The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Wed., Nov. 21, 2001

[Page 7425]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 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, the subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Kings North:

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature applaud the efforts of the staff of Fidelis House Society for their tremendous work in the community of Kings.

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

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

MRS. MURIEL BAILLIE: Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the Committee on Private and Local Bills, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bill:

7425

[Page 7426]

Bill No. 94 - Halifax Regional Municipality Marketing Levy Act.

and the committee recommends this bill to the favourable consideration of the House, with certain amendments.

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

The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, may I make an introduction to the House?

In the gallery opposite today is Michel Woodbury, who is a Grade 10 student at QE. He is here today job shadowing with me. (Interruptions) Oh, he did very well today, Mr. Speaker. His course is Career and Life Management, it's about budgeting money, preparing resumés, other life skills and hopefully he will learn a lot about budgeting today. He is the son of Brett Woodbury and Vicentine Woodbury. Brett happens to be working in the Department of Education, I think he is the Director of Teacher Certification; his mother, Vicentine is from the Village of Wedgeport where I reside. I would ask for him to receive the applause of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our special guests to the gallery today.

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, it's my pleasure to present a motion on your behalf, but before I do that I would like to introduce to the House a visitor in your gallery. I believe she is a visitor who is well known by all members past and present, Jocelyn Scallion. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

RESOLUTION NO. 2675

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

[Page 7427]

Whereas on Saturday, November 24th, Jocelyn Scallion, an employee of the Speaker's Office, well known to all in this House, will celebrate 25 years of employment with the Nova Scotia Government; and

Whereas for the past quarter-century she has served the province and thus its citizens working first in the Office of the Provincial Secretary, then with the Department of Government Services and finally moved to the Office of the Speaker in 1980, where she has remained since that time; and

Whereas once at the Speaker's Office, Jocelyn worked with accounts receivable and payable, then MLA expenses, budgets and human resources, and has become a very valuable asset to that office;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Jocelyn on her loyal and dedicated service and her phenomenal commitment to her work with the Nova Scotia Government. (Applause)

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.

Jocelyn, on behalf of all members, I would like to welcome you here today and thank you for your service. I guess we agreed the other day that Jocelyn has 25 more years to go, and then she is going to think about retiring. Thank you, Jocelyn, very much.

The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, just before reading these resolutions, I would like to extend congratulations to Jocelyn. When I was chairman of the PC caucus I had the opportunity to work with her and she was invaluable to me. The other thing is I didn't realize she looked old enough to be here for 25 years. (Interruptions)

[Page 7428]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 2676

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

Whereas it is estimated that 2.25 million Canadians have diabetes and suffer from many debilitating complications including heart disease, stroke, blindness and amputation; and

Whereas the Canadian Diabetes Association of Nova Scotia recognizes November as Diabetes Awareness Month, a time to discuss and inform the public about the prevalence of diabetes in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the Canadian Diabetes Association of Nova Scotia has worked tirelessly to inform the public and provide support and guidance to those Nova Scotians living with diabetes;

Therefore be it resolved that this House proclaim the month of November to be Diabetes Awareness Month and urge all citizens to take part in observances designed to increase awareness and understanding of diabetes.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[2:15 p.m.]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 2677

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

[Page 7429]

Whereas the increase in HIV infection necessitates a national effort to increase research, communication, education and prevention action to combat this disease; and

Whereas the AIDS Coalition of Nova Scotia and the Nova Scotia Advisory Commission on AIDS and their supporters endorse the week of November 23rd to November 30th as AIDS Awareness Week and December 1st as World AIDS Day; and

Whereas AIDS Awareness Week and World AIDS Day are opportunities to focus on HIV infection and AIDS, to care for people living with HIV/AIDS and to learn about HIV/AIDS;

Therefore be it resolved that this House proclaim November 23rd to November 30th as AIDS Awareness Week and December 1, 2001 as World AIDS Day and urge all citizens to take part in observances designed to increase awareness and understanding of HIV/AIDS as a national challenge and to join the global effort to prevent further spread of HIV.

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. 2678

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 safety of our children is a priority of every Nova Scotian; and

Whereas the annual Winter Safety Day is an excellent promotion that reaches thousands of elementary school students across this province; and

Whereas this year, I have declared Wednesday, November 21st to be Winter Safety Day;

[Page 7430]

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend the 80 schools taking part this year and our snowplow operators, who take their equipment to the schools to promote safety messages.

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 Finance.

RESOLUTION NO. 2679

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 Courrier de la Nouvelle-Écosse est le seul journal provincial de langue française en Nouvelle-Écosse; et

Attendu que le Courrier recherchait un rédacteur/une rédactrice, ce qui n'est pas une tâche facile; et

Attendu que le Courrier a eu la bonne fortune de trouver une personne, une Acadienne parmi ses rangs, qui répondait bien aux exigences de ce travail et en mesure de rencontrer les nombreux défis posés par ce poste;

Qu'il soit résolu que cette Assemblée transmette à Denise Comeau Desautels ses félicitations pour cette nomination et ses meilleurs voeux de succès dans l'exercice de ses nouvelles fonctions.

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

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

[Page 7431]

Whereas the Courrier de la Nouvelle-Écosse is the only provincial French language newspaper in the Province of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the Courrier had the difficult task of finding and hiring an editor; and

Whereas the Courrier was fortunate enough to find such a person, an Acadian from within its own ranks, to take on this demanding and exceedingly challenging task;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Denise Comeau Desautels on her appointment as the new editor of the Courrier de la Nouvelle-Écosse and wish her well in her responsibilities.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 2680

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

Whereas the Department of Natural Resources would like to recognize the outstanding achievements and efforts in promoting hunter education by Mr. William McLaughlin; and

Whereas the department congratulates Mr. McLaughlin on being selected as Nova Scotia's Hunter Education Instructor of the Year for 2001; and

Whereas the department would like to thank Mr. McLaughlin for all of his volunteer time teaching the courses, as well as his efforts to improve the quality of instruction for his students and his professionalism in the classroom;

Therefore be it resolved that the House publicly thank Mr. McLaughlin for his contribution to an educated and safe hunting public.

[Page 7432]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South on an introduction.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, today in the west gallery we have a lady, a home support worker from my constituency, who is here today in the gallery hopefully to speak to government officials regarding concerns that she is having with the health care system in this province and the way she is being treated. I would like to introduce Ann Donahue, who is here with us today from Sydney, and welcome her to the Legislature. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid on an introduction.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I, too, am pleased to introduce a constituent from Sackville-Cobequid. Linda McKinnon is also a home care worker and she is here with others to educate members of the House and the general public about the health care system and the home support system which is currently in a state of crisis and, hopefully, all members from all sides of the House will be listening very carefully to the messages that they have to deliver. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party on an introduction.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I, too, want to introduce a constituent from Clare. Charlene Boudreau is a home support worker, she is also a friend, and I can honestly say Charlene is a very devoted home care supporter. I want to acknowledge her in the gallery as well. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes on an introduction.

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, it is certainly a pleasure for me to introduce Margurite Musgrave who lives in Frenchvale in my constituency. She is also a very important home support worker. I want to welcome her to the House as well. (Applause)

[Page 7433]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East on an introduction.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, as well, I would like to introduce a home support worker, a constituent of mine from Hants East, and I would like to ask Carolyn Tanner to rise and receive the welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Just so the honourable member knows, I have got a list going here and there are several ahead. So the honourable Leader of the Opposition was next on the list.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition on an introduction.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I know there are a lot of home support workers here today and I know the individual MLAs are taking the opportunity to introduce them to the House and, of course, I would like to welcome all of the home support workers who have taken the opportunity to join us here in the House today.

I would also like to, if I may at this time, make another introduction. I would like to introduce to the House, my in-laws, Audrey Harris-Gaunt and John Gaunt. (Interruptions) They have travelled here from Norwood, Ontario, to be of some assistance. I am going to be out of the province at the federal NDP convention and they're going to give me a hand, in fact, with some home support that I certainly could use. So I just want to thank them and, Mr. Speaker, as always welcome them to our Legislature. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre on an introduction.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I, too, would like to introduce one of the home care workers in our gallery today as part of this vital link in our health care system. This member of the system not only works in home care, but is a neighbour of mine, is a choir leader in our church at St. Joseph's in Lingan, and a much better entertainer probably than most of the people on the Tory benches and certainly a better entertainer than I would ever hope to be. So I would like to introduce Shirley MacIntyre, a family friend for sure. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth South on an introduction. I have a list going here, honourable member, so I will put you on the list.

MR. TIMOTHY OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure for me to introduce to you, and through you to all members of the House, two home support workers from Dartmouth, Maria Thomas and Donna Munro, who provide a valuable service that is recognized by the residents of Dartmouth and myself. I welcome them to the House and ask the House to show them the courtesy normally shown to visitors to our gallery. (Applause)

[Page 7434]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North on an introduction.

MR. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, I, too, would like to introduce a home care worker to the House. In my work previously as a minister of religion, I was amazed at the amount of work that they did and the compassion and the dedication they had to the people they served. So it's a great privilege to welcome Karen Randall, a fellow citizen from the riding of Kings North and a fellow Canningite as well, from Canning, so welcome Karen. If you would please stand. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I would like to join others in welcoming a home support worker from near my area who is in the west gallery today. Her name is Cathy Peori. Cathy is a resident of Dominion, which is a great community, but borders on Glace Bay which is a great community as well. I would like to welcome Cathy to the House today and ask all members to join me in that welcome. Thank you. (Applause)

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

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce a home care worker from my constituency who is seated in the west gallery, Ms. Jessie Morrison of 2342 South Bar Highway in that famous community of South Bar.

AN HON. MEMBER: Home of Blair Richardson.

MR. MACEWAN: Oh, indeed, the home of Blair Richardson and many more, hundreds more people, all of whom have votes on election day and are therefore very important to me.

AN HON. MEMBER: Is there a sign location there, Paul?

MR. MACEWAN: Well, this lady lives a little bit back off the road in a farm location, but still at the head of her driveway there's a place for one, yes. This is Ms. Jessie Morrison of 2342 South Bar Highway. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Mr. Speaker, I would also like to stand and acknowledge and give support to the home support workers who are in the gallery today. I would like to take this opportunity to introduce Hope Saunders in the east gallery, and I would like to welcome you here to the House. (Applause)

[Page 7435]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester North.

MR. WILLIAM LANGILLE: Mr. Speaker, today we have two ladies who drove all the way from Colchester North (Interruptions) The roads are great up there. I would like to introduce to you Juanita Corbett and Judy Davis. Would you please rise? (Applause)

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

MR. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, it is indeed my pleasure to rise this afternoon and introduce a constituent of mine, Mr. Clarence Brown, and he's with the City Homemakers' Services Society. He's in the east gallery, and I thank him for coming today. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. JON CAREY: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure today to introduce a home support worker from Kings West, Ruth Meister. (Applause)

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

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce three special guests in the west gallery, but before I do, I just want to indicate the mink industry in Nova Scotia has certainly been growing, especially in the last number of years. It's currently generating somewhere around $35 million and providing much-needed jobs for many Nova Scotians. Today in the west gallery we have three mink ranchers: Maynard Mullen, Pierre LeBlanc, and Bernard LeBlanc, and I would ask them to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

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

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I too would like to introduce two home support workers from my area in Inverness County, Patsy Carr and Patsy Campbell, and I would ask them to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Eastern Shore.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, I would like to welcome all home support workers, but especially a young lady, Kim Kenney, from the Eastern Shore riding. I would like to say good afternoon to you and I would ask the House to give her the warm welcome she deserves. (Applause)

[Page 7436]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Annapolis.

MR. FRANK CHIPMAN: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to rise today in the House and introduce two home support workers from the Annapolis Valley, Maggi Sabean and Victoria Cowen, in the east gallery. Would they please stand and receive the welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to introduce a constituent from Richmond County. In the west gallery, Shannon McGrath, who is a representative for the Richmond County Home Support Workers with NSGEU, who has certainly been a strong voice on behalf of all the home support workers for Richmond County. I think this is a tremendous opportunity today, with all the home care workers here today, that the Health Minister might explain to you what he means when he says the in-home support program will allow seniors to contract out their home care services. So I hope he might answer that for you today. Welcome Shannon, to the House. (Applause)

[2:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I rise to welcome all the good people from Lunenburg West, the home support workers from Lunenburg West. Although they might not be here, I know they are here in spirit because they, too, are frustrated with this government's attack on their work. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce a home care worker from the Digby/Clare area, Anne Dube. I would ask the members of the House to give her a warm welcome. (Applause)

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

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my colleague, the member for Antigonish, who is not able to do this today, I would like to introduce a couple of his constituents, Judy Fogarty and Shirley Purdy. If you could stand up please. (Applause)

[Page 7437]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Shelburne.

MR. CECIL O'DONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I, too, would like to introduce two home support workers from my home County of Shelburne. I would ask Linda Bower and Anne Harris to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Are there any further introductions? Oh, lots of them.

The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

MR. TIMOTHY OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure on behalf of my colleague, the member for Halifax Bedford Basin, Mary Ann McGrath, to introduce Mary Ann Walker, who is a Nova Scotia home support worker. I know if Mary Ann was here she would be very pleased to introduce Mary Ann Walker to the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank.

MR. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I, too, would like to welcome to the House a constituent from Sackville-Beaver Bank, Tammy Barkhouse. She drove all the way here from Sackville-Beaver Bank.

AN HON. MEMBER: How were the roads, Barry?

MR. BARNET: The roads are fine in Sackville-Beaver Bank. Thank you, Tammy. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Well, Mr. Speaker, Yarmouth starts with a y, so it is toward the end. I want to introduce Pam Troop who is from the Yarmouth County area. If she could rise and receive the approbation of the House I would appreciate it. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of a couple of members of the caucus who are not here, from Antigonish and from Guysborough, who are en route because of a funeral - they will be here shortly after the funeral but I want to make sure that their constituents are acknowledged here today - from the constituency of Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury we have Patsy Cass, Noreen Hubley and Debbie Hudson. From Antigonish we have Judy Fogarty and Shirley Purdy. I would like to have them rise and be acknowledged by the House. (Applause)

[Page 7438]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Mr. Speaker, in the Speaker's Gallery, I would like to acknowledge a couple of people I have known very well the last number of years, as I am sure all the Tories on our side of the House know these two individuals. Probably all the Cape Breton politicians on the other side of the House know them well, too. I would like to welcome, all the way from Sydney, Nova Scotia, John and Barbara Shaw who are in the Speaker's Gallery. (Applause)

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

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my colleague, the member for Cape Breton West, Russell MacKinnon, I would like to introduce Emily Erin from his constituency who is here today; she is an in-home support worker. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Shelburne.

MR. CECIL O'DONNELL: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my colleague, the member for Yarmouth, Richard Hurlburt, I would like to welcome Rachel Ouellette from Yarmouth. I would ask that she rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 100 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 323 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Off-highway Vehicles Act. (Mr. John MacDonell)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 2681

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

Whereas the former Liberal Government saddled this province with 39 P3 schools, an idea whose time shouldn't have come, and the current contract dispute with Scotia Learning shows the chickens have come home to roost; and

[Page 7439]

Whereas P3 schools, starved for funding, could end up surrendering 35 per cent of profits from all food sales in their schools, and after-hours school use and rental rates for community groups in these schools are up to 10 times higher than the school boards' rates; and

Whereas any pretense that such sweet deals for the private sector would benefit the education system and the community it serves have now flown the coop;

Therefore be it resolved that this House wish the Department of Education good luck through its contract arbitration with P3 school developer Scotia Learning in unravelling the Gordian knot the Liberals have put around the neck of public education.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 2682

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 potential of gas and oil development off our coasts is slowly becoming a reality; and

Whereas many Nova Scotians are pleased to see new industries that might develop as a result of such activities; and

Whereas still many fishers have fears that their livelihood may be in jeopardy by such activities;

Therefore be it resolved that this government and all players in the oil and gas industry assure the people in the fishing industries that they will be compensated accordingly for any decline in stocks created by such exploration.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 7440]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

Order, please. There is too much noise in the Chamber. It is very difficult to hear the speakers on the floor.

The honourable member for Shelburne.

RESOLUTION NO. 2683

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

Whereas just six days remain before the opening of the 2001 Nova Scotia lobster fishery in southwestern Nova Scotia; and

Whereas live lobster continues to be one of Nova Scotia's top exports, sent to over 40 countries around the world; and

Whereas the United States remains Nova Scotia's top market for the export of lobsters, but Nova Scotia companies are continuing to aggressively pursue new opportunities and open up additional markets such as has been done in, for example, South Korea and Hong Kong;

Therefore be it resolved that despite concerns being expressed about slowdowns in exports since the September 11th terrorism attacks, all members of this House of Assembly wish all fishermen a safe and profitable trip as they prepare to head out to set traps early Monday morning at the start of the 2001 lobster fishery in southwestern Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. If the noise keeps up I am going to ask the honourable member to get up and repeat it, because it's very hard to hear what's being said. I would ask the honourable members to respect the members on the floor.

There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

[Page 7441]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Government House Leader on an introduction.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce, in our gallery, a home care worker from the fair Town of Windsor (Interruptions) in the Annapolis Valley, Debbie Drysdale, who is visiting with us today. I would ask the honourable members to give her the normal welcome that we give to visitors from the Valley. (Applause)

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

RESOLUTION NO. 2684

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

Whereas on November 22, 1942, Clyde and Ina York were married; and

Whereas Clyde and Ina have had a loving marriage that has included four children, seven grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild; and

Whereas Clyde and Ina will celebrate their 60th Wedding Anniversary at a family dinner on Saturday, November 24, 2001;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Clyde and Ina York on their 60th Wedding Anniversary and wish them many more years of happiness.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 7442]

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2685

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

Whereas Allison and Ronalda Woodworth and Kyla and David Pierik, owners of Apple Berry Farm Market in Bridgewater, will be receiving the Eastern Regional Retailer of the Year Award from the Canadian Gift and Tableware Association in Toronto in January; and

Whereas this award recognizes outstanding achievement in Canadian retailing and is based on visual merchandising, store design, business achievement, advertising and promotion and community involvement; and

Whereas Apple Berry Farm Market was chosen from a field of hundreds of entities from Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Allison and Ronalda Woodworth, Kyla and David Pierik and staff of Apple Berry Farm Market for being a recipient of the Canadian Gift and Tableware Association's Eastern Regional Retailer of the Year.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

RESOLUTION NO. 2686

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

[Page 7443]

Whereas Dartmouth resident, Sandra Everett, has recently completed her term as Chairman of the Halifax Regional School Board; and

Whereas throughout challenging and ever-changing times, Mrs. Everett has faithfully served the interests of our young students in the metro area and helped bring positive contributions to the region's education system; and

Whereas Mrs. Everett has devoted her time not only as a school board member and chairman, but also previously held the position of chairman of the provincial association;

Therefore be it resolved that all members thank Sandra Everett for her tremendous contributions through her various leadership roles with the school board and wish her well as she continues to serve as a member of the Halifax Regional School Board.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 2687

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

Whereas many communities in this great province depend on their volunteers; and

Whereas Neil White of New Waterford has contributed much to his community by volunteering many hours of his time to several non-profit clubs and organizations; and

Whereas he has been chosen by the Government of Canada as Volunteer of the Year;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Neil White for his community spirit on being chosen by the federal government as Volunteer of the Year.

