problem before he gave tax relief.

Let's take a look now that he has given tax relief. I read the paper this morning, federal surplus to hit $15 billion, and that was the Prime Minister himself making that comment. That is Jean Chretien. That is after Paul Martin has paid for programs going forward into the future. Things such as the innovative fund which is paid out of this fiscal year going forward. That is after he has given tax cuts in this fiscal year and that is after he has given programs such as the Millennium Fund paid in this year. So how big was the surplus going to be before he gave tax relief? Was it going to be $22 billion, or $25 billion? For the member opposite to say that we should give tax relief before we have balanced our books, I think is presumptuous and I think it is taking a path that will lead us to the same problems that we found ourselves in when we took office. It is an irresponsible way. I know there are many people who would want us to spend all the money now, no matter what happens.

[Page 3586]

Mr. Speaker, I don't believe that is the responsible way to do it. If there is anything we should be doing it is keeping on course what we promised Nova Scotians we would do. How much time do I have left?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member has until 5:38 p.m.

MR. LEBLANC: So I have two and a half minutes, Mr. Speaker.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that the honourable member opposite would like to reduce taxes. I, as Finance Minister, would love to go out today and say to Nova Scotians, you have a tax break. Often the Opposition points to me as Mr. Scrooge and the man who takes away everything. I have a lot of names being thrown at me.

I would like to say that for ourselves, it is a job that often is thankless but it is a serious job. I take my task extremely seriously; it has to be done.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I was just wondering if the minister, without wanting to interrupt his full flight, would like a question?

MR. SPEAKER: That could be a loaded question, based on the last time we had that question here.

Will the honourable member take a question?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, if he had interrupted me earlier, perhaps I would have. I have only a minute left, I would not even be able to answer the question so I apologize, but I will answer it outside of the House.

Mr. Speaker, I have lost my train of thought. I would like to say that my job as Finance Minister is to coordinate government, in a sense, to live within our means. That means making choices. Oftentimes we have to come into this House and say why we don't have the money to put into roads, when we would all like to be able to do that, and whether or not it is in health care. Even this year, after spending $68 million more, there is still a demand for more. Even after we give more money to education, there is still the demand for more. I know there are calls from across the side for more money for community services, and the list goes on and on. What we are trying to do is find a balance between the fiscal capacity of the province to pay and the ability to deliver those services.

I want to make one comment before I finish, Mr. Speaker, that as a parent - and all politics aside - I have said to myself that I will do the best job I possibly can to leave this province a better place than when I took this portfolio because I care for my children and I care for Nova Scotians.

[Page 3587]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, normally on a bill of this nature the NDP's Finance Critic would stand up but today the NDP's Finance Critic and his wife have given birth to a bouncing baby tax deduction. (Applause) We are just waiting for details, I don't know exactly what happened. So, because our Finance Critic is otherwise engaged, I am pleased to rise today to address Bill No. 50, An Act to Provide for a Committee on Fundamental Tax Reform.

Let me say immediately that I think it is a good bill; I think it is something that is worthy of support. I think what I need to relay to the House is the long and distinguished history that proposals of this kind have had in the province. We really don't need to go any further back than the last 10 years. In 1992 a very concerned and well-meaning member of this House stood up and moved the following resolution. I won't read the whole resolution, just the be it resolved part:

"Therefore be it resolved that this government establish a fair taxation commission to allow for public input and comment on our taxation system before they even consider harmonizing the GST and PST."

Now, Mr. Speaker, who was it who moved that resolution? It was, in fact, Mr. Bernard Boudreau, who shortly thereafter was the Liberal Finance Minister. Unfortunately, when Mr. Boudreau went from this side of the House over to that side of the House, he forgot, somehow, what he had promised such a short time before. Mr. Bernie Boudreau, who, as a member has kindly reminded me, used to be a senator.

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals have had this idea before, but the problem is that when they move from over here to over there, they conveniently forgot their promises of fair taxes and it was up to the NDP to remind them of their promise, which they did, numerous times over the course of the late, unlamented Liberal Government.

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Bernie Boudreau, on behalf of the Liberals, wasn't the only one who had proposed a fair tax commission in this House. There was another honourable member who did it too, in 1996. By way of background and perhaps preamble to my revealing the name of this member, who I would like to say still sits in this House, there is a clue - the member still sits in the House. I just want to relay a short portion of what that member was talking about at the time. This member was talking about the harmonized sales tax. This honourable member said, "I will call it the HST if you want, I don't care what I call it, it is a bad tax and that is why I prefer to call it the BST, it is a bad tax.".

Mr. Speaker, this same member went on to say, "We can't reduce it, we can 't increase it, we can't police it, we can't administer it, it is all gone to Ottawa. Why in Heaven's name would we do that? Why would we do it? It just addles your mind to even start to think about

[Page 3588]

it.". That is the end of the quote. That is what that honourable member said in this House on December 10, 1996. What is most interesting is not necessarily what the member was saying, but how that member concluded. What the member did at the end of his remarks where he blasted the harmonized sales tax, was that he moved an amendment to a piece of government legislation. He moved an amendment to remove all the words after "that" and substitute the following words: "the existing provincial sales tax with respect to collection and administration remain the exclusive responsibility of the Government of Nova Scotia and that the rate be determined by a fair tax commission.".

Who was that mystery speaker? Who was that mystery man, Mr. Speaker? That mystery man, who is still a member of the House was, in fact, the person who is now the Government House Leader, the Deputy Premier, the member for Hants West back in 1996 when he was over on this side of the House calling for a fair tax commission. Just like the Liberals before him, when he migrated again from this side of the House back over to that side of the House, he managed to forget that he had ever called for a fair tax commission.

Mr. Speaker, so it is not with a great deal of hope that I say that I support what is in Bill No. 50, which was brought forward by the member for Lunenburg West. I don't have a great deal of hope because I don't really expect that if and when that member ever gets back over to that side of the House that he will actually remember that he ever called for this. I don't expect the members who are currently in government to remember that they promised this very same thing in their election platform of 1998. I don't expect that they remember that because to the chagrin of the voters in Nova Scotia, the people on that side have shown themselves just as adept at forgetting promises they make on the campaign trail.

Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that this kind of commission is exactly what we need. As I have remarked before in this Chamber, this government's entire agenda is being driven by their promise of a tax cut two years from now. The health agenda, the education agenda, the social assistance agenda, every agenda they have, the roads agenda, everything is being driven by the need to be able to promise a 10 per cent tax cut two years from now. That is a darn shame. That is a shame when the entire public policy agenda of the province is hijacked by the desire of the members on that side to offer a tax cut just before the next election and everything is being subordinated to that.

Mr. Speaker, as I have also pointed out on previous occasions, the members on that side aren't telling the whole truth about what they are promising. They are not pointing out that the 10 per cent cut is 10 per cent only of the Nova Scotia tax, which is itself 57.5 per cent of federal tax, and by my math that means the cut is only 3.6 per cent. They like the sound of 10 per cent better than telling the whole truth, which is that it is 3.6 per cent, but even that is not the whole truth, because what they are not saying, what they are not revealing, and what I asked the Minister of Finance to reveal during debate on the estimates, and the answer that he has still not supplied to me, weeks later, is the number of people in Nova Scotia who don't pay any tax at all. Those people will get precisely nothing from the

[Page 3589]

3.6 per cent tax cut that that crowd over there is promising. I will say to the Minister of Finance again, I am still waiting for that answer, I am still waiting and I am not surprised that you don't want the public to know just how many people will get zero benefit from this tax cut, which is now driving the government's agenda.

[5:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I am still waiting for that answer. That is just one of the many issues that this tax commission that the Liberal Party is proposing could look at. There is the whole question that has never been resolved, despite the bleeding of the members in the Conservative Party and the members in the Liberal Party when they were in Opposition about the blended sales tax or the harmonized sales tax. When they were on this side of the House they thought it was a terrible tax. The person who is now the Government House Leader said, it simply addles the brain even to think about it. He said it was a bad tax. That is why he prefers to call it the BST. Now that he is over on that side and is in a position to actually do something about it, he appears to have conveniently forgotten the concern he had when he was over on this side of the House.

Mr. Speaker, there are some very real and substantial questions about how the harmonized sales tax is impacted on the people who earn the least in this province, the people who need the most. It is a regressive tax, which means that people on the poor end of the scale pay more as a proportion of their income than people on the upper end of the scale. That really needs to be looked at, and I don't expect that crowd to want to look into it. I am not sure that crowd wants to because, certainly, when they were in government, they expressed absolutely no desire to look into the impact of the BST that they brought in on the poor of Nova Scotia.

There is this whole question of decoupling that this fair tax commission could look at. That government announced decoupling, the impact of which was an immediate tax increase for Nova Scotians, or at least a tax decrease that didn't flow through to them. We really need to look at that now that we are in more control of our tax system. What exactly is it that we are going to do with it? That crowd over there is giving us no information on that. Bracket creep, I will agree with the member for Lunenburg West at least that far, that that is a real and substantial issue that needs to be considered.

What about the tax credit for family caregivers that that crowd over there in the Conservative Party, now sitting on the government side, promised just in the last election, less than two years ago? There are plenty of caregivers in my constituency that would love to see that tax credit because, heaven knows, the government is not offering them the support they need through Home Care Nova Scotia. There are some people in a very bad way and the tax credit that they promised is the least they can do. I really mean that, it is the least they can do, because there is so much more to be done for family caregivers in Nova Scotia.

[Page 3590]

What about property taxes? What about business occupancy tax? What about the issue of whether property taxes should pay for education, which as I mentioned yesterday has been a thorn in the side of municipalities for a very long time? What about the new proposal that a deed transfer tax should be instituted in every municipality in the province and set at the rate of 1.5 per cent, which would represent the newer, higher tax in the majority of Nova Scotian municipalities? What about tobacco taxes? What about the issue of environmental taxes? What about the fact that we have no proper accounting through tax expenditures in this province? That crowd over there in the Liberal Party, when they were in government, didn't do anything about it.

So far, here, it is just a long list of issues that this crowd over here, now that they are in government, aren't even touching. The NDP has proposed and supported a fair tax commission for a long time. That is why we support this bill; that is why we think it should go forward.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of this particular bill that is now before the House, the tax committee bill.

