The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Wed., Nov. 14, 2001

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HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 2001

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Second Session

2:00 P.M.

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, if I could have the attention of all members, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce four special guests who are in the Speaker's Gallery today. I would ask, as I call your name, if you would please stand.

The first one is Mr. John Parsons, who is from Springhill. John was a carrier, a deliverer, of The Chronicle-Herald for approximately 27 years before his health forced him to take time away from doing that duty. He has always wanted to come down here to have a tour of that facility, which he had the opportunity to do this morning. The other thing is many of you will recall the collapse of the Springhill Arena this last winter. John, who also volunteered at the local arena, was in the building at the time it collapsed. Fortunately, that morning he had cleared out one of the doorways. Had it not happened, he probably wouldn't have been so fortunate.

The next individual is Mr. Michael Kaye. Mike is an approximately 30-year volunteer at the Springhill Fire Department who looked after the sounding of the alarm in the community for all those years and continues to support the fire department, very much so, in the way of selling tickets and in other things that help the fire department on a daily basis.

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The next gentleman is Mr. Bill Ward. Bill is very much a volunteer as well in the Town of Springhill. He helps very much with recreation. He is responsible for the ballpark and the field and ensures the fields are up to snuff and ready for all the tournaments that we have in the community.

The fourth individual is a good friend of mine and a great supporter of these individuals in the community. His name is Councillor Doug Dobson. Doug is also the person who is in charge and the representative for the Emergency Measures Organization for the Town of Springhill.

These gentlemen came down this morning and had a great tour of the facility, which I know John has looked upon as being a dream of his for many years, and he had the opportunity this morning. We had a nice lunch together and they came in this afternoon to be introduced and to watch the proceedings of the House for a while. I would ask the members to give these gentlemen a warm welcome, as you usually do, from members of this House. (Applause)

Thank you, and again, gentlemen, welcome to the Legislature.

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

Therefore be it resolved that the New Democratic Party stop driving business opportunities away from Cape Breton and start supporting job creation in areas that need it most.

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

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: M. le président, en ma capacité de ministre des affaires acadiens, je désir soumettre le rapport du Groupe de travail Dialogue commandé par la Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada. Le rapport est disponible dans les deux langues officielles du Canada.

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Mr. Speaker, in my capacity as Minister responsibile for Acadian Affairs, I beg leave to table a report of the Dialogue Task Force commissioned by the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada entitled Let's Talk. The report is written in both official languages of Canada and I table such report.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 2435

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

Whereas students in Nova Scotia schools are learning in technology-rich environments, using resources like Geographic Information Systems, or GIS, data in their geography classes; and

Whereas this data was provided through the partnership of Nova Scotia Geomatics Centre at Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, the Department of Education, and Halifax Regional Municipality; and

Whereas students can use this data from their own province to study population trends, climate change, ph levels in our water, and more;

Therefore be it resolved that on World GIS Day today, and throughout Geography Awareness Week this week, members of this House recognize the important work of GIS professionals and encourage students to make full use of the valuable educational resources they have produced.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Finance.

RESOLUTION NO. 2436

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: M. le président, à une date ultérieure, j'ai l'intention de proposer l'adoption de la résolution suivante:

Attendu que le Village historique acadien de la Nouvelle-Écosse situé à Pubnico-Ouest a connu cet été sa meilleure saison touristique; et

Attendu que le Village offre une programmation intéressante et diversifiée aux milliers de visiteurs qui désirent en connaître davantage sur l'histoire, la langue et la culture acadienne; et

Attendu que le Village a été nommé Site de l'anne 2001 par TIANS, un prix qui souligne l'excellence et le professionalisme dans le secteur du tourisme;

Qu'il soit résolu que cette Assemblée transmette ses félicitations et ses meilleurs voeux de succès aux membres du conseil d'administration, au personnel et aux nombreux bénévoles qui donnent de leur temps et de leur énergie au Village historique acadien de la Nouvelle-Écosse.

M. le président, je demande l'adoption de cette résolution sans préavis.

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

Whereas the Village Historique Acadien de la Nouvelle-Écosse located in West Pubnico has just completed its best tourist season; and

Whereas the village offers many diversified and interesting programs to the thousands of visitors who wish to learn about the cultural, linguistic and historical background of the Acadians; and

Whereas the village has received the 2001 Attractions Sector Award by the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia, an award highlighting excellence and professionalism in tourism;

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[2:15 p.m.]

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend its congratulations to the board of directors, the staff and the numerous volunteers who have devoted time and energy to the Village Historique Acadien de la Nouvelle-Écosse and wish them well in all 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.

The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

RESOLUTION NO. 2437

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

Whereas the Canso Causeway was quickly reopened to traffic following a devastating storm last Wednesday; and

Whereas local companies, Norvon Enterprises of Port Hastings and Martin Marrietta Aggregates of Aulds Cove were quickly to respond with materials and equipment; and

Whereas the department's Port Hawkesbury office and CUPE staff worked tirelessly to repair the significant damage;

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend the department staff, contractors and the many volunteers who worked in extremely difficult conditions to reopen the only land link to Cape Breton.

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.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 91 - Entitled an Act to Repeal Various Acts that Place Restrictions on the Orderly Process of Collective Bargaining for Public Sector Workers. (Mr. Darrell Dexter)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 2438

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

Whereas there are approximately 95,000 ambulance responses in Nova Scotia every year, of which 60 per cent are emergencies; and

Whereas paramedics and first responders strive to respond to emergency calls in the quickest possible time; and

Whereas Nova Scotians can count on professional and high quality care when they find themselves in need of these emergency services;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate and thank the many women and men of the Emergency Medical Services who have dedicated themselves to providing timely and efficient emergency assistance to all Nova Scotians faced with medical emergencies.

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 member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2439

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

Whereas five Shelburne County municipal leaders sent a letter to the Minister of Health objecting to a member from outside Shelburne being appointed to the district health authority; and

Whereas Shelburne County's representation on the district health authority has been reduced to two of the 12 members; and

Whereas Shelburne County is now under-represented in presenting their health concerns to the district health authority;

Therefore be it resolved (Interruption) Well, it might be an opinion, it is an opinion I am expressing, Mr. Speaker.

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House encourage the Minister of Health to consider the message of the municipal leaders and appoint a member from Shelburne County to the district health authority.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

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The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 2440

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

Whereas when in 1937, Governor General Lord Tweedsmuir awarded the first Governor General's Literary Award to honour the best books of 1936, he started what have now become the pre-eminent national literary awards in Canada; and

Whereas this year's laureates and their publishers have been honoured in six categories and this year's winner in the poetry category is George Elliott Clarke's Execution Poems, published by Gaspereau Press; and

Whereas Gaspereau Press is a Nova Scotia-owned and operated trade publisher based in Kentville that publishes short-run editions of literary and regional interest;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate author George Elliott Clarke for his work, Execution Poems, and his publishers, Andrew Steeves and Gary Dunfield of Gaspereau Press, on receiving this most prestigious and sought-after literary 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.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 2441

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

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Whereas it appears the Minister of Education has lost a Mexican junket on account of the unaccountability of her school boards; and

Whereas the Minister of Health has sacrificed himself from his own light duties to take the Mexico junket on behalf of the assailed-upon Minister of Education; and

Whereas the Premier is surely cooing his Health Minister to take over the Education portfolio through the potent use of pina coladas and Mexican sun, while the current minister throws herself upon her collapsible sword;

Therefore be it resolved that the House congratulate the Premier on his astute greasing of the wheels to move his underperforming Minister of Health into the Education portfolio and asks, whither Jane?

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2442

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

Whereas today, at the Public Accounts Committee meeting, the member for Halifax Fairview attempted to convince the public that the Department of Health was paying $35 million for its new information system while the former Liberal Government was prepared to pay $70 million for the same issue, a point that was clearly refuted by Department of Health officials; and

Whereas the member for Halifax Fairview also attempted to make the public believe that the Liberal and Tory members of the Public Accounts Committee did not want any witnesses to appear before PAC on the matter of the Strait-Richmond Regional School Board, when in fact only a deferral had been agreed to that would allow PAC members to determine what witnesses might be called before PAC;

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Halifax Fairview be chastised for playing loose with the facts, otherwise run the risk of earning himself the title of being referred to as the skewmaster.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 2443

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

Whereas the Salmon River House Country Inn and the Lobster Shack Restaurant recently won the Top Food and Beverage Award presented annually at the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia Conference and Awards Night; and

Whereas this eating establishment is situated at the scenic Salmon River Bridge in Jeddore, along the Eastern Shore; and

Whereas President Adrien Blanchette was presented with this award at the recent TIANS Conference and Awards Night at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly extend our congratulations to the president and all of his staff for winning such a prestigious award against exceptionally strong competition, and for bringing honour not only to his establishment, but to the entire Eastern Shore.

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.

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RESOLUTION NO. 2444

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

Whereas according to Department of Transportation and Public Works traffic count report, 10,100 vehicles daily used the Prospect Road, through the community of Goodwood, during the week of August 9th to 16th; and

Whereas these statistics demonstrate the growing use of Route 333; and

Whereas the Prospect Road is part of the popular Lighthouse tourist route and therefore a busy commuter highway for these growing communities;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works make improvements immediately to the Prospect Road a priority based on the statistics of the Department of Transportation and Public Works, which show the heavy use of Highway No. 333.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 2445

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

Whereas the delays in placement in long-term care facilities, coupled with an aging population, is causing hardships for many seniors and families across Nova Scotia; and

Whereas families are having difficulties trying to provide care for loved ones while meeting financial obligations and retaining their jobs; and

Whereas this government promised support for people who take time off work to care for seniors in their own homes;

Therefore be it resolved that the government follow through on their assurance of providing the support and care for seniors and their families affected by delays in placement in long-term care facilities as promised.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2446

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Community College recently presented Pictou Campus employee Charles Sutherland with the Support Staff Excellence Award; and

Whereas Charles is described as an ambassador for the Nova Scotia Community College and has played a significant role in the college's strategic planning process; and

Whereas Charles is recognized by his peers for being a team player and for giving his heart and soul to the Nova Scotia Community College and, in the words of his department head, if you could measure respect, personality and kindness in dollars, Mr. Sutherland would be a very rich man;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House of Assembly salute Nova Scotia Community College employee Charles Sutherland for his outstanding contributions, at work and in community, while wishing him every success in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants East.

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RESOLUTION NO. 2447

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

Whereas this year has been declared by the United Nations the International Year of Volunteers; and

Whereas the Colchester/East Hants Seniors Council joined forces with the Cumberland Seniors Council to strike special pewter pins and certificates for presentation to a number of worthy recipients; and

Whereas Mr. and Mrs. Gordon and Edna DeMan were honoured with a certificate and pins for their outstanding and selfless contributions to society;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature congratulate Gordon and Edna DeMan for their selfless volunteer service to others and for receiving awards from the Colchester/East Hants and the Cumberland Seniors Councils.

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. 2448

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

Whereas on November 1st, the member for Kings North supported a resolution put forward by the Government House Leader that supported in principle a House composed of 52 members plus one additional member who would represent the Mi'kmaq people in Nova Scotia; and

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Whereas now the member for Kings North has changed his mind, calling for a Legislature made up of 40 members instead of the 52 he supported in principle; and

Whereas in principle this clearly goes against what was supported by himself, his caucus and the Premier;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the flip-flop of the member for Kings North while also recognizing that the Premier and his Cabinet are in support of a 52 seat House of Assembly as outlined in the November 1, 2001 resolution.

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 Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 2449

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

Whereas Eastern Shore resident Mabel Clements recently celebrated her 90th birthday; and

Whereas a party in Mabel's honour was held by family and friends, where she was presented with numerous cards along with beautiful flowers and sentimental gifts; and

Whereas Mabel is still active and takes walks often in her community;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs take this opportunity to extend our belated but sincere 90th birthday wishes to Mabel Clements while wishing her many more years of happiness.

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 Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 2450

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

Whereas Mark Pothier of the Clare Golf and Country Club has been named the Nova Scotia Golf Association Junior Zone Golfer of the Year for the Western Shore; and

Whereas Mr. Pothier is 15 and has been playing golf for six years; and

Whereas Mr. Pothier has had an impressive career as a junior golfer, and as a result of his accomplishments including the Clare Golf Championship, is entitled to play in a tournament in Whistler, B.C. next year;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Mr. Pothier on his title of Junior Zone Golfer of the Year for the Western Shore.

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.

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RESOLUTION NO. 2451

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

Whereas the Mineville Community Association started officially in 1999 as a small group of residents concerned with the development of their parkland and has since grown into a vibrant organization dedicated to its community, recognized by the Nova Scotia Trails Federation as one of its most active and successful member groups; and

[2:30 p.m.]

Whereas the association's incredible volunteer commitment is evident through such projects as the development of Bennett Park, the Frog Lake Road cleanup, the creation of a lake access to Lake Echo and the bird/bat habitat restoration project; and

Whereas the Mineville Community Association was presented with the Mayflower Community Cooperation Award on October 27th at the Nova Scotia Recreation 2001 Awards Ceremony in recognition of its strong community volunteer involvement;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Mineville Community Association and thank its members for their dedication to improving the social and environmental fabric of their local neighbourhood.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2452

MRS. MURIEL BAILLIE: 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 Isabelle Langille of Louisville first attended the Pictou North Colchester Exhibition in 1923 at the age of 16 and after a few short years away from Nova Scotia, attended for 78 consecutive years; and

Whereas Mrs. Langille's love of horses started as a child of three and is a love she passed on to her own daughters, her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren; and

Whereas for this record attendance at the Pictou Ex, the Light Horse and Draft Horse Exhibitors recently paid Isabelle Langille a well-deserved honour;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly commend Isabelle Langille for her continued support of the Pictou North Colchester Exhibition, and for being a role model for her daughters and all her grandchildren with whom she still shares her love of horses.

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. 2453

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

Whereas as part of National Waste Reduction Week, two Queens County students, Alexander Speed and Kelsie Keans, each won Nova Scotia Recycles Day contests, demonstrating a good awareness of recycling issues; and

Whereas Alexander, a Grade 12 Liverpool Regional High School student, received a $1,000 scholarship for his essay on waste management; and

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Whereas a Greenfield Elementary School Grade 5 student, Kelsie, won the "Treasures from Trash" contest with a prize of $500 for her school for the model dream house she built from recycled materials;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend these students, Alexander Speed and Kelsie Keans, for participating in these recycling awareness events, as well as the region of Queens for encouraging awareness and engaging school children's interest of these important environmental issues.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

RESOLUTION NO. 2454

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

Whereas Nick Greenough of Woodville, Hants County, son of Dean and Debbie Greenough, is playing his first season of professional hockey with the Mississippi Sea Wolves of the East Coast Hockey League; and

Whereas Jason Spence of Ellershouse, Hants County, son of Nathaniel and Brenda Spence, and formerly of the Johnstown Jets of the East Coast Hockey League, recently signed a 25 game contract with the Saint John Flames, the Calgary Flames' number one farm team; and

Whereas Jason recorded his first American Hockey League point this past weekend, while Nick was recently named the Sea Wolves' Rookie of the Month for October;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House of Assembly, through this resolution, congratulate both Jason and Nick for their outstanding achievements and wish them every success as their 2001-02 hockey seasons continue.

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Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Annapolis on an introduction.