[Page 7444]

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 Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 2688

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

Whereas the Canadian National Oldtimers Baseball Federation has honoured Petit- de-Grat, Richmond County, native Roy Boudreau by naming an over-35 division and divisional trophy after him in recognition of his contributions to the national growth of oldtimers baseball; and

Whereas Roy Boudreau, who led the Richmond Gannets to the finals of the first ever oldtimers baseball tournament held in Hamilton, Ontario in 1993, also served as Director for Nova Scotia on the National Oldtimers Baseball Executive, making contributions to provincial and national oldtimers baseball; and

Whereas Roy Boudreau, a local sports historian, released his 1997 book entitled The History of the Petit-de-Grat Redcaps, 1947-1997, and also taught history and political science for over 30 years at IMDH and the Richmond Academy, earning him the respect of both students and support of his fans for his leadership and friendship, both on and off the field;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend their sincerest congratulations to Roy Boudreau and his family on being honoured by the Canadian National Oldtimers Baseball Federation and thank him for his many accomplishments, both on the baseball field and in the classroom.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 7445]

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. 2689

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

Whereas J.K. Rowling, the author and creator of Harry Potter has inspired record numbers of young people to lose themselves in a good book; and

[2:45 p.m.]

Whereas any author who can create such enthusiasm about reading in school-aged children and adults alike has performed something magical; and

Whereas this enthusiasm has spilled over and motivated young readers to also read magazines and newspapers with articles about Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling, and I can attest to this because of my daughters, Katie and Laura;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate J.K. Rowling and thank her for sharing Harry Potter with the young people of the world and motivating them to read everything and anything about Harry.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 7446]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2690

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 the Volunteer; 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 Mrs. Luella Henniger was honoured by awarding her with a pin and a certificate;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature congratulate Mrs. Luella Henniger on her volunteer efforts and for the pin and certificate bestowed upon her by the Colchester-East Hants and 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 Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 2691

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

[Page 7447]

Whereas Paul Dulong of Meteghan River was determined to enrol in a course at Nova Scotia Community College in order to pursue a career in food service; and

Whereas Paul Dulong recognized the need to improve his reading skills and now volunteers time encouraging others to do the same; and

Whereas Paul Dulong was awarded the Canada Post Individual Literacy Achievement Award during the International Literacy Days awards and recognition ceremony in September;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend congratulations to Mr. Dulong for his outstanding achievement in earning this 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 Chester-St. Margaret's.

RESOLUTION NO. 2692

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

Whereas Vernon Oickle's fifth book, Ghost Stories of the Maritimes, is meant to spook and entertain; and

Whereas this collection will soon be followed by a second volume of ghost stories, this prolific author also has a mystery novel due out this year; and

Whereas this author of tales and mysteries enjoys non-fiction too, and is the current editor of the Bridgewater Bulletin and Progress Enterprise;

[Page 7448]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Vernon Oickle on the publishing of his new books and applaud the scope of his talent which many readers enjoy.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 2693

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

Whereas sweatshop or garment workers, mostly young women, are forced to work long hours under harsh and unsafe conditions for less than a living wage; and

Whereas over the last six months Oxfam's "No Sweat" campaign has been raising awareness about the issue of sweatshop abuses and collecting labels from shirts;

Whereas current labelling of clothing tells us nothing about the conditions under which our clothing is made;

Therefore be it resolved that this House support groups like the Catholic Women's League who are working with Oxfam in their campaign to pressure Industry Minister Brian Tobin to change the Textile Labelling Act so that labels will disclose the location of factories where clothes are made.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 7449]

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 Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 2694

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I waited a long time to read this one, but here it goes.

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

Whereas Dr. Mahmood Elahi has begun work as a new daytime emergency room doctor at the Strait Richmond Hospital ending a vacancy which existed for over 11 months; and (Applause)

Whereas the Strait Richmond Hospital provides emergency and regular health care services to the residents of Richmond County, the Town of Port Hawkesbury, and Inverness County; and

Whereas recruitment efforts to find a new emergency room doctor have been undertaken by the staff and administration of the Strait Richmond Hospital; the Strait Area Physician Recruitment Committee; Dr. Mike MacKenzie and Mr. Kevin MacDonald from the local district health authority; Mr. Frank Peters, the provincial physician recruiter; local municipal councils; and the entire community serviced by Strait Richmond Hospital;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend a warm welcome to Dr. Mahmood Elahi and his family to the Strait area and extend their sincerest thanks to all those who worked tirelessly towards making Dr. Elahi's arrival possible.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 7450]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants East on an introduction.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, today it is a pleasure for me to introduce a second constituent from my constituency, a lady from the South Rawdon area in Hants East, and I would like the House to give a warm welcome to Ms. Cheryl Corissta as she rises. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 2695

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

Whereas despite the lowering of interest and mortgage rates by leading financial institutions since the economy cooled off in the second half of this year, many retail chain and department stores are still charging outlandish interest rates of nearly 30 per cent if an account is 30 days past due; and

Whereas interest rates that are this excessive can only take additional money out of the economy, where it is actually needed; and

Whereas interest rates of almost 30 per cent on overdue accounts will only hinder many individuals from purchasing additional goods;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly, through this resolution, urge those Canadian companies and retail chain outlets charging excessive interest on overdue accounts to re-examine the rates of interest being charged and bring them down to a more reasonable level.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 7451]

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

RESOLUTION NO. 2696

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

Whereas the community of Bedford enjoyed the Fourth Annual Light Up Bedford Parade on Sunday evening, November 18, 2001; and

Whereas the parade had the sponsorship of Bedford Atlantic Superstore and support from such groups as the Bedford Lions Club, which provided the tree for lighting, the Royal Bank, Provident Developments, DownEast Mobility, Sunnyside Mall, HRM and Dominion Insurance; and

Whereas 30 groups and organizations prepared lighted floats with a Christmas theme, with school children and the community contributing 890 kilograms of food and raising over $1,500 to help the Metro Food Bank;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the efforts of the committee, the volunteers, the sponsors, the entrants, and the contributors for a superior effort and a wonderful parade.

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 2:53 p.m. We'll end at 4:23 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

[Page 7452]

HEALTH: HOME CARE/NURSING HOMES - COST COMPARISON

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, home care workers provide vital services to the elderly, the disabled, the sick and the dying. The support they provide their patients and families includes personal care, nutrition, housekeeping, health care tasks and respite. Without home support, many Nova Scotians in need are forced into nursing homes and hospitals for care. It is well documented that home care is less expensive than nursing homes and hospital care. So I want to ask the Minister of Health, can you tell us how much less does it cost to provide care through home support than to provide care in a nursing home?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member does raise the concern of an important group of health care workers in this province. The home support workers obviously perform a very valuable role, and they support not only people who are sent home from the hospital, but others who have some type of affliction which prevents them from functioning independently all the time. We recognize the home support workers and thank them for their contribution.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it is not enough to thank them; you have to pay them. That's the point. Health care costs - and perhaps the minister didn't hear the question - but health care costs for clients in home care are a fraction of the cost of facility care, but many people who could stay in their homes with home support are not getting that service for the simple reason that there is a shortage of home care workers. There is a serious recruitment and retention problem in home care. Wages are the major problem, not only because they are inconsistent throughout the province, but because they are simply too low. My question to the minister is this, why won't you ensure that there is wage parity for all home support workers regardless where in the province they are employed?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the home support workers, a number of them in this province, are currently in negotiation, as I think the honourable member knows and other members of the House know that there have been negotiations concluded with three or four of the locals that are members of CUPE. Currently the negotiations are ongoing with NSGEU locals and I am confident that fair settlements will be reached in due course.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, you know the other thing is that wages are not the only issue. Home care workers never know from one week to the next how many hours that they will be scheduled for. That means they are never sure of what their wages will be. Home care workers are quitting their jobs in favour of working in nursing homes or call centres where at least the hours are regular and the pay is better. This minister has decided to play softball with the doctors, but hardball with the home support workers. I ask the minister, how many more home support workers have to quit, how many have to be forced to go on strike before you provide the funding necessary to satisfy the very reasonable demands of the home support workers?

[Page 7453]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as I have said, the negotiations, particularly between the home support workers who are members of the NSGEU locals - and there are some 13 of those ongoing - the province, at least the agencies that are funded by the province, have reached satisfactory agreements and ratified agreements with a number of the locals that are associated or are members of the CUPE association.

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

HEALTH - CARE WORKERS: TREATMENT - FAIRNESS

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. This Premier and this government have made it their mandate to divide and conquer. They have continually pitted one group against another, whether it is regions of this province or groups of workers. In doing so, this government hopes to distance itself away from its own problems. The home care support workers are here today to say to this Premier and to this government, no more. My question to the Premier is, why does he and his government feel that it is important to treat different groups of health care workers with a different level of respect?

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, this government respects the negotiation process that goes on between employer and employee in this province. The Minister of Health has described, in answering another question, that those negotiations are ongoing and, in fact, some of them have been concluded.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, as any Nova Scotian who has been in this situation would know, in-home support workers are vital. They are waiting for the results of negotiations with their counterparts in other parts of the province. Strike action by people who have dedicated their entire lives to caring and sharing with their clients must be a very difficult decision indeed. My question to the Premier is, will he make the commitment here today that his government will reconsider its position before heading into the next round of bargaining?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health had previously described the state of negotiations between the agencies and the in-home support workers, and I would ask the Minister of Health to bring the member opposite up to date.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as I had indicated already, there have been three collective agreements worked out and ratified. The negotiation between the CUPE locals, and there are some 23 of those, 23 agencies in the province, 13 of them are NSGEU, at least of the unionized group I should say, because there are a number of home support agencies that are not unionized. The negotiations started within the last six months and I am pretty confident that there will be satisfactory conclusions reached in the relatively near future.

[Page 7454]

[3:00 p.m.]

MR. GAUDET: On October 28, 1988, the Tory Critic for Health, in a debate about home support workers stated, "Maybe we can look at a wage parity across the Province - that is fair, that is reasonable." On Monday, November 19, 2001, the member for Annapolis tabled a resolution with the Clerk without reading it into the record, stating that, " . . . we should acknowledge the devotion and contributions of home support workers." My question to the Premier is, will the Premier follow his colleagues' lead and commit to wage parity for home support workers across the province?

THE PREMIER: The member opposite has just heard the Minister of Health describe on more than one occasion, a fair negotiation process that is going on between in-home support workers and the agencies. That process is fair and it will result in a wage settlement that will be fair to both sides.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH: HOME CARE WORKERS - HOURS

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I am tabling a letter sent by Linda McKinnon to our MLA, the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid. Linda, who is with us today, has been working as a home care worker for the past five years in this province and she, like many others, is justifiably frustrated with her working conditions. Not only are Linda's hourly wages inadequate, but she's never sure how many hours she's going to work from one week to another; it's impossible to know what her weekly paycheque is going to be. I want to ask the minister, will you tell Linda and the other women who are here today precisely why they should continue in a profession where their hours of work are so unpredictable and varied?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Home support workers are a very valuable part of the health care system in this province. I would like to thank those people who are here today for the service that they have given. As the honourable member for Halifax Needham knows, collective bargaining is ongoing and the conditions that emerge following that, at the successful conclusion of the collective bargaining process, are not up for debate here on the floor of the House.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Working women in the health care system in the Province of Nova Scotia are getting sick and tired of this government's patronizing and their condescending attitude, and they're not prepared to be exploited any longer. If you abuse us, you'll lose us, Linda writes. So I want to ask the minister, why is it unreasonable, as a request from these workers, to be guaranteed a 35 hour workweek in this province?

[Page 7455]

MR. MUIR: I assume from what the honourable member has said, that probably is an item that is on the table during the negotiation process.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: If the minister really knew anything about these workers and their work, he would know that what we have here are full-time workers who are being treated like a casual labour pool. That's what we have in this province. I want to ask the minister what specifically he's going to do to improve the working conditions for Linda and for her co-workers, so they aren't forced to leave the Home Care Program in Nova Scotia.

MR. MUIR: I understand the concern being expressed by the member for Halifax Needham on behalf of her constituents. Indeed, as I have indicated, our Party, like all other members of this House, recognizes the contribution and the importance of home support workers to our health care system. The fact of the matter is that there is a collective bargaining process ongoing. They know it, we know it, the people in the gallery know it, and there will be a fair and reasonable settlement at the end of that process.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

HEALTH: HOME CARE WORKERS - WAGE SETTLEMENT

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question, too, is to the Minister of Health. This government has been the beneficiary of an excess of $300 million of federal transfers in the last two years, also an extra $200 million has been given in general revenues by the federal government this year alone. My question to the Minister of Health is, will the minister commit the appropriate amount of money required, because of these additional windfall revenues, to implement a fair and equitable wage settlement with home care support workers in the Province of Nova Scotia?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am surprised that that type of question would come from a member of those benches who at one time occupied the position of semi-Finance Minister. He knows as well as I do, and he knows very well because he and his colleagues went through this, that there is a collective bargaining process ongoing and that there will be a successful conclusion when that bargaining process is over.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, it was that government that stood in their place around the province and said $46 million will fix the health care system, and we will hire nurses and we will fix the problems of health care in Nova Scotia. It was that Premier and that minister who stood in their constituencies and promised Nova Scotians that story. Hospitals won't be able . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Lunenburg West on his first supplementary, please.

[Page 7456]

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, obviously they're feeling guilty. The health and safety of Nova Scotians in home care systems are at risk. Hospitals won't be able to discharge their patients and, in turn, the health care system will back up again and the minister knows that. My question to the minister is, will the minister state here today for all Nova Scotians that he understands the risk he is creating for Nova Scotians and will rethink his government's offer before returning to the bargaining table for home care support workers?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would just like to remind the honourable member for Lunenburg West that this province received $106 million less in CHST payments since 1993 than when he was in office in 1993. I would just like to point that out. Again, I want to tell you that this province is committed to concluding fair and affordable agreements with all of its public sector employees.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary. It's interesting, this government received $0.5 billion in additional revenue in the last two years; $0.5 billion additional revenue over what their projections were. My final supplementary to the minister is, why hasn't the minister, with all this additional revenue at his disposal, recognized the value of . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. There is too much noise in the Chamber. It's very difficult for any of us, the Clerks, myself or anyone in the House or in the Chamber to hear the questions and answers. I would ask the honourable members to respect the speaker on the floor, please. The honourable member for Lunenburg West has the floor on his final supplementary.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I will start my final supplementary again. This government has had in excess of $0.5 billion of additional revenue coming into their coffers in the last two years alone. This government seems to be able to just do anything to help doctors and, at the same time, have a problem trying to negotiate a fair deal for home support workers in the Province of Nova Scotia. My final supplementary is, why hasn't the minister, with all the additional revenues at his disposal, recognized the value of home support workers and matched this recognition with fair and equitable wage settlements today?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, this government does recognize the value of home support workers and I am pretty confident, as the Health Minister and having seen a number of agreements concluded, that there will be a fair and reasonable settlement worked out between the NSGEU and the government. The honourable member raises the issue of additional revenues to this government, but I would just like to remind the House that those revenues that have come in would just about cover the deficit he left. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

[Page 7457]

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

EDUC.: FIN. WRONGDOING - TIMELINE

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, since the serious issues of financial mismanagement and wrongdoing have become public, the Education Minister has said that she would be as open and forthcoming as the law allows by making public all relevant information as soon as she could. The minister has asked Nova Scotians to trust her. She tried to give the impression that she was on top of this and that she would get to the heart of the matter swiftly and she told us there would be accountability. But as the story unfolds, the facts tell a different story. There is enough political intrigue to go around. So I want to ask the minister, will you provide this House with a day-by-day timeline indicating who in your department knew what and what action was taken?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I am as big a fan of facts as the Leader of the Opposition. We will continue to make public the facts as we know them. It appears to me that what the Leader of the Opposition is asking for are the kinds of rumours that are - so and so has spent this day, change the next, change the next day. We are going to report facts as we know them and everything that we can . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the honourable members to please allow the minister the floor when she is answering the question, as was allowed the person asking the question. The honourable Minister of Education has the floor.

MISS PURVES: . . . the facts and the timelines as we know them, when we know they are indeed facts, they will be presented to the public and to this House.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the minister has repeatedly responded to questions in this House and from the media by saying that she first became aware of some concerns at the Strait Regional School Board on October 4th. She didn't make any public statements until October 22nd. We know that Liberal Jack Sullivan and her deputy minister had a meeting sometime in mid-October. So my question is this, will the minister tell us and all Nova Scotians when she knew the details of the discussions between Liberal Jack Sullivan and her deputy minister?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, again, going back to facts, I think the member is aware that I was not at the conversation with Mr. Sullivan and the deputy. I was told that day the essence of the conversation with Mr. Sullivan. I agreed with the deputy's action and we proceeded to prepare to make the facts, as we knew them, public. I think that you would agree that the time between October 4th and October 22nd, in terms of government, is practically light-years in speed.

[Page 7458]

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, we are talking about the loss of money that came right out of the classroom and went into the wallets of individuals who were questionably entitled to it. I want to ask this. This was a significant financial problem. Will the minister tell the House why it was and why she agrees with the actions of the deputy minister when he attempted to buy time, to provide cover for Jack Sullivan and the failed system of financial accounting, by advising the Strait Regional School Board that it need not hold an emergency meeting, but that the matter could be dealt with eight days later at the general meeting?

[3:15 p.m.]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition and I have a very different interpretation of buying time because what happened at that meeting with the deputy was, in fact, Mr. Sullivan asked to buy time until November 1st and the deputy said no, there's no buying of time.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

PREMIERS CONF. (B.C.) - EXPENSE POLICY

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. Two weeks ago the Premier was asked about excessive spending that resulted from the Premiers' Conference in British Columbia, and at that time the Premier stated that he had approved the expenses of those who accompanied him. So I would like to ask the Premier, did the Premier adhere to the travel policy which stipulates that all out-of-town travel expenses must be approved by the minister responsible?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am not aware of any breach of procedure.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I would like to table an e-mail discussion from the office manager at the Premier's Office to the Freedom of Information Officer. This e-mail clearly states that the Premier's executive assistant did not follow the travel policy. In fact, the executive assistant filed two sets of expense statements for the month in question: one before our caucus questioned this outrageous spending and one afterwards. The Premier was misleading this House two weeks ago when he claimed that he followed the travel policy. My question, why did the Premier's executive assistant try to hide the trip to Victoria by not claiming the expenses on his monthly statement?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I have not seen the e-mail which the member opposite has tabled. I will have a look at it and I will look at the matter. The matter is one of detail, and if the member opposite wants the details, he's certainly entitled to them.

[Page 7459]

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, maybe I can shed some light for the Premier. I happen to have some of the detail with me here today. It's a tale of two expense statements. The executive assistant's first statement for August was originally reported at $142 and the second one, which came after our caucus questioned that trip, was quietly submitted at over $3,100. Now, that's a difference of close to $3,000. So my question to the Premier is, can he explain the discrepancy in those two statements?

THE PREMIER: The member opposite is waving pieces of paper which I assume he's going to table so we can have a look at them, but you cannot answer a question as detailed as that, that requires him to be reading off a piece of paper, and we don't have the piece of paper. Let's have a look at the piece of paper. The member opposite is entitled to an answer and he will get the answer.

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

EDUC.: P3 CONTRACT - RENEGOTIATE

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. Back in March 1999 the then-Liberal Minister of Education rushed to sign a terribly vague P3 contract with George Armoyan and Scotia Learning Centres. I will table the contract so all members can see how poorly worded and vague it really is. It does not adequately define concessions, and so now Mr. Armoyan wants a 35 per cent cut of all the bake sales and chocolate bar sales our schools have to have. This allows Mr. Armoyan to charge $50 an hour for after-school community group use, and, in fact, it has led to 40 separate sections of the contract being arbitrated.