Mr. Speaker, as we all know over the last number of years, I think if we looked at our tax system here in Nova Scotia, I believe, as legislators, we have come to realize a number of important . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Next speaker.

MR. MACKINNON: Yes, thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for . . .

MR. MACKINNON: No, I was standing here waiting. I couldn't hear myself, let alone . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Well, we are waiting for you. (Interruption)

MR. MACKINNON: I started to speak, Mr. Speaker, and there was too much noise.

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

MR. MACKINNON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Well, at least I knew I would get somebody's attention sooner or later. (Interruptions) It won't be quite as attuned as the last speech.

[Page 3591]

Mr. Speaker, as we know, over the last number of years, as legislators (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, I speak in support of this particular bill because, as we have come to realize over the last 10 to 15 years, legislators are coming to realize that there is only so much money that the taxpayers are willing to pay. This continual increase of taxation, whether it be to measure up against the (Interruptions)

This is amazing. Mr. Speaker, I can't even hear myself with the hum that is in here.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask all members to give this member the same courtesy that he shows each and every one of you when you speak (Interruptions).

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I will take that as a compliment. (Interruptions) I have no choice.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the honourable members either to take their seats, please, or take their conversation outside. (Interruptions) Order, please. I ask the honourable members to either take their seats or take their conversation outside, please.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I heard your direction to the honourable members, I thought that that was considered unparliamentary. (Laughter)

MR. SPEAKER: I may have to take that under advisement before I make a decision.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I didn't think my last speech was that nasty. With regard to this particular piece of legislation, I support this particular piece of legislation because it is an opportunity for all members of the Legislature to review the process by which we commission taxation on the people of Nova Scotia; whether it be provincial or municipal, because what we do here in the House has a direct impact on the taxation at the municipal level. We have seen in just the past number of weeks and months the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations trying to grapple with the equalization plan that was put forth by his department and rebuffed by the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities.

In essence, what we have seen over the last 20 years or so is a continual increase of taxation. As we all know, taxation first came into being as a war measure to raise funds for the government to be able to fight the war and, for whatever reason, that continued to stick.

Mr. Speaker, I think in the last 10 years, in particular, governments have been grappling with ways to try to raise more revenue, but at the same time realizing that Nova Scotians are becoming very resentful of the high taxation. That is an issue that governments of different political stripes have had to grapple with, there are no two ways about it.

[Page 3592]

Mr. Speaker, I noticed what this particular government seems to be doing, it has sent the message out that there are no new taxes this year but, in reality, there are new taxes by virtue of the fact that there is a wealth of increased user fees here in Nova Scotia as well as a number of new user fees. As one member has calculated on a previous date, possibly that would amount to upwards of $90 million plus in additional revenue for the provincial government. So any which way you look at it, a tax is a tax. I believe that this particular bill is worthy of some support simply because what it does is it allows all the stakeholders, both in industry, labour, the government and, indeed, making the Auditor General's Office inclusive into this process in a genuine effort to ensure that the review of the taxation system that we have here in Nova Scotia will yield a very positive result at the end of the day.

Mr. Speaker, I was a little disappointed two weeks ago when the Premier stood in his place in response to a question from the member for Lunenburg West and indicated that effective April of next year the debt would not continue to rise. Clearly that is not the case and his own officials at the Department of Finance paint a totally different picture altogether. Schedule 19 of the projected consolidated statement of the net direct debt shows that the debt will continue to rise annually for the next three years. (Interruption)

The honourable member for Colchester North would like me to quote the figures so I will certainly do that, just to demonstrate quite clearly that, in fact, the Premier of the province in his place during Question Period was absolutely wrong on what he said. He said that the debt would not continue to rise after next spring, next April.

AN HON. MEMBER: He didn't say that, did he?

MR. MACKINNON: Yes, he did. Yet the estimates from the Department of Finance will show that the debt will increase by approximately $57 million over the previous year. So next year the debt will continue to grow and then in the following fiscal year, 2003-04, it will again continue to increase from $11.75 billion to $11.77 billion. So, Mr. Speaker, the debt continues to grow and these are the figures from the Department of Finance.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow we will sit from 12:00 noon until 10:00 p.m. The order of business will be the Committee of the Whole House on Bills and/or Public Bills for Second Reading. I guess that is all there is and I move the House do now adjourn.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for the adjournment of the House and the hours are 12:00 noon to 10:00 p.m.

[Page 3593]

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The House is adjourned until 12:00 noon tomorrow to 10:00 p.m.

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 43

MR. SPEAKER: The House will now move to the emergency debate.

The honourable member for Hants East moved a motion that the House would consider an emergency debate this evening. The motion was that the business of the House be set aside to debate the closure of Prince Colliery, Cape Breton.

[6:00 p.m.]

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

NAT. RES. - PRINCE COLLIERY:

CLOSURE - ECONOMIC IMPACT

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak in relation to this emergency resolution. I must say it is not a happy occasion here in this House and I would say that today is another day that the communities of industrial Cape Breton would rather not have seen. The federal Liberal Government has abandoned its attempt to sell the Prince Mine and has told the 440 employees that their jobs will come to an end. In fact, as I understand it, 150 of those jobs will end immediately and the rest of them will be wound up over the summer and into the fall.

I had the unfortunate duty today to be in Cape Breton at the funeral of a long-time friend of myself and of the Party, Alex Macdonald, and on the way back, of course, we were monitoring the news as we came off the Island and that was the way I first found out that this announcement was to be made, the fact that these jobs were going to be lost. I heard the Mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality say that this was another blow to the economy of Cape Breton. He pointed out, and I think quite correctly, that when you look at the multiplier effect that the wages from these jobs had in the economy of the island that, in fact, the job losses will likely be much heavier than just the 440 direct jobs that were associated with the Prince Mine.

[Page 3594]

As federal Minister Goodale made his announcement this morning, he indicated that although he was making the announcement about the job losses, about the closure of the Prince Mine, he said that he wasn't there to talk about severance packages, he wasn't prepared to talk about the pensions for the coal miners, about the economic security of the families of those people who would be affected by the layoffs. He did say that there was going to be another $28 million added to the Economic Development envelope and that it was to be used to try to offset or correct some of the losses that were going to be felt in that community.

That is a small measure by a federal Liberal Government that has deserted the people of Cape Breton Island. It seems that every time we hear about the way in which the federal Liberal Government attempts to deal with the people of Cape Breton Island, it is more in punishing them for some perceived wrongs in the past rather than trying to assist them to build a strong economy on the Island. So, I have to ask the question, where were the Members of Parliament today? Where were they on behalf of the people of Cape Breton Island? Where was Roger Cousiner or Mark Eyking?

Perhaps you remember, Mr. Speaker, as I do, during the last federal election as they went on the campaign trail to tell people, you need to have a federal Liberal representative in the House of Commons to look after you, to look after your interests, to speak up for you, to keep Cape Breton in the government fold. That was the message that they had for people across the Island. Well, where were they today? That whole rhetoric has a hollow sound to it when we look at it in the context of the announcement today. It is the distant sound of an echo fading into time.

Today, all that the federal MP could offer was the belief that Cape Bretoners had the tools to replace the jobs that were lost. I ask you the question, is that leadership from the federal Liberal Government? Where is the commitment to economic development? Where is the commitment to community driven economic development on the Island?

I don't know whether or not we are going to be joined in this debate by the member for Cape Breton North. I know that before he came here he worked in community economic development and I am sure he will have something to say about the necessity of investing in community driven economic development policies that allow a community to fulfill its potential. At least I hope he will have something to say about that; he has been loud and very forward in his rhetoric about being able to get things done with the Northside General Hospital. Perhaps as he sits on that side of the floor, he will have some ability to influence his colleagues to support the work that I assume he did in his community prior to getting elected to this House.

Mr. Speaker, to date we have heard nothing from the federal Liberal Government and we have really heard nothing from the provincial Conservative Government here in Halifax. I don't think that should surprise any of us; the Liberals use the electorate when it is

[Page 3595]

convenient and the Tories, as you know, have conducted a campaign against Cape Breton now that goes back almost four years. Both the Liberals and the Conservatives have failed the people of Cape Breton Island, and they continue to fail the people of Cape Breton Island. The only voices speaking up directly for those people who are affected, the only ones who have seen the possibilities that exist in Cape Breton are those who have taken the time to examine all of what makes up the Island, its people, its resources, its abilities, and its obvious talents at being able to recover from these serious economic blows.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say that that is why we are here in the Legislature, that is why we, the New Democratic Party, are here to speak up on behalf of the people of Cape Breton Island. Certainly I don't think there has been anybody more passionate in defence of the interests of Cape Breton Island than the member for Cape Breton Centre, who has consistently and eloquently argued on behalf of the interests of the people of the Island and continues to do so. Today we were certainly proud to watch him stand and put very pointed questions to the Minister of Economic Development around what it was that we here, in this Legislature, could be doing to support the people of Cape Breton Island.

I believe that when we keep up the pressure on the government, ultimately they will see the wisdom of doing what it is they ought to do. We, in the New Democratic Party, know that despite the fact that the economy of the Island is shrinking by about 0.5 per cent a year, we know that the fact that it has personal incomes that are 31 per cent lower than the national average, we know that despite the fact that unemployment remains higher on Cape Breton Island than in almost anywhere else in the country, there remains the possibility of a bright future.

Mr. Speaker, you may recall that we released a report entitled Opportunities for Cape Breton, and it reflected the collective wisdom of Cape Bretoners who attended the round tables we held on economic development. The document we presented identified the main obstacle blocking economic renewal. That obstacle is government's failure, both the federal and the provincial governments' failure to adequately build and maintain the pillars of an economically sound region. It is the government's unfair treatment of Cape Breton. Our round table identified concrete targets for government initiatives designed to correct long-standing infrastructure and business incentive problems.

I want to say, Mr. Speaker, I think this is a time when we should be putting forward some very concrete ideas. I want to share some of those with you because we specifically determined that Cape Breton needs adequate air, rail, and highway links and a proper harbour. Outdated transportation links exaggerate the challenge of being a long distance from major markets.

Cape Breton business development requires targeted tax incentives to spur investment. These incentives must recognize the special challenges facing Cape Breton business. They must be targeted at growing sectors that have a sound base on the Island, specifically,

[Page 3596]

governments must introduce tax incentives to attract information technology, offshore oil and gas, tourism and related businesses. These are growing sectors with much promise on Cape Breton Island.