MR. FRANK CHIPMAN: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today and introduce two people from the beautiful Town of Middleton, Bernie and Marg Wagner. Bernie was the former principal of Middleton Regional High School and I would like to have them rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2455

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

Whereas in Pictou County the sound of fiddle music is a loved tradition and with a sound of its own; and

Whereas on her debut CD, called Finding Treasures, Fleur Mainville pays tribute to that tradition with a certain individual flair; and

Whereas recorded at Wee House of Music in Pictou, with many of the titles and notes provided by a number of Pictou County's elders, the CD has a little something for all types of music lovers and is a good reflection of Pictou County's traditional versatility;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly congratulate Fleur Mainville on the debut of her first CD and thank her for carrying on that Pictou County sound for a new generation of fiddle lovers.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

RESOLUTION NO. 2456

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

Whereas in another example of the outpouring of support for our neighbours to the south, Amherst area police and firefighters as well as the staff of the local Superstore pooled together their resources for a very successful fundraiser; and

Whereas these individuals banded together to set up a giant yard sale where they also sold ribbons and carried out an eight kilometre walk which included 140 people; and

Whereas this collective effort raised over $3,700 for the New York Police and Fire Widows and Children's Fund;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House once again congratulate the generosity of Nova Scotia residents, this time in Amherst, for utilizing the efforts and resources of the community to raise funds for those in New York who lost such valued members and heroes of their emergency response teams in the collapse of the World Trade and Convention Center.

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 Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2457

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

Whereas after four arduous years of fundraising, Bridgeville and area Pictou County residents can feel more secure with the recent purchase of a new pumper/tanker by the East River Valley Fire Department; and

Whereas the new pumper tanker is valued at more than $158,000 and can produce high volumes of water at 840 gallons per minute; and

Whereas area residents, along with firefighters, played a vital role in securing the necessary funds raised to purchase the new pumper/tanker;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs extend our praise to members of the East River Valley Volunteer Fire Department and residents of Bridgeville/ East River Valley for their dedication and committment in raising the necessary funds to ensure a better level of fire service for their 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.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 2:37 p.m. and end at 4:07 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

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SERV. N.S. & MUN. REL.: ASSESSMENT - RISSERS BEACH

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the minister responsible for Municipal Affairs says that skyrocketing property taxes on the South Shore are fair. He says that causing people to sell property that have been in their families for generations is fair. He says that water view lots in Lunenburg are worth money and that if people want to live there, they're just going to have to pay their taxes. But, fairness is a one-way street. The Crown owns hundreds of acres in Lunenburg, choice waterfront lands such as Risser's Beach. Risser's Beach saw its assessment go from $2.298 million to $2.3 million. My question is, if the minister thinks that water view lots are worth so much in Lunenburg County, why is it that the province's assessment of Risser's Beach increased by only $2,000?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: The honourable member, if he's going to suggest what it is that I have said to the House, should at least take the time to attempt to quote me properly. What I did say was that the method of assessment in this province is a fair method of assessment. It's based on market value - that's what I said.

MR. DEXTER: The minister knows the old saying that your actions are speaking so loud that I can't hear what you're saying. That's exactly what you're doing to the people of Lunenburg County. Waterfront property is either worth more money or it isn't. If the minister truly is being fair, then why is it that Crown land hasn't shared more of the fate that residents have and paid much more in taxes? The Municipality of Lunenburg has told the government its property tax policies are unfair. I will quote from the submission of Voluntary Planning. "Council suggests that serious consideration be given to limiting increases in assessment in unsold properties until the property is sold.". My question then for the Premier is, you're hearing from residents, you're hearing from the municipality, why won't you direct your minister to correct the problem that's plaguing Nova Scotians from Baddeck right through to Lunenburg?

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, again, the market value system is used, and suggestions have been made in this House that all of this is being driven by foreign demand for land in this province. The areas in question that are brought forward by the members opposite, the sales that have taken place in those areas have been 78 per cent Canadian-driven and 58 per cent of that is within Nova Scotia sales. So the market is a market that is being driven by Canadians, Nova Scotians primarily, and that's what reflects the value of the property.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, sometimes in this House what you get is a minister who has to defend a policy even though he knows that it is wrong. Property taxation of coastal land is patchwork, it's an unfair system and it's being applied unfairly. My question to the

[Page 7051]

minister is this, do you honestly believe it's fair to increase Mr. Eric Creaser's assessment by 475 per cent, while increasing your Risser's Beach assessment by less than 1 per cent?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, property tax is made up of two components: one is the assessed value of the property, and the other is the tax rate that is imposed by the municipality. In the area in question, the increase in municipal revenues for the past three year period was an increase of $1.4 million. That is an indication of where some room, with respect to tax relief, might lie.

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

PREMIER: INTERGOV'T. AFFAIRS - STAFFING

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. A year ago Intergovernmental Affairs had its budget doubled, salaries for their department tripled. Can the Premier state, in light of the news today about the decease in transfer payments and the lack of success with his Campaign for Fairness, if he plans to increase the number of staff at Intergovernmental Affairs?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite would be able to confirm, if he would consult his colleague to his right, that Intergovernmental Affairs has no impact on equalization payments. The other issue is the Campaign for Fairness, and I would hope that the member opposite will not abandon support for what is a very important Nova Scotia initiative that can positively impact the future of Nova Scotia for decades to come. I would hope that by asking the question the member is not suggesting that he is not totally in favour of Nova Scotia getting the kinds of benefits from the offshore to which every Nova Scotian has every right to expect.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, this government promised to eliminate administration at the Department of Health, but they continue to add to it. Despite tripling the amount of salaries at Intergovernmental Affairs, this government still wasn't satisfied and created another new position at the Department of Health. Health now has their own director of Intergovernmental Affairs; obviously Health felt they were not being served by the Premier's department. My question to the Premier is, can the Premier, in his role as Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, justify why, after tripling salaries in his department and promising to reduce administration, the Department of Health felt it necessary to create another senior bureaucrat?

[2:45 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite would, I am sure, be prepared to concede that the previous government had not been able to stabilize senior administration in the Department of Health. There was a rapid turnover, both at the deputy minister level

[Page 7052]

and at other levels. We have been able to provide stable senior administration, the benefits of which are now becoming apparent. The health care system is becoming stabilized at a cost that the Nova Scotia taxpayer can afford.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, this is the Premier who promised Nova Scotians, eyeball to eyeball, health delivery care. This is not what we are getting. The new director wasn't deemed necessary enough to travel with the Premier to B.C., although the job description states that is exactly what this person is to do. If only the Premier had known that his Chief of Staff had an extra ticket he could have invited that new director of Intergovernmental Affairs.

Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. Our man in Mexico, the Minister of Health, now has a very expensive deputy minister, an associate deputy, an assistant deputy, a chief information officer, an executive assistant at Health, another one at Treasury Board and now a director of Intergovernmental Affairs. My question to the Premier is, can the Premier tell me is this enough, does Health have all the senior administration it can handle or will the Premier be authorizing more to come?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, by providing stable senior administration this government has been able to allow the Department of Health to go forward and provide good health care for the people of Nova Scotia and avoid the annual increase in costs of 12.5 per cent, which was the hallmark of your government.

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

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. This government has some serious problems on its hands, it is taxing people off their land in coastal parts of this province. It is doing this because this minister, well, as he says, the taxes are based on the fair market value for "superior" water view lots. The Premier of this province owns several superior water view lots. He owns one of the choicest pieces of property on Sinclair Island, Pictou County, 12 acres, 4 separate pieces of waterfrontage. I want to ask the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations could he care to explain to this House, could he care to explain to a senior like Eric Creaser whose assessment went up $300,000, why the waterfront properties owned by the Premier on Sinclair Island went up a mere $100?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Well, Mr. Speaker, there is no end to how far these fellows will go in trying to misrepresent the facts. The honourable member knows - and by the way he misquoted me again because he made reference to taxes when the reference was

[Page 7053]

assessment - that market driven means that sales records are taken into account and sales record is the difference in terms of the two situations.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Old money and old retired fishermen obviously don't have much in common when it comes to revalued assessments. I would like to table, for the perusal of the House, the assessment bill for the Premier, who owns 50 acres on Pictou Island. Do you know that that assessment on Pictou Island, Mr. Speaker, never went up a dime. It never went up a dime. Explain that? That's a concern that Mr. Creaser has. (Interruptions)

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

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect has the floor. Would you put the question, please. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. ESTABROOKS: It is not in the gutter, it is on Pictou Island. My question to the Premier, if superior water view lots are now worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to seniors like Eric Creaser, why aren't you paying your fair share of taxes on the properties that you own?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what I can assure the member opposite is that this member, and I would hope that all members in this House, pay the tax bill that is submitted from the municipality in which they live. I do that and I would assume that my assessment is as fair as the assessments of any other part of the province.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, in total, the Premier of this province has 64 acres of waterfront property. The total property assessment last year was $199,600 and what is the new assessment this year? It is a $199,700. It goes up $100 and Mr. Creaser's goes up $300,000. Explain how that is fair? My question is to the Premier, that ambassador of fairness as he travelled in his Campaign of Fairness across this country, is, are you prepared to have your property reassessed using the same formula that was applied to Mr. Creaser's property down in Lunenburg? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

THE PREMIER: I will ask the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations to explain the assessment process in this province to the member opposite because clearly he doesn't understand it.

[Page 7054]

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the members of this House that there isn't enough time in Question Period for me to explain the assessment process in a manner that member would understand. (Interruption) For that honourable member to stand in this House and for him to suggest that somehow the professionals in the assessment department are cutting deals on behalf of members of this House is a fallacy that is not worthy of him. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - CAREFIELD MANOR: RESIDENTS - RELOCATION

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. Yesterday, we heard that Carefield Manor, a long-term care facility in Sydney, will be cutting 12 beds and letting 35 staff members go in order to cut costs. A spokesperson for the Department of Health said the government will do all it can to relocate the 12 residents from Carefield to local facilities. These words alone are not much comfort for these 12 residents and their families. My question, simply, to the Premier is, could he please elaborate in some detail for these residents and their families on what the government means by saying it will do all it can to relocate these 12 people?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Acting Minister of Health.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that first of all, this is a serious matter. We regret that the situation at Carefield has come to this, but I want to point out that the Department of Health is working closely with the staff in trying to work through this situation. This is not something that happened overnight. This has been an ongoing problem with this facility, but the member is right when he's saying that we were working with the facility to make sure that all the residents there are properly taken care of.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, that's the point. This hasn't just arisen overnight, that these 12 residents are being left in the cold. So my question either to the Premier or the Acting Minister of Health, whoever chooses. Why has the Premier broken his promise for more long-term care beds for the 12 residents and all the other Nova Scotians who find themselves on waiting lists for long-term care today?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, we're speaking one specific institution here today and the member brought that up and I agree that it is a serious issue. The residents who are there are going to be provided for. I emphasize again that this is an ongoing problem with this institution and that, regrettably, it has come to this, but first and foremost the residents there will be taken care of. Two of them have been taken care of through the Department of

[Page 7055]

Veterans Affairs, with the other seven going to, I believe, the MacGillivray nursing home in Sydney.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I realize that the Minister of Health, who is in sunny Mexico, can't give this his undivided attention, but there's not a person in Nova Scotia today who would feel that "doing all it can" are comforting words from this government. My question to the Premier or to the Acting Minister of Health is, what action will he or they personally take, today, right now, to minimize the disruption that would no doubt be felt by the 12 residents as they're moved to who knows where? And I am not sure that there was conviction in the voice of the Acting Minister of Health when he outlined the placement for these 12 residents.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, in regard to this case, my information from the staff of the Department of Health is that they're working with the MacGillivray nursing home to open up a wing that previously had been a residence for nuns in that area, so that all the residents at Carefield can stay together and be treated appropriately. I know that it is a difficult situation for the residents. I know that we have also had some communications with some of the families, trying to make sure that everyone at least is involved in this. Obviously, there is some disruption and that is a difficult circumstance, but I think we've acted appropriately.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH: NURSING STRATEGY - EFFICACY

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. We all know that there is a serious nursing shortage in this province. Recently we learned that there are at least 175 nursing vacancies in the Capital District Health Authority alone. The Annapolis Valley District Health Authority has told us they require 30 to 40 nurses just to be able to avoid mandatory callbacks and overtime. That is a shortage of over 200 nurses in just two of the district health authorities. So I want the Premier to explain how he can continue to claim that his government's nursing recruitment strategy is working.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I had an opportunity yesterday, and I am looking for the exact quotation and I haven't been able to come up with it, but Ms. Carolyn Moore of the Registered Nurses' Association yesterday I think said something relevant to the question that the member opposite has asked. It's a serious question, but in the course of a press release Ms. Moore adds that the nursing shortage evolved over a number of years and we should not expect it to be resolved overnight. Strategies such as those launched in Nova Scotia's nursing strategy will take time to make a difference. They will take time to make a difference, but I believe that it is the right strategy at the right time and it will have the right result.

[Page 7056]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, indeed this is a serious situation and the reality is that in the last year alone in this province there are fewer nurses registered for practice this year compared to last. In a newspaper article today, the Registered Nurses' Association of Nova Scotia says that 68 per cent of the nurses who graduated last May have not renewed their licences by the October 31st deadline. My question to the Premier is, what are you going to do to address the obvious failures of your government's recruitment and retention program?

[3:00 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite knows that there is a nursing strategy. There is one bit of information that the member opposite may be interested in, that both after the last day of October closing date up until yesterday, an additional 130 nurses registered in the Province of Nova Scotia.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, that doesn't change the fact that nurses coming out of graduate schools in this province are not registering in the numbers that we need to fill the existing vacancies, and the retention and the recruitment strategy in place is not succeeding. That is the problem. I want to ask the minister, will he not admit that Bill No. 68 made a bad situation worse for nurses in this province because it disrespected, discredited and disregarded front-line health care workers and that is why we are seeing this result?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I have to emphasize again that the Premier, in his previous answers to the honourable member, mentioned the fact that we have a nursing strategy. Even the nursing profession is saying that it is the direction to go. The nursing profession is saying that it will take time to remedy the situation. That isn't us saying that; it is the nursing profession.

I should point out that many of the reasons we are short in nurses today are that the previous Liberal Administration gave packages to nurses to retire and they also got them to sign contracts that they wouldn't work in this province when all the evidence showed that we were going to have a nursing shortage. I guess those questions I can't answer, but the Liberal Opposition can. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would like to direct the honourable Premier, if you read from a document, I would ask you to table that, please. I don't know if you just referred to a document or if you actually read from it. (Interruptions) Thank you.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

[Page 7057]

NAT. RES.: PANCANADIAN - TRANSMISSION LINE

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, two and a half years into office and the Finance Minister is still blaming the Liberals for all the troubles of the government. (Interruptions) Maybe they can find a way to blame the Liberals for this question.

Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. (Interruptions) As per Section 40 of the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act, Nova Scotia has the right to acquire a commercial interest of 50 per cent or less in any offshore transmission line. My question to the Premier is, is the Premier aware of any letter by his Minister responsible for the Petrolem Directorate or the CEO of the Petroleum Directorate that signifies an intent to exercise this option with regard to PanCanadian's transmission line, and if so, will he table that letter?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am not aware whether or not there was a letter. What I do know is it is the intention of the government to pursue and receive value for the back-in provision for the offshore pipe.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I don't know how they are going to do that without some kind of correspondence or agreements or whatever. Clearly, this is something else that the Premier is not aware of, and that is all we have been hearing in this House since this House opened this session, and indeed in the last session, that the Premier is not aware of this or not aware of that. It is about time somebody in his department started making him aware.

