The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House adjourned:
October 26, 2017.

HANSARD 03-27

DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS

Speaker: Honourable Murray Scott

Published by Order of the Legislature by Hansard Reporting Services and printed by the Queen's Printer.

Available on INTERNET at http://nslegislature.ca/index.php/proceedings/hansard/

Annual subscriptions available from the Office of the Speaker.

Third Session

TUESDAY, MAY 6, 2003

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS 2129
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Commun. Serv.: RRSS - Fund, Mr. J. Pye 2130
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Rept. of the Superintendent of Pensions on the Administration
of the Pension Benefits Act, Hon. R. Russell 2130
Firefighters' Compensation Act - Draft Regulations, Hon. R. Russell 2130
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1078, Moore, Sister Dorothy: Rebel With a Cause Award -
Congrats., (by Hon. Rodney MacDonald), Hon. M. Baker 2131
Vote - Affirmative 2131
Res. 1079, Nat'l. IT Wk. - Teachers/Students: Achievements -
Acknowledge, Hon. A. MacIsaac 2132
Vote - Affirmative 2132
Res. 1080, NAOSH Wk. - Workplace Health & Safety: Commitment -
Renew, Hon. R. Russell 2132
Vote - Affirmative 2133
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1081, John MacNeil Elem. Sch. - Cdn. Citizenship Court:
Hosting - Congrats., Mr. J. Pye 2133
Vote - Affirmative 2134
Res. 1082, Sports - C.B. Heritage Hall of Fame: Inductees - Congrats.,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 2134
Vote - Affirmative 2135
Res. 1083, Agric. & Fish.: Harbinson Report - Support, Mr. M. Parent 2135
Vote - Affirmative 2136
Res. 1084, Insurance/Tuition Rates: Gov't. (N.S.) - Freeze, Mr. D. Dexter 2136
Res. 1085, Buy N.S. First - Prem.: Promise - Breach Admit,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 2137
Res. 1086, Ruggles, Gail/Minard, Judy: AVRSB Awards - Congrats.,
Mr. F. Chipman 2137
Vote - Affirmative 2138
Res. 1087, Feminists for Just & Equitable Pub. Policy: Efforts -
Congrats., Ms. Maureen MacDonald 2138
Res. 1088, MacInnis, Heather/MacQueen, Weston: St. Anns Praise
Singers/Celtic Men's Chorus - Applaud, Mr. K. MacAskill 2139
Vote - Affirmative 2140
Res. 1089, Scottish Immigrants: N.S. - Influence - Consider,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 2140
Vote - Affirmative 2141
Res. 1090, Nat'l. Forest Wk.: Cdn. Forest Assoc. Motto - Adopt,
Mr. J. MacDonell 2141
Vote - Affirmative 2141
Res. 1091, PC/NDP: Fusion - Urge, Mr. P. MacEwan 2141
Res. 1092, MacLeod, Jennifer, et al - Undeveloped Countries:
Tech. Assistance - Thank, Mr. M. Parent 2142
Vote - Affirmative 2143
Res. 1093, RRSS: Arbitration Request - Heed, Mr. J. Pye 2143
Res. 1094, Prem. - Spending/Borrowing: Satisfaction - Results,
Mr. M. Samson 2144
Res. 1095, Stuart, Prof. Reginald: Fulbright Award - Congrats.,
Ms. M. McGrath 2144
Vote - Affirmative 2145
Res. 1096, Insurance: Rate Freeze - Insufficiency, Mr. F. Corbett 2145
Res. 1097, NDP - Tory Fixation: Voters - Consider, Mr. P. MacEwan 2146
Res. 1098, Dartmouth East MLA - Retirement: Best Wishes - Extend,
Mr. K. Morash 2146
Vote - Affirmative 2147
Res. 1099, McFadden, Amber: Keizi Koho Fellowship - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 2147
Vote - Affirmative 2148
Res. 1100, Gov't. (N.S.): Campaign Slogan - Suggestion,
Mr. M. Samson 2148
Res. 1101, Wolfville Sch. - Spring Science Fairs: Participants -
Congrats., Hon. D. Morse 2149
Vote - Affirmative 2149
Res. 1102, Brookside JHS - Fest. of Knowledge: Participants - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 2150
Vote - Affirmative 2151
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 248, Insurance: Rate Freeze - Efficacy, Mr. D. Dexter 2151
No. 249, Environ. & Lbr. - Orangedale Water Supply: Risk - Details,
Dr. J. Smith 2152
No. 250, Insurance - Existing Policies: Assistance - Details,
Mr. D. Dexter 2154
No. 251, Insurance - Seniors: Underwriting Solutions - Info.,
Mr. W. Gaudet 2155
No. 252, Insurance - Action: Delay - Min. Explain, Mr. F. Corbett 2156
No. 253, Nat. Res. - Coastal Properties: Storm Damage -
Protection Details, Mr. H. Epstein 2157
No. 254, Commun. Serv. - RRSS Strike: Collective Bargaining -
Min. Response, Mr. W. Gaudet 2159
No. 255, Commun. Serv. - RRSS: Binding Arbitration - Allow,
Mr. J. Pye 2160
No. 256, Environ. & Lbr.: Digby Neck Quarry - Halt, Mr. H. Epstein 2161
No. 257, Educ. - French Immersion Prog.: Meadowfields Sch. -
Funding Details, Mr. D. Wilson 2162
No. 258, Health - Home Care: Status - Explain, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 2164
No. 259, Environ. & Lbr. - Kennetcook Oil Spill: Reg. Process -
Confirm, Mr. R. MacKinnon 2165
No. 260, Health - Nursing Home Backlog: Situation - Explain,
Mr. F. Corbett 2166
No. 261, Environ. & Lbr. - Dorsey Rept.: Gov't. (N.S.) Position -
Confirm, Mr. P. MacEwan 2167
No. 262, Environ. & Lbr. - Recycling Depots: Handling Fees -
Adjustment Details, Mr. H. Epstein 2168
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 45, Insurance Act 2170
Hon. R. Russell 2170
Mr. G. Steele 2171
Mr. W. Gaudet 2187
SPEAKER'S RULING: Limiting number of protesters allowed in Province
House. (Point of Order by Mr. J. Holm [Hansard p. 2194, 06/05/03]) 2196
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 45, Insurance Act 2197
Mr. D. Dexter 2197
Mr. Manning MacDonald 2210
Mr. F. Corbett 2219
Mr. P. MacEwan 2232
Adjourned debate 2233
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Insurance: Rate Freeze - Purpose:
Mr. R. MacKinnon 2233
Mr. B. Taylor 2236
Mr. H. Epstein 2239
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 45, Insurance Act 2242
Mr. P. MacEwan 2242
Mr. J. Holm 2249
Mr. K. MacAskill 2262
Adjourned debate 2263
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., May 7th at 2:00 p.m. 2264
NOTICE OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 1077, Wood, Chief Arnold: Parrsboro FD 20-Yr. Service Medal -
Congrats., The Speaker 2265
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 1103, Educ. - Heritage Fairs: Particpants - Congrats., Mr. B. Barnet 2266
Res. 1104, Manning, Belinda: Cdn. Geographic Award - Congrats.,
Hon. D. Morse 2266
Res. 1105, Hurshman, Dwayne: Liverpool FD Vol. of Yr. - Congrats.,
Mr. K. Morash 2267
Res. 1106, Lockwood, Mike: Mill Village FD Vol. of Yr. - Congrats.,
Mr. K. Morash 2267
Res. 1107, Nickerson, Gary/Zinck, Ray: Atl. Journalism Award -
Congrats., Mr. R. Hurlburt 2268
Res. 1108, Oickle, Kelly - Westville PD: Efforts - Commend,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 2268
Res. 1109, Children of Chernobyl Fundraising Auction:
Pictou Co. Support - Commend, Mr. J. DeWolfe 2269
Res. 1110, LORDA Park: Value - Acknowledge, Mr. J. DeWolfe 2269
Res. 1111, Hansen, Nelson: Atl. Journalism Award - Congrats.,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 2270
Res. 1112, Munson, Mary/Inkpen, Alan: Atl. Journalism Award -
Congrats., Mr. D. Hendsbee 2270
Res. 1113, Johnston, Beth, et al: Atl. Journalism Award -
Congrats., Mr. D. Hendsbee 2271
Res. 1114, Murphy, Tom/Jessome, Phonse: Atl. Journalism Award -
Congrats., Mr. D. Hendsbee 2271
Res. 1115, Hfx. Herald Team (Amy Smith et al): Atl. Journalism Award -
Congrats., Mr. D. Hendsbee 2272
Res. 1116, DeAdder, Michael: Atl. Journalism Award -
Congrats., Mr. D. Hendsbee 2272
Res. 1117, Reeves, George: Atl. Journalism Award -
Congrats., Mr. D. Hendsbee 2273
Res. 1118, Paisley, Craig: Atl. Journalism Award -
Congrats., Mr. D. Hendsbee 2274
Res. 1119, Evans, Peter/Jenkins, Larry: Atl. Journalism Award -
Congrats., Mr. D. Hendsbee 2274
Res. 1120, Chiu, Elizabeth: Atl. Journalism Award -
Congrats., Mr. D. Hendsbee 2275