Mr. Speaker, Cape Breton must be the area of first priority for new federal and provincial jobs. Specific initiatives include making Cape Breton the energy centre for Nova Scotia's new oil and gas industry. Can you imagine if there was the government will to do that? The provincial government must ensure that there is an immediate start on the extension of the natural gas pipeline to industrial Cape Breton. Cape Breton shouldn't have to wait for seven years before getting natural gas.

These initiatives, however, are not enough on their own. Governments must also invest in the other pillars of sound economy, proper health care, education, community services, a strong school system, a strong UCCB and proper health and community services are the foundation of an economic rebirth in Cape Breton. Governments must recognize this and they must act accordingly. Specifically, Mr. Speaker, we have called on the province to change the funding formula as it relates to UCCB so that the university can properly respond to the communities' economic and educational needs. This will also help to control crushing tuition fees that have risen 127 per cent in the last decade.

Mr. Speaker, we must immediately stop cutting health services in hospitals, such as Northside General Hospital and the Cape Breton Regional Hospital. The province must recognize that health care plays a key role in economic development, through the jobs it delivers and by making Cape Breton an attractive place to locate. We have to ensure that social service agencies have the resources to deal with the effects of an aging population, unemployment and growing poverty.

Mr. Speaker, we have discovered one other important thing during our meetings. We discovered that Cape Bretoners are confident that they can engineer their own economic revival there on the Island. Cape Bretoners have confidence that they will be able to take control of their own destiny to create their own economy which won't be at the whim of forces beyond their control. There is a growing sense on Cape Breton that people here can develop a very bright future for themselves if governments are willing to support their efforts. Governments must provide the same opportunities in Cape Breton that they provide elsewhere.

Mr. Speaker, I think it is simply true that Cape Bretoners want nothing less than fair treatment and that John Hamm and Jean Cretien owe them nothing more than that and nothing less. It is our job, it is the job of the NDP caucus to take what we have learned to the governments here in Halifax and in Ottawa and it is our job to fight to ensure that Cape Breton gets the fair treatment it has deserved for so long. That is our job. It is why we are here. Thank you.

[Page 3597]

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

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, this is certainly a sad day in Nova Scotia and indeed on Cape Breton Island with the closure of Prince Mine, leaving some 440 people out of work, not even to mention the associated spinoff jobs as a result of that. I guess it would be very convenient to play the blame game here. In the past history of the Cape Breton Development Corporation, management has blamed labour and labour has blamed management, Tories have blamed Liberals, Liberals have blamed Tories, the NDP has blamed everybody involved. I don't think that now is the time to play the blame game, not at all. Now is the time, if there ever was a time, for all three Parties to come together to help out the workers in that industry, the workers and their families.

[6:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, to its credit, this government established a special, all-Party committee as a means to share information and ideas on the potentially devastating closure of Devco. It is time for that committee to meet once again to ensure that workers are treated fairly. We have a very important role to play in that process as provincial legislators. We must also ensure that additional monies that are being added to the Cape Breton Growth Fund will be put to good use, as well. There is now supposedly $108 million in the Cape Breton fund with the help of the transition. I would hope that the new monies would be used for adjustment in mining communities like Sydney Mines, North Sydney, Glace Bay and New Waterford.

Mr. Speaker, I know that a lot of people today are asking the question, where do we go from here? I, for one, don't think we can live in the past, at this point in time. Is there a future for coal? I sincerely hope that there is a future for Cape Breton coal, but the glory days, if there ever were glory days in coal mining, the glory days are over. There was a time when well over 10,000 people were employed in the industry and I am sure, as my colleagues understand here, that coal mining has never been a safe job. Hundreds of miners have died in mines throughout Nova Scotia but Cape Breton has been especially hard hit.

Mr. Speaker, what is the best way now for us to accomplish the goals of Cape Bretoners in mining communities and, indeed, throughout industrial Cape Breton? Well, this provincial government has made many promises and they have said in the past that Cape Breton had special problems, unique, as my honourable colleague referred to earlier, unique in this country in terms of unemployment. The unemployment has officially gone back up to 20 per cent, but in mining communities such as Glace Bay and New Waterford, everyone knows that the true rate is closer to 50 per cent.

It is my opinion and the opinion of the Liberal caucus that the time for action is upon us, it is now. If there is not going to be a future in coal there must be a future somewhere else in another industry. I made reference to, if there is a future for, indeed, coal mining in Cape Breton, there are groups that are now, and have been organized for some time, such as the

[Page 3598]

Cape Breton Miners' Co-op, who have good, solid proposals they have put forward to government; they have put forward to the all-Party committee here in the Legislature, they still want to mine coal. My position on that is very clear and very adamant; if, indeed, people can be put to work in Cape Breton mining coal, then let's do it and let's do whatever we have to to ensure that that continues.

It is also time that the government stopped abdicating control over the economic development in Cape Breton. Of the $108 million in the fund that has been set up, the economic growth fund, the province has come up with only $12 million. That money is not over and above the amount that is devoted to economic development in the area. The money is the only money that has been dedicated to Cape Breton.

Mr. Speaker, it is also time that the government began investing in infrastructure for the area as well. There are towns and communities such as Glace Bay, Sydney Mines, New Waterford and North Sydney that require massive amounts of money and investments in basic infrastructure. That is infrastructure that other Nova Scotians take for granted. People in Halifax, I understand, and other parts of this province complain about potholes, well you haven't seen a pothole until you have travelled in industrial Cape Breton. Another area of infrastructure is highways. It is time that a twinned 100-Series Highway connected industrial Cape Breton with the Strait area of Cape Breton, because co-operation between that area of the province and the industrial area could produce some benefits for the entire province.

Mr. Speaker, communities are not going to die because of this, and we, as legislators, have to ensure that, that communities are not going to disappear. This is a subject that affects me personally, I represent an area that has a very large contingent of workers within the industry, within the Cape Breton Development Corporation. I have friends and I have family who are going to lose their jobs. It is incumbent upon the federal government, right now, to ensure that the appropriate workforce adjustment program is in place for the workers in that industry. It is one of my major concerns at this point in time. We know the struggles of the past, and I think we are quite aware of some of the struggles that will be coming upon us in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I am not prepared to stand here, as I have been asked a number of times today by reporters and news people, and say that this is the end for Cape Breton, that this signifies no future for the Island. I don't believe that for a minute, not for a second. I know that because of the people who are involved. They are the ones who will make the difference. The people involved in mining communities such as Glace Bay, Sydney Mines, New Waterford and North Sydney, who have, over the past, worked extremely hard in many industries. Not just coal mining, but coal mining was one of the primary industries as was the steel industry in Cape Breton, the resource-based sector put Cape Breton on the map, and indeed fuelled the rest of the economy in this province for many years.

[Page 3599]

We are now turning the corner, so to speak. A lot of people are asking the question, where do we go from here? It is a valid, legitimate question, because they are worried, they are concerned about their future and the future of their children and their children's children. As I said, I am not prepared to stand here and say that this is the end, that there is nowhere else to go. I am not naive enough to think that the money that is being put into various programs, all of sudden, is going to replace the massive amount of funding that has been there over the years. Since its inception, there has been close to $2 billion invested in the Cape Breton Development Corporation.

Mr. Speaker, it employed a lot of people. It did a lot for the economy of Cape Breton over those years. I, for one, am saddened that that is not going to be the case anymore. At the same time, I think we have to look towards the future at this point in time. I am not saying that and being flippant about it or any other matter, I say it, realistically believing that the destiny of Cape Breton Island, now more than ever before, is in the hands of its own people. They must be given the tools to make sure that that destiny comes through. Now those tools may be in the form of economic growth funds; those tools may be in the form of education.

The provincial government has a role to play as well. We need an economic development plan that will provide sustainable long-term employment in Cape Breton. Cape Bretoners don't always look towards the federal government to provide everything. They also look towards their provincial government to help out, because Cape Bretoners are Cape Bretoners, first of all - I don't think there is anybody in Cape Breton who will tell you otherwise - but they are also Nova Scotians with a very proud heritage of being from an island of caring people and a proud heritage, as well, of being from a province such as Nova Scotia.

As I said, I am disappointed, I am worried, I am concerned about the decision to close Prince Mine. I would have preferred that Prince Mine had been successfully sold. But now, we have to take care of the people who are affected the most, the workers in the industry. There are a lot of questions that are involved, I am sure, which will be coming up over the coming weeks and the coming months that will follow. There are negotiations that have to get underway and have to be completed with both the employees of the Cape Breton Development Corporation, management of Devco and, indeed, the community will be watching very closely as to what happens in those negotiations.

We are concerned, we are concerned as provincial legislators, and I take some exception to remarks earlier by my colleague that the two area MPs are not concerned about the future of their own island. I personally know the MP for my area, Mr. Roger Cousiner, who is a very hard-working, dedicated individual. He has cared for communities in Cape Breton for a very long time, previous to becoming an MP. He is a very caring person and I know today that he is just as concerned as we are in this Legislature about what has happened.

[Page 3600]

Again, now is the time, more than ever, that the people of Cape Breton will take control of their own destiny, provided that the tools are there. The tools have to be there from both the provincial and federal governments in order to ensure that this is not the end, this is only the beginning. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, it gives me no pleasure to rise tonight and speak to this issue. It is indeed a dark day and one of the rewarding things is that all members of this House are speaking with the same voice, and that is the time to come together, to set aside the partisan nature of politics in Nova Scotia and indeed in any jurisdiction, federal as well, to see how we can, in fact, deal with this significant issue.

I am confident that it was a decision that was not taken lightly by the federal government, that they did demonstrate a willingness to try to work with the people of Cape Breton to ensure that if it were possible, there would be a coal industry in Cape Breton. Like the member who spoke previously, I believe that there remains the potential for a coal industry - not at this point and not a coal industry that existed in the past - but something that is new and different.