Once again, Mr. Speaker, I hope the Premier will avoid stickhandling around this issue and answer the question. If the Premier is not aware of such a letter, will he ask his Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate if such a letter exists, and if so, will he ask him to table that letter in this House?

THE PREMIER: Yes, I will undertake to do that. I could also add, Mr. Speaker, it's comforting now to know that the Liberals, who didn't realize that a back-in provision had value in the past, have now come to the realization it has value and are now encouraging this government to achieve value for something that they gave away.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, by the time the Tories get finished blaming the Liberals for everything, they will be out of office again. That's exactly what's going to happen if this Premier keeps talking to the House and telling this House that he's not aware of this and he's not aware of that. Well, since he's not aware of anything, I want to go to the Finance Minister with my second supplementary. My final supplementary is to the Minister of Finance. Given that any option to exercise interest in an offshore pipeline will cost a significant amount of money before there can be any benefit, is the minister aware of

[Page 7058]

any letter that signifies an intention on the part of the Province of Nova Scotia to acquire 50 per cent of the PanCanadian pipeline, yes or no?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, no, I am not aware. I do want to say, publicly, that we have said that we are interested in (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, I want to give the answer, I am more than prepared to give it.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Finance has the floor.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I was asked the question as to whether or not I am aware of a letter, the answer is no. I want to say that I am stating today in the House, as I have stated outside, it is our intention to pursue the matter because it has value. The government can't be any more clear than that. I want to say that we (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. The honourable Minister of Finance has the floor.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the other day the member opposite asked me whether or not we were going to pay $150 million for a pipeline and I said no. We said there is a right and the province has the right to exercise that right, and it has a value. You may not be interested in how much it's worth, but the people of Nova Scotia are. We are going to do what should have been done when you were in office.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - MED. ITEMS: REUSE - DIRECTIVE

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Premier that he's not really going to be able to blame the former Liberal Government for. The Minister of Health is constantly using the district health authorities as an excuse for not assuming his responsibilities. A Health Canada survey has revealed that some hospitals, in an attempt to deal with escalating costs and diminishing budgets, were re-using medical items intended for one-time use only. We also learned that there is no province-wide policy here in Nova Scotia on this, rather each district health authority is free to come up with its own standards. I want to ask the Premier, do you not agree that there needs to be a province-wide directive on this because this is a province-wide issue?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would ask the acting minister to respond to that question.

[Page 7059]

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, it is a good question. If I had had some previous notice I could have perhaps answered it directly now, but I will take it as notice. I will endeavour to get back to the member as quickly as possible. Obviously I don't have that at my fingertips.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, we're constantly hearing about hospital services being cut back or eliminated because of budget restraints. Nova Scotians need more reassurance that the policy for re-use of hospital materials will be the same from one end of the province to the other. It's a responsibility of this government to ensure that that is the case. So my question, again to the Premier, is will you explain to Nova Scotians how the present system of expecting each district health authority to come up with its own standards could possibly be as comprehensive as a province-wide directive?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is a good question. I don't have that answer, nor did my colleague have that answer at his fingertips, but we will take the question under advisement and provide the member opposite with an answer.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I recognize that the Minister of Health is unable to answer these questions himself today, but this isn't all that complicated an issue. This is an issue about one-time-use medical supplies being used over and over in district health authorities around the province. So I want to ask the Premier, why won't you commit to Nova Scotians that you will direct district health authorities or the Department of Health to have province-wide standards for one-time-use medical devices?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, again, I acknowledge that the member brings a good question to the floor of the House. It is a technical question and the member opposite knew that the minister wouldn't be here today. If she had given us some advance notice of the question, we could have provided a very detailed answer, but she failed to do that. Failing that, we will take the question under advisement.

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

NAT. RES.: NAT. GAS - OFFSHORE PROCESSING

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is again to the Premier. As the Premier should be aware, there will be very little value in the PanCanadian project if the gas is processed at sea rather than where it makes landfall. The Premier should also be aware that if the province wishes to use its share of a possible natural gas pipeline for financial gain, the value to the government will be enhanced if it supports the processing of gas offshore. Unfortunately, the people of Guysborough would lose out. Is the Premier now fully supporting the processing of gas offshore, considering the province has a possible interest in the PanCanadian pipeline?

[Page 7060]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Acting Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member that the decisions that will be made with respect to that project will be decisions that will provide maximum benefit to Nova Scotians, in particular Guysborough County, and that is the decision of this government.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: That is exactly the kind of answer that I would expect from the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. He must have been trained very well from the part-time minister of the directorate. My supplementary, again, is to the Premier. If the government wants to encourage onshore processing, maybe he should instruct his Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations to set some reasonable tax rates. Why won't the Premier fully endorse the concept that gas drilled off Nova Scotia has to be processed on land in Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the acting minister.

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member won't like this answer, but had they done the job of properly preparing for gas in this province, the issue of municipal taxes wouldn't be an issue today; it would have been settled. That is what they should have done when they were in office.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, one of the sidebars of this whole discussion is that the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury can kiss his seat goodbye in the next election. That is for sure. Again, that is the kind of answer that you are getting from this government. There are ministers all over the place out of the House today. Nobody is answering anything here during Question Period. That is the contempt that this government is showing for the people of Nova Scotia. My final supplementary is again to the Premier. It is the Premier's responsibility to answer questions on behalf of the government, not a part-time minister to a part-time minister.

[3:15 p.m.]

My final supplementary is to the Premier. The Premier does not have to dictate to PanCanadian, all he has to do is provide a decent business climate in this province. The Nova Scotia Government is like a banana republic without the bananas. That's exactly what's going on here when it pertains to the oil industry in this province. My final supplementary to the Premier is, why won't the Premier ensure that PanCanadian processes its gas onshore by providing a good business climate in Nova Scotia, instead of chasing companies offshore with high taxes?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the acting minister.

[Page 7061]

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: I can assure the honourable member opposite that when this project rolls out, it will roll out in such a way that the honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury will be back in his seat after the next election; I will be back here with him and all of us will be here with him. Those numbers will be reduced. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Premier.

THE PREMIER: I do thank the two Opposition Parties for this break in procedure to allow me to make an introduction. Today we are fortunate to have a distinguished guest in our gallery. Joining us today is the United States Ambassador to Canada, His Excellency, Paul Cellucci. As former Governor of Massachusetts, Ambassador Cellucci has been a great friend to Nova Scotia and has visited our province on many occasions. As Ambassador to Canada he is dedicated to building on this relationship and strengthening trade ties between Atlantic Canada and the northeastern United States. Ambassador Cellucci's visit today further demonstrates his commitment to Nova Scotia as he has made time, in a busy schedule, to be the keynote speaker at an event tonight for the Metropolitan Halifax Chamber of Commerce.

The kinship and friendship that has long existed between our two nations has become more visible in the troubling days since September 11th. Following the terrorist attacks, Nova Scotians rushed to give comfort to our friends and neighbours, not unlike the response to our tragedy in 1917. Today, I will be presenting Ambassador Cellucci with the books of condolence from the Legislature and communities around our province. These books are one of the many small but important ways that Nova Scotians offered their support.

I would also like to welcome Mrs. Cellucci. Mrs. Cellucci has made it part of her agenda while in Halifax to visit the Killam Library at Dalhousie University. I would like to thank Mrs. Cellucci for her committment to furthering the goals of libraries across Canada.

Our thanks to both Ambassador Cellucci and Mrs. Cellucci for taking the time to visit us today and I would ask that they rise to receive the warm welcome of our House. (Standing Ovation)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Question Period will end at 4:10 p.m.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

PSC: PUBLIC SECTOR COMPENSATION - DISCLOSURE

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I also would like to bid welcome to Ambassador and Mrs. Cellucci and let them know this is an unusually noisy day in our House. It's usually much more orderly than this. (Laughter)

[Page 7062]

My question is for the Minister of the Public Service Commission. It is a fact that unbelievably generous executive compensation has been uncovered at the Strait Regional School Board, but the problem is not confined to one single school board. In last year's report of the Auditor General, the Auditor General makes clear that too generous executive compensation can be found in Crown Corporations, health boards and hospitals too. The Auditor General makes clear that he believes this information should be available to this House as a matter of course. My question to the minister is, when is the government going to implement a policy of full disclosure for all public sector compensation?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: I could be flippant and say very soon, but in point of fact it will be very soon. At the present time, the Treasury and Policy Board and the Public Service Commission are engaged in examining all contracts. We are anticipating that in future all contracts negotiated by boards, agencies or departments will be negotiated through the Public Service Commission and that there will be, more or less, a standard format for any contract for any employee.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, in his year 2000 report, the Auditor General says he found the following,"Market adjustment and bonus arrangements have been used to enhance the compensation . . . The use of vehicle allowances . . . no longer be linked to travel requirements. Generous benefit programs form part of virtually all compensation arrangements." Remember, that these observations apply throughout the public sector and not just to school boards. So my question to the minister is, what steps is this government taking to uncover and put an end to existing sweetheart deals with senior executives?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I don't know if the honourable member is referring to Crown Prosecutors as getting sweetheart deals but they were the last group to receive a market adjustment. Unfortunately in today's world, we do have to, periodically, make those kinds of adjustments for specialized professional training that people have that are in short supply not only in the government but in the private sector as well. We are, in government, in competition with the private sector to retain first-class people.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, the minister knows full well that the Auditor General wasn't talking about Crown Prosecutors and neither am I. In the same Auditor General's Report we find the response of the Department of Human Resources, which says that the department was asked in the fall to review all aspects of senior government officials' compensation but it was the fall of 2000 and not the fall of 2001. So my question to the minister is simple, where is that report and why hasn't it been made public?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member, I am sure is aware that we have, in the Public Service of Nova Scotia, a great many employees and, as such, any restructuring or any changing that we make in the various pay plans does take time. The pay for middle management and upper management in the Civil Service in this province was based on a company by the name of Hay who came forward with a compensation plan in

[Page 7063]

1982 and it is only now that we are having that plan updated and brought into the present circumstances with regard to pay for, as I say, middle and upper management. That complete plan and all the elements associated with it will be in place, I would think late next year but we can't do it any quicker, because of the sheer volume and numbers of employees that we have in the Public Service.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

FIN.: TRANSFER SHORTFALLS - DETAILS

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. This Minister of Finance is living in denial. In September, the forecast showed that he would have a $97 million deficit this year if he did nothing. In October, the minister decided that he would then cut $17 million out of the budget plus increase a few taxes. Now we learn that transfer payments will be some $97 million less than expected. When did the minister know about the transfer shortfalls and what will you do about it?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I have to disagree with the honourable member, we tabled our first quarter report, I believe it was just before the September 11th tragedy in the United States. At that time, it was $6 million or $7 million higher than our projected deficit. As such, we said at that time that we would be taking remedial action over the balance of the year to bring us into line with our $91 million surplus. So I totally disagree with the member's statement.

MR. DOWNE: I think it is time that this minister stopped playing games with members of this House. In March, Mr. Speaker, this minister had the chance to balance the budget and we all know the answer, he blew it. In August, we warned the minister that the province's economy was in a downward trend and that all of Canada was in a downward trend and he kept saying everything was okay. In September you projected a higher deficit, but you chose to do nothing, Mr. Minister. In October, he changed his mind and cut $17 million. With these new figures that we have just gotten, showing a $97 million differential in revenue shortfall for the Province of Nova Scotia, a net of $9 million over what was done in the spring of this year - my question to the minister - will the minister be able to keep his $91 million deficit projection for this spring?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I want to say to the member opposite that our intention is to meet our $91 million deficit forecast. This still doesn't sound very good when you are still adding to the debt of the province, that extent, our plan is to do that - although we did inherit a $500 million deficit, which I think you have to put in perspective - our intention is to still meet that target.

[Page 7064]

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, after he was with the Buchanan Government we inherited a $1.8 billion operating deficit in the Province of Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia is suffering some (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. DOWNE: Nova Scotians are suffering from the $17 million in cuts because this minister was living in denial. With the new numbers that we have just gotten, showing another at least $9 million hit, are there further cuts coming and, if so, will the minister say when the cuts are coming or is he still going to be living in denial?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I can't be any clearer than I have been. We have basically told Nova Scotians that we would make adjustments to our budget so that we would come within a $91 million deficit. We did that, as any responsible government should, and now the member opposite is saying that we didn't do anything. We did exactly what we were elected to do, and that is to manage the finances of this province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

FIN.: DHA BUDGETS - PLANS

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is for the Minister of Finance. The Minister of Finance isn't the only one with a deficit. The South West Nova District Health Authority has a serious deficit problem. They are already facing a budget shortfall of approximately $400,000 and are projecting that it will reach close to $1 million by the end of the fiscal year. The minister has told the DHAs that there is no money to eliminate deficits. He says the DHAs can carry their deficits into the next budget year. My question for the Minister of Finance is, it is obvious that the DHA budgets are inadequate for actual needs, what are you going to do about it?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, in regard to our district health authorities, this is an area we are obviously very concerned about. There are pressures on those district health authorities. As much as we would like them, I guess in a sense not to have those pressures, that is a reality. The situation in the District Health Authority No. 2 is especially along the lines of some of the prescriptions and medications in regard to cancer patients. It has put a lot of pressure on that. I know that they have a business plan coming into the Department of Health. The Department of Health is going to review that, but no decision has been made as to what exactly is going to happen on that, but I want to emphasize that we are working very closely with the DHA to deal with their situation.

[Page 7065]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the minister is correct. The pressures on this DHA come from need, not from management problems. I want to ask the minister if he will commit to provide DHAs with the funds needed to eliminate their deficits and provide adequate funding so they don't have to continue to operate in the red?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, our intention is to work with DHAs to make them, I guess in a sense, accountable to the people, but also to deliver the services that Nova Scotians need to receive across this province, not only in my district health authority, but these are some of the challenges that not only Nova Scotia is facing, these are the challenges that people right across this country are facing and I know that from my dialogue with my peers across the country. We will work with the DHAs to make them more accountable, but also to make them hopefully more efficient. I know from my own experience working with our DHA, the fact that they have more control over what is going on within their boundaries which is much different than with the regional health authorities that were there preceding them.

[3:30 p.m.]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my final question to the minister is really quite simple. It's to ask him if he will commit here today that he won't pass his deficit problems onto the DHAs and they pass it on in patient cuts and user fees. Will he commit that that will not happen?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, we have fiscal realities within this province that we have to deal with. What I will endeavour to do is to work with Nova Scotians to make a system that is sustainable. We have to deliver health care services, educational services, community services that can be provided today and into the future. I think if any member of this House is to say that that is not their goal, then they are misleading and they are not serving the best interests of our citizens, not only for today, but into the future.

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

EDUC. - SCH. BDS.: PROMISES - MIN. OBLIGATION

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the Tory blue book on Page 25, and I will table that page, indicates that areas of declining enrolments in regard to school boards will have their funding formulas reviewed to help ease the shock of declining enrolments. The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board will massively lay off teachers, robbing the system of teachers with three and four years of service. My question is, why does the Minister of Education insist that she has no obligation to live up to promises made by her, but made by her Party, and endorsed later by her Leader, the Premier?

