The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Thur., Nov. 8, 2001

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HALIFAX, THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2001

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Second Session

12:00 NOON

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

Mr. Brooke Taylor, Mr. Jerry Pye, Mr. David Wilson

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we begin the daily routine, the subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

Therefore be it resolved that the government introduce a drought relief package which fits the needs of the farm community, rather than stick with existing programs for which most people don't qualify.

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

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of the residents between Canso and Guysborough and also on behalf of the residents between Route 16 and Highway No. 316 in the Whitehead area, on the road conditions. They are looking for road improvements. I have affixed my signature to this petition as well.

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MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of 102 Middle Musquodoboit and area residents who, ". . . are opposed to the telephone rate increases proposal that has been submitted to the CRTC by Aliant Telecom Inc./MTT. An increase to rural customers is unfair and unacceptable." I have affixed my name to this petition and I believe my honourable colleague, the member for Eastern Shore, has also affixed his name to the petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, on November 6th of this week, I appeared before the Senate Standing Committee on National Finance in Ottawa. Pursuant to a request from the Senate, the Senate committee is currently examining the effectiveness of, and possible improvements to, the present equalization policy in Canada. On November 6th, I presented to the committee Nova Scotia's views and concerns as they relate to the current equalization program.

In my remarks to the Senate, I impressed upon them the serious implications to our province from the federal restraint measures, which have been imposed on the equalization program over the past two decades and the fact that such measures have threatened their constitutional commitment under Section 36(2) of the Constitution, that is, "to make equalization payments to ensure that provincial governments have sufficient revenues to provide reasonably comparable levels of public services at reasonably comparable levels of taxation."

Mr. Speaker, key changes to the current program that were raised during my remarks included:

Mr. Speaker, given the renewal of the equalization program in 2004, I noted to the Senate committee members their important role and opportunity in ensuring a strong equalization program for Canada, for the future. In doing so, however, I also stressed the need for caution in their deliberations. There are advocates who would recommend dramatic changes to the program to try to achieve such goals as greater simplicity.

The current formula, however, has been developed and refined over the past 40 years to reflect the true differences that exist among provinces in terms of their revenue-raising ability. Such a comprehensive measurement should not be hastily disregarded in pursuit of these objectives. I urge the Senate committee members to exercise caution and to develop a full appreciation of the implications, for the program and for provinces, of the various proposals for changes that they may hear and consider informing their own recommendations to the federal report.

Mr. Speaker, sharing with all members today I would like to table the report that I shared with the Senate committee members and I thank the House for its indulgence. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to thank the minister, who delivered a copy of his remarks to our caucus office an hour before the House sat, a good model for all other ministers to follow in future, I think. I would go on to say that I am pleased to rise to say that the minister is saying the right things; it was the right thing to do. There are many differences in this House, of substance and otherwise, but one thing I think that all sides of this House can agree on is that there is very little that is more important to the finances of the province than making sure there is a fair equalization deal for Nova Scotia.

To the minister I say very briefly you did the right thing and you did a good job. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I too wanted to take the time to thank the minister for the advance notice. We obviously appreciate the fact we received it and I am pleased that he finally went to Ottawa to explain the province's position instead of relying

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totally on Nova Scotia's PR blitz from the Premier, like with his ineffective postcard campaign.

I am also pleased that the Finance Minister has basically admitted that the Premier's campaign has been an absolute failure. It is also interesting to note that the minister is making his comments while the Premier is away.

I wish to commend the Minister of Finance personally for coming to the realization that tinkering with equalization programs is folly and that the formula right now is so complicated that now is not the time to necessarily go through it. There is a process and we've been saying that, and I have had a chance to explain that to the minister previously. I appreciate the fact that he made that statement today.

The goal of the minister is laudable. I think all Nova Scotians and all members of this House can agree that making Nova Scotia a so-called have province, a self-reliant province, a province that stands on its own, is a cause worth pursuing. We have to build on our infrastructure; we have to build on our economy. We will not become a have province unless government produces large surpluses and the only way this will be achieved is through greater commitment of our economic development initiatives and being able to retain those dollars.

Therefore I am offering, on behalf of our caucus, to the minister any assistance that I can give in working with the minister to achieve the goals that I too support the government in trying to achieve. In order to do that we must work together as a government and as members of this Legislature willing to work together with Ottawa to ensure that our infrastructure, our economy and ultimately our people are the best in the world and treated that way.

In closing, I want to again say to the minister, thank you, you have done the right thing. Congratulations on your presentation and we are here to help in any capacity that we can. Maybe you have all the answers and all the solutions, but we are willing to work with you in whatever capacity so that we in Nova Scotia will be able to continue to stand tall and proud of the fact that our province eventually will be a have province. Thank you.

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 2214

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 Paul Dulong has been awarded the 2001 Canada Post Literacy Award for individual achievement; and

Whereas Mr. Dulong combined his passion for culinary arts, earned Chef of the Year Award from the Nova Scotia Community College; and

Whereas Mr. Dulong earned his chef's qualifications through the adult learning and literacy program;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Mr. Dulong on the Canada Post Literacy Award and on his career as a chef.

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 please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister responsible for the administration of the Human Rights Act.

[12:15 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 2215

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

Whereas Friday, November 9th, will be proclaimed a Day of Reflection on the Spirit of the Community and the designation of this day recognizes the values of inclusion, racial harmony and community; and

Whereas the recent tragic events in the United States have caused us all to reflect on the importance of promoting unity and inclusion for all Nova Scotians; and

Whereas proclaiming November 9th as a Day of Reflection on the Spirit of Community affirms the importance of peace, tolerance and understanding in our province;

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Therefore be it resolved that the residents of Nova Scotia be invited to reflect on the values of community which can help us to build peace, harmony and respect for all.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

RESOLUTION NO. 2216

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

Whereas Tuesday evening the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia announced the recipients of the 2001 Tourism Awards of Excellence; and

Whereas these awards recognize the best in the industry and acknowledge expertise and excellence like that of Ron Lane who received the Alastair and Frances Campbell Tourism Achievement Award; the people of Halifax Regional Municipality who received the Golden Hospitality Award; Ruth Goldbloom who received the Ambassador Award; Chef Rene Vannieuwenhuizen who received the Education and Training Award; and Ron Nelson who received the MTT Technology Award; and

Whereas the following received sector service awards: Pacrim Hospitality Service Inc.; Elsie Yacht Charters; Le Village Historique de la Nouvelle Ecosse; Salmon River House Country Inn; Lobster Shack Restaurant; The Vince Ryan Memorial Scholarship Tournament; Oland Brewery; Halifax International Airport Authority; and Discover Acadia Vacations Inc.;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House join me in congratulating all award winners.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister responsible for the Status of Women.

RESOLUTION NO. 2217

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

Whereas November 7th marked the 12th annual presentation of the Women of Excellence Awards where six highly accomplished women from our community were recognized for their hard work, innovation, creativity, and extensive contributions to community life;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate JoAnne Akerboom, Centre for Entrepreneurship Education & Development, education and research award; Barbara Campbell, Multicultural Association of Nova Scotia, arts and culture award; Jane Farquharson, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Nova Scotia, health, sports and fitness award; Nancy Hilchie, Maritime Broadcasting Systems, communications and public affairs award; Jill Peapell, Peapell and Associates, corporate management and the professions award; and Aileen P. Reid, A.P. Reid Insurance, entrepreneur and innovator award.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

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The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

RESOLUTION NO. 2218

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

Whereas the 4-H Program has been a part of Nova Scotia's rural communities for over 79 years and many of our brightest community leaders have been affiliated with the 4-H program; and

Whereas there are nearly 2,400 young people in our province today learning new skills, taking part in community projects and developing their talents; and

Whereas October 29th through November 4th is named National 4-H Week;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize and celebrate the contribution of 4-H members and volunteer leaders to our communities.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 83 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 8 of the Acts of 1993. The Maritime Provinces Harness Racing Commission Act. (Hon. Ernest Fage)

Bill No. 84 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 494 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Vital Statistics Act. (Hon. Angus MacIsaac)

Bill No. 85 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 28 of the Acts of 1996. The Real Estate Trading Act. (Hon. Angus MacIsaac)

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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. 2219

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

Whereas drug costs represent the fastest growing cost in our health care system; and

Whereas the demographics of our aging population and the increase in poverty show that we will have an unprecedented number of seniors and the poor on fixed incomes who will require access to affordable medicines; and

Whereas lack of access to affordable medicines results in poorer health for many people and increased costs in terms of physicians visits and hospitalizations, so much so that the public interest demands that affordable medicines be made available;

Therefore be it resolved that this House call upon the federal government to implement a national Pharmacare system immediately and to amend its drug patent protection legislation so that more affordable medicines can be made available to Canadians.

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 Liberal Party.

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RESOLUTION NO. 2220

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

Whereas the Order of Canada recognizes individuals who have made a difference to our country through a lifetime of achievement, merit and service to their community; and

Whereas Ron Wallace of Halifax was named a Member of the Order of Canada; and

Whereas Ron Wallace served the people of this province with distinction, including serving as the MLA for Halifax Citadel from 1970 to 1978 and as the city's longest-serving mayor, from 1980 to 1991;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Ron Wallace on being named a Member of the Order of 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 member for Colchester North.

RESOLUTION NO. 2221

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Christmas tree industry is a $32 million economic generator for the province; and

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Whereas the industry employs up to 3,000 people, both full-time and part-time, throughout the year, as they work towards the shipment of 1.8 million Christmas trees in the coming weeks to the United States, along with other markets in Mexico, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Panama and Venezuela; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Christmas Tree Council is now a full charter member of the National Christmas Tree Association of the United States and is the first Canadian province to have representation with this American association;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs in this legislative body recognize the significant role which the Nova Scotia Christmas tree industry has in Nova Scotia's economy, and with the 2001 shipping season now only days away, wish each and every grower continued success this year and many more years into 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 Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 2222

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

Whereas Oceanview Elementary School in Eastern Passage was in need of new playground equipment to ensure the children had a place to play during school hours; and

Whereas the school needed over $60,000 to build a modern play area, including a rubber floor to make the area handicap-accessible; and

Whereas Darlene Bennett of Eastern Passage spearheaded the fundraising for the equipment and was successful in meeting the school's goal in the summer of 2001;

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Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Oceanview Elementary School and, in particular, Darlene Bennett for their fundraising efforts and the installation of the new play area for the children of the 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.

Order, please. There is too much noise in the Chamber. It's very difficult to hear these very important resolutions.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 2223

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

Whereas the Canso Causeway has recently reopened one lane after last night's weather bomb, which washed out a section of the highway; and

Whereas ATV reports that the lineup to get to Cape Breton is three kilometres long; and

Whereas there is no lineup on the Cape Breton side;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize that Cape Bretoners love their Island and that many wish to return, while most are reluctant to leave.

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 Dartmouth South.

RESOLUTION NO. 2224

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

Whereas Stephen Ayer, PhD, has long been a tireless worker with and on behalf of mental health consumers in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Dr. Ayer is perhaps best known as the site co-ordinator at the Mental Health Self-Employment Opportunities Project of the National Network for Mental Health in Dartmouth; and

Whereas Dr. Ayer will be leaving the Mental Health Self-Employment Opportunities Project this month to pursue opportunities in Alberta;

Therefore be it resolved that all members congratulate Stephen Ayer for the important role he has played at the Mental Health Self-Employment Opportunities Project and wish him every success in his future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

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RESOLUTION NO. 2225

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

Whereas Cape Breton has long been known as a hotbed of innovative ideas in politics, culture, education, and community economic development; and

Whereas one such community development is St. Joseph's Credit Union in Petit de Gras, which is celebrating 65 years of being in business for the people of Petit-de-Grat; and

Whereas the credit union in Petit-de-Grat has grown from 15 charter members and $200 in assets to 3,600 members and $23 million in assets;

Therefore be it resolved that the staff, board and members of St. Joseph's Credit Union in Petit-de-Grat be congratulated on 65 years of successful operation and service to the Petit-de-Grat and Isle Madame area.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2226

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

Whereas on Tuesday the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage said, "The Department of Education bought equipment instead of leasing it. If they had leased the equipment, the Department of Finance would have allowed them to write it off over 20 years. By buying it, they had to write it off over 5 years"; and

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Whereas the member went on to explain, "This means that the deficit of the province, because the Department of Education bought the equipment instead of leasing it, went up $5 million a year."; and

Whereas using the member's logic, the P3 leasing method of school construction was the most cost-effective way to build new schools;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the NDP Education Critic for belatedly justifying the P3 construction method.

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 Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 2227

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

Whereas neither money nor gestures can bring any comfort to those who live with the memories of the cruelty and ruthlessness of a World War II German war camp; and

Whereas more than five decades after his release, World War II veteran, Bill Gibson, has not forgotten the horrid sights, smells, and gripping fear of the crematorium at Buchenwald, where, while as a teenager, he was imprisoned as a Canadian POW; and

[12:30 p.m.]

Whereas Germany has finally offered compensation, if not an apology, for the mistreatment of the now 75 year old tail gunner and his fellow Lancaster bomber crew, who were captured when their plane was shot down and sent to an extermination camp instead of being held as Prisoners of War;

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Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House salute World War II veteran Bill Gibson for the dear price he paid in service to his country and pause to remember the debt we owe him and all veterans who still carry such burdens despite the passage of time.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 2228

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

Whereas the Department of Natural Resources hosts the annual Mining Matters conference over the next two days in Halifax; and

Whereas the mining industry has a long history in this province;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulates the department for its efforts towards public education about the mining industry in Nova Scotia and calls upon this government to ensure that mineral development opportunities are always exercised with proper stewardship principles.

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.

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The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 2229

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

Whereas on October 8th Halifax King of Donair won the first national soccer title at any level in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the King of Donair recorded three wins, no losses and a pair of ties; and

Whereas about a dozen former teammates made the trip to support the team and were able to celebrate their victory;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Halifax King of Donair on their first-ever national soccer title.

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 North.

RESOLUTION NO. 2230

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

Whereas Cape Breton's manufacturing and processing sector is continuing to grow and is making its mark, offering a variety of distinctive, quality products worldwide; and

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Whereas North Sydney's East Coast Rope and Polysteel Atlantic Ltd. is one such company, producing high quality products and currently employing 50 hard-working and dedicated employees; and

Whereas these manufacturers are expanding to meet changing market demands and have developed a new rope designed to reduce the entanglement of whales in fishing gear, a product soon to be required in the New England fishing industry;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate East Coast Rope and Polysteel Atlantic Limited on this expansion and applaud these successful manufacturers for their innovations and for creating new jobs.

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. 2231

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

Whereas Sir John A. Macdonald High School's tradition of involvement is firmly rooted in the class reunions held by past graduates; and

Whereas the class of 1981 reunion was held this fall through the efforts of Terry (Pollock) Grandy and Tanya (Nicholson) Hiltz; and

Whereas a great evening of memories took place at the Prospect Bay Landing on September 29th;

[Page 6755]

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Sir John A. Macdonald class of 1981 on its reunion with recognition to Tanya (Nicholson) Hiltz and Terry (Pollock) Grandy for their hard 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.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

RESOLUTION NO. 2232

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

Whereas the member for Kings North has confused a condemnation for his general disdain of politicians as pettiness; and

Whereas the holier-than-thou demeanour of the member is entirely political and entirely partisan; and

Whereas the member always looks at the Opposition with a critical eye while failing to level any significant criticism of the current Tory Government;

Therefore be it resolved that the member from Kings North does not represent idealism in politics but rather is merely another trained seal propping up another inept Tory Government.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 6756]

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 2233

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

Whereas October saw the launch of the Resource Contact Centre of the Agricultural Development Institute; and

Whereas the centre is the first of its kind for the agri-food industry east of Ontario; and

Whereas the centre will be instrumental in effectively ensuring our farmers have the information they need, when they need it;

Therefore be it resolved that members support the use of the centre as a valuable resource for our vital farming community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2234

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

[Page 6757]

Whereas the apple industry in Nova Scotia faces a drop of 16 per cent to 20 per cent of this year's harvest after five years of chronic drought conditions; and

Whereas apple farmers have several initiatives underway to maintain and grow their place in Canada's food chain, including a funding proposal to ACOA to put a bio-products development chair for the industry at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College; and

Whereas the industry also intends to launch an East Coast Cultivar Institute to develop new disease-resistant strains of apples through natural breeding, not GMOs;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Nova Scotia apple producers for their persistence through tough times and undertake to provide whatever assistance it can to aid the industry through these tough times.