My question to the Minister of Education is, will the minister commit here today that if you aren't satisfied with the results of the arbitration that this minister will renegotiate the contract so the money raised by students won't end up in the hands of multi-millionaire George Armoyan?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, we are quite confident that the results of the arbitration will be on our side. Yes, in answer to the member's question, we will be doing everything to make sure that the monies in question end up where they are supposed to be, and that is to the benefit of schools and the children in those schools.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, again to the Minister of Education, one of the items that is part of the arbitration is the technology refresh, the pool of money set aside to upgrade computers and software. That amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars. George Armoyan wants to take students' lunch money, now he wants to take their computer upgrade money as well. My question to the Minister of Education is, will the minister confirm that Scotia Learning wants to use the technology refresh fund to help pay the salaries of its computer technicians, which is not what the contract was meant for?

[Page 7460]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I can certainly confirm that there is a dispute over the meaning of the fund for technology refreshment. The department takes the position that the fund was meant for computer upgrades not computer maintenance, and that is indeed one of the points in the dispute up for arbitration.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, again to the Minister of Education, I am also going to table a letter dated October 19, 1999 that was provided to our office by the Department of Education today. It shows that the Department of Education has been in the process of negotiating these concession issues, at least back two years, with Scotia Learning. They have known of this problem for awhile. Given that it has been at least two years since the Department of Education has been aware of the contract dispute with Armoyan and Scotia Learning, can the minister please tell us today how much, in total value, is at risk or at stake with regard to these arbitrations? Does she know the answer to that?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I don't have a total dollar value on that, but to the extent it's possible to provide I will certainly provide it to the House.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

PREMIERS CONF. (B.C.):

CHIEF OF STAFF - TRAVEL ARRANGEMENTS

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. On November 6th the Premier was asked about two plane tickets that his chief of staff purchased to attend the Premiers Conference in British Columbia. As a result, she actually purchased two tickets for one trip. At that time the Premier told our caucus that he would report back to us because he didn't have any knowledge of that trip. The Premier claims that he's open and accountable, but our caucus had to apply under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to find out just what was so important in Toronto. My question to the Premier is, by now he should have spoken with his chief of staff about that trip, what is the chief of staff hiding about that trip, and why did she make that side trip to Toronto?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I wish to correct a mistaken impression that the member opposite has created. He made reference that he had to go through freedom of information to get the information, he did not require that, he simply had to ask government. We will provide expense information on request to save the expense of going through the freedom of information process. The member opposite will receive that information.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, either the Premier doesn't know or he is refusing to disclose that information. The people of this province have a right to know what the Premier's chief of staff was doing in Toronto, and that cost them more than $1,000 for her to be there. That's not an unreasonable request. I am sure that the chief of staff is a kind and

[Page 7461]

compassionate individual who only has the interests of Nova Scotians at heart, and I am sure that if the Premier asked her then she would make that information available.

My question to the Premier is, the Premier won't disclose what urgent business took the chief of staff to that meeting in Toronto that cost Nova Scotian taxpayers more than $1,000. Why not, Mr. Premier? Why not tell us why she was there?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can report to the member opposite that the government will be credited for the second ticket and it will be made available for future travel by any government employee. So there was not a wasted ticket. So again, the member opposite is confused about what is happening.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, you know, it sounds to me like somebody got caught with their hand in the cookie jar. The Premier claims that this is an open and accountable government. He's asking Nova Scotians to be frugal at everything they do, but at the same time his staff is on a spending spree in this province. My question is, why does the Premier say that he's open and accountable when requests to his own office are denied? We had to appeal the Freedom of Information Act. They deny those requests. Why doesn't he follow his commitments to produce information to this House?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite is going to have any credibility in suggesting that government is not open and accountable then he shouldn't be standing up in Question Period and waving pieces of paper containing the information that he has asked for, given to him by this government.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

COMMUN. SERV.: PROV. HOUSING EMERGENCY -

REPAIR PROG. FUNDS

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, imagine that you live in a mobile home, you are disabled and unable to work, you are barely able to make ends meet on your disability pension, you have a window missing and the skirting is in bad repair. The cold weather is coming and it is all but impossible to keep warm. You turn to the government for help and what do you suppose you are told? You are told that you qualify for a grant but, sorry, the program is out of money until next April. So I want to know, will the Minister of Community Services explain why the Provincial Housing Emergency Repair Program is out of money a full five months before the end of the fiscal year?

[Page 7462]

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I have had discussions with the honourable member about a number of areas and people looking for housing grants. As I have indicated to the honourable member, those programs are in great demand across this province. We attempt to meet them as best we can but the demand is great for those programs.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if that was an answer or not. We know the demand is great. Actually, there is a waiting list now of 300 people. So my question to the minister again is, why are you out of money five months ahead of the end of the fiscal year?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated to the honourable member, we try to meet the demands as people send in their applications. We meet those demands as best we can. At the point in time when we have reached our target then we have to slow the process down.

MR. MACDONELL: Well there is a big difference between slowing the program down and stopping it. There are a number of grants available under the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program, funded 75 per cent by the federal government and 25 per cent by the provincial government. One of those grants is an emergency repair program. Mr. Speaker, you may be thinking that this is a solution and that people in need can apply there. Well, Mr. Speaker, you would be wrong; they're out of money as well. So I ask the Minister of Community Services, again, emergency means need is right now, Mr. Minister, not in April, so what do you suggest these people do to get the repairs they need before the worst of winter weather arrives?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member brings forward some issues that we are facing all the time with people with challenges. We have our adult residential facilities, we have seniors' facilities that need repair. They are looking for renovations, they are looking for upgrades. We meet that demand as best we can. That's one reason why this government is so involved with the other provinces and the federal government, to continue to bring more money into that sector so that we can meet those demands.

[3:30 p.m.]

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

AGRIC. & FISH.: ALEUTIAN DISEASE - TESTING

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. The mink industry has been growing in importance over the last five years. This year alone, the industry is expected to generate $35 million in gross sales from 100 farms; 85 per cent of the sales come from Digby and Yarmouth Counties. Aleutian disease threatens this whole industry in Nova Scotia, yet the province is imposing user fees that could make a bad situation worse.

[Page 7463]

My question to the Premier is, why is the Premier's government threatening this vital industry by charging user fees for this important testing service?

THE PREMIER: The member opposite asks a question about a very important Nova Scotian industry, the mink farming industry. I refer that to the minister responsible.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: The member opposite asks a very vital question to an important part of Nova Scotia's agriculture. Aleutian disease certainly is a major threat to the mink industry, and what the province has done last year and this year is set a block of financing aside for the testing of Aleutian disease. We have ongoing discussions with the industry if they desire and require more testing on how it should be funded, but those discussions are ongoing with the executive of the industry.

MR. SPEAKER: I would like to remind all members to make sure their cell phones are turned off, please.

MR. GAUDET: My next question is for the Minister of Economic Development. The government gets huge returns from the mink industry in the form of income and payroll taxes. The industry is not subsidized. In fact, the industry players recently invested $2 million for a state-of-the-art pelting plant. The Minister of Economic Development uses payroll rebates for new jobs. The mink industry employs somewhere around 800 employees. Compared to the $35 million the industry generates in income, testing only costs $250,000 a year. My question to the Minister of Economic Development is, why can't the minister simply see testing in the same light as the payroll rebate so that the industry is allowed to grow?

HON. GORDON BALSER: I think that question - while the Department of Economic Development is very concerned with growing the economy and working with all sectors to ensure that employment opportunities are maximized, I think the level of detail would be better answered by the Minister of Agriculture.

MR. FAGE: I thank the honourable member for his question and certainly there is approximately $300,000 in this year's budget allotted for testing of Aleutian disease. Also, the industry has great growth potential, and eradication and control of the disease with measurable outcomes is extremely important. That is one of the issues that we are currently discussing with the mink industry. Also, the mink industry, since it's not supply-managed as a commodity, takes full advantage of the NISA program where the federal and provincial governments contribute a significant amount of dollars to the income, support and protection of that industry.

MR. GAUDET: As I understand it, mink ranchers, up to last year, did not have to pay for any blood work done. However, in the last year, mink ranchers now have to pay 39 cents for blood work. My final question is for the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. The

[Page 7464]

industry is set to double its size over the next five years. My question to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries is, why won't the minister simply continue the testing program without user fees in order to maintain and expand this valuable Nova Scotia export?

MR. FAGE: As I said earlier, a block of financing, approximately $300,000, which is a significant amount of money, has been set aside for Aleutian testing. The industry participants, some of them have private labs and they pay for the full cost there themselves. The industry has voluntarily come to an agreement whereby if they exceed the $3,000, they will pay on their own and it was of their own negotiation that they would pay 39 cents for additional samples if they wanted to test them.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

ENVIRON. & LBR.: BANKRUPTCY - WAGE SECURITY

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to direct my question through you to the Minister of Environment and Labour. Our office has been in communication with the former employees of Lasik Vision Canada over the past couple of months. In March past the company didn't pay its employees. They immediately called upon the Labour Standards Board to take action against the employer to secure their wages. Later that same week, however, Lasik Vision Canada went into bankruptcy and they have not seen a cent since their wage claims immediately gave way to the interests of secured creditors.

I want to ask the minister, Mr. Speaker, would he advise whether in fact he and his department agree that in the case of companies teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, that it's important to act quickly to secure any unpaid wages owed to employees?

HON. DAVID MORSE: I would thank the member opposite for his question, and this is something that is being discussed with other Ministers of Labour across the country and just where it should fit into the creditor ranking in the case of a bankruptcy. That's a good question.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I can't tell the minister how good it makes me feel that he thinks it was a good question. But I think it's important to say that employees are in an incredibly vulnerable position. This is not a new situation; most employees know nothing about a company's problems until their paycheques bounce. They can't leave because that may jeopardize their EI entitlement, or the company may, in fact, recover. Even in cases where there is quick action by the Labour Standards Board, it could be too late to beat the bankruptcy provisions. What's needed is a mechanism to protect employees' wages the moment the company fails to meet its payroll.

[Page 7465]

I want to ask the minister, will he advise this House when he will introduce this type of mechanism, a legislative or regulatory scheme of some sort, to ensure that employees' unpaid wages are, in fact, secure?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, once again, I thank the member opposite for pursuing this important subject. This is something that we are pursuing as a group of Labour Ministers across the country. The matter that the member brings up is complex; it goes into the bankruptcy laws. There is a pecking order for creditors and I concur with the member opposite that employees should, perhaps, be considered to be moved up that order.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, what we've heard today, and what we continually hear from this government, is that workers' rights and the rights of working people are way down on the pecking list in terms of ensuring that they get priority. What we need in this province is legislation to make directors or officers liable for unpaid wages. It may be too late in the case of the Lasik Vision employees, but we know that in B.C. they have these kinds of provisions that have allowed them, we understand, to successfully secure wages for employees in British Columbia.

I want to ask the minister, Mr. Speaker, will he commit today to prevent a repeat of the Lasik Vision debacle by adding corporate officers liability and bring our Labour Standards Code into the 21st Century; will he make that move?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has been very much to the point. As he would appreciate, the whole matter of incorporation and protection from creditors is a very complex issue and it's not an issue that I think can be done on a case-by-case basis. I would suggest that this is exactly why there is so much discussion on this subject, because it is just not such a simple matter. However, I do concur that the rights of employees of bankrupt companies are something that we would like to see looked at in terms of creditor ranking.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

AGRIC. & FISH.: ALEUTIAN DISEASE - TESTING

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. (Interruption) Maybe this isn't very important to the Minister of Finance, but to the mink producers in Nova Scotia this may be an important question, Mr. Minister. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. The honourable member for Lunenburg West has the floor. I would ask you to give him the respect that he gives the other members of this House. Let him have the opportunity to ask his question.

[Page 7466]

MR. DOWNE: Remember that, Mr. Minister, respect. My question to the minister, when this minister slashed and burned the Department of Agriculture a little over a year ago and literally wiped out the Livestock Branch, many farmers across this province are now seeing the true effect of that decision. Like all farmers, the Nova Scotia mink ranchers in this province are also seeing the effect of the fact that they've lost their fur specialist, Mr. Johnson, in the Province of Nova Scotia. That specialist was important to an industry that is growing rapidly.

If that wasn't bad enough, now the minister wants to download on the mink producers the issue of testing for Aleutian disease. My question to the minister is, I have heard his previous answer and I don't think the industry is in support of this downloading, will this minister reconsider the downloading of the Aleutian disease testing program and take that responsibility on, like it is his responsibility to do so, for the mink industry?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I would remind the honourable member that the only slash and burn program that occurred in the Department of Agriculture and programs to farming occurred between the years of 1992 and 1999 when the people across the floor were in charge. There were over six major programs dropped. Since this government has come into power, there are five new development programs and a doubling of money spent on agriculture development and income support on the farms. So the slash and burn occurred between 1992 and 1998 when the former member was there.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, you know, in agriculture there are some larger farmers and there are some smaller producers in different commodities and that's the same as the mink ranchers. We have some small-sized operations just starting out and this industry takes a whole year to put into production. So the cash flow requirements are very tough on those producers. This minister now is saying to those small individual farmers, we are going to download the testing on you and I am saying that that is unfair. Now, I want the minister to know that this is not acceptable to the mink industry and my question to you, as minister, will you reassume the responsibility for the testing so that these small producers can properly have the regulated testing done in order to make sure that the industry is preserved and continues to grow and create jobs in western Nova Scotia?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, again, the honourable member appears to be confused or misinformed. The Aleutian testing program is in place. There's a block of money totalling $300,000-some, that was the same as last year, committed to it and each individual producer is pro-rated on their production so they are eligible for it by a design of the industry. So I don't know where the honourable member is coming up with his comments, but it is not reflecting the reality out there.

MR. DOWNE: Well, I hate to contradict the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, but I talked to the mink ranchers myself and that's where the information is coming from, Mr. Minister, not from you, but it's coming from the producers themselves. My final

[Page 7467]

supplementary to the minister, you know, mink farming is a vital part of the rural economy of Nova Scotia and certainly in the western end of the province it could this year exceed growth of some $45 million. The industry is asking for independent testing. The industry is asking for professional people to do the testing and they're looking for the industry that is regulated by a testing program.

Mr. Speaker, this Minister of Agriculture is prepared to do testing for the apple industry free of charge, why is he not prepared to do the same for the mink industry in the Province of Nova Scotia?

[3:45 p.m.]

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the mink industry is an important and vibrant part of Nova Scotia and certainly this government supports the mink industry strongly, has through the years, and will continue to in the future. Sales in this industry were record high last year and we have high hopes that their producers will increase that total output again. We have a huge opportunity to continue to grow in the industry, as we produce some of the premier quality mink in the world here in Nova Scotia. Making sure that Aleutian disease does not mutate and become a precursor to disaster for that industry is extremely important. That is why we spend the money and that is why we strongly support the mink industry.

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

EDUC.: ANNA. VALLEY REG. SCH. BD. - BUSING SAFETY

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. Today, my office obtained a letter from the private school bus company, DRL, to all its drivers in the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board and I will table that letter. The letter states that over the past year, drivers have become involved in several accidents costing tens of thousands of dollars. It also says, "Another ugly incident, which has reared its head, is drivers running out of fuel." The company accuses its own drivers of carelessness and threatens to fine them. We brought safety concerns involving this particular company to the attention of the minister in the spring of this year when a child was struck after exiting a bus, and the minister has failed to act. So my question to the Minister of Education is, why has the minister not acted to improve the safety of busing in the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, as the member opposite is quite aware, the busing in the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board, as in all school boards, is the responsibility of the school board itself. The school board monitors those situations and does keep the department informed of difficulties it may be undergoing, but direct questions about the operation of the buses in the Valley should be directed, quite properly, to the school board.

[Page 7468]

MR. DEVEAUX: That old scapegoat, the school board, that the Minister of Education likes to rely on from time to time, Mr. Speaker.

We asked about the safety record of DRL, which drives children to and from school in the Annapolis Valley. We asked the questions after a young girl was struck by a car after exiting a bus. The minister, at the time, last spring, said she did look into this incident and, in point of fact, the driver had called an ambulance. That is what Hansard says. However, I want to table a letter from the EMC to Vanessa Broome, the child's mother, that shows that in fact no ambulance was ever called to help that little girl when she was injured getting off a DRL bus. My question to the Minister of Education is, why did the minister give inaccurate information in this House about such a serious accident?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, at no time did I give inaccurate information to this House, if we are talking about the same accident. At least there was one accident in which the child was taken home by the parents before the ambulance could get there. This may not be the same accident. Never have I given inaccurate information to the House that I have not corrected. I will look into this situation again to make sure we were discussing the same accident.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, this is why it is a crucial issue though, because here is the letter and, yes, it is the same incident, Madam Minister, and the problem is that the ambulance was never called. The school bus driver asked that DRL call an ambulance and it was never called, and they investigate themselves with regard to these incidents. So clearly we have a school bus company that is not following proper procedures in ensuring that our children are going to be safe.

Let me table the list of accidents and complaints, which are also from DRL. In the spring, the minister stood and defended that process, allowing DRL to investigate itself with regard to accidents and complaints. Now that the minister has a better idea of the sorry safety record of DRL, and now that she is aware that she was given inaccurate information regarding a serious accident, what steps is she going to finally take to clean up the safety record of this company?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, it really disturbs me to hear the safety record of companies dragged across the floor of this House time and again, particularly that one in the Valley board, where we know the board made a very difficult decision and there are a lot of upset bus drivers that used to work (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. The honourable member was allowed the question, and I would ask that you allow the answer, please.

[Page 7469]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the record of that company is constantly under scrutiny by the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board. The school board made an extremely difficult decision in order to save money on its busing in order to put that money into the classroom. It was a difficult decision for them, it has raised a lot of resentments locally, and they are doing what they believe is the best service possible for the students in their board.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

PREMIER: FREEDOM OF INFO. - JOURNALISTS MEET

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it's quite ironic, we have seen again today another perfect example of how the Premier of this province has absolutely no idea of what his staff is doing. The Premier answered a question from the member for Glace Bay saying that any requested information about the Victoria trip by the Liberal caucus would be responded to, as he is saying that we have a letter already from his office saying that they denied us that information, and that is currently under appeal. Even better than that, after having made the request for information about the Premier's Chief of Staff, as soon as that question was answered, in fact, at 3:19 p.m. today, the Treasury and Policy Board puts out a press release saying that the information requested by the Liberal caucus will not be made available. Now we see the open and accountable government that the Premier spoke about earlier.

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Association of Journalists, Halifax Chapter wrote to the Premier with concerns about how his government is administrating freedom of information requests. The letter was discussed in an article of the Kings' Journalism Review, which I will table. The article has stated that the association has requested that the Premier sit down with them to have an honest and frank dialogue in order to iron out problems surrounding freedom of information requests with his office. My question to the Premier is, has the Premier held that meeting? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Premier didn't understand the question about the meeting. Would you repeat that? (Interruptions) Order, please. Would all members please give the honourable member the floor. It's not much wonder no one can hear the questions. Would the honourable member for Richmond just repeat the question in regard to a meeting?

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, a request was made by the Canadian Association of Journalists, Halifax Chapter after writing to the Premier complaining about his office's handling of freedom of information requests. Maybe his communication assistant up there can tell him. My question is, did the Premier hold that meeting as requested?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am not aware if that meeting has occurred, but I will check it out.

[Page 7470]

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I am always glad to hear when the Premier says he's not aware of meetings that were held that he was supposed to be at. It's good to hear from the Premier that at least he's aware of that. It's no wonder that the Premier wants to avoid this problem. Recently the review officer for the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act stated that one problem surrounding applications was the unnecessary number of people, to the requests in departments, that learned of it. I would like to table e-mails from the Premier's office manager that revealed that the Premier's Chief of Staff requested information on the status of a Liberal caucus request to his office, and in another case the Premier's executive director at Intergovernmental Affairs was attempting to synchronize information released between her office and a separate one, namely the Premier's office. In neither case were these individuals freedom of information officers.