[Page 7066]

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the answer to that question is very simple. We have every obligation to live up to our promises and those promises are to all the people of Nova Scotia and all the school board areas of Nova Scotia, including Cape Breton, but not restricted to Cape Breton.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I challenge the minister to find the half-filled classrooms and the low teacher-student ratio she thinks there is in Cape Breton, particularly in areas like Georges River and Gannon Road in both my constituency and the constituency of Cape Breton North. The fact is that the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board is going to lose teachers, teachers' aides, janitors, bus drivers, crossing guards and schools will close under a government that promised they had all the answers.

Mr. Speaker, my question is, why is the minister allowing the Cape Breton school system to lose such valuable employees and schools when it clearly goes against what was promised by the Tory Party in the last election in Nova Scotia?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out to the member opposite that the base funding for all the boards, including Cape Breton, is based on the budget for 1996 and in 1996 the Cape Breton board's budget was $99.3 million. Today it is $106 million and change in spite of the fact that 7,000 students are no longer in that board. The funding is up, the student numbers are way down.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, this is just another broken Tory promise. That's all it is. If the funding is based on 1996 levels, as the minister indicated, then the Tory Party should have known before it made the promise to help school boards with declining enrolments. My question is, will the minister, at the very least, pay some attention to what is happening at the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board and help resolve the current crisis before the school system in Cape Breton basically becomes unravelled?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that the facts and figures (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Education has the floor.

AN HON. MEMBER: She doesn't care about Cape Breton.

MR. SPEAKER: I care to hear her answer. The honourable Minister of Education has the floor.

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the facts and figures would show that we are doing everything we promised and more to assist with problems of declining enrolment, but the answer to the very serious issues here is not to maintain a system with a very high

[Page 7067]

complement of teachers, teachers' aides and bus drivers when there aren't the children to warrant them. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. (Interruptions) Order, please.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - BUDGET REVIEW: FIN. MIN. - AGREEMENT

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is again for the Minister of Finance. Last week the Minister of Health released the Nova Scotia Department of Health Budget Review and Implementation Planning Report. My question to the Minister of Finance is, do you agree with the statement in the report that your government did not provide sufficient resources to enable the Department of Health to conduct the analysis needed to support the budget process?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I want to say that I agree that the resources weren't there, and that's why we went out and got three additional staff to do the work. Obviously the member opposite agrees that we did the right thing.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I definitely wouldn't go that far. I suspect that by some strange, convoluted logic known only to this government, Nova Scotians were supposed to take comfort in the contents of this report. But there are many troublesome pieces in this report, including, and I will quote, that the district health authorities spend about half of the total Health budget but have "very little structure around accountability," have not had "line-by-line budget since the 1990's" and "operate with minimum tracking of financial or operational information."

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the Minister of Finance whether he feels that this government's plan for the provision of critical front-line health care services at an annual cost of almost $1 billion is adequately accounted for?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I want to say that the Department of Health has been challenged in the sense of having the level of expertise that they want within the department. Earlier in Question Period today it was mentioned that there has been a turnover in that department. Actually, a lot of the employees have been hired by health authorities out of the department. I know three or four different people who have been hired, actually to be paid higher salaries than in the Department of Health, which raises a question as to what our own money is being used for, to take some of our personnel out of it. It emphasizes that we have to stabilize the people who are offering the guidance and the administration within that department, and that is what we're endeavouring to do.

[Page 7068]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, now that an independent review of the health care system tells us that the basic tools for financial accountability are weak or lacking, I want to ask the Minister of Finance precisely what is his government's response to these observations by this team of independent consultants?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, in regard to the Department of Health, we have just stated before that we have stabilized the administration in a sense that we can get the level of expertise that we want within it. We were also in the process of implementing the SAP accounting system, whereby we feel that we will get the information that is there. I want to point out to the member opposite that there is a requirement for more information. The previous Liberal Administration stated that the information oftentimes is not there to make the right decisions. I have to agree with that statement. I think the honourable member opposite is nodding her head that she acknowledges that also. Any government needs the information required to make the right decision the first time. We don't have the resources to make mistakes. We better do it right the first time and our endeavour is to try to bring that about and I think we are in the right direction.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

SERV. N.S. & MUN. REL.: PROPERTY - INVESTMENT/HOME

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. Last week, the minister made a comment that he knows what he would do if his land property assessment was going up and up. It seemed he may have implied that he would choose to sell the property and make a big profit. The current assessment system has caused property taxes to rise as much as 300 per cent in Victoria to reflect market values. For many people in these communities, their homes have been in the family for generations and they just want to pass it on to their kids. My question to the minister is, why does the minister seem to think that Nova Scotians view their property as an investment to be cashed in, rather than as a home for their families?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question and I appreciate where he is coming from with that question. With respect to his suggestion as to what it is that I would do with a property, the first thing that I would do is to appeal the assessment if I thought it was too high. That, of course, is an option that is available to property owners in this province. The other matter of relief that is available is through the municipal unit and the municipalities do have the authority to provide tax relief in certain circumstances.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, we feel the minister has been reluctant to acknowledge the financial difficulties that rising property taxes are creating for Nova Scotians. We know he believes the current system is fair, but many Nova Scotians on low, fixed incomes don't agree with him and 75 per cent of my riding is coastal communities.

[Page 7069]

Some residents in my riding have incomes as low as $11,000 and they have to find money somewhere for higher property taxes or they will lose their homes. My question to the minister is, will the minister finally acknowledge that rising property taxes are creating hardships for many Nova Scotians?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for the question. Again, I want to point out to the honourable member, for those in the income range that he referenced, the municipal units in this province do have the capability of providing tax relief to individuals. That, of course, is a method that should be employed and municipalities do have a responsibility to ensure that people are not unduly affected by rising tax payments.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for his answer. But in those communities which are hard hit by high property taxes, people are discussing many ideas about different ways to approach property assessments. My question to the minister is, Mr. Minister, are you and your department receptive to creative options to alleviate the problem of high property taxes for Nova Scotians?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can say to the honourable member and to members of this House that myself and the department are always open to creative ideas and we are anxious to hear them whenever theycome forward.

[3:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

COMMUN. SERV.: CHILD CARE - FUNDING

MR. JERRY PYE: My question is to the Minister of Community Services. Last spring the Minister of Community Services made a series of announcements with regard to child care funding. The minister said that his department would improve the quality and accessibility of licensed child care. He went on to say that there is more money to improve the quality of child care workers by raising salaries and offering professional development courses. We are getting calls daily from the parents, child care workers, and daycare operators wanting to know what happened to all of these promises. My question to the minister is, when are you going to put the money where your mouth has already been?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: To the honourable member I will say the same thing as I have indicated to the daycare worker sector, that we are working on the plan. We have been reviewing the plan from the funding review committee and we will have it announced very soon. (Interruptions)

[Page 7070]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the honourable members to take their seats please.

MR. PYE: I guess the government members don't want to hear what the government is actually doing - nothing. The Department of Community Services' staff tell us that there are proposals for how child care funding should be spent. They say the proposal is stalled at the Cabinet level; stalled at the Cabinet level. The federal government gave this province millions of dollars to enhance child care for all Nova Scotian families. I want to ask the Minister of Community Services, the federal government gave you the money, daycare centres, child care workers, and families want to know, where is the money?

MR. CHRISTIE: I can assure the honourable member the work that we put in to working with the federal government and all the other provinces to develop this plan is coming forward. There have been a number of proposals, there have been proposals put forward by the funding review and that will be completed soon.

MR. PYE: I don't know if the honourable minister is aware, but there are agencies and organizations out there with child care who have actually borrowed the money now in anticipation that the government will bring forward a child care enhancement plan. The daycare operators need to know what resources they will have in order to do their budgets; they need to know the details of the wage enhancement programs that the minister is going to announce; and they also need to know where this minister intends to spend the millions of dollars not yet committed. My question to the minister is, why do you announce a program for wage enhancement if even the Cabinet hasn't approved it yet?

MR. CHRISTIE: The member will be aware that when we announced our intentions to go forward we indicated two things. First, we were going to consult with the sector. We were going to develop and consult with the sector, we were going to seek their opinion on those two things, and we have done that. The plan has come back through and we will be able to do that very soon.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

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

MR. DONALD DOWNE: My question is to the minister responsible for Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. On October 23rd I had the pleasure of attending a meeting in Riverport. It was organized by Mr. Matt Durnford who is Chairman of the Riverport Board of Trade. That meeting was brought together with local residents pointing out their distress, their concern, their frustration and their anger at a 40 per cent to 400 per cent increase in assessment of their properties. (Interruption) I was at the meeting. People in Riverport - like residents in my riding of Lunenburg West - have few options but to consider selling their homes in order to afford to pay the tax. The Minister of Justice was also at the

[Page 7071]

Riverport meeting and stated very clearly at the meeting that he would arrange a meeting with the minister responsible to discuss this matter.

I then stood up, with the support of the community, and indicated that I would be willing to meet with the Minister of Justice and the minister responsible as soon as possible to try to find a solution as there were solutions brought forward at that meeting. My question to the minister is, have you been contacted by the Minister of Justice to arrange such a meeting regarding the concerns of the Riverport residents?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the answer to the question is yes.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, last week the minister made some comments in the House that frustrated a lot of people. In fact, I had phone calls from residents in the area that we were talking about when the minister - and I quote from Hansard, November 8th, the question was posed about the high rates of increased assessments - indicated, "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." In other words, indicating that he would be willing to sell that property.

The problem is that the people in the riding, when they bring their frustrations to the department, are hearing the same attitude, so how can the attitude of the staff, who are saying if you don't like the assessment, sell, when the minister himself is alluding to the same type of an attitude. My question to the minister is, what other options has your department considered to the current assessment system that would be based solely on market value?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I look forward to the suggestions from the honourable member, as to alternative methods we could use.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary. Last week the minister said very clearly that the status quo is the way he is going to go, there is no option for change. Today I heard the minister say that he's open to suggestions.

Mr. Speaker, to the members of this House, in Riverport there is a list of suggestions, recommendations of how to make changes to the system. My question to the minister is, Mr. Minister, would you consider attending a meeting that I would arrange with concerned residents of not only Riverport, Lunenburg West, but also of Victoria, and yourself and myself to discuss those pertinent changes so that you and your department can fix the mess of assessments of 500 per cent, causing people to sell their houses because they can't afford to pay their taxes?

[Page 7072]

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member leaves me a bit confused. He wanted me to go to a meeting the honourable Attorney General is going to arrange, now he wants me to go to one that's he's going to arrange. I will go to the one that the honourable Attorney General arranges. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The questions and the answers are getting a tad bit long. I would ask the honourable members to shorten their questions. (Interruptions) Well, save maybe the last one.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS.: HWY. NO. 103 - IMPROVEMENTS

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. When we speak of highway safety we often hear about the three Es: engineering, education and enforcement. The formula for safe highways starts with the first E, highways must be built around the principles of sound engineering. The system's performance is then monitored and upgraded, it's carried out as the demand increases. The Minister of Transportation and Public Works knows this.

Highway No. 103 is a major transportation route critical to the well-being of the South Shore. It's importance is even broader when you consider it's importance as a tourist destination. Will the minister tell this House why he has not given any attention to the requests to improve the safety of this highway from the Highway No. 103 Upgrading Committee?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, my answer to the honourable member will be very short. We are doing the best we can.

MR. ESTABROOKS: The previous member for Queens, when he was here, brought these issues up. The current member for Queens is in a more difficult situation, but I hope the minister knows that there are 73.5 kilometres of Highway No. 103 that are still two-lane, uncontrolled access. These sections include two dangerous intersections leading to important tourist attractions. I know the minister knows them. There is the Thomas Raddall Provincial Park and there is the Kejimkujik National Park Seaside Adjunct. My question to the minister is, will you live up to your commitment to the Highway No. 103 Upgrading Committee to take a serious look at these dangerous intersections?

MR. RUSSELL: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

MR. ESTABROOKS: I could ask when, but I know "very soon" would be the answer. Mr. Speaker, serious people are trying to address serious issues and they don't seem to be getting any attention along with any reasonable action. Maybe that could be a reflection

[Page 7073]

on who they have as their MLA. I ask again, will the minister demonstrate to the people of the South Shore that he cares about highway safety on Highway No. 103 by taking some immediate steps to address these legitimate concerns?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the members from the South Shore on many occasions bring to my attention the deficiencies that we have on Highway No. 103 and other routes and highways in that area, and they do a very effective job of doing so.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

COMMUN. SERV. - CHILDHOOD DEV.: BUDGET - EXPENDITURES

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. During the spring session of the Legislature, the minister produced a budget for the Department of Community Services and included a line item called early childhood development. The dollar amount budgeted - thanks to the federal government, that is - was in the amount of $9.1 million. My question for the Minister of Community Services is, could he tell the people of Nova Scotia how much of that money he has spent to date?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated to the previous member, the details of that program haven't been completed or announced as yet, so we haven't spent any money.

MR. WILSON: Well, Mr. Speaker, this is money that the federal government, as I mentioned, has given the Province of Nova Scotia in good faith for early childhood development, and what it amounts to is that this minister is not holding up his end of the bargain. Recommendation number one in the Beech report was to enhance the salaries of child care workers. So my question to the minister again is, given that the minister has the federal dollars that would enhance salaries and the number one recommendation is to do just that, enhance salaries, why isn't the minister doing something about it?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, once again, as I indicated to the previous member, we did work with the federal government to develop that program. The details of that program are far-reaching, as we announced. There are a number of initiatives involved with that. We are working out the details and that will be announced very soon.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, every time that I have asked that minister a question about this topic, the answer has been the same - very soon. Child care workers in this province have waited long enough. They deserve better from this minister and I am asking for this answer. I am not asking for this answer, the child care workers, the Alexandra Children's Centre, Dartmouth Day Care Centre, Point Pleasant Child Care Centre, the Lunenburg Day Care Centre, to name a few, they are the ones who are looking for answers. So my question again to the minister is, yes or no, will this minister commit to allocating the

[Page 7074]

federal funding to increasing salaries for child care workers by the end of this month, yes or no?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the member asked me if we are just going to announce one portion of the package. When we talked about the package, we talked about grants for new centres, we talked about wage enhancement, and we will be announcing that program very soon.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask that if the honourable members want to holler at each other, go outside in the parking lot and do it, not in here. That is both sides of the House. It is very disruptive. It is hard for myself and the Clerks to hear the questions and the answers.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS.: CROSSWALK SAFETY - IMPROVE

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I am going to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, if he is available, but if not, I will take the acting minister of everything, who probably can answer the question better than the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. My question is for the Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

[4:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, members are well aware that public safety issues are critically important to Nova Scotians. I am tabling information for the most recent three years provided by the Department of Transportation and Public Works indicating a total of 1,224 accidents involving pedestrians were reported on our province's highways, many of them in crosswalks. Longer term indications show that pedestrian accidents are increasing. As we all know, many of these victims are young people and, of course, it doesn't matter when a car and a person collide, whatever their age, the pedestrian predictably ends up the loser.

My question for the Minister of Transportation and Public Works is, could you tell this House what the government is doing to make crosswalks safer across this province?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I am not absolutely sure about the numbers, but I think you'll find that the numbers over the past five years for pedestrian accidents have decreased each year.