Any time 400-plus jobs are taken from a community and, in fact, coming on the heels of previous job losses, it is a significant and devastating event. The provincial government had to deal with the issue of the closure of Sysco and I see a great many parallels in the way in which these two events, while separate, have unfolded. That in no way minimizes the impact and the devastation it creates in the communities and in the families. I would say too that this is an event that touches not just the people in this Legislature, but every individual in this province regardless of where you live in the province. I think you can feel some of the pain and anguish that those people in Cape Breton are feeling. I believe that if we work together, if we work with our federal counterparts, we will be able to help get through this situation.

[6:30 p.m.]

Both the previous speakers talked about looking out past today's events to what can emerge. I, too, believe that very much the people of Cape Breton are the way to the future, that the resilience and strength of those people and their communities will see them through this difficult time, and we as elected representatives - again whether we are provincial representatives, municipal representatives or federal representatives - have to listen to what those people in those communities are telling us. I believe that there is, on the horizon, a bright future for Cape Breton. It may be very difficult to see that today, but I do see clear examples that a new, and stronger, more diversified economy is emerging.

[Page 3601]

Previous speakers talked about making strategic and wise investments, to use the money that has been allocated by the provincial government and by the federal government to assist through this time of difficulty more strategically, and with a greater view towards sustainability and the future than has perhaps been the historic practice. I think for a great many years there were a number of projects that came forward with little view of longevity other than to create short-term employment projects. That does not work; it hasn't worked in Cape Breton historically and it hasn't worked in other regions in the province. More and more people who are tasked with economic development strategies are recognizing that what has to happen is the federal and provincial governments, the elected representatives, have to work with the private sector to create opportunities that will last long beyond the initial investment.

Make no mistake, there is a tremendous amount of money being allocated specifically to deal with restructuring that will be required as a result of the closure of the mines in Cape Breton, but what we have to do is target that money to areas where there will be long-term, viable jobs created. There is no mistake in my mind that this decision to close the mine rests solely with the federal government. Again, they came to that decision over time and I am sure with some reluctance. I know some of the people who serve on the board and I know that they believe in Cape Breton. I know that they believe that, if they can work together through this piece, we can actually point to the events of the last little while as a turning point in terms of the history.

Everyone speaks with a great deal of pride to the history of coal and steel and that resource-driven economy that for a great many years fuelled all of the economy of Nova Scotia, but times change, situations change and technology changes, and it makes what was once a viable working industry no longer practical. We have seen that in a number of jurisdictions internationally; the coal industries of England have had to change substantially from what they were many decades ago. The coal industries in the United States have had to undergo similar transformations and I believe that we can see that happen here.

Mr. Speaker, there are times when people point to the province and the Department of Economic Development and ask, what is it that you are doing to help Cape Breton through these difficult times? I can tell you - is there more we can do? - yes, there is. Will we do more in the future? Yes, we will. But one message that is clear to us, and has been repeated by various groups within Cape Breton itself who are tasked with economic development, is that we cannot do things in the same old way. There is no real advantage in the long run to taking public dollars and simply throwing them at a problem.

Mr. Speaker, we do have to redouble our efforts to ensure that this time of difficulty is actually the catalyst to bring us together to a new and bright economic future. There are a number of participants who need to come to the table. One of the previous speakers talked about the all-Party committee that met to discuss this issue some time ago, and which has been in abeyance to some degree in the last number of months, and that it would be a good

[Page 3602]

strategic step forward to bring that committee back into action. I believe that will happen because, again, this is not about partisan politics or about particular agendas. It is about coming together to share a collective knowledge about how a problem can be solved.

Mr. Speaker, there is a role for ECBC and there is a role for CBC and the boards of trade and the provincial government and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. I believe they have a dynamic, young leadership in that community that can help bring these things together and we can work together to harness not just the assets we have, but also the vision and the power to make things different.

The talk about investing strategically and infrastructure. There is no question, Mr. Speaker, that we have to look to a future that includes rail and a highway infrastructure that is second to none, to see how we can develop the port and to see how we can leverage opportunities that exist in the oil and gas industry - not just in oil and gas, but in the knowledge economy.

On a number of occasions we have all pointed to Silicon Island and the successes that that institution and organization have enjoyed in terms of positioning Cape Breton to be a large player in the knowledge-based economy. I believe that the young people who have coalesced around that institution and that facility are certainly pointing to a future that will be vibrant and strong and not rely on those traditional industries.

Mr. Speaker, the Mayor and the Council of CBRM have spoken of the need to ensure that the Port of Sysco remains as part of the infrastructure. Certainly we are sympathetic in listening to what they are saying. We are attempting to ensure that as we move forward, through this piece, that that piece of infrastructure is there to benefit the community. I believe that the future will lie in harnessing that particular asset and leveraging it to take advantage of oil and gas exploration or the transportation of container shipments, perhaps even coal from other communities. I think we can target our efforts and ensure that those things happen.

I believe, too, that we need to look at some of the things we have done in the past as a provincial government, working with our federal counterparts. It is not all about call centres, but certainly around industrial Cape Breton there is a changing economic structure. The EDS call centre has created not just employment opportunities but a changing kind of belief in themselves and the future. A number of speakers have spoken of the strength of the community and the community leaders. I think that is where we will find the wisdom to go forward from this point.

Mr. Speaker, we have participated in a number of activities with our federal counterparts, to help grow a more sustainable economy. We helped facilitate 15 trade missions in the last year that focused on companies out of Cape Breton. I can tell you that those companies have had success in the export market.

[Page 3603]

Mr. Speaker, I can talk about 108 jobs that were created at Tesma and the 400 jobs that were created at the call centre - actually ramping up from 400 at the call centre in Sydney. I can also tell you that we are looking at other companies that have recognized the talent, potential and ability of the workforce in Cape Breton. They are focusing their energies on making a business case to create employment opportunities in that area.

Mr. Speaker, we have focused on Cape Breton in our Open to the World publication. Every issue has carried an article and information about Cape Breton. In the spring issue there are 22 stories on Cape Breton and its people and the successes they have had. That is 22 entrepreneurs, 22 stories of success. That is part of what we need to do. Certainly when an issue such as the closure of the mines comes forward, everyone focuses on that event, and well they should. I think we also need to focus on some of the successes the people of Cape Breton have enjoyed as they look to a future that doesn't rely entirely on coal and steel.

Mr. Speaker, we used Cape Breton as two pilot sites for data collection in support of Target Nova Scotia. That is a Web-based, state-of-the-art, GIS database promoting the region's capabilities to site selectors. This project and the Web site, the final stages of development, have been viewed as a national best practice for investment.

Mr. Speaker, global companies know about Cape Breton. Cape Breton figures in many of their futures. They recognize an opportunity. They have a skilled workforce. They have a workforce that is dedicated. We can look to the EDS Systemhouse Inc. experience. When they initially were invited to consider industrial Cape Breton, they weren't all that familiar with the area and they had some reservations, but I can tell you they now point to the Sydney call centre as one of their flagship enterprises. It was very much their success with the workforce and the opportunity in industrial Cape Breton that led them to consider expanding and creating a facility in Port Hawkesbury.

We have, clearly, as a government and as a Department of Economic Development, a mandate to help grow the economy. Is it happening fast enough to satisfy even myself, as minister? No, it isn't. Certainly when members talk about their concerns and the level of unemployment in that region, it causes me concern as it does every member of this Legislature that we aren't able to create the jobs quickly enough to address the problems that are before us. But we are working diligently and I believe the more that we can come together with a common purpose and a common goal, the better off we all will be.

Mr. Speaker, I believe that one of the ways in which we can look at the future - and I believe there is a future for coal in Cape Breton - is through the energy strategy discussion paper that is now being put together and the talks that will occur around that. I believe that will be an opportunity for various groups, who perhaps have a greater appreciation for what the coal industry will look like, to have their say and to help to point the Government of Nova Scotia in the right direction.

[Page 3604]

Mr. Speaker, Cape Breton is very much an economy in transition. I believe though that by working together, we can use the events of today and the events of the last number of months to create an economy that is stronger and more vibrant than the economy in the past. I think part of what has to happen through this is a change in the culture of the community itself.

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, one of the few points that I do agree with the last speaker on is it certainly gives me no pleasure to be speaking here tonight. I do have to say some words because one of the previous speakers said, somewhat eloquently, it is not the time to play the blame game. Well, it is not about placing blame, it is about placing responsibility. Clearly, voters in that region were told by the Prime Minister that you support me and support my government, send me MPs on this side of the government and we will look after you. Well, there is a responsibility that comes with that. There is not a blame. It is a responsibility. So not only that, but another issue I guess I have to take with that speaker too is, I didn't say these people didn't care, it is just that they weren't listened to.

Where do we go from here, Mr. Speaker? Why did the federal government withdraw? Why did the federal government literally come in under stealth and make this announcement? Today, I have heard the government respond and say they knew nothing of this - the federal government did not include them in its decision. I guess that opens two questions for me. Certainly one is why didn't their own people who are on the board advise them? The other is why wouldn't the federal government think enough of its provincial partner to tell them that? Those are troubling questions.

[6:45 p.m.]

Let's look at moving forward with this situation that the federal government, the federal Liberal Government, has put us in. This government knew where the Devco situation was going some time ago and one would have thought that they would have been sympathetic to the plight of the regional municipality. I say that inasmuch as why wouldn't the federal government have handed over the government wharf in Sydney to the municipality instead of making them pay for it?

In the way of a positive suggestion I would like to state publicly that I think that as a show of good faith the federal government should remit any monies taken from the municipality, give it back to them and give them that wharf for a dollar. I think that would be a show of good faith that the government understands the economic blow that the closure of that coal mine is going to mean to the industrial area. In conjunction with that, I believe that the provincial government should reciprocate and make sure that the regional

[Page 3605]

municipality gets the Sysco wharves. I think what that leads to is, again, a show of good faith and trust in the regional municipality.

I clearly state, Mr. Speaker, that they are the only ones that are providing any kind of economic renewal plan. The regional municipality, I would say, under the leadership of John Whalley to a great degree, is showing leadership. He is being very conscientious about it so I think, along with Mayor Morgan, they should be congratulated. I believe that both levels of government, if they were to do that, it would send out a signal to everybody in industrial Cape Breton that we hear what you are saying and we are investing. We are, as they say, putting our money where our mouths are. That is one option.

