The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Fri., May 25, 2001

[Page 3937]

HALIFAX, FRIDAY, MAY 25, 2001

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Second Session

9:00 A.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

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

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Sport and Recreation Commission.

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to announce the government's plan to contribute to the upgrading of recreation facilities in our province. This year, 70 communities in Nova Scotia will receive more than $2.8 million in recreation facility development grants. These grants, which cover one-third of the cost of community projects, will allow more and more Nova Scotians to have access to quality recreation facilities.

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Our government, Mr. Speaker, realizes the importance of physical activity to the lives of Nova Scotians. We believe in the value of excellent recreational facilities, both as they pertain to the health of Nova Scotians and as they serve to promote community involvement. We know that facilities like beautiful parks and well-maintained playgrounds encourage people to use their leisure time in active pursuits.

We also recognize that schools are often the focal points of Nova Scotian communities. This government is looking for opportunities to combine recreation facility development funding with the community use of schools policy. We support projects that promote the use of schools for community recreation purposes. In this way, schools can play host to events like community basketball tournaments or soccer games.

Major projects receiving funding from the recreation facility development grants this year include multi-purpose regional facilities in Antigonish and Yarmouth; the upgrading of the Northside Pool in North Sydney; the creation of an oceanfront park in Kingsport, Kings County; the building of an accessible playground in New Glasgow; the upgrading of Church Memorial Park in Chester; and the conversion of a school into a community centre in Bay St. Lawrence, Victoria County.

Mr. Speaker, a strong Nova Scotia depends on the health and well-being of its citizens. This government is strongly committed to supporting active living. Providing Nova Scotian communities with the best recreational facilities possible is one way that we can help reach this commitment.

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to the comments of my critics. Unfortunately, I believe that possibly the statement may have been a little bit late getting to the Liberal caucus and I apologize if that was the case this morning.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I want to say, to begin with, that I welcome the statement by the minister and I do want just to comment briefly on it because you know, throughout this province there are many communities that identify (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Leader of the Opposition has the floor.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, throughout the province there are communities that identify with their sports teams. They identify through the recreational facilities with the spirit of the communities. You only have to look around at the history of this province, to the Springhill Fencebusters, the Liverpool Larrupers, the East Hants Penguins and all of the teams that have become and are virtually part of the heritage of the province.

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So sport and recreation has always played an important part in the lives of the people of this province. The improvement of those facilities is a positive step for this government to take but I want to point out, Mr. Speaker, that in my community, in Dartmouth and in Cole Harbour, most of the recreational facilities, even if they are going to be upgraded, have user fees attached to them. Children who want to play soccer on soccer fields have to pay a user fee to be able to use that field. We know that recreation and an active lifestyle is one of the determinants of health. If you want to cut your health care costs, if you want to ensure that these children have a lifelong active lifestyle. The way to do it is to get them involved in sport and recreation activities at a young age.

The only field in Dartmouth that is free is the Dartmouth Commons, because by legislation a fee cannot be charged to enter onto the Dartmouth Commons. I think, although it is a wonderful thing to have these recreation facilities upgraded, access to those facilities has to be paramount, because you can have the greatest facilities in the world but if the kids can't get onto them to play, then they are not worth much.

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

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the minister for his announcement, and also thank the minister for the advance copy of his statement. I, like other members of our caucus, look forward to seeing the complete list of grants. We, as a caucus, found it very interesting to note that the projects listed in the message we received, while all worthy projects, happened to be in communities that are Tory ridings. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

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

MR. BOUDREAU: The development of community centres, parks and playgrounds is very important to Nova Scotians, especially our children. Decision such as who receives the limited funded and who does not are important ones for communities. I trust that the projects that made the list were those recommended by staff, as meeting the criteria of the program. Political gain must be set aside for the good of all Nova Scotian communities. I sincerely hope that this is the case for these projects today.

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 1355

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

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Whereas Nova Scotia libraries have concluded a partnership arrangement with the Canadian Institute of the Blind to provide print-disabled library users access to the CNIB Library collection of over 5,000 titles; and

Whereas this VISUNET CANADA partnership will give Nova Scotians access to this material in braille, audio, descriptive video and electronic text; and

Whereas 75 regional public libraries, Acadia's Vaughan Memorial Library and Novanet Libraries at 12 universities and 14 community colleges will participate to provide material for those who are print disabled because of blindness, visual impairment, physical disability or have learning disabilities;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Nova Scotia Provincial Library and the CNIB and others involved in arranging this important partnership for print disabled Nova Scotians.

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.

Order, please. Order, please. There is an awful lot of noise in the Chamber this morning. I would ask the members to keep the noise down.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 1356

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

Whereas Horton High School teachers Peter Selig and John Trites are involved in curriculum development for examinations to be written by students around the world; and

Whereas both are members of the course and test development committees for the Advanced Placement Program that is offered through the U.S.-based College Board; and

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Whereas Mr. Trites is a recent winner of the Canadian Geography Literacy Award and Mr. Selig is the only Canadian on his Advanced Placement Committee and their involvement has brought more than $3,000 in textbooks to Horton High School;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate these outstanding Nova Scotian educators and wish them every success in their work.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 62 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 92 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Consumer Protection Act, to Prohibit the Retroactive Charging of Fees for Services at an Increased Rate. (Mr. Darrell Dexter)

[9:15 a.m.]

Bill No. 63 - Entitled an Act Respecting the Appointment and Duties of a Commissioner on Resources and Environment. (Mr. John MacDonell)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 1357

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

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Whereas the downturn in the shipbuilding industry led to the shutdown of Irving-owned Dartmouth Marine Slips, putting many workers on the streets without any severance package; and

Whereas on April 5th, the four industry-labour co-chairs of the National Shipbuilding and Industrial Marine Partnership Project released their report containing more than 30 recommendations to revitalize Canada's shipbuilding industry; and

Whereas this House agreed, unanimously, on April 6th to press the federal government to implement the report's recommendations to maximize employment and revive shipyards, such as the Dartmouth Marine Slips;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier immediately include the revitalization of Nova Scotia's shipyards in its Campaign for Fairness from the federal government or, at the very least, press Irving to provide severance packages to the workers it displaced at the Dartmouth Marine Slips.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

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

Whereas thanks to Bill No 54, Nova Scotia municipalities will probably find themselves in a bidding war for physicians; and

Whereas many people may soon find themselves paying for health care, both in their provincial taxes as well as their municipal taxes; and

Whereas this bill will set a precedent that will not soon be undone;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House encourage the government to shelf Bill No. 54 until a better, less decisive policy for rural physician recruitment and retention can be produced.

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Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1358

MRS. MURIEL BAILLIE: Mr. Speaker, this morning I want to do a resolution on one of our Pages, a very young man, and it is very difficult to put all his attributes on paper.

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

Whereas Pages are part of the long tradition of the House of Assembly dating back to the history of the British parliamentary system, and today our Pages continue to play an integral role by providing invaluable support to the operations and members of this House; and

Whereas most often, these Pages are students or recent graduates of colleges and universities, many also support their education and have an interest in politics and legislative debate; and

Whereas Derek Andrews is one such Page who has provided excellent service and good cheer to all members of this House and has just graduated from Dalhousie University with a B.A. in political science and history;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Derek Andrews, and offer sincere thanks to each of the Pages of the House of Assembly for their efforts and patience during this and all legislative sessions.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

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It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried. (Applause)

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 1359

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

Whereas from May 17th to May 20th, the Provincial Black Basketball Association held their 29th Annual Invitational Basketball Tournament here in Halifax, showcasing some of the best basketball talent in the country; and

Whereas this tournament, one of the largest Black functions in Canada, continues to be an important part of the heritage and culture of the Black community, as demonstrated by the sold-out crowd for the final games at Tower Gym, St. Mary's University; and

Whereas proceeds from this tournament go to support many church and community-based projects, such as the Community YMCA and the Hot Lunch Program at the Cornwallis Street Baptist Church;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate members of the Provincial Black Basketball Association for another successful tournament and wish them well as they prepare for their benchmark 30th annual event next year.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

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There is a lot of noise in the Chamber this morning and it is really difficult for me and the Clerks to hear the speaker. I would ask the honourable members to (Interruption) Pardon me? (Interruption) Well, the honourable Government House Leader can say that, but I am not. It is very difficult for the Clerks to hear what is being said and I would ask the honourable members to keep the noise down a bit.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1360

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

Whereas this Sunday is Breast Cancer Survivor Day in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Breast Cancer Survivor Day recognizes the courage of cancer survivors, remembers those who have not survived and acknowledges the contributions of cancer care providers; and

Whereas this day is organized by Cancer Care Nova Scotia and the Canadian Cancer Society, Nova Scotia Division, to raise awareness of breast cancer in Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House of Assembly commend the organizers of this event for promoting public awareness of breast cancer in 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.

Just before I recognize the next member on the next resolution, I just want to advise the House that the resolution read by the honourable Leader of the Liberal Party is, in fact, out of order because it is directly related to a bill that is before the House at the present time.

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The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

RESOLUTION NO. 1361

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

Whereas after long and arduous work in fundraising, the Manchester-Boylston Volunteer Fire Department has been able to purchase both a used pumper truck and a brand new cube rescue van; and

Whereas Manchester-Boylston firefighters worked closely with the community in securing the necessary funds including a loan from the Municipality of Guysborough and funding from the Nova Scotia Power Corporation's Good Neighbour Project; and

Whereas insurance underwriters are consistently advising volunteer fire departments that the average age for a fire truck should be approximately 25 years and then replaced;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs congratulate the Manchester-Boylston Fire Department in Guysborough County for their hard work in fundraising to secure the necessary funds to purchase the two vehicles while also providing fire protection to the community 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 1362

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

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Whereas the federal government is waffling once again in a vain effort to save money on the Sea King replacement contract, saying now it would prefer that the Sea King be replaced by 2005, when it was once mandatory to have the replacement by that time; and

Whereas helicopter manufacturers have indicated, however, that even if the bid was announced today, a company would find it nigh impossible to meet a target date of 2005; and

Whereas the maintenance cost of keeping the Sea Kings airborne is astronomical, requiring over 30 hours of maintenance for each hour of flight time and this ratio can only get worse for these sometimes flying relics;

Therefore be it resolved that this House call upon the Chretien Government to come clean with Canadians and, in particular, the good men and women who maintain and crew the Sea Kings and reveal the truth that no savings will be found in delaying the replacement 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 Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 1363

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

Whereas tomorrow, runners from around the world will gather at the Gaelic College in Cape Breton for the start of this year's Cabot Trail Relay Race; and

Whereas 61 teams have entered the 17 stage relay which covers 260 kilometres of the scenic Cabot Trail; and

Whereas this year's teams have come from as far away as the Cayman Islands, Ireland, Germany and the United Kingdom to participate in the gruelling 27 hour event;

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Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly offer their best wishes to the athletes and organizers of this year's Cabot Trail Relay Race.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1364

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

Whereas the Lung Association of Nova Scotia is now accepting applications for Camp Treasure Chest 2001 to be held at the Salvation Army Camp in Sutherlands River, Pictou County; and

Whereas the camp will run between August 5th to 11th this year and will be open to any child, ages 6 to 11, with moderate to severe asthma; and

Whereas Assistant Camp Director Heather Patten and other camp organizers will work with children attending to teach them the life skills required to better manage their asthmatic conditions;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs acknowledge the difficulties which children with asthma deal with each day, which will be addressed during Camp Treasure Chest, as organizers also ensure the children attending have a great week of fun and enjoyment.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

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It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 1365

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

Whereas coal miners have always been committed to the industry in Cape Breton; and

Whereas former miner, Sandy Simms of Glace Bay, decided to return to university after the federal government got out of the coal business; and

Whereas at the age of 45, Sandy Simms graduated from the University of Maine's Bachelor of Education program two weeks ago and graduated on Saturday with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University College of Cape Breton;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Sandy Simms of Glace Bay on having the courage to start a new career, and on earning his Bachelor of Education from the University of Maine and his Bachelor of Arts from the University College of Cape Breton.

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.

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RESOLUTION NO. 1366

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

Whereas Kings County is one of two locations in the Province of Nova Scotia which has been chosen to be surveyed by GPI Atlantic, a non-profit research group dedicated to building a new measure of the community well-being known as the Genuine Progress Index (GPI); and

Whereas the GPI, as opposed to other economic measurements such as the GDP, is better able to measure such values as: work satisfaction, health, clean drinking water, good air quality, secure and peaceful homes, and safe and nutritious food; and

Whereas Kings County Citizens for Community Well Being has undertaken the task of surveying Kings County residents for this pilot project;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the Legislature commend the members of the Kings County Citizens for Community Well Being for their important work, Kings County citizens for the willingness to take part in this worthwhile survey, and HRDC for their willingness financially to support this project.