[Page 7075]

MR. ESTABROOKS: I just want to make sure the minister knows that those are your numbers over the last three years. Following the death of a young man on Robie Street in 1999, the Nova Scotia Road Safety Advisory Committee was formed. The minister's experts noted that successful results demand the attention and consideration of multiple factors, including legislation, engineering, education, public awareness and enforcement practices. Mr. Speaker, that's from that report. Can the minister assure this House that all of the recommendations of this advisory committee to address such tragedies in the future will be implemented?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I will take that question under advisement.

MR. ESTABROOKS: I hold my breath when I see some of the dangerous crosswalks in the communities that I represent. Media reports continue. There was one within the last week of a pedestrian accident. They occur almost daily. Road safety experts tell us that legislation is one piece of the safety equation. Even more important are sound highway design and road user behaviour change influenced through a combination of education and enforcement.

Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is very simple. We have to make sure our crosswalks are safe. What is your department prepared to do to ensure that that safety level will be maintained across this region and across this province?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I can assure members of this House and the people of Nova Scotia that we'll do everything we possibly can to ensure the safety of pedestrians, motorists and anybody else using the public highways and byways of this province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH: CARE WORKERS - SHORTAGE

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Acting Minister of Health. Last weekend we learned that residents along the South Shore are no longer able to access ultrasound services through their regional hospital. Failure of this government to address wage issues has made it impossible for the South Shore District Health Authority to recruit an ultrasound technologist in a regional hospital. They have one part-time technologist and one weekend technologist from the QE II. The CEO has said it's really a crisis.

My question to the Acting Minister of Health, why does the Acting Minister of Health not see fit to honour his government's campaign promise of investing in front-line health care workers?

[Page 7076]

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I have to disagree with the member opposite, to say that we haven't invested, we have put literally millions of dollars each year into health. So I don't want to emphasize that the challenges are many and, obviously, the demands throughout the health care system, many people just look at the front-line care. There are also many different components - long-term care. We also have home care, we have Pharmacare. There are many different components and each of them has a challenge. To go back to the member's question, I do know from talking to staff that there is a shortage of personnel to deliver that service there. My understanding is the department is working with the District Health Authority No. 1 in that area to see what can be done to bring about some staffing changes to deliver that service.

DR. SMITH: This is a mandatory service. To have a regional hospital in this province without an ultrasound technologist full time is just unconscionable. These patients are being referred from the South Shore of Nova Scotia to the Valley and adding to the wait list there. My question, why has this government's so-called health plan - and he has put more money in and the more money they put in the worse the system gets - why has the health care plan led to abandonment of patients in the South Shore District Health Authority?

MR. LEBLANC: With regard to making some changes to health care, we have done one thing that I would like to point out to the member opposite and that is to bring about district health authorities versus the regional health boards. I will defend district health authorities any day against regional health boards whereby at least the authorities themselves are being accountable and there are budgets for each different hospital, people are being aware of what their budgets are and are living within it. Very much unlike what was there with the previous administration. I want to point out with regard to the South Shore, I agree with the member opposite that that service should be delivered and I know that the department is working with the district health authority to see that service is brought in place.

DR. SMITH: It certainly is about accountability, but it's also quality of health care in this century. The fees - the reassessment and adjustment of the rates for ultrasound technologists must be addressed right across this province. We are $7.00 an hour behind Newfoundland. They're one-half hour ahead of us, but they're also $7.00 an hour. My question simply to the Acting Minister of Health, will he commit to sitting down with the Minister of Health on his return from Mexico to look at the pay rates for ultrasound technologists so that residents of the South Shore can get the type of health care that they so rightly deserve?

MR. LEBLANC: I am sure that the member opposite agrees that when my colleague returns from this important trip that he's on, that he will address the situation. I know that in the interim, the department is working with the health board to see whether or not it can be remedied in the immediacy.

[Page 7077]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

AGRIC. & FISH.: OIL/GAS EXPLORATION - MORATORIUM

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question will be for the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. The federal Fisheries Committee has urged that there be an oil and gas exploration moratorium off the west coast of Cape Breton until the fishers and their communities have been assured the risks are minimal. Does the Minister of Natural Resources support this call for a moratorium?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: As the member knows and as all members of this House know, there is a review committee in place working on that very subject now.

MR. MACDONELL: This government has been long on promise but short on delivery. Nova Scotia fishers have raised their concerns about unbridled development of the offshore many times before. Largely because of those concerns, there's a moratorium on Georges Bank. The federal Fisheries Committee has listened - surely our own Minister of Fisheries can do no less. Will the Minister of Fisheries undertake today that he will raise the matter of this moratorium at the Cabinet table in support of the fishing industry in the Gulf of St. Lawrence?

MR. FAGE: Again, I would remind the honourable member and all members of the House that there is a committee and hearings in place and those are the subjects that are being discussed with the fishermen and the people of Nova Scotia, where they should be.

MR. MACDONELL: We recognize those are the subjects being discussed. I want to know if the minister is listening? Nova Scotians wait patiently for your comprehensive energy strategy to be released. You have touted the offshore as the saviour for Nova Scotia that will finally allow us to pay down the debt. Before you stumble into allowing unbridled development, think long and hard about the effect it will have on our traditional industries. In that vein, can you assure Nova Scotians today that this comprehensive energy strategy will include a moratorium on oil and gas exploration off the west coast of Cape Breton as recommended by the federal Fisheries Committee?

MR. SPEAKER: Time has expired for Question Period.

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable House Leader for the Liberal Party.

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

[Page 7078]

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable House Leader for the Liberal Party.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 70.

Bill No. 70 - Healthcare Services Continuation (2001) Act.

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

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of our Liberal caucus and speak on Bill No. 70, An Act to Repeal Chapter 27 of the Acts of 2001, the Healthcare Services Continuation (2001) Act.

Mr. Speaker, this bill is about repealing Bill No. 68, and from the outset I will state that I was not the first person to comment on repealing this regressive piece of legislation, Bill No. 68. I do believe that our Premier, Premier Hamm, made this commitment back in June of this year, a commitment that no doubt was intended to secure support within his own government caucus. I am sure I am not the only one thinking that this was a ploy on his part to trick his Tory Government caucus members to support Bill No. 68.

I don't think I was the only one who overheard many people sitting on the government benches saying that they could support Bill No. 68 only because there was something better in the wings. Well, Mr. Speaker, if only we could turn back time. From day one our caucus stated that this bill would do nothing but damage the ability of this province to recruit and retain health care workers. Unfortunately, the frustrations and concerns of our caucus, voiced in June, are now becoming reality today. Just yesterday we saw statistics from the Registered Nurses' Association that revealed that since 1999 almost 50 per cent of the nurses who graduated in Nova Scotia are no longer licensed in Nova Scotia. This loss is most dramatic in our most recent graduating class of 2001; 68 per cent of these recent graduates are now licensed in our province. This is the legacy of the Hamm Government. Gone is the opportunity to fill nursing vacancies in hospitals and long-term care facilities, gone is our opportunity to replenish our nursing workforce with new graduates.

Mr. Speaker, our caucus cannot even begin to suggest or to guess what the real reasoning was behind Bill No. 68; the government messages around this bill were changed so many times that the lines were blurred. At first it was all about public safety. The people of Nova Scotia were at risk because the big, bad nurses and health care workers were threatening to strike. Then some polling results showed up, and polling results showed that the people of Nova Scotia put more faith in the nurses and health care workers, in terms of providing care should things not work out at the bargaining table, than they did on this government. Then the government message changed again. Bill No. 68 was all about extracting a wage settlement that could be beneficial to the government's bottom line.

[Page 7079]

However, this government was fooled again when polling results revealed that the people of Nova Scotia felt that health care workers and nurses deserved a better deal than what this government was offering if, indeed, Bill No. 68 was passed.

Mr. Speaker, never should this piece of legislation be allowed to stay on the books. (Applause) Our Liberal caucus agrees with our Premier that this bill should be repealed. This law serves as a bitter reminder to our graduating health care workers that they are neither trusted nor respected by this government. This law still manifests itself as a bitter divide between different types of health care workers in the hospital when government decides that final selection offer was their last option. This law serves no purpose but to harm the ability of the district health authorities to attract and recruit not only health care workers and nurses but, as well, specialists who are looking at the morale and state of the entire health care system.

[4:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, in closing, laws are made by government to protect and do good and not harm people. This bill is doing nothing but harming the people of Nova Scotia and the future of our health care system. That is why it deserves to be repealed.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's.

MR. JOHN CHATAWAY: Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate the opportunity to express some thoughts on Bill No. 70. Bill No. 68 was required to protect the health and safety of Nova Scotians. Bill No. 68 was passed in the hope that it would never have to be applied and it has not been used to impose settlements. Another truthful matter, Bill No. 68 allows collective bargaining to continue and Bill No. 68 has been referred to as a draconian piece of legislation, but it did not impose settlements, as earlier restraint legislation did. Government only introduced the legislation as a last resort and had allowed the parties to bargain freely prior to the legislation and the legislation allowed that to continue.

We understand that taking away the right to strike is a major issue in the realm of collective bargaining and not one to be taken lightly, but the health and safety of Nova Scotians must come first. Bill No. 68 was characterized as being a financial bill, rather than the one to deal with health and safety. There is an element of truth to that, for if we had had unlimited financial resources, we would have little difficulty at the bargaining table. But that was not realistic then and it is not realistic now. We had to protect the health and safety of Nova Scotians and we still have to do that task.

The bargaining was very complicated. Tentative agreements were being reached and rejected, even when they were recommended by their unions. This happened with both the NSNU and the NSGEU.

[Page 7080]

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, would the honourable member, who is a former Minister of Labour, entertain a very short question?

MR. CHATAWAY: Mr. Speaker, I don't speak much in this House and I would like an opportunity to say these words and I will be glad to talk to him later. As I was mentioning, the bargaining was very complicated. Tentative agreements were being reached and rejected even when they were recommended by the unions. This happened with both the NSNU and the NSGEU. Given these circumstances, the government had to act. The health care sector was faced with a major strike, or the possibility thereof. More than 9,000 nurses and health care workers were heading toward a possible strike. There was concern about the state of contingency plans and the health authorities were unable to give governments the assurances they needed that the health and safety of Nova Scotians was going to be protected.

Our health care workers are second to none and they demonstrate that on a daily basis. I am very well aware of that. They do a tremendous service for the people of Nova Scotia and this government would have preferred and still prefers that a collective bargaining system operate as it is intended to, but we must put health and safety and health services continuation at the top of the list. We are not saying that Bill No. 68 must be there forever. We have indicated our willingness to explore other options but to date, the unions have not been willing to participate in the dialogue that we need . . .

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

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I just want to start off by saying that I must respectfully disagree with the member. Bill No. 68 was not about health care, Bill No. 68 was about disrespect, it was about plunging this province into one of the most unco-operative and unproductive labour disruptions in this province's history. It was a sham, it was a shame, it was a disgrace; it was a lot of things, but it was not about health care. It was not about health care.

Mr. Speaker, maybe you remember, as I do, June 28th. It was hot in here, the galleries were crowded, you could barely hear because of the crowds outside railing against Bill No. 68, because this government, this House was standing on the threshold of a decision that was unprecedented. It was unprecedented by the Premier's own admission, that no such piece of legislation had ever come before this House before. It was unprecedented in modern Canadian history. This Tory Government wanted this Legislature to give them unlimited authority to strip away the basic democratic rights of health care workers right across this province.

[Page 7081]

I want to tell you something, I was proud of all the members of this Party and, in fact, I was proud of the members of the Liberal Party, who for once in their lives stood up on behalf of working people in this province. We took every opportunity to give debate a chance; we took every opportunity to offer olive branches to the government; we took every opportunity to give the health care workers of this province a voice. I want you to know that we are tremendously proud of the opportunity we took.

Mr. Speaker, do you know something, we gave the members of the government benches the opportunity to reconsider their position; we gave them the opportunity to consider reason; we gave them the opportunity to listen to their constituents. Do you remember, as I do, the cheers from inside and outside this House when the member for Shelburne had the guts to stand on his feet and say no to Bill No. 68? (Interruptions) Do you remember that? I remember it. (Applause) He had the temerity to stand up to his own government; he had the temerity to stand up on behalf of his constituents and to represent them in the way that they expected to be represented by their member. We were proud of him that day as well.

I want you to know what this bill did, Mr. Speaker, it overrides the Trade Union Act, that's what Bill No. 68 did. That's why it's important that it be repealed, and it's why it is that the members of this caucus would certainly support this bill, because it does an important service. It represents an important principle, that legislation like this ought not to be on the books of this province. It is why we took the opportunity today to introduce Bill No. 71, which although Bill No. 70 performs an important service, it does not go far enough.

It ought to repeal, in addition to Bill No. 68, the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, which was enacted by Donald Cameron and the Tory Government in 1991, which froze wages of Public Service workers. The Public Sector Unpaid Leave Act, enacted by the John Savage Liberal Government in 1993, that forced public sector workers to take unpaid leave, ought also to be repealed. It ought to be taken from the books. The Public Sector Compensation (1994-97) Act, enacted by the Savage Liberal Government in 1994, that rolled back the wages is the third piece of legislation, in addition to this one, that ought to be rolled back, because they represent, fundamentally, their government's betrayal of the workers, their betrayal of the people who are in their employ, who have faith in the collective bargaining process, who sat with the government across the table, who negotiate a wage settlement which the government then decides, for no good reason, to interfere with. It destroys the faith of people in government . . .

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to rise on Bill No. 70. I would move that the question be now put.

[Page 7082]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, I am glad to rise to speak to this bill . . .

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Bill No. 70.

MR. PARENT: Bill No. 70. Thank you very much. I appreciate the help that I get from the Opposition. They are a very helpful Opposition at times. (Interruptions) Anyway, I am glad to be able to speak to this bill. Ford once said that history is bunk and I, Mr. Speaker, disagree very much with him. I think history is important and it is important that we preserve history. To attempt to rewrite the past is something that I have always been against, and that is why I am against this particular bill.

I remember very much, as the previous speaker spoke, about the tension that we were under at the time. I remember the long nights. I remember the time I spent in the Law Amendments Committee listening to people. Mr. Speaker, one of the nurses who spoke really struck home with her comments to me because she said that she was planning on moving to Alberta because in Alberta she would get a higher salary as a nurse and she would also have lower taxes. That is what struck me because I thought, you can't have it both ways. You have to make some choices, and here was this person wanting not to make choices. And I understand her desire. I don't want to have to make hard choices either, but we do have to make choices. We cannot have higher salaries and lower taxes at the same time, yet this was the argument that was being put forward.

I want to remind the House, Mr. Speaker, of the principle behind the bill originally. It was the preservation of health care in the Province of Nova Scotia. We were on the edge of a threat and a strike. The people in my riding of Kings North, the vast majority of them who spoke to me said, please, Mark, we cannot have a strike. We cannot have this disruption of health services and we cannot afford a strike because the system cannot handle it. That is what we were faced with at the time, a strike, and so we brought in this bill for the continuation of health services.

Mr. Speaker, I think the proof is in the pudding when you look at it, and perhaps I eat a bit of humble pie in this regard, but if politics is about making things happen, when you look back at what happened, we did not have a strike. People's health was not threatened by a strike. We did not have people die because there was a strike going on. If politics is achieving certain goals, if it is this teleological approach, which I have written about, of achieving goals, then the goal was achieved. There was not a strike and not that many days later we had the province bring in final offer arbitration.