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 South.

RESOLUTION NO. 2235

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

Whereas Ron Weber and Associates are holding the grand opening of their new location in Sydney on Monday, November 12th; and

Whereas this company is one of the most successful and well-respected customer service agencies representing many Fortune 500 companies; and

Whereas this company employs over 300 Cape Bretoners and was brought to Cape Breton in 1999 by the Liberal Government, with assistance from the Department of Economic Development;

[Page 6758]

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Ron Weber and Associates Manager Dave Mullins and the entire staff on their accomplishments and wish them great success in their new location.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 2236

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

Whereas the region of Queens Municipality and the Nova Scotia Community College, Lunenburg campus, on October 25, 2001, have entered into an agreement for the forestry sector of the college to sustainably manage a portion of the region's woodland; and

Whereas this partnership will give the students extensive hand-on experience regarding sustainable forest practices; and

Whereas this project will produce forest fibre to market in Queens and Lunenburg Counties which would otherwise be unavailable;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House applaud the partnership agreement signed on October 25th between the community college and the region of Queens Municipality and encourage this to be an example for others to follow.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 6759]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2237

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

Whereas volunteers can make so many good things happen to a community; and

Whereas religious faith sustains so many volunteers in their pursuit of serving; and

Whereas Mrs. Margaret Johnson of Shubenacadie has given a lifetime of energetic service to many and varied organizations, boards and church groups, as well as devotion to her family and individuals within her community;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Mrs. Margaret Johnson of Shubenacadie on her selfless commitment to her church and community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank.

RESOLUTION NO. 2238

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

[Page 6760]

Whereas the Nova Scotia Co-Operators Junior "B" Hockey League has begun another successful season with 10 teams back competing for the 2001-02 Nova Scotia Junior "B" Hockey championship; and

Whereas eight teams comprising of Antigonish, Cape Breton, Pictou, Oxford, Chester, Brookfield, East Hants and Sackville are out to attempt to dethrone last year's champions the Port Hawkesbury Strait Pirates and last year's Atlantic Champions, the Windsor Royals; and

Whereas the 2001-02 league champion will earn a berth in the Atlantic Junior "B" Hockey Championship scheduled for Kensington, P.E.I., in April of next year;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate all players, coaches, team executives involved in the operation of the 10 hockey clubs who make up the Nova Scotia Junior "B" Co-Operators Hockey League and wish them every success in the 2001-02 season.

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 Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 2239

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

Whereas this summer, Nova Scotia lost Springhill native, Canada's last Black D-Day veteran, to cancer; and

Whereas Gerald Parris was just 21 when he landed on the beach in Normandy in the first wave of the D-Day attack at 6:30 a.m. on June 6, 1944, and was one of the only 12 of his 60-member company to survive the gruesome onslaught; and

[Page 6761]

Whereas although he risked life and limb for his country, he still had to battle racism when he returned home, and he led the initiative to set up the William Hall VC Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion in Halifax in honour of the first Black Canadian to win the Victoria Cross, rising above the ignorance;

Therefore be it resolved that, as we approach Remembrance Day, all members of this House salute the life and the service to country by Gerald Parris and commend also his efforts and attitude in the battle against racism so many years ago.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 2240

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

Whereas Lunenburg County is world-renown for it rich sailing heritage; and

Whereas for the first time since 1989, Canada will play host to the World Youth Sailing Championships in 2002, with the Lunenburg area being chosen as the host site; and

Whereas the $1.4 million event will feature sailors all under the age of 19 from 50 countries around the world, with more than 1,000 people expected to be involved directly or indirectly in the event;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly commend the Lunenburg County community for their perseverance and hard work in being selected the host site for the 2002 World Youth Sailing Championships and wish organizers and participants involved all the best in preparations leading up to and during the event.

[Page 6762]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 2241

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to share a little community pride from South Alton.

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

Whereas the donation of a large Nova Scotia Christmas tree to the City of Boston dates back to the Halifax Explosion of 1917 when the City of Boston was so helpful after the disaster; and

Whereas the tree, 48 feet in height and 53 years of age, was recently cut on the property of Gerald Medicraft in South Alton, Kings County; and

Whereas the tree will be decorated and erected near Copley Square at the Prudential Centre in downtown Boston, with the lights to be turned on in early December in a ceremony to be televised here in Nova Scotia on the Boston NBC television affiliate;

Therefore be it resolved that this Legislature and all Nova Scotians recognize the important relationship that has been established between our province and the City of Boston over the past 84 years, while also congratulating Gerald Medicraft and the community for being able to provide another outstanding species of Christmas tree, which will shine so brightly over downtown Boston during the upcoming holiday season.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 6763]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

RESOLUTION NO. 2242

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

Whereas Angus MacDonald of Mabou passed away November 4, 2001; and

Whereas Angus, affectionately known as Angus Cu, was proud of his heritage and culture, being a native Gaelic speaker, fiddler and avid storyteller; and

Whereas Angus was a lifelong supporter of the Liberal Party and was actively involved in the political process, serving as a role model for our youth;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend their deepest sympathy and prayers to Angus' family, as Angus was a true friend to all.

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 Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

[Page 6764]

RESOLUTION NO. 2243

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, this resolution is a piece of modern day history.

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

[12:45 p.m.]

Whereas Jim Higgins has had an exceptional interest in wind turbines since he was 13 years of age; and

Whereas the Middle Musquodoboit resident's interest has never waned on this issue, and he has now become the first person anywhere in Nova Scotia to actually own a horizontal wind turbine; and

Whereas today, many years later, Jim has inked a contract with the Nova Scotia Power Corporation to supply the corporation with wind power, which is now going to integrate with the corporation's existing supplies;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House of Assembly congratulate Jim, his wife Jean, for their hard and diligent work on this great project, and wish them every success with their future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 12:46 p.m. and will end at 1:46 p.m.

[Page 6765]

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

EDUC.: SCH. BD. SUPERINTENDENT - SALARY

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Liberals, through their Department of Education coordinators, struck all kinds of outrageous deals with school board superintendents. The minister is careful to say that these crazy deals were not done on her watch. Well, that's not true. Phonse Gillis at the Strait Regional School Board struck himself a handsome little arrangement July 6, 2000. This deal, made under that minister's nose, paid him $110,000, but it didn't stop there. Mr. Gillis also gets a cheque for $22,000 a year for his educational fund, and he claimed more than $13,000 in expenses in 2000. I want to ask the Minister of Education, how did a superintendent strike a deal paying him more than $145,000 a year?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, as I said all along, the deals struck that involve the compensation that was not cited as salary or expenses were never made public. That is part of the investigation that we're doing. The Leader of the Opposition is incorrect, I have not gone out of my way to blame the Liberals for a situation that I do not believe could have been known at the top when it wasn't even known to school board members.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, this minister says, how was she supposed to know about these outrageous contracts. Let me bring to her attention the documents that she tabled on Friday. These are the salaries and expenses provided to her by the board. Former Cape Breton Superintendent Hayes MacNeil is listed as having salary and expenses and seminar costs totalling $148,907. My question to the minister is, why didn't a one year payout of nearly $150,000 send you a signal that something was drastically wrong?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the fact that there is something drastically wrong in the methods of payment and reporting of superintendents and senior school board officials is precisely what I've brought out into the open and is under investigation.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I suggest that the Minister of Education also ask the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board to produce the contract of Mr. MacNeil. Phonse Gillis was getting cheques for $22,000; Hayes MacNeil had salaries and expenses of $150,000. Will the minister explain why she failed to act, when she had this very alarming information in her hands for more than a year and a half?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, if this alarming information had been in my hands for a year and a half, I would have acted a year and a half sooner. The alarming information that I became aware of in October was brought to light very, very swiftly.

[Page 6766]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

ECON. DEV.: ACL - RETENTION

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia is in danger of losing one of its major port customers. The shipping company ACL is the fourth largest shipping company in Nova Scotia. It ships approximately 50 per cent of its cargo to the Midwest, which is a growing market, and the largest part of the cost of shipping that product is to deal with rail, CN. ACL is about to walk away from Nova Scotia, and this has been known by the Minister of Economic Development and his department for some time yet nothing has been said by this government. My question to the Minister of Economic Development is, just what steps have you taken to help retain ACL as a customer in the Port of Halifax?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, the growing of cargo through the Port of Halifax is a priority for this government. We are in discussions with the Port Authority and with the various corporations involved here to ensure that business grows over time.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, the minister says nothing. We are being held hostage by the fact that we only have one rail. This government delayed appointing a provincial representative to the Port Authority for over a year and now they sit idly by as a major company is preparing to move away. My question to the minister is, has the Minister of Economic Development at least picked up the phone to call Paul Tellier, the President of CN, and demand that CN return to the table with ACL to ensure that this company does not leave Nova Scotia and we do not lose those jobs in economic development in the Province of Nova Scotia?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member opposite that we have had a number of conversations with CN about how best to grow the port traffic.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, this minister has done nothing, by his own admission, with regard to ACL. ACL, a company that has been in Nova Scotia since 1968, has discussed a move to Virginia. The Port of Norfolk and the Norfolk Southern Railroad are offering major incentives to ACL. My question to the minister is, why are you and your department sitting on your hands when you should be going after CN to ensure that ACL and the jobs and the economic benefits will stay here in the Province of Nova Scotia?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I assure the member opposite that we are in discussions with both CN and a number of customers who use this port to ensure they remain here. I remind the member opposite that we recently had the Port Days meetings and they were the most successful in recent memory.

[Page 6767]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

EDUC. - STRAIT REG. SCH. BD.: FUNDS - PROTECTION

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, yesterday afternoon, just outside this Chamber, the Minister of Education gave notice of a forensic audit into the alleged financial wrongdoings at the Strait Regional School Board. That is 24 hours' notice to those private interests who have $450,000 of public money that was supposed to be spent in the classrooms. So I want to ask the minister, before making your hallway announcement yesterday, in between all the 'I don't knows,' what steps did you take to protect records and freeze funds and accounts that may contain public money from the Strait Regional School Board?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, employees have been suspended; employees have been relieved. As for the rest of the protection taken, I suggest he ask the RCMP.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it is clear you can't get a straight answer to a straight question. A forensic audit is a good idea but it is likely weeks or even months late. The problem with the forensic audits in this province, though, is not in the doing of them, it is in getting the results of them. You only have to look at the Minister of Economic Development and his unwillingness to release the results of the forensic audit at the Dynatek collapse. My question to the minister is, will she commit to this House today to complete the forensic audit within 30 days and release all of the results of that audit immediately upon receiving them?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, since I don't work for PricewaterhouseCoopers, I can't make any such commitment, but I will commit to releasing the results of the forensic audit as soon as they are available and we are legally able to do so.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is again to the Minister of Education. Your department's officials, with Jack Sullivan on behalf of the Strait Regional School Board, negotiated with Knowledge House and other P3 partners. These negotiations resulted in a lucrative contract for Knowledge House and over a $1 million loss to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia. Following those negotiations, Jack Sullivan and his wife ran off to work for Knowledge House. It looks like they were working both sides of the street.

My question to the minister is, will she tell the House what steps she has taken to ensure that the forensic audit is sufficiently independent of this government so they can look into all aspects of what you and your officials did as well as what went on in the board?

[Page 6768]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I am sure the Leader of the Opposition is not suggesting that PricewaterhouseCoopers is somehow tainted in this investigation. We went to a forensic auditor precisely because of some of the points the Opposition has been making about who is independent and who isn't. We went to an outside firm even though we could have done it ourselves with help from the Department of Finance to make as transparent as humanly possible what we are doing in the Strait Regional School Board.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

EDUC.: SCH. BDS. - MIN. DISCLOSURE

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. The minister has said that she recognizes the need to disclose all information about school boards, but we're already aware of a case where the minister failed to disclose information about school boards even though her deputy minister and staff already had the information for several weeks. My question to the minister is, will she stand in her place today and confirm to this House that she has shared with Nova Scotians all information that she and her staff have regarding irregularities at school boards throughout this province?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, yes, I can, I have shared with this House all information that I have that I legally can share about information of school boards that I have been made aware of.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, as the minister is aware, we've learned that two Halifax Regional School Board staff are facing fraud charges relating to the disappearance of $120,000. My question is, did the minister herself or her staff have information prior to yesterday that there was wrongdoing in this case at the Halifax Regional School Board?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, it has been well known in the department, at the school board and in the community that this investigation over the Excel Program at the Halifax Regional School Board was ongoing. The investigation was covering matters going back, I believe, to 1974. It has been common knowledge. I believe it was even discussed when the Halifax Regional School Board came before the Public Accounts Committee last year.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians are concerned that there is a pattern of scheduled disclosures at work here to fit with an agenda to eliminate school boards. My final supplementary to the minister is, will the minister today admit that she has been revealing information on a scheduled basis regarding the school boards as part of her and her government's agenda to dismantle elected school boards in this province? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

[Page 6769]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I wish I were capable of being as Machiavellian as the Opposition is giving me credit for. (Applause)

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

SERV. N.S. & MUN. REL.: ASSESSMENTS - BASIS

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Eric Creaser (Applause) Let the record show I have fans in all Parties.

MR. SPEAKER: Just a popular guy.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Eric Creaser owns what he calls "a broken-down old house" at 300 Hirtle Point Road. It needs at least $40,000 in repairs to make it habitable. It needs a new foundation; it must be completely rewired; and it has no running water. Despite all this, the province raised Mr. Creaser's assessment this year on that house from $85,000 to $376,000, and I would like to table that assessment. My question to the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations is, how can your department determine that a rundown house with no running water is worth 376,000 smackers?

[1:00 p.m.]

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I would be very happy to provide the honourable member with further information. I know what I would do with a house if I had it and it was assessed at that value, but I would be glad to look into it. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. One at a time now.

MR. ESTABROOKS: The truth is, Mr. Speaker, and it is a sad truth, but let me inform the minister, in the past three years, 24 houses, or as sometimes called "cottages" and 80 lots were sold in the Hirtle Point area; 48 of those properties were sold to non-residents. This caused the province to target that area and a few others with reassessment. Because of this, Mr. Creaser, who is 71 years of age, had his property tax go from $900 to $3,700. Mr. Creaser wanted to keep this property for his daughter, but he can no longer afford to. He says the government is taxing him right off his land. My question to the minister is, this is wrong, you know it is wrong and what are you going to do for Mr. Creaser?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated previously, I would be quite happy to look at this file and see what the situation is with respect to it. The honourable member obviously, in the course of his questions, isn't going to tell me everything with respect to the information that he has, but if the person involved has not yet appealed their assessment, I would hope that the honourable member would have advised him to do so.