[Page 2129]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, MAY 6, 2003

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Third Session

12:00 NOON

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we begin the daily routine, the honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's on an introduction.

MR. JOHN CHATAWAY: Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate this opportunity to welcome the Grades 5 and 6 from East St. Margaret's Elementary School, as well as the teachers, Leslie Stephen, Marsha Mosher, Karren Fader, Gail Morash, Annette Boutilier and Jacqui Murray, either teachers or attendants. I think the House is very thrilled that these were not the people who were just yelling outside the House. I would like you all just to stand up and we'll give you a warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our special guests to the gallery today. We see they all have their name tags on and that's great for the members to identify them. We hope you enjoy the proceedings today.

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

Therefore be it resolved that an insurance freeze does not address the issue of high insurance rates, it is merely a pre-election band-aid.

2129

[Page 2130]

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

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition with 35 signatures on it. The operative clause reads:

"Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned family members, counsellors and other concerned persons, call on the Hamm government to show that it cares about the residents of the Regional Residential Services Society by giving that agency a mandate and appropriate funding to negotiate wage parity for their residential counsellors as soon as possible."

Mr. Speaker, I have affixed my signature to the petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Premier.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table the Report of the Superintendent of Pensions on the Administration of the Pension Benefits Act for the year ended March 31, 2002.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to table the draft regulations that should accompany the Firefighters' Compensation Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The regulations are tabled.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

[Page 2131]

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 1078

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

Whereas Sister Dorothy Moore will receive the prestigious Elizabeth Fry Society's Rebel With a Cause Award on Friday, May 9th; and

Whereas she has dedicated her life to the education of Mi'kmaq youth, particularly in the areas of language and culture; and

Whereas Sister Moore has served on numerous boards and committees dealing with Aboriginal issues and is currently education consultant to Membertou First Nations Education, the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, and the Atlantic Aboriginal Health Research Program;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Sister Dorothy Moore for her selection as recipient of this prestigious award in her lifetime of exemplary work in the field of education.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

[Page 2132]

RESOLUTION NO. 1079

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

Whereas the provincial government and its partners have put 6,200 new computers and Internet access in schools, and will add 3,600 more through our Learning for Life strategy by 2004; and

Whereas I had the opportunity to visit St. Andrew Junior School in Antigonish yesterday, where Grade 5 students are improving their reading and writing skills by using this technology to do a modern version of the book report and to produce a class newsletter; and

Whereas the teachers are finding many innovative ways to motivate our students with technology in the classroom;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House acknowledge the achievements of our teachers and students during National Information Technology Week from May 3rd to May 11th.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 1080

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

Whereas May 4th to May 10th is North American Occupational Safety and Health Week, a time to increase awareness of the benefits of investing in occupational health and safety; and

[Page 2133]

Whereas this year's theme is "Prevention is the cure - Prepare young workers for the future"; and

Whereas it is the goal of the department to increase awareness among all workplace parties of the province's occupational health and safety regulations and responsibilities;

Therefore be it resolved that we celebrate North American Occupational Safety and Health Week by each making a renewed commitment to workplace health and safety and by acknowledging the role we can each fulfill in making our province the safest and healthiest place in the world to live, work and play.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1081

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

Whereas on May 1, 2003, John MacNeil Elementary School hosted the Canadian Citizenship Court; and

Whereas Principal William Burchill, Vice-Principal Charlie Martin, the staff and the students created a welcoming environment by displaying maps and flags of the countries of origin of our new Canadian citizens; and

[Page 2134]

Whereas 43 immigrants from 21 different countries took the Oath of Citizenship and will now call Canada their homeland;

Therefore be it resolved that this Legislative Assembly congratulate John MacNeil Elementary School and all those involved in hosting the Canadian Citizenship Court on May 1st, and welcome our new Canadians with best wishes for success in their future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 1082

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

Whereas on May 31, 2003, New Waterford's Leo Fahey, Sydney's Stan MacDougall, Westmount's Rowe Rudderham, and North Sydney's Cyril MacDonald will be inducted into the Cape Breton Heritage Hall of Fame; and

Whereas the 1964-65 Cape Breton Post Bombers, along with the Glace Bay Antonians, who won the 1952 Maritime Junior Baseball Championships will be honoured for their contribution to the record books; and

Whereas in recognition of the efforts made by Dr. Carl (Bucky) Buchanan, former UCCB Athletics Director and Port Hood's Bobby Beaton, former boxer and referee, to build a strong base in athletics throughout Cape Breton Island, Dr. Buchanan and Mr. Beaton will also be inducted on May 31, 2003;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature recognize the contributions these individuals have made to sports in Cape Breton Island, and congratulate each of them for being inducted into the Cape Breton Heritage Hall of Fame.