Now the final offer selection, Mr. Speaker, is something that I am aware of because I was involved with it at Mount Allison University. At Mount Allison University, and I do have the right university - I have a bit of a problem with my universities at times, but that is

[Page 7083]

because I am asked to speak at so many of them. So it is difficult when you are as popular academically as I am to get your universities straight. That having been said, at Mount Allison University, there was a professors' strike. I was working on a contract position filling in for a person, the head of the Department of Religious Studies, for the year and so I wasn't covered by the union contract. This was really my first experience being close to a strike.

[4:30 p.m.]

So, Mr. Speaker, I watched very carefully as this strike unfolded - the disruption that it caused to the university, the tension on the professors, the tension on the students who were getting very close to possibly losing their year at Mount Allison. Finally, at the end, it was solved by final offer arbitration.

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

The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I rise today, of course, to comment on Bill No. 70. The Leader of the Opposition has pointed out June 28th, and certainly the whole time we were in here it was very difficult. It was difficult for everyone on both sides of the House. It was particularly difficult for people on this side. I am not one to like living without sleep any more than the next person, but Bill No. 68 was required to protect the health and safety of Nova Scotians.

It was passed in the hope that it would never have to be applied, and it has not been used to impose settlements. Bill No. 68 allows collective bargaining to continue. It has, of course, been referred to as a draconian piece of legislation, but it did not impose settlements as did earlier restraint legislation. Government only introduced the legislation as a last resort and had allowed the parties to bargain freely prior to the legislation, and the legislation allowed that to continue. We understand that taking away the right to strike is a major issue in the realm of collective bargaining. It is not one to be taken lightly, but the health and safety of all Nova Scotians must come first.

Bill No. 68 was also characterized as being a financial bill rather than one to deal with health and safety. There is an element of truth to that, for if we had unlimited financial resources we would have little difficulty at the bargaining table. That was not realistic then and it is not realistic now. We had to protect the health and safety of Nova Scotians, and we still have to do that.

The bargaining was very complicated. Tentative agreements were being reached and rejected, even when they were recommended by their unions. This happened with both the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union and the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union. Given these circumstances, the government had to act. The health care sector was faced with a major

[Page 7084]

strike; more than 9,000 nurses and health care workers were heading toward a possible strike. There was concern about the state of contingency planning, and the health authorities were unable to give us the assurances they needed that the health and safety of Nova Scotians was going to be protected.

Mr. Speaker, other speakers have said that our health care workers are second to none, and they demonstrate that on a daily basis. They do a tremendous service for the people of Nova Scotia, and this government would have preferred and still prefers that the collective bargaining system operate as it is intended. We must put health and safety and health service continuation at the top of that list. We are not saying that Bill No. 68 must be there forever. We have indicated a willingness to explore other options, but to date, the unions have not been willing to participate in the dialogue that we need to properly explore the options. But we are willing to do that.

The legislation did not apply immediately to all employees in the acute care sector. Again, it shows the government's reluctance to use this legislation, and other entities would only be brought under the legislation when and if required so that collective bargaining could continue. The fact that our government agreed to the final offer selection process demonstrates that we are not taking a heavy-handed approach. That process produced agreements that most people thought were fair, but not all the unions have agreed to that process. The CAW, which represents substantial numbers of health care support workers, has not agreed yet to final offer selection. There are a number of contracts yet to be negotiated in the acute care sector, about 30 of those.

Mr. Speaker, our legislation is based on three principles: protect the health and safety of Nova Scotians by preventing a strike that could put health and safety at risk; collective bargaining process continues to reach negotiated settlements; and if negotiation, conciliation, mediation cannot lead to an agreement, it enables government as a last resort to establish provisions that had not previously been agreed to. Nothing in Bill No. 68 shall be construed so as to limit or restrict the rights of a union and employer from attempting to resolve any issues or make any agreements.

This is not the time for legislative action. The parties should be reflecting on the events of the past few months and working towards putting a better system in place. In the meantime, there is a need to retain Bill No. 68 just in case we are again faced with the possibilities of serious disruptions in the provision of health care services.

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

The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

[Page 7085]

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to rise and speak for a few minutes on Bill No. 70 and the safety of health care of Nova Scotians as well as to take a few moments to talk about how valuable health care workers are in this province. As other speakers have commented, whether it's on this side of the House or the opposite side, over the last number of months and will comment tonight, our health care workers are second to none in this province. When we look at the amount of dedication, time and effort with long hours, shortages that are not of the making of this government, but are the result of a number of moves that have been made over time in regard to legislation - previous governments have used various methods to entice numbers of nurses to retire from the profession - and when we examine all those things, we set a stage where the expectations of health care workers and the ability of the province to meet those demands exactly cannot be met.

When I look at some of the other factors that preclude Bill No. 70 in dealing with health care workers, previous administrations have frozen wages, unpaid holidays, rolled back their wages 3 per cent in this province, and it makes a very tough climate for any government to have negotiations with the health care workers in this province and that, Mr. Speaker, sets some of the stage under these negotiations.

This government bargained in good faith with the unions involved and a number of tentative agreements were reached with the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union as well as the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, with their bargaining units. The membership of those unions was not satisfied with agreements that their executive had reached with the province and so it set the stage where the Government of Nova Scotia had very few options to ensure critical health care and essential health care services, Mr. Speaker, were delivered to all Nova Scotians.

This government, Mr. Speaker, certainly takes that commitment of health care delivery and uninterrupted health care delivery very seriously. With those types of situations, obviously, when there was no opportunity to conclude a negotiated settlement and we made the extraordinary exceptions and offers to continue negotiations through the entire time frame of the bill coming forward, I think those speak very strongly and well of the government's pledge to offer negotiations and offer opportunities on wage settlements and other agreements because, again, I think we have to frame it properly. These were not wage decreases, these were wage increases that were being put on the table by the Province of Nova Scotia and this government representing those offers to those health care workers.

Those positive offers of negotiations, although they did not meet the expectations of the general rank and file of the membership, were positive wage increases and movement forward that allowed the nurses and health care workers - and I guess I'll use the nurses' example - what was on the table would have made them and does make them the highest paid in Atlantic Canada, Mr. Speaker, and that is the traditional position of nurses in this province, as receiving the largest remuneration across Atlantic Canada. So those are positive

[Page 7086]

things and those were put forward in good faith by this government on behalf of the people of Nova Scotia.

When those difficulties in negotiations reached an impasse, this government brought forward Bill No. 68 as an attempt to ensure health care services. It was not an easy decision, but the health care of Nova Scotians is critical because, Mr. Speaker, this government has made a commitment to Nova Scotia that the health care system will be there when Nova Scotians need it and it is there when Nova Scotians need it.

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

The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I am rising to speak on this bill today. I guess you've got to look first of all at who's bringing the bill forward. I find it a little bit ironic that it is the Liberal Party bringing a bill forward saying that we should respect the rights of the health care workers in this province, that we should work, I guess, they are saying, in a much more open manner and a much more accountable manner than they are saying that we have conducted ourselves.

I find this whole thing rather hypocritical, Mr. Speaker, and I spoke on Bill No. 68 during its reading and, at that time, I will be honest, I chastised the Liberal members for standing up and saying that this is a draconian bill. It was the worst bill that had ever been introduced into this House in living memory. I just found myself amazed that people could stand up and say things when they know in their hearts that it was anything but what they were saying. They stood on their feet and said that this was a draconian bill when they knew that they had brought about basically an unpaid leave of 3 per cent whereby people were forced to take holidays without pay, where they were rolled back and they also put in place a wage freeze.

Mr. Speaker, some could say that Bill No. 68 is a financial bill. In essence, you would have to say that it is because if we had the (Interruption) If the member for Cape Breton Centre wants to get up and speak, I have no problem (Interruption) Cape Breton The Lakes? I apologize to the member for Cape Breton Centre. But I want to say that if we had the money to give them everything they wanted, then obviously there would not have been a labour dispute. But I want to say that we put on the table what I consider to be a fair offer when you look at the circumstances that Nova Scotia has and that was 10.5 per cent.

AN HON. MEMBER: You are using the same argument the Liberals used.

[Page 7087]

MR. LEBLANC: Well, we put on the table an increase, Mr. Speaker. We didn't put on the table less. We put more. I remember having a discussion outside this House with some nurses who were concerned with the bill. Many of them came to the House and expressed their dissatisfaction with the legislation. If I were to say anything different, I would be misleading the House and so we were at odds. I remember saying to that same nurse, and there were four or five of them standing there, and one nurse was saying, well, they pay more in Alberta and if they are going to pay more in Alberta, I am going to go to Alberta and so you have to pay more here. I said, we are not Alberta. We don't have the fiscal capacity to spend the amount of money that they spend in Alberta. One person said, well, why not, with a lack of comprehension. It was strange, out of the five or six nurses who were there, the other four or five looked at her like what don't you understand. We don't have the riches that Alberta has.

Did we put forward what we considered to be a reasonable offer? The answer is yes. When people say, well was it or wasn't it? Well, the member can laugh, but it is strange that the same union that he professes to be the saviour for, recommended it to their members. Now if it was a totally ludicrous offer, then basically why would they do that, Mr. Speaker? I want to appreciate that the union had a difficult circumstance. Nurses were frustrated. I think we all recognize that for a long period of time they had basically received very little increases.

Mr. Speaker, I went to British Columbia a few weeks ago where they offer them the highest salary increases across Canada and they were still protesting in the street. So what does that tell you? There is frustration. The member for Lunenburg West is now calling the Liberals from British Columbia Tories. So I guess, in a sense, we will have to give him a lesson on how Party politics work so he understands that. I invite the member to stand up and to explain the different political philosophies. But in all seriousness, what was the purpose of Bill No. 68? The purpose of Bill No. 68 was to not have a labour disruption. We recognize that it was frustrating for nurses but, you know what? It would be frustrating for citizens if they didn't receive services.

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

The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to get to my feet to speak to this bill, this important piece of legislation brought forward by the Liberal Party who are showing the exuberance and enthusiasm for this bill by walking out.

[Page 7088]

[4:45 p.m.]

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I understood that it's not the process in this House to start declaring when members leave or come or go. I want that member, who was part of the Buchanan Government, to realize what the public will be saying to them on election day. It won't matter what he says in here because they're going to be voting against him election day because of that Bill No. 68.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works has the floor.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I wasn't referring to any specific member leaving the House. There were a lot of members leaving the House. In fact, a whole bunch have already left from both Parties in the Opposition.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I would be remiss if I didn't point out to the Government House Leader that he would know, of course, that there are many benches on the government side also empty. During Question Period today, at one point there were less than one-half of the Cabinet Ministers in their seats, which shows this government's contempt for this House.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I think we have had enough discussion about who is or who is not here. I would ask the honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works to bring his comments back - order, please, or there will be a few more empty seats here. I would ask the honourable minister to bring his comments back to second reading of Bill No. 70 please.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I will not refer to members who are not here anymore, but I will refer to those who have returned to the Chamber just very recently. I am delighted that they have come back to listen to my remarks.

Bill No. 70 was introduced by the Liberal Party and I think it was a piece of NDP legislation, to be quite frank. However, I notice that the NDP today introduced a piece of legislation that's even more encompassing than that introduced by the Liberal Party - both with equal effect.

I would like to just speak for a moment, if I may, in response to the remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition, who called Bill No. 68 a sham and a disgrace and unprecedented and what have you. I don't know if this honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party, the Leader of the Opposition in this House, recognizes what successive NDP governments have done across this country in the way of back-to-work legislation. At least in this legislation we were not ordering people back to work; we were offering them the opportunity of final offer selection. That is recognized by both the private sector and the

[Page 7089]

public sector as a legitimate way to achieve an agreement. It may not be satisfactory to all because somebody's going to lose. Of course somebody's going to lose because obviously the unions are going to put forward their best proposition and the government is going to put forward its best proposition. So in the final analysis, when the adjudicator has to decide on one or the other, he can't cut it in half. He can't make any adjustments; he just has to decide on one, so obviously somebody is going to lose.

Bill No. 68 was a legitimate bill brought into this House for debate. The honourable members opposite will say that we raced it through the House. Well, we know otherwise. On this side of the House, we sat here hour after hour listening to a litany of nonsense from the Opposition. We did not hear from them one legitimate reason why we should permit the hospital workers to walk out and leave this . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable minister's time has expired. The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic on a point of order.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: For the record, how much joy it brings to me that this member of this House has been here for 10-odd years now, to see that member on his feet once again and railing away - even though it doesn't make any sense - on a particular issue in this House; it's a pleasure to see him on his feet. (Laughter)

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I sure wish the member opposite would quit insulting the senior citizens in this place. (Laughter) (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, that's a tough act to follow. I share the sentiments of the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic, with one exception, the honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works made perfect sense to me. (Applause) (Interruption) Well, I would gladly yield the floor to the honourable member from Cape Breton if he wants to participate in the debate, but they're quite silent over there. It's very interesting when we hear them talk about silence from this side of the House, but when they are given an opportunity to speak they don't want to participate in the debate.

The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works did indicate that it took a long, long period of time for Bill No. 68 to pass in this Legislature and that it took 24-hour sessions for two and a half weeks; that is a long time by the anyone's stretch of the imagination.

[Page 7090]

Mr. Speaker, the bill was introduced prior to a slated work stoppage, one which is set in the labour calendar by the Trade Union Act. Because that was happening, it was necessary for us to bring forward legislation to ensure that there was not a work stoppage. Many people have suggested that we should have allowed the work stoppage to occur before we proceeded with the legislation to have people come back to work and bring forward that sort of legislation. That, with a work stoppage of this nature, with what was at stake - which is the health care of Nova Scotians - was not an option with respect to this government.

We could not allow the stoppage to occur, because we all know that the rules of this place are such that taking two and a half weeks to pass a piece of legislation to have people go back to work was not in the interests of Nova Scotians' health care, or the delivery of health care in this province. That was a chance that we were not prepared to take, and that is why we had to come forward with the legislation prior to the event. It was to ensure there was an adequate level of health care delivery in this province.

Members of the House certainly appreciate and understand the rules of debate in this place, but the people of Nova Scotia may not fully appreciate how the House works and why it would take so long for legislation to pass. I want to remind members of the House and the public, Mr. Speaker, that the rules of this place are such that any member can stand in his place for one hour and speak on the various stages of the bill. Because that can be done and is common practice and it is the right of members to do it - I'm not suggesting it isn't - then it was necessary for us to act prior to the event as opposed to after the event.

The Rules of the House also permit three dilatory motions on each stage of the legislative agenda. That means that if there are 20 members opposite, who at each stage of debate if each one of them participates - which they are wont to do, which is their right to do - then that is 20 hours of debate at each stage. So, for second reading it is 20 hours for debate on the main motion, 20 hours on each of the amendments . . .

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

The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

MR. TIMOTHY OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, I, too, rise to speak on this bill. I would like to go back to some comments that were made by the Opposition in particular, and I'm pleased to see - I was just going to say I was pleased to see that I could talk to him as he had returned, but anyway he's not (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I am not going to tolerate any longer members of either side of the House bringing to the attention of the House the presence or absence of members. The next time it happens I am going to ask the member to take his seat or leave the Chamber. It's getting beyond. I would ask the honourable member for Dartmouth South to bring his comments back to the debate that is before the House at this time.