[Page 6770]

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, this is happening all across Lunenburg County; it is happening in Baddeck; it is happening from Peggy's Cove to the Terence Bay area - this is happening all over Nova Scotia. Officials from your department have said these reassessments are going to take place all up and down the coastlines of this province. People like Mr. Creaser, who lives on an Old Age Pension, will have to give up their property, opening up plenty of new sales for non-residents along our coastal properties. My question to the minister is, why don't you do the right thing and increase non-resident taxes and use the funds to subsidize taxes for people such as Mr. Creaser?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member knows that the method of assessment that is employed in this province is one that is related to market value, and that does create situations at times when adjustments are there, but there are provisions for relief to individuals in those situations through tax provisions. If the property is nearly as bad as the honourable member is describing it, then an appeal would have been quite appropriate in this particular situation. Thank you.

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

HEALTH: DIGBY - PHYSICIAN RECRUITMENT

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. On October 25, 2001, members of MEDIC, Medical Emergency Digby in Crisis, advertised in a newspaper seeking funds from the residents of Digby County for physician recruitment. I will table copies of that notice. In that ad they state, "We can't sit back & wait for government to solve the problem." My question to the minister is, what actions has he taken to ensure that Digby County is receiving the full attention of the physician recruiter in the Department of Health?

HON. JAMES MUIR: I thank the honourable member for that question and I would like to commend the MEDIC group in Digby and area for taking that approach and saying yes, we have to work ourselves, we're responsible for doing things for ourselves. I met with that group about two or three weeks ago and we did discuss physician recruitment and I want to tell you that is a good group and they will work to solve that problem in Digby County, along with the Department of Health.

MR. GAUDET: I find it quite interesting that one of the people on the MEDIC committee that has strongly condemned this government for their inactions is the constituency assistant of the Minister of Economic Development.

However, the actions that this committee have had to resort to are very serious. They are at the point where they are now approaching taxpayers to donate to a cause that their taxpayers' dollars already fund - physician recruitment. My question to the minister is, will

[Page 6771]

the minister please indicate whether the creation of this group is the beginning of his plans to devolve physician recruitments to the local level?

MR. MUIR: The fact is in Nova Scotia, a good many communities have physician recruitment teams. They are present probably in the community which the honourable member represents and the intention is to work in co-operation with those local communities. The communities have to participate to attract physicians. There are lots of openings for physicians, communities have to make known the advantages of the community and the good things and why people should choose to live there. We bring a lot of people in - our physician recruiting, obviously it can stand to be improved, but ours is as good as any place in the country and we have pretty good results. But we have better results when we have the communities working with us.

MR. GAUDET: We all know of this government's track record with Digby. Emergency services at the hospital are often not available. You just have to make reference to the notice that I just tabled. This is the same Tory Government that promised that they could fix health care for $46 million - another broken promise. My final question to the minister is, will the minister commit here today that he will maintain and enhance medical services in Digby to attract the health care professionals that it needs?

MR. MUIR: I am not sure if I understand the question, but clearly we are - as in all other communities - trying to enhance the physician and other health care resources that are there. For example, in the community of Yarmouth where they set up a committee some years ago, they were very successful in attracting physicians. In fact, I think the member for Hants East would get up and support what I am saying, in conjunction with the department the group out there in Hants East - that took a lot of time on the floor of this House last year - that place now has, I believe, four physicians. Our efforts, certainly like all others, could be improved, but we are making progress. I think the communities understand that.

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

SERV. N.S. & MUN. REL.: ASSESSMENTS - EFFECTS

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: This government is forcing 71 year old Eric Creaser to sell his land. They're also doing the same thing to Norman Mossman. Mr. Mossman owns a camp in Lower Kingsburg, Lunenburg County. His tax assessment this year went from $10,000 to $135,000 and I am going to table Mr. Mossman's assessment. Mr. Mossman says in a letter, which I am going to refer to in a moment: It appears current assessment practices are being utilized by the province to remove long-term residents. That letter was written to his MLA, Mr. Michael Baker. Now, does Mr. Baker respond to Mr. Creaser? He says, when he writes back: This assessment is fair. So now Mr. Mossman is faced with the challenge,

[Page 6772]

if nothing changes, he will have to sell his camp. My question to the minister responsible is, why are you driving Nova Scotians off of their land?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the method of assessment that is employed in this province is one which is relative to market value and that has applied right across the province. The results of that method on a province-wide basis, there are provisions for appeals of assessments to take place and the trend with respect to those appeals right across the province is in a downward slope. The number of appeals are decreasing every year and that would suggest that the results of the exercise are bringing the properties closer and closer to market value all the time.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, the Assessment Division has now decided to value what it calls "superior view lots" in this area at $125,000 for every two acres and that is just for the land but this isn't applied uniformly across Lunenburg County. At a public meeting, Mr. Mossman, in the presence of the member for Lunenburg West, brought to the attention the concerns that property that he owns in a nearby property is assessed at three times the value of what it should be. My question to the minister is, why won't the minister admit that by targeting select areas with "superior view lots" that this new assessment formula has created an unfair and uneven tax burden on Nova Scotians?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, what I can assure the honourable member of and assure this House is that the method of assessment that is applied, as I indicated before, is market value, that the training level of those who are involved in the assessment process in this province is of a very high calibre. They are extremely well-trained individuals and the law of assessment and the principles of assessment in this province are applied equally to all parts of the province.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, time doesn't allow me to go to further examples but you know Mr. Creaser, Mr. Mossman and many others say if these tax rates stand, they will have to sell. Some of these properties have been handed down from generation to generation. Instead, it is more likely they will end up in some real estate agent's portfolio and they will eventually end up in the hands of a non-resident who can afford the land and these outrageous taxes. My question to the minister is very simple. Can the minister stand here in his place today and tell me honestly, is this fair?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, when principles are not applied equally, then you have a situation of unfairness. The assessment process in this province is one where the principles of assessment are applied equally throughout the entire province and that is fair.

[Page 6773]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

COMMUN. SERV.: SPRY COMMUN. CTR. - JOB TRAINING PROG.

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. This summer a business course that was offered free of charge to mature students through the Captain William Spry Community Centre was axed. It was axed because of cuts to staff by the Halifax Regional School Board. This program was in place for 30 years and could boast a proven track record of helping people obtain skills for employment or further job training. In August, a letter was sent to the Minister of Community Services seeking funding necessary to keep the program alive this year. Since then, the course was eliminated. This minister has said that the best way for people to get out of poverty is to get a job.

[1:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, my question for the minister is, how is allowing a job training program with a proven track record to die going to get someone a job?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member will be aware that we have many job training and preparedness programs across the province. Those various programs have to submit business plans to us; they have to show us how they are going in the direction and that's when we fund programs and we work with all programs across the province.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I am talking about one centre in particular, a centre that the minister helped close. This business course was attended by people who traveled from Tantallon or Middle Musquodoboit and Dartmouth, among other communities, and as you are likely aware, a solid program has been lost to the Mainland South community. So my question, again to the Minister of Community Services, what does this minister think people in Mainland South feel about his performance when he is the one who talked about providing real support to help people become self-sufficient and now they are facing a tougher time re-entering the workforce?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, across this province people are looking for programs; they are looking for opportunities to get themselves trained and get back into the workforce. We try, as I indicated earlier, to work with all of the programs but we have to work with people who have submitted business plans to us and that are sustainable. That is the direction that we take with all programs.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, the people who run the Captain William Spry Community Centre were looking for help. They were looking for funding from this government. Earlier this week, this House was informed that the government was willing to

[Page 6774]

spend $35,000 on a trip that gave no real benefits to Nova Scotia. Will this minister commit today to try to find the funding in his current budget to resuscitate that course, an action that will eventually make the difference in a lot of people's lives in this province?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I will make the commitment to the honourable member to review the file, to see what their business plan is, to see if there is a plan that will work and go forward. We will work to help them if we can.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH: SOC. ASSIST. APPEAL BD. - SET-UP

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Yesterday in this House, the member for Dartmouth North pointed out that the appeals process for community services is a farce because it is stacked with Tory supporters whose experience and qualifications for such appointments are questionable at best. They call it an appeal board when in fact it has been set up as a one-person rubber stamp. Now, we learn that the same appeal board, the Social Assistance Appeal Board, will also be the appeal board for reviewing Department of Health decisions regarding long-term care.

My question to the Minister of Health is, whatever possessed you to come up with such a ridiculous scheme?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, one of the interesting things is that there is an appeal process. Unlike members across, quite frankly, I don't think I know too many of those people who are on those appeal boards. I think it is shocking to stand on the floor of this House and to criticize people simply because they are on a board. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, well, this is another glaring example of how little respect this government has for seniors. Seniors and other people who require long-term care, they are struggling to deal with a government that is fixated on squeezing every last cent out of them, and when they find that they have been stripped of their assets, their income and they're denied services to long-term care near their homes, who are they going to have to appeal to - the Social Assistance Appeal Board that's Tory dominated with questionable qualifications.

Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is, will he please explain to seniors and their families why they should believe that they'll get a fair, competent and impartial hearing from a group of Tory hacks?

[Page 6775]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, that type of question doesn't deserve the dignity of a response in this House and I won't give it.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, there is little doubt that this government has turned appeal boards into a complete farce. The decision to establish a quorum of one makes that blatantly clear and there are huge problems with getting the Single Entry Access Program through the pilot stage. Many department staff don't even understand the program, and they expect an appeal board that will give fair decisions. So I want to ask the Minister of Health, will he commit to providing a tribunal of unbiased and knowledgeable people for long-term care rather than the Social Assistance Appeal Board?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, it is clear that she understands so little about the long-term care process here in Nova Scotia that she's confusing issues and, clearly, she did not attend the session with our staff yesterday morning, where a number of these points were clarified.

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

EDUC. - C.B.-VICTORIA REG. SCH. BD.: SCHOOLS - PROTECTION

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. The Tory blue book of promises, on Page 16, indicated funding would be reviewed to protect schools in areas of declining enrolment. Could the minister outline what she plans to do to live up to the blue book commitment to protect schools in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, there are many areas of Nova Scotia that suffer from declining enrolment and what we have done, for the last two years with superintendents, is we visit the funding formula which we continually revisit. We have kept the base formula at the 1996 rate, which is very very generous because there were far more students in the system then. So after that base rate we have allowed that extra funding will go with the student, but we've been very generous in leaving that base rate right where it is even though there aren't the students in the system to justify even that.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the minister should be aware that the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board has eight schools up for review, including one in my area which is located in Georges River. My question is, why won't the minister simply live up to what was promised in the blue book on Page 16?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I am sure the member opposite is well aware that schools are being looked at for closure across Nova Scotia, not just in Cape Breton, in the South Shore; last year it was Dartmouth, Halifax. This government does not believe that empty space educates students, teachers educate students.

[Page 6776]

MR. BOUDREAU: I must wonder out loud, Mr. Speaker, why the minister has ordered the board to reduce 43 teaching positions. I guess the minister can't live up to the commitment which her Party made. Why won't the minister at least review the funding formulae so people in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board will not be faced with such massive school closures?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the funding formula is always being reviewed, and we are looking at all areas of the province, not just Cape Breton. Cape Breton cannot receive special protection, it has to receive the same treatment as all other areas of the province. (Interruptions)

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

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

FIN. - INTEREST RATES: GOV'T. (N.S.) - SAVINGS

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Finance. Interest rates are down and the province is saving money as a result. The Canadian three-month Treasury Bill rate is almost two full percentage points lower than the government forecast in its April budget. Here is the chart. I know this looks like Tory popularity, but this is actually interest rates. For each full percentage point over a fiscal year, the government saves $15.5 million. The U.S. Treasury Bill rate is also down, which means we are saving even more money. My question to the minister is this, will the minister confirm that as a result of this combination of historically-low interest rates the Province of Nova Scotia will, in this fiscal year alone, save between $16 million and $20 million?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I will not confirm the numbers that the member opposite has stated. I have stated, when we did our budget forecast, that interest rates had come down and there would be some relief in regard to interest costs paid by this province in this fiscal year.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, a balance sheet has two sides, and so far this government only wants to talk about one side. They reveal only what they want to reveal, and only when they want to reveal it. After all their hand-wringing, the government, on October 30th, released a single sheet of paper that was only about one side of the ledger, the one they want to talk about, which is cuts. My question to the minister is, when will this government stop playing peekaboo politics and table a revised budget?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, we indicated to the people of Nova Scotia back in September when we tabled our first quarter results that the province's deficit had grown, at that time, by approximately $6 million. We indicated at that time that we would be making

[Page 6777]

some adjustments throughout the year to live within a $91 million deficit. Subsequent to that, we announced that the situation after September 11th had changed, the circumstances, and that we would be looking for costs savings for the government. We acted, and we tabled that very same sheet the member is quoting from, saying where the savings would come from and from which department they would come.

MR. STEELE: That answer was politics as usual. Politics as usual is what got us into this mess, and it is not going to get us out. Mr. Speaker, a week ago the Government of Quebec tabled a complete revised budget. A few days ago the Government of Ontario released a detailed revision of its budget. A few weeks from now the federal government is going to release a completely new budget. If it's good enough for Jim Flaherty in Ontario, if it's good enough for Pauline Marois in Quebec, and if it's good enough for Paul Martin in Ottawa, why is it not good enough for this minister in Nova Scotia?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I'm amazed. This is the gentleman who says he never plays politics. If he did his research, and he's supposedly a researcher - he's a lawyer, researcher, whatever title you want to give him - he would have known that the Province of Quebec had a savings account or a rainy day account of $850 million and they tabled the budget to show where they were going to spend it. The Province of Ontario also had a huge so-called rainy day fund and they've announced initiatives. If you had checked your facts, honourable member, you would have known that the federal government hasn't tabled a budget in 18 months. We don't have those funds that those provinces have, and we are doing what we were elected to do, to manage. We had adjustments halfway in the year, and this government came through with what it should do. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

AGRIC. & FISH.: POTATO IND. - AID

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, it's interesting, they all stood up, when the Premier is not here, for the Minister of Finance. I don't know if that's a sign, if that's a sign that something's going to happen to the Premier.

[1:30 p.m.]

My question today is for the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. The Economic Development Committee of the House recently agreed unanimously to have an all-Party approach to tackle the serious crisis facing the agricultural industry, specifically with regard to the drought. We have had, in the last four years, three that have been very serious droughts affecting, certainly the Valley area and throughout other areas of the Province of Nova Scotia. In particular, the potato industry has been reeling from that effect. This year, the disaster again is putting in decline the potato producers in the Province of Nova Scotia. I

[Page 6778]

believe, not that long ago, we had about 12 major producers and we are down now to about eight. I could be wrong, a little bit, but generally that is what is going on in the province. My question to the minister is, what is the minister's department doing to ensure that these producers are going to be helped so that the potato industry will be able to go forward with some confidence for next year?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member raises a good question. Two nights ago I met with representatives, not only from the potato producers, but also the contract company that they sell to in the Valley. We discussed a number of options and looked at the amount of support that was available to them. Quickly, under two programs, the NISA, advanced payment program, which we have negotiated with the federal government to get money into producers hands, as well as the disaster program that they can drop to 50 per cent immediately. So those are some of the options that we are discussing and exploring with potato producers and with all farmers in Nova Scotia who are affected by the drought.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, the potato industry is a very important industry in the Province of Nova Scotia. Basically, the majority of what is produced is produced for processing into potato chips, which creates a tremendous number of jobs, value-added , right here in the Province of Nova Scotia. The minister is going on about NISA, advance and disaster programs, basically programs that I think were around before he was minister, and programs that he is now using with the Disaster Relief Program that have been nothing but a failure, in many ways, according to the industry, because it has been dragged and held back and money is not going out to the producers as it should.