Another option, and as one of the previous speakers spoke about, was the miners co-op. Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Natural Resources knows this very well, through our committee and through personal conversations and through correspondence, that I have personally supported the members of the Cape Breton Miners Co-op. I believe that it is one way to go; as a matter of fact I will go so far as to say that as someone who is not seen particularly as a friend of Cape Breton coal miners is Mr. Shannon, Chairman of the Cape Breton Development Corporation, but he is in favour and he has been on record as being in favour of some form of employee buyout.

So, you have a group like the Cape Breton Miners Co-op, who are willing to invest their own monies, in conjunction with an accepted and knowledgable mining person in the name of Mr. Steve Farrell, whose title, I believe, is President of Donkin Resources Limited. Mr. Farrell is well known and well respected throughout this country in the mining fields so I believe that is something that should be looked at. In support of that co-op and in support of making sure that they can get ahead and get in operation as quickly as possible, and quite honestly trying to fill the gap for thermal coal, if Devco was to sell them any equipment that is now sitting in the Prince Mine.

Let them have that equipment. They are not going to get a whole lot of money for it on the open market. It is a worthwhile investment, hand it over to them. Encourage. We hear - and I will speak of this a bit later - about community driven, community economic development. What is more grassroots than that? Local companies with former employees willing to invest their own money. We are not talking, give us $10 million and we will open a mine for you - these people are saying, give us some resources. I think part of this resource would be giving that equipment, any useable equipment they could transfer over and I think would ease us into that.

Another problem that I have always mentioned to the folks at the miners' co-op when they were talking in terms of opening Donkin Mine - and it has always worried me because it is not something that comes to light, and I think people that know the area would agree with me - is the transportation of the resource from the mine site to market. The roads aren't 100-Series Highways, and I think that is being extremely modest when we say that. So I

[Page 3606]

believe that is where we come into infrastructure. Another role, I think maybe we could look at the $28 million. I will get into that too, because I don't think that is near enough, but part of that $28 million could go to construction of a route to that mine and would allow that resource to get to market.

There is obviously a market for it; I think everybody agrees with that. If you look at it from - what was it? Two weeks ago when the board of directors and the shareholders of Emera Incorporated met in this very city, I believe it was the president of Emera Incorporated who said we see a bright future for Cape Breton coal in our industry. So there seems to be a commitment from Emera's perspective to burning Cape Breton coal, so shouldn't we have the same commitment to our taxpayers and to our workers and say, there you go, we are going to help you and that is a tangible way to do it. Mr. Speaker, I am afraid that this $28 million will go the way of so many more investment ventures in the Cape Breton area. It goes in - and this may be a bit of a pun, but I don't mean it that way - it goes into a hole and it never comes back out. If we had all the forensic accountants in the world to try to chase the dollars that were spent on Devco and Sysco, I don't think they could do it because of interference along the way.

That is a large part of the problem. When we see monies being flowed into Cape Breton, I worry about that. I worry that this investment will not be put where it should go, and I am in no way apologizing for the statement I am going to make, it has to go in the mining areas. This is money over and above what the province is putting into economic development in various areas of Cape Breton, and it is over and above what the federal government may be putting into areas of Cape Breton. I am not saying that this fund should be allowed to grow and invest to the detriment of Inverness County or Victoria County or Richmond County. I want to be clear on the record about that. This is money over and above that. This is money that is meant to soften - because it doesn't replace - the job loss as it affects these communities. You know we are looking at an investment that the provincial government has stated some of its successes, but what is perplexing is, when they talk about their successes, there has still been an upswing of 2.2 per cent in the unemployment rate in industrial Cape Breton. That is real. Those numbers are real. It is not a figment of Frank Corbett's imagination, or whatever. Statistics Canada is telling us that is there.

Mr. Speaker, we have to stop the bleeding. It is an emergency. That is why we called this debate. I heard some anxious words from the Mayor of Cape Breton Regional Municipality on the weekend, saying that he had hoped that the economic situation in Cape Breton had bottomed out. Then he gets hit with this. It must be awful hard to look at the tax rolls and see the loss of over 400-some jobs and we know the roll-out of the ancillary jobs. We say these miners, 125 are going to be laid off right away, we don't know how many subcontractors have stopped; we don't know what goods and services won't be bought right away.

[Page 3607]

These are real problems. We can't allow any more Economic Development funds to go to the same old gang. We have to allow this money to go in the hands of the people who are affected, the families in the coal mining areas of industrial Cape Breton have to be allowed to manage that. It can't be politicos; it can't be a CEO from some company far away. It has to be done at the grassroots level; it has to have real community input. We have to allow this fund to grow and help.

Mr. Speaker, we need more money. This is not enough. Since Devco has been shut down, we have lost over $300 million a year. That is what Devco meant to the economy of Cape Breton. In total, we have only had an infusion of $108 million. I think the provincial government has to come up to the table with more money. Yes, we have to spend it wisely; yes, we have some money; yes, I do blame the federal government for this. But this provincial government owes it to the people of Cape Breton to get involved and resolve this economic mess. It is a crisis, and we have to do it today. Thank you.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am not going to belabour some of the sentiments that have been made by previous speakers, obviously, it is never a good day when we lose a cornerstone industry that marked the lifeline of Cape Breton for nearly 150 years. I guess I was always known to be somewhat unconventional for some of the statements I have made over the years, when it comes to activities in industrial Cape Breton. That is as much true today as it was since I came to this Legislature.

I recall back in 1990, I believe it was, I spoke at an annual meeting for my colleague, the honourable member for Colchester North. After that particular dissertation that I made at his annual meeting, I was asked, through a question and answer period, what was my position on Sydney Steel? At that particular juncture, I made one of a number of scenarios known as to what my thoughts were. Number one, if it can make money, let it make money, and it would be a very successful industry. If it can't make money, either we sell it or we shut it down. As simple as that. I made a similar-type speech less than a year later in Annapolis Valley at another fundraiser for my colleague, the former member for Annapolis, Earle Rayfuse.

They say sometimes these things are identifiable, and some things are not identifiable. In essence, what I am saying, Mr. Speaker, is what I said back in the early 1990's, that the economy was changing then at quite a rapid pace and, in many respects, we as Cape Bretoners, perhaps either reluctantly, unwittingly or for whatever reason, did not come to terms with that. That is a reality.

[Page 3608]

[7:00 p.m.]

I still believe that there is room for a steel industry in Cape Breton. I still believe that there is room for a coal industry in Cape Breton, albeit that it is obviously not going to be in public hands. I believe that the proposal by the miners' co-operative is very exciting and it has a real potential to allow the mining community to take control of its own destiny, with very little investment from government sources, other than the fact that it would require the provincial government to transfer the leasehold for the Donkin Mine, for example, in this case, over to the miners' co-operative.

Now I realize that the federal government still has some vested interests there but if they are not going to run a coal mining industry, that certainly makes it easier for the provincial government to move in that direction. We have to recognize, Mr. Speaker, that not all coal miners are going to get high-tech jobs; not all coal miners at this juncture or this point in their lives are either willing to or perhaps even able to go back and go through a rather commanding and demanding educational process to meet the needs of the marketplace today. Not every coal miner is going to become an employee at a call centre. These are the realities. That is not just for coal mining, that is for those working in the fishing industry, the steel industry and so on, the resource industries.

I can identify with that, Mr. Speaker, because there are individuals, even in my own family, who would certainly fall within that category. So in essence, the industrial revolution, as we once knew it in Cape Breton, is over and it is time to move on. That is a harsh reality and it is sometimes very difficult for us to accept that.

I was quite excited several weeks ago when the Minister of Economic Development allowed me to access the resources from the Petroleum Directorate to hold a public meeting in Port Morien on the possibility of some of the gas and oil activities off the coast of Donkin- Morien. I held a public session there. It is ironic that Hunt Oil, it is probably the largest, as I understand, the largest privately owned American oil company in the United States. It has offices and investments in western Canada. They bought up or took over the leaseholds for a large tract of land off the coast of Donkin.

In keeping with the thought process on that, it is ironic that back in 1972, when the original drilling for the Donkin coal mine, the exploratory wells or core samples were being made for the Donkin Mine back in 1972, what happened? They discovered natural gas. They discovered gas in 1972 and then again, Mr. Speaker, in 1974 they discovered gas. What did they do? They capped both those wells. Both those wells are inside the leasehold that Hunt Oil now possess.

I was quite pleased that a little more than a week ago, Mr. Miller from Hunt Oil called and asked if I would chair a number of public sessions for Hunt Oil, to help educate the community, because things went so well in Donkin because we brought the fishing interests

[Page 3609]

together, we brought the environmental interests together, we brought the coal mining interests together, we brought together stakeholders from all different aspects, Mr. Speaker. Unfortunately, because the House was open and he wants to hold those meetings before the end of May, I had to decline all except for one. Because it fit my schedule I will be able to moderate that particular meeting.

Mr. Speaker, in Cape Breton we are quite blessed with the fact that we are now becoming, as has been noted by a previous speaker, a centre for excellence in the high-tech industry. All we have to do is point to Silicon Island and all the things that have taken place there with Ken MacLeod and Donnie Snow. They created a whole new era of excitement in the high-tech industry. So much so that I believe Donnie Snow is presently, I wouldn't say physically, but presently has expanded his operations here, to metro and, indeed, overseas. I know that is the type of talent that we have in Cape Breton that will make things a success in Cape Breton for years to come.

We have seen what happened with Tesma over in the Northside Industrial Park. I know back when Sinclair Stevens supported that under a different name, albeit that much of what he did was a failure, this was one success story and you have to give credit where credit is due. The Car Parts Magna International, which was the forerunner to this particular corporation, did indeed allow Cape Bretoners to prove that they are second to none as a workforce.

We have the lowest percentage of work disruption of any region in the province, Mr. Speaker, that is a documented fact from the Department of Economic Development, despite sometimes the optics to the contrary. So while it is not a pleasant day for the coal miners who work at Prince Mine, while it is not a pleasant day to see a payroll of nearly $17 million and $18 million vanish just like that, there is a silver lining in the sense that, yes, there is somewhat of a package, words we could use for the lack of a better phrase, that will help some of those coal miners into their retirement years, or to a transition. Whether it be through a severance package, or a pensionable period, because they have their years of service, or what have you. At least I believe that things are being done in a moderate fashion to help Cape Breton adjust to that new economy.