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 Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 1367

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

Whereas the Friends of McNabs Island Society has been contributing to and promoting the use of McNabs Island as a park; and

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Whereas the Friends of McNabs Island Society is organizing a beach sweep on June 3, 2001 because McNabs Island is on the receiving end of detritus from sea vessels around Halifax Harbour; and

Whereas for the past 10 years, the Friends of McNabs Island Society has organized beach sweeps to help clean up the beaches at McNabs and Lawlor Islands, collecting 6,500 bags of debris thus far;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Friends of McNabs Island Society and co-sponsors of the annual event for helping to enhance Halifax Harbour islands and bringing them one step closer to once again being pristine.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1368

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

Whereas in a noble move last December the Tory Premier directed his MLAs to give away their pay raises to charity; and

Whereas shortly after that the leader of the backbench told his caucus to make public their donations; and

Whereas that directive hasn't sat so well with the backbench, who now aren't so sure they want to make public their donations;

Therefore be it resolved that Tory MLAs show their good will and provide receipts of their donations to prove that their noble Premier's idea was more than just a public relations stunt.

[Page 3952]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

[9:30 a.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 1369

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

Whereas the fourth annual Pictou County Tourist Association Gala Awards Dinner was recently held recognizing numerous local groups for their devotion to ensuring Pictou County is such a great tourist destination; and

Whereas the Town of Pictou, the Westville Fire Department, organizers of the under 17 World Hockey Challenge, the New Glasgow Riverfront Development Society and the Caribou River Cottage Lodge were all recipients of tourist awards; and

Whereas winners were recognized for honours such as impacting community development and tourism growth, for having the longest running festival in Pictou County, being stalwart on the Pictou County tourist scene and for having the greatest potential for tourism in Pictou County;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House convey our best wishes to Executive Director Kim Dickson and the Pictou County Tourism Association and all the award winners for their hard work and loyalty in making Pictou County a place all tourists should visit when entering our great province.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 3953]

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. 1370

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

Whereas McNabs Island has long had a military presence in Halifax Harbour; and

Whereas McNabs Island has both a unique geography and a colourful history in large supply; and

Whereas Marguerite Harding of Bridgewater completed writing Through the Gates, a book about her family's life during World War II on McNabs Island;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House during this, Atlantic Canada Book Week, congratulate Marguerite Harding on completing her book, Through the Gates.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 1371

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

[Page 3954]

Whereas yesterday in the House of Assembly, the Premier told Nova Scotians he had done more to create jobs in Cape Breton than the past Liberal Government; and

Whereas this very same Premier closed Sysco, is letting the postal sorting station close, allowed job cuts at Marine Atlantic, stood by during the closure of the Prince Mine and is now about to blow Nova Scotia's share of the Laurentian Sub-basin; and

Whereas unemployment figures show that under the good doctor's watch, the jobless rate has actually increased in Cape Breton;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier wake up to the stark reality that while he is perfecting his country doctor image in foreign lands, the folks back home continue to ask what this Premier has actually accomplished since he was elected.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

RESOLUTION NO. 1372

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

Whereas the Port Hawkesbury Judo Club recently participated in both the Canadian Junior Nationals in Kamloops, British Columbia as well as the Blake Lumsden Memorial Tournament in New Glasgow; and

Whereas club members participated in an array of competitive events; and

Whereas the New Glasgow tournament saw first place finishes by club members, Jan Rooyakkers, Patrick Stachan, Cassandra Hawley and Eliotte Reynolds;

[Page 3955]

Therefore be it resolved that this Legislature commend the efforts put forth by the members of the Port Hawkesbury Judo Club at both the Junior Nationals in British Columbia and the Blake Lumsden Memorial Tournament in New Glasgow, while wishing all members continued success in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 1373

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

Whereas the Village of East Dover is a unique coastal community; and

Whereas tourists and residents from throughout Nova Scotia continue to visit East Dover and its wonderful village green; and

Whereas the East Dover Road off of Highway No. 333 requires improvements;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation inform the residents of East Dover when the East Dover Road will receive the attention it needs.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

[Page 3956]

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1374

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

Whereas yesterday we once again saw the Minister of Health make a pronouncement, this time on the intentions of a majority of Whitney Pier residents, which he later had to retract; and

Whereas the minister's comments about those residents not wanting to move has become another example of the minister not having his facts in order; and

Whereas by the end of the day the minister was denying his earlier comments much like his fictitious doctors who refused to treat patients a few weeks ago;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health endeavour to keep "Muir's musings" to a minimum, thereby avoiding the amount of backpeddling required on any given day.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The noticed is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1375

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

Whereas the Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival is an internationally renowned festival; and

Whereas an important part of this festival is the election of various princesses by the various communities situated in the beautiful Annapolis Valley; and

[Page 3957]

Whereas Jessica Upshaw has been selected as Princess Kentville and Sarah Higgins has been selected as Princess Port Williams;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House go on record as congratulating Jessica Upshaw and Sarah Higgins for the honour bestowed upon them, and wish them all the best as they represent their respective communities of Kentville and Port Williams.

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 Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 1376

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

Whereas Halifax author Carol Bruneau has authored the excellent book, Purple for Sky; and

Whereas Ms. Bruneau, for this piece of fiction, has been shortlisted for both the Thomas Head Raddall Atlantic Fiction Prize and the Dartmouth Book Award for Fiction by the Writers' Federation of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the awards will be formally presented at the Atlantic Writing Awards ceremony today at the Alderney Landing Theatre;

Therefore be it resolved that this House applaud Carol Bruneau for her book, Purple for Sky, and wish her and all other nominated authors every success at the Atlantic Writing Awards ceremony today.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 3958]

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-Beaver Bank.

RESOLUTION NO. 1377

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

Whereas on this day in Sackville, parents, teachers and students will celebrate the official opening of the new Sackville Heights Elementary School; and

Whereas those parents, teachers and students demonstrated character and resilience in overcoming adversity throughout this process; and

Whereas this school will provide a safe and inspiring learning environment for teachers and students for many years to come;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate and send best wishes to the parents, teachers and students of Sackville Heights Elementary School as they celebrate the official opening of their new school.

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.

[Page 3959]

RESOLUTION NO. 1378

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

Whereas a family which has a member stricken with a deadly disease is often strained beyond their means to cope; and

Whereas communities which care about its members will often have a group suddenly form to help out; and

Whereas on Volunteer Awards Night, April 27, 2001, five women from Nine Mile River were honoured by the Municipality of East Hants for their involvement on many volunteering fronts but in particular for their organization of a highly successful auction and dance in support of a local family whose young daughter was diagnosed with leukemia;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate the "Group of Five" of Nine Mile River for their volunteer award from the Municipality of East Hants and for putting action to work with their caring hearts.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1379

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

Whereas, sadly, food banks are becoming a part of the social safety net that holds many lives together; and

[Page 3960]

Whereas the shelves are nearly bare at the food bank at the St. Vincent de Paul Society's centre in St. Eugene's Church in Dominion; and

Whereas the members of the St. Eugene's and St. James units of the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Dominion are having a food drive this coming Sunday from 12:00 noon to help restock the food bank;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the people of Dominion for their initiatives in trying to eliminate hunger in their own community by assisting the food bank and pledges to do all it can to make food banks unnecessary.

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. 1380

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 Sable operators have been dumping hundreds of tons of antifreeze directly into the ocean near the Sable project; and

Whereas the operator gives assurances that this poses no threat to the environment or to marine life, although no environmental assessment of any kind has been done; and

Whereas although industry is responsible for monitoring the discharge, no limits exist on dumping antifreeze;

Therefore be it resolved that this House condemns the dumping of glycol by the Sable operators and calls upon the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board to implement controls immediately on the dumping of such toxic substances.

[Page 3961]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 1381

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Wildlife Festival will be held on September 16, 2001, at Fishermen's Cove in Eastern Passage; and

Whereas the object of the festival is to create an awareness and appreciation of the natural world around us and the people helping to protect it; and

Whereas the festival presents an opportunity for people to celebrate our communities, our lands, oceans and wildlife, and to learn the vast bounty to be harvested through stewardship of our natural world;

Therefore be it resolved that this House wishes the organizers of the Nova Scotia Wildlife Festival 2001 every success on September 16th in Eastern Passage, and pledges to follow good stewardship practices in 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.

[Page 3962]

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 1382

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

Whereas on October 8, 1999, Clayton MacDonald of Glace Bay helped save a woman from a burning car in an accident in the State of Maine; and

Whereas on June 1st, in Montreal, Clayton MacDonald will be presented an Award of Bravery from the National Transportation Week committee; and

Whereas Clayton MacDonald has received other awards in connection with his actions, including Driver of the Year for the State of Maine in 1999, and the Carnegie Hero Award at Carnegie Hall in New York last year;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Clayton MacDonald on being a role model for truck drivers and on receiving an Award of Bravery for his selfless act of courage in 1999.

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. 1383

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

Whereas communities throughout Timberlea-Prospect have been busy in numerous cleanup projects; and

[Page 3963]

Whereas Nova Scotians must conscientiously work to keep our roadways and other public places presentable and clean; and

Whereas these area residents reflect a pride in our communities;

Therefore be it resolved that this House thank and congratulate these Nova Scotians for their pride and initiative in keeping roadways and public places in the Timberlea-Prospect communities clean and presentable.

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 Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 1384

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

Whereas many residents along the Old Sambro Road and Herring Cove Road and in the Williamswood and Harrietsfield areas are opposed to locating a landfill for construction and demolition debris in the area and the increased truck traffic that would result; and

Whereas Routes 306 and 349 desperately need roadwork done and any extra truck traffic could make these roads practically impassable; and

Whereas urgent repairs are needed to ensure that emergency vehicles will be able to respond on a timely basis in the event of fire, medical emergencies in the home, or traffic accidents;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works assures residents along the Old Sambro Road and the Herring Cove Road and in the Williamswood and Harrietsfield areas that Routes 306 and 349 will receive necessary roadwork immediately.

[Page 3964]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1385

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

Whereas 4-H offers excellent opportunities for leadership and training for volunteers; and

Whereas 4-H develops not only technical skills in agriculture but life skills in its members; and

Whereas 4-H members from all over the province will meet this weekend at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College for a public speaking competition, followed by an awards ceremony and an evening of entertainment at Cobequid Educational Centre;

[9:45 a.m.]

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate all 4-H members who have made 4-H a model organization for the development of our youth and wish all contestants in this weekend's public speaking competition every success.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 3965]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1386

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

Whereas today is National Missing Children's Day; and

Whereas the federal missing children's program, a collaborative effort of the RCMP, Revenue Canada and other federal agencies is recognized nationally and internationally for its vigorous efforts to locate and return missing children, 80 per cent of whom are runaways; and

Whereas this is a day for family and friends of missing children to join together in communities across Canada to raise public awareness about the issues of missing children and the need to address this national problem;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize National Missing Children's Day, offer its condolences to the families and friends of missing children and earnestly wish the federal missing children's program success in locating the 64,000 missing children in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 1387

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

[Page 3966]

Whereas U.S. Ambassador, Paul Cellucci, made waves on his last visit to Nova Scotia when he suggested that Georges Bank might be open to oil and gas exploration, contrary to the wishes of the State of Massachusetts; and

Whereas news reports indicate that Georges Bank could be among the environmentally sensitive areas off the U.S. shores that President George W. Bush may try to open for exploration and development; and

Whereas Ambassador Cellucci will return to Nova Scotia on June 14th;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the Government of Canada, the East Coast Premiers and the New England Governors to use Ambassador Cellucci's sensitivity to the Georges Bank issue to gain the earliest possible confirmation of the U.S. moratorium on drilling on Georges.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that you do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into a Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

MR. SPEAKER: 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 3967]

[9:48 a.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Bills with Deputy Speaker Mr. Brooke Taylor in the Chair.]

[12:02 p.m. CWH on Bills rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Murray Scott, resumed the Chair.]

MR. SPEAKER: The Chairman of the Committee of the Whole House on Bills reports:

THE CLERK: That the committee has met and considered the following bill:

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

and the chairman has been instructed to recommend this bill to the favourable consideration of the House, with certain amendments.

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that this bill be read a third time on a future day.

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 31.

Bill No. 31 - Agriculture Administration Amendment (2001) Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. I would like to talk about Bill No. 31, An Act Respecting the Administration of Agriculture. This bill will further reduce bureaucracy and create more efficiencies for the agriculture industry. While the changes are administrative in nature, the Act Respecting the Administration of Agriculture will reduce boards and commissions and eliminate legislation. There are several amendments in this proposed legislation. I wish to briefly mention each of these changes.