My question to the minister is, what new initiatives, including irrigation, is the department willing to do in order to protect the potato industry in the Province of Nova Scotia?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to correct a couple of statements made by the honourable member in regard to program funding. When the honourable member was a member of government in this province, his government, in 1998, appropriated directly to the farmers of this province $9 million. Our government, this year, has over $19 million going into direct aid to farmers. I think we are working hard with farmers, much harder than the previous administration.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, the previous Minister of Finance and the previous Minister of Agriculture would like to talk to this minister about the fact that there was a $22 million program for drought relief for farmers in Nova Scotia under a Liberal regime and that minister fast-tracked those dollars to give to the farmers when he took over. The minister has been basically using the same drought assistance program money for over two years, the

[Page 6779]

money that the Liberal Government put in. Why won't the minister consider new initiatives for our agriculture industry, which is seriously reeling from these droughts?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, again, the honourable member, I think, is confused. A new agreement was signed last summer, negotiated by this government with the federal government, that doubled the amount of money going into NISA and established, for the first time ever, a cost-share disaster relief program. Those funds for the first time ever can be drawn off 50 per cent in advance. So I would say those are very important programs for farmers.

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

SYDNEY TAR PONDS: CLEANUP - CUTS

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Last week in this House, during late debate, we had time to debate the tar ponds and coke ovens cleanup. During that debate, I explained to the government why the residents of that area don't trust them; as a matter of fact I was congratulated by the Minister of Transportation and Public Works and the member for Cape Breton North for my sound and logical arguments on this. Unfortunately, not all the government members were listening. The Minister of Finance is reporting in newspapers now that there will not be funding for the cleanup this year and isn't sure when or how much he will book in next year's budget. I want to ask the Minister of Finance, how much does he intend to cut from the budget of the cleanup?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: I don't intend to cut from the cleanup, we are still committed to that initiative.

MR. CORBETT: I will table a newspaper article that quotes him saying just the opposite.

Trust is very important to these people because time and time again governments at all levels have failed these people. Once again, it's money over substance. I want to ask this minister why is a 10 per cent tax cut your priority and not the health and safety of people who live in and around the tar ponds and coke ovens?

MR. LEBLANC: I will refer back to the question he asked in the first instance. We set up two different funds and that was to administer spending with regard to the cleanup of the tar ponds and the Sysco site. Those two funds have been set in place to ensure that the funds are properly spent and that they are spent under certain criteria. We want to ensure that the taxpayers' money is not wasted. The honourable member can disagree with that, but I think that as Minister of Finance it is incumbent upon me to ensure that those controls are put in place.

[Page 6780]

MR. CORBETT: Whatever he believes is his responsibility as Finance Minister doesn't go very far to ensuring the health and safety of the people who live in and around that area. Again it's chequebook politics; very simple. I want to ask the Minister of Finance, is this your way of breaking away clean from not cleaning up that toxic site and putting people in danger for a longer period of time?

MR. LEBLANC: Absolutely not. I want to say that the cleanup of both these sites has been a matter ongoing for a long period of time. I appreciate that for the people in Cape Breton that it has been a long time waiting. The initiatives are starting and obviously we are committed to cleaning up those sites. I think everyone in Nova Scotia wants those sites cleaned up - not only the people in Cape Breton, but throughout the province.

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS.:

HFX. TRAFFIC CALMING - INVOLVEMENT

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: A question to the honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works. I would like to raise with him the matter of trying to get to work, for the people who work in downtown Halifax. It's a very difficult problem. The way this city is laid out it is bounded by water on three sides; a peninsula, like the City of Vancouver. There is only one way you can spread - the second, third, and fourth directions are blocked off. The only way of getting downtown, other than using the bus, is to drive your own car to work. There are a number of thoroughfares that can be used to do that, it's not all on one, but it's very hard to get to work here in the morning and to get home in the evening or to get back to wherever you're going. I would like to ask the minister, what involvement does he, and his department, have in terms of dialogue with the municipality, or in-house studies to some means of trying to alleviate these problems and make it easier for people to get to and from work in the City of Halifax?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Transportation issues within the City of Halifax are primarily the concern of the municipal government; however we have had, on an ongoing basis, discussions with regard to, for instance, light rail transportation between Bedford and Sackville and the city core. We've had discussions on an ongoing basis with regard to issues related to the two bridges across the harbour. We've also had discussions with the city with regard to some of the roads that come under the purview of the Department of Transportation and Public Works with regard to access to the city.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the minister for his well-informed response. This problem affects more than just the residents of the City of Halifax, it affects people who are commuting from Tantallon, from Prospect, from Timberlea, the

[Page 6781]

South Shore, Hants and Kings Counties, and the Eastern Shore and even Colchester County. It affects all those people, and Hants and the Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

AN HON. MEMBER: And Sackville.

MR. MACEWAN: Yes, and Sackville and Beaver Bank and Bedford, and all those places. They have to get to work. Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the minister, just outlining the scope of this problem, beyond the two-year overdue start to the twinning of Highway No. 101, is this government doing anything to improve the safety and the amount of time that is required to travel on those various roads and thoroughfares that lead to downtown Halifax?

MR. RUSSELL: In the plan for transportation needs within the Province of Nova Scotia, we are encompassing within that plan many improvements to the primary highways coming into the City of Halifax. Unfortunately, we do not have the money at the present time to carry out those particular programs, but hopefully in the future we will be able to do so.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, as a final supplementary on this I would like to ask the minister, has he or his department given any thought to solutions to this problem, other than building more and bigger and better roads? I would like to make mention, for example, of the light rail transit systems that exist right now and are functioning very well, utilizing different technologies, in the Cities of Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. All of them, if you study them, have well-built-up local rail transportation like subways or LRT systems or both or some other form like the GO railway system in and around Toronto. Has the minister given any thought to that type of approach to this matter, especially when the rails are already now in place? It would just be a matter of activating them with some type of light rail transportation.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, in conversations that I've had with Minister Collenette, the federal Minister of Transportation, I know that he has a very strong desire for the expansion of light rail for commuter traffic. We have had discussions with him, and I believe he has also had discussions with the City of Halifax. It is a possibility, however, I think the honourable member will recognize that it's a very expensive proposition and one that requires a fairly high population base to make viable.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

SERV. N.S. & MUN. REL.: NSPI - TAX DEAL

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. A recent annual conference at the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities passed a resolution calling for the elimination of municipal taxation exemption for Nova Scotia Power Inc. Yesterday the minister responsible introduced

[Page 6782]

legislation proposing amendments to various pieces of legislation and is quoted as saying, "The Municipal Government Act is intended to be responsive to the legislative needs of municipalities." The repeated request of municipalities to end NSPI's tax exempt status has received no positive sign of action from this government." When will the minister act on the recommendations of the municipal governments by ending the sweetheart property tax deal for the privately-owned NSPI?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member that I have had some initial discussions with the president of the UNSM on that matter.

[1:45 p.m.]

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, we know he has had initial discussions. Prior to the last election, the UNSM asked political Parties, including a question on this very matter. The Liberals provided their typical no-response answer, no answer at all, and the Tories said they would deal with the UNSM at its convention. Last year, the UNSM passed a resolution requesting the removal of exempt status. Will the minister tell this House when he is prepared to be responsive to the municipal government on this important question?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. You have about five seconds.

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, perhaps the honourable member could ask the question another day.

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

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 79.

Bill No. 79 - Domestic Violence Intervention Act.

[Page 6783]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak on second reading of this important piece of legislation. As the honourable members are no doubt aware, this legislation is in response to the report prepared by Dean Dawn Russell and Professor Diana Ginn of Dalhousie Law School. They were asked to review the framework and action against family violence to ascertain its relevance and effectiveness. We responded to that report earlier this week. I believe our response outlines a very practical and effective action plan to deal with the issues of family violence, an issue that I know my colleagues on both sides of the House take very seriously. This legislation is a key part of our action plan.

Mr. Speaker, this bill will allow victims of violence to apply to Justices of the Peace for intervention orders ranging from temporary possession of the residents, to orders to avoid contact. These 30 day orders will provide options for victims, options which we hope will help to protect their safety, as well as their well-being and that of their families. In those critical hours after an assault, these options will provide some level of comfort to those individuals faced with domestic abuse. This legislation is designed to offer immediate protection to the victims. With this bill, they won't have to wait for the next available sitting of a judge to apply for an emergency protection order, they will be able to receive relief immediately.

Once an emergency order has been granted by a Justice of the Peace, the Justice of the Peace will then forward the documentation to a judge within two business days of that order. The order is then reviewed by a judge who may confirm or vary it. Once it is confirmed or varied, it is considered as an order of the court. The judge may also require a hearing so that the order may be confirmed, varied or terminated. The victim or the respondent may apply to the court, of course, at any time to change or terminate any provisions of the order, Mr. Speaker. I would also like to point out that the order does not affect the title or ownership of any real or personal property held jointly or solely by the parties, but deals with issues of possession of that property.

This is not a new concept, Mr. Speaker. This legislation is in place in six other Canadian jurisdictions. Their experience tells us that emergency intervention orders are a useful tool in dealing with family violence. I would also like to point out that the model for legislation adopted in the other jurisdictions originally came from Nova Scotia. It was developed some time ago, however it was not adopted here until we did so this week.

I am pleased we have taken this action, Mr. Speaker. It is one of the many tools that we are putting in place. I am very pleased that we are able to offer ongoing training to Justice personnel through the new Justice Learning Centre in Truro. One of the first subjects to be taught in that centre will be the subjects dealing with domestic violence. We will also use the centre to provide internal training on a number of justice issues to ensure that staff receives

[Page 6784]

the most current, professional training available so they are able to deal with the justice needs of Nova Scotians. We will partner with Nova Scotia's community colleges in this initiative and will explore opportunities for distance education as well.

As honourable members know, the tragic death of Lori Lee Maxwell prompted this review. We must not forget the human face of domestic violence in this province. That is why the location of this centre in Truro is so important, Mr. Speaker. We are also funding three and a half part-time victim support workers. These individuals will work with the police agencies to provide victim assistance to those individuals in a difficult time. They will identify high-risk situations to relevant agencies for case management and monitoring.

Mr. Speaker, the Leadership Committee on Family Violence is another important component of our response to this important issue. This committee of deputy ministers will ensure that support and leadership for domestic violence issues are provided to the most senior levels of our government. Their objectives will be to ensure that there's continued collaboration between departments and communities.

We are in the process of reviewing existing protocols for those agencies dealing with domestic violence. We will update and revise where needed, Mr. Speaker. Priority will be given to protocols between police and child protection agencies so that we may improve information sharing, case planning and coordination. Ms. Russell is very clear in her report: collaboration and cooperation among agencies is vital. It is of extreme importance, and we will turn our attention to this issue immediately.

The cost of our package over a three year period is about $1.6 million. We estimate the ongoing costs will be in the range of about $650,000 annually.

This report made it clear that we have a solid foundation in place. The framework has provided that foundation. More importantly, Mr. Speaker, we now have an effective and practical action plan to deal with these issues that touch the lives of so many Nova Scotians and have damaged far too many in the past. I look forward to receiving support from members of the Opposition Parties and would look forward to discussing this matter further with them. I move second reading.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have a few moments to talk on this legislation, and as the minister has taken the opportunity to talk about the initiative generally based on the Russell report, I'm assuming the Speaker will give me some leeway in also talking about some of those provisions.

[Page 6785]

What can I say about Bill No. 79? It is long overdue. This is legislation that, as the minister noted, in practice, or at least in theory, Nova Scotia was one of the first provinces to create the concept - one, though, that we're a little behind in implementing. I will say, though, that obviously it is a good opportunity. Based on the Russell report, based on the serious incident that happened only so recently, Mr. Speaker, in Truro with Lori Maxwell, it is important that the Russell report has brought forward a lot of recommendations to try to improve our domestic violence initiatives in Nova Scotia, give us an opportunity to deal with them and try to ensure that we are, as much as possible, stopping domestic violence.

This is one part of that package, one part of that blueprint that was laid out in the Russell report. As I have said before, that is a blueprint for making, as much as possible, the elimination of domestic violence a priority in Nova Scotia. As I said, this is just one component of that and a good component. Anything we can do to ensure that when women, or in those rare circumstances when men are the victims of domestic assault, that they're in a situation, Mr. Speaker, where they can go to a Justice of the Peace immediately. They don't have to wait until the next court date, the next day the court is open; they can go to the court, they can go to a Justice of the Peace; they can get an order issued. Those are good things.

I have reviewed the legislation. It is solid. There are a lot of components in here, I think, Mr. Speaker, that will ensure that Nova Scotians will have a real opportunity to have this legislation apply to them when they need it applied. Specifically on the legislation, a couple of comments, not to get into the clause by clause, but I note that the Justice of the Peace in reviewing the order only has to use a balance of probabilities. I only raise this as a question, as much as anything else, given the fact that these are matters potentially involving the determination of whether someone has committed an offence, at least in a prima facie sense, and therefore may be used in court later, potentially. Again, a question I have, I wonder how the balance of probabilities is going to play out on constitutional issue. Whether this is not going to be used in the court later on against the defendant. These are questions I have to ensure that we don't want to see constitutional challenges to a good piece of legislation that result in the legislation being thrown out or read down by a court. I would hope that clauses like Clause 6(3) aren't going to be used for that purpose and anything we can do to make sure, whether it be the staff can tell me that this is something that has been challenged and has been supported by the courts, I would like to hear that or that they feel comfortable that it won't be challenged.

There is another clause in here, Mr. Speaker, again I am not trying to go clause by clause, but another principle of this legislation is that a party has to be served the order before it becomes legally binding. There are certain provisions in here that allow for if the person was not able to be found, if they tried to avoid . . .

[Page 6786]

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of personal privilege, if I may. In the fairness and objectivity of what has happened to the MLA for Dartmouth North, I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of the House to congratulate you on your appointment. The next time you go to that seat, could you please remember your own glasses. Thank you. (Laughter) (Applause)

MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER: Thank you honourable members. If I may have the opportunity to speak just briefly, I want to thank my colleague, the member for Timberlea-Prospect, and honourable members for their warm welcome. I should also recommend to you that it is important that you will make my task easier by honouring the traditions of the House and respecting each member when they are speaking.

I would also want to inform you that sitting in this Chair imparts a certain amount of authority that I feel like I am levitating right now. So, I want you to know that I do have the authority should anyone get out of order. Thank you kindly.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage has the floor.

MR. DEVEAUX: Again, Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, welcome to the Chair, it is nice to see a new face. I was talking about Bill No. 79, particularly around the issue of notices and orders having to be served on respondents when an order has been issued by a Justice of the Peace. My only concern, again, on the principle is, is this something on which we can put time limits on to ensure that individuals aren't going to be able to avoid police?

I will tell you, this may sound like a very technical matter but one which happens: you have police officers that are in charge of serving the orders and they may be on a four day schedule, 12 hour shifts, two days/two nights, and this might have happened on their last day and they may not be back to work for four days. So, bureaucratically, sometimes these things can slip through the cracks. I want to make sure that there are time limits in place that if a police officer who is serving the order is on their last day of a four day cycle of work that we don't have to wait five, six or seven days before we get a court ordering that the order become enforced and that there be some sort of time limit to ensure that these things are being dealt with.

There are issues on confidentiality and keeping the names of the parties private, I think those are good. Overall, as I said, this legislation I think is a good piece of legislation. It is overdue. I am glad to see the government is finally moving.