Mr. Speaker, I was quite pleased in the House today when all members, particularly the government, supported the resolution that I had requesting this House draw more attention to the Fortress of Louisbourg by asking the federal government to make it a high priority for upgrade. As with many federal sites across the country, the Fortress of Louisbourg needs that upgrade. It is serious because it is a vital economic and social development tool for Cape Breton. It is probably one of the best economic generators that we have in Cape Breton at the present time that stimulates the private sector because of all the spin-off industries that take place, all the small, iron shops, mills, craft shops and artisans who work in their own private woodshops and garages and actually supply goods and services to the Fortress of Louisbourg.

[Page 3610]

It would absolutely amaze members of this House if they were to travel through the Mira district or Main-a-Dieu or Louisbourg to find out how many actually do that. It is like going back 25 or 30 years ago in Cape Breton to the rural parts of Cape Breton. You didn't make a living just on one particular livelihood. You would probably do a little farming, a little fishing, a little forestry, similarly that is what is happening as well. We have seen an increase in the crab fishing industry and, Mr. Speaker, things are very positive there.

Again, there are things that the government can do. The transition fund, the biggest concern I have personally with that is to make sure that the stakeholders who are most affected are the ones who will have as much input as possible. I certainly don't want to see the same thing that happened in years past from different political governments, governments of different political stripes, whereby there was a small cluster of supporters of one government or the other who always seemed to be in the place of making decisions. Sometimes they had their own vested interests that didn't always meet the public need or the public good. That is a major concern that I have. It is an issue that I have raised, as you probably would recall, at the Public Accounts Committee when the chairman of the Cape Breton County Economic Development Authority arrived here.

With all due respect, I am always more sensitive to people who have a business background than to those who haven't experienced that. I have a great deal of respect for those just because they don't run their own business, doesn't mean to say that they can't make competent and able decisions to generate good economic and social policy and things that will be beneficial to the community and stimulate the economy and all the good things that we would like - there is a lot to be said for experience. To have stakeholders who have experience, first-hand knowledge of what it is like, I feel is much better. For example, with the Department of Economic Development on this new Nova Scotia Business Inc., although we don't agree with the direction the government is going on that, I know some of those individuals are very credible and experienced and knowledgeable in the business world and they will contribute much to the success of that, where possible.

I was a little disappointed, quite frankly, today, the same day that the announcement was made on the Prince Mine, that the federal government announced $200 million to build a museum in Ottawa, $100 million of that is going to be used to clean up a contaminated site, perhaps from some oil spills or what have you, in the Ottawa area. Mr. Speaker, we have residents, people living in contaminated sites in industrial Cape Breton. We could turn this rather dismal situation into an economic opportunity and, at the same time, provide a safe living environment for people. These are the types of things that if we are going to work collectively together to help address this rather unfortunate situation with the closing of the Prince Mine, then we have to be prepared to put all the cards on the table and cross political boundaries and make sure that indeed those who are directly affected will indeed benefit in the long term. Thank you.

[Page 3611]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on this emergency debate with certainly a great deal of sadness and disappointment in the inability of the federal government to be able to find a private buyer. I think all governments across most of the globe realize that the day of state-run industries and businesses has outlasted its usefulness and that most governments have come to the conclusion that they can no longer underwrite the cost of an industry. The move by the federal government to put the Prince Mine and the operation in Cape Breton into private hands, I think all people of Nova Scotia and many people in Cape Breton certainly were hopeful that that would be a successful process.

Over the last two and a half years, the federal government went through a process where they put out proposals, offers. First they came up with Oxbow - an independent, private corporation on their call for proposals. They went through discussions and negotiations with them for almost two years and were unsuccessful. Then earlier this year, they entered into discussions and negotiations with AMCI, which was the second qualified bidder in that process. Today's announcement is a culmination that, again, they were not successful in transferring or selling the assets to private hands.

[7:15 p.m.]

With that announcement today, it does affect the economy, certainly of Cape Breton and certainly of Nova Scotia, in a way that not only history has traditionally changed, but an economic force that provided dollars into our economy here from the federal government is no longer available to us. It asks some bigger questions of the province, and it asks some bigger questions of the community, of where they want to go and where the future lies.

There is the discussion of what you do with the assets of the federal government's coal interest here. They are extensive and they are major assets, whether it is the Prince and the Phalen Collieries, mine infrastructure, the corporation's international coal pier, the railway, the railway centre and lifting bank centre, as well as the Victoria Junction coal wash plant. These assets now have to be dealt with, and as a province, certainly, many of these assets have a valuable option to the province and to the energy needs of the province, obviously. The federal government, through their coal holdings, has been a significant supplier of coal to Nova Scotia Power. Even in recent years, with restrictions on the high sulphur, 100 million tons was available to be supplied into that energy generation from the federal operation in Cape Breton.

Those things have all changed with today's announcement. For the people of Cape Breton who were employed there, there are 440-some odd families now affected, along with the extended community. Those people were the sole employees of the federal government, and through separation, retirement and various other means, the federal government has a strong obligation to settle with those people and offer them an opportunity, not only for a

[Page 3612]

proper severance or retirement package, but opportunities to be retrained or have occupations in other areas, as they move forward with their lives.

To the greater community, the federal government, on the initial announcement two years ago, committed $68 million to the community at large. The provincial government committed $12 million to economic development and diversification. Those funds are there to be used prudently for long-term business ventures that will employ people in the Cape Breton area, and aid their long-term opportunities to remain in the community and provide useful jobs for themselves and the Province of Nova Scotia.

The announcement today of an additional $28 million, $18 million of it to go into that diversification fund, will help, to some extent, to provide more opportunity, and the $10 million additional going into the Enterprise Cape Breton investment area also helped to mitigate the impact of the closure. It will take strong leadership that I know is there from the Sydney and the Cape Breton community to put together long-term viable industries that these dollars can help establish, promote, whether it is in the technology field, whether it is resource-based or whether it is the service industry.

When you look at an economy that has diversified and has taken advantage of opportunities, I think of an industry that I am associated with as minister, such as the fishing industry, where two short years ago a community like Louisbourg that was struggling with 50 employees at peak time, last summer had employee numbers of over 400, taking advantage of the snow crab fishery. These are opportunities that can be taken advantage of when the resource is there and if we manage the resource with our federal partners properly, they offer some long-term viability.

When we look at Silicon Island and the research and educational opportunities that UCCB - again it offers more opportunity, but it is going to take a community, a province and a private sector that is determined to draw the new future that has to be drawn there. We are looking at opportunities as they present themselves in the provincial government, we are there to support and help as well and encourage in the ways and the resources we have to ensure that those opportunities are there.

I want to take a minute also as we look at that road going down the future, of certainly some of the other situations on the health and the environment of the people of the greater Sydney area that need to be dealt with. The federal government certainly has obligations on the remediation, not only of former operations on the site, but they also have responsibilities for the time they have been the leaseholder over the last number of years.

In dealing with the province's rights and responsibilities, certainly lease 90-2 is a 20 year lease and it was granted under the authority of the Mineral Resources Act. The federal government that operates the Prince Colliery operates under that existing lease and their decision to close this fall means that a legal contract is still in force with the Province of

[Page 3613]

Nova Scotia until they release that contract or turn it back to the province. Certainly under those conditions remediation opportunities that may be there, can be, in the short term, helpful to the local populace, but in the long term, we have to ensure that the federal government does not shirk its responsibility on remediation and environment to the citizens of the greater Sydney area. They have that constitutional, regulatory authority and that authority they must exercise and ensure that cleanup occurs and remediation in those areas is taken care of.

I want to take a minute and talk about the future. There are many opportunities in other areas, but I think it is important to centre a little bit on possibilities for the coal industry. When we look at power generation in this province it is mainly coal based and centred. When we look at the reality of how long coal will produce or generate power in this province, there are a number of years, decades in all probability, that coal will still remain a viable source of energy generation. We know as a province that that resource is there. We know also by the federal government's move today, that a government-run or a government-supported-financed operation, regardless of what level of government it is, is not a viable option.

A long-term, stable, financed private enterprise certainly can share an industry or can provide an opportunity for the coal mining industry into the future. That particular issue, I think, is one that will be explored in the coming months as we move forward in our discussions. Certainly the energy strategy that the honourable Minister of Economic Development and myself co-chair is an excellent opportunity to help focus the discussions, not only with the people of Sydney and Cape Breton, but all Nova Scotians. Coal has an opportunity to continue to play a role in our energy needs, we have ample coal resources in this province. It is a resource, if mined efficiently, that can provide low cost energy supplies and it definitely has to be one of the long-term considerations and discussions in our energy strategy going forward into the new millennium.

The people of Sydney today will certainly be taking stock of their position and what their options are. As we move forward, discussions with the federal government on their obligations and responsibilities to the people of Cape Breton and the people of Nova Scotia, for the mineral industry and coal mining industry in general, will continue. I think the important thing here is rational, sound thinking. Putting in place opportunities and using the money available from the federal government, the additional $28 million along with their $68 million, the $12 million that the province has put in, using that prudently and rationally with planning that ensures there are long-term, viable industries located to benefit the community.

That we ensure environment and remediation obligations by the federal government are upheld and enforced and that that process continues forward on behalf of the health and safety of the people of Sydney, that has to be paramount, as well as the energy strategy as it is developed and moves forward and private interests have an opportunity to look at opportunities they perceive in the mining industry, specifically the coal, that we have the

[Page 3614]

ability to explore them and rational, planned, long-term situations that provide employment and stability in a variety of a diversified economy to the citizens of Cape Breton.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to take part in this emergency debate this evening.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I have had the opportunity to give speeches about coal and coal mining and energy policy for upwards of 10 years. It has occurred in a variety of places and contexts. I know better than to embark upon a discussion of coal and our history in Nova Scotia and what our policy has been and what it ought to be, without actually giving some very personal history. It is important that I do that, or it will become apparent why it is important that I do that. So I just want to say two things about my personal experience and my background. The first is that I am going to remind members that I have a family connection with Cape Breton that is very direct. My late mother was from Glace Bay. I want everyone to know that I grew up in a household in which the realities of life in Cape Breton were always a fact that were referred to, although I grew up here in Halifax.