My question is, can the Premier explain why his officers are treating freedom of information requests as if the Act doesn't even exist?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is aware that here in Nova Scotia we have the most open Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act in the entire country, that we provide, to the public and to those who request information, more information than any other government in Canada. The member opposite will obviously never be satisfied that we are giving enough information. All we can say is, we are the best. (Interruptions)

MR. SAMSON: They're the best laughingstock we've seen in a while, I'll give the Premier that much, Mr. Speaker, but not much else. I want to give you an example of what we're talking about here. A request was made as to the expenses for the Premier's principal assistant, Mr. David MacGregor. Here is the response to one of the e-mails that came. It said, "We need to talk. I had a meeting with Rusty. They would like to send out all the information at one time. She suggested that I do travel forms but I just realized I cannot do that. Can we meet around 9:00 tomorrow morning. My concern is that David's expenses were paid via the office etc. and not via the travel expense claim." This information, Mr. Speaker, just recently was revealed. The information about the Chief of Staff has still not been revealed.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. SAMSON: Will the Premier admit that his "see no evil, hear no evil" approach in this House has allowed his own staff to disregard proper procedures surrounding the freedom of information requests that his office receives?

THE PREMIER: I can now report to the member opposite that as a result of my request, the meeting did occur between Department of Justice officials, and they met with the Canadian Association of Journalists and it was at my request. I can also report to the member opposite that he should be mindful that the Nova Scotia Court of Appeals said that

[Page 7471]

we - we being Nova Scotians - have the most open and accountable freedom of information and protection of privacy law in the entire country.

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

EDUC.: SCH. OVERCROWDING - ALLEVIATION PLAN

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. In many parts of suburban Halifax, there are schools literally busting at the seams. Schools just opened have portables out front to deal with overcrowding. This is a serious problem for those who moved to new developments or new communities, and it seems it takes years for the province to recognize an overcrowding issue before it acts to build new classrooms. My question to the Minister of Education . . .

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

MR. DEVEAUX: My question is to the Minister of Education. Will the minister please tell this House what plan her government has for building new classrooms for communities where their schools are overcrowded?

HON. JANE PURVES: Our plan is the same for the overcrowding issue as it is for the student decline issue, and that is we listen. We listen to the school boards and their capital needs, we assess them through a committee and then if new schools are needed or renovations are needed, we proceed to do that.

That being said, the demands are very heavy for capital and renovations. When we receive a request from the Halifax Regional School Board to help deal with this situation, we will act as quickly as we possibly can, given the number of competing priorities in our school system as a whole.

MR. DEVEAUX: Again to the Minister of Education, the Halifax area is growing at an incredible rate. A lot of that growth is in the Hammonds Plains-Bedford-Sackville area. It's astonishing that a new school in that area that was built to house approximately 500 kids was recently opened and it now, currently, has 630 children in the school. Overcrowded schools are a serious detriment to learning and education. Why is this Minister of Education unwilling to do anything to ensure these kids have proper facilities in which to learn?

MISS PURVES: Having been at that school when it was opened, I agree with the honourable member that there is something wrong in the state of Denmark when it is overcrowded so quickly. However, we have to work with the school board requests for new facilities, and the school board first has to make its own assessment before we agree to help them with their assessments. We are doing that and have been doing that since we came to office.

[Page 7472]

[4:00 p.m.]

MR. DEVEAUX: Again to the Minister of Education, more classrooms are required in suburban Halifax. The problem is only going to get worse as the population continues to grow in these areas. Will the Minister of Education commit today to addressing the overcrowding problem by the beginning of the school year, September 2002, so that students in suburban Halifax are not treated like second-class students?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, yes, we will work with the Halifax board to try to achieve a solution out there, but there are a few issues that have come up that are not, in fact, true. Even in Halifax the student population is declining. What the school board needs and what we need are much better demographic projections. I think every member in the House would agree with that. At the same time that we are having to deal with overcrowding in some areas, we are looking at other areas where parents insist on keeping half-empty schools open. This is an ongoing difficult problem and I hope all members of the Opposition Parties will work together with us to help solve this issue.

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

PET. DIR.: PANCANADIAN AGREEMENT - LETTER TABLE

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the part-time Minister . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton South has the floor, and I would ask you to give him respect, please. It's very difficult to hear the questions.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate, the part-time minister, in case somebody didn't hear that the first time around. (Interruptions) I live in hope that the Premier will take my advice and soon appoint a full-time minister in that department. However, I will return to the present, and I would like to direct my question to the minister.

Mr. Speaker, I was somewhat pleased that the Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate gave me letters I requested during Question Period yesterday. However, once again he wasn't straight with his answer and we now know, as indicated in the letters, that Walter Tucker did meet with PanCanadian on September 13th. In case those letters weren't tabled, I am not sure whether they were or not, I will table them again for the benefit of those who might want to see them. However, there was one letter missing, and that was the letter from PanCanadian to Walter Tucker, which I also asked for. My question to the minister is, could the minister table that letter so Nova Scotians know what PanCanadian believes the province's position is with regard to the 50 per cent back-in provision on the pipeline?

[Page 7473]

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I would remind the member opposite that he, before me, was in fact a part-time Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate and seemed to enjoy that role very well. I, too, agree that it's important we recognize the importance of the energy industry to this province. In terms of the tabling of the letters, I, at his request, contacted the office and they brought forward correspondence. If there is a letter that is missing I will certainly follow up on that. I find it very interesting that the member opposite seems to have more intimate knowledge about the correspondence in the department than I did, in terms of Question Period at that time.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, if I have more information about what's going on in his department than he does, well shame on him. That's all I can say. If I know more about what's going on, then he's running some ship over there, I'll tell you that. My first supplementary is also to the minister. Yesterday the minister said the department only indicated that the transmission line had some value. I want to read to the minister from the letter in which it states, ". . . I would ask that you to begin immediate discussions with the Nova Scotia Petroleum Directorate regarding the potential acquisition of a Nova Scotia interest in the proposed PanCanadian trunkline."

Mr. Speaker, this minister must have gone to the same loose-with-the-truth school that the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley has been going to. I want to tell this House that this minister is playing fast and loose with the truth surrounding this whole issue of PanCanadian and the government's involvement.

MR. SPEAKER: Order. Order, please. The honourable member is making some comments that would be, to me, questionable in regard to the integrity of members of the House, and I would ask him to refrain from making comments, particularly to members who aren't able to stand and defend themselves. Order, please.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I will retract that because I was only joking. (Laughter) Like the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, I was only joking. My supplementary to the minister again is, could the minister inform the House how much the province is considering paying for the proposed transmission line?

MR. BALSER: I must say, it took the member opposite quite some time to get to the point of his question. It is the same question he has raised on a number of occasions in the past and I will provide him with the same answer that I provided in the past, because he seems to be a bit slow comprehending what I said in the past, and that is that the Province of Nova Scotia, under this government, unlike the previous government, recognized there is a value associated with the PanCanadian Deep Panuke project development. We want to ensure, unlike him under his part-time tutelage, that we will in fact maximize the benefits to Nova Scotians by making sure that PanCanadian is aware of our interest in all aspects of that project.

[Page 7474]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, that minister calls me slow after admitting that I know more that is going on in his department than he does; he has the nerve to call me slow. He has absolutely not a clue about what is going on in the Petroleum Directorate, but I want him to tell Nova Scotians about him playing fast and loose with $150 million of taxpayers' money that nobody seems to know anything about. That is the answer I want told in this House. My final supplementary to the minister is, the Finance Minister is on record as saying there is a high risk involved in the oil and gas sector and that the government should not be getting into this business. Those are the Finance Minister's words, in print, some weeks ago. In light of that, will the minister disclose what kind of monetary risk is at stake to the taxpayer if he chooses to exercise the back-in provision as indicated in the letter?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, in my response to a previous question about what the member knows, I was reflecting more on his ability to have access to the in-basket of correspondence in the department rather than his actual comprehension of the letters.

In terms of the back-in provision and what we are prepared to do, I have said the exploration part of this industry is very risky, but we have a known entity in terms of the back-in provision with the PanCanadian project. We want to determine the value of that. As to how much that will be worth to us at the end of the day, that is yet to be determined.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

NAT. RES.: FORESTS - SUSTAINABILITY

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question will be for the Minister of Natural Resources. The minister will recall that last year there was not full compliance with the requirement of registration with the Registry of Buyers. Two purposes of the registry are to gauge the demand for wood and to determine if it is being harvested sustainably. So will the minister advise what the lack of compliance has done to calculating whether we are cutting sustainably?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, could you ask the honourable member to repeat the question. I couldn't hear what he was asking.

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member for Hants East repeat the question please?

MR. MACDONELL: The minister will recall that last year there was not full compliance with the requirements of the registration with the Registry of Buyers. Two purposes of the registry are to gauge the demand for wood and to determine if it is being harvested sustainably. Will the minister advise what the lack of compliance has done to calculating whether we are cutting sustainably?

[Page 7475]

MR. FAGE: I believe the member is talking about the sustainability fund and the amount of deductions going into it. Compliance with registration, all buyers in Nova Scotia have to be registered with the department to be able to procure wood in the province or export it. I believe he's talking about the sustainability fund if he's talking about non-compliance and there is an agreed-upon time frame to bring everybody 100 per cent on.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I am glad to know that the minister knows what I am talking about, I am not sure if I know what he's talking about, but I want to say that the question is around the registry of buyers which is hooked to the sustainability fund, I hope. The minister is well aware that over the year much criticism has been levelled at the government for not having reliable figures on the annual cut and what's sustainable. The registry may be a helpful tool in determining this and without compliance, what's the point? Why haven't you taken measures to ensure that full compliance with the report requirements happen this year?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier and I hope the honourable member can understand, you have to be registered in the Province of Nova Scotia so we have 100 per cent compliance. That's what that means, honourable member.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my point was that we didn't have everybody registered so how could you get your sustainability fund up and working and the minister still hasn't addressed what he was going to do with those who didn't comply. Many people in the industry feel that there's been too much wink, wink, nudge, nudge by this government over ensuring sustainability. In fact, they feel that this government will not enforce its own requirements and that we have a toothless minister when it comes to enforcement. Can the minister assure us that when the reporting deadline has come and gone, that the figures that come out at the other end of his wood grinder will be based on 100 per cent compliance?

MR. FAGE: I really don't know if the honourable member is having problems being gummed to death but, again, there is 100 per cent compliance. I don't know what the member's problem is.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

HEALTH: PT. HAWKESBURY - AMBULANCE COVERAGE

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Today, as I said in my resolution, after 11 months we finally have a doctor at the Strait Richmond Hospital. A shortage of physicians in communities throughout the Strait area continues to be a serious problem. As if the Minister of Health's inaction on these issues was not enough, the minister decided to reduce overnight ambulance coverage in the Town of Port Hawkesbury to one ambulance to cover the town and surrounding areas. To add even more insult to injury, the decision to reduce this ambulance service was done without any

[Page 7476]

consultation with our local emergency officials, namely our volunteer firefighters and first responders.

My question to the minister is, why did the minister not have the decency to consult with local emergency officials prior to announcing this reduction in ambulance service when it is they who will have to take responsibility and fill the gap for the minister's misguided decision?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am delighted that there is a physician who began work in the Strait Richmond Hospital yesterday and I would like to compliment my colleague, the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury for his work with not only the community and board recruiters, but with our recruiter as well. (Applause)

With regard to the change in the ambulance service in Port Hawkesbury, the member is absolutely correct. As he well knows, there is a performance-based ambulance service in Nova Scotia and when adjustments are made to ours, it's done on the basis of hard data. There was initial consultation contrary to the opinion of the honourable member. Each individual fire department was not consulted, but there was a group meeting, Mr. Speaker, where there were representatives from that initially.

MR. SAMSON: With all due respect, Mr. Speaker, the minister tries to give credit to one of his colleagues about the hard work that he did. It is bad enough that the minister did not have any consultation with our emergency officials prior to the decision being made, but to make it even more insulting, the MLA for the area, the MLA for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, had to publicly humiliate himself at a public meeting by admitting that he had learned of the cut in the local paper. That shows you, really, how much discussion is taking place and how effective that member is for health care issues in the Strait area.

[4:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, a new contract had recently been signed with the EMTs in the Strait area which was reducing the number of hours they worked each week. As a result of this reduction, in order to maintain the same level of service in the Strait area, two new paramedics would have to be hired. My question to the minister is, will the minister confirm that the emergency health care needs of the residents of the Town of Port Hawkesbury and surrounding Strait area have been sacrificed due to a decision by this government and EHS not to hire two new paramedics and maintain the same level of service?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as I had mentioned in my reply to his first question, we have a performance-based ambulance system here. The number of hours of ambulance service any particular section of the province gets is based on hard data. The data showed that between the hours of 10:00 p.m. at night and 6:00 a.m. in the morning there was a minimal demand for ambulance service in that area. We committed to the community to review it after 30, 60

[Page 7477]

and 90 days. The 30 day review was completed and sent to the community. I can tell all members of the House, the level of service to that community was not diminished because of that decision.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I can tell you, speaking to the paramedics who cover that area, they certainly think the level of service has been diminished and that lives are being put at risk every day that that second ambulance is not on call in the Town of Port Hawkesbury and impacting surrounding areas. Local businesses, municipal units, fire departments and residents have spoken out against this reduction in ambulance service. In fact, even the MLA for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury stated at a public meeting that he felt the decision, which he only learned about in the local paper, was wrong and he would lobby the minister to have it reversed. I guess we'll have to wait 11 months to have any sort of success on that.

Mr. Speaker, I know for partisan reasons I won't be able to make the minister rescind his decision; however, a meeting was recently held with the minister and local emergency officials, along with the MLA for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury and the Minister of Tourism and Culture. My final question to the minister is, why does the minister continue to ignore the concerns of the people of the Strait area over this reduction by refusing to reverse the decision, especially in light of the fact that two of his own Tory colleagues have said that his decision was wrong and it should be reversed?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely correct. Like any good member, the representative from that area, the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, did approach me and hold discussions about the reasons for that decision and expressed to me that there were people in the community who were unhappy about the decision. As a result of his request we met with the emergency providers in that area . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. The questions and the answers are way too long. They are way too long. Unfortunately, it infringes upon the other members' rights.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH: PHARMACARE - CO-PAY

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I want to table an article. Last year the Journal of the American Medical Association published the results of a study done in Quebec on the adverse effects of cost-sharing among the poor and elderly of prescription pharmacy drugs. The study clearly demonstrates that increasing co-pay costs for seniors and social assistance recipients resulted in a sharp decline in the use of essential medication, including increases in emergency room use and other associated health care costs. My question to the minister is, given this evidence, will you commit to no further increases in the co-pay fees for Pharmacare in Nova Scotia?

[Page 7478]

HON. JAMES MUIR: The honourable member for Halifax Needham and others raised that study on a number of occasions in this House last spring. The problem with that study was, in looking at it, it was very immediate data. It is like anything else, it takes some time for it to flow through. I should also report to the honourable member - and, indeed, she may have seen it in the paper two days ago - that the pharmaceutical plan unfortunately, is in bad shape and has to be totally rethought in Quebec. The Finance Minister gave some directive to the Minister of Health there and it was reported two days ago. It's unfortunate, but it's true.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I didn't hear in that answer any commitment to the seniors or the sick of this province that this government wouldn't be further increasing the co-pay fees for Pharmacare. The seniors and the sick of this province should not be the ones that have to bear the brunt of this province's fixation on the bottom line. I want to ask the minister again if he will assure seniors that they will not have to bear the burden of increased premium charges for the provincial Pharmacare Program?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to hear this member finally admit that the cost of pharmaceuticals is increasing dramatically in this province as it is in any other province. Just getting her to recognize that is a major step ahead and I congratulate whoever put it to her.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Minister, I would like to say that if you and this government would really like to do something about controlling the cost of drugs, you need to deal with the pharmaceutical industry and the Patent Act. My final question to the minister is, Mr. Speaker, why haven't either you or the Premier told the federal government that their patent protection is unacceptable, it hurts seniors, the sick and the poor and it advantages large pharmaceutical corporations?

MR. MUIR: The issue of pharmaceutical coverage for our citizens and citizens right across Canada is a national issue as well as an issue in each individual province. As the honourable member well knows, it's been raised by the federal Minister of Health. Indeed, there's a task force to take a look at the whole issue of pharmaceutical costs and usage. At a meeting in Newfoundland about three weeks ago, the issue of a pharmaceutical plan for Atlantic Canada was again discussed and how the Atlantic Provinces can co-operate to do this and I can tell . . .

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

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

[Page 7479]

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

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 99.

Bill No. 99 - Assessment Act.

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, this is an issue that has consumed my constituent assistant in Timberlea-Prospect. It has consumed the interests of many Nova Scotians from one end of the province to the other and it's time that has been well spent because this is an important issue and we're going to have an important debate today. Just for the members opposite, I think it's of some consequence to quickly explain what Bill No. 99 is about. The bill fixes the assessed value of certain properties at the value appearing on the assessment roll for year 2001 and it requires the appointment of a select committee to receive public comments on the assessing of properties owned by residents of this province.

Now, I know what my job as an MLA is, it is to represent local issues. I know the member for Victoria will remember well the first time I stood in this House during those days of minority government and the minister at the time was sitting where the member for Bedford-Fall River is sitting and I nervously asked my first question at that time on this very issue. That was brought to me by residents of the Timberlea-Prospect constituency. But that issue is much more important now.

Is it my job locally to represent the issues of other constituencies. I have heard from across this province and I want to give you some of the destinations and I want to give the names. I've heard from Ross Blackburn, Western Head, Liverpool; I have heard from Nancy Friday-McBay from Gaspereau; I have heard from Elfreida Mossman, RR#1, Rose Bay; I have heard from Ray Carter who lives in East Porters Lake; I have heard from Thorne Sutherland in Blockhouse; and of course, I have heard from Lloyd Gillis - the minority report on volunteer planning - from Inverness. So this is not just the pet project of the member for Timberlea-Prospect, this is an issue that is important to constituents across this province, and I want to offer a few thanks at this time. I want to thank, for example, the member for Kings North and the member for Queens, and the member for Shelburne because I am getting calls from their constituents. I want to thank the member for Chester-St. Margaret's and the member for Eastern Shore because the word is out there that if you want the issue of unfair assessments of your property brought up in the Legislature and dealt with, then you call Bill Estabrooks and he will take care of it.

[Page 7480]

I was in Riverport, down on the South Shore of Nova Scotia, on Saturday. What a wonderful meeting it was. The unfortunate thing was that the Leader of the Official Opposition and myself were the only two MLAs there. It would have been a wonderful opportunity for MLAs from other Parties to sit and listen to some of the solutions. I want you to know, Mr. Speaker, that this particular bill comes from that meeting; that moratorium suggestion, that select committee of all MLAs, it comes from that meeting. It came from people who are out there making those suggestions.

I'd like to turn to another idea that was brought forward today by of all people, Bob Howse, who I'm led to believe is The Chronicle-Herald's Editor in Chief. He has submitted - and I am going to table this in a moment - in today's Herald, "A budding tax revolt." Now, Mr. Howse, didn't quite do us all justice. He made a few comments in here that are inappropriate, but he did point out a couple of solutions, the very sort of solution that might publicly be brought forward. I will table this in a moment. "Eighteen U.S. states, for example, have limited yearly increases . . ." in assessment. Secondly, he says " . . . some states provide a 'homestead exemption'." All ideas that could be brought forward at any time to this select committee, ideas that would be well received when we, as MLAs, have an opportunity to listen to what Nova Scotians have to say.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to table a question that was brought to my attention by Elfreida Mossman of Rose Bay. Elfreida writes and asks me this question - it's odd that she's not asking her own MLA, but we won't go there - "Why should our assessment go up if someone is foolish enough to pay the price real estate agents have put on their property? Why should residents who want to live and stay in their homes be penalized for that?" There is a question. This is an issue of real consequence to Nova Scotians. It's an issue for backbenchers, it's an issue for everyone . . .