I will take a moment, as the minister did, to talk about the broader initiatives. Our caucus, obviously, supports whatever we can do around family violence. I will suggest to you though that this is a government that cut the Family Violence Prevention Initiative only two years ago, an initiative that provided training for members of the justice system, whether they

[Page 6787]

be judges or justices of the peace or Crown Attorneys or police officers so that they were more sensitized to the issues of family violence. Now, they are trying to come out with a new announcement saying, look, what we are doing with the training institute. Quite frankly, this is nothing more, probably, than what the Family Violence Prevention Initiative had been doing. So you took from one hand and replaced with the other, put it in Truro so the Minister of Health can claim that something happened there, so his constituents can be a little happier, when, in fact, all you are doing is doing exactly what was in place and you closed that only a couple of years ago.

There are other matters that were brought up by the Russell report, whether it be the pilot project in Cape Breton of diversion for family violence offenders; whether it be the domestic violence court, which has had some success in other jurisdictions; or whether it be more investing in services and rehabilitation services for offenders. These are things that the government specifically said we cannot afford, we will not do.

[2:00 p.m.]

As I have said, the Russell report is a blueprint, a blueprint for as much as possible eliminating and preventing family violence in Nova Scotia. You cannot take half a blueprint and build a house; you must follow the blueprint very carefully, and you must complete whatever is in that blueprint. In the case of this legislation, this is one component of that blueprint, so is the institute in Truro, so are other initiatives, but quite frankly unless we are prepared to go forward with some of the other recommendations, that yes may have a price tag to them but in the end will result in safer homes, less domestic abuse in this province, then we are only doing a half-hearted effort at addressing what happened to Lori Maxwell and many other women on a daily basis in this province.

Mr. Speaker, our Party will support this piece of legislation at second reading because it is a principle that we do believe in and we will always support but on top of that I would hope that this government would take the time to think long and hard about whether this is all that needs to be done or whether that blueprint that was laid out by the Russell report means much more must be done, must continue to be done, and that we are not going to see in the spring, like we did two years ago, more cuts that are going to hurt victims of abuse.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to rise to speak for a few moments, as the Justice Critic for the Liberal caucus, on Bill No. 79, the Domestic Violence Intervention Act.

[Page 6788]

The Liberal caucus warmly welcomes the introduction of this bill today. We regard this legislation as just one more step in the long road ahead for all of us in addressing the crisis of domestic violence in our province and in our country. Any measure which gives victims of domestic abuse more options, and hopefully a sense of greater empowerment, is a welcome change.

Mr. Speaker, we can only imagine if this legislation would have made a difference in how the tragic events surrounding the death of Lori Maxwell unfolded last year. No legislation will be able to address every situation with equal effectiveness; however when situations arise in the future an emergency intervention order may prove effective in separating the parties and defusing things. Possibly a time of forced separation will allow for a cooling-off period and for individuals to regain a sense of perspective about events. In addition, we believe that permitting the seizure of weapons, including firearms, under this bill is very encouraging. This is, of course, no guarantee that seizing a firearm will prevent the murder, but it will often be a very prudent step, as many tragic situations in the past would tell us.

Mr. Speaker, as I said before, our caucus fully supports the spirit of this legislation, as well as most of its provisions. We do have a few concerns that we intend to vigorously pursue as this bill progresses through this House. This is one piece of legislation that we, as a House, have to get right the first time. One problem is with the definition of "domestic violence." The bill excludes assaults committed in self-defence. It doesn't take a wild imagination to imagine a situation in which someone might strike their partner, perhaps even a slap across the face, but then the response is so violent and so utterly disproportionate to the initial act that someone would have genuine reason to fear for her safety or his safety in the future. That situation is excluded under the proposed legislation as we have it now. It is a point to raise and is perhaps a scenario which the government has not contemplated.

Mr. Speaker, a further problem is with the requirement for notice under this bill. The perpetrator of domestic violence is not bound until they have notice that an order exists against them. Our legal system, of course, supports the idea that people should have notice of the legal obligations placed upon them; however, it is enlightening to talk to a . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, order, honourable member. There appears to be some electronic disturbance in the House. I am wondering if that can be cleared.

Thank you. The honourable member has the floor.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, I am pleased that in your first day in the Chair that you are quickly trying to rein in your own NDP caucus to show more respect to this House. I commend you for that. (Applause)

[Page 6789]

Mr. Speaker, as I said, a further problem is with the requirement for notice under this bill. The perpetrator of domestic violence is not bound until they have notice that an order exists against them. Our legal system, of course, supports the idea that people should have notice of legal obligations placed upon them. However, it is enlightening to talk to a process server whose job is to attempt service on individuals for lawsuits. That way you will get a good idea about the extreme and absurd lengths people will go through to avoid service of legal documents.

Mr. Speaker, given the nature of this bill, we believe it would be more effective to spell out in detail a specific time frame for steps to be taken to carry out the service. In that way, after a definite point has elapsed, then notice will be deemed to have occurred whether or not it actually took place. Victims would then likely have the benefit of an intervention order sooner rather than later.

Another point to consider is that after an order has been forwarded to a judge by a Justice of the Peace, the bill sets out that the judge shall review the order before confirming or varying it. It is quite likely that we can rely on the professionalism of our judges in reviewing cases put before them. But for the sake of certainty, we believe that legislation should set out that the judge shall review the order and all supporting documentation sent by the Justice of the Peace. That way, the bill would stipulate that a judge must take all the steps necessary to get the full picture of the relevant facts, as a Justice of the Peace saw them, before confirming or varying the order.

Mr. Speaker, in essence, what that is saying is that it is our hope, through this legislation, that any judge reviewing an order by a Justice of the Peace keeps in order all of the facts and evidence brought before that Justice of the Peace. As you are probably aware, our traditional court system is such that an Appeal Court cannot reverse a decision based on evidence, but it can reverse a decision based on an error of law. What we are allowing here is that a judge could overturn an order made by a Justice of the Peace based on evidence. If that is going to be the case, if we are going to vary from our traditional system, what we are saying is that we want to make sure that that judge is looking at all of the evidence before the Justice of the Peace. As I am sure you well appreciate, in many cases, that evidence is extremely important evidence and it is important to make sure that all of the facts surrounding the application for these orders are considered by these judges before any sort of varying order of that given by the Justice of the Peace is considered.

Mr. Speaker, we believe that the deficiencies that I have highlighted in this bill are relatively minor in nature and could be easily remedied in order to tighten this bill up to make it the best possible legislation. We intend to vigorously pursue those amendments as this bill goes through the House. On the whole, however, we believe that this bill can, and will, make a difference and it has our full support going into the Law Amendments Committee process, where we look forward to hearing the presentations on this legislation

[Page 6790]

and any possible amendments that might come out of it. We certainly hope that the minister will keep to his promise of considering any reasonable amendments to this legislation that will make it the best possible bill to deal with domestic violence in this province that we can put through this House.

So with that, Mr. Speaker, I again commend the minister and the government for bringing forward this legislation and look forward to it going on to the Law Amendments Committee process. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Justice, it is my pleasure to move second reading of Bill No. 75. I thank the honourable members opposite for their interventions and I move that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

MR. SPEAKER: 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 didn't welcome you to the Chair and I do so now. It is good to see you there. Would you please call Bill No. 80.

Bill No. 80 - House of Assembly Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to speak on Bill No. 80, the House of Assembly Act.

Mr. Speaker, actually it is a pleasure to speak on this bill because I can remember having a discussion in this Legislature, I think it was about 1982, with regard to the setting of salaries and other allowances for members of this House. At that time, we used to sit quite late on occasion and usually the last item of business on some Thursday night, or Friday night, would be a bill to set the salaries and other benefits for MLAs and it was done very quicksmart, we went through the introduction of the bill, then to second reading and through third reading tout de suite and by the end of the evening the bill had passed. It normally took

[Page 6791]

no more than about 30 minutes. Of course, people were not very impressed with that methodology of setting our own salaries so there was a number of interventions by the media, in particular, as to why we couldn't come up with a better method of fixing the salaries of the people who sat in this House other than by doing it ourselves.

Mr. Speaker, we thought at that time it was a good idea. I was Chairman of Management Board at that time and I brought a bill in that set up the system that we have until this bill is passed. That solution seemed to be at that time a suitable way of setting salaries but, however, in truth, it was a very expensive way, number one, of finding out what a member should be paid. As you well know, we set up a commission and for a time there were two commissioners. Of recent years there has just been one commissioner but, however, the cost of that exercise has ranged from I think a low of about $25,000 up to a maximum, I believe, one year of $85,000 to set the MLA salaries.

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest to you that that is a rather exorbitant amount and also because of the fact that the people who were in the commission when they set the salaries, really were plowing ground that had been plowed the previous year and the year before that and so on and so on because you could take a report from 1983 and look at a report from 1993 and, in fact, the report, although it was quite lengthy, just was a repeat really of what was said the previous years and previous years again before that.

So, Mr. Speaker, the Internal Economy Board, which is a board made up of members of the Legislature from all Parties, decided in their wisdom, and I believe rightfully so, that we should have a different system and one that, first of all, was much less expensive; secondly, one that would be beyond the capability for the members themselves to control; and, thirdly, one which was, indeed, as transparent as possible. The Internal Economy Board has come up with an interim solution for this year and, hopefully, during the next 12 months we'll resolve the mechanics necessary to put in place a system that will review members' salaries and allowances on a regular basis once every year and if a salary increase appears to be warranted, the system will come up with a number.

For this year, Mr. Speaker, the system that we have chosen, or that we are bringing forward in this legislation, is to take the increase that is given to civil servants in the MCP classifications, which are the non-union classifications, and to award that increase to members. I think that the amount for the year 2000-01, which would be our reference year, was 1.9 per cent - I believe that was the number, approximately anyway - and that number would apply to the salaries of members for the year 2002.

[Page 6792]

[2:15 p.m.]

As I say, this is an interim measure and it's one that is being put forward by the Internal Economy Board for the House to consider. I would recommend that this particular piece of legislation be given second reading and go on to other venues where it can be amended if it is indeed the wisdom of the members or any of the public that may wish to provide their advice. We should come forward with a piece of legislation from this House that will set our salaries for 2002.

MR. SPEAKER: The member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. JOHN HOLM: I will very briefly indicate that our caucus certainly intends to be supporting the legislation. I also sit on the Internal Economy Board, certainly not for as many years as the Government House Leader has. But certainly what the minister has said and I have been around for a number of years and I can attest to its accuracy in terms of how one report, year after year, basically seems to be picking up on comments and information that were provided in the previous year.

I am sure that members in this House, like most people, would like to have a raise, maybe even a large raise, and maybe we all feel that we can justify that. However, I think that in these times when cuts are being made to all kinds of programs and services and restraints being placed on the health and education systems and on those who serve this province very well within the Civil Service, it would be inappropriate for MLAs to be seeking more than what we are prepared to offer to others.

The Government House Leader, in his remarks, talked about the cost of a Commission of Inquiry. Doing a very quick calculation, not necessarily factoring in all of the features, if willing to take a look at the 1.9 per cent by the salaries, in fact, the amount of money that would be going out in the way of raises would be less than the cost of the inquiry - certainly at the higher level ones that have been done. So I think what is being proposed is a very modest proposition, and therefore I have no hesitation and indicate that our caucus will be supporting it. We look forward to further discussions throughout the year on maybe coming up with another approach that can hopefully serve this province well.

MR. SPEAKER: The member for Cape Breton South.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: I rise in my place here as the House Leader for our Party to concur with the legislation that's now before the House. As House Leader I too sit on the Internal Economy Board and we felt that perhaps this was the fairest way to go, given the present circumstances of this province and the circumstances surrounding the previous way of determining members' salaries and the amount of money that was costing. I concur with the Government House Leader bringing this forward today and I also concur with the

[Page 6793]

remarks of the House Leader for the New Democratic Party. Our Party will be supporting this legislation.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, in closing the debate . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: This hasn't taken 30 minutes.

MR. RUSSELL: Maybe we should do this in perpetuity. Mr. Speaker, I would now move second reading of Bill No. 80.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 80. Is the House ready for the question? 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. 82, the Municipal Law Amendment (2001) Act.

Bill No. 82 - Municipal Law Amendment (2001) Act.

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

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I move that this bill be now read a second time. I am pleased to rise and speak in favour of this bill. It contains amendments to the Municipal Grants Act, the Municipal Government Act, the Public Utilities Act and a repeal of the Shopping Centre Development Act.

Mr. Speaker, the centrepiece of the bill is the section that affects the uniform assessment of municipalities. Uniform assessment is the total value of assessed property in a municipality. Because uniform assessment is part of the calculation that determines municipal grants, a high value could mean a lower grant. It could also mean that a municipality pays more as its contribution towards other programs. Currently, if a municipality chooses to exempt a charitable organization from paying property tax, the municipality does not benefit from its own goodwill, this is because while the owner of the

[Page 6794]

property does not pay property tax, the assessed value is considered part of the municipality's uniform assessment. This does not provide much incentive for municipalities to exempt charities from paying property tax. Our goal in this change is that municipalities will be more inclined to grant tax exempt status to charities, provided the value of the charities' property is not part of the uniform assessment.

The rest of the bill is very straightforward, much of it is of a housekeeping nature and the annotations clearly explain each section of the bill. The Municipal Government Act is intended to be responsive to the legislative needs of municipalities. Many of these amendments are at the request of municipalities or villages, and we are happy to accommodate them. For example, the Halifax Regional Municipality asked for a change that would give the municipality greater authority to deal with properties with dangerous excavations or fill. That's a reasonable request, and we're happy to help them out. Another section would enable municipalities to borrow for trail developments on Crown lands, and another would allow for municipalities to provide loans to fire departments.

All the measures reflect the very intention of the Municipal Government Act, to enable local governments to make decisions on local issues. For this same reason, we are proposing to repeal the Shopping Centre Development Act. This Act was passed in 1979 to provide for public and municipal input concerning the location of shopping malls over 50,000 square feet. At the time, few municipalities had planning strategies, so this Act filled a void. Today, retail patterns and municipal planning strategies have made the Act redundant. In fact, since 1979, there have been only two applications for hearings under this Act, and only three appeals of municipal council decisions.

Mr. Speaker, this is an opportunity to remove unnecessary legislation from the books, and that is the purpose of this part of the bill. This Act was recommended for a repeal by the red tape task force, and at its annual meeting last month in Sydney, the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities passed a resolution supporting the Act's repeal. In order to give municipalities time to make any necessary amendments to their planning bylaws, this repeal will not be effective until proclaimed by the Governor in Council.

Another feature of this bill is to amend Section 35 of the Public Utilities Act. This amendment will update Section 35 by raising the minimum value of a capital expenditure by a public utility that requires prior approval from the Utility and Review Board. For example, for more than 30 years, this value has been $5,000, the amendment seeks to raise the value to $25,000.

Mr. Speaker, there is very little left to say about the bill. I look forward to hearing from members across the way, with respect to their comments on this legislation.

[Page 6795]

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

MR. CECIL O'DONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct the House's attention to the Speaker's Gallery. We have, visiting with us from Shelburne today, Mr. and Mrs. Harold Hart, and Mr. and Mrs. Tom Davis. I would ask that they rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We welcome our visitors to the gallery today.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I too, welcome the members to the public gallery today, overseeing second reading of Bill No. 82, which are amendments to the Municipal Government Act. I want to start off first by saying to the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations that, yes, this is basically a housekeeping bill and many of the recommendations have come through the UNSM conference. Many of the recommendations, as well, have been endorsed by municipalities across the province.

With respect to the Shopping Centre Development Act, I believe that this was actually an oversight when we dealt with the Municipal Government Act back in 1997. I believe that what should have happened then has actually happened now, to repeal that Act. The minister is quite right, many of the shopping centre developments that are carried on by municipalities are now under municipal development plans and are always brought forward, normally to communities through a neighbourhood information meeting, as well as a public hearing. So there is ample input for that. Many of the municipalities now, I might add, also have what is called planned unit developments, or what they call a CDD, which is a comprehensive development district which, in fact, takes in all those components such as shopping centres, residential developments and the like.