[Page 2135]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1083

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia turkey industry represents 24 producers supplying 4.5 million kilograms of product, valued at $6.6 million to the Nova Scotia economy; and

Whereas the agriculture chair for the World Trade Organization, Stuart Harbinson, recently prepared a fundamentally flawed paper, which is denounced by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, as well as what is known in agriculture circles as the SM-5 Group; and

Whereas the Legislature's Resources Committee unanimously passed a motion this morning requesting our Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries to send a letter to the federal Minister of Agriculture, calling upon the federal government to oppose the Harbinson report;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs in this Legislature support the minister and the Nova Scotia Turkey Producers Marketing Board in their opposition to the Harbinson report.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 2136]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 1084

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 consternation of Nova Scotians grows each day with this government's failure to address skyrocketing auto insurance premiums adequately, or to control tuition rate increases that make education less and less accessible; and

Whereas yesterday, this government announced that after rate increases of 65 per cent or more, they will freeze auto insurance rates until 2004, which is the equivalent of a doctor putting a band-aid on a bullet wound; and

Whereas one furious Nova Scotian wrote to the NDP that, "Between car insurance and tuition fees, I'll be paying through the nose until I'm dead!!";

Therefore be it resolved that government should act to help today's families by implementing the fairest and lowest auto insurance rates and freezing tuition fees for students.

[12:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

[Page 2137]

RESOLUTION NO. 1085

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

Whereas representatives from the Nova Scotia Turkey Producers Marketing Board appeared before the Resources Committee of the Legislature today; and

Whereas these representatives advised members of the committee that the Tory Government has failed on its blue book commitment to Buy Nova Scotia First as it relates to their industry; and

Whereas these representatives also advised members of the committee that they now face higher user fees, additional new user fees and more red tape than six years ago;

Therefore be it resolved that Premier Hamm admit that his Tory blue book promise to Buy Nova Scotia First is just another broken promise to our agricultural community.

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 Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 1086

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

Whereas the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board Non-Union Employees Recognition of Service Awards reception has recently taken place in Berwick, honouring long-term service of non-support staff; and

Whereas Gail Ruggles of Middleton Regional High School received one of these recognition awards for her service to the school spanning 20 years; and

[Page 2138]

Whereas Judy Minard of Bridgetown Regional High School also was the recipient of an award for her 10 years of service at BRHS;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Gail Ruggles and Judy Minard on receiving the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board Non-Union Employees Recognition of Service Awards for their commitment to Middleton Regional High School and Bridgetown Regional High School, respectively, and wish them success in their future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 1087

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

Whereas Feminists for Just and Equitable Public Policy is a coalition of equality-seeking community-based organizations helping to shape public policy; and

Whereas this coalition works to put women's issues on the agendas of all political Parties in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas on Thursday, May 8th, the Feminists for Just and Equitable Public Policy will release to all political Parties a document outlining 16 key areas of concern to women and their families;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House congratulate Feminists for Just and Equitable Public Policy for their efforts on behalf of all women and commit to ensuring their public policy recommendations are given thorough consideration when election platforms are prepared.

[Page 2139]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Glace Bay on an introduction.

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, joining us this afternoon in the west gallery is a group of concerned parents from Yarmouth who are here today hoping to obtain a meeting on the subject matter of resources for French immersion programs in their area. I'd like the House to please welcome Wendy Robichaud, Dr. Michelle Caine, Joan Brewer, Paula Goudy, Audrey Vaughan and Marilyn Webster. If the members would please show their kind welcome to the House today for these parents. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We welcome our guests to the gallery today and hope they enjoy the proceedings.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 1088

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 Praise Singers from St. Anns have been entertaining audiences across Cape Breton for 25 years under the direction of Heather MacInnis; and

Whereas the Celtic Mens' Chorus from industrial Cape Breton have been making music through song for 52 years under the leadership of Weston MacQueen; and

Whereas these two groups combined their talents on a special evening of music on Sunday, May 4th, in the St. Anns Bay United Church;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Assembly applaud the efforts of Heather MacInnis and Weston MacQueen and all the members of the two groups for their tireless efforts in maintaining the fine level of music and song to our province.

[Page 2140]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1089

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

Whereas in 1746, on a Scottish moor called Culloden Field, a battle was fought and lost, determining the fate of those who would bring the Scottish character to what would be called New Scotland; and

Whereas defeated in war, Scottish families left their country for peace in the new world, landing on the northern shores of the Province of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas cherishing their Scottish heritage and in memory of the battle which brought so many Scottish people to our shores, more than 200 people gathered again this year in the community of Lismore to the cairn where three who fought at Culloden are buried;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House consider the tremendous part these Scottish immigrants played in our province's history and the character they have added to the province's rich and diverse culture.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 2141]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1090

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

Whereas May 4th to May 10th has been named National Forest Week in Canada; and

Whereas our forests are a source of life and to sustain them is to sustain our lives; and

Whereas this week gives us and all Canadians the chance to think about and appreciate the rich national heritage and wealth of our vast but diminishing forests;

Therefore be it resolved that this House celebrate this week as National Forest Week and commit to implementing the Canadian Forest Association's motto, "Enjoying the national treasures of our forests today, while protecting forest health for the future."

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 1091

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

[Page 2142]

Whereas the PC-NDP alliance has grown to where when the NDP says jump, the PCs meekly respond, how high; and

Whereas it is reliably reported that leading Tories are now spending their evenings memorizing clauses of the Regina Manifesto; and

Whereas we further learn that a team of NDP ghostwriters has been retained to compose the contents of blue book two;

Therefore be it resolved that the partners in the PC-NDP alliance should fuse, so that by fusion in action, the voters can then choose between the PC-NDP Party on the one hand and the Liberal Party on the other hand come election day.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1092

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

Whereas the digital divide is expanding between underdeveloped and developed countries; and

Whereas CUSO, with financial support from the Kentville and Wolfville Rotary Clubs, is assisting in helping this technology gap from widening; and

Whereas Kentville IT specialist Jennifer MacLeod has recently completed a six-month contract with CUSO where she designed a database, user interface and Web site for the McCann Centre in Jamaica to aid in the identification of childhood disabilities;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in expressing our gratitude to Jennifer MacLeod, CUSO and the Kentville and Wolfville Rotary Clubs for their efforts to diminish the digital divide.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 2143]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1093

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

Whereas group home counsellors with the Regional Residential Services Society continue to seek a fair wage agreement through the Minister of Community Services, but it's clear the Premier has reined in his minister; and

Whereas although the minister has stated that these workers are being paid what they are worth, his Premier steadfastly refuses to meet the workers' reasonable request that their demands go to arbitration; and

Whereas this Premier jumped quickly to arbitrate disputes with the casinos and with the Armoyans over the P3 school contracts;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier treat the request for arbitration by group home counsellors with the Regional Residential Services Society with the same reverence and dispatch that he gave to the arbitrated settlements with the casinos and with P3 school contracts.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.