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

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: What is the time Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: You have until 4:33pm.

MR. MACISAAC: That's shorter than the schedule I was given. I am pleased to rise to join the debate on Bill No.99, Act to Amend Chapter 23 of the Revised Statutes, 1989, The Assessment Act.

When many Canadians think of the number 99 they associate it with Wayne Gretzky or the Great One, as he is still called today. There is no danger of this bill being associated with greatness despite being Bill No. 99. This is a short and simple bill that falls short of dealing with a complicated issue. For starters, lets look at the reason for assessment. The assessment of property exists to provide for an equitable basis of property taxation in Nova

[Page 7481]

Scotia. What this bill proposes to do is to do away with equity and impose a phoney assessment on certain valuable waterfront properties in Nova Scotia. This is the sort of short-sighted approach that creates unfairness on a number of fronts, and I want to explain what I mean.

[4:30 p.m.]

The bill is saying that waterfrontage assessment should be capped at current levels. In other words, place a phoney assessment on these properties so the municipal tax won't be any higher. That is great now, if you own a $300,000 oceanfront property. So what does this do to the person who owns a $20,000 scrubland far away from any ocean breeze? It means that his property tax will be higher because municipalities will be forced to protect the revenues by increasing the tax rate for everyone. Imagine that. Owners of scrubland will be required to subsidize a tax break for owners of beachfront properties. Where is the fairness in that, Mr. Speaker? Two people living side by side on virtually identical properties with identical market values, but one paying a much higher property tax than his neighbor. Imagine the rift that would create between neighbors. I ask you, where is the fairness in that?

Mr. Speaker, the member for Timberlea-Prospect does not have a monopoly on ideas. I have received a lot of good suggestions from the Minister of Justice, who has attended many meetings on this issue in his riding. They are not the only ones who go to meetings. The member for Victoria has been very helpful. He has been listening to the concerns of his constituents in Baddeck who have been dealing with this issue. So also has the PC Association in Victoria made presentations to me on this very important issue. I am getting good advice from staff in my department and from my caucus colleagues. None of these people have suggested that the best way to fix the problem for some people is to create unfairness for somebody else.

Mr. Speaker, I have tremendous sympathy for people who through no fault of their own, find that their property tax bills are going through the roof, and that is the heart of the issue: the tax, not the assessment. Whatever solution is eventually found for this issue must come from the tax side of the equation. The function of assessment is to accurately measure the value of properties. It is as simple as that. This function is extremely important to municipalities, who depend on property taxes for most of their revenues. Municipalities already have the means to provide relief for someone who is unable to pay their property taxes. If there are other ways we can address this issue from the tax side of the equation, I am prepared to work with municipalities so that we can solve local problems in a way best suited to them.

I believe my time is gone, is it? It is important to remember that this is not an issue for every Nova Scotian. Thank you for your time.

[Page 7482]

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

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to speak today on Bill No. 99, concerning amendments to the Assessment Act. Our caucus, of course, is in agreement that there are serious problems with the current system of property assessment in this province. My colleagues have spoken before in this House on this issue and shared their concerns. Both the honourable member for Lunenburg West and the honourable member for Victoria have constituents who have been hard hit by skyrocketing assessments. I may add that residents along the Bras d'Or Lakes in my constituency received the same treatment.

Clearly there is a serious problem when you have market assessments increasing from 50 per cent to over 400 per cent, in some parts of the province, on a yearly basis. Many rural Nova Scotians who are affected by the increases are forced to consider giving up their land. Their property taxes go up and up in response to market value while their incomes can't keep pace.

Mr. Speaker, this issue has shown us that different people value their lands in different ways. For some, land is just another type of investment. You may buy it low and hope it increases in value so you can make a profit. But this view is not shared by many rural Nova Scotians who have been hit by steeply rising assessments. Many Nova Scotians value their land for reasons that cannot be given a price tag.They prefer the rural way of life and land for them is about their history, their traditions and their culture. In some cases their homes have been in the family for generations. They want nothing more than to live their entire life in their home and then pass it on to their children, but if things don't change, members of the present and future generations of Nova Scotians stand to lose a key part of their heritage and their identity.

Make no mistake, Mr. Speaker, the rural way of life is at risk for Nova Scotians in some parts of this province. Unless the issue of rising assessments is addressed, then rural living will only be a luxury for the wealthy in some regions. What we have to offer in this province is unique and perhaps that has created part of the problem facing us today with such a hot real estate market, but it is the responsibility of this government and this House to address the concerns of those Nova Scotians who might have to give up their rural way of life against their will.

Mr. Speaker, I was very interested to see the solutions proposed in the bill put forward by the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect. At first I thought a page was missing because I couldn't find the provisions that allowed for increasing taxes for non-residents. After all, the honourable member did urge the government to do the right thing and increase non-residents' taxes and use the funds to subsidize taxes for permanent residents. I don't see that proposal in this bill and I just wonder why this member and his Party decided not to follow through with that proposal and put it in their bill today.

[Page 7483]

However, I am encouraged to see that the NDP decided to follow the lead of our caucus, Mr. Speaker, and call for a committee to consult with Nova Scotians throughout the province on this issue. That proposal, of course, as all members are aware, was suggested by the honourable member for Lunenburg West in the House on November 16th. We were very happy to hear the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect later echo this suggestion in the House on November 20th. On that date he asked the government if they would support a review of assessment procedures in the province. We're happy that the NDP finally recognized the wisdom of this proposal and included it in their private member's bill.

Mr. Speaker, our caucus knows that Nova Scotians want to have a say on this issue and we were first to realize and accept the will of Nova Scotians in this House.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I would take it from the comments of the honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes that, in fact, even though his government did not introduce the bill, that they're going to support the bill that my colleague brought forward. I want to thank my colleague, the member for Timberlea-Prospect, for introducing Bill No. 99 in this House. The bill is one with which I concur and it offers direction to address the inequities of certain property assessments.

One such property assessment, Mr. Speaker, that hasn't been talked about in this bill and needs much attention is the impact of gentrification on existing neighbourhoods. I would certainly hope that while we discuss this bill, that those kind of assessments are brought to the attention. I know that the member for Halifax Needham has talked about this and the impact that gentrification has on neighbourhoods. So I want to say with that, that I am going to say no more, but I will call for a vote on Bill No. 99.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank.

MR. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, the member for Timberlea-Prospect asks if I have any coastal communities in my constituency and the answer is, as he well knows, no, but I did have the opportunity to travel around this province a great deal and talk to a lot of Nova Scotians myself who have been impacted by assessment on coastal communities. As well, I have had the opportunity to, along with my colleagues, explore different communities surrounding the Province of Nova Scotia and although I understand the rationale behind the member's thinking for bringing Bill No. 99 to the floor of the House, the one huge flaw, and I would say huge flaw, with Bill No. 99 is that there's nothing in this bill that reflects an individual's ability to pay.

What this bill in essence will do is it will take an assessment along the Chester Basin, and I could point to a couple of properties along the Chester Basin. Mr. Robert Risley, for example, owns a beautiful house in Chester Basin, many people have driven by it and

[Page 7484]

admired this house; Mr. Michael Ondaatje as well. These are well-known, famous, rich Nova Scotians. In essence what this bill will do is it will freeze the assessed value of those two individuals' houses, and it doesn't reflect the ability to pay.

Mr. Speaker, the major flaw that I see with this is that it does not look at the individual's ability to pay. I will say this, one of the major flaws with using assessment as the basis for taxation is that it doesn't do that either, but it's the best bad system that we have. Another thing that has to be noted is that this will have an impact, not just on those people whose taxes will be frozen but those people who don't live on oceanfront property. What I'm saying is that if you live on non-oceanfront property and the municipality's tax assessment has frozen for a great section of its assessment base, then the only option that municipality has is to increase the taxes for all other property owners. This bill, in fact, would see, if it were enacted, municipalities raising taxes on all other property owners to cover off the assessment they will lose on these oceanfront properties.

Mr. Speaker, I'll tell you this, as a former municipal councillor, there has been a great deal of discussion amongst municipalities and amongst councillors over the years about the use of assessment, and many people say that the use of assessment for developing your tax bill is a regressive form of taxation. In fact, it very easily could be described as that, but one important factor that's not being mentioned here, and is something that absolutely needs to be said, is that municipal units have the ability, within the Municipal Government Act, to reflect an individual's ability to pay. I know, for example, the Halifax Regional Municipality has a program where they allow for people who can't afford to pay their property taxes to either defer those property taxes indefinitely or, I would add, they also provide a program to provide tax relief for those individuals. They have the ability to apply for and receive relief from a portion of those property taxes.

Mr. Speaker, what I find difficult to accept from the members opposite is one day they are criticizing this government for the impact that we have on municipalities and not consulting with UNSM, and the next day they bring forward a bill that will definitely have an impact on municipal governments and definitely hasn't received, to my knowledge, any consultation with UNSM, and . . .

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

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I am happy to have a few minutes to speak on Bill No. 99 today. The member for Timberlea-Prospect has mentioned that he brought this issue to the House several times, and I know that he has, in looking back at the record. The honourable member will remember that this issue was a key issue in Bedford-Fall River and around Halifax for a number of years. I think most honourable members from this area will know that this was a major impact in the amalgamation. It was a major impact in the area of

[Page 7485]

amalgamation, and when amalgamation was being discussed the issue surrounding that whole issue was, are the assessments consistent throughout the whole HRM. You're going to share services, you're going to have a tax rate, all members of HRM are going to be equal, are the assessments equal? That was a major issue that we discussed.

As I look at the bill - I looked at the bill that described people who would be exempt. It says the assessed value of a property or market of which is influenced by frontage on the ocean, a lake, a river or another body of water, or view of the ocean, and it refers that that would be fixed at that year.

Mr. Speaker, that's me; they're talking about me. They're talking about me now, and I looked at this bill and I said well, how will I explain to my neighbours if this bill went through, that I am frozen and because they live in Paper Mill Lake, they don't see the lake, they live up on the hills in Bedford, why would they be exempt . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: It's only frozen for one year.

MR. CHRISTIE: Frozen for one year, but how would I explain in the coffee shop that I set out to go find and freeze my assessment. (Interruptions) The Bedford assessments have been going up for the last five years, that's been a major issue around and we have been having meetings. We have meetings discussing the tax rate; we have meetings about the things. However, how would I go and explain to the people, well, I look at this bill and say, well, I am going to freeze my assessment and my neighbours along the Basin, but the other people don't get frozen even if it's for one year. We have experienced a large increase in assessments out in the Bedford area and people know that the assessments are going up because they know the market values are increasing. They watched them go up. They see their value is increasing and that's what we're looking at.

[4:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I know the honourable member for Dartmouth North and other members have been involved with municipal councils, every year we used to have people come looking for municipal tax relief. They came saying I can't afford the taxes and you had to approach it in that way and I know all of those members (Interruption) They have municipal relief and they've got assessment through the municipal side of things, and that process is going to have to keep on going.

Mr. Speaker, I think as I look at the bill and you asked the question, why one year? Is one year going to change anything? Is one year going to be the period of time that assessments stop going up? Well, it hasn't in my area. In my area since 1995, my assessment has gone up 10 per cent to 15 per cent every year and last year it went up. So what is important about one year? The issue is deeper than this and the issue needs more study. To that I agree with the honourable member that there is a serious issue here that has to be

[Page 7486]

looked at. I do argue, and I would suggest that the definition here is too broad. It encompasses people who are not having that problem. For example, a lady will call me who lives up in Eaglewood and will say her assessment is going up. She doesn't get included here and what does one year have to do with all of this?

So I think there are a number of things that have to be looked at. I agree that there is an issue of problems and an issue of assessment. There are a number of approaches that have to be made and that we will have to look at, but I disagree with the fact that you just describe universally around the province everybody who looks at water and for the definition of one year.That's what we need to look at, Mr. Speaker, we need to come to the whole grip and get a grip across the whole province whether it be the urban issue, it be in the rural areas. There are a number of things that we have to do.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Mr. Speaker, thank you very much for this opportunity to speak on Bill No. 99. I am not surprised that the Opposition brought forward a piece of legislation that could be dealt with at the municipal level. We on this side of the government have quite a few members who have municipal experience and we also know that situations such as this of a higher increase in assessments can be dealt with by the municipalities and through their own jurisdictions.

For example, Mr. Speaker, I know from personal experience, when I was a municipal councillor in the HRM and before that the County of Halifax, the County of Halifax used to have a tax exemption program. When amalgamation came into place, an opportunity, when I became Chairman of the Tax and Grants Committee for HRM, we brought in a comprehensive tax regime policy that had the flexibility for residents either to have a tax exemption, partial tax exemptions of property, or they could also have a deferral program. A deferral program is . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I am wondering if the honourable member would entertain a question.

MR. HENDSBEE: I would certainly entertain a question from the honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, there are very few municipalities that offer what the member has spoken about with respect to tax exemption. Many municipalities do offer what is referred to as a tax deferral. Many citizens, and I am wondering if the minister - I mean the member for Preston - will, in fact, confirm that the majority of people who have hardships and paying their property taxes do not recommend or will not entertain the notion of tax

[Page 7487]

deferrals simply because they do not believe in leaving the responsibility on their family members.

MR. HENDSBEE: First of all, Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank him for the promotion and I hope some will alert the Premier to that fact. I would also tell the honourable member that I can understand and appreciate the concerns of tax deferrals and what they happen to be. (Interruption) I said yes to your question, I said yes to the honourable member's question, but I could also state that when he was a councillor for the City of Dartmouth, they had a tax deferral program. They are the only municipal unit . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the members please take their seats if they are in the Chamber please. The noise is out of control and I would appreciate it if the members would also allow the member to have the floor; he has the floor to have his say. The member for Preston has approximately a minute and a half.

MR. HENDSBEE: As I tried to state earlier, the City of Dartmouth, and the member for Dartmouth North well knows that a tax deferral program - the County of Halifax had a tax exemption program, the City of Halifax had nothing of the sort. When we brought amalgamation together and tried to bring all the tax policy together we found a way of being fair and equitable and have a humanistic side, and that is one thing we brought. I should bring to their attention over there, for instance, the important dates to remember for this particular tax year that a person can apply for tax exemption or tax deferral, either whole or in part usually by July 27th - that is for tax exemption - but no late applications for deferral, October 31st, but applications no later than December 31st will be considered.

I should point out that all municipalities have the opportunity to avail themselves to that through the Municipal Government Act, and I think that all municipalities that don't have, should make an application to the honourable minister to do so.

Some of the eligibility criteria, the applicant must be the legal owner of the property, the owner must be on the assessment roll and it must also be the principal place of residence. Those are just a few. The taxes cannot exceed the total assessed value of the property, as well as the talk about income levels that have to situate to apply.

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

The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

MR. TIMOTHY OLIVE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to speak on this submission by the member for Timberlea-Prospect. I note in reviewing the Act as submitted, and if I may be permitted to speak from that just to quote so that there is no doubt where I am coming from on this issue. "Notwithstanding subsections (1) and (2), the assessed value of a property the market value of which is influenced by frontage on the ocean, a lake, a river

[Page 7488]

or another body of water or by view of the ocean, a lake, a river or another body of water and that is assessed in the name of a person who permanently resides in the Province shall be fixed for the year 2002-03 at the assessed value that appeared on the assessment roll for the year 2001-02 and shall not be increased for the year 2002-03 . . .". I wonder if the member for Timberlea-Prospect has discussed this with the member for Sackville-Cobequid, who now I am pleased to say, has moved into my riding and currently resides on 11 Murray Hill Drive.

AN HON. MEMBER: Relevance.

MR. OLIVE: The relevance is coming very quickly. I go back to, or by view of the ocean in this submitted bill where this particular member lives on . . .

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, this is second reading of the bill and the member for Dartmouth South seems to be spending his time reading the actual clauses of the bill without actually debating the principle of the legislation, and I would hope in his short time that he has he would actually not be reading the bill but actually taking the time to talk about the principle. I would suggest it is not in order for him to be reading clauses of the bill.

MR. SPEAKER: It really isn't a point of order. The honourable member for Dartmouth South has the floor.

MR. OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, the purpose of quoting from the bill was only to advise the House and all members that the member for Sackville-Cobequid now lives on a piece of property opposite Cherry Hill Beach with a "view of the ocean." Now this property, from the member for Sackville-Cobequid, is assessed in 2001 at $57,500 and in 2002 is assessed at $63,700. Now according to this bill, the member for Sackville-Cobequid - and I am surprised he hasn't discussed it with the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect - would see his assessment frozen indefinitely. I wonder if he has discussed that with the member who is proposing this bill because the member has moved into a very nice neighborhood. He has a lovely ocean view, which covers the bill. He is in an area where the assessed value could go up substantially and increase his investment over the next few years, with the boom in the economy in Nova Scotia and the increase in assessed values in areas that have an ocean view like the member for Sackville-Cobequid now has.

I find it very strange that, in the context of his bill, he would be wanting to ensure that the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid gets stuck in a $63,700 assessed property indefinitely with the passage or potential passage of this bill. Shame on him. I know if a member on this side of the House stood up and tried to freeze my residential property indefinitely, I would want to have a little discussion with him before he put it in front of the House. That is just a very good example of the inadequacy of the thought behind the development of this bill and in presenting it to the House. It is like trying to put a value on

[Page 7489]

a home in the lovely Village of Bear River and comparing it with one on Franklin Street and indicating that one should be frozen and one shouldn't. This is the job of the municipalities and that is what other members have outlined to the House. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, I too am pleased to stand and speak to Bill No. 99. I want to thank the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect for bringing this issue to the attention of Nova Scotians, not particularly as a bill, but this issue, I think, is an important issue and I want to thank him. He is a hard-working member, as everyone would recognize. In fact, this weekend, for Christmas Daddies, he is going to be on a ladder for 12 hours. He is going to be doing that to help out Christmas Daddies. He also has a better sense of direction than I have. He can tell his universities apart. He knows how to get to Mount Allison.

However, Mr. Speaker, I must disassociate myself from the manner in which this was brought to the House. It could have been done in a far less personal manner than it was done. It is an issue of how the assessment is raised, and I think it is a personal matter. I think you would agree that personal attacks really have no place in this House, and I am sure you would agree with that, that they really don't have any place. So I want to disassociate myself from that.

However, that having been said, I have tremendous empathy for people who, through no fault of their own, find that their property tax bills are going through the roof. They have owned this piece of property for generations and they want to be able to pass it on to their family. Perhaps they don't come from wealthy families or they don't have good incomes, so they need to be able to find some way in which it can be passed on.

The problem is this tax and the burden that it places upon certain people who don't have the financial means and who are in areas where the tax is rising quickly because of the assessment rate. The problem is we have to deal with the real issue, which is the tax rather than the assessment. The assessment is fair and it's the tax that has to be dealt with. It's very hard to do something without being fair to everyone across Nova Scotia, and we have to be very careful that we're fair to all Nova Scotians. The function of assessments is vitally important for municipalities, and municipalities need to be part of this discussion.

[5:00 p.m.]

In Kings County, I know the three Kings members - we have a very good relationship with our municipal counterparts. We address the issues with them. (Interruptions) No, she actually doesn't. She lives in Kings South. But nonetheless . . .

[Page 7490]

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. To the honourable member speaking, I want to thank him for giving me the opportunity, and I appreciate his comments. He certainly is demonstrating some sincerity about this issue. The honourable member must be aware that assessments affect the tax rate and that many municipalities cannot afford to pay the tax, so if you put the burden onto the municipality and allow the province to continue to do the assessments, then the province is off the hook and the municipality is on the hook.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That is not a point of order. The member for Kings North has the floor.