I also want to thank the minister for acknowledging that there are changes with respect to the dangerous and unsightly premises and property being excavated as fill. In fact the municipalities do have the opportunity now to levy charges to those properties . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Perhaps if the members would take their private conversations outside of the Chamber, please. Thank you.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North has the floor.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, once again I would say that this was a recommendation or a resolution that went before UNSM by the Halifax Regional Municipality, one of the largest regional municipalities in Nova Scotia. As a matter of fact, it augers well for many parts of HRM; now they will be able to do some of the things that they were unable to do before.

[Page 6796]

Some of the housekeeping items as well, with respect to going before the Utility and Review Board, I have some concerns with respect to bylaws that do not require approval of the Utility and Review Board.

I would assume, Mr. Speaker, that even though this is one of the recommendations by the UNSM, this does not prohibit individuals from wanting to take a planning issue or a matter before the Utility Review Board with respect to bylaws, and bylaws that may encompass land uses. I would assume that it just simply fine-tunes the process and allows the process to run much smoother. I can only make that assumption that the honourable minister has, in fact, looked at those.

I have no concerns with respect to this being of a housekeeping nature. I also want to say that under some of the amendments I recognize that the honourable minister and the UNSM recognize the village status to be somewhat similar, in particular areas, with that of municipalities. I want to thank the minister for that because I think that the village status is there for a reason and they were somehow restricted on what they could bring forward to the village commission without having to go before the Utility and Review Board. Now they get the same status - unless the minister informs me differently - from what I read from the text of the amendments to Bill No. 82 is that now they have encompassed some of the powers that municipalities already have with respect to doing those sorts of things.

So, Mr. Speaker, I will be looking forward to this bill being moved on to the Law Amendments Committee and will wait to see if there are any responses coming out of the Law Amendments Committee with respect to recommended amendments to this bill. There was, in fact, a brief mention with respect to municipal pensions by municipal politicians. That was to bring in line, from what I have been able to scan in such a short period of time, from this bill, the amendments were to recognize that the Halifax Regional Municipality has a pension plan for its politicians, and that it has the opportunity to endorse that plan without having to go to government to look for those kinds of restrictions that may have been placed upon it. So having said that, I want to tell you that, once again, I will be looking forward to this bill going before the Law Amendments Committee.

[2:30 p.m.]

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I just rise very briefly on this bill, Bill No. 82, in the absence of our critic for that department, to say to the House that we agree with the principle of this bill. There are some things in the bill that we would probably like to discuss, we will see what happens at the Law Amendments Committee with this bill, and when it comes back to Committee of the Whole House on Bills, then I believe that our Party

[Page 6797]

may have some amendments to look at at that time. For now, we are perfectly prepared to have the bill advance in the various steps of the House. Thank you.

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

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable members for their participation in the debate. I want to say that the concerns and questions raised, I will have looked at. The interpretation of the honourable member, his interpretation is as I believe it to be, but I will make sure that that is in fact the case. I am very pleased to now close the debate. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 82. 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 the order of business, Public Bills for Third Reading.

PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 7.

Bill No. 7 - Lobbyists' Registration Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would move that this bill be returned to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills for amendment and I would ask for unanimous consent to do so.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 6798]

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

[2:33 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Bills with Deputy Speaker Mr. Brooke Taylor in the Chair.]

[2:50 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. 7 - Lobbyists' Registration 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 for a third time on a future day.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that this bill be now read for a third time.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING]

Bill No. 7 - Lobbyists' Registration Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I would move this bill be now read for a third time.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for third reading of Bill No. 7.

[Page 6799]

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have a few minutes to put on the record at third reading my caucus' comments with regard to Bill No. 7. This is the Lobbyists' Registration Act, and I might say that this is a day which has taken more than 10 years to come about; the day in which, hopefully today, we'll be able to vote in favour of a piece of legislation that will ensure we open up the doors of the backrooms of government and have an opportunity to see who is coming forward; who is talking to government; who is attempting to influence government; who, on behalf of themselves or others, is coming forward as a means of lobbying government, for lack of a better term.

This is called the Lobbyists' Registration Act. It is an opportunity to pass a piece of legislation today that was first introduced by - now our federal Leader, at that time our provincial Leader - Alexa McDonough, many times. She introduced this as a private member's bill as a means of trying to ensure that Nova Scotians had open and accountable government and knew exactly what was going on in the backrooms. We now have that. It took a few times for this government to finally move it past first reading, but I will give them credit for passing legislation today, hopefully, that will indeed ensure that Nova Scotians will have just a little more accountability, a little more openness with regard to how government works.

If this had been here only a few months before, we might have had a better idea of what was happening around the Knowledge House deal. Maybe in the past there were many other opportunities we could have had to understand exactly what was going on, who was talking to the government on behalf of whom, and for what purpose they were trying to do it. Nova Scotians should have a much better opportunity to ensure that they know what government was doing, who was trying to influence their decisions and why they did or did not decide to do that.

Now, that's not always necessarily big business. It is other groups as well. I will say that there were some amendments at the Law Amendments Committee and at the Committee of the Whole House on Bills, Mr. Speaker, to put it on the record, that were important changes, ones that reflect the role of organizations that have a quasi-governmental role, whether they be the unions, the collective bargaining agents for workers in the government who have to deal with grievances and arbitrations and negotiation of collective agreements, whether it be the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, whether it be the Nova Scotia School Boards Association. These are organizations that play a quasi-government role in the sense that they are working on behalf of government representatives, whether it be municipalities, whether it be school boards, whether it be employees and civil servants, or public sector workers as well.

[Page 6800]

These were amendments that we felt were necessary, ones that, some of them, we moved at the Law Amendments Committee that were passed, some of which we suggested at the Committee of the Whole House on Bills that were passed. Others were moved by other Parties. I will say that the movement of this piece of legislation through the House has taken the co-operation of all members of this House, all Parties in this House. I think it is a reflection of the fact that 10 years ago when this legislation was passed, it wasn't brought forward, but now everyone recognizes the need for this legislation and recognizes the benefits that come from this legislation, Mr. Speaker. Maybe sometimes it takes 10 years or 12 years for a good piece of legislation to finally be passed. But I will say today is a good day for Nova Scotians, for people who want to understand how government works, who want to ensure that Nova Scotians are getting the best government possible, that government is not being influenced by people who should not be influencing it and that those who do influence it are doing it on the public record.

These are the things that the Lobbyists' Registration Act will do. I am glad to see that the government has brought it for third reading. I am proud to say, on behalf of our caucus, that we will be supporting this legislation and we hope to see that this means a more open and accountable government in Nova Scotia in the future. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to just say a few words on Bill No. 7, the Lobbyists' Registration Act. Clearly, this is important legislation. It mirrors legislation passed by the federal government that is in place in a number of other jurisdictions, which gives Nova Scotians a clear idea of who exactly is lobbying government and for what purposes they are doing so.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Minister of Justice, who did accept some of our amendments and incorporate them in the bill. For example, we increased the fine amount for a second offence under this legislation, as proposed by our caucus. One of the other amendments which we introduced that was adopted by the government is that there shall be an Internet site set up which will give a registration of lobbyists and some of their activities. Unfortunately, the way the bill is still worded, it says that the director may make this information available on the Internet. I am certainly hoping that the government will recognize, in this day and age, that if they are going to do this that they will make sure this information is made available. We would have preferred stronger language that would have said, the director shall make it available, rather than may. Anyway, at the end, I think the government would be foolish not to provide that on the Internet. I can assure the minister that we will certainly raise concerns if he chooses not to do so and, hopefully, that will not be the case.

[Page 6801]

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that our caucus did propose in the amendments, which unfortunately the government did not adopt, was that there would be a reverse onus on the actual Cabinet and the senior civil servants of this province, so that not only would we require lobbyists to register, we would also require Cabinet Ministers and senior civil servants to also register and to keep an account of when they have been lobbied. It is pretty self-explanatory why we would ask that. Clearly, that would be a way of trying to verify the information in that if a lobbyist says that he or she met with the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, or on the flip side, I should say, if he or she fails to mention a meeting with the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, then one would check the registry from the government and see that the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations met with a lobbyist on a certain date and, clearly, one would be able to verify, at that point, that the proper filing from the lobbyist did not take place. Now, unfortunately, as I said, the government has chosen not to adopt that, so we are left with the hopes that those who do lobby will actually register that information because we now do not have that safeguard of being able to verify the information.

Mr. Speaker, one of the interesting clauses which the government chose not to put in this bill, but which is in the federal bill, almost in the second clause, a little clause, that says this Act binds the Crown. Now, why would the Tories not put in, this Act binds the Crown. It is in the federal legislation. We suggested it in the Law Amendments Committee. We suggested it in Committee of the Whole House on Bills. For some reason, the minister refused to put in that little simple clause. Now, one is left to question why that would not have been put in there. It clearly would have been stronger language to show that this not only applies to lobbyists, it applies to the Crown, also, to make sure that this information is accurate and that we are made aware of it. So only time will tell whether the decision not to put in this clause had any sinister motives or was in any way a way of avoiding accountability on behalf of the government.

But other than that, Mr. Speaker, clearly, as I said, we are pleased that we are batting 500, I guess. We got two of our four amendments, so it is not too bad, in baseball analogy. Certainly, I think it does help reinforce the Act with the penalty provision and having the information posted on the Internet will lift the veil of secrecy around lobbying and allow Nova Scotians to be able to access this information from their own home at any time that they wish to do so. So with that, certainly, our caucus has given our full support to this bill and I am pleased to see that the government has called it for debate and is going to go forward with its passage. With that, I will take my seat and look forward to the passage of Bill No. 7.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable Minister of Justice it will be to close debate on third reading of Bill No. 7.

[Page 6802]

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable members opposite for their interventions with respect to the bill. As was said earlier today, this is an historic day in Nova Scotia, one where all Parties have agreed on the importance that we place on openness in government. This bill, I believe, represents an acknowledgement by all members of the House of the importance of that. I thank all members of the House for their support with respect to this bill and I believe that, indeed, we have witnessed an historic day. With that, I move third reading of Bill No. 7.

[3:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for third reading of Bill No. 7. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that the bill do pass. Ordered that the title be as read by the Clerk. Ordered that this bill be engrossed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would ask for the unanimous consent of the House to revert to the order of business, Presenting Reports of Committees.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the Committee on Law Amendments, I am directed to report the committee has met and considered the following bills:

Bill No. 22 - Liens Act.

Bill No. 71 - Izaak Walton Killam Health Centre Act.

Bill No. 73 - Agriculture and Marketing Act.

Bill No. 76 - Consumer Protection Act.

[Page 6803]

Bill No. 77 - Motor Vehicle Act and Public Highways Act.

Bill No. 78 - Conservation Easements Act.

and the committee recommends these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, each without amendment.

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that these bills be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the Committee on Law Amendments, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bills:

Bill No. 23 - Enforcement of Canadian Judgments and Decrees Act.

Bill No. 74 - Costs and Fees Act.

and the committee recommends these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, with certain amendments.

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that these bills be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

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. 75.

Bill No. 75 - Revenue Act.

[Page 6804]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, this bill is a relatively simple one. It puts into place a tax on tobacco, to the tune of $2.50, in the Province of Nova Scotia. I should point out that though many people who are smokers perhaps won't be very pleased with this, it has been proven by the research done by people much more qualified than myself that the biggest deterrent against smoking is the price. I know that as a parent of three children who don't smoke - and I would hope and pray that they continue the trend into the future - that this measure may also help young people from smoking or continuing to smoke, or to start. There are very high rates, especially of young girls, who are starting to smoke; it's a phenomenon that I think no member of this House is very pleased with. We felt, as a province, that tobacco taxation is an issue that would hopefully alleviate some of the smoking consumption in this province.

I should point out that I was pleased to receive co-operation from many of the ministers across this country. I brought this issue up at a Finance Ministers' meeting in British Columbia and basically received considerable support across the nation, predominantly, I should say, from Ontario east. In the western provinces, the tobacco taxes have been higher. In the east, the only exception, of course, being Newfoundland; they have very high rates of tobacco taxes there anyway.

Mr. Speaker, with those few comments, I move second reading of Bill No. 75. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to say that the Official Opposition will be supporting Bill No. 75, which raises the tobacco tax here in Nova Scotia, effective on November 2nd of this year, not quite a week ago.

Mr. Speaker, it's a good initiative because, as the minister says, raising the price of tobacco is the single best way of discouraging non-smokers from taking up smoking. We also have to take care at the same time of smoking cessation programs for those who already smoke. The government did announce an initiative within the last month, but the problem is it just didn't go far enough. The government doesn't have to take my word for it, organizations like the Nova Scotia Lung Association, that deals with the ravages of tobacco every day, say to this government that they're not going far enough.

The disappointing thing about the government's intentions on this bill is that the revenue from this tax increase is coming in already. This fiscal year alone, the minister is going to take an extra $6 million, and for every fiscal year to come an extra $12 million, which is far more than the government is actually allocating to anti-smoking and smoking

[Page 6805]

cessation programs. It would be so easy for this government to do the right thing. If this tax increase is truly, as the Minister of Finance says, a health measure, then the revenue should go to Health. It should go to anti-smoking programs; it should go to smoking cessation programs; it should go to aspects of the health care system that are clearly identifiable with the ravages of tobacco smoking.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, there's the question of enforcement. The minister has been asked a number of times before why he didn't make this move earlier, why he had to increase the tax faster, and his response has always been enforcement. The bug bear of smuggling, which is always out there and is used to justify not increasing the tax, but with no real evidence of the scope or extent of the problem or how it might be dealt with. The government, at the very least, should devote some of its new revenue, which is already rolling into the Treasury, to deal once and for all with this issue of smuggling, to deal once and for all with this issue of enforcement so that in future, when increases in the tobacco tax are proposed, the minister can't simply come back with the unverifiable claim that he's not doing it because there might be an increase in smuggling.

The members of the public or the member of the Legislature who actually look at Bill No. 75 would be at a bit of a loss as to what it's about because written in the language that it's in, it's actually incomprehensible. What you have to do is take the bill and compare it to the Revenue Act that it's amending. Other than that, it's just a series of numbers being changed.

So, taking my duty as Finance Critic seriously, as I do, I did go back and check the Revenue Act just to compare what exactly it is that's being amended. The Revenue Act sort of divides out the different kinds of tobacco. It was interesting as I read through this that the paragraphs of Section 34(1) that are being amended are (a)(b)(c) and (e). I am pretty sure, especially because I go through the alphabet almost every day with my three year old son, that there's something between c and e, so I went back to check what it was that was being skipped. The answer, Mr. Speaker, it may be a small thing but it came as a bit of a surprise to me, that is that the tax is going up on every form of tobacco except for one; the tax is going up on cigarettes, the tax is going up on fine-cut tobacco, the tax is going up on pre-portioned tobacco sticks and, in fact, there's a catchall clause which says that the tax is going up on every other form of tobacco except for one, and that is cigars. I hear the despairing cry of a cigar smoker on the other side of the House.

AN HON. MEMBER: What about pipe tobacco?

MR. STEELE: No, pipe tobacco is included. Pipe tobacco is covered. The tax on pipe tobacco is going up, it's the tax on cigars that's not going up. Not just this time but the time before that when the tobacco tax went up and the time before that when the tax went up. This is the third time in a row that the tobacco tax has gone up, but not on cigars. I am just

[Page 6806]

wondering if the Minister of Finance - in the overall picture this is a small point indeed - but it would be very interesting if the Minister of Finance could offer an explanation to the House and to the public of why it is that the increase in taxes are skipping cigars for the third time in a row.