[Page 2144]

RESOLUTION NO. 1094

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

Whereas on Friday, June 4, 1999, the Leader of the Third Party, John Hamm, stated the following, "What we have before us and what we are dealing with in the committee on estimates is a government that came to power realizing - as I did when I ran in 1993 - that we have to start living within our means and, if we don't, catastrophic things are going to happen down the road."; and

Whereas as the debt continues to grow, it is clear that the Premier has abandoned his raison d'être for entering politics in the first place; and

Whereas after $1 billion in extra revenue and $500 million in extra borrowing, it is even more apparent that the Premier has abandoned his belief that we have to start living within our means;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize that the Premier seems satisfied with his reckless spending and borrowing which will result in catastrophic things happening down the road.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 1095

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

Whereas the mandate of the Fulbright Chair at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars is to identify the best scholars and to engage them in exchanges consistent with the highest standards; and

Whereas Mount Saint Vincent University professor Reginald Stuart is the only scholar from a Maritime university to win this two-year-old award; and

Whereas this respected specialist in Canada-U.S. relations will act as visiting five-month chair at the centre's Canada Institute;

[Page 2145]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in expressing our congratulations to Professor Reginald Stuart on winning the Fulbright Award, and wish him much success in his future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 1096

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

Whereas more and more Nova Scotians are adopting the motto of the NDP Task Force on Lower Auto Insurance that Nova Scotia drivers deserve a fairer deal; and

Whereas they keep telling us that rates are unfair, that government needs to take meaningful action, and they deserve the lowest and fairest insurance rates; and

Whereas one disgruntled Nova Scotian has a great suggestion, "Every year Saskatoon registers licenses and insurance through one body - we could do the same!";

Therefore be it resolved that if this government intends to vault the next election hurdle, it must do more than make a half-hearted attempt to stop the bleeding of drivers' wallets through a half-baked, half-year freeze on auto insurance rates.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 2146]

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 1097

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

Whereas since the last resolution on this topic, the PCs and NDP have now grown so enmeshed that whichever way you vote, you get the other; and

Whereas whatever the NDP has said, the Tories have done, so much so that this has become the chief NDP sales pitch; and

Whereas the Tories plan to stay in power by conceding to the NDP, those metro-Halifax ridings they cannot win themselves, thereby hoping to divide and conquer, as Julius Caesar wrote;

Therefore be it resolved that Nova Scotia political history since 1998 demonstrates that the chief fixation of the NDP over that time has been either to put or to keep the Tory Party in power.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 1098

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

Whereas the MLA for Dartmouth East, a native of Queens County, has announced he will not re-offer in the next election; and

Whereas because of those ties, the member has a summer home in Bells Point in the suburbs of Port Mouton, Queens County; and

[Page 2147]

Whereas while we will miss the honourable member for Dartmouth East in this House as the sitting member, I will be honoured to ensure that his needs as a resident of Queens County continue to be cared for, if, in his retirement, he chooses to spend more time in such a beautiful part of the province;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House wish the honourable member and his wife, Linda, all the best in their future plans, after being dedicated to the constituency of Dartmouth East for almost two decades, and encourage him to enjoy many happy days in Queens County watching the lobster boats on the bay.

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. (Applause)

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 1099

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

Whereas Sir John A. Macdonald High School teacher Amber McFadden has been selected for a Keizi Koho Fellowship to study in Japan from June 29th to July 12th; and

Whereas Ms. McFadden was the only Canadian chosen for this prestigious opportunity; and

Whereas Amber McFadden has demonstrated exemplary leadership in Nova Scotia's school system;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Amber McFadden of Sir John A. Macdonald High School on her selection as a Keizi Koho Fellow with wishes for a great learning experience in Japan.

[Page 2148]

[12:30 p.m.]

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. 1100

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

Whereas in 1998, the Hamm Tories ran on a platform of Putting People First, in which the Tory Leader would transform himself into the next Robert Stanfield; and

Whereas in 1999, the Hamm Tories ran on a platform of Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course, in which the Tory Leader hoped to emulate the tough-talking Donnie Cameron; and

Whereas this year the government is getting $1 billion more in revenue than the government in 1999, have added $500 million more to the debt, and have made over $700 million in pre-election promises;

Therefore be it resolved that the current government might want to consider this slogan for the 2003 campaign: $100 Million Here, $100 Million There and Pretty Soon You're Talking About Real Money - in this way the Premier can emulate another infamous Tory Premier.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 2149]

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

RESOLUTION NO. 1101

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

Whereas an important part of a student's school year involves the Spring Science Fair; and

Whereas Ellen Whitman and Marita Winslade, Grade 8 French immersion students at Wolfville School, were provincial winners with their projects "Mots de Guerre, Mots de Paix", and "Neige Acide" respectively; and

Whereas Ellen and Marita will be two of the five Annapolis Valley students representing Nova Scotia at the 2003 Canada Wide Science Fair in Calgary, May 11th to May 18th;

Therefore be it resolved that this House applaud not only Ellen and Marita, but all students who participate in the annual Spring Science Fair.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

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

[Page 2150]

Whereas the RRSS strike is a lose-lose situation for all stakeholders involved; and

Whereas yesterday health care providers attending Province House were advised by the member for Kings North that binding arbitration was not possible for them because they were not considered "essential service workers"; and

Whereas such statements indicate a complete lack of knowledge of the Trade Union Act;

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Kings North be reminded of the adage that it is better to be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I'll review that resolution before it's allowed to be entered.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre on an introduction.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, in the east gallery today you will see a cameraman up there with a white jersey on. His name is George Reeves and I would like the House to congratulate George. This past weekend, George won an Atlantic Journalism Award in the Photojournalism Category. If we could all just give George our congratulations. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome George to the gallery today and congratulations, George, on behalf of all the members.

The resolution introduced by the honourable member for Cape Breton West is, in my opinion, unparliamentary, and out of order.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 1102

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

Whereas the Festival of Knowledge, the first annual Athletic Event for the Intellect, was held on Saturday, May 3rd, in Bridgewater; and

Whereas the main topic among many of the activities was "What Makes a Healthy Community"; and

[Page 2151]

Whereas a Community Action Award was presented to Brookside Junior High School of Hatchet Lake, whose students created a community that integrated the elderly, reduced energy use and allowed residents to earn community credits through charity work;

Therefore be it resolved that this Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate Brookside Junior High and its students and all schools that participated in the first annual Festival of Knowledge.

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: The Oral Question Period will begin at 12:35 p.m. and end at 1:35 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

INSURANCE: RATE FREEZE - EFFICACY

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister responsible for skyrocketing insurance premiums. The government will delay the latest round of general rate increases but it is a fact that despite the minister's actions yesterday, companies can continue to charge Nova Scotians more for auto insurance. Companies can shift people into a Facility Association, they can shift more people into less favourable rate categories, they can raise deductibles, they can deny customer discounts and the list of ways that they can hike rates for people is almost endless. My question to the minister is this, were you even aware that the rate freeze you crafted is no barrier to insurance companies that want to keep hiking the rates paid by Nova Scotians?