MR. PARENT: Thank you for that comment, honourable member for Dartmouth North. The point I was trying to make is that before we go off and pass a bill without proper discussion with the municipalities who are intimately involved with this, we need to have that sort of discussion. That was the point I was trying to make. Let's talk with the municipalities and let's have that sort of discussion and then we can begin to determine what is the problem.

As the honourable colleague for Sackville-Beaver Bank said, one of the main problems with this bill is that it doesn't really address the ability to pray, and this is an issue that he raised and I think it's a very important issue. To pay, not pray. They may pray that they have to pay, but (Interruptions) Pray or pay. I think that's an important issue, the ability to pay. This is the problem, of course, with property taxes and why any changes in property tax assessments have to be done very carefully. It's a very blunt instrument. Most economists would call property taxes aggressive taxes. That Party itself got up and made quite a big sound about proposed equalization, that property taxes were not the way to do it. Now they want to spring a bill upon us; they want us to make a decision on a bill without consulting with the municipalities, without consulting with Nova Scotians, and I find it very strange and confusing.

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

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member opposite for bringing this bill forward today to allow some debate. This takes me back a few years when I actually was a municipal councillor and there were many times that debates came up that were not unlike this one here today. In fact, perhaps I would like to point out that the Municipal Government Act actually does provide some flexibility in certain circumstances. Speaking as a former municipal councillor, maybe I would like to elaborate on some of them and also some of the difficulties this does cause to the municipality making these decisions. There have been many lengthy debates in the Kings County council over this subject.

[Page 7491]

One example of the flexibility that's provided in the current Municipal Government Act is that the municipality does have the right to forgive taxes for families of a low income. That is the only criteria that they can use in determining who gets that exemption. I can remember a lengthy debate in the council chambers as to trying to set just what that amount should be and what the tax relief should be to the parties. I think it's important to recognize that that does exist in the Act.

I think the honourable member who brought this bill forward is looking to perhaps ask a question or something. Maybe I should give him the opportunity to take the floor. He's not taking the floor, so I shall continue.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I was wondering if the member would accept a question.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour, would you accept a question?

MR. MORSE: Absolutely. I would be delighted to have a question from the honourable member.

MR. ESTABROOKS: I will submit this letter from Nancy Fryday-McBay, RR #3 Wolfville, in Gaspereau. Could you respond to your constituent and not have her contact me

about the issue? It is your responsibility, not mine.

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for bringing that forward. In addition to being able to vary the taxes on families that have low incomes - mind you, it is optional to the municipality if they want to do this - there is also the matter of being able to charge a different tax rate for charitable organizations. So if they want to assess them say as residential, my recollection is that the municipality has the freedom to do so.

Also, Mr. Speaker, it was often a source of contention as to the special treatment for agricultural land because there is a special tax rate on agricultural land. However, that special tax rate came with some conditions. Some of the farmers in the Annapolis Valley were very interested in protecting agricultural land and for all the right reasons and wanting to preserve the source of agricultural production, but others were not so happy with that arrangement because it meant that on retirement, they were not able to sell their lands for development because they were protected under the municipal planning strategy.

So, Mr. Speaker, it brought out the two extremes that tend to polarize the industry. With that, I would point out that these matters need consultation because, after all, it is the municipalities that set their budgets. The assessment is just a means of allocating how much each property owner pays as their equitable share of the cost of running the municipality.

[Page 7492]

That is what assessment is about. We have a model that is done on property value. Mr. Speaker, you seem to be nodding your head. Are you giving me an indication as to my time?

MR. SPEAKER: You have about eight seconds.

MR. MORSE: About eight seconds, well, Mr. Speaker, I will yield that eight seconds to the next speaker who wants to take the floor.

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

MR. JOHN CHATAWAY: Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate this opportunity to say a few words and basically I know the area that I represent and am honoured to represent, I often quote some properties there are worth this and worth that and things like this and basically it is a very important process that we own property. I think the main thing is and I know the minister just reminded me there are 550,000 property deeds in Nova Scotia and that is quite a few. If I remember correctly, the people that own land in Nova Scotia have 20 million pieces of paper to back it all up because it starts back in 1753, even before that. That is Mr. Baker and I know he is happy . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: The German guy.

MR. CHATAWAY: The German guy. Excuse me, I want to make another correction before I am corrected. Of course, the first Europeans came in 1600 and settled in Nova Scotia, but it has certainly been a very dear process. But the main thing is, of that 550,000 and every year assessments go out, basically they had 16,000 inquiries last year and the year before that because they had a system to work it. The inquiries resulted in not 16,000, but 10,000 appeals and they were basically settled and only 5,000 went into real appeal; so 50 per cent by just good conversation were done like this.

I think the main thing is that you cannot say that this property should be worth that, in my opinion and your opinion, oh I am more important than you, just set the assessment at this level, no it has to be a good system and it has to be done, and we certainly want a good system down there. The first thing is the appeal assessment and the assessment has far more strengths than weaknesses, it can't . . .

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I was wondering, would the member opposite accept a question?

MR. SPEAKER: The member for Chester-St. Margaret's, would you entertain a question?

[Page 7493]

MR. CHATAWAY: I would very much like to entertain your question, but I would like to express a few points of view first, is that okay? (Interruptions) Basically the Assessment Act in Nova Scotia is doing far more good than evil, and basically it sets the . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I would ask that the member opposite return this phone call to Rufus Covey, whose assessment from $40,000 to $151,000 . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruptions) Order, please. That is not a point of order.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Inasmuch as you have ruled that that is not an appropriate point of order, then I would suggest that it is not appropriate, for the piece of paper handed to the Page to be tabled, since it is not related to anything that is within the orders or Rules of the House.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I would ask the minister to read Hansard, because the member for Timberlea-Prospect asked that it not be tabled but that it be delivered to the member for Chester-St. Margaret's since it is a constituent of his, and he was requesting that the member for Chester-St. Margaret's, in fact, deal with concerns from his own constituents.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. To the best of my knowledge or to the Clerk's knowledge, nothing has been tabled. The member for Chester-St. Margaret's has the floor.

MR. CHATAWAY: Mr. Speaker, I certainly do appreciate the fact when somebody wants to speak to me; I will be more than glad to get in touch with this person. I'm realizing, after enough time in politics, that not everybody would agree with everything I've said or done, but I would like it to be known . . .

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

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I too am pleased to be able to rise and add my voice to the discussion about this particular piece of legislation. As the member opposite indicated, my riding does have a significant amount of coastline, in fact in the recent survey it was determined that a great deal of that property actually resides with non-resident landowners. In my community, assessment is very much a topic of conversation. At the same time, the residents in my community fully realize and expect that there shall be a tax assessment and taxes resulting from that assessment. They recognize too that the purpose

[Page 7494]

behind municipal taxes is to ensure that the levels of services and programs that the community residents have come to expect are able to be maintained.

We've heard, over the last little while, the ongoing discussions about how best the government should attempt to address and balance the concerns of municipalities and the concerns of the provincial government and the concerns of, ultimately, the taxpayers because as has been said so very many times in this Legislature, there is ultimately only one taxpayer in the Province of Nova Scotia or indeed in all of Canada, or in any democratic country where in fact taxes are levied as a means to support the maintenance and continuation of infrastructure and programs.

As the minister indicated in his remarks, we are very cognizant of a process that exists to ensure that municipalities are engaged in those kinds of discussions. This is a time when it's very important to consult far and wide as to what is the most appropriate course of action to ensure that the tax regime that's put in place is, in fact, fair and appropriate.

[5:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I recognize, too, that in areas where there is an extreme differential from one year to another in terms of assessment and I, myself, have experienced that. In fact, each year when the tax assessment arrives in the mailbox, I look at it with some concern and wonder sometimes if the magical way in which those assessments are derived and it doesn't matter whether you live in an area with coastal community property or, in fact, in an area that's far removed from the coastline, everyone is always concerned that the taxing process be fair and equitable.

Mr. Speaker, the minister has said repeatedly that it is his wish and his department's wish that as they develop a tax regime, they reflect carefully on what it is the various municipalities want from that tax structure. In fact, just in my involvement with the Petroleum Directorate in terms of the issues of pipelines and some of the concerns that municipalities have about how best they can leverage the opportunities generated from that new infrastructure, that has been a very ongoing debate and one with many sides and many perspectives. It should only stand to reason that issues related to the assessment applied to coastal property should have those same kinds of discussions and concerns. I do recognize, the member opposite, in terms of bringing this bill forward, that for some people on fixed incomes in certain parts of the province it does create a problem and I am confident that as we discuss with the various municipal units and with the taxpayers themselves and with the people engaged in this, we can ultimately derive a system that is fair and accepted by all those who are involved in the process.

Mr. Speaker, it is not about bringing this particular bill forward, it's about serving the process properly to ensure that there is ample opportunity for everyone to have a chance to say what it is they expect from the tax system that ultimately is put in place. We have heard

[Page 7495]

a number of submissions throughout the course of the conversations that really brought little new light on the arguments and discussions. As I said, in my area because of the nature of the coastline and the properties involved, this is a topic that has created a great deal of interest. In my constituency office I've had relatively few submissions related specifically to their concerns about how equitable the tax assessments have been related to the properties along the coastline in my riding, but I do, as I've said earlier, fully believe that if we go through the process, we will ultimately arrive at a fair system.

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

The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. JON CAREY: Mr. Speaker, my area of Kings West has a fair amount of shoreline along the Bay of Fundy. A lot of it has been held by families for years. It has been farmed and it has trees and shrubs and so on. A lot of it has never been developed and, therefore, the assessments have not been probably overly high.The other day, for example, the member for Timberlea-Prospect was talking about that perhaps Germans, or Americans, or New Brunswickers, who arrive in Nova Scotia are driving the price of land beyond what we can afford to have our families pay taxes on and keep. I am not sure that that's the position that this province would want to take. Unless they live here for 52 weeks a year, he wanted to single them out for an unfair treatment, I think, and that doesn't seem to be quite right. In fact, he often singled out non-permanent residents as being perhaps the sole cause of this taxation problem.

Why are they so different from the countless Nova Scotians who purchase oceanfront properties? If people have the ability and the desire to purchase oceanfront properties, surely we're open to anyone who wants to do that. These people certainly aren't political in most cases so I can't imagine why we would take any issue with what they're doing. If we take non-residents as partially to blame for this problem, as the member has just informed me is a part of the problem, then if, in fact, that is the case, who is selling the land to these non-residents? Does this mean Nova Scotians should be restricted to who they can sell their land to and for how much? I would think that would cause a problem. I don't think Nova Scotians would take kindly to any suggestion that government would control who they sell their land to or how much they should get for it or benefit. (Interruption)

I think the member for Timberlea-Prospect has stated his opinion and he is asking me to state mine, and I am trying. The problem is caused by supply and demand. It is an economic reality.

AN HON. MEMBER: . . . supply and demand, Jon.

[Page 7496]

MR. CAREY: It is, and I find it distasteful to blame any society's problem on outsiders. Other governments in other times have done this, with unfortunate results. I would hope that if I were to purchase land outside of Nova Scotia that I would not be treated any differently. (Interruption) Well, you know, there are all kinds of issues that could be stated. There are issues that have been brought to our attention, that people may be forced off their land because of increased assessment.

Mr. Hendsbee dealt with that - the member for Preston, sorry for using the name, I apologize for that. I sympathize with people who have problems - suddenly finding their property taxed a lot higher. However, any solution to this must be found on the tax side, not some other method. Municipalities, as has been stated previously, have the ability to deal with it. We have enough ex-municipal people here that there are not any of them who have suggested that that isn't the case, that they couldn't look after that issue.

Another point was that the issue was to freeze assessments on waterfront properties. The impact of this would be a loss of tax revenue to municipalities, who would then raise the tax rate for everyone else to make up this loss. Where is the fairness in that? Or if you sold a property, and it was sold for in excess of an amount of money, and the other person didn't, where is the fairness in that type of taxation? I just don't understand why any of these would work. So, at any rate, I think we have to look more . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time and the time on Bill No. 99 has expired.

MR. JOHN CHATAWAY: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I would like to inform the member for Timberlea-Prospect that I have called this person when I got the call, and basically this person doesn't really agree with that and wants an appeal course. Basically, the debate, as I have said, has been worthwhile.

AN HON. MEMBER: Did he call you?

MR. CHATAWAY: No, he did not call me before. I just got his name and I called him.

MR. SPEAKER: It is not a point of order. It is certainly information for the House.

The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am glad that he has now called him. Would you please call Bill No. 66.

Bill No. 66 - Forests Act.

[Page 7497]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, certainly this is a bill, and on an issue, that I think has been too long getting to this House. The thrust of this piece of legislation is to ban clear-cutting in Nova Scotia. I want to say to the members opposite that this piece of legislation is for the sustaining of our forests as a multiple-use resource, and it is to ban clear-cutting as a harvesting method, unless no other form of harvesting can be justified. So what it does is it tries to ensure that when contractors or mills go in the woods to harvest in Nova Scotia, they will use a practice that is selective and is actually the best treatment for a particular stand.

In other words, evaluate the stand that you are going in to cut, determine what would be the best treatment to carry out in that stand, as far as the harvesting practice is concerned, and then do that treatment so that when you leave that stand it should be in better condition, or at least enhanced for better growth, than when the harvesters went in there.

This piece of legislation does not ban clear-cutting as a treatment. In other words, there are those places in Nova Scotia that have stands of timber, that either for reasons of age, or disease, or some other condition that probably the appropriate way to harvest that stand would be to clear-cut that stand. But in this province, 99 per cent or at least 98 per cent of the harvesting that is done is by clear-cutting. I am sure that no one in this House of Assembly would agree that clear-cutting 98 per cent of this province - or 98 per cent of the harvesting by clear-cutting - could be an appropriate way to harvest. I mean that certainly can't make sense to members of all three Parties in this House.

I want to say to the members opposite that the minister will say that harvesting on Crown land is sustainable, harvesting on large industrial land is sustainable but harvesting on small private woodlots is not sustainable. What the minister does not say is that it is because of these large industrial holdings that are held by mills, that they are going out and buying up stumpage or land from private woodlot owners and they are clear-cutting it and that is still part of that amount of wood fibre that those mills need to operate. So to say that large industrial is sustainable when they are clear-cutting small private woodlots, does not lay the blame at the feet of the small private woodlot owner, it lays the blame actually at the feet of the government. They are the ones that can set the policy and regulation for how we harvest in this province, they have every right to do that and we expect them to do that.

I want the members of both the government side and my colleag,es in the Opposition, the Liberal caucus, to be aware that since the minister has raised this concern that small private woodlots are not sustainable, that we got input from small private woodlot organizations before we drafted this piece of legislation to see what their thoughts would be.

They agree. They are not opposed to having legislation that impacts what they can do on their property. Let's be clear that the forest is more than just wood fibre. It has a component, a use

[Page 7498]

that we can say is related to water flow and water storage and we can also say that it is in relation to carbon storage and in purification of the atmosphere.

I think that along with issues of habitat that the government really has a responsibility here to ensure that we harvest in a way that is not only sustainable but that also encompasses or includes these other issues.

Recently, and I don't know if members of the government would be aware, there have been concerns raised in New Brunswick around the depletion of the deer population in relation to the widespread clear-cutting of the forest there and they are blaming the destruction of habitat, the destruction of wintering yards that are accompanied by the winter conditions in New Brunswick that have finally had a toll on the deer population.

Now I want the Minister of Natural Resources to be aware that the information we used along with information from organizations that would be associated with small private woodlots, we also used information from this document Nova Scotia Wood Supply - Forecast for Nova Scotia 1996-2070. I want to table a copy so that the House will know that this information is on record. In this document, the government itself has identified what they refer to as the operable forest, that part of the woodland that we can harvest. They have removed the federal lands, parks and protected areas, non-participating small landowners, wildlife habitat and bio-diversity, low productivity and non-forestry, like Christmas trees. They have removed all of that from the forest in their calculation for what it is that we can harvest. The size of that operable forest is 2,616,000 hectares, or we can say 5 million acres. We can do something with the forest of Nova Scotia that we could not do with the codfish; we can see how big the forest is, we can count the trees, and we can know how fast we're cutting it.

[5:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, on the second page of this document it tells what we're cutting. In this province we're cutting 5.4 metres cubed of softwood and 653,000 metres cubed of hardwood, and together that makes about 6 million metres cubed. A cubic metre is about half a cord, so that means that we're harvesting 3 million cords per year in Nova Scotia, and I want to say that there is no limit. Those were numbers from 1996 to 1998 when this information was compiled, and there is nothing to regulate that amount ever going higher. That can keep going up and up and up.

If we take a number - and I want the minister to know and I want members to know that the number I'm using is my number in this case, the other numbers are from this - I'm saying if we take an average of 30 cords per acre in Nova Scotia, across the province, our operable forest, that we're cutting 100,000 acres a year in order to get 3 million cords.

[Page 7499]

Mr. Speaker, if we have 5 million acres, at 100,000 acres a year it would take 50 years to cut it, and that being the case if Europeans came to this coast today, we could cut it in 50 years. We know that Nova Scotia has been cut, lots of it has been cut. We don't have enough time to grow a tree to 100 years old anymore in this province. I would say that for that age class that's between 60 and 80 years old, which is about 32 per cent of the operable forest, we'll cut that, at our present rate, in 16 years. We're in trouble. I would like the government to support this legislation.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to rise tonight to debate the honourable member's bill, Bill No. 66. I guess when I looked through the bill and examined it in detail, it's interesting to look at a bill that outlines things that are common practice and now in force. It provides an opportunity to explain to members opposite and all members of the House a number of issues and put some facts on the table.

Mr. Speaker, the forest here in Nova Scotia is a forest that's generally owned by private landowners: 75 per cent of the forest land in Nova Scotia is owned by individuals in this province, and 25 per cent is the property of the people of Nova Scotia, more commonly referred to as the Crown. Forests in Nova Scotia are used by not only the logging and forest industry, but also by Christmas tree producers, maple producers, recreationalists, environmentalists, wildlife observers, as well as people who enjoy fishing and angling. When we look at what has taken place over the last three or four years and look at it factually, it brings one to a better understanding of some of the measures that have been taken over the last four or five years to ensure sustainability in the woodlands of Nova Scotia.

We'll talk a minute about what I'm talking about, sustainability of supply. Sustainability of supply deals with ensuring that the 20,000 Nova Scotians involved in various parts or components of the forest industry and their families and their livelihoods in rural communities, how important their over $2 billion worth of output is. My honourable colleague, the honourable member from Hants was talking in great detail about a mature sawlog industry and that is a small component of the forest industry. The forest industry that's out there in this province is one that supports pulp and paper mills, fibre, one that would be used for furniture, hardwood flooring, a huge multitude of other products and opportunities for Nova Scotians to be employed and benefits other than sawlogs. Sawlogs account for less than 50 per cent of the output of this province. I think it's important to frame that rather than be solely focused on one segment of the industry.

Also, when you look at steps to ensure sustainability, this government commissioned a study to look at sustainability on Crown land, on large private holdings and small private woodlots in this province several years ago. Those findings were that Crown lands were in a sustainable position, large private holdings were sustainable, but small private woodlot holdings were not in a sustainable position in the long haul. To make sure that 20, 30, 40, 50

[Page 7500]

years down the road we did not run out of a wood supplier or end up in a shortage of wood supply situation in this province, it was time for government to enact legislation and regulation to ensure that happened. That has to be in conjunction with the forest industry and all Nova Scotians.