Having said that, with the caveats about where the money should be going and also the unresolved issue of the leak which gave everybody in Nova Scotia 24 hours notice that the tax was going up. Those are serious issues - where the money is going, enforcement and the leak from his department or from the Premier's office, we have yet to find out which, with those reservations, it's a good initiative, it's going to discourage smoking and it's going to help people stop smoking who are already smoking. With those few words, I will say that the Official Opposition will be supporting Bill No. 75.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Thank you for the opportunity to speak on Bill No. 75 on behalf of our Liberal caucus, a bill that increases the provincial tax on cigarettes by $4.00 a carton. I am very pleased today to see the Minister of Health here, he's probably got a leg hold on the Minister of Finance so that he doesn't change his mind at the last minute and pull this bill. It's the first time that those two gentlemen in the front bench of this government have been singing from the same song sheet.

The road to Damascus is just magnificent and all of a sudden the lightning comes out and there's a conversion. It was really comforting and warming to my heart today to hear the Minister of Finance speaking in such eloquent terms on the health risks and the importance of the Cancer Society and the Lung Association and all the other initiatives and how he has finally seen the light. Maybe this was a trip out West that was worth the money that was spent on the Minister of Finance and not the $35,000 that the Premier took with his 12 member entourage with double ticketing on route. So, perhaps going west someday really does follow the light and certainly the Minister of Finance has seen it today.

We support this bill. It's an extremely important bill. The importance of the initiatives that have been taken even in this past few months that will see revenues increase $20 million I believe was projected on the first change earlier, the $4.00 change and now the projection of $6 million this year and $12 million additionally. It's been documented by various groups, the $170 million that we're paying out in this province for direct negative impact on health from smoking. It's a major initiative. I would commend the government that they have put a significant contribution this year into programs. There's never enough, of course, the government should be encouraged to be more innovative in some of the programs. Certainly there's no question that the young women are increasing numbers.

[Page 6807]

The importance though, the risk of smoking and the impact on our health is not a lot different than a lot of other health matters. We know that those in the lower socio-economic groups where smoking is high - in other words, quite frankly, we know that education has a direct correlation. The higher the education of a Nova Scotian, the less likely they will be a smoker. That is the same way if you look at the cost of health care, how skewed they are in the lower socio-economic group. In other words, the whole environment of the province is reflected in these matters. We have a high instance of smoking relative to the rest of the country and also on many other areas. In population, we perhaps have an out-migration of persons that leaves behind those with disabilities and other matters so health care costs are high.

[3:15 p.m.]

So it is not only in smoking, Mr. Speaker, it is also the economy of the province reflected in the health of the people of the province. One of the main indicators of health is the education level of persons and the types of jobs that people have. So this is very much a finance issue, and how this province is managed, the management of the government, particularly through the direction of the Finance Committee, so I am glad to see the Minister of Health and the Minister of Finance sitting side by side, shoulder to shoulder, could I say hand in hand, perhaps, even.

There is no question that as the economy improves, it is not only the programs within Health, but it is also the job availability, the status of jobs, and the positive impact that we see in the health of Nova Scotians. We are concerned that this government will not only strive for a tax reduction, but also the balanced budget. We see this starting again in long-term care, Mr. Speaker, the great initiatives that are undertaken in the Department of Health now, the determination of what people can pay. It is not only the room and board component of nursing homes, now we are seeing the nursing care and the health care component being targeted and being targeted very effectively, I might say. I think, basically, for bookkeeping and the initiative in the single-entry system in long-term care.

But here is a financial incentive, Mr. Speaker. It is probably the thing to do - that the fairness is done - but it is not fair when the rest of the country, provinces like Saskatchewan and Manitoba, are subsidizing significant parts of long-term care and in this province, we are not doing that for those who are able to pay. I think this is something that we are hearing more about in our constituencies and there are great changes that will be taking place there. We haven't heard the last of that. But this is very much a financial issue. So it is important that the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Health are talking and the relationship is good because we cannot have these programs, whether it is a tax to reduce smoking or it is long-term care - the cost of $40,000 or $50,000 a year that average Nova Scotians are expected to pay for their family members in those institutions. Those programs must be

[Page 6808]

health-driven, in a compassionate and a caring manner, and not strictly finance-driven, as we see with this particular tax program here.

It is a step in the right direction. We will certainly be supporting it. I just wanted to add some of my thoughts on that matter and thank you for the opportunity, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I too first want to compliment my colleague for outlining many of the initiatives that he has felt so very strongly about in regards to smoking and finding provisions and programs to deter people from being addicted to tobacco smoking, which is one of the worst addictions probably known to anybody with regards to a drug.

I want to say that, first, in principle, what the minister is trying to do here - the measure to show that the provincial government will take an additional $2.50 per carton into revenue - this government is trying to sell this whole concept here, this tax increase, as part of a new anti-smoking strategy, as part of their long-term anti-smoking strategy. As my colleague for Dartmouth East well pointed out, finally we see this Minister of Finance somewhat born-again to the initiatives that not only the Premier but the Minister of Health have been talking about for a long time. We needed to have a reasonable level of taxation on tobacco to make it a real deterrent for those who are starting to smoke, and even for those who are currently smoking. In my riding I have people saying, doggone it, we're going to have to seriously look at quitting smoking because they're so expensive. Maybe that is a good thing.

This minister is the same minister who brought in the first tax measure, only a short period of time after the budget was presented, for which he ended up having a windfall of some $20 million, approximately $20 million that was not part of his budget revenue estimates. I understand why he didn't do that, because the deal wasn't struck. He ended up getting $20 million over and above the revenue stream that was projected. Again, the minister not too long ago, in bringing out the quarterly report, we now have another tax increase. I don't know how many million you are going to project this year that the revenue will be from that, but it will be a few million dollars, $6 million, maybe $7 million or $8 million. In all, in total this year, the minister is going to receive somewhere close to $30 million of new revenue in taxation on tobacco, somewhere close to $30 million in additional revenue in taxation. One has to ask the question, out of that windfall of $30 million . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. I would ask all members to take their conversations outside, please. The honourable member for Lunenburg West has the floor.

[Page 6809]

MR. DOWNE: Michel, you get back over here, please. Harassing those Conservative backbenchers is not the way to go. They know how bad they are themselves, you don't need to be over there convincing them how bad they are.

Mr. Speaker, out of this almost $30 million of additional revenue that this minister has picked up, over and above the revenue projections that he's made, what did he do about putting money into smoking cessation programs for people who are addicted to smoking? What has he done as Minister of Finance to try to curb the issue of those who are currently smoking? He put $1 million into a fund. He collects $100 million of revenue from tobacco, now maybe close to $130 million. As the former Minister of Health said, we spend about $170 million relating to smoke addiction in health care, but the minister put in $1 million. You have organizations like the Canadian Cancer Society that are saying they need a minimum program of $3 million, on an annual basis, a minimum.

We have two Ministers of Finance over here now, the wannabe and the wish-he-hadn't-taken-the-job guy, that's what we have over there. The guy who isn't going to be able to balance the budget and probably isn't going to give the 10 per cent reduction. This is a government that really ran an election campaign on three main promises. The first one was, we are going to fix health care for $46 million. The second one was, we are going to balance the budget, and obviously the Premier doesn't want to admit that he can do that. He won't give his word. The third is the 10 per cent tax reduction. Those are really the three main promises which gave them the victory. They blew the $46 million deal, because that is long out the window. Jamie bows his head in disgrace on that one . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. The honourable member for Lunenburg West knows that it's not proper to call a member by their first name. I would ask you to call him by his proper title, the honourable Minister of Health. The honourable member for Lunenburg West has the floor.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I'm a little disappointed the member for Lunenburg West would get up and talk about this $46 million figure. For the 27 months, or whatever it is that I have been Health Minister, I have been trying to get them to table information that talks about this $46 million, and they refuse to do it. I would request that they quit using that figure.

MR. SPEAKER: That's not a point of order, it's a disagreement of the facts between the two members. (Interruptions) Order, please. The honourable member for Lunenburg West has the floor.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I will refrain from using the minister's first name, I could probably think of a few other names and adjectives that I could refer to him as, but I will definitely refer to him as the minister from this day forward.

[Page 6810]

The Minister of Health realizes that the Cancer Society of Nova Scotia is saying a minimum of $3 million is required. Now this Minister of Finance, when the budget came down, gave $1 million without realizing he was going to pick up possibly another $30 million in revenue from tobacco, and instead of trying to do what is being required for tobacco smoking, in other words to save money, long-term, in health care in the Province of Nova Scotia, he pockets the money and doesn't do what the Health Critic in our Party is saying in regard to making sure that programs are properly funded to deal with smoking cessation in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, the minister made comment that he went to Vancouver - was it Vancouver or Ottawa?

AN HON. MEMBER: Vancouver.

MR. DOWNE: Vancouver, and it is a beautiful province; I used to live out there. The minister is asking me whereabouts and I will tell him I grew up in Abbotsford, British Columbia. My wife is from Winnipeg, but also grew up in Abbotsford and that's where we met. (Interruption) Anyway, 30 years we've been married. The minister is asking a lot of personal questions. I don't know if he's lonesome over there, or feeling guilty by the fact he has not been able to live up to one promise they've made; I don't know.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say that this minister said that he went to Vancouver and convinced all those other ministers that tobacco tax increases are important. As I understand it, he convinced the other provincial ministers and Paul Martin, and he singlehandedly led that charge. Well, if he did, then congratulations, Mr. Minister. I actually have some people checking that out, and I am sure that the minister would never mislead the House. But if he did, I want to congratulate him because it is the right step in the right direction. I want to say long term, Mr. Minister, that whatever we can do to help people from getting addicted to tobacco smoking is important and we will support it in principle, and support what you've done.

So with those few comments, Mr. Speaker, I would like to now move forward and thank the minister.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable Minister of Finance, it will be to close debate on Bill No. 75.

The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, before I begin my comments, I want to congratulate the honourable member for being married 30 years, and his wife being from B.C.; my brother and sister live out there and it is a beautiful province.

[Page 6811]

I want to say, Mr. Speaker, although we often disagree on issues, this is one I think all of us, when you get down to core message, all three of us, what we're looking for is to stop people from smoking; it is a difficult addiction. Speaking as someone who smoked when I was younger, I had to give up twice, and the second time I gave up was after the birth of my first child. After about a year or so, I decided that I didn't want my children to ever see me with a cigarette in my hand because I didn't want them to follow in my footsteps. I had done it at that time and I have promoted with them the perils of smoking and the addiction problems that you have if you do start.

Mr. Speaker, I want to point out that the member for Halifax Fairview brought up that cigars had not been included in this bill and hadn't been included in the previous two. I will take that under advisement as we move forward. Other increases are going forward. I don't want to diminish the point that he brought up, cigars are a very small part of consumption. However, the member brings up a (Interruption) Overall it is a small component of the tobacco that's used in this province. I don't disagree that it is something that we should be looking at, however I don't intend to be changing the bill in its present form, but into the future we will consider those comments. I think they are reasonable ones for us to look at.

I just want to point out that the members of the Liberal Party pointed to me as being the born-again Minister of Finance. I do want to say that I have learned a lot. I have learned a lot from people who have come to my office, people from the Cancer Society, people from different groups who have presented me with evidence that shows that consumption is very much tied to price. There are other measures on a smoking cessation program that my colleague, the Minister of Health, has initiated, and I agree that we always could do more and the fact of the matter is that this year we have put in place a program that initiated $1 million which, over the course of a year, will be quite considerable, a little more than twice that altogether, in programming. Mr. Speaker, I will take the ideas of the Opposition and anyone who comes forward with measures that would curb consumption of cigarettes in the future and I will consider it.

I want to say, in closing, that I did bring forward the issue. I put this issue on the agenda of the Finance Ministers' meeting in Vancouver. It was not on the agenda; it was at my request that it was included and I want to say that at that point there were different provinces that gave some consideration. Subsequent to that it picked up steam and also the federal government came onstream.

This is what I've said all along, Mr. Speaker, and so the situation is that I cannot take credit for this issue. We all basically came together, and I think all provinces are sharing the same goal that Nova Scotia is, which is to reduce consumption of cigarettes. I would much rather have less tobacco revenue and less people using the health system; that makes a lot more sense. If we can achieve that, then we have accomplished a great thing in this province.

[Page 6812]

With those few comments, Mr. Speaker, I will take my place and move second reading of Bill No. 75.

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 75. 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 the morrow at the hour of 9:00 a.m. and the House will sit until 3:00 p.m., or until we have come to the conclusion of business for the day. We will be looking at Public Bills for Second Reading, as well as Committee of the Whole House on Bills. We will meet on Tuesday, following Monday, which is a day of rest, so we will meet later on Tuesday than normal. I think we said 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. That's agreeable with the House, so next Tuesday will be 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. and tomorrow will be 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m., or until the House finishes its business. With that, I move that the House do now rise.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House now adjourn until 9:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

We have reached the moment of interruption. The subject for this evenings late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

[Therefore be it resolved that the government introduce a drought relief package which fits the needs of the farm community, rather than stick with the existing programs for which most people don't qualify.]

[Page 6813]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

AGRIC. & FISH.: DROUGHT RELIEF PKG. - INTRODUCE

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I want to say that I wish that it was a pleasure to speak to this resolution. I have to say that I am looking forward to the minister or whoever for the government will be standing to speak on this resolution. I would like to have had an opportunity, actually, considering late debate is usually at 6:00 p.m., I was expecting some other information that I might be able to use in this debate, but I don't think we are going to get that on time.

I want to get to the point with the minister and ask the minister, when he gets to his feet, to explain a couple of things. I was really interested, yesterday, in the minister's comments around going from $9 million to $19 million in the relief program and the disaster relief program or, as we refer to it quite often, drought relief. It has been a combination of programs and some of those are provincial programs. The Loss Provision Program is one of those. The Agriculture Income Disaster Assistance Program was the previous program which has now changed to the Canadian Farm Income Program, I think referred to as CFIP.

One of the things that I've been curious about is how much the provincial government has been contributing to help Nova Scotia farmers and also to identify for the minister that I think what the province has done has been inadequate, and would they please look at some other program that would be far more beneficial. Actually, a response I got in correspondence from the minister recently, actually, yesterday I got a copy of the letter, the minister's response was that they were looking at a water strategy through the Department of Environment and Labour. Well, great. That doesn't say much for the minister as to what exactly the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries is doing to try to come up with both short-term and long-term strategies that would help the Nova Scotia agricultural sector.

Now, the minister should be aware that there are roughly, I think, 2,200 registered farms in Nova Scotia, not all of those are members of the Federation of Agriculture. I think, as far as Stats Canada is concerned, there are twice as many as that, in other words, over 4,000 farms identified by Stats Canada. I want to tell the minister, from this document that I received on April 2, 2001 from his deputy minister in answer to my request around what the government has contributed in terms of drought relief, the information is provided in terms of the tax year.

[Page 6814]

In the 1998 tax year, the number of applicants who applied for the AIDA Program were 273, the number of claims paid out were 163. The provincial share was $1.318 million. If the minister is talking about going from $9 million to $19 million, I can't see where that has occurred. In the tax year of 1999, there were 183 applicants, the number of claims paid were 77. Basically, a third of the people who applied received assistance. The provincial share paid, in the 1999 tax year, was slightly more than $0.5 million. The average gross payments to the people who applied or who actually had their applications accepted and had claims paid in 1998 was nearly $21,000, and for the 1999 tax year it was $24,200.