Clauses 2 and 3 amend of the Agricultural Marshland Conservation Act and moves a clause from the by-law powers of a marsh body to the regulation powers of the minister. This clause will provide for the filing of maps as a means to specify the land that is to be

[Page 3968]

exempted under this legislation. The change will enable this to be done by the minister under the regulation section and is considered a regulation under the Regulations Act, instead of being under a by-law power of a marsh body. The exemptions include areas that have already been developed or areas that have had development approvals in place before November 7, 2000.

As most of you may be familiar with the Agricultural Marshland Conservation Act, I will give you a brief overview. The Agricultural Marshland Conservation Act replaced the Marshland Reclamation Act last fall. The Agricultural Marshland Conservation Act is consistent with Statements of the Provincial Interest in the Municipal Government Act for preserving agricultural land and prevention of development in flood-risk areas. The bill is intended to restrict development on these marshlands that have flood from very high tides and heavy rains.

Clause 4 will repeal the Beef Commission. This will eliminate the Beef Commission Act, which has not been active for more than two years. As some of you may be aware, the purpose of the Beef Commission was to promote the development of the beef industry. The Nova Scotia Cattlemen's Association is in support of this change and the cattlemen are undertaking activities to develop their own industry. For example, they have setup an office at the cattle market to get closer to people in the cattle buying and selling business.

Mr. Speaker, there are a number of other clauses, including Clause 5, to amend the Eastern Nova Scotia Exhibition Commission Act, which removes an appointment by the Governor in Council. As well, Clause 6 deals with the repealed Livestock Loans Guarantee Act, and on and on. There are a few other changes with respect to clauses, which I am sure the members across will have some comments on.

Mr. Speaker, with that, I move second reading of Bill No. 31, An Act Respecting the Administration of Agriculture.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, the minister is right that this bill really does tidy up a number of loose ends. I have to say that, probably, Clauses 2 and 3, about the regulatory powers given to the minister around the Agricultural Marshland Conservation Act did concern me. I did speak to the minister on these clauses, and the minister has assured me that this is something that was actually to relieve a contradiction in the Agricultural Marshland Conservation Act, where these regulatory powers were given to the minister in the Act, and then in another clause were removed from the minister. To remove that contradiction, this amendment was made.

[Page 3969]

I want to say that if I take the minister at his word on the purpose of these amendments, it does appear there would be some sense in the minister having a final approval regulatory authority in terms of whether or not certain developments could occur on marshlands. I think the Agricultural Marshland Conservation Act was really designed to conserve marshlands for one thing, but also to limit development. If we consider that any development that takes place on marshlands, if the approvals were given at the municipal level or by the marshland body, then we would be in a situation where if there were any damages occurring from flooding on any of these developed areas, then we would expect that the first thing we would hear would be someone coming to the province for compensation or some help.

I think this was the minister's way to assure taxpayers that this would be looked at prior to any development taking place on marshland or flood plains, and head off any foreseeable problems by not allowing the development to occur. I would say that certainly makes sense. This is an additional permit, really, that has to come from the minister, and I would say that, considering taxpayers' dollars, it probably makes some sense to not allow development on areas that are going to be damaged due to flooding. It makes perfect sense to try to correct the convoluted nature of the Agricultural Marshland Conservation Act in regard to the minister's authority here.

Repeal of the Beef Commission Act, I have to say that I know that the Cattlemen's Association seems to be in agreement, that they are kind of conducting their own affairs in the promotion of the beef industry, but I don't want the government to feel that by repealing the Beef Commission Act that somehow they don't have a role in the promotion of this sector. There are millions of dollars in beef imports into this province every year, and this is a market that Nova Scotia farmers could be filling themselves. I would certainly like to feel reassured that the province feels it has a responsibility in the promotion of the beef sector.

A few years ago, the government made a decision that they were going to develop a pork industry in Nova Scotia, and they did that. They put the resources in place to allow for that development. Even as much as the pork industry has grown, we still only provide 65 per cent of our needs in pork. I don't think a similar initiative has taken place in regard to the beef industry. I think it would be important for the government to recognize it has a responsibility in that regard.

The other clauses around the Eastern Nova Scotia Exhibition Commission Act, to be amended so that they can appoint the members to the board rather than Governor in Council, we have no problem there. I would say that all the other Acts that are repealed here - the Livestock Loans Guarantee Act which was for a specified period to 1983 would certainly make some sense, since that time frame is spent.

[Page 3970]

I want to say that repealing the Nova Scotia Grain and Forage Commission Act, since the previous Liberal Government had privatized those grain and forage facilities in Middleton and Bayhead and Kentville, so basically there was no need for this Act, but I would have liked to have seen more acting on the part of the Tory Government in challenging the action of the previous Liberal Government in this regard. There were considerable assets that belonged to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia handed over to a single company and the shareholders, with very little - actually, I should say nothing - returned back to the taxpayers in this regard. To give millions of dollars in assets to a private company with absolutely no return to the taxpayers for their dollar, I think that was unfair in the least and not at all good representation of the Nova Scotia taxpayer, or the agricultural industry for that matter.

The previous Liberal Government seemed to feel that - I think it was $1 million a year that they were putting into those facilities - was not money well spent. If it turned out that $6 million or $7 million worth of assets was given to private hands for a song, why they felt that was a good management decision or good responsible action on their part with regard to taxpayers' assets, I would tend to think that they were somewhat hypocritical. I think what they actually did was to take care of some of their friends, a road I would say I have seen this Tory Government follow. To criticize the Liberals for what they did, and then not try to do anything about it after the Tories came into power I think is shameful.

So I have no significant concerns around the amendments that this bill would bring forward. I would say that I will take the minister at his word on his explanation for Clauses 2 and 3 around the regulatory powers of the minister, around development on marshlands. I certainly hope that the minister's power is not such that it provides him with a way to contravene the common sense that the municipalities may have in not allowing development. That the minister wouldn't step in and allow a development that the municipality is going to not allow is certainly the way it was explained to me, that is not the way it can work here, the minister is not going to override the municipalities when they don't want development on marshland.

With those few comments, I will take my seat and allow members of the Third Party to stand and make comments.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: I appreciate the former member for whom I applauded when he stood up, and as he referred to us as the Third Party, I appreciate that. I too want to say that in principle the bill itself seems to be somewhat of a housekeeping activity, the Agriculture Administration Amendment (2001) Act. Generally the bill seems to be trying to clean up on a number of fronts, which we support. That aside, the bill at first reading appears to be quite innocuous in some of the dealings, but I will say Clauses 2 and 3, with regard to the marshland issue, is an issue I brought forward a little while ago. I brought it up in the last

[Page 3971]

sitting of the House, the possibility of manipulation and private sector development of friends from marshland was a concern. It still is a concern of mine that the power that we have that is going to the minister, as long as it is not a power that will be abused, and I will be watching to make sure that previous government workers for candidates who are looking at developing areas of the marshland, that in fact that this doesn't continue, or that there isn't going to be further development in that area and I take that very seriously.

[12:15 p.m.]

Clause 2 and Clause 3 amends the Agricultural Marshland Conservation Act that was introduced last fall. These changes seem all right provided no one individual is benefiting from that change. I told the minister my feelings on that issue before and we will be watching very closely that the power that will be given to the minister will not be power to abuse, to allow certain friends of the government's Party to benefit from. Most of the legislation that is being repealed is really outdated and I agree that we should be able to move forward on areas that are redundant and no longer pertinent to the agricultural industry of the Province of Nova Scotia.

Clause 4 deals with the repeal of the redundant Beef Commission Act. The Nova Scotia Cattlemen's Association, a very good organization in the province, has been organized for a long time and has done very good work but there is a responsibility on the part of government to realize that we are far from self-sufficient in the beef sector in the Province of Nova Scotia. We are far from being self-sufficient in beef production. In light of what is happening in Europe, clearly the need for beef that will be free from foot-and-mouth disease will be a major commodity. Although it is a major disaster, every farmer in this country is concerned and worried for the farmers of Europe. There will be undoubtedly a requirement for clean stock and breeding stock. So the cattle industry, the beef industry, will be one that could benefit from that horrendous disaster in Europe and that is why I do hope that this government realizes they will have a role to play in helping the beef industry move forward in market access.

Clause 5 makes changes to the Eastern Nova Scotia Exhibition Commission Act for which we have no problem in supporting. We have checked that out and it seems to be fine. Clause 7 repeals the outdated Nova Scotia Grain and Forage Commission Act. I note the previous speaker was commenting about how a previous Minister of Agriculture, which was by the way supported by the industry, the industry asked the government to be supportive of them in trying to turn it into the hands of the Grain and Forage Commission. I think we worked in good faith with the agricultural community at that time, albeit I didn't agree with what they ended up doing at the end of the day. The intent at the first was the right intent, to work with the farm community to try to allow them to build an industry and to work together with the farm community in the Annapolis area to do something positive. Little did we know that those same farmers would turn around and try to leverage one group against another and

[Page 3972]

I can tell you I spoke out against that to that farm community and to the farmers that I knew. I was very disappointed in how they handled that, very disappointed.

The intent of the government in the beginning was the right intent, to try to cooperate with the farm community, and I think the member - I don't know why he is over on that side of the House unless he has walked across the floor. I thought if he was going to walk anywhere, he would have walked over this way, hopefully, instead of that way.

Clause 8 sets the effective date for Clause 2 and Clause 3, which is really just another housekeeping matter. Again, while we oppose the principle of large bills covering large aspects of the Act, basically the areas in this particular bill, as we have checked out, seem to be appropriate at the time, it streamlines the bill itself, the Agriculture Administration Amendment (2001) Bill. Checking with the Federation of Agriculture and other organizations, they appear to be supportive of this bill and the changes. So we will be supporting this bill.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture it will be to close the debate on second reading of Bill No. 31.

The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, I would like to move second reading of Bill No. 31.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 31. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 28.

Bill No. 28 - Securities Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia represents a very small part of the national capital market in Canada, indeed, a very small part of the international capital market. Accordingly, it is necessary that we make some technical changes to the structuring of the commission to bring us into conformity with the rest of the country, and as

[Page 3973]

recommended by the Zimmerman Committee, a committee that was struck by the Investment Dealers Association. Accordingly, it is my pleasure to move second reading of Bill No. 28.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I won't be speaking for very long on this legislation, mainly because I don't know much about securities. I will say that my understanding is that this is good legislation, and in principle we have no trouble supporting it. We will be glad to hear from the Law Amendments Committee to see if anyone comes forward to make any comments. Anything that enables our Security Commission to work hand-in-hand with Securities Commissions in other jurisdictions, whether that be Canadian or American or in other places, I say, is good for Nova Scotia and an opportunity to bring more investment to Nova Scotia. In principle, at this point, we have no problem with this legislation, and will be voting for it, and look forward to the Law Amendments Committee process.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of our critic, we support this bill, presently, until we see what may evolve at the Law Amendments Committee and subsequently back in the House. At this point, we will support the bill.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable Minister of Environment and Labour it will be to close the debate on Bill No. 28.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the members opposite for their comments. I move second reading on Bill No. 28.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 28. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 25.

Bill No. 25 - Justice Administration Amendment (2001) Act.

[Page 3974]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the honourable Minister of Justice, it is my pleasure to move second reading of Bill No. 25. This is a bill that contains a number of amendments to various Statutes covered in the bill. They are mainly technical in nature, they have been done in co-operation with the legal community, and I am pleased to move second reading of Bill No. 25.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I am going to take a few minutes on Bill No. 25 just to talk about one particular provision. Most of the stuff in this legislation, as the Government House Leader moving the bill on behalf of the Minister of Justice noted, is housekeeping, but there is one particular section which we support, and I think it is important that the government backbenchers know. It deals with the issue of the Vital Statistics Act and the recognition of a domestic partnership, which of course goes back to the issue of same-sex partners.

Mr. Speaker, we think this is another step forward in ensuring the recognition of same-sex partnerships, same-sex benefits, which the Supreme Court of Canada has consistently stated is part of our Constitution, and that the recognition of equality amongst people based on sexual orientation is an important step forward. We applaud the government for continuing to move forward with regard to this issue. I know, in many cases, they have had to be dragged by their nose by the Supreme Court of Canada, but at least now we have a government that is willing to move forward with legislation that continues to entrench in our legislation the protection of the rights of people no matter their sexual orientation; whether they be straight, whether they be gay, whether they be heterosexual, whether they be homosexual.