[Page 2152]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, responding to the whining, whinging Leader of the Official Opposition (Interruptions) If he is indicating to the public and to the members of this House that the insurance companies can do as they will, then he is incorrect.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the minister has a long history of being incorrect in this province and we are constantly forced to remind people of his inability to handle this portfolio. It is the case that after decades of practice, the insurance industry is adept at avoiding government regulation. The minister has delayed the latest rate increases but his plan has countless loopholes. Any insurance company that wants to hike people's rates has plenty of options. Every one of those options is going to cost the people of this province more. My question to the minister responsible for the skyrocketing insurance rates is this, why did you create the impression that drivers will not see higher insurance bills when the opposite is true?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the opposite is not true and we have ample power within the bill to enact regulations as we see fit.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Premier said yesterday that he thought he could rely on the insurance industry to await the URB findings before changing their rates. Well, he was wrong. Now the government thinks it has frozen what Nova Scotians will pay. Again, he's wrong. Volunteer fire departments, families and small businesses will find this as their insurance comes up for renewal and that they are also going to be paying all the higher rates that were set before April 30th. My question to the minister responsible for skyrocketing insurance is, why have you failed so miserably to lower insurance rates in this province?

MR. RUSSELL: Again to the whining, whinging Leader of the New Democratic Party (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I can advise the honourable member that we are taking action. We are taking action in response to the industry's actions and we will continue to do so.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

ENVIRON. & LBR. - ORANGEDALE WATER SUPPLY:

RISK - DETAILS

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. Yesterday, we learned that the health and safety of the residents of Orangedale are at a very significant risk, high levels of aluminum in the water supply leave residents at risk for Alzheimers, Parkinsonism, Lou Gehrig's disease, not to mention the side effects for bone and cardiac

[Page 2153]

disease. My question to the Premier is, could he confirm whether he has kept on top of the issue by speaking to his colleagues, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, about the high risk and high levels of aluminum in the water supply?

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I can relate to the member opposite that in fact on a previous occasion I had met with the people in Orangedale who were concerned about their water supply, and noted with interest that they are again making public their concerns. We, in government, are prepared to dialogue with them in terms of any medical concerns they might have with their water supply.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. Yesterday, the seven board members and three executive members of the Orangedale Water Society resigned, effective June 16th of this year. They did so because they can't afford the liability insurance, and they're afraid of the health risks associated with the drinking water. That's a real risk. We only have to see what happened, with charges being laid recently against employees as a result of the Walkerton disaster in Ontario, to know that these fears of the board are real. These are real fears. My question to the minister is, given that the board of directors has given this government until June 16th, will this minister play a leadership role by sitting down with his federal and municipal counterparts to address this very serious issue through the Canada-Nova Scotia Infrastructure Program?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, yes we will. I would offer the opportunity for my colleague, the Minister of Environment and Labour, to clarify some issues with that matter.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I didn't mean to dismiss the minister. There is another issue, there's an issue of governance here and an issue of responsibility, of who in fact is responsible. I have already gone to the Premier, then to the minister, and I would like to stick with the one minister, if possible. I don't need to remind this minister that it's the provincial government that is responsible for standards of drinking water. The province has provided support on three previous occasions. In fact, a third of the users of this water supply are from facilities that are funded by the government, as the past Minister of Community Services would well know, that's seniors, L'Arche, and the summer camp that is under the auspices of Community Services. There is real risk in this area to seniors, adults and children, particularly. What assistance is the minister willing to provide in order to protect the health and well-being of Orangedale residents by providing a safe water supply after June 16th?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, we have had meetings with that group, as you know. With the safe water supply, we have indicated to them that we are prepared to share on water studies. In that particular case, those people have some challenges and, indeed, we look forward to their application coming forward to infrastructure to make that work.

[Page 2154]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

INSURANCE - EXISTING POLICIES : ASSISTANCE - DETAILS

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, auto insurance rates have jumped by 65 per cent in the last year. Yesterday, the government announced that they will now delay rate increases until the beginning of next year. Calls were pouring into our office this morning. People are angry because this delay will not lower the sky-high rates they are already facing, or improve fairness in any way. Drivers like Helen Davidson will be out of luck. Helen says her car is the only luxury she has and that it gives her freedom, but now her insurance rates have jumped by 60 per cent in the last year and she may have to give up her car. Helen has one month to figure out how she can afford the increased rates. My question to the minister responsible for those ever-increasing auto insurance premiums is, how are you going to help people already suffering from the skyrocketing insurance rates?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we have a plan. Our plan is progressing. Yesterday you saw the next element in our plan.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, delaying the latest round of insurance increases is far from a solution. It will not address last year's 65 per cent increase in auto insurance rates or prevent insurance companies from discriminating and gouging drivers. Christine Poirier is a single mother on a fixed income. After one car broke down, she recently got another fixer-upper to get by on. Now she's been told that when her 20-year-old is fully licenced, he will be listed as a primary driver on that vehicle in spite of her argument that this won't be the case. Christine says that she has to stop her son from getting his licence because she can't afford a $3,000 jump in her rate. My question for the minister responsible for skyrocketing insurance rates is this, why won't you stop insurance companies from gouging Nova Scotian families?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, where insurance companies are gouging their customers, then indeed the Superintendent of Insurance should be advised and appropriate action will be taken.

[12:45 p.m.]

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the reality is that half measures in this regard just won't cut it. Yesterday's delay in rates shows that the minister could have prevented last year's 65 per cent rate increase, but government chose not to. It shows that only negative press in the lead-up to an election can push this government to act. So I want to ask the minister responsible for skyrocketing insurance rates, why won't you give Nova Scotians a real break on auto insurance by making rates lower and fairer in this province?

[Page 2155]

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the most desirable outcome at the end of our plan will be lower insurance rates for drivers in Nova Scotia.

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

INSURANCE - SENIORS: UNDERWRITING SOLUTIONS - INFO.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister responsible for insurance, as well. This government came out yesterday with a partial plan to address auto insurance rates, but many seniors living in the province must cut corners to pay for their insurance. While the government's late process continues, the result is that the rates increased last year, leaving many seniors forced to pay higher rates. In fact, I met with a senior on the weekend living in Meteghan Centre who has limited savings, living on a fixed income, but who has to pay $900 more this year for insurance on his truck. My question to the minister is, can the minister tell the seniors in this province what the proposed underwriting solutions are that they can expect from this government?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Well, it's nice to get a question on insurance from the Liberal Party, Mr. Speaker. At least they call me by my title. (Interruptions) I can advise the honourable members that seniors are very much in my mind.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, yesterday we heard from this government that more legislative changes for insurance will be introduced during the Legislature's Fall sitting, but with an election expected shortly, the help that many Nova Scotians want won't come until later this year. Nova Scotians can't wait longer, they need solutions now, and my question to the minister, what explanation can this government and this minister give for not being prepared to help Nova Scotians with further solutions before they call an election?