The second observation is that I have been a labour lawyer working for unions for about 20 years. So I assure you that the interests of workers is something that is always on my mind and certainly my perspective. Now that said, there is a heavily qualified statement to be made and it is this; if, and only if there were something better available as an alternative, it would be no bad thing for the Province of Nova Scotia to get out of the coal mining business. It is not clear, of course, that there is anything better available, as an alternative.

Let me explain very quickly what the problem is. Everyone knows, and several of the previous speakers have said that coal mining is a dangerous and unhealthy activity. This, of course, is with respect to underground coal mining that we are talking about. Everyone knows that it is dangerous and that the 200 year history in Nova Scotia of coal mining is one that has been steeped in blood. Everyone knows it is unhealthy. Pneumoconiosis, black lung disease, is something that is specifically recognized in our Workers' Compensation Act, and of course, in all the medical literature.

[7:30 p.m.]

The coal itself is not an efficient fuel; there are more efficient fuels. Coal itself is a polluting fuel and there are less polluting fuels. Everyone knows that but the question still is: is there something better available as an alternative, given where we are in our province today? We have to ask ourselves, has the movement of the federal government through Devco, or any of the decisions that the province has made, part of a transition energy strategy? Is that what has been going on?

[Page 3615]

There hasn't been an organized transition strategy with respect to energy. Nova Scotia hasn't even had an energy strategy. The last time there was even a draft document was in November 1991. Now we have a new, up-to-date draft discussion paper. Maybe it will be policy. It doesn't call itself a policy. There is lots of work that needs to be done for this province to adopt an energy policy.

If decisions like the decision that the federal government has now made is not part of an energy transition strategy, why was the decision made? I haven't heard anyone give any kind of detailed explanation as to why the decision was made. I want to quote now from what it is that was actually said by the Cape Breton Development Corporation in its announcement today, "After considering various factors the prospects for the future of the mine do not support an ongoing operation." Well, that isn't very informative, "After considering various factors."

What are they talking about? No market? We burn coal in this province to generate 70 per cent of the electricity that we use; Nova Scotia Power is a market. Is it roof-falls? Well, they don't say so. Roof-falls were a problem in the Phelan Mine. Is it the price? They don't say. Is it no purchaser was available and they wanted to get out of the business? Well, that is probably more what it was really.

That leads me to another question. Why was there no purchaser? The question we have to ask ourselves here is, where was Nova Scotia Power in all this? One of the things that stands out is that Nova Scotia Power did not buy any of the assets of Devco. And yet Nova Scotia Power is the main purchaser, the main customer, for that coal. I would have thought if Nova Scotia Power was concerned to have a secure supply of its fuel that three years ago and more, when the federal government said it was getting out of the business of coal mining in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia Power would have looked at the possibility of buying it. I spoke with one of their senior executives three years ago and I asked are they thinking of maybe buying one or more of the coal mines? They were absolutely not interested in buying a coal mine. What they have done is they have invested $200 million in the offshore gas business.

What is going to happen is that Nova Scotia Power, because it owns power electricity generator plants that rely on coal - Point Aconi, where 45 per cent or so of the Prince output goes, and the Lingan mines, where the rest of it goes, they are owned and operated by Nova Scotia Power. Now, it may be that the Lingan plants - those older ones - might get phased - out more quickly. Point Aconi is only 10 years old; it has a life expectancy of probably 20 or 30 years. It will continue to burn coal. It will burn imported coal is what it will do. Nova Scotia Power, make no mistake, although it is beginning to burn some gas here in the metro area, and although it may do some conversions at other plants, will continue to burn coal at Point Aconi, but they will burn imported coal. Is this good for Nova Scotia? The question has to be asked.

[Page 3616]

What happens now? What should happen now? Here is the first thing that should happen. The first thing that should happen is that the federal government should sit down for negotiations with the mine workers union. They say they are going to do that, but more importantly, here is what those negotiations should look like. The federal government should say to the union, what do you want? The union should tell them and the federal government should say, that is it, it is yours; end of talks, no haggling, no trying to nickel and dime.

If the provincial government here had any moral authority with respect to that, they would be able to say that to the federal government. The reason they don't have any moral authority, even though they are saying it today, is because of how they treated the Sysco workers. If they had treated them better, they might have some moral authority and some suasion with the federal government over the kinds of negotiations they should hold.

The second thing that should happen is that the federal government has to recognize an obligation to replace every one of the jobs lost in Cape Breton at an equal or better paying level I am not talking here about retraining displaced workers from the coal mines. What I am saying is that we have to recognize that it may be that many of those workers will not find other jobs, but those jobs have to be replaced in the community. The next thing that has to happen is there has to be general economic development aimed at Cape Breton, aimed not just generally at Cape Breton, but at the industrial Cape Breton area, at the CBRM. That has to happen.

The next thing that has to happen is that the province has to put in some money as well. We said that earlier today. The next thing that has to happen is that Nova Scotia has to have a comprehensive energy strategy and we are embarked upon that policy. What I say is that, as others have observed, we are in a crisis but there are things that can be done and it is time to move forward. There is a plan. Thank you.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it certainly doesn't give me any pleasure to stand here this evening and take part in this debate. At the outset, I want to thank my colleagues, the members for Cape Breton East and Cape Breton West, in our Party who have spoken on this issue this evening. It is a very important issue and as I reflect on the importance of the issue, I have here an FYI Cape Breton Development Corporation corporate announcement. It is very cold and calculating, as usually these announcements are. They are dropped on us on a the day of an announcement such as this, with very little fanfare, but certainly much reflection for discussion as to how we got to this day, why we got to this day and where we are going.

I don't want to dwell on the pros and cons of the viability of the coal industry. That has been said over and over again and it has been well documented. There are people who still think that coal has a future in Cape Breton and there are those who don't. That argument will

[Page 3617]

go on forever; as long as there are people alive in Cape Breton, that argument will be to the forefront, the same type of argument that seems to be ongoing regarding the viability, or lack of it, of Sydney Steel.

So here we have another announcement today, Mr. Speaker, another sad day in Nova Scotia, another 450 to 500 people out of work - good paying jobs that are going to be very difficult to replace. You can play the blame game. You can blame everybody around, you can blame the markets, you can blame policy, you can blame whatever, whomever, but I want to talk about my personal experiences in the steel industry and also what I think should happen here now.

I believe that the Government of Nova Scotia and the Government of Canada have a responsibility to look after the workers who are going to exit this industry. What is left of the workforce has to be dealt with in a fair and humane manner, Mr. Speaker. I can recall growing up in our home on Brooklyn Street in Sydney and we grew up with a grandfather in the same house who sat in this very place, took his place here in the 1920's with the Farm Labour Party, and was one of the members representing Cape Breton. There were four of them at the time and he represented Cape Breton, a steel and mining community when it was corporately together, and stood in his place in this House and spoke for 24 hours on a filibuster to stop the government of the day from sending the police to Cape Breton to break the strike that the United Mine Workers at the time were engaged in.

So I do have a history of the labour problems that were very much in evidence in those days in Cape Breton and as we moved on in the coal industry, conditions got better because of the sacrifices of the people in the United Mine Workers, the community, and people like my grandfather and the other members of this House from that Party and from other Parties who felt it necessary to take up the torch for those miners of the day who were living actually in poverty and existing, not for anything they were getting out of it, but for the company itself. I don't want to go into a long dissertation about that, but I want to fast-forward a bit to the steel problem in Sydney and how this government, the present day Tory Government, conquered the employees of the steel industry by dividing them.

What has happened is you have a number of steelworkers who were left swinging in the wind because of the decision to close Sydney Steel by this government and it caused economic chaos in Cape Breton at the time. There is a great deal of feeling in the area that they were abandoned. I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, that between the provincial government and the federal government, which are certainly not blameless as well in terms of dealing with the miners, but I do believe they made an honest attempt to look after the miners who were displaced with the closure of Phalen Mine, No. 26 Colliery first and then Phalen Mine following that.

[Page 3618]

I believe there is another responsibility there to look after the people who are going to exit the industry from the Prince Mine and I believe there should be a co-operative effort to do that with the provincial and federal governments. That effort should take the form of sitting down, perhaps through the committee that my colleague and friend, the member for Cape Breton East, suggested, the legislative committee be reconvened and address the issues of industrial workers in Cape Breton who are left out in the cold by the demise of the steel and coal industries. I think it can be done. There are 200 or 300 steelworkers who still have to be looked after and this government is not attending to that issue at the present time. Now we have another 400 or 500 miners. So I think there perhaps should be a co-operative effort there to look after those people who have exited both of these industries.

I could tell you, Mr. Speaker, that those of us who know the industry, who have people, relatives who work in that industry, are not feeling very good about the way things happened here today, nor are we feeling very good about the possibility or the projections that people make about what will happen in the future regarding an economy that is in transition. The problem is, and it was so eloquently put by others who came before me here today, that we are losing jobs faster than we are creating them. Now, if that is the new economy, then in 10 years time there will be no economy in Cape Breton because there will be no jobs, if you follow that logical sequence of events. We are losing jobs quicker than we are creating them.

Also we are losing good jobs in Cape Breton, far too many of them, and at far too much of a human cost. Sometimes we forget to put a human face on what is happening in Cape Breton. We lash out, we blame the federal government, we blame the provincial government and some people blame everybody. I think we all have a responsibility here to make sure that those people - and, by the way, in terms of the age group here, we are talking about employees whose average age is approaching 50 in the mining industry and over 50 in the steel industry. So those who would suggest that they should simply pick up their tools and go elsewhere for work are dreaming. That can't happen; you know it, Mr. Speaker, and I know it and the members of this House know it. What we have to do is be realistic and make sure we provide a standard of living for those people so that they can exit those industries with some pride, that they have paid a tremendous price over the years, some of them with their lives in both of those industries.

[7:45 p.m.]

Today we are speaking about the coal industry. I can tell you that those people who worked in the coal industry for 20 years or more deserve no less than a decent pension and a decent severance package from the corporation and from the federal government. I would hope that the federal government will attend to that immediately. I hope we do not go through a period of time where we are going to be agonizing about this month in and month out, that it is going to take a year before we resolve it and it will only be resolved after much in-fighting between the members of the UMW and others in that industry and the

[Page 3619]

government. I think the government has a responsibility to come to grips with this problem immediately, to look after the people who are leaving the industry and then move on.