These are important issues for Nova Scotians. Nova Scotians are glad to have this legislation. They are happy that the Supreme Court of Canada has moved in this direction. They are glad the government is continuing to clean the books to make sure that we have this kind of legislation here and we are happy to see that this government continues to ensure, through the Vital Statistics Act, we can have the registration of heterosexual or homosexual relationships; domestic partnerships, as they are called. This provision was passed last year. It is a good provision with regard to the recognition of domestic partnerships being registered.

Mr. Speaker, we think that the Vital Statistics Act being amended to now clarify that they can be registered again entrenches the rights of people who, no matter their sexual orientation, want to have a registration of their relationship. It shouldn't matter whether you are gay or whether you are straight. The important fact is that if you are in a relationship, a loving relationship, and one that ensures that you are in a long-term relationship, it is

[Page 3975]

important that the government give an opportunity for the people of Nova Scotia to have that recognized, to have a registration of that relationship.

That is what is important, and I am glad to see this government is doing this. I am glad to see that through the Supreme Court of Canada decision, they followed through. They are entrenching this in the laws of Nova Scotia. This is one more victory for the people of Nova Scotia, both gay and straight, so that they are able to say that this province will not discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation. That is why this legislation is important. That is why we will be supporting it, and we are happy to see this government stand up and say that they are going to continue to support the fact that gay and straight relationships are of equal value and will be represented. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, while I agree with some of the statements made by my colleague from the socialist caucus, I don't intend to be as complimentary because really, unfortunately, this is just another example of how this government bungles almost every single thing they do. Really, we told the minister before that he was bringing in legislation which wasn't properly vetted, it wasn't properly reviewed; just in order to put another check mark next to their blue book, for him to be able to stand and huff and puff and say he did one more thing.

It is unprecedented to see a government, since they have been in power, bring in heralded legislation and then turn right back around the next session to bring in a bill to fix everything that was wrong with the bill they brought in the previous session. This is not the first time this has happened. This has become a regular occurrence for this government, to put in a justice administration Act. Mr. Speaker, if I am not mistaken, this is the third time that we have had this government bring in similar legislation under the term justice administration Act. What does it do? It is meant to fix the problems with the bills that they already brought before the House.

Mr. Speaker, human error is common and it is something that we all have to accept. We don't expect this government to be perfect and not to make mistakes. I will give you an example and, really, I have to say, I have only been here three years, but this is unprecedented. Last year, the Minister of Justice brought forward the Probate Act, an Act which I believe he said had not been amended for hundreds of years and that this was wonderful legislation they were bringing in. We applauded it. He said that it had properly been vetted and this was the right legislation and everything. Under the justice administration Act they are changing 18 clauses of the Probate Act, which they passed last session, because of errors that were contained in that Act, 18 clauses.

[Page 3976]

Really, one has to start asking about competence by this government when they pass a bill and then they turn around the next session and bring in a justice administration Act to fix 18 mistakes they made in one bill; 18 for one bill.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is getting better than they usually are.

[12:30 p.m.]

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, one member says that they are getting better than what they usually were, still I don't think that this should be applauded in any way. For a government of this day, a majority government which has time on its side, that can say, we are going to take our time, make sure it is good legislation, it is properly vetted, the clauses are correct, the language is correct, the meanings are correct, and that the implications will be exactly what is intended, but instead what we see is the same bungling time and time again.

I know that the socialist Justice Critic for the NDP indicated how pleased he was with the changes to the Vital Statistics Act. I agree with that, but if this government had the competence required, when they brought in the changes to the Family Maintenance Act respecting same-sex couples, they would have amended the Vital Statistics Act at that time. It is not rocket science that they should have known if you are changing this - and I believe in that Act it even referred to the registration of these relationships with Vital Statistics, yet they forgot to change the Vital Statistics Act. Now, really, that is not to be applauded. The changes being made, yes, I agree, that is to be applauded.

I am very curious to see how some of these government backbenchers are going to vote on Bill No. 25, in light of the fact that once again this government is indicating that they do support the idea of same-sex relationships. We already know that at least two members of the government backbench have voted against this legislation in the past, and I certainly look forward to seeing how they are going to vote on Bill No. 25, whether they have changed their outlook, if they have decided to support the efforts of their government, or if they will once again stick to their right-wing views and not support these changes.

In the past, as you know, Mr. Speaker, the Opposition has a very effective means of seeing exactly how these members are going to vote on this, because the idea of a majority government, especially with those members, they can kind of hide in the backbenches and hope nobody notices when it is called for a yea or nay. We have proven in the past that we have a means in this House of knowing exactly how they intend to vote on this. Maybe this would be a good opportunity to, once again, see exactly whether each member of the government of this province supports this initiative or if we continue to see the right-wing views in this government and start to see their true colours being demonstrated.

[Page 3977]

I think it would be a good idea because I think every Nova Scotian throughout this province has a right to know how their elected officials will vote on certain legislation, especially social legislation which affects Nova Scotians from one end of this province to the other. This might be an opportunity, again, to see exactly where this government is going with that.

As I said before, we have told this government - in fact, if I am not mistaken, and I will review Hansard - I believe the first time the minister brought forward a justice of administration Act, when we first sat in 1999, I pointed out to him that this was not a proper way to bring legislation to this House, throwing it all in a bill, changes to several Acts in one same bill and trying to slip it through. The minister, if I am not mistaken, at that time said he agreed it was inconvenient, many Nova Scotians were not aware of changes being made because of the fact that it was hidden under this one umbrella. I believe he even made a commitment that he would no longer bring that type of legislation to the floor of this House, and that he would be open and accountable as the Premier promised in the 1999 campaign.

Yet he has brought it in again, a second time, the last sitting and I would remind you, Mr. Speaker, at the last sitting and you asked, why do I raise these concerns? You will remember in that last bill there were changes to the Family Maintenance Act, there were changes to the Small Claims Court Act, and all of a sudden there was this change to the Assessment Act. No one paid too much attention to it, they figured it was just a little change, it was all of these assessment numbers on these accounts, but we came to find out this was a change where the government was giving in to the large natural gas companies and the assessment appeals that were taking place. The government caved in and said we are dumping it on the municipal units in this province and let them negotiate with these large industries as to what the assessments should be.

Fortunately, I am pleased to say, the Liberal caucus was able to ferret that out and point out that this was something - in fact, when we contacted the affected municipalities, they weren't even aware that change had been made. It shows you how such legislation is very deceiving and it has different changes made in there that are not always picked up. I am always pleased to see when the Liberal caucus comes out with these, that it is always good to see the socialist caucus get up and try to take credit for it and try to follow our lead. This was another example and they continue to do that in Question Period and in other means. We will continue to go through this legislation to see exactly what the impact is on Nova Scotians and to be able to see what it does.

In this case, Mr. Speaker, one of the other changes, I mentioned the Probate Act, but one of the changes they also have here is that under the Summary Proceedings Act, if you don't pay your fine within 30 days, the government now is going to charge you interest on that outstanding fine. We all know that, unfortunately, many Nova Scotians who are on fixed incomes, people who are on assistance, who often get in trouble with the law, are not capable of paying the fines that they are faced with within 30 days. That is a reality. It is why this

[Page 3978]

province has tried to come up with different means of allowing people to pay their fines on a schedule basis to assist them in paying because these people want to pay their fines. They do recognize that they do have outstanding debts and that they should pay these fines and they want to. Yet what this government is now saying is that if you have got a fine and you are 30 days over, you are going to be charged interest.

I will give you an example, Mr. Speaker. You know yourself, having been in the legal community, the fines today for impaired driving range anywhere from $500 to as high as $1,200, if not higher. If you are on a fixed income, or if you are a senior on fixed income, you know, impaired driving is an unfortunate reality. We would all hope that it never occurs in this province, but it is a reality; 30 days on a fixed income to pay $1,200 is not something that is going to take place when you are on a fixed income. It is impossible.

So my question here, had the minister brought in a bill simply to deal with the Summary Proceedings Act, we could have debated this and could have properly explained why they wanted to put interest on this, what the justification was. Is this to urge people to pay quicker or is it a money grab? I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, it is a money grab. It is a means of getting more money out of people and who is this going to impact? It is not going to impact lawyers. It is not going to impact doctors. It is not going to impact teachers. It is not going to impact professionals. It is not going to impact people with good paying jobs. This is going to hit the people who are poor, who are on fixed incomes, who are receiving assistance, and who simply cannot pay these fines within 30 days and need extra time.

If we had had this as a stand-alone bill, we could have debated this. This could have gone out, for example, to the John Howard Society, the Elizabeth Fry Society, to those different organizations that work with people in trouble with the law, who could have said whether they feel it is realistic to start charging interest on fines after 30 days if people do not pay them. Yet by throwing this in the Justice Administration Amendment (2001) Act, these important social groups are denied the opportunity to come here and make presentations on these particular bills and the impact they will have on the people whom they try to be the voice for. That is why our caucus has said that we do not support this type of legislation coming to the floor of this House because of the important sections that are contained within those bills and which Nova Scotians out there aren't aware of the impact it is going to have. That is just one example.

Mr. Speaker, it is a serious issue of people not paying their fines. A report came out the other day, this government that campaigned on the platform of get tough on justice and it was, they were the new keystone, the new enforcers of justice in this province. Well, in the end we all know, I have said many times, they have become the modern day version of the Keystone Kops in this province because the Justice Minister now is the laughingstock of Justice Ministers throughout the country. He is not taken seriously any more.

[Page 3979]

Mr. Speaker, the johns bill has come to this House and been introduced on three separate occasions by a majority government and once again, this session will finish and it still will not have gone through this House. That is an embarrassment. I don't think before in the history of this House has a minister on three separate occasions introduced the identical bill, not one change, and has yet to be able to get it through this House once, a majority government. I wouldn't doubt, in fact, not trying to be overly facetious, but I think the next time we sit the government will introduce a justice of administration Act and they will add the johns bill in the justice administration Act, hoping that no one is going to pick up on it.

I assure you, Mr. Speaker, I would almost be willing to put down money today that

that is what we will see in the fall sitting, the minister will introduce another justice administration bill and he will put those changes in there, hoping to slip it by. It hasn't worked before; it is not working now. This legislation here, the changes that it makes, as far as I am concerned as the Justice Critic, has serious implications here which warrant public debate, which warrant an opportunity for those most affected by it - the organizations, as I have mentioned, with the interest being charged on fines - to have an opportunity to be able to really tell this government what impact that will have, who it is going to hit the hardest, and be able to find out the justification for it.

Mr. Speaker, this is a means of serving notice upon the government and upon the minister, if we do not get answers to those questions as to why this is being done, what recommendation is this based on, what facts is it based on, is this in any way going to encourage people to pay their fines any quicker, does he have information showing that? I have to be doubtful on all of that, because when the report came out saying that fines weren't being paid by Nova Scotians, the rate for fine collection had actually decreased since this government took office, although the government and the minister said they were going to get tough. When he was asked, well, what are you going to do to speed it up and to change this - now one would think a Minister of the Crown would have been prepared for this question, would have some research, would have a policy statement - he was like, well, um, we are going to put them in jail.

Mr. Speaker, put them in jail. They said, what if it is a $100 fine that is outstanding? We will still put them in jail. Now, how much more silly can you get. How does this Minister of Justice expect to be taken seriously by the people of Nova Scotia and by members of this House when he suggests imprisoning people for a $100 outstanding fine? How much more silly can you get than that? Is he going to act on it? No. Has he acted on all the other foolish statements that he has made? No.

Mr. Speaker, really, when we see this type of legislation coming in, we just can't help but point this out to this government, and to try to bring them to the reality of the fact that they are not being taken seriously by Nova Scotians. I have told you before on Justice issues, on home invasions. The minister was going to put an end to home invasions. He made a

[Page 3980]

home video for seniors on how to lock their doors and lock their windows. What he forgot is that the unfortunate thing is that home invasions usually involve troubled youth in this province. What has he done to educate them on the issue of home invasions, and to try to prevent them from doing it? Nothing. Not a thing. No public awareness campaign in our schools, for the youth, unfortunately, who are involved in these crimes. A home video for seniors, lock your windows and lock your doors. If you had locked them, you would not have had a home invasion, that is the message.

That is the message that this government gives, it is to blame Nova Scotians themselves, saying you are to blame for the problems that you have. The Minister of Community Services does the same with his legislation dealing with social assistance in this province. He blames the clients for their lot in life. He comes out and says, well, I am just going to put my big boot on here and just kind of give you a little boot to the behind and get you started here, give you a kickstart. That is how this government views its role in this province.

Mr. Speaker, until this government changes its ways, I think they should have learned by now that they have an Opposition here in this province that is not going to back down to them, that is going to clearly stand up to them, stand up on behalf of Nova Scotians, and make sure that their voices are heard.