MR. RUSSELL: I thank the honourable member for that question, Mr. Speaker. Yes, indeed it is preferable that we can move on this subject before the next election. I don't know when the next election is going to be. (Interruption) I assume that the Leader of the Third Party assumes that it's going to be very shortly, but within the next three or four weeks we will have concluded, Mr. Jordan will have concluded his public consult and I would expect I will be making an interim report to the House some time shortly after that if the House is still in session. If it is not, well, then I will be delighted to make sure that the Leader of the Third Party is on my mailing list.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, today Nova Scotians woke up to hear that the Conservative Government introduced a small legislative measure to address the rising insurance rates, but Nova Scotians still want the details. Public transportation is not available in most rural areas so people are forced to make choices - pay higher premiums, sell their cars, or drive without insurance. This government has known about this issue for over a year now, but only now, before an election, do they decide to bring forward legislation that

[Page 2156]

doesn't completely address this issue. My final question to the minister is, since you have known about the insurance issue for over a year, can the minister explain why it is only now that this government is deciding to act in dealing with rising auto insurance rates?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I can advise the honourable member that one year ago we did move on this, we moved to the URB to ask them to investigate the increases in insurance rates. If I remember correctly, I think at that time the Liberal Opposition were most positive in the fact that we should proceed to the URB and we did that. Now admittedly, the response from the URB is long overdue, but we do expect to get it in the next few days.

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

INSURANCE - ACTION: DELAY - MIN. EXPLAIN

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my office just recently learned that the number of people driving without automobile insurance is on the rise yet again. More than 2,700 were convicted for driving without insurance between April 1, 2002 and March 31, 2003. That is a 47 per cent increase in just five short years. The reality is that thousands of people are being forced to drive without insurance because they cannot afford the skyrocketing rates. I want to ask the minister responsible for skyrocketing insurance, why did you allow a 65 per cent increase before you did anything at all?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the facts that the honourable member is reeling off there are not exactly correct. First of all, the figure being used by the Leader of the Opposition, as well as the honourable member for Cape Breton Centre, of a 65 per cent increase is certainly true in some cases, however, it is not an across-the-board increase of 65 per cent. Secondly, the honourable member is talking about the number of drivers who have been apprehended driving without coverage. The number is up this year, it was also up last year and then it was off for a couple of years. If you look at the history of the number of people who are charged with driving without proper insurance, the numbers are not substantially different over the years.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, 47 per cent in five years isn't substantial. I would like to know, Mr. Speaker, you were a peace officer in your former life, if you saw crime raise like that, I would say that's substantial. The facts are clear, the number convicted for driving without insurance is climbing and it is climbing at a horrendous rate. There are even more people driving without insurance on the road because of these skyrocketing costs. Take for example, a gentleman, a father of three, who recently just missed one payment on his insurance and then had his car totalled by someone going through a red light. He simply cannot afford his insurance any more so he's now driving without insurance. Mr. Minister, your freeze will do nothing to help the thousands of people now driving without auto insurance because of these skyrocketing rates. What is your plan to help these people?

[Page 2157]

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would not advise anyone to drive without the proper insurance.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, those are the glib answers we have come to expect from this minister for skyrocketing insurance and delay of doing anything. We asked the simple question of how we can bring these costs to be fairer and cheaper for these people. An American consumer watchdog group says 75 per cent of the people who drive without auto insurance do so, not because they are criminals, but because they cannot afford it. This province is turning law-abiding citizens into criminals because they will not react to the insurance gouging in this province. I want to ask this minister a very direct question. When are you going to provide Nova Scotians with some real solutions and give them the lower and fairer auto insurance that they deserve in this province?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I'm going to advise the honourable member to stay tuned because I have already told him that we will have an interim report in the very near future. It's quite possible and probable that we will be reacting to that interim report by, perhaps, regulation or some other remedy. There will be changes; Nova Scotians will have fair insurance; Nova Scotians will be able to drive with adequate coverage.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

NAT. RES. - COASTAL PROPERTIES:

STORM DAMAGE - PROTECTION DETAILS

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Natural Resources. The minister, yesterday, announced an extension for the time of making claims, following this winter's flood damage. That event demonstrated, yet again, how real the impact of global climate change is for Nova Scotia coastal property owners. Environment Canada has sponsored a detailed study of the coastal impacts of climate change and sea level rise on Prince Edward Island, and there are other studies going on for all of Atlantic Canada. The results for P.E.I. show potential for millions of dollars in damage to land and infrastructure, and, of course, there's no reason to think Nova Scotia is any differently positioned. I wonder if this minister can tell this House, what active steps his department is taking to protect coastal properties and infrastructure from damage due to storm surges and sea level rise?

HON. TIMOTHY OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, yesterday I was very pleased to stand in my place and just confirm to the people of Nova Scotia, the residents of Nova Scotia who suffered hardship as a result of the disaster on March 31st, that in fact the province and the government is listening, and we have extended the deadline for application by two weeks. That is in keeping with the policy of making sure that Nova Scotians are looked after in a time of need by this government.

[Page 2158]

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I think I was asking about prevention, not about subsequent compensation. I would like to turn to the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. One of the main steps that can be taken is to recognize areas that are in flood plains and to protect them or avoid the risk. The Truro area, we know, is especially vulnerable, West Main Street in Kentville was also hit recently, but these are only examples of a widespread vulnerability. There are, in fact, provincial guidelines in place about flood plains but they don't seem to be very effective. I wonder if the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations will tell this House whether he is stepping in to require land uses that will avoid damage to housing and infrastructure from storm surges and sea level rise?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, it's something that, as the member knows, has been discussed for some period of time. There are a lot of ramifications with those flood plain areas. I did have an opportunity to speak with the president of the UNSM and raised those concerns that we were talking about. We are aware of that, and we plan to pursue that option.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I will go back to the Minister of Natural Resources. What is very striking here is that we have an abundance of evidence that global climate change is going to have a direct negative impact on Nova Scotia, which is an entirely coastal province. Scientific studies and actual evidence both show the effects. When these events occur, there are calls, as the minister said, for special payments to supplement private insurance coverage. I wonder if the minister will tell this House how much he expects any government to have to pay out for these predictable and avoidable claims over the next decade?

MR. OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, I stand in my place to tell you that we try to influence as many things as we can through good policy and good governance. I'm not quite sure how the member expects me to respond to his question on climate change in relation to what might happen or what may happen. I can tell you and the members of this House that in my department and in the industry of Nova Scotia, the forest industry, there are many things that are being done in forest sustainability and looking after the sustainability of all aspects of the forest that will have a direct bearing - positive bearing - on the future climate changes in this country and around the world. I'm very pleased to be associated with organizations like the Nova Scotia Forest Products Association and others who are working very, very hard to ensure that there are effective and positive changes in the climate as a result of their efforts in our forests in Nova Scotia.