I want to say to the minister, where is the rest of the between $9 million and $19 million, because it certainly didn't come in the direct form of disaster relief in the AIDA program of which the provincial government was to pay a share? Also, I am curious as to why it is that the province was so late in signing on to the AIDA and NISA programs last year; in other words, that funds were not made readily available to Nova Scotia farmers, because the province had delayed signing on. How was that supposed to help Nova Scotia farmers?

There are those sectors of the industry that we know can't apply. The supply-managed sector can't qualify. If the minister is going to come up with programs that help farmers across the province, then he should pay attention to information that would indicate that the debt load on farms across this province has gone up by over 40 per cent, and those are in the form of operating loans. If debt is increasing and incomes are decreasing, then where exactly has the help gone to farmers in Nova Scotia? I would say that the numbers for 1998 and 1999 tax years certainly don't indicate the kind of dollars that the minister is indicating have been paid out to support the industry.

The drought this year was probably the worst. It probably was far worse than 1999 and I would say that the way the programs seem to work - the application deadline for 2000 for the CFIP program is October 1, 2001. That means that for people who had problems last year, the application date doesn't end until almost a year later. I am assuming that for 2001, the application date is going to be in the fall of 2002. That means that in the year of some of our worst drought, farmers are going to be up to a year in receiving assistance. I think that the minister, or whoever will speak for the minister, is going to say they can apply for 50 per cent ahead of that. If that's true, then where are the dollars? If his money has gone from $9 million to $19 million, there is no indication that there's anywhere near that kind of money being spent to help Nova Scotia farmers at all.

That brings us to the situation of more long-term remedies. If the minister is referring to the water strategy by the Department of Environment and Labour, then I am worried. The industry is asking for help in a very quick way and it's something that I think the department can do. It may have to work with the municipalities, but trying to develop water infrastructure for the agricultural sector is something that could head off a lot of problems

[Page 6815]

in the future and it's something that I think the minister and his department are going to have to deal with. It looks as though we are experiencing some climate change in this province and we can only expect that this will continue. If the industry is going to feel any security at all, then it's going to have to be in the notion that the department is willing to listen to the farmers of Nova Scotia and that it's willing to act on their concerns and start immediately to address those concerns. I can see no reason why that couldn't have been done this summer and fall to try to address some of those infrastructure needs.

I look forward to the minister's comments, or whomever is going to speak, and I would like them to indicate not the kind of money that they say they allocate, but how much money is actually being spent to help farmers in this province. Certainly the numbers from 1998 and 1999, which in the two years for the province adds up to slightly less than $2 million that went out to farmers . . .

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

The honourable member for Annapolis.

MR. FRANK CHIPMAN: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to get up tonight to speak on the resolution:

"Therefore be it resolved that the government introduce a drought relief package which fits the needs of the farm community, rather than stick with existing programs for which most people don't qualify."

I come from an agricultural background. I have spent 27 years on my own plus I grew up on a farm, and I am quite familiar with the situation in agriculture today. Just as a little background, I spent my time growing strawberries and apples, which are very sensitive to dry weather. Fortunately we had an irrigation system and we were able to irrigate our crops. I know in some situations farmers are unable to do that.

One thing that comes to mind as the honourable member made reference to the fact that not enough money was available, it takes time in these situations to find out exactly what the actual dollar figure cost is when you have a situation of drought like we have had in the last five years.

One thing that comes to my mind that was very important - the Premier made a visit to my constituency here a couple of months ago and we toured several farms in Annapolis County. We went to Andrew and Susan Hillier's farm in Melvern Square in Annapolis County. The Hilliers moved here a few years back from England. They grow large acreages of Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and turnips. One field in particular Mr. Hillier was

[Page 6816]

concerned about was the fact that he had 29 acres of Brussels sprouts in the Victoria Harbour area that he wasn't going to be able to harvest if he didn't get any rain.

[3:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you, we have a Premier that cares because I can tell you over the last two months, the Premier has asked me on different occasions, did the Hilliers get rain? Did they save that crop? Unfortunately, I had to tell the Premier that no, they didn't get rain and they had to walk away from 29 acres of Brussels sprouts. That is going to hit that family hard in the pocketbook unless they have the resources, unless they have the money in those accounts, it is going to create severe hardship for that family. But, anyway, I thought it was very interesting the Premier would remember that, after all that time, that one family suffered such a difficult season because of lack of rain.

Then we went on the Spurr brothers' farm. That would be Gordon and Bill Spurr and that is a third or fourth generation farm. Gordon and Bill's father, Lawrence, and his brother, Cameron, farmed there for several years, and W.C. Spurr before them. Then I believe it was Colonel Spurr, Shippy Spurr they called him prior to that. Mr. Speaker, the Spurr brothers grow large acreages of potatoes, onions and apples. Fortunately, they have sufficient irrigation, although their crops did suffer some loss because there were fields they couldn't irrigate, but their apple crop was excellent. We saw apples that were in the two and three-quarter range in the latter part of August, early September, which is excellent for apples at that time of year.

Then we went to the packing house and had a look at the facilities there. They pack all their own potatoes. It was interesting because they developed a market for undersized stock, potatoes that would not normally meet the grade, but they received permission from the department to reduce the size so they could market these. Normally, that would have been a crop that would have gone for hog feed or waste. As I said, through the department, through the regulations, they were able to utilize that crop, which normally they would have had to walk away from. So it is encouraging to see that there are opportunities for farmers to get some support in that respect.

Then, Mr. Speaker, we went on to visit the Bill Armstrong farm and his son Richard in Melvern Square. Bill was away at the time, but they are probably one of the largest, if not the largest, beef producers in the Province of Nova Scotia. They raise simmentals and Bill is well renowned and has won many awards for his stock. Anyway, they were feeding hay at the time, and I can't remember the amount that Richard told me, but it was a considerable amount, but they had to feed hay to keep their cattle fed because the pastures had dried up.

[Page 6817]

After that, we moved on to the farm of Blair Banks. Blair Banks is a dairy farmer in Spa Springs, Annapolis County, and Blair had to feed some of his hay, too, or he was beginning to because of the same situation that happened with the Armstrongs and many other farmers, that the dry weather was curbing pasture growth. Overall, it was a good tour. The Premier had to move on because he is a busy man and he has a very busy schedule, as the Minister of Agriculture does. I just wanted to bring those points forward because we do have a government that cares and it takes a while. You can't say overnight, well, I have lost so much money or I have lost this amount of money. We are just through the season. You can't say, well, I have lost $5,000 or $4,000 or $20,000. It doesn't work that way. Farming is a year-long occupation. The member for Lunenburg West, the former Minister of Agriculture, can attest to that, even though, I believe, he was in the poultry business, which is confined to indoor structures and would not be as affected as greatly as somebody in the outdoors, in the elements.

Water, colourless, odourless, tasteless, but you know it is probably the most precious commodity and the most precious resource we have today but we do take it for granted. Without it, life would not sustain itself. When I think of agriculture, I think of the area I live in, in the Annapolis Valley, and I am actually in the heart of the Annapolis Valley near Middleton. I guess I could conclude that agriculture is the heartbeat of the Annapolis Valley. It is the heartbeat of rural Nova Scotia and it is something that perhaps, and I don't want to point fingers but I think farmers possibly have been taken care of up to a point, but there has also been neglect there to. We take the food in this country for granted and we probably have one of the cheapest food policies in the world.

I had a guy tell me one time, he said, oh, I don't need to worry about farmers or this and that, any time I want food I will go to the supermarket, they've got lots of food over there. On another occasion this person said to me, do you know where chocolate milk comes from and I said sure, I know where it comes from, where do you think it comes from? He said, well, it comes from brown cows. So there's an ignorance out there about agriculture. I think some people have a tendency to look upon farming as a lower class occupation, but it isn't, it is a very highly technical and highly skilled profession today. I think it's an occupation that we have taken for granted - I shouldn't say taken completely for granted, I think a lot of people out there have a lot of respect for farmers, but I think they don't realize the risk, the stress and some of the conditions that agricultural farmers have to put up with.

Anyway, just one thing I would like to comment on, too, Mr. Speaker, there are programs out there; we have NISA, we have the Canadian Farm Income Program, we also have crop and livestock under the Nova Scotia Crop and Livestock Insurance Commission, which is funded by the provincial and federal government. Mr. Speaker, I can tell you and I can speak from personal experience, I carried crop insurance when I was farming and I was intimidated by it. The reason I was intimidated was because I had to go to arbitration twice. I will tell you there are a lot of people out there who I think have probably gone and carried

[Page 6818]

crop insurance in the past and may have felt, well, we didn't have a crop loss because this is what the policy says, that you can't insure this or you can't insure that. I had insurable perils, and twice I had to go to an arbitration hearing, but I was successful; the first time I represented myself, the next time I took a lawyer.

It is easy to be intimidated because I will tell you farmers are so busy working and they're so stressed from the everyday work they have, the responsibilities they have. I mean it is not like going to a nine to five job. I know guys who work out there seven days a week. I guess the point I was making about the crop insurance, and it's a great program, don't get me wrong, but it is so easy to be intimidated because you feel that you trust somebody else and you get yourself into a situation that - anyway, maybe I hadn't better say any more, but I was successful and I was proud of myself that I went . . .

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

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, what a day to get a cold. It seems like I'm having a hard time trying to get the words all out, but I will do the very best I can and I do appreciate the resolution:

"Therefore be it resolved that the government introduce a drought relief package which fits the needs of the farm community, rather than stick with the existing programs for which most people don't qualify."

I do appreciate the member for Annapolis speaking today. I know there are a number of members of the Progressive Conservative caucus who are in the farm belt and understand all too well the crisis that it's currently in because of the drought within the farm community. I want to say that my experience as a farmer is one thing, but my experience as a former Minister of Finance dealing with another great Minister of Agriculture, Ed Lorraine, Colchester North riding, who did a brilliant job of fighting for the benefits and needs for farmers who are going through rough times. So we brought out a program for drought relief. I believe it was around $22 million. It was a Liberal program and the program was to be used over a period of time so that we would be able to trigger federal programs as well as assist farmers really in need.

So along came an election and we have a program now, we have a minister now who ramped up that payout - I believe the Minister of Finance wrote that commitment off, added it to the debt already, before it was spent. The minister then, in turn, rolled it into programs and probably announced it, according to the farmers I've talked to, about four or five times, as if it was new money. In reality, it was a former government's commitment and program that was really announced.

[Page 6819]

The minister sometimes refers to the NISA program. I know a little about the NISA program, in fact I was one of the farmers in Canada, a number of years ago, that spent a year, basically, working this out with the federal government - Don Mazankowski was the minister at the time - to come up with a NISA program. We tried to develop a NISA program, and since then there has been a number of changes to the program, trying to develop a program that would meet the needs of Atlantic Canada. Our type of farming is not the same as it is in western Canada where they, maybe, just grow grains or they're into one commodity, they are not into a basket of commodities. We in Atlantic Canada have baskets of commodities, and those commodities that are affected because of the drought feel that pain tremendously and have a tremendous problem trying to access that NISA program, actually it was GRIP, and NISA.

The announcement that the minister made recently about the new drought relief program and about how our farmers will benefit from that, is really a federal initiative that the minister has applied the dollars spent in previous years to trigger payments through NISA to our farmers. Wait now, that's back to that $22 million that the Liberals committed to the drought relief that was used in other programs, and that the minister used to be able to leverage the federal money - I don't know if he put any money in of his own - to be able to pay out the farmers.

All of this came way past the time when Ottawa had said those relief programs should be in the pockets of farmers in April. I think it was April of this year. We went after the minister, and it was (Interruptions) Well, it might have been the first to sign, but I don't know, Ernie, were the farmers in Nova Scotia the first to receive payment?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Exactly.

MR. DOWNE: Were they? Well, then it goes to show you . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Question Period is over.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West has the floor.

MR. DOWNE: Thank you, minister, for that word of interjection. We will check that out, because I was told differently. Anyway, the bottom line is that what we've seen is the minister playing a lot of shell games with a lot of previous Liberal policies to say that this is their government's initiative. The farmers know differently than that. They've told me.

I wanted to talk about drought relief, but I want to talk about the fact that, relative to my question in Question Period today, the all-Party committee, the Economic Development Committee, which consists of all three Parties, made a motion that we would work together with the minister and his department - we were unanimous in this decision, we want to work

[Page 6820]

with the minister to come up with a program. The farmers and the Federation of Agriculture, the farmers affected asked us, as politicians, for once put down your rhetoric, work together and solve the problems for the farmers in the Valley, the farmers who are affected by the drought.

We said, yes, we will do that. So we made a motion, unanimously passed by all Parties. I have yet to have a call by the minister to attend a meeting to see what we can do to find a solution to the problem affecting the farmers who are affected by the drought. I don't know if that's the responsible thing to do, by the minister, but I know the committee was extremely sincere, all members on that committee were sincere about trying to work together to find a solution. The farmers and the Federation of Agriculture asked us to put our political hats away and fight for what is right for farmers, and we agreed. I am waiting for the minister to come forward to ask us to do something about it.

I introduced two people in the audience, in the west gallery, the other day, two members who were past presidents of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, but they are also in the potato industry. The potato industry is hurting. There are a number of other sectors, I just want to use that as an example today, that are hurting tremendously because of consecutive years of drought. Although a majority of our production goes into chip production - which is further value-added, which is what we all want and creating a lot of jobs - that industry is hurting.

[4:00 p.m.]

Even when they use an example with the potato industry, we are selling for about $10 a box. The same product coming in from the west or from Idaho sells for about $18 or $21 a box. So ultimately, consumers are beneficiaries, the restaurant industry is a beneficiary, the tourism sector - I see the Minister of Tourism is here paying attention, I appreciate that - is a beneficiary of the potato industry in Nova Scotia. But these individuals are hurting and the 12 or so that we had as primary producers have now gone down to a lower number, somewhere around eight, and if we don't have some program established - a new program by this government - that number could even go lower. They are having a problem accessing capital at the bank; they're having a problem going to the bank and saying they need to have money in their operating line of credit to be able to go forward. It's a huge problem.

The other issue is the irrigation problem. This government, I think, talked about irrigation somewhere in the campaign. We have yet to see a real irrigation program from this government. They committed to that; they committed that they were going to do something about that. Well, we haven't seen it, and that's the type of initiatives we look forward to and we expect from a government that ran campaigns based on those initiatives.

[Page 6821]

I only have a few seconds left. I just want to end up by saying that we are committed to work together as a Party - I have another minute? You scared me half to death . . .

MR. SPEAKER: We're enjoying the debate, so one moment.

MR. DOWNE: You gave me an extra moment, thank you. We on this side of the House are prepared to work with the minister, prepared to work with this government. We don't want to get into the issue of trying to make a political game out of it. We are legitimate and earnest when we say that we will work with the government to find a solution, in conjunction with that of the Federation of Agriculture, the Horticulture Council, and the farmers that are now in serious financial plight.

Why has the minister not asked us to be a part of this? It only tells me, it smacks that this government really doesn't care, or this minister doesn't care enough to ask people that the federation have asked to be a part of the process to jump in and try to find a solution. I think this government has a great opportuntiy to do what they said they were going to do in the beginning, represent rural Nova Scotia by coming forward with a plan and a program to make sure that as droughts continue to happen, we will have a program in place to help farmers be able to have technology, equipment to make sure that they can produce that product and keep economic viability in rural Nova Scotia alive. That will be because of agriculture.

MR. SPEAKER: I would like to thank the honourable members for taking part in this very interesting and very important debate to the farmers across Nova Scotia.

The House is adjourned until 9:00 a.m. tomorrow.

[The House rose at 4:03 p.m.]