Mr. Speaker, it is my hope, in light of the concerns that I have raised, that the government, especially the Minister of Justice, being that many of the concerns raised are Justice issues, and he is the Chairman of the Law Amendments Committee, that he, who made the commitment not to bring this type of legislation to the floor again, will at least make sure that there is ample opportunity for Nova Scotians to come and make presentations to the Law Amendments Committee on Bill No. 25, such as the John Howard Society, as I pointed out, the Elizabeth Fry Society, and other concerned social activist groups, that they be given ample opportunity to come and speak on this bill.

Mr. Speaker, if that does not happen that means it is up to us as members of this House to speak on their behalf and to raise the concerns on their behalf. So we have two options here. We can allow this government to even attempt to be open and accountable and to allow there to be open public debate on the changes being made, or it will be left to the members of this caucus to stand in our place and to continue to raise the concerns and to seek the justification as to why such changes were made. We have proven in the past that we will do it. Our track record is quite clear since the 1999 election that we will hold this government accountable, that we will speak on behalf of Nova Scotians.

[12:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, for any Nova Scotian who wonders if you are accomplishing anything, well, you look at the changes to Bill No. 30. You look at the waiver of the $20 fee to the

[Page 3981]

Child Abuse Register. You look at the increase in tobacco fines that this government has brought in after the concerns raised by the Liberal caucus. It makes it quite clear to me that standing here in my place in this House and speaking to the government and continuing to point out the concerns that we have, does bring about change. Legislation which may be flawed, we can say that we have done something to try to make it better legislation.

I can tell you, it is not always easy standing up here, Mr. Speaker, and lecturing this government continually. Sometimes you even wonder yourself if you are going to accomplish anything. But I can tell you right now, my session was made when I came back and found out that that $20 fee had been removed and that tobacco fines had been increased as had been suggested by the Liberal caucus. It made it clear to me that what we are doing here does have a purpose, it has a good purpose.

I think Nova Scotians can be proud that they have an Opposition in this province, they have a Liberal caucus which has not stood back because of the fact that we may be in Third Party standing and as the polls clearly show, as said by my colleague, the member for Cape Breton East, we may be third place in the House but we are first in Nova Scotians' hearts. That will continue because we will continue to speak on behalf of Nova Scotians.

We will continue to tell this government that justice administration Acts being dumped on this House is not a responsible way to govern in this province. If you are going to be open and accountable, do it. Bring in changes to Acts as stand-alone Acts themselves so Nova Scotians clearly know when they are looking at the government Internet, at the Web site and they see such as here that there are changes to the Vital Statistics Act, that they can know exactly that there is something being done here. Mr. Speaker, when you look at the title of a bill and you see that the bill says, an Act Respecting the Administration of Justice, there is no means in that title of knowing that there is a change to the Health Act, a change to the Hospitals Act, a change to the Interpretation Act, a change to the justice and administration reform Act.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, in speaking about how they have to change their mistakes, last year's justice administration Act, which was meant to correct the previous year's mistakes, this justice administration Act fixes the mistakes in last year's justice administration Act. (Interruption)

Well, the Minister of Economic Development said that we could do this forever. Basically what that tells me is that they feel their incompetence should continue and should prosper and grow. Looking at his department, we have always said we questioned his ability as a Minister of Economic Development, but based on that philosophy he is perfectly suited for that department because the incompetence within that department and his statement about supporting his government's incompetence makes it quite clear that he is perfectly suited for that department. But we will not tolerate incompetence.

[Page 3982]

Mr. Speaker, we expect that if this government is going to bring forward legislation that it is proper legislation. In fact, the Nova Scotia Bar Society and the Law Reform Commission, this government should almost provide them with compensation or at least reward them for their ability to have gone through legislation, passed by this government, and to tell them all the mistakes contained in their legislation. One would think this government would have the fortitude and the foresight to go to the Bar Society and the Law Reform Commission, present them with their legislation before tabling it and learn from the start where there are errors, rather than shoving it through the House and then having to come back the next session with the justice administration Act to correct all the changes that they have made.

AN HON. MEMBER: Why would they do that, they don't listen to anybody else.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, my colleague says, why would they do that, they don't listen to anyone else? We know that, but I can tell you, as I said before, in this case on Bill No. 30 - and I hope even on this bill - they have listened to the Liberal caucus, they have made changes which are going to help Nova Scotians. Their legislation in many of these cases, we still feel, is going to hurt Nova Scotians, is flawed. but we can say and we can stand proud as a Liberal caucus and know that we have sought changes to try to represent Nova Scotians and soften the blow.

It is a majority government and they can plow anything through that they want. They have proven in the past that they have been able to do it, but because of the fortitude and the strength and the foresight of our caucus here, we have gotten changes that are good for Nova Scotians and I am proud to say that. I certainly hope this government will continue to listen to the changes that we have presented and it will continue to amend legislation to try to make it better legislation here in this province.

As I said before, Mr. Speaker, we want Bill No. 25 to be open to public discussion. If this government tries to ram this through the Law Amendments Committee process and not give ample opportunity to organizations to speak on this, it will leave us with no choice but to stand in our place and to speak on their behalf. So that is the message I wanted to send today to the minister, to the House Leader and to his government. We have been here for quite some time now; we are prepared to stay for quite a while longer, if necessary. Thank you.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

[Page 3983]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I thank the members of the Opposition for their remarks. I made a few notes and I will pass them on the Attorney General and with those few words, I move second reading of Bill No. 25.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 25. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 14.

Bill No. 14 - Energy Resources Conservation Act/Pipeline Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, before I move second reading, I would like to make a few comments about this particular piece of legislation. It is, in fact, primarily housekeeping legislation that is designed to streamline the regulatory process. In fact, one of the issues before us as we grow in industry is making sure that what was formerly housed with other departments is moved under one jurisdiction to make the processing easier.

Mr. Speaker, the clauses of this bill are designed to amend the Energy Resources Conservation Act, to repeal the Energy Board itself and to assign the duties and the responsibilities that that board formerly had to the minister responsible for the Act. It also amends the Energy Resources Conservation Act to allow the minister to establish certain advisory and ad hoc committees and to retain experts in the event that those experts would be needed to deal with issues arising.

Mr. Speaker, as I said, this is simply a housekeeping bill. It also provides that former board members and the former boards that will be no longer needed as these amendments pass through this House, will be indemnified from any liability or responsibilities, that those will be covered off in the new structure. It also amends the Pipeline Act and replaces the Energy Board with the Utility and Review Board. It also ensures that those board members will be indemnified. So, as I say, these are amendments that are needed to make the processes cleaner and the industry is aware of it and it will be an improvement over what was.

So with that, Mr. Speaker, I would move second reading.

[Page 3984]

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I could be motivated very easily to speak at some length on the legislation, but I am going to resist the temptation. I have to say, first of all, that I certainly am supporting what the government is doing. In terms of the Energy Board itself, as soon as it is gone, it can't be soon enough. The minister talks about some of the things that the Energy Board is supposed to be doing. One of the things that he failed to mention of course is that the Energy Board was supposed to be ensuring that Nova Scotians got the maximum benefit. That is one of their responsibilities from the development of the oil and gas industry.

It was also the Energy Board, Mr. Speaker, that in the still of the night, gave the approval without any public hearings, without any environmental assessment, without any socio-economic impact analysis, to the laying of the pipe across the strait to Cape Breton. We saw where that got us. We have a pipeline that is now laid to Cape Breton which is too small to meet the needs so that you can't expand it and you have a pipeline that is flawed. They have been ordered by the NEB to keep the pressure below at 50 per cent of what they had originally intended to do. So they obviously can't put compression on if they can't even carry what the pipeline was supposedly designed to do. No wonder the minister, of course, would want to indemnify them so that there could be no liabilities against them which, of course, these groups, the people who are on that board were senior officials appointed to it by the government and so would, therefore, have done the government's bidding. When I say that, of course, I don't lay that on this minister or, in fact, even on this government's shoulders because it was, in fact, a former government that approved the laying of the pipeline to Cape Breton.

So I certainly have no difficulties in supporting the amendments that are coming before us. I think the minister already does have the authority to appoint advisers and advisory committees and, of course, now because of the restructuring bill that went through this House earlier this afternoon, when, in fact, that goes through third reading, not only will the minister have the authority to have those advisers and to give them responsibilities, but he will now have the ability to designate the responsibilities away to whomever he wishes as well. What we will end up having is the removal of one body that was totally ineffective and certainly operated in secrecy with another body that the minister could have certainly operating in secrecy as well, and those being the minister's advisers and special committees.

One thing I certainly do support however, as well, Mr. Speaker, is getting rid of the board having responsibility to be regulating the pipelines at all, as I have made reference to the situation of the line going to Cape Breton, the people of Cape Breton are going to be paying for that for a long time to come because we know that in order to increase the capacity, a new pipeline would have to be laid. That would require environmental assessments. It would require bringing in heavy equipment. The major cost was that part of the line going across the Strait. So that has been a major problem.

[Page 3985]

I am certainly pleased that in Nova Scotia the Utility and Review Board is a body that is going to be given those responsibilities. I certainly also think that instead of the NEB being authorized to having jurisdiction over approving the lines that are running within this province, and I am referring to the line from Goldboro down to Halifax and on to Cape Breton, that should have been maintained within Nova Scotia, not given to the National Energy Board that look at it as a national thing rather than what is necessarily in the best interests of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I do support the bill going forward. Certainly the Utility and Review Board does have the ability to have public hearings, they do hold public hearings, and they have the ability to get in the experts that they need. I know the oil industry is encouraging the expansion of the resources in the Petroleum Directorate so they can better promote the development of the industry. I don't support what appears to be the request that everything that deals with the energy would be under one minister because I believe that regulations like health, safety, environment, should not be under the same hat but, certainly, I would be in concurrence with the notion that we need to have beefed-up resources to be able to advise the minister.

Certainly he is often in need of advice, this and other ministers, as, in fact, all ministers honestly would be. We do need to have people at the table who are giving the advice who have the same level of expertise as those who are sitting across the table. I have said that; it may be unpopular sometimes. It may be seen as a drain on the public purse. You have to pay for the experts, but if you are going to have people who are going to be advising you and you are going to be using their advice, and to the best of my knowledge, a minister, and this is not intended as a shot, I can make enough shots quite easily, but I don't think the minister or anybody in this House, themselves, is an expert on the oil and gas industry, nor is anybody really an expert on all aspects of it. That means you have to depend upon very capable, qualified people and that means that governments must have access to those experts to be able to set up that advice.

Of course, the government then has to be wise enough to take the good advice when it is given to them. We have seen that that is not always the case and sometimes, this government like the former one, its knees are a little bit too weak to take what may be good advice, Mr. Speaker.

[1:00 p.m.]

That having been said, despite the urge to talk about all kinds of other things, whether that be glycol that is being dumped into the ocean offshore, or whether it is talking about a whole bunch of other issues, I will reserve those comments for another day. I have made those kind of comments on enough other occasions, and indicate that at this stage I certainly will be voting in support of this bill going forward to Law Amendments, and unless there are

[Page 3986]

significant concerns being raised at that stage that I am not currently aware of, I expect I will be supporting this bill through this House. Thank you.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: I couldn't help but listen to my good friend, the Opposition House Leader, talking about the role of the previous government on this particular bill and what is happening in the Petroleum Directorate and the role being played by the current minister. One thing that the current minister and I have in common is that both of us were ministers in this department, and have been there and have grappled with the many problems that are inherent when you are trying to set up the whole regime of the offshore and the petroleum industry. We differ, both the current minister and I, from the Opposition House Leader in that he has never been there and will never be there, so he can't . . .

MR. HOLM: I expected that comeback. (Laughter)

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: That good friend of mine, the member for Sackville-Cobequid, will never have to be accountable for anything that is done on the offshore, so he can be a critic and talk about what is needed there, and certainly he has made some good points in that regard, and I know that the current minister and I share the opinion that this is an important development tool for the province in the future and has to be done right.

I am the first one to criticize the minister at every opportunity I get, and I will continue to do so, but not with this particular piece of legislation. I believe that this is a good piece of legislation and it basically replaces the somewhat redundant, or very redundant, Energy Board and replaces it with the Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board. I believe that is a good thing and if we can get some of these other things happening with this particular directorate, some of the things outlined by my friend to the right here - just in seating only, not in philosophy - my friend to the right has certainly talked about some of them and I won't trespass on the time of the House talking about them today, but perhaps at another time we will have another opportunity to talk about what is happening and what is not happening with the Petroleum Directorate. So, our caucus will be supporting this bill at the present time.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable minister it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the members opposite for their comments, not all of which I agree with, but they certainly made some points to be considered and, with that, I would move second reading.