In that light, after that was recognized by the government and by the citizens of the province and the industry, a number of steps were taken. First of all, a sustainable forestry fund was established. That is critical to ensuring sustainable supply because it allows dollars to be generated from the harvesting of wood and the dollars collected by a registry system through roundwood buyers in this province. Those funds are used to provide silviculture treatments, reforestation and varying thinning techniques to ensure that there's maximum volume and growth to ensure that the forest regenerates as quickly as possible.

As my colleague and all Nova Scotians know, the forests in Nova Scotia or any forest is a living entity. It has a longer life cycle than a perennial hay crop, but what you're dealing with is a living, dynamic ecosystem. To highlight, that sustainability fund, since it was established a year ago, has contributed over $8 million in that type of work on those properties; that goes a long way to ensure sustainability.

Also, there are a number of other issues that affect the health of all Nova Scotians and that's water quality, wildlife and also the conservation and preservation of sites in Nova Scotia and primarily Crown land that we can designate as protected areas. We have 31 sites here in Nova Scotia and those are extremely important for preservation.

With regard to regulations dealing with wildlife, the requirement to ensure that waterways and game trails and conduits are available to wildlife is part of the regulation and harvesting plan. Those are in place. Many people aren't aware that they're in place and when they do realize and find out they're in place, they're pleased and impressed.

Last week the regulations were proclaimed that dealt with watercourses, the definition, basal areas along stream banks, a critical move on all lands - private and Crown - that wetlands, that stream banks and streams themselves are protected in this province. No longer are people allowed to completely cut, or run machinery, or do any of those things on wetlands. Those are major achievements that the industry has agreed to and this government has put forward and enacted in law and regulation.

Other critical issues, Mr. Speaker, also are protected areas, endangered species. The honourable member will probably know that Nova Scotia is the only jurisdiction in Canada that has enacted endangered species legislation. The federal government doesn't even have it in place. We already have named twice, the listings, and it's an independent group here in Nova Scotia. Although the rating wish would be wonderful to be higher - last week the Naturalist Society of Canada rated Nova Scotia number one in the country on respecting wildlife, management of their forests, conservation and ecosystems, number one in the

[Page 7501]

country. That is because this government and this department have taken progressive steps to ensure, protect areas for wildlife, for flora and fauna, and have developed an IRM system that rates all Crown land as to its use and puts restrictions on it.

When I sit down with many Nova Scotians and naturalist groups and we discuss how they can participate, whether it's a trail, a recreational area, they are very pleased to learn the areas that they want to use for recreation can be encompassed without putting it in a protected area, because they know that the Department of Natural Resources protects old growth. We don't allow those cuttings on Crown lands. We protect waterways. We have the designation under IRM, if it's dealing with the tourist industry and the viewscape is the important feature, then the viewscape is even protected so that the tree cover is not removed from a picturesque scenic area of the Province of Nova Scotia.

All those types of restrictions and regulations have been accepted by Nova Scotia. Industry has been very proactive in working, and that's why, Mr. Speaker, we are number one in the country in ensuring that our woodlands are beneficial to all Nova Scotians and have the best features for protection and regulation, and that's why the Naturalists Society of Canada, not a government agency, not us, said we were number one. I think all members of this House certainly recognize an accredited organization like that and I hope that they appreciate how well . . .

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

The honourable member for Victoria.

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak for a few moments tonight on Bill No. 66, the Forests Act. While I say it is a pleasure to speak to the legislation before the House tonight, it is not because I necessarily agree with the content, but because forest issues require a good deal more public examination than they are receiving at the present time.

Mr. Speaker, ensuring a sustainable forest is vital to the future of our forests and the future of our forest product industry, but I think if we were talking about concerns facing the forestry today, we would probably dwell for a few moments on countervailing duties. If the government doesn't take action on this very important issue of countervailing duties, then if these duties are allowed to prevail, then sustainable forest management or any forest management might be in second place. The problem has been identified for some time so, again, I welcome the opportunity to discuss the Opposition's resolution today.

One of the main issues facing Nova Scotia's forests today is whether the recent increases in timber demand will lead to wood supply's sustainability problems down the road in 10 years or in 20 years. Concern about the state of harvest increases from the small private

[Page 7502]

woodlot sector has been raised by the public a number of times. It has been raised by landowners and by the forest industry in general.

Mr. Speaker, in 1999, the release of the Wood Supply Forecast for Nova Scotia from 1996 to 2070 has confirmed that existing harvest levels on small private woodlots are not sustainable with present silviculture activity that is taking place today on those lands. So before any decision of clear-cutting can begin, we must discuss those practices that must be in place before clear-cutting is even considered.

[5:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I think industry players from Stora to small woodlot owners understand the need for silviculture and the question is whether the government has the resources available to support the silviculture initiatives that we need today if we are to look forward to sustainable forestry in the future. I don't believe for one minute that clear-cutting outright is the answer. This bill, of course, does indicate clear-cutting would be permitted in the most rare of circumstances but, essentially, the bill seeks to ban clear-cutting. As I understand the bill, it is to totally ban clear-cutting.

Mr. Speaker, many Nova Scotians will agree that clear-cutting has a negative connotation, but I believe the reality is if sustainable forest practices are regularly implemented, clear-cutting is an option. Sustainable forests can be achieved under the current legislation and regulations that are before us today. For example, in 1999, regulations were introduced for public consultation that required registered buyers who acquire more than 10,000 cubic metres solid or 4,550 cords of primary forest products in a year to submit an annual wood acquisition plan. The wood acquisition plan consisted of a number of things. In the wood acquisition plan, you must, in order to get the plan or acquire a permit, you had to provide to the department your silviculture practices that you were going to follow on any given parcel of land on which you were going to harvest timber. There are also other things that this bill does not consider, including wildlife corridors and watercourse management. All these play a role in any sustainable strategies.

Mr. Speaker, we all know that there is room for improvement, but regulations currently in place are lacking something. The regulations in place today are lacking enforcement. But staff at the Department of Natural Resources are already stretched to the limit in terms of providing enforcement for any regulations, whether it is harvesting, hunting, fishing or whatever. Now I must admit that the minister has not gutted the department like he did in Agriculture, but still the resources for enforcement are not there. We have the regulations, but not the enforcement. Any sustainable forest strategy is not worth the paper it is written on if staff are not there to enforce it.

[Page 7503]

Mr. Speaker, also I think it is important that the NDP consult with all players in the industry, including companies like Stora and the Nova Scotia Forest Products Association. These are vital in any legislation that comes before the House today. Consultation should take place with the key players in the industry.

Mr. Speaker, we know that Stora Forest Industries provides a reasonable level of sustainability in terms of forest practices and reforestation; the Irving Company also provides a good level of reforestation in their activities in harvesting timber today; I'm sure MacTara also provides good forest practice in terms of reforestation.

Mr. Speaker, any commitment to a long-term sustainable forest will require the support of industry players, and not just the environmental body. I urge, therefore, that the NDP consider a more broad-based consultation arrangement before an outright ban on clear- cutting can have any serious consideration. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, I know the honourable member is very concerned about the issue, and I give him credit for that, but there is a lot to consider when you talk of reforestation. As I began my remarks we talked about countervailing duties, and the present practices on reforestation today, if countervailing duties happen to take place, then that will eliminate some of the problems we're faced with today in terms of a sustainable forest.

AN HON. MEMBER: A downturn in the industry will save the forests . . .

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, a downturn in the industry probably will too, but I think the guidelines, the regulations are there, but they are lacking enforcement. When I was minister in 1997, we introduced the paper, Towards a Sustainable Forestry. That took two years of consultation with all the bodies involved in that. It wasn't something that the department put together in a couple of hours. They had input from all the stakeholders, and that was the beginning of what the department has tried to do in terms of . . .

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

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I don't know how much time I'll have . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Seven minutes.

MR. PYE: . . . but I know that at least I've got approximately about seven minutes before I am interrupted while speaking on this bill.

[Page 7504]

Mr. Speaker, I want to speak on Bill No. 66 with respect to the banning of clear-cutting in the Province of Nova Scotia. I want to say to you that I don't profess to know a whole lot, I grew up in a small fishing village on the Eastern Shore where people get seasonal work. Some of that was fishing, some of that was farming, and some of that was working in the pulp mills. On the Eastern Shore, at one time, there was a pulp mill and it was called the Scott Pulp and Paper. As a matter of fact, it was located in the Town of Sheet Harbour, and it employed a huge number of individuals at that time.

I want to tell you that when I was introduced to pulpwood I was just a young individual who knew that the private woodlot was ours and that we would cut on that private woodlot and we would cord up the wood into a four-foot cord and then we would sell it off to the lumber industry. I want to tell you that at that particular time there was no such thing as tree harvesters. There were in fact horses that pulled the logs out of the woods; there were in fact oxen that did the same thing, but one thing that was taken and very carefully considered was that clear-cutting was not an option back then. It was not an option.

People recognized the value and the importance of that industry and the kind of sustainable jobs that would be required from that forest industry. In order to maintain that woodlot and in order to maintain that forestry back then, there were no silviculture programs, the individuals had to go out and do selective cutting within their forest in order to maintain that. What selective cutting did was it protected the environment around that neighborhood, around that part of the woodlot where there were rivers and streams, where there were lakes, because they knew the consequences of that were general erosion.

As we sit here and we talk today about that, and many of us have sat here and I know that my colleague, the member for Hants East, who introduced this bill also sat here one night on a late debate in an emergency debate about the softwood lumber tariff to the United States and how Nova Scotia should not be responsible for that because 80 per cent of the forestry harvestation was on private woodlots in the Province of Nova Scotia. Now when we travel the Eastern Shore, one of the most unsightly things that can ever possibly happen and has a serious impact upon the tourist industry is clear-cutting.

The honourable member for Eastern Shore was pictured in the paper hugging a tree. He became very familiar and I remember one night in Sheet Harbour in the Fire Hall when there was this non-resident ownership meeting and there were a huge number of maps placed out on the tables and on the walls. The residents in that community got a great opportunity to see who owned the lots in Nova Scotia, for the first time. That meeting, which took a great deal of discussion, was centred around the very fact about the very issue that we are talking about tonight, clear-cutting. The honourable member will recognize that many people shifted away from the non-resident ownership on that evening debate to clear-cutting, which has taken place. So it has created a disastrous sore in the environment on the Eastern Shore, which the honourable member who represents the Eastern Shore now recognizes. That

[Page 7505]

honourable member said that he would stand here and speak and he would defend the proper management of the forest industry.

I want to say to you, Mr. Speaker, that there is an organization called the Nova Forest Alliance. In the Nova Forest Alliance, there are such organizations as the Ecology Action Centre, Dalhousie University, large paper mills and large lumber mills, as well, ones like MacTara. I want to tell you that they did a survey and they surveyed over 80 per cent of Nova Scotians and over 80 per cent of Nova Scotians responded and they said that they wanted a ban on clear-cutting. I don't know how clear that can be to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and Natural Resources. That is a clear message that ought to be sent to that minister. I can tell that minister if in fact the numbers are true, and I have no way to dispute those numbers, those numbers have been bantered across this legislative floor, but if in fact in 16 years or even 50 years we have lost our forestry as a result of mismanagement and not sustainable development in that forestry, then we have gone down the road to another loss of another industry in which Nova Scotians were to be proud of.

I remember the other day, Mr. Speaker, when we were talking about forestry and there were questions placed to the minister with respect to clear-cutting, I know the honourable member for Hants East said that you could not count the fish in the ocean, but you can certainly count the trees on the land and you certainly know what is going on. If there is any indicator with respect to the misuse of our forestry by those in the private industry - and those in the private woodlot industry have no other course, they are in the business to generate the revenue off the property that they have. It is up to this government to manage the forestry and to introduce a ban on clear-cutting in this province so that all Nova Scotians can enjoy the beauty of this province as well. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: I thank the honourable members for taking part in the debate this evening.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now rise to meet again tomorrow at the hour of 12:00 noon and the House will sit until such time as the business of the House is completed. We will be doing Public Bills for Second Reading, Public Bills for Third Reading and Committee of the Whole House on Bills. The maximum time the House will sit will be until 6:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House adjourn until 12:00 noon tomorrow.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 7506]

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

The motion is carried.

[6:00 p.m.]

The House is adjourned until 12:00 noon tomorrow. We have reached the moment of interruption. The subject of this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Kings North:

[Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature applaud the efforts of the staff of Fidelis House Society for their tremendous work in the community of Kings.]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

FIDELIS HOUSE SOC.: EFFORTS - APPLAUD

MR. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and address this topic of Fidelis House, which is a community-initiated and run program, staffed by volunteers and because it is community initiated and staffed by volunteers, it should be applauded by this Assembly. I am not a great fan, I will admit, of President George Bush, but I've written with approval of one of his programs, the faith-based charity program because of its emphasis upon the priority of the community and upon unleashing the energy of the individual.

Ivan Illich, a one-time Roman Catholic priest, the well-known social critic and author of such books as Medical Nemesis and Deschooling Society had cogently made the argument that in our modern society we have disempowered communities and disempowered individuals in a rather paternalistic fashion through the foundation of these great institutions of justice, of health, of education who with their experts tell us how to feel, how to think, and who really disempower these individuals. Ivan Illich has even carried this so far in a CBC series on ideas called "The Corruption of Christianity" to state that this dependency, this paternalism goes way back to the early years and he cites a practice when the early Christians used to have a piece of bread and an extra cot, a bedroll, for someone who needed some food, needed some shelter. They began to construct institutions and the people then felt that it was no longer their responsibility to look after the poor.

So I want to begin by lauding Fidelis House for its community emphasis and the fact that is a volunteer-run program. Having said this, I don't want to deny, I don't want to confuse anyone that I don't think there is a role for the state to play in aiding such programs

[Page 7507]

because I certainly do. Indeed, one of the geniuses of the Canadian model in my opinion as compared to the American model has been this creative partnership between the state and communities - be they business or charitable communities - in order to achieve the goals and the dreams that we have as Canadians collectively.

This partnership has been the fruit of and an example of what political scientists have called the persistent Tory streak in our Canadian society. This was highlighted by Gad Horowitz in his seminal work on socialism, conservatism and liberalism published in 1966. Also it's picked up in a book just published this year by Darrell Bricker who works at the polling firm and Edward Greenspon who is a columnist with The Globe and Mail and in that book they write that in spite of a decade of cost-cutting and budget pinching that they are able to discern in their words, the persistence of the so-called Tory touch in Canadian politics, the idea that we are not different groups in a society pitted against one another so much as parts of a common organism - and that if one part is hurt then the whole hurts.

So Fidelis House located in the Town of Kentville is an example of this creative partnership between the state and this community and volunteers in the area. It was started in 1992 to provide low-cost housing for patients, family and friends who were visiting loved ones who were in the Valley Regional Hospital. It has been a much-appreciated and much-needed service. It is open to both adults and children, and along with providing financial help to these people, it provides strong emotional support as well, providing a warm, home-like atmosphere with lounge, kitchen facilities and a very caring staff.

Fidelis House has 12 bedrooms which translates into 24 beds and it has helped over 13,500 people since its inception in 1992. You can see its importance and its benefit. It costs $15 a night for someone to stay at Fidelis House and this covers the operating budget which is in the area of $40,000 annually.

It serves guests - they have done a statistical study - mainly from the western end of Nova Scotia, not from my riding, my riding supplies the volunteers. The benefits of Fidelis House are mainly from the western part of Nova Scotia and particularly from the Yarmouth and Digby areas. It is run by volunteers and I want to mention just one more thing about that because they have computed that the volunteer hours and contributions in time would equal, if we had to pay for it, $3,000 a day, roughly equivalent to $1 million a year. So you can see the great benefit this is and the need for the state to encourage this type of a facility.

The challenge that Fidelis House is running into is that the Miller Building in which it is presently located is slated to close sometime in the near future. With the closure of the Miller Building, Fidelis House, which has ironically provided a home away from home for thousands of people, will find itself without a home. So the challenge is for Fidelis House to build a new building, roughly in the area of about $0.5 million would be the cost of such a building. That is the challenge, that's the hardship that Fidelis House is facing right now.

[Page 7508]

The good news is that the district health authority in the area has leased some land on the property of the Valley Regional Hospital to Fidelis House. They have about $100,000 in the bank, Mr. Speaker, towards the construction of this new building. They take in about $15,000 a year in donations, and recently in Yarmouth and Pubnico generous citizens there donated about $8,500 toward Fidelis House. So you can see there's support out there but, if you do the math, the cost of a new building at $0.5 million and the money raised so far, there's still a long, long way to go.

That is why Fidelis House, if it's to survive, has to be involved in a very aggressive fund-raising campaign, and it has begun this, Mr. Speaker. It is seeking money from governments, including our own provincial government and the Department of Health. The district health authority is seeking money from corporations. It is seeking money from service clubs and various Lions Clubs in the area, Kentville Lions and other Lions Clubs have been very helpful in the past in providing furniture for this important service, for this important house, and it is seeking support from friends of Fidelis House. I had the privilege of being one of those friends, since I am moved by this project and moved by what it provides to so many people who otherwise would face, I think, financial hardship having to stay in Kentville near their loved ones.

So I would strongly encourage governments, Mr. Speaker, both federally and provincially, our own government, I would encourage corporations, I would encourage service clubs and I would encourage caring individuals to help and to dig into their pockets and to do what they can so that Fidelis House can survive and this worthy service may continue. Greenspon and Bricker said that this "Tory touch", and those were their words, not mine, it really translates, if one part is hurting then all parts are hurting. At this present time Fidelis House in Kentville is hurting. It is hurting because it has to make a very difficult transition. The volunteers are taxed simply trying to provide the service for the many people, as I've said the thousands of people who have come, and every year I think there are about 1,500 who use this service to provide the volunteer service that will care for these individuals, that will keep the facilities in shape, and to also provide the emotional support, which I said is an essential part of the service that Fidelis House supplies.

In some senses we are behind what has happened in Halifax. They have Point Pleasant Lodge, I believe it's called here, that provides a similar sort of care. They're more advanced than we are. (Interruption) The Ronald McDonald House, and they have been able to fund both the facility and the operation out of people who stay there, I believe. We're not yet at that stage and we need help with the facility. We can fund the ongoing operation, but we can't fund the facility totally on our own and so, Mr. Speaker, I would encourage, as I said, all interested people and all concerned people to support this very worthy project. Let's provide the help that they need.

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

[Page 7509]

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for Kings North for bringing this resolution forward that we may debate in this House of Assembly matters relative to the community, because the word community is mentioned in the resolution, ". . . that all members of this Legislature applaud the efforts of the staff of Fidelis House Society for their tremendous work in the community of Kings." The member introduced this to the House and I compliment him for that because by doing so he certainly leaves his government open for criticism, as often happens in this House of Assembly. I think it's an area that we all must look at and the enrichment of community and services and support for those persons most in need.

I will try to address my comments in a responsible manner while holding the provincial government responsible for some support at this time in this transition period, as the member for Kings North mentioned. That old building has been very much a landmark in that community, the programs that are in that building are gradually - not only the building is being dismantled, but the programs. I am really concerned about losing some and I know the detox programs and some of the follow-up programs there, I visited that building myself and I know the matter of which the person speaks.

I think it is a great topic for what we call the late debate here in the House of Assembly, because it is a community initiative that touches those persons with great need. The member mentioned the word "empowerment" and I though that was so descriptive of what volunteer groups like Fidelis House does. As Sister Nuala Kenny used to tell me, we cannot empower people, we must allow people to empower themselves. That's what this is all about. This is a group that has not been asking for a lot of handouts, they've managed the operational part of this operation for families and persons with illnesses who are out on day passes or receiving outpatient care, chemotherapy, usually of a nature such as Ms. Cameron suffered.