[Page 7091]

MR. OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, I respect your decision on that. Back in the early 1990's, after 1993, the then Government of John Savage came to power, and clearly declared that the health of Nova Scotians, the health care system in Nova Scotia was not in very good shape. They made a lot of statements about what they were going to do to fix it. They made a lot of promises about how they could fix it. They were going to expand the long-term care facilities and make more beds available. They were going to readjust the use of hospital beds in Nova Scotia, so they would be more effectively used for acute care patients. They did make some good points. The problem is that they didn't act on any of them.

The other problem was that the ones that they thought they should act on and could act on involved issues like closing down two nursing schools, without looking at the long-term effect that closing down those schools and making those nurses and those potential nurses available to the health care system in 10 years, which would put us in the year 2000, that by closing them down and actually paying nurses not to go back to work they had no idea and did not do their homework to find out what effect that would have on the health care system.

The people I talked to, and I talked to a number of nurses in Dartmouth as many members know, that issue has somehow been put to the side. When I bring it up in conversations, while it is only one of many actions taken by the previous Liberal Government, it has an effect now that even they should have seen back in 1994-95. But, like other programs they developed, they didn't look at the long term, they looked at the short term, they looked at the next election, what would work, what wouldn't work, what would get them elected. In fact, they thought by showing an immediate decrease in the cost of health care through laying off nurses that that was good for the health care system. Unfortunately it wasn't, Mr. Speaker.

The Liberal Health Critic of the day, the honourable member for Dartmouth East, was quoted recently as saying, and this was during the debate by the way: A strike by health care workers and nurses will have a devastating effect on an already strained health care system.

I have to wonder why the honourable member for Dartmouth East didn't think of that in 1994, when the total slashing of the number of nurses who were potentially available and would be potentially available for the health care system (Interruptions) would have the effect that it has today. The honourable member now wants to talk about the effect that his decision and the decision of his government back in the early 1990's, what effect it's having now. They don't want to talk about the fact that if they had left those nursing schools there, if they had looked at the long-term plan, the long-range plan, we might have enough nurses to support the system today. They didn't think of that then. Now all of a sudden it's an issue. Where are the nurses? They didn't ask that question in 1993, where would the nurses be in 2000? Now they are asking the question.

[Page 7092]

They created the problem that we are trying to get this province out of through our nursing retention strategy, and other strategies to provide support for the nurses and for the health care system in Nova Scotia. The legislation that was passed was not passed for any other reason than to protect the health care of Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker.

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of Bill No. 70 (Interruptions) The Minister of Transportation and Public Works wants to know why I didn't get up earlier. You see, on this side of the House, all members in the Opposition had ample opportunity to speak and used their time quite effectively on Bill No. 68, unlike the trained seals on that side of the House, for the lack of a better phrase, who weren't even allowed to speak on Bill No. 68 as was amply demonstrated by the member for Chester-St. Margaret's today who stated that this was his first chance to speak, in essence, on Bill No. 68 because that's really what Bill No. 70 speaks to.

Mr. Speaker, let's be realistic. As Nova Scotians, there's enough blame to go around for everybody, but let's keep things in perspective.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. JOHN CHATAWAY: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I would like to reply to and reference that he quoted me verbatim, but basically I said I do not get to speak very often here. I've had a chance to speak before and I intend to have some future chances (Interruption) I would like him to get the facts right before he speaks.

MR. SPEAKER: It is not a point of order, but certainly a clarification of the facts.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to see the member for Chester-St. Margaret's double his speaking time today by getting up for the second time. So that will tell you how long he has been speaking.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. JOHN CHATAWAY: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, not a long speech, but I did speak on Bill No. 68 for about 10 minutes.

MR. SPEAKER: That is not a point of order, but a clarification of the facts.

[Page 7093]

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I will speak about the facts. He only spoke for five minutes, not 10 minutes, because you wouldn't allow him to speak for the other five minutes. So let's move on to some serious issues here.

The fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, Premier Hamm, when he ran for election, said he was going to correct all the health care problems in Nova Scotia for $47 million. He said he was going to correct everything that we did wrong for $47 million and, do you know, they chastised, they condemned, they ridiculed, they put down this $600 million Health Care Investment Fund and what did they do after they got elected? They started spending it. So far they have spent $350 million out of that so-called Health Care Investment Fund. Talk about intellectual honesty, or what, and yet we had representatives from the Department of Health here before the Public Accounts Committee today saying that they still haven't been able to address the issues about health care delivery on the front lines.

We have a doctor shortage at the Strait-Richmond Hospital. We have a nursing home closing, the Carefield Manor. We have the Northside General Hospital for which the member for Cape Breton North doesn't seem to want to stand up and fight for; the Dartmouth General; down in Pictou County where they're closing hospital beds, the poor member for Pictou East, is it, the crowds are overwhelming. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. TIMOTHY OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, please, I don't know if anybody else has heard the statement of the honourable member, but he inferred in talking about things closing that the Dartmouth General Hospital was closing and the last time I drove by there, there's a $10 million expansion to provide an increased level of services in the Capital District Health Authority for people in this region. So I fail to see the correlation between it closing and the expansion. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It is not a point of order, but certainly a clarification of the facts.

MR. MACKINNON: That's the sadness of what's coming from that side of the House. They're trying to take credit for a Liberal initiative that was done by the member for Dartmouth East when he was Minister of Health. That's how pathetic it is, Mr. Speaker. (Interruptions)

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I have to rise and bring to the attention of this House, especially the members on the opposite side, that during the debate on Bill No. 68, during the Committee of the Whole House debate, this is the amount of time that the members on this side of the House spoke on the issue, even though we were in the Committee of the Whole House, Hansard will show it, but I will let you know for the record. On Monday, June 25th, 18 PC MLAs spoke on Bill No. 68; 10 of them Cabinet

[Page 7094]

Ministers, eight of those backbenchers. We spoke for 490 minutes. In the same time period, the NDP had seven speakers and only spoke for 293 minutes and the Liberals had seven speakers for 417 minutes, totalling the 1,200 minutes on the 20 hour debate. Over that period of time, Neil LeBlanc spoke for 50 minutes . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That is not a point of order. The honourable member's time has expired. (Interruptions) Order, please. One member at a time.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The point the honourable member has raised very eloquently is that Liberal members spoke for more with more substance than all those Tory members spoke together for less time.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. One member at a time. The honourable member for Preston, who read from that note, I would ask him to table that please. Order, please. One at a time. Table the paper and sit down.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The honourable member opposite is inferring that speaking is better than listening. On the government side, we listen to people.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Annapolis.

MR. FRANK CHIPMAN: Mr. Speaker, I am learning here today that the eyes may be the window to the soul, but the mouth is not necessarily the pathway to the brain. (Applause) Just before I continue here any further - as the member for Cape Breton West would say - my dissertation, I would like to point out one fact that he mentioned in the blue book, about the $47 million, but actually we expected another $600 million there when we came in government, which we didn't find. So that is the reason that we couldn't spend any more than $47 million.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I would just like to say that I have all the respect for the health care workers of this province. They are hard-working, they are dedicated and they are committed. They have a job to do that I certainly don't envy. We heard expressions of stress, overworked and underpaid, but these terms aren't unique to health care workers. You could talk to any profession or any occupation in the province and they will tell you the same thing. They all feel the same way. Although I hope that I will never have to face another Bill No. 68, I would do so in a second. Do you know why? I would do it for the old and the young, the feeble and the sick. The lives and safety of our citizens should not be put at risk.

Bill No. 68 was an emotional issue and caused extreme anxiety on both sides of the debate and I can tell you, I certainly felt some anxiety, Mr. Speaker. After the debate, at the end of the day, I would go back to my apartment and I would worry and worry about different people in this province and whether they would have proper health care and if there would

[Page 7095]

be enough health care workers in this province to provide that service. Anyway, the overriding factor and the reason I supported Bill No. 68 was the proper health care could not be guaranteed.

I had a situation not long ago that gave me a first-hand experience with the health care system. My mother had to go into the Valley Regional Hospital in Kentville to have a pacemaker installed. I saw health care workers there, Mr. Speaker, and they can say what they want, but I tell you, the Opposition can go on, but I will tell you, those people work hard, two people in particular, one a nurse, whose name was Fiona and another one, B.J., but they continually did paperwork. There was no end to the paperwork and these people were dedicated.

MR. SPEAKER: You have 30 seconds. (Interruption)

MR. CHIPMAN: Anyway, Mr. Speaker, we can only say that there would be more money for health care, as the Opposition on the other side has said, but the federal government has cut us $1 billion in the last 10 years.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time for debate on Bill No. 70 has expired. I wonder if the honourable Liberal House Leader would allow the Minister of Education a clarification of facts resulting from Question Period?

The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would like to correct the record. In answer to a question this afternoon, I said that 7,000 students had gone from the Cape Breton board since 1996. The actual number is 3,000. I apologize for not being able to read my own handwriting, but I would like the record to stand corrected. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: That completes the Opposition's business for today, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: If there is no further Opposition business, would the honourable Government House Leader like to give the hours for tomorrow before we go to the late debate?

The honourable Government House Leader.

[Page 7096]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the House will meet tomorrow at the hour of 12:00 noon and sit until 6:00 p.m. On Friday, we will sit from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. or until we conclude the business. Monday's hours will be negotiable, but at the moment we're looking at 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Tomorrow the order of business will be, I think we will start off with Committee of the Whole House and then go into bills for second reading and then bills for third reading and when we complete that, if we complete it before 6:00 p.m., that will be the business for the day.

I move the House adjourn.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for adjournment until tomorrow at noon.

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 are adjourned until noon hour tomorrow on Thursday.

We have now reached the moment of interruption. The subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Cape Breton North:

"Therefore be it resolved that the New Democratic Party stop driving business opportunities away from Cape Breton and start supporting job creation in areas that need it most."

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

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

NDP: JOB CREATION - LOCATIONS

MR. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I found it very important to bring this resolution before the House here today. In light of recent events by the member for Halifax Chebucto and his total lack of understanding of economics in this province and job creation and the insult to the people of Cape Breton and the threat that he's providing to our economy, driving away opportunities and threatening our ability to attract the type of Fortune 500 companies that this government has done a great job in bringing to Cape Breton.

[Page 7097]

The member for Halifax Chebucto decided that he would take and throw a barb at the call centres in Cape Breton and question what their future is and the stability and investment of this government and saying it wasn't going to be matched. I am here to talk about our call centres and I am here to talk about the quality of people in Cape Breton that that honourable member obviously does not understand. But then again I wouldn't expect him to because this is about new jobs, new opportunities and a new future for the Island of Cape Breton.

In Sydney we have EDS, now employing over 930 Cape Bretoners. There's nothing false or unreal about that; those are real jobs and real paycheques into our local economy every day. With the announcement of the Stream call centre in Glace Bay, I stood in this House and I supported the member for Glace Bay, and I said as a member of this government I will support jobs anywhere in Cape Breton or anywhere in Nova Scotia, whether that's Glace Bay, in Yarmouth, or the Eastern Shore. Jobs are essential. I will put my partisanship aside, but the NDP can't do that. They just don't know how to; they don't know how and they never will know how because they will never run the government of Nova Scotia, and Nova Scotians I believe will see to that. (Applause)

It's initiatives such as UpSource call centre that's in North Sydney starting off with 50 employees providing quality jobs in a small town, but a small town that can compete internationally, and too bad, the NDP couldn't even compete in this House, but that's okay because we're just getting started on what the NDP stands for when it comes to economic development in Cape Breton.

In Port Hawkesbury, we had the EDS call centre that's being prepared and business being lined up - which we're going to see 450 seats; the ability to transfer and grow the number of jobs by three in that call centre. But do you know what really scares me? Is that the NDP, the New Democratic Party, is clearly setting aside and trying to scare business away and are constantly down on what the government's doing to attract quality business. I will tell you one thing - the NDP never brought Fortune 500 jets to the Sydney tarmac, but this government and the federal government has, and that is the type of job creation we need.

The member for Halifax Chebucto might be a loose cannon in his own caucus, but he better not start firing at Cape Breton because its not tolerated by this member or any other Nova Scotian who believes in correct and proper economic development.

As well, in Sydney, we just had the opening of a great facility for Ron Weber. My legislative colleague from Cape Breton South, the member for Cape Breton West, and the member for Cape Breton The Lakes were there and partisanship was set aside in the name of 311 jobs in that call centre, and that call centre providing services once again to Fortune 500 companies, the type of companies we're trying to bring to Nova Scotia, not scare away from Nova Scotia. Mark my words, if any harm comes to economic development in Cape Breton and the scaring away of the business opportunities, the NDP will be held accountable in this House and out on the streets. I will not tolerate the rhetoric of that Party.

[Page 7098]

The member from the New Democratic Party wants to say blame it on the NDP. Put the blame where the blame lies because you don't get it - you never will get it. (Interruptions) We're talking about direct and indirect benefits as a result of government programming to attract the type of quality jobs that call centres offer our area. Directly we offer construction jobs, we offer the employment of hundreds and hundreds and hundreds, now thousands of Nova Scotians. The NDP will never produce a job, let alone thousands of jobs, but this government is doing that throughout this entire province.

Most importantly, a direct benefit that this government is offering in partnership with other businesses and governments is hope for Nova Scotian communities to reconfigure and restabilize our economy. We are setting to it, so we'll let the NDP and their rhetoric continue on, because the need for a positive, progressive economy will far outweigh the cries of an ailing Opposition Party.

Mr. Speaker, the indirect benefits - they want to talk about direct benefits - let's look at the sales tax and the spinoff benefits to communities that are offered. We see people with new cash, infusing more dollars into their local economies, shopping in local stores, buying homes, buying vehicles, purchasing goods and services, and contributing and providing a better quality of family life, of home life. This member across in the NDP wants to go on with the same old song and dance . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: The member for Dartmouth North should know better. He has call centres in his own area.

MR. CLARKE: The member for Dartmouth North won't talk about the benefits in his area, because it's easier for his Party and his member from this area to attack some other place. Well, it's not good enough. You can't have it both ways, and you are not going to have it both ways over there.

Mr. Speaker, the NDP said the call centres in Cape Breton, the deals of this government, were of nominal benefit. Well, there is nothing nominal about a good paying job, and the respect and the dignity of going out and contributing to your society and providing for your family. I say shame on the NDP. I say shame on them, because they don't understand or recognize what investment in our communities is doing to revitalize and provide new incentives for entrepreneurs to get up and start a business. Do you know why? Go around the call centre, EDS, go downtown Glace Bay, around Stream, and ask the businesses there what they think of call centres and the government's investment. I am going to tell you, they are singing a different song than the NDP. I am tired of that trash talk from the NDP, how they are going on and spreading it out in the streets.

I am looking forward to the next election, Mr. Speaker, because the people of Nova Scotia are going to put the NDP and their trash talk in the can once and for all, because we have the jobs to prove otherwise. When the announcement was made, my honourable

[Page 7099]

colleague, the Minister of Tourism and Culture had quoted that this investment is helping to generate revenues for our education and health care systems, and indeed it is, because people are contributing and putting into their communities.