[Page 3987]

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 14. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 12.

Bill No. 12 - Assessment Act and Municipal Government Act.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, I have genuine pleasure in introducing this bill. This bill has a very simple purpose and that is to exempt the fire department halls from municipal taxation, but at the same time keep them on the assessment roll so that the municipality does not lose any revenue from exempting them. I think it is a worthy endeavour on behalf of an organization that relies on volunteers to maintain their services, and this same service is already rendered to the paid fire departments in the city.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in my capacity as Municipal Affairs Critic for the NDP to say that we will be supporting Bill No. 12. It is a good initiative but, before the government gets too proud of itself, I just wanted to take a minute to talk about what is going on here, and that is that the government made a mistake that it is now correcting. When they passed the Municipal Government Act, they ended up taxing volunteer fire departments in a way that they should not have been taxed, should never have been taxed. Heavens knows how much people in rural areas rely on their volunteer fire departments. It was simply unfair that they should have to pay full property taxes as if they were a commercial enterprise, when so clearly they are not.

In fact, we don't know if the government would have done anything at all if it hadn't been brought to their attention by the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities. At the last full annual meeting of the UNSM, the UNSM passed a resolution calling on the government to make precisely this change, demonstrating yet again the value and importance of the UNSM to the process of municipal relations in this province, something which the government briefly forgot in late February, with their equalization proposal, which was released to the public to the consternation of the UNSM.

[Page 3988]

Mr. Speaker, if I might - I am not going to congratulate the government for correcting a mistake, but - I am going to congratulate the UNSM for once again coming forward with a good idea that the government found irresistible and felt that they had to deal with. When the government introduced this bill, they issued a news release that said, and I am only going to read part of a line here, this was on April 2nd of this year, ". . . this is another example of how the province hears and takes action on issues facing Nova Scotia's 55 municipalities."

Mr. Speaker, the problem, though, is that of all the resolutions passed by the UNSM, the government only acted on a handful, of which this was one. There were many more which I went over with the minister during the debate on estimates that the government simply refused to act on. So if acting on a handful of resolutions shows that the government is listening, I think that is an unfortunate idea of what it really means to listen. The UNSM has lots of good ideas that they have put forward to government, many of those ideas have been ignored or refused by this government. This was one of the good initiatives the UNSM brought forward, and they should be congratulated for it. It is a good idea that we will be supporting.

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

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I certainly want to rise as the Critic for Municipal Affairs, and echo my colleague's statements in congratulating the UNSM in promoting this bill. In all fairness, as far as we are concerned, it is important to recognize that the minister did take steps to correct the wrong that he created. Our position is a little different. We feel it is okay, if you make a mistake and it is an honest mistake, as long as when you recognize it you correct it, then we can accept that.

Mr. Speaker, I certainly want to congratulate the UNSM, because without the direction coming from their meeting, as my colleague from the NDP indicated, of course, the minister possibly would not have recognized the harm that he did do, particularly to rural fire departments. After saying that, I think it is important to indicate that the minister did take reasonable action to correct the wrongs, so I want to congratulate the minister on taking those steps.

I do have some questions, however. The municipalities now, where does this leave them? Who is going to make up the difference of these lost taxes? Will it be left for the municipalities to hold the bag once again, or will the province step in and assist these municipal units? Being familiar with how a municipal unit works, good planning, of course, within the various units, obviously, they have taken into consideration in their budget process or whatever, the fact that these departments would be taxed. Now, again, we are concerned on this side of the House that the individual municipal units will be left holding the bag once again. It is, unfortunately, another type of downloading, perhaps, that this government has initiated upon the units itself.

[Page 3989]

Fire departments, there is no indication whether they have been consulted on this issue, which we feel is a very important issue. Perhaps the minister could stand and allay some of my concerns. Perhaps, also, the minister could indicate whether or not we will have the opportunity to check with volunteer fire departments during the Law Amendments Committee process.

However, as I have said, barring any problems from the groups affected - I certainly don't suggest that there will be any - my caucus and I will be supporting this bill. Again, hats off to the UNSM in particular, but also to the minister for correcting the wrong that he initiated in the first place.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I want to make just a few comments on this bill. I want to say that I am glad that the government listened to the UNSM. I certainly would expect the effect on the municipalities would be minimal by not collecting this tax and certainly they saw it as more important to not do it and if the UNSM was promoting this then they didn't feel that they were going to be severely damaged in not collecting this tax.

I think if we consider the role in rural Nova Scotia that volunteer fire departments have and the fact of the commitment by the communities, the fundraising efforts that volunteer fire departments carry out on an ongoing basis in trying to support their fire department, to try to maintain some level of equipment to meet the needs of their communities then I certainly would say it seems to make perfect sense that they shouldn't be taxed for the service that they deliver.

I would certainly be supporting this piece of legislation. I see it as purely common sense and fire departments are far too great a benefit for what they receive in return for their efforts. I would say that this has to be helpful to them. So, on that I will relinquish the floor, Mr. Speaker, for another member.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I, too, support the principle of this particular bill. I think it is a very positive initiative, one, certainly, I think that kind of got caught as it fell through the cracks when the Municipal Government Act was brought in by my colleague back in 1999. Although this was an issue that was certainly supported in its other life by the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, that by not making provision for this exemption for fire departments, I think upon reflection everybody came to realize pretty quickly how counterproductive it was for volunteer fire departments.

[Page 3990]

It also gives me an opportunity to raise the flag about the government's commitment to volunteer fire departments and to volunteer firefighters. Where is this $500 tax credit that the government promised to the volunteer firefighters in the province, back when it was on this side of the House? That, in itself, would be considered a positive initiative. That was indeed one of the commitments in the Tories' blue book, that they were going to proceed with this initiative. This, as positive as it is, it is only a half measure of really what the government should be doing. It is an opportunity for the minister, not only the minister of municipal service and relations, but also . . .

[1:15 p.m.]

AN HON. MEMBER: It is municipal relations and service Nova Scotia.

MR. MACKINNON: Municipal relations and service Nova Scotia, they are after changing the name so often, we are not sure what they are called any more. (Interruption) My colleague, the member for Dartmouth North, is all too willing to assist. It may even be worth his while just crossing over to the Liberal caucus and getting it over because he seems to want to participate in the deliberations of this caucus so much. I am not sure he is as far to the right of us as he would like to think.

On this particular issue, Mr. Speaker, it is an issue that came to the forefront in my constituency as well; the fact that we have not just volunteer firefighters, but we have different service groups. For example, we have a volunteer community group that is called the Donkin Senior Citizens Band. They go around to different communities for different activities and they play. They don't charge a fee, only the cost of whatever they require to be able to cover their costs. They have been exempt from paying taxes on their building, what they call their band building, that is built. It is only about 20 x 20. They use it for practising. Effective this year, they received a tax bill assessing the place at about $30,000 and a tax bill of about $1,200 or $1,300.

That may not seem like a lot of money to some people, but for a group of volunteers that doesn't charge a fee or anything of that sort, that is a lot of money. Really, they are put in a rather untenable position. This is perhaps another issue that the minister would like to consider because although it is an issue that is addressing volunteer fire departments, it is not really addressing the entire picture, such as the Donkin Senior Citizens Band. I think, Mr. Speaker, perhaps the minister may want to reflect on that because I am sure there are these types of community organizations right across Nova Scotia that need the support of government.

Another good facet of this particular amending legislation is the fact that, for example, in my constituency with 14 volunteer fire departments, each and every one of them would perhaps have fundraising activities on a weekly, if not monthly, basis. For them to be taxed

[Page 3991]

on a portion of their facility, then I think that is very counterproductive. This particular amendment addresses that tax issue.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Are you going to vote for it?

MR. MACKINNON: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley is asking if I will vote for it. Well if he had heard what I said when I stood up, he would have known the answer.

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Yes, you are.

MR. MACKINNON: Well, see. His colleague, the member for Preston, was indeed listening to what I had to say. I think he may want to reflect on his own bill that he is about to bring back to the House for consideration because that in itself, Mr. Speaker, deals with volunteer fire departments. So there is a whole range of issues to be considered here, the taxing powers of volunteer fire departments and the ability for the government to be able to provide this type of relief. What are the implications on the municipalities that are involved or, more so, that are affected?

For example, in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, I believe there are either 36 or 37 volunteer fire departments throughout the municipality, of which I have close to half of those in my constituency, at least I had half until the latest redistribution that took place. The ability of those volunteer fire departments to raise money is getting more and more difficult, particularly in industrial Cape Breton where the economy has been hard hit as of late.

Indeed, on Thursday of last week, the Big Pond Volunteer Fire Department actually lost their building to a fire. Their fire department, itself, burned to the ground, not the department, but the building. So they are now in a rather unfortunate situation where they have to go out and they have to do some fundraising to raise several hundred thousand dollars to be able to replace this fire department in Big Pond that burned last week. Usually the firemen are going to save other buildings from fire, but unfortunately, because of an electrical fire at 2:00 a.m. Friday morning or sometime in the early morning or late Thursday evening, an electrical fire destroyed the fire department.

They were lucky enough to be able to support each other in the sense that with a quick response, they were able to save their two trucks. They lost all their turnout gear. They lost a lot of the hoses and the support equipment that they need on a regular basis, whether they are going out for a grass fire or a house fire or what have you. So it is very difficult for volunteer fire departments to make ends meet these days in terms of achieving their goals, which, by the way, they are doing, not because they are doing it for the money or the glory, they are doing it because they want to help their community and make their community and the people living in that community continue to live in a safe environment.

[Page 3992]

Mr. Speaker, again, if the government had lived up to its commitment of providing that $500 tax credit, then perhaps we would see even more volunteer firefighters participating in volunteer fire services. As we have noticed, through some of the volunteer fire departments across Nova Scotia, because of the rather regressive action that has been taken by the Department of Environment and Labour, it is becoming more and more difficult to attract volunteer firefighters into service. We saw last year where several volunteer fire departments actually indicated that they would be shutting down because they just couldn't continue to compete with that type of regressive policy at the provincial level.

I think what we have to be concerned about as well, Mr. Speaker, is the fact that the government is opening up the backdoor in other ways to download the issue of responsibility for volunteer firefighters and fire departments in this province. I think we have to examine this particular measure as well, in conjunction with this review of the Fire Prevention Act that is now about to take off. We saw, in last week's newspaper report, over 8,000 volunteer firefighters come out in full opposition to this select committee of the Legislature that the minister is trying to embark on. It is nothing more than a stalling tactic, nothing more than a snow job in many respects and a bit of an affront, to say the least, to the volunteer firefighters in this province, notwithstanding the fact that the deputy fire marshals within the Fire Marshal's Office are under considerable strain as well.

Therein lies another problem, Mr. Speaker. So within the Fire Marshal's Office alone, we see considerable downloading into the private sector. We also see that within the Fire Marshal's Office, the deputy fire marshals and all the employees within that division are the

only ones that have been turned down for any type of a reclassification or job classification and salary review. Now, I don't know, maybe that's because the previous Minister of Labour found some difficulty with the Fire Marshal's Office when he became Minister of Labour, but it seemed like it was too much of a coincidence. That's having a tremendous negative impact.

As well, Mr. Speaker, another issue is the fact that the insurance industry seems to be distancing itself from the Fire Marshal's Office because of the way that the government is running that service at present. That's having an effect not only from a professional point of view, but certainly from a psychological point of view within the Fire Marshal's Office as well as from the paid fire services, whether it be in the HRM or CBRM, or indeed within the volunteer fire services of this province. So, one good thing about this particular bill, it allows people an opportunity to reflect on some of these issues that do have a direct impact on this particular piece of legislation.

One thing I was a little disappointed to see as well is the fact that there doesn't seem to be any movement within the provincial Department of Environment and Labour, who has the direct charge and responsibility for fire departments in this province, to accept some of the recommendations from the 8,000-strong volunteer fire services in terms of moving ahead with some of the issues that are outstanding. One of the proposals that was put forth that

[Page 3993]

would have a direct impact is the fact that the roles and responsibilities would have been clearly defined. Presently, if a fire chief goes out on a fire, that's fine with his volunteer firefighters. If he is not able to attend that particular situation, he is not, under the present legislation, able to pass on the roles and responsibilities of the fire chief. So it is very unfortunate that the minister has chosen to hold that up because that, again, has a direct impact on the volunteer fire service here in the province.