I believe that has to be done; there has to be some measure of comfort given to the workers who are going to be leaving this industry. That would be my number one priority - if there is a chance that we can save some part of the coal industry, in private hands in the future, then that is fine as well. I think we should not lose sight of the fact that we have to look after the people who are going to be displaced by this announcement earlier today. Certainly if we do that, we will have at least accomplished something. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I just echo and concur with my honourable colleagues in the House that this is not the occasion that any politician looks forward to. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Over a course of any politician's career it is their objective that press conferences are held to share good news and to announce positive things for their area. Today there was an announcement in Cape Breton that seems to be one too many, or of great frequency in the last little while, that has not been positive and has hit to the core of what it is that our economy was and challenges what our economy will become in the future.

I don't necessarily agree with all the statements made, nor do I think that is what this House is about, but I do agree with most of the comments of my honourable colleagues because I think one thing is, that as parliamentarians, we are committed to ensuring that our society moves forward and progresses. Today we are faced with a great challenge and it is not an easy challenge because it is a challenge that Cape Breton, specifically, has been facing for decades. When I was coming into the Chamber today for the first time and the media was outside and I was questioned in a scrum as to what was going on, I was at a loss for words, and it is rare that I am at a loss for words. I was at a loss for words because I didn't feel the need or the desire to lash out at the federal government and start pointing the fingers, as other members have mentioned. I didn't feel that would be a constructive thing for me to do. I also felt there was a great onus on us, as politicians, at the same time, to recognize the magnitude of what has taken place.

By and large, we have truly seen the closure and the close of a chapter in Cape Breton's history that has been very much at the core of who I am and where I have come from. As my colleagues from Cape Breton would know and as the member for Cape Breton South referred to, and Cape Breton East, their own family situations, I know what a mining community is and what that means to the culture of an area because I come from one. I know what it is like, as a child, to look across the street and look at the then Princess Mine and to see the activity, to know what it is like to go shopping in a bustling downtown core. I also know what it is like to see those closures, to feel the effects on one's family, to hear about those real outcomes that happen.

[Page 3620]

I know one thing, it is always at the back of my mind when we talk about moving the economy of Cape Breton forward, because there is no greater challenge than knowing that the people you represent are affected deeply by the types of decisions that have come down today. I am not here to defend that decision, but I am here to stand up and say, as I think other members have, that I am committed to moving forward. I know what it is also like to see the outcomes of the stores being boarded up, communities being faced with the real outcome of dying. I also know what it is like to see citizens choose not to have their community die, and move forward.

I was pleased to be part of efforts that are ongoing in the community of Sydney Mines, efforts that previous Liberal Administrations have worked on, efforts that the current Conservative Administration is seeing that they move forward because they are efforts that are necessary to enable communities to grab hold of their future; no different than when I was so pleased to see an announcement come forward just this week with regard to Cape Breton East, in the Glace Bay area, to allow communities to start taking hold and have some confidence that they can direct the future.

Unlike some comments that government has to replace the opportunities, we have to seize the new opportunities and it is from within a community-driven context. I do believe in that and I have seen it. I also know it is a responsible process, it is one where the government facilitates, not where the government dictates the outcomes. We saw today when government dictates an industry and that was not an industry government chose to get into, it was an industry at the time government felt it had to get into to sustain an economy.

When we look to what tomorrow brings as people who stand in this Chamber, we all share in a loss. The question for us is, will we all share in developing a solution? As we know, governing is never easy, criticism is. Constructive criticism is what we hope that this Chamber produces, viable alternatives to what, in this case, our government may propose and in fact endorse, with other Parties. I am glad to see that we are moving forward and the minister recognized a need to review the industry further and resources in Cape Breton. What we do as members of this Assembly is hopefully be responsible and be reasoned in how we go forward.

I would hate to think we want to treat Cape Breton as a victim. It is a victim of economies, but we are not a victimized people, we are a community of citizens and it is with that citizenship that we will move forward. It is with a sense of citizenship, participating in the process, that things have happened in Sydney Mines. It is with citizenship we are going to move forward. I reject that we are victims in Cape Breton and I think that we need to send that message.

I also, in the Chamber earlier today, in listening to the member about the Petroleum Directorate - I have no problem endorsing the Petroleum Directorate being in Sydney because I know, as the honourable member knows, we have people who can compete internationally

[Page 3621]

toe to toe, whether that is in call centres, whether that is in manufacturing with Tesma, and whether or not that is in the oil and gas industry, we have the people with the resources. One thing that I learned growing up in my community and I gained from the people who worked in mining, from people who worked in the steel industry, is a sense that they were committed to our Island, they were committed to sustaining and providing a means of quality life for their children and I am no less committed to that end.

I also recognize we have to go in new directions. I, as I say, have no problem, if Stream Call Centre can go to Glace Bay, I will be the first one to endorse the honourable member that it go there. Just as much as the expansion of Silicon Island, just as much as the expansion of manufacturing opportunities, that is why I don't think there is a quick fix from the federal or provincial governments. I think the fix is finding the right mix for the youth of today who are looking for the jobs in the new economy and, at the same time, how are we going to provide the bridge employment so that people can have the dignity of putting in an honest day's work for an honest day's pay. No one is looking for a buy-out; no one is looking just to be merely retired in Cape Breton, but that is an option that people have been faced with, and it is an option people have accepted in light of having to go elsewhere and start over when you know that is a very daunting task.

I also see and recognize, as my honourable colleague in my Party, the Minister of Natural Resources, said about bridge opportunities with regard to Sysco and the tar ponds cleanup. Can we provide that? We have to work. We now go to our federal government and ask them, are they prepared to take the steps that are necessary so that the federal, the provincial and the municipal governments will get on with doing the job they were elected for rather than filibustering, rather than passing the buck.

I am committed to a better future for Cape Breton. I am committed whether it is an all-Party process, but it needs to be an all-government process, and we have to stop placing the blame, expecting someone else is going to fix it, because we hold the answer in our hands, but we need to do it on the basis of a go-forward on fact and on the evidence. That is why I am not concerned that we can compete and build the new economy, but I am concerned, I am fundamentally concerned about the families in Cape Breton, and what we do as members of this House to ensure that their dignity is respected, that their right to be considered and to have their voices heard is echoed in this Chamber.

I recognize that while we differ sometimes on philosophical points of view, I dare say that none of us differ on our commitment to ensuring that Cape Breton or any other region of this province has a better economy and better future. I would, as a member of this Chamber, call upon our federal, political Leaders to provide the assurances necessary to the people who are affected as to what their outcome is. I believe, as I say, that these were realistic outcomes based upon what was set before, the forerunners of this were there. That is why, when I heard the announcement today, I wasn't shocked, it wasn't about if it would come, it was a matter of when, as it seems to have been with our traditional industries.

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I also want to see real outcomes and responsible outcomes for Cape Breton. I am committed to that, and I want to be able to go down and be in Cape Breton. I look forward to the opportunity of meeting with the affected miners, through the UMW, determining what groups may fall outside of potential pension packages and seeing how we move forward, no different than with the displaced Sysco workers. I don't have a problem being responsible and standing up on the ground, but I also know that I have to come forward in this Chamber and to the government to make sure we have responsible evidence-based proposals for our future.

I think that is what this whole, entire House is committed to. I thank my honourable colleagues for sharing, and I believe, providing a united front in our concern for the people affected, the miners and their families. We call upon the leadership that is responsible for this decision to be responsible in their treatment of these people and the individuals. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Honourable members, that concludes tonight's emergency debate. Thank you.

[The House rose at 7:59 p.m.]

[Page 3623]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 1210

By: Mr. Cecil O'Donnell (Shelburne)

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

Whereas work is continuing at the Cox Shipyard in Shelburne, the work which will be enhanced with the arrival of boatbuilder Clayton Swansburg who will begin building wooden boats before the end of June; and

Whereas restoration work has been ongoing at the Cox Shipyard since last fall, in conjunction with the Shelburne Historical Society's Cox Shipyard committee; and

Whereas the society is overseeing a $260,000 upgrade to the historical shipyard in Shelburne County;

Therefore be it resolved that best wishes from this Legislative Assembly be sent to the Shelburne County Historical Society and private donors who have made this restoration project a reality.

RESOLUTION NO. 1211

By: Mr. Frank Chipman (Annapolis)

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

Whereas the Premier's Campaign for Fairness has been gaining momentum since it was launched in January and has been publicly endorsed by dozens of municipal and town councils, chambers of commerce, stakeholder groups and individuals; and

Whereas these supporters of the Campaign for Fairness have recognized the long-term, strategic value in working to reduce Nova Scotia's dependence on federal transfers; and

Whereas the interim Leader of the Opposition has criticized the Campaign for Fairness for being merely a public relations gimmick;

Therefore be it reoslved that the Leader of the Opposition explain to the many supporters of the Campaign for Fairness and all Nova Scotians why it is he wants to keep this province dependent on hand-outs from Ottawa.

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RESOLUTION NO. 1212

By: Mr. James DeWolfe (Pictou East)

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

Whereas this year marks the 10th year the Golden Link Rebekah Lodge No. 2, New Glasgow, has awarded its Rebekah Jurisdictional Youth Scholarship to a local university student; and

Whereas this year's recipient is Derek Weir, a kinesiology student at Dalhousie University; and

Whereas Derek will graduate this fall, the award, worth $500, will help see him down the final stretch;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Derek Weir on winning this scholarship and on his upcoming graduation and thank the Golden Link Rebekah Lodge No. 2, New Glasgow, for lending their support to young people striving to gain an education.

RESOLUTION NO. 1213

By: Mr. James DeWolfe (Pictou East)

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

Whereas the Westville Midget "A" Miners recently concluded their 2000-01 hockey season with a tournament victory at the SEDMHA Hockey Tournament in Dartmouth; and

Whereas Co-coaches Dave Sinnis and Kevin MacKenzie worked tirelessly with this group of 15 and 16 year old hockey players this past winter to assist them with all aspects of their game; and

Whereas the SEDMHA minor hockey tournament is one of the best known in the province with the exception of provincial championship tournaments;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs acknowledge the work put forward by Coaches Dave Sinnis and Kevin MacKenzie with the Westville Midget "A" Miners and wish both coaches as well as players the very best throughout the summer and into a new hockey season.