We all know healthy people require healthy economies, and that's what this government has been dedicated to, that's what this government has been doing, and we will do it with anyone with the same premise. The premise is built on the fact that we as Nova Scotians have more to offer than what the NDP will offer out to pull us down. We're stronger than that. We're better than that. We don't buy in to their false agenda, because we're into a real economy for a real Nova Scotia, not the hype and hysteria that they offer in this province.

Mr. Speaker, we're looking to encourage all types of employment, not just call centre employment, oil and gas, manufacturing, research and development, and information technology. I can tell you Cape Breton is on the leading edge of those. As the member for Cape Breton North, I put a challenge out the other day that we would monitor. Well, I can assure him and his caucus that this member, as part of this majority Progressive Conservative Government, is doing everything in my power to ensure that that agenda is achieved. I'm sure he will endorse the many good announcements that are yet to come in the months ahead as this government proves to Nova Scotians why they endorsed the government and provided a majority government to ensure that the path that we were going down was going to be stopped and that we would chart a new course for Nova Scotia.

We have our share of call centers, but look at Tesma in the Northside Industrial Park. Look at the Irving shipbuilding and the Erik Raude. Look at the forestry products and fishery in this province. Nova Scotia is more than call centers and, thankfully, is a lot bigger than the mindset of the New Democratic Party, Mr. Speaker. Nova Scotia already has several clusters of excellence in terms of IT, high tech, and university facilities that create a workforce for the information industry and Nova Scotia is realizing it is becoming competitively positioned so that the need for government investments, as we have in call centers, will be diminished and we'll be standing on our own two legs, toe to toe, as equals in this nation and in the international economic environment.

Mr. Speaker, let's not for a minute question the resolve of this government to go out and seek anybody who will put business in rural or non-metropolitan Halifax areas in this province. We need to have the balance but, more importantly, we need to have an understanding that our people from one end of the province to the other are equals and equally capable of serving a competitive environment.

[Page 7100]

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, when I was reading this resolution, I thought that I had seen and heard everything in this House, but I have to tell you, this puts a new meaning to the word 'gall' for the government to come here today and say that they're doing something in Cape Breton and that the NDP are driving opportunities away.

I might remind you, Mr. Speaker, the NDP is not in government in Nova Scotia, that crowd over there is, but I do agree with the member for Cape Breton North and I want to say two things about that. One is that I don't attribute the blame for the lack of opportunity in Cape Breton on the shoulders of the member for Cape Breton North solely, and I will get into that in a moment, but I do want to say that I agree with him on his comments regarding the member for Halifax Chebucto.

That's not the first time that that member has mused about Cape Breton versus metro Halifax. In the last week, for example, he has suggested openly that perhaps there should be less membership in this House from Cape Breton and more from metro. Also he made reference to the call centre in Port Hawkesbury not being a good deal. In certain respects, you know, you have to - like the member for Cape Breton North says - go across partisan political lines here. Well, I am going to cross over them right now and say that in that certain industry in Port Hawkesbury, the facts are they haven't hired anybody yet. Even though the government is in there for a substantial amount of money, they haven't hired a soul.

If I was the Minister of Economic Development, I would be worried about that. I would be investigating what's going on with that particular company in Port Hawkesbury. I think the right of the member for Halifax Chebucto to question whether or not it's a good deal for the Strait area, is a question that begs an answer and I believe that answer will come eventually from the Minister of Economic Development, hopefully.

I want to dwell, Mr. Speaker, on what the government has done in Cape Breton, the government that the member for Cape Breton North is a part of. The first thing they did was to get elected, they sent a postcard out to close Sydney Steel, to get some members elected on the mainland. Then they sat silent so Sydney Steel eventually closed. Then they sat silent while the Cape Breton Development Corporation shut down. They said nothing, the Premier said nothing, the Cabinet said nothing. They just let it happen. That wasn't bad enough. They moved a new corporation together, Nova Scotia Business Inc., and they put 12 people on that who are not responsible to the Legislature for spending taxpayers' dollars and the only person on that committee from Cape Breton is a government appointee, a token Cape Breton appointee.

How in heaven's name can that government say they're doing anything in Cape Breton? The member for Cape Breton North loves to say that, when they don't even have adequate representation.

[Page 7101]

I'll go further than that, Mr. Speaker, the Department of Economic Development in Sydney is down to two people, with no budget. At one time you could go in there and you could talk to people about doing economic development in Cape Breton. Now you can't because they don't have any budget. They just refer you up here to the deputy minister's office, or now this committee of 12 people who are going to decide and cherry-pick throughout the province where the limited amount of money in Economic Development - they have that department gutted - is going to be spent. How much of it is going to find its way into Cape Breton? None of it.

What's happening in Cape Breton is that this crowd has piggybacked on the federal government's growth fund in Cape Breton to the grand tune of $2 million a year for the next five or six years, and we can't even identify where the $2 million is in the budget for this year. The member for Cape Breton North talks about Stream. Well, why didn't the same criteria apply to Stream in Glace Bay that applied to Convergys in New Glasgow in the Premier's riding, where they gave $6 million? What did they do with Stream? They gave the landlord of the building money, who is a Tory hack in Cape Breton, to fix the building up and gave Stream nothing. There was no payroll rebate to Stream, because it was in Glace Bay; there was to Convergys, which should have gone to Cape Breton as a result of negotiations that the previous government did to have the second plant of Convergys open. It was sidetracked to New Glasgow, and they were given $6 million; the same with Xerox.

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you that I welcome the jobs that Stream brings, and I welcome the jobs that EDS brings to Cape Breton, that the member was talking about, I welcome that. But again what the member fails to tell you is the payroll rebate employed in EDS was a policy set up by the previous government, and every single call centre that came to Cape Breton and the initiatives save the last two down there were done by the previous Liberal Government. In the case of Stream the vast majority of the money that went into Stream was put there by the federal government not the provincial government.

The provincial government was barely even noticed in that agreement. A loan of some sort, the same as they did with the co-op program that we saved a couple of years ago. They came in with a loan, they couldn't even bring themselves to give them any kind of a head start initiative with funding, because they don't have anybody down there now to mind the store. I bet you that in the coming months the Economic Development office in Sydney will be closed, and all the decisions will be made by this committee up here in Halifax, these 12 disciples who are going to go around the province telling Nova Scotians where their money is going to be spent, and worse than that they are not going to be responsible to this Legislature. They are only going to be responsible to the minister and the Cabinet Ministers in the bunker.

I just want to touch for a moment, Mr. Speaker, on the offshore. The member for Cape Breton North waxes eloquently about what's going to happen in the offshore. I will tell you the truth on that, what has happened in the offshore is that the Premier went to the table,

[Page 7102]

in the arbitration between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, and lost because he went into that with a political agenda instead of letting the professionals who were hired in Nova Scotia do the dealings at the table. Where are we at in the Laurentian Sub-Basin? Nowhere. How many businesses in Cape Breton are getting any work out of the offshore right now? None. What's happening with the offshore down in Cape Breton? Nothing, that's what's happening.

I want to say to you, Mr. Speaker, that when we get the musings from this crowd over here about what's going in Cape Breton, Cape Bretoners remember; Cape Bretoners remember what the Tory legacy is in Cape Breton. It may seem like a good policy in the minds of some to get rid of good-paying industrial jobs in the area, but I can tell you that the Tories will be forever remembered in Cape Breton as the crowd that closed Sydney Steel; they will be forever remembered for that, and left 200 steelworkers swinging in the wind because the Minister of Economic Development lied to them when he went to the Steelworkers Hall and told them that they were going to be looked after and then got out of Dodge and forgot all about them. Now you tell me that that is doing something for industrial workers in Cape Breton? I don't think so.

[5:30 p.m.]

Now the member for Cape Breton North also made a statement when we were discussing Bill No. 68 and finally when the nurses got a raise, he blamed the health care woes on the nurses and said their contract is going to adversely affect the bottom line of the Department of Health, Mr. Speaker. That is what he said. That is what was reported in the Cape Breton Post. All I can tell you is that's what he said.

MR. CECIL CLARKE: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Not to interrupt the member's spirited debate here this evening and not to question its inaccuracies, but one thing that is dreadfully inaccurate is his statement there to say that I said that. That is categorically untrue and I will prove it.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: I will take the article . . .

MR. CLARKE: You will take what? (Interruption)

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: . . . and table it.

MR. CLARKE: You cant. It doesn't exist. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruption) The first point of order was not a point of order brought up by the member.

[Page 7103]

MR. CECIL CLARKE: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I do want that member, he says he is going to table that article, I want that article tabled by that member in this House and I want it cross-referenced with the Hansard of what he said here tonight and I want those words detailed because I can tell you one thing, it is not my words but, then again, I have heard him for almost 10 minutes going on . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The member for Cape Breton South has five seconds left.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: . . . is not a member of the government, so I digress from that, but I will try to accommodate his wishes. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on this resolution, but I want to say that the problems that exist on Cape Breton Island are very serious and very real problems and ought not to be tempered in this House by such a resolution that criticizes the Official Opposition or the Opposition Parties to what they perceive to be the kind of economic development that exists on Cape Breton Island.

In my opinion, the matter is so serious and the members for Cape Breton, both Cape Breton North and Cape Breton South, who are sitting in on this moment of interruption know full well that quite a resolution could have come before this House that would have specifically asked for all-Party intervention on what type of proposed economic development should exist on Cape Breton Island.

Mr. Speaker, I also want you to know that I have close ties to Cape Breton Island. My wife happens to be a coal miner's daughter. I lived on Cape Breton Island for approximately three or four years in the suburb of Westmount, outside of Sydney, and I have watched the economic changes on Cape Breton Island and particularly in industrial Cape Breton. I also want to say to you that the people of Cape Breton are quite capable of making the obvious connections.

I want to speak about Tory and Liberal Governments, but yet I want to temper that kind of approach because the New Democratic Party have not been in power in the Province of Nova Scotia and both of those political Parties had been in power and both of those political Parties can see the kind of devastation that now exists on Cape Breton Island. The successive Tory and Liberal Governments, both in Ottawa and in Halifax, have supervised the dismantling of the Cape Breton economy. Steelmaking and coal mining were the centrepiece of an industrial economy in the Sydney area, employing thousands of workers and paying good wages.

[Page 7104]

Only yesterday, we raised the issue of the possibility of losses in Cape Breton in our school system. The Minister of Education's response was, we're not here to provide jobs in Cape Breton, and I quote from Hansard, " . . . my job as Education Minister is not to provide for job creation in the school boards in Cape Breton . . ." History of the labour struggles and the strong labour movement was necessary because whatever the government, Tory or Liberal, they always sided with the company against the Cape Breton workers. Cape Bretoners know that and members of the Opposition know that, Mr. Speaker.

The member for Cape Breton Nova has published a book documenting these struggles and I know that you are not supposed to use props in this House, but I just happen to have taken a visit over to the Legislative Library and the member for Cape Breton Nova published a book called Miners and Steelworkers: Labour in Cape Breton. I want you to know that his observations and conclusions speak for themselves; perhaps today he will say he was naive, ill-informed, but he wasn't. The work was well researched. Maybe he will say that he has matured or experienced a transformation. The fact remains that he captured the spirit of the people and the realities of their experience. They had real problems and the Liberals and Tories were never there to support them in anything but a superficial way.

Now, Mr. Speaker, Cape Bretoners are having to leave the Island because there are few employment opportunities in their communities and the evidence speaks for itself as we talked about the decline in education and we also talked about the declining population on Cape Breton Island. Those people have to move away because there are no long-term employment opportunities on Cape Breton Island. This motion, in my opinion, is a feeble attempt to deflect blame for the callous disregard the other Parties have shown for real economic opportunities in Cape Breton. It is a standing joke in Cape Breton that voting should take place the day after the election so Cape Bretoners can ensure that they are on the right side of the government and the member for Cape Breton North is an example of that. Regrettably, as long as they are inflicted with Tory and Liberal Governments, obviously doesn't matter much - these Parties have no meaningful plans to foster the Cape Breton economy.

Mr. Speaker, the member for Cape Breton North is a new member who had won a by-election and he ran on that by-election on being on the government side. It might be more helpful to have a debate about the idea of stimulating the economy of Cape Breton, as I have said earlier. What are the Liberals and Tories proposing to do to provide meaningful long-term employment in Cape Breton? What are the Tories doing in government? What are the Liberals doing in Ottawa? Those are the kinds of questions that should be bantered through this Legislature Assembly. This House, the Province of Nova Scotia has the right to hear what they are doing and the right to debate those issues now. Why are members of the Tory Party so sensitive? We are here to ask probing questions, debate the issues and hold the government accountable. That is what the Opposition is here to do.

[Page 7105]

You know that those who squeal the loudest often have the most to hide. Did we get the best deal for taxpayers? That's a good question, Mr. Speaker. It has not been answered. What are the costs? These are important questions that shouldn't be swept under the rug. If there are good answers, then let's hear them and I would ask the member for Cape Breton North to have his Minister of Economic Development answer those questions and allow this House to hear what kind of answers will come forward. If you cannot tackle the questions and then attack-the-questioner approach, that is a sign of weakness and I will say that here in this House, Mr. Speaker, and I would ask the honourable member what is he hiding? What is his government afraid of?

The New Democrats champion the cause of working people throughout the province whether we represent the riding or not. You won't find us telling people to elect us because if you don't have a member in the House on the government side, you won't get anything from government. That's what the Liberals and Tories have consistently done and it is their stock in trade, Mr. Speaker. We believe in good government. We believe in strong Opposition and solutions that work for the people of Nova Scotia. We will continue to ask the right questions. We will continue to focus debate on the real issues and we'll continue to support the development of a strong economic future for Cape Breton and all other areas of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, while I do have a few moments, I would also like to talk about some of the things around the Texas-based Electronic Data Systems, the $60 million expansion that has a call centre in Sydney now, to employ some 450 people at $8.00 to $9.00 an hour. Our Party has not balked against that at all. We understand that there's need for development. The explanation offered by the company for putting the project on hold anticipated a downturn in the demand for services as a result of September 11th.

In February 2001, the government announced $9 million to build a 55,000 square foot facility in Port Hawkesbury, completed in August for September, and the opening of a $4.5 million Cape Breton Growth Fund. No interviews were ever conducted, suggesting that the September opening was delayed long before an announcement and long before September 11th. Also no furniture or computers were acquired. Opening will hinge on the success of Sydney, which employs 800 people. The Sydney operation received $21 million in 2000. EDS is said to be the second-biggest employer in Cape Breton, behind Stora Enso.

EDS Port-Hawkesbury may not add money to the province's coffers for five years, and these are the kinds of things that my colleague, Howard Epstein has talked about. As a matter of fact I want to quote Howard Epstein in my last minute. As Economic Development Critic, Howard is quoted as saying, "There is no money advantage to the province if we're giving (EDS) back every penny that they're paying in taxes." By the government's own analysis, Howard's comments are accurate and Rodney MacDonald's statement is only true if the company employs people beyond the five year period.

[Page 7106]

Mr. Speaker, that in a nutshell is what our Economic Development Critic has said, and I think that it's quite significant and it's quite important to know that this Party and this government are accountable. That is why we're here, because we are accountable to Nova Scotians, and as the Official Opposition Party we have a right to let Nova Scotians, and make sure that Nova Scotians are informed about where their taxpayer dollars are going.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted for late debate has expired.

The House will reconvene at 12:00 noon tomorrow.

[The House rose at 5:42 p.m.]