While it is good that the government has recognized the concerns that were raised by the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities and, indeed, members from our caucus who I believe perhaps raised this issue initially with the minister on a previous day, I think it is a half measure. It is a half measure because certainly the minister could have extended that to all of the community organizations, the non-profit organizations, and now they are even assessing churches and church halls. So where is it going to stop? This here seems to be a step in the right direction but equally so, it is only a half measure at best. If the government continues to do issues like this in a piecemeal fashion, then really what we are having here is at some point in time they are all going to start to be at cross ends to each other.

Other than that, Mr. Speaker, I would have no particular problem in supporting the legislation, because I think it is a good piece of legislation. I would only hope that perhaps the minister would consider some amendments to make the bill a little stronger. Perhaps if he would be kind enough before it comes to the final reading, the final endorsement of the House, that, in fact, he would provide us with some statistical information as to what the implications of this bill are, in terms of the tax measures at the municipal level and, indeed, how it impacts on the transfer payments that the province makes to the municipalities.

[1:30 p.m.]

Will this bill, that provides exemption, have a negative impact on the transfer dollars that go the municipal level, or will they, in fact, not be counted into the equation whatsoever? Obviously, what that will do, as well, is have an impact on the amount of dollars that the municipality has to pay towards its educational budget, because if everything is tallied in, in the final analysis, the municipality still has to pay a certain percentage of its total assessment for their municipality to the school board for the operation of the school board, whether it be CBRM, HRM, Digby, Annapolis or what have you.

That will have a direct impact on how much money, perhaps, the Minister of Education will be paying to the school boards. Eventually, that trickle-down effect will come as a result of this particular piece of legislation. I would suggest that the minister should be able to provide us with some information as to what the impact really is. Simply doing it because the request was made or because, perhaps, there was a political opportunity here is simply just not good enough.

[Page 3994]

I do know one thing, if the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities is supporting it and requesting it, then it would be a positive initiative. Again, I think we have to consider all the factors. With that having been said, I would certainly take my place in support of this legislation.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to close the debate on Bill No. 12, and to move second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 12. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 9.

Bill No. 9 - Pension Benefits Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to get up today and speak a little bit about Bill No. 9. Bill No. 9 is done to: one, harmonize some of our legislation with the other jurisdictions in the country; two, there are some necessary technical changes to bring it into conformity with the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency; and there are a number of other provisions which I think are well welcomed by Nova Scotians.

One is that at age 80, we will no longer require that somebody who is on a life-income fund needs to convert it to an annuity. That means that they would have the option of passing the residue of the capital on to their beneficiaries. Two, we are providing some ability to enhance pensioners' income at age 55 until some of the other pensions, such as the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security kick in at age 60 and 65. It also allows for the ability to commute small pensions; also some assistance in determining the ownership of surplus in the wind-up of a plan; and also removes the requirement to basically fund a certain aspect of multi-employer pension plans that typically applies to trades which is something that is not likely to ever take place.

[Page 3995]

It allows for a full pension at an earlier age, but the problem is that the information now requires full funding for this, and because they are multi-employer trades plans, the likelihood that the plan would ever be wound up is virtually nil. It is detracting, it is taking away from the ability to enhance the members' pensions. With that, Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of Bill No. 9. Thank you.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: I am glad to be able to spend a few minutes talking about Bill No. 9, the Pension Benefits Act. I guess if I could sum this up in a sentence - it would be that this legislation basically fine-tunes the Act, but it is a missed opportunity to go much further with regard to improving benefits and pension benefits in Nova Scotia.

I want to take a couple of minutes on this legislation to talk about some of the principles that could have been addressed. For example, the government has dealt with the issue of vesting of small pension amounts and we think that is a good idea but there are other things that particularly could have been addressed and I want to take my limited time to talk a little bit about that. Some of them, for example under the issue of survivor benefits, right now under this legislation, as it is put forward before this House, it talks about survivor benefits, but then they are able to be reduced based on actuary reductions. Maybe we would like to see this so that survivor benefits would not be reduced based on actuarial reductions.

Also, there is a particular issue around trustees. This legislation adopts certain qualifications of trustees. Now that in itself is not a problem, our concern, potentially, with this kind of legislation is that there is a long history or maybe a shorter history of U.K. and American consultants who become trustees who then go around and shop themselves as providers of trusteeship of various pension plans. They have an animus towards union members, and the unions' and the employees' ability to have influence over their pension plans. We want to ensure that this legislation does not open the door for that kind of animus and for those organizations to come in and take over, in many instances, the trusteeships of pension plans, ignoring the interests of the employees; they are the ones the pension plan is meant to benefit.

I think that is the key issue. Any pension Act should reflect the fact that this is legislation to help ensure that when employees put money into a plan, they will be able to get it out on retirement. We would hope that anything around the issue of qualifications of trustees would reflect the ability of Nova Scotians to continue to have representation and influence over their own pension plans.

There is an advisory committee provided in this legislation, but we would suggest that this is a golden opportunity for our Legislature to adopt legislation that reflects joint management of pension plans. Why not? Again, if these pension plans are meant to be for the benefit of the employees, they should be guaranteed an opportunity to provide influence,

[Page 3996]

an opportunity to help manage those plans. The government does it, the government did it with regard to their own superannuation plans; I would hope that they would do it for this plan as well.

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

MR. DEVEAUX: Sure.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage for allowing me an opportunity to make an introduction this afternoon. I would like to introduce to the House the 42 Grade 6 students from Joseph Giles Elementary School. With them is Alan MacDonald and Phil Boyle, the teachers, and a number of parents as chaperones. I wonder if the House would extend to all the people in our gallery, students and parents, the warm welcome of the House, and if they would stand so everybody can see. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. We certainly welcome visitors to the gallery today on behalf of all members.

MR. DEVEAUX: Just a few more minutes on my comments on the pension legislation. There are a couple of other provisions. There is a provision in this legislation and it is a principle of this legislation that I think needs to be addressed, the issue of taking surpluses out of pension plans. Again, it goes back to this theory that the employer is the one who owns the pension plan, but I would suggest the employer in many respects is the trustee of the money that has been provided in almost all cases by the employees as well. Surpluses can be taken out and this legislation tries to tighten that a little, but we would suggest there needs to be tighter constraints, constraints that ensure surpluses aren't going to be taken out or cannot be taken out at all or, if they are, there are certain constraints to ensure that employees have an opportunity to address the issues.

Mr. Speaker, these are things we think can improve this legislation, can make it better. It can happen. It can be done. This is a golden opportunity, as I think it has been 10 or 15 years since the last time we have updated our Pension Benefits Act. Here is an opportunity to do this. It may be 10 or 15 years again before we do it. Let's take this opportunity to ensure this legislation will be the best possible. Let's go back to that common point I was making earlier. Pensions are employees' money put aside so that when they retire they have that money to help live on. It is great. It has been around for a long time, but it is important that we have it because it helps reduce people's dependency on CPP, Old Age Security, other forms of assistance, by pooling their money, putting it aside and having a fund on which they can draw from when they retire. It is good, but let's ensure that employees have an

[Page 3997]

opportunity to control that fund, have an opportunity to have influence over the management of the fund and, before anyone starts taking surpluses out of it, they have some opportunities to address that as well.

Having said those few comments, Mr. Speaker, I will take my seat. We will agree to the legislation, but we do believe there are many amendments that we would like to see at the Law Amendments Committee process. We are looking forward to hearing from Nova Scotians and their comments on the legislation, but we will be bringing forward amendments to try and ensure that this legislation just doesn't fine-tune the current Act, but makes Nova Scotia a leader in guaranteeing that employees have real influence and a real opportunity to manage their pension funds. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I have a number of observations on this particular Pension Benefits Act. I guess we have to ask ourselves really what is the government trying to achieve with this particular piece of legislation. Sometimes it is not what they say or not what they do, it is about what you don't see, or what they don't do when they bring these particular pieces of legislation before the House.

As we all know, the government has embarked on a rather ambitious plan to restructure government. So that's factor number one. Factor number two is that through the restructuring of government, commencing last year, the government has adopted the policy that it will reduce the size of the Public Service by anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 employees; I think the figure that was used is somewhere in the vicinity of 1,200.

Now, what else is the government trying to accomplish with this particular piece of legislation? As we all know, there are different types of pension plans. There is what we call a defined payment plan and then there is a defined benefits plan. For those who aren't familiar with the language, that is very significant. For example, what we have in the government service here, for the MLAs, is what we call a defined benefits package. What that means, Mr. Speaker, is that at the end of the day we know what our pension is going to be because we pay a certain amount into it and the government, or the Province of Nova Scotia better put, pays the difference, perhaps an equal amount or perhaps a greater amount or a lesser amount.

That is significant, Mr. Speaker, because in this particular case, depending upon what the rates are in the market or what the forces of the marketplace will allow, and I believe the minister will know exactly what I am referring to, a defined benefits plan, that can cost the government considerably more than the other plan. The government, through its restructuring program, can take a lot of public servants from a defined benefits plan and put them into the other plan, which is not so good.

[Page 3998]

What that means is that at the end of the day, Mr. Speaker, presently, any public servant, whether it be an MLA or some person working in the Department of Health or Education, or what have you, school teachers - well, school teachers have their own plans - but just for the civil servants, you know at the end of the day what your pension is going to be in that plan and that, for the most part, is what we have. What the government appears to be attempting to do is to go to a defined cost, which is significantly different.

[1:45 p.m.]

What that will mean at the end of the day is that your public servant could very well end up with less of a pension than they would under the existing regime. That to me is an issue that I believe the minister should really address before this bill comes to its finality. Perhaps it is something we can deal with at Law Amendments; perhaps it is something we can deal with in Committee of the Whole House on Bills or what have you. To me, that is quite significant because that will have a dramatic impact on our entire Public Service.

Maybe all of them are not in this particular defined benefits portfolio, but I think, Mr. Speaker, it is an issue that I would have grave concerns about. Unless you are dealing in the business, most people wouldn't normally pay attention to it and they would just take that for granted - you know, I am working in the Public Service, the government is going to pay so much into my pension plan, I am going to pay so much and, at the end of the day I will have so much and I know what I am going to have. Well, it is not quite that simple. There are two different types of plans. Unless you are in a defined benefits plan, you could be in a very vulnerable state. The cost to the individual employee would go up or down considerably on an annual basis in a rather unsettled market.

So that is a concern that I have and I believe it is an issue that the government really has to have this bill approved to be able to meet with its companion legislation such as Bill No. 20, the Government Restructuring (2001) Act. Although you would look at this and say well, it is perhaps just a housekeeping measure, it is not. This particular piece of legislation is fundamental to dealing with the human resources component of Bill No. 20 where the government has changed the entire face of the government departments, where we are merging government departments.

So a civil servant, under the old Department of Education, for example, may not have the same rights, privileges and benefits under the new legislation if it is approved in its present form. That is a concern that I have and I believe that perhaps the opportunity will avail itself when various stakeholders come before Law Amendments, I would suggest perhaps, Mr. Speaker, the minister should really give, in layman's terms, the intent of what he is trying to achieve, other than the generalities that he provided during his opening remarks on second reading. I think that is an issue that will affect all 10,000 public servants in this province.

[Page 3999]

Certainly the opportunity to be able to allow them to access their pension funds at an earlier age if, for example, they get caught in the downsizing, then, yes, perhaps there should be some latitude. I believe that is addressed in this bill and that it will allow them access to their pension funds. There is no sense having a pension fund if you don't have a job and no prospects of financial security when perhaps maybe you have paid into this plan for 20 or more years and you know there is some limited benefit there and you could really use that today, not in 15 or 20 years time when you reach the age of retirement or whatever defined term is in the present legislative framework.

So I think with the fact that there is some good in this particular piece of legislation, there is what I call the sleeper. The sleeper is the fact that the government is changing the design of not only who manages the funds, but the definition of what type of a pension fund the employees or former employees will be drawn into. They may not have much choice on that. So I would respectfully submit that the minister should provide more detail before this bill is allowed to go through for final reading because it is going to have some considerable impact from a budgetary point of view because the Minister of Finance has to budget for these things every year. In each and every department, a certain percentage of their departmental budget has to go towards the employees, the human resources division of government, and a certain percentage of that has to go towards a pension.

I think what the government really should do, and the minister who sponsors this particular piece of legislation, is in fact put all the facts and the figures on the table so that we know what we are voting for. Just to vote for a bill, on the general principle of something, giving more authority to the Executive Council to adopt further legislation, not by legislation or public policy I should say, to adopt further public policy by regulation and not legislation only further enhances the argument we have been making for the last number of weeks, that the government is making it so difficult for the people to understand what is happening within their government that they are actually removed and there are less and less people who know what is going on inside the workings of government.