I couldn't help when the people kindly faxed us some information today that allowed us to prepare, at least, to participate in this debate, I must say, while I have visited the building, I have never visited the operation of this particular house or facility, but I know the importance of that as we develop a regionalized health care system.

Getting back to the person, it often starts that a person has the idea and the initiative and that others can rally around and bring that forward. Many times these are not complicated matters, but it needs someone with vision and courage to come forward to do that. I just want to compliment, I understand the relatives of Ms. Shirley Cameron are still in the area, I think they must be proud of her. As I was reading the notes - she really suffered an illness such as a member of this House of Assembly did, and later died as well from, Ross Bragg, a friend of all of us here.

[Page 7510]

These are real people who suffer great tragedies and personal loss and yet, what a memory to give. That's why it's important we don't drop this torch that has been passed to us, not only as a community in that particular region, but as legislators in this House. This is the area that we have to address the issue from, that we are legislators at the provincial level. We are here to hold the Department of Health accountable for its actions, and other departments such as may impact on this, Community Services or whatever.

This operation is doable and, as they say in what has been sent to us, this is not a large amount of money over a period of time to capitalize that investment. The land is available, I understand, and this worthwhile service, because when you look at the area that they're serving, it's quite widespread and you have people now going from the area of the South Shore of Nova Scotia where I grew up, outside of Liverpool, and you look at the statistical report that they made of what families they're serving and where they're from, Liverpool is listed; in fact, in June the number 10 appears there. I know relatives of mine have been sent from the South Shore of Nova Scotia directly across the province to the Kentville community and in that area. Maybe some relatives of mine have even taken advantage of that. I think this speaks to the need of this.

[6:15 p.m.]

The way that we have reformed and moved changes in health care, it has made facilities such as Fidelis House even more important, that we are moving people away from the traditional ways of where they do their shopping, where they do their health care, where they go to hospitals now. We have moved them right across the province. We don't have a large province, but in many ways it's a large distance for a lot of people to travel, older people, seniors particularly. What a great way that some of the seniors could be near their loved ones when they are in the hospital.

So many times hip replacements, for instance, have been very active in that hospital, in the Kentville community, and I am sure that is the support needed, because in the hospital we see the nurses stressed, that they are unable, probably, to attend in the way that they would have a decade or two ago to those persons in their care. Relatives can often pinch-hit and do that for them. You are taking people away from the communities, you're taking them away from their families. Fidelis House is a way to bring them back together again, and to actually lessen the burden on our overstressed health care system, where they could go and assist in the matters relative to the personal care of those persons involved.

It's a pleasure for me to have been able to speak tonight. I have a few moments left. This is a worthy cause that the member for Kings North has brought forward. As I mentioned, travelling and staying near our loved ones when they are sick is a stressful time, and Fidelis House helps ease the stress for many families. I think it's important for government and charitable organizations to support initiatives like Fidelis House Society throughout Nova Scotia. We have a good regional hospital system here in this province. We

[Page 7511]

have the Yarmouth Hospital, we have Kentville, we have Amherst and the Truro communities, New Glasgow, but around that an integral part of the whole support system for that regional hospital must be something the equivalent of Fidelis House.

Many people, for instance from eastern Nova Scotia, must travel to Sydney for care, and the people from Sydney came for care, cancer care, and now they have a facility there, so not so many people have to come for cancer care from the Sydney area into Halifax. If you look at the Island of Cape Breton and those persons served by that, there is certainly a need for that type of facility in that community as well. It's not just this particular area, my plea would be to the Department of Health and the minister to recognize this as a supportable, worthy cause, worthy of budgetary considerations of not only the district health authorities in the particular regions throughout the province but also as a priority of the Department of Health. This is budget time; this is a good time to look at what is incorporated into next year's budget.

I mention again, many in the regions of southwestern Nova Scotia that I am more familiar with have to travel to Yarmouth or to the Valley Regional. We know that many people have to come from all parts of Nova Scotia into Halifax. It's so important. These are the hidden costs of health care. I see it as a function of the regional hospital to have services as close to home as possible, and when it's necessary to travel for specialized care or for whatever reason that there are facilities such as this; $15 to some people would be an extreme burden, and to others they would gladly share that. As the member for Kings North said, it's a way of partnership, where the public service and the private can interact. People are willing to pay that, if they can afford to.

The word fidelis means faithful, and I would say that the Government of Nova Scotia and the Department of Health should be faithful to those they serve and have services such as those offered by Fidelis House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would like to thank the honourable member for his comments.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank both of the previous speakers and the member for Kings North for bringing this resolution forward and the member for Dartmouth East for speaking so eloquently on the issue. I don't particularly profess to know a great deal about Fidelis House. I have been in Kentville on a number of occasions and toured that area, and when we served on the Standing Committee on Community Services talking about social issues I don't recall a representative from Fidelis House coming forward to speak or make a presentation to that standing committee.

[Page 7512]

What I want to say, Mr. Speaker, is that I am pleased that the honourable member has brought such a very important issue to this Legislative Assembly by way of a resolution, but also by way of forewarning this Legislature that there is a very serious issue with respect to Fidelis House, and that is the issue that Fidelis House may have to relocate as a result of having to be moved out of their property. I think it is important to recognize that the community of Kentville - I should say the community of Kings, because although it may be located in Kentville, it is all those surrounding communities which the member for Dartmouth East had indicated - used the services of Fidelis House.

I think it is important that we, as government, recognize our role and responsibility in providing the levels of services that are requested of us. The fact that it would cost $500,000 to build a new facility puts a tremendous pressure on all those volunteers to come up with that kind of money, particularly in that part of the province and in that community. The other point is that even though this was a huge mountain for them to climb, they did in fact raise approximately $100,000 towards that mountain and they also had conversations with the district health authority with respect to a hectare of land, or a parcel of land, I might say, in which there might be the opportunity to transfer that to the Fidelis House Society. If that is the case, I think that speaks well of the district health authority. It speaks well of the government as well, because the government is in fact the one who puts the money towards the district health authority, which would enable the district health authority to parcel that land off to Fidelis House.

Mr. Speaker, if the member for Kings North is particularly interested about where we stand on this particular issue as the New Democratic Party, we have always stood in support of government providing a means and a service to those individuals who simply cannot afford it, and not only for those individuals who cannot afford, but facilities that will provide the kind of comfort and care and allow individuals the opportunity to visit their loved ones in an adjoining hospital and to have a facility that causes that transition as well. This is something that I see that Fidelis House does and it does that quite well. I know that the honourable member for Kings North mentioned two particular areas in the Halifax metro area. Although he had indicated that they had not reached that stage in the community of Kings of delivering those programs, the intent, the heart is there and all they do need is some support from the community and from government, as well. I want him to know that we, my Party, certainly won't stand in the way of making sure that Fidelis House receives support and funding from this provincial government.

We firmly believe that that is a role of government and I think the member for Kings North might have used the point that there even be $1 million a year, or he might have said $3 million a year savings each year since 1993, which amounts to a tremendous number of dollars; millions and millions of dollars that would normally have to be re-extracted from the public purse. If this is something that can be done by the private sector, the public sector and government, all three parties involved, then that is why we are here and that is what we are all about.

[Page 7513]

The fact is, it's our responsibility to provide services and programs, but also to provide them in means that they don't bankrupt the taxpayers of this province. Here is an opportunity where these individuals pay $15 a night. I know of no other advantage to having people have a facility, particularly those who are outside the Town of Kentville itself but in the community of Kings who can come there and spend an evening or two. I think that speaks well for itself.

I want to say there are some avenues and I don't want to take this away from other organizations who have similar needs across the Province of Nova Scotia and when I talk to them I know the honourable member will be very much aware. We have spoken about the government contributing funding and enhancing funding for programs and services to these facilities as well and I speak about Karen O'Hara who is the Director of Tearmann House in Pictou County. These are very important programs that they deliver to the community. Bernadette MacDonald, Director of Pictou County's Woman's Centre and Louise MacDonald, Director of Every Woman's Centre in Sydney. I know that they don't provide the same kind of programs and services that Fidelis House provides, but I do want you to know that they all come to government to deliver programs that are essential to the communities that they represent, programs, that if government were to deliver those programs, would cost Nova Scotia taxpayers many more dollars than what they do being delivered by the group of volunteers and the agencies that fund these facilities as well.

I want the honourable member for Kings North to know that when we sat in on budget deliberations - and they're extremely difficult and I understand from the government's point of view to mete out those dollars so that you get the best advantage for those dollars. One must realize as well that there is also the recognition that these organizations better deliver the programs and services to communities than what government can; the administrative cost that is involved in that as well.

I want to say to the honourable member of Kings North who brought this resolution forward and by the way, when he did bring this resolution forward, I think it's quite clear to say that the member for Kings North was campaigning on their behalf as well; fundraising, I might say, in a fundraising campaign and I see absolutely nothing wrong with that, it's the kind of program that I would support, I know it's the kind of program that the member for Dartmouth East would support and I do know now that it's the kind of program that the member for Kings North will support.

I certainly hope that he encourages his government as well as, he has said, the federal government to become actively involved in providing the kind of funds that will allow Fidelis House to have a new facility and that it's up and it's going quickly. Hopefully, that facility can be erected and built before there's any closure of the existing facility that now stands in the community. It would be extremely difficult for those individuals to have a lapse time between the construction of this new facility and the use of the existing facility that's already there.

[Page 7514]

I certainly hope that there is a time frame built in here so that the member can talk to his government and I can tell you that if it's an item in the budget and it requires our support once again, that we're prepared to give the honourable member the support and also Fidelis House Society this support. We recognize its contribution to not only the community of Kings but to the Province of Nova Scotia as well. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you and I would like to thank all the members for taking part in this very important debate this evening. We're adjourned until tomorrow at the noon hour.

[The House rose at 6:29 p.m.]

[Page 7515]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 2697

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas the sport of baseball enjoyed a renaissance across Nova Scotia this past summer, with the hosting of the Canadian Senior Men's Baseball Championship in the Annapolis Valley; and

Whereas baseball is a great pasttime enjoyed by both men and women, with a prime example of women's participation being the women's baseball league of Sheet Harbour; and

Whereas the Sheet Harbour Rookies finished in first place in the local women's league this summer;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly extend their congratulations to Base Coach Phillis Russell, No. 1 fan Jasper and Rookie team members for their fine display of baseball and wish them the very best in the 2002 season.

RESOLUTION NO. 2698

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas 25 year Long Service Awards are presented to Nova Scotia civil servants to recognize their many years of faithful service as employees of the Nova Scotia Government; and

Whereas Bridget Boutilier of Sheet Harbour was recognized last year for her 25 years of service to the province; and

Whereas Bridget has worked in different positions over the past 26 years and is presently employed with the Department of Environment and Labour in the Environmental Monitoring and Compliance Division;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs congratulate Ms. Bridget Boutilier for her exceptional work over the past 26 years and wish her every success with any future plans.

[Page 7516]

RESOLUTION NO. 2699

By: Mrs. Muriel Baillie (Pictou West)

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

Whereas a group of students from West Pictou Consolidated School have learned about hard work and the joy of a job well done; and

Whereas six students from Grades 6 to 8 decided, as part of their Citizenship Exploratory Program, to plant a peace garden on the grounds of their school; and

Whereas these students, with the help of school fundraising efforts and donations from the community, have now established a beautiful garden as a permanent part of their school;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate students Josh Owens, William Stewart, Carolin Hart, Amy Langille and Bev Jordan, along with their guidance counsellor, Marie Bowness, for their hard work and for an initiative which will enrich their school's atmosphere for all.

RESOLUTION NO. 2700

By: Mr. Kerry Morash (Queens)

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

Whereas family physicians are a very important part of rural life, caring for people from birth to death, and over decades the bonds that are forged cannot be broken; and

Whereas Dr. David Large practiced medicine in Queens County for 30 years, tending patients from his office and at Queens General Hospital; and

Whereas Dr. Large is now enjoying his retirement in Queens County in a new home in Port Joli;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House thank Dr. David Large for his years of medical service and the caring and kindness he offered to Queens County families, and wish him and his wife Marilyn best wishes.

[Page 7517]

RESOLUTION NO. 2701

By: Mr. James DeWolfe (Pictou East)

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

Whereas the Westville High School Mavericks girls volleyball team recently won the St. Mary's Rural High School invitational tournament; and

Whereas the Westville High School Mavericks girls volleyball team consists of Shelley MacNutt, Kristen Higgins, Megan Chennell, Beth Bourque, Kylea Smeltzer, Missy Marshall, Adele Haslam, Laura DeCoste, Sara Swales, Marsha Aikens, Carla Spears, tournament Most Valuable Player Tennille Bowen and Coaches Karen Deagle and Pat Carty; and

Whereas the upcoming regionals will be hosted by the Westville High School Mavericks;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Westville High School Mavericks girls volleyball team for their athletic accomplishments as well as for their dedication to sport and physical fitness.

RESOLUTION NO. 2702

By: Mr. Kerry Morash (Queens)

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

Whereas Villagefest, a fundraising event held last summer at the Mill Village Fire Hall was a success; and

Whereas the day's goals were met and the proceeds will help pay for a new fire truck; and

Whereas not only was the goal of the event achieved but those in attendance had loads of fun in the process, with prizes provided by Queens and Lunenburg County businesses;

Therefore be it resolved that all members congratulate the organizers and volunteers of Villagefest on their event's success and wish them well in future events.

[Page 7518]

RESOLUTION NO. 2703

By: Mr. Kerry Morash (Queens)

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

Whereas two Queens County authors are in the best sellers list for books they have recently written; and

Whereas the Historic Queens County, by Tom Sheppard, former Principal of North Queens Rural High School, was first on the list for authors from Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Ghost Stories of the Maritimes, by Vernon Oickle, former Editor of the Liverpool Advance, was the number four selection;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House applaud Tom Sheppard and Vernon Oickle for their outstanding contribution to Nova Scotia literature and encourage these two fine authors to continue writing so many may benefit from their work.

RESOLUTION NO. 2704

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas the Progress Women of Excellence Awards honours women who are outstanding in their fields and Nancy Hilchie of Lawrencetown has won in the category of Communications and Public Affairs; and

Whereas known for creativity, compassion, attention to detail and drive, Nancy Hilchie is a long-standing member of the CHNS/CHFX management team, a founding member of the Halifax Chapter of the Canadian Women in Communications and heading the production of the Maritime Broadcasting Systems Radiothon for the IWK-Grace; and

Whereas considered part of the growth of the broadcast industry, Ms. Hilchie is MBS's Employment Equity Coordinator and has developed scholarship programs for young broadcasters;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join with the Halifax Cornwallis Progress Club in acknowledging Nancy Hilchie's admirable broadcast career and commend her for helping new and talented people enter the broadcast industry.

[Page 7519]

RESOLUTION NO. 2705

By: Mrs. Muriel Baillie (Pictou West)

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

Whereas Deniso Lebel opened its Scotsburn mill in 1997 when it purchased a well-established logging and sawmill operation and has since made a large capital investment resulting in the dry-kiln, planing and sawmill operation that stands today; and

Whereas the Lebel Group believes that the key to its success is the skill set and experience of its employees; and

Whereas it also believes in supporting the local economy and currently employs over 40 people and injects more than $15 million annually into the forestry community of Pictou County through the services of local suppliers;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly congratulate Deniso Lebel Scotsburn on its grand opening and acknowledge the company as a good corporate citizen for Pictou County and as an important part of the forestry industry in Nova Scotia.

RESOLUTION NO. 2706

By: Mr. Richard Hurlburt (Yarmouth)

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

Whereas the Yarmouth Victorian Order of Nurses and the Yarmouth Town and County Crime Prevention Association are establishing a telephone service called CareRing, a program that will phone people living in isolation at specific times during the day; and

Whereas Michelle LeBlanc, Yarmouth County Coordinator of Volunteer Services for the Victorian Order of Nurses, determined the need for a program like CareRing in the local community, over 2,000 seniors in the Yarmouth area - 30 per cent of the approximately 6,700 seniors living in the area - are isolated and may not see or speak to a single person each day; and

Whereas the CareRing program can act as a safety check or a medication reminder for those seniors who need such assistance;

[Page 7520]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House acknowledge the great kindness, compassion and thoughtfulness displayed by the Yarmouth Victorian Order of Nurses, the Yarmouth Town and County Crime Prevention Association, Ms. Michelle LeBlanc and all those who will assist with the operation and future development of the CareRing program.

RESOLUTION NO. 2707

By: Mr. Richard Hurlburt (Yarmouth)

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

Whereas Minard's Bakery of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, recently celebrated their 55th year of operation in the community; and

Whereas the bakery was founded by Fred Minard, Sr., after he served as a cook in the Army during World War II, was later inherited by Fred Minard, Jr., in the early 1970's and began supplying restaurants, both ferries and the hospital with baked products, and is now operated by Craig Minard; and

Whereas Minard's Bakery makes a variety of products, including over 100 loaves of whole wheat, multi-grain, Dutch and white breads, rolls, cupcakes, pound cakes and birthday cakes and an assortment of pies;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Minard's Bakery and its three generations of owners and operators on their 55th Anniversary and wish them many more years of operation in their community.

RESOLUTION NO. 2708

By: Mr. Richard Hurlburt (Yarmouth)

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

Whereas Doug Surette rescued three year old Donna Thorburn from the cold waters of Yarmouth Harbour on September 25, 1959; and

Whereas Mr. Surette was, at that time, presented with a tri-cadet medal for bravery, the first such cadet medal issued in the British Empire, awarded through the Canadian Cadet Corps movement, representing all three branches of the armed services; and

[Page 7521]

Whereas Mr. Surette's medal had never been properly mounted and, as such, it was properly prepared and presented to him for a second time through a brief ceremony at Yarmouth Town Council chambers last week;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House acknowledge the great bravery and courage shown by Doug Surette in his daring and life-saving rescue of September 1959 and congratulate him for the re-issuance of his unique and well-deserved medal.

RESOLUTION NO. 2709

By: Mr. Richard Hurlburt (Yarmouth)

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

Whereas the Canada Special Olympics nationals will be held in Saskatchewan in the summer of 2002, and will include 17 Special Olympics athletes from Yarmouth; and

Whereas Eastlink Cable in Yarmouth recently ran a telethon to raise funds to pay for athletes' travel costs as well as raise awareness for the Special Olympics; and

Whereas the Yarmouth Special Olympics athletes feature David Sisco who will compete in power lifting, Debra Spencer who will compete in aquatics and the 15 members of the softball team: Mark Deveau, Randy Comeau, Glen Peterson, Kevin Ellis, Rhonda Smith, Timmy Atwood, Royce Murphy, Robert Dalton, Kevin Hudson, Isaac Paris, Walter Muise, Susan Hudson, Leo Leroy, Elden Muise and Tommy Jacquard;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the hard work and determination of the Special Olympics athletes from Yarmouth and the whole country and thank them, their trainers and their supporters in their community for their dedication to sport as well as their promotion of personal fitness and pride in one's abilities.

RESOLUTION NO. 2710

By: Mr. Richard Hurlburt (Yarmouth)

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

Whereas on November 19 to November 23, 2001, the 13 Nova Scotia Community College campuses across the province will hold student-focused, community and business sector events in honour of the third annual College Week, a promotional campaign designed

[Page 7522]

to raise public awareness about the programs and skills students develop at the college and to demonstrate why over 7,600 students choose the college each year; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Community College was started in 1988 and in recent years more people have been turning to it for post-secondary studies in a variety of fields; and

Whereas the Burridge Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College, named after Dr. George A. Burridge, first Principal of the Yarmouth Vocational School, has more than 500 full-time students and, according to Principal Marcel Cottreau, the itinerary at Burridge Campus includes open class time on the afternoon of November 22nd;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House thank and recognize the students and staff for their dedication to Nova Scotia Community College year-round.