So you have perhaps the Chairman of Policy and Management Board with three or four other Cabinet Ministers about the only ones in the entire elected Assembly who would have any detailed idea of what is going on in government. The fact that they have restructured the budgetary process makes it even more difficult. So I can well imagine for the typical Nova Scotian, for the average Nova Scotian who trusts the politicians to come and be the guardians of their matters on public policy and finance, they must be at a complete loss because who do you know that you can trust and that is a lot of it because it has come to the point now, most people you talk to today, they are very skeptical of what politicians are saying, and perhaps rightfully so. This type of process, this design of legislation is doing very little to engender that type of confidence building.

[Page 4000]

Mr. Speaker, I believe the minister, who by the way is one who practised in the insurance industry, would certainly know exactly what I am referring to in terms of the shift of policy because if the government is planning to privatize these insurance plans that are now within the regime of the provincial government, we will see that a fair number of public servants are going to be lost in the shuffle. They could very well be excluded for medical reasons, it could be perhaps certain insurance companies will say I am not going to provide a benefit to this particular individual or we are not going to take that group of individuals in because the majority of them are smokers, or something like that.

We don't know that but, see, all these things that are built in the present regime, Mr. Speaker, are issues that will come back to haunt our entire Public Service and that is my primary concern and that is my reason for proceeding with the details on that. There are some good facets to the legislation. The fact that the annuity age, I believe what it will do is it will remove the requirement for the owner of the life income funds to purchase a life annuity at the age of 80 and this would certainly revise the formula for - well, they are intending to revise the formula for the maximum withdrawal from those funds so that is good. That is good because there will be individuals who will certainly need the opportunity to draw on those resources.

Mr. Speaker, I believe this bill needs further scrutiny and I would strongly suspect that, representatives from the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, the Nova Scotia Nurses Union, all the highway workers, all the different employees who are still within the Public Service will want to come and make representation on this because if we are going to change the type of plan, then certainly I think that there is a strong possibility that the government will be doing one of several things. It will be privatizing, and it will be downloading. It will be downloading because it will alleviate the government of some of its financial commitments to the pension program that is now in existence.

Mr. Speaker, with that, I will certainly take my place. I know my colleague, the member for Lunenburg West, would like to make some points.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand to speak on Bill No. 9. I should say that I won't be as long as the member for Cape Breton West. I do want to speak on some of the issues that have been touched by our member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage. The two issues that I want to speak just briefly on are with respect to pension surpluses and the vesting of small amounts of pensions.

First of all, with respect to the pension surpluses, I don't know if many people are aware, but normally pension surpluses are arrived at by the employer. The employer asked an actuary to go out and see if, in fact, the pension has the amount of money in the plan in order to address the issues. Normally that is based over a five year plan; it is based over the

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number of people who will become deceased, the number of people who will retire, and the number of individuals who are presently in the plan, to see if, in fact, that plan can be sustained and sustain itself over the five year period, and with respect to the life of the individuals who are retiring.

Mr. Speaker, this has always been a concern of mine, because often when the employer looks for additional monies, they go to the pension plan and often the actuary comes back finding that the pension plan has a surplus. The employer tends to say, well, okay, we will give you that, we will talk with the pension committee, if there is a pension committee of some association, union or organization. If there is no pension committee and then there is an association, the employer will speak with association representatives on how best to distribute this money. Often the employer will ask for half of that pension investment, so that the employer may pay down debts or administrative costs, it may be a number of things, as to why the employer wants their hands on this money.

I have often felt that it was in the best interests of government to introduce legislation that would tighten up pension surpluses, primarily so that the pension plans could be enhanced, so that people could actually retire at age 55 rather than at age 65. If in fact there is an accumulative amount in a pension plan, then I think the people who the pension benefit had originally been set out to benefit ought to be the recipients of that pension benefit.

Mr. Speaker, I think that if the minister is listening, then the minister might be wise, when it goes through the Law Amendments Committee, to look at tightening up how pension surpluses are to be used. One great advantage for government is that if, in fact, governments, particularly, are able to tighten up pension surpluses and allow pension surpluses to go directly into enhancements of the pension plan, it means that many people will be better off. It means that government won't have to pay income supplements if, in fact, pension benefits are better because of an enhanced pension plan, people are able to retire earlier because of an enhanced pension plan.

It has a tremendous advantage for governments, and I don't think that governments fully understand or recognize the potential that pension surpluses can have with respect to the growth of a pension plan and the benefits of those employers who have contributed to the plan. I think it is significant, and I think it is very important, we ought to look at those pension surpluses as a way of enhancing employee pension benefits. They ought to be pension benefits enhancements and that enhancement can take place by the way of increased pension benefits, it can take place by way of early pension retirements that give people a good livable pension. All those things can be considered when, in fact, you look at ways of addressing pension surpluses. I think it is an area that government tends not to tread on but, I think, it is an area in which government should look at very closely.

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[2:00 p.m.]

The other thing with respect to vesting small amounts of pensions. I don't know how many people have gone to other constituencies in the province, but I know a number of people have come to my constituency with respect to wanting to be able to take a portion of their pension monies. Particularly those individuals who may have been retired for many years and have very small pension amounts in the pension fund, and they may have been laid off or the employer may have gone out of business and they have had to tap their pension over into an RRSP or a GIC. As a result of that they are prone to the market conditions. For example, I know of one individual who had over $5,000 in a pension plan and thought that they would be able to take that money out. However, because Nova Scotia legislation was not like that of New Brunswick and Ontario, which now it does reflect; they were unable to pull that money out and, as a result of that, they lost some $700 to $800 in the downturn in the stock market. These pensions, as you know, Mr. Speaker, are part of the investments into the stock markets and because of that this particular individual lost some $700 to $800. So it went down from over $5,000 to $4,700.

What I am telling you is, here is an opportunity; the individual would be able to extract that small pensionable amount that will have no effect whatsoever on the earnings of this individual and this individual is 61 years of age. Also, because the legislation was not consistent with New Brunswick and Ontario legislation, I remember another individual who worked for a major company in New Brunswick and because the legislation in Nova Scotia was different, the individual was unable to take that vested amount of $10,000 out. However, if that individual had lived in New Brunswick they would have been able to extract that $10,000. Now is the opportunity because of these vested small amounts of pension amounts being able to be extracted by these individuals which will have no significant effect on their lifestyles when they reach age 65, are now able to access that pension fund. I think that this is somewhat a positive move, I don't want to see the government allowing people to extract all portions of their pension. I know that's not in the legislation. I think we recognize that there is an opportunity, through some hardships at times, that individuals need to extract a portion of that money, particularly when it is not going to have any significant benefit to them when they reach age 65.

Mr. Speaker, this is what I wanted to bring some attention to within this pension bill. I will be awaiting this pension bill to go to the Law Amendments Committee and I will be waiting to hear those presenters before the Law Amendments Committee and what they have to say. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I won't speak too long on this, much has already been said. The first issue is why this has moved out of the responsibility of the Department of Finance and over to the Department of Environment and Labour. This is a

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very complex issue and I know that the staff has been working on pension reform for a number of years. In fact, I had been briefed on it two years ago about some of the initiatives they are referring to in this legislation and the reason to update the pension reform and the pension program in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Some of the Pension Benefits Act changes are to be reflective of what is happening across the board, what is happening in other jurisdictions in Canada, to be reflective of the national standard that committee members, the minister and his staff who sit on national boards, are trying to bring the standard of pension reform, harmonize it to a national level.

Some of the points that have been made as well here today are ones that have to be addressed. The principle behind pensions and the people who control them are to protect them for retirement. To say you should get your pension whenever you want it and so on and so forth, the concern of the body that administers the Act is that pensions are there for retirement. But there should be some ability to have some caveats built into that provision so, for example, individuals that maybe are terminal, who have a very short period of time left in their life, they have large expenses related to medicine and they have a pension; to try to access that pension is almost impossible sometimes.

So there needs to be some clarification for certain situations like that or individuals who have a pension, they worked for a private company and then lost their job and they wanted to go back to school or whatever, they might have $1,000, $1,500 or $2,000 in that pension fund and they want to use it for education or they might want to use it simply just to eat, to be able to survive. I know in the debate, a discussion I had with members of the pension committee, there was rationale behind the way they have approached it, but sometimes you wonder if there could not be a little common sense in that program to deal with some of these externalities, these situations beyond the norm.

I believe in the principle of the bill in regard to the fact that we need to make sure that the pensions are for a long-term benefit and that they should be protected for that purpose. I will be looking forward to the Law Amendments Committee in regard to the issues that will be brought forward, not only by the government employees, but by the private sector as well, companies that have pension plans and how they will be treating their employees and how they will deal with the whole issue of surpluses and things of that nature. I know that that is a bit of a sensitive issue for some organizations.

I will say that the minister, in his brief description, maybe wanted it to be that way because it so complex. I don't know. But this issue is a very, very complicated process. You can spend a day just going through the complications in regards to pension and how the pension processes are dealt with. So we are going to have some problems until we understand more of the detail of what this bill is all about. I understand some of it from being briefed two years ago about it, but I can tell you, this is one that we are going to be very careful on how we proceed. I think it actually would be more appropriate if the minister were

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to have it in the Law Amendments Committee and hear what the people have to say and then possibly hold it for six months so that we can review it to make sure that we have the right changes. But that will be, again, up to the minister or up to the government to decide.

I would like to say those few words and that we will be watching with interest how the Law Amendment Committee process will go forward and the input in regard to the direction that that should take. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the minister it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the members opposite for their comments. I too look forward to the feedback at the Law Amendments Committee and at this time I would like to close debate on Bill No. 9. I move second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 9. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now rise to meet again on Monday at 2:00 p.m. The House will sit from 2:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. and the order of business will be Public Bills for Third Reading, Bill No. 20, Bill No. 30 and then Bill No. 13, I believe and then, if we have time, we will go into Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[The motion is carried.]

The House is now adjourned until 2:00 p.m. on Monday.

[The House rose at 2:10 p.m.]

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NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 1388

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 many people and communities around this province are very grateful for the services and feeling of safety their fire departments ensure; and

Whereas this gratitude is often translated into financial support by community organizations who take on fundraising projects fire departments themselves can't always carry out; and

Whereas the Eureka Fire Department has reason to be grateful to their ladies auxiliary who have recently made a sizeable contribution of $4,000 to their fire department;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House applaud the efforts of the Eureka Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary for their tremendous contribution to their local fire department and hence to their entire community.

RESOLUTION NO. 1389

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 six new interpretive signs at Acadia Park in Westville will provide greater insight into the town's past; and

Whereas these signs were thought of and paid for by the Western Star Lodge, with inscriptions written by Town Crier George Dooley, and are photos from the turn of the last century which depict Westville's history; and

Whereas these signs, a very nice addition to the young park, will be enjoyed by residents and visitors alike, are dedicated to the memory of a long-time Westville citizen, J. Roy Hale;

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Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House commend the members of the Western Star Lodge for making a good thing happen, and for encouraging pride and interest in their town's history.

RESOLUTION NO. 1390

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's Pictou County United Way Campaign was a huge success and exceeded all expectations, much to the pleasure of campaign chairman Jim Mieske; and

Whereas the campaign team's hard work, along with the incredible support of volunteers and the constant financial support from donors, means that all Pictou County non-profit, community services agencies are eligible to apply for assistance; and

Whereas next year's campaign is already on the minds of the new board of directors and the executive committee, and President Mike Jenkins is looking forward to the new challenge;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Pictou County United Way for reaching their goals and thank them for providing extra support to the many valuable agencies which are at work in Pictou County.

RESOLUTION NO. 1391

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 several Pictou County high school students have been awarded generous scholarships from the Kimberly-Clark Foundation; and

Whereas Sarah Fraser of Westville High School, and Blair Williams and Graham Noseworthy both of East Pictou Rural High School, are three students whose demonstrated academic excellence and commitment to their communities has singled them out for this scholarship; and

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Whereas the Kimberly-Clark Foundation, as part of its Bright Futures Program, awards scholarships of $20,000 over four years, to daughters and sons of Kimberly-Clark employees seeking post-secondary educations;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Sarah Fraser, Blair Williams and Graham Noseworthy on these scholarships which will help set them on a steady course to pursue their educational goals.

RESOLUTION NO. 1392

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 Trailer Park Boys is a familiar-styled, ludicrous comedy about two guys patching life together after a stint in jail and features so-called real life scenarios about life in a trailer park; and

Whereas in a twist as peculiar as the show itself, Mike Smith, a former Thorburn resident who was working audio on the TV show, ended up in front of the camera and is now Bubbles, a zany character the actor describes as sweet, simple and loyal; and

Whereas last year's six episodes have turned into seven more and this unusual TV show can be seen locally on the Showcase channel;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Mike Smith on his unique entry into television work and his instant success, and wish him well on his foray into comedic acting.