[Page 2159]

[1:00 p.m.]

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

COMMUN. SERV. - RRSS STRIKE:

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING - MIN. RESPONSE

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. Today it was reported that the Minister of Community Services would not come out of the Chamber yesterday to meet with striking RRSS workers. The reason given by the minister was that he felt it would somehow interfere with the collective bargaining process. My question to the minister is, given that there is no collective bargaining occurring at this time, why does the minister continue to hide behind it?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that we've perhaps spoken on this at least once or twice before for the past few weeks. But, there is a collective bargaining process in place. The employer is RRSS, the employees are represented by the union and I am not a member to the collective bargaining process, and as best I can, I am trying to respect that process.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, we have a minister who fails to act responsibly by hiding behind the collective bargaining process. Just imagine a government that eliminated the collective bargaining process through Bill No. 68 and the Ground Ambulance Services Act, but now finds it convenient to use the bargaining process as an excuse to act. My question to the minister is, given this government's new-found respect for the collective bargaining process, will the minister please commit to contact the employer today to see how he can get both parties back to the bargaining table?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for his acknowledgement of this government and my own attempts to try to be respectful of the process. I would tell you that I, through the department, have encouraged the employer to meet with the union and I certainly hope that the union accepts that encouragement as well and sits down at the table with them.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, last week this minister charged that RRSS workers are being paid a decent wage. Yet, we see this minister, through his provision of a budget to RRSS, view it as acceptable to pay replacement workers more than double what was being paid to regular staff. My question to the minister is, why is it acceptable for this government to pay replacement workers double but not acceptable to provide the financial resources to pay RRSS staff, who make such a difference in the lives of our most vulnerable citizens, a decent wage?

[Page 2160]

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I think the member opposite gave his answer when he was giving his question. Of course, the answer is, we do not employ anybody in this - we fund RRSS through per diems and RRSS has a contingency plan in place and they are working as best they can to try to care for the residents during this difficult period in labour negotiations.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

COMMUN. SERV. - RRSS: BINDING ARBITRATION - ALLOW

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. The strike by care workers at the Regional Residential Services Society carries on without any willingness by this government to allow binding arbitration to take place. It seems as though arbitration is the only way to bring the two sides of this job action together and find a resolution to this situation. I ask the Premier, why won't you allow binding arbitration to be used to settle this dispute?

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

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for again allowing me to point out that substantial resources have been put into funding this sector. We recognize the importance of the service they provide to the residents. A proper program was put into place to recognize the training that was required to deliver this service and a wage package was put in place that was commensurate with those expectations.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I certainly hope the Premier answers at least one of these supplementary questions. This is a government that was so quick to use binding arbitration to settle the dispute with George Armoyan, a P3 school operator. It seems no task is too difficult when a big business interest is involved. With lightning speed matters are arbitrated and resolved. That willingness to show flexibility does not exist with vulnerable mentally challenged individuals and their families. I ask the Premier, why does your government continue to put big business ahead of the well-being of our society's most vulnerable members?

THE PREMIER: I refer that to the minister responsible.

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, again to the member opposite, I would point out that the counsellors were making an average wage of $16,000 a year some four years or so ago with an increase to $28,500. That's a 76 per cent wage increase. Most people would think that over a four-year period that was fairly significant and it was meant to bring them in line with the expectations that are made of them in delivering care to the residents.

[Page 2161]

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I certainly hope the Premier answers the final supplementary. The Hamm Government has used arbitration to resolve the issue at the casino. We shouldn't be surprised. They have demonstrated just how far they will go to make the casino happy. I ask the Premier, once again I ask you, why is your government pitting families against workers instead of allowing arbitration to be used to end this dispute?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this is a difficult situation for government. It is a very difficult situation for the workers and I've had an opportunity to chat with a great number of them and certainly it is a great conundrum and problem and distressful situation for families and the residents that are being cared for. On the other hand, we have to look at the situation as it is and this is a sector of workers that has received very, very significant increases because of the value that governments have placed on their services. On the other hand, at this point our workers are being remunerated more than they are in New Brunswick, more than they are in Prince Edward Island, and the employer has put on the table an increase that maintains that kind of advantage over our sister provinces.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

ENVIRON. & LBR.: DIGBY NECK QUARRY - HALT

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, this question goes to the Minister of Environment and Labour. Excavation has now started on the Digby Neck quarry site. The company has submitted their project description for the Whites Cove quarry and a proposed marine terminal. There is no longer any doubt in anyone's mind that we are talking about a mega-quarry. In their project description the company says it contemplates that quarrying could potentially take place on 300 acres. Last year the Minister of Environment and Labour let this company get their foot in the door and refused to address the prospect of a mega- quarry. Mr. Minister, a mega-quarry will threaten this community. Given the latest developments, are you now prepared to stop the quarry?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the mega-quarry has not yet come forth with an application. We have an application, as the honourable member is aware, for a very much smaller quarry than that.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, the company has been very clear in its application to the federal government for its wharf, what it has in mind. The provincial Department of Environment and Labour still has an opportunity to stop this quarry before it's too late. The company says they plan to ship two million tons of the salt rock a year. The quarry will last, they say, likely 50 years. The company is expected to make millions on a substance for which we have no royalties. Meanwhile, the local fishing community will be driven under, ecotourism will suffer, the entire community will be put at risk. In response, the company has dangled a mere 30 jobs as community benefits.

[Page 2162]

Mr. Speaker, some residents of Digby Neck have come to the House today to seek justice. I would like to ask the Minister of Environment and Labour, can you tell the residents of Digby Neck what it will take for you to stop this quarry and save their community?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we have an application at the present time that meets the parameters that we have set out for the establishment of a quarry of the size that the proponents are indicating they're going to put in place. As they remain within those parameters, then there is nothing that we can do to stop them.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, if example will stiffen the minister's spine, let me point out to him that just the other day the New Brunswick Government stopped an Irving quarry proposal because it threatened the local community and the economy. There is no doubt that the mega-quarry in Digby Neck will fundamentally alter the sustainability and natural landscape of this community. The company's project proposal makes that very clear. I wonder, Mr. Minister, will you meet with the residents who are here today, after Question Period, to discuss the latest developments on this issue?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I cannot meet with these residents immediately after Question Period, because I'm going to be occupied in the House with a couple of pieces of legislation of mine. However, following that, yes, certainly I will meet with them. I would point out to the honourable member that what I'm saying is, when we receive an application, as he described it, for a mega-quarry, then, at that time, we will have a different number of parameters, if I can use that word, in place in our consideration of the final destination of that quarry. If I seem to be speaking in riddles to the honourable member, it's simply because we do not have that application at the present time.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

EDUC. - FRENCH IMMERSION PROG.:

MEADOWFIELDS SCH. - FUNDING DETAILS

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. The Tri-County District School Board has begun a new French Immersion Program at the Meadowfields Community School. Resources are already stretched to the limit, including bilingual teachers, to support three existing French Immersion Programs in the area, at Yarmouth Central School, Plymouth School and at Drumlin Heights Consolidated School in Argyle, as well. My question to the minister is, will the minister guarantee that the new French Immersion Program at Meadowfields Community School will not drain resources away from the three existing programs already in that area?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question and for the consideration of giving me notice that he was going to question me on the topic. What I can say to the honourable member and to the House is that we, of course,

[Page 2163]

are very concerned in the Department of Education that our programs are delivered and delivered properly throughout the province. We, of course, work with the school boards to ensure that they are able to do that. With respect to this particular issue that he raises today, it is a matter that I would want to enquire of the school board, and will do so at the earliest possibility, and that will be tonight, to ensure that the concerns that the group have are, in fact, being addressed.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, the duplication of a French Immersion Program in Yarmouth could possibly lead to a decline in enrolment at Yarmouth Central School. That would put that school's future in jeopardy. On Page 25 of the Tory election blue book, there's a promise there that says it will protect schools in areas of declining enrolments from detrimental and untimely reductions. Some of the parents are here today to show their concerns that the school may close in the future. My question to the minister is, at what point is the minister prepared to fulfill that blue book election promise and step in to make sure that programs at Yarmouth Central School do not suffer, and ensure the residents that Yarmouth Central School will not close?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, we work every day to ensure that we fulfill the commitments in the blue book, and we will continue to do that. I can tell the honourable member that, indeed, through the efforts of the member for Yarmouth, he has arranged for me to meet with the group visiting today. I am looking forward to that meeting, immediately following Question Period.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, the minister received a letter last month from a group of parents, outlining their concerns, but the minister has yet to send them a response. I am pleased and happy that he's going to meet with them after Question Period today because the parents have travelled here today from Yarmouth to meet with the Minister of Education - definitely not a short trip, as we know. My final question to the minister is, the minister will agree then to meet with these parents after Question Period ends today and also, when will the minister agree to meet with the school board to finally find a resolution for this problem?

[1:15 p.m.]

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I'll repeat my answer. Previously, I indicated that I will meet with the group following Question Period and secondly that I will be meeting with the school board this evening. Thank you. (Applause)

[Page 2164]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - HOME CARE: STATUS - EXPLAIN

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Acting Minister of Health. When Kim Conrad had gall bladder surgery, she was told by her physician that she'd receive prescribed pain injections from home care providers. However, when Kim got home from the hospital, she was informed that the home care nurse would not be able to come due to the weather and that someone else would be replacing her, but nobody ever came. When the pain grew intolerable, Kim was forced to call an ambulance to return to the hospital and to get the medical attention she needed.

Kim's case is not an isolated case. Many home care recipients are reporting problems getting promised services. So, I would like to ask the Acting Minister of Health to explain just why it is that home care is in such bad shape in this province?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I guess I have to disagree with the last statement she made that home care in this province is in bad shape. I think that she probably doesn't really believe that. Unfortunately, I will take her at face value on that particular case. If she wants to provide more details about that, we'd be pleased to look into it.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, when Kim returned to the hospital, it took five shots of Demerol to bring her pain under control. Her surgeon said if she had received these injections as she was supposed to this would never have happened. So I want to ask the Acting Minister of Health, why are patients being sent home if home care cannot accommodate their needs?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, when people are discharged from the hospital in the case such as the honourable member is referring to, there is a discharge plan that is put into place before the person is released.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would imagine that there isn't a member in this House who hasn't been approached because a constituent has been unable to get home care for themselves or a family member in these kinds of situations. I'd like to table a letter received from another home care client. It states the client is eligible to receive home care, but, " . . . due to current shortage of Home Support Staff and your immediate care needs, I would suggest hiring private service on interim basis." What use is it to qualify for home care services and then be told there's nobody to provide them, go find them yourself?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, if that indeed is true, I would suggest that is very much the exception to the rule. This government has put considerable resources in the past number of years into the whole continuing care sector. I think in the area of over $130 million. In most cases, most people are very, very satisfied with the services that they receive.

[Page 2165]

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

ENVIRON. & LBR. - KENNETCOOK OIL SPILL:

REG. PROCESS - CONFIRM

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour. In January, 2002, James and Laurie Singer of 744 Highway No. 354 in Kennetcook, Nova Scotia were the victims of an oil spill on their property because the local contractor had a piece of machinery overturn and some diesel fuel went onto their property, causing well and soil contamination. My question to the minister is, can he confirm the guidelines for Management of Contaminated Sites in Nova Scotia, issued by his department, is the regulatory process that would have to be followed to clean up this site?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, at first blush yes, I believe that is so.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I sent a copy of the diagram that was submitted to his department on this particular site, which clearly demonstrates the sites of contamination on the property: one being the well, one being the property near the highway, and also there is a swale going through this property which was not cleaned. The unfortunate part about this is the contractor, who is responsible for cleaning this up, removed contaminated soil and brought contaminated soil back to the site. Will the minister please apprise members of the House as to why a contractor was allowed to remove contaminated soil and bring contaminated soil back, when the whole object was to clean the place up?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I do not believe, really, that the department would have approved such a process but, however, I will have to check and get a report for the honourable member.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, one of the things required under these regulations that the minister has referred to and must be followed, is that a certificate of compliance must be issued at the end of the completed cleanup process. First of all the property wasn't completely cleaned up, and that's noted in a letter by a Department of Environment and Labour official - which I will table for the minister - issued on November 26, 2002, Mr. Sandy Cameron. The concern is that the owners of this property still have sufficient contamination to be of a health concern. The Department of Environment and Labour are refusing to enforce this regulatory process and require the contractor, Russell White Contracting, to provide a certificate of compliance. My question to the minister is, will he instruct his staff to order the consulting organization, on behalf of the individual contractor who contaminated this site, to provide a certificate of compliance to ensure this site is free of contamination?

[Page 2166]

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, what I can advise the member is I will get him a briefing note on this and advise him on what the current status is and if, indeed, a certificate of compliance has not been issued, then it will be.

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

HEALTH - NURSING HOME BACKLOG: SITUATION - EXPLAIN

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, recent media reports have pointed to the problem of a backlog of seniors waiting for nursing home and long-term care beds in Cape Breton. As many as 1,100 people are waiting for long-term care beds to open up so they can get the care they need. This backlog has existed for a long time, but the financial assessment process to extract every cent from seniors to pay for their health care costs has just made it worse. I want to ask the Acting Minister of Health, why is this situation being allowed to continue when seniors are waiting in their homes or in hospital beds for necessary care?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, with the introduction of the single-entry access process over two years ago, the waiting lists in the Cape Breton area were reduced by about 75 per cent. Currently, I understand, there are about 60 people on the list and assessment does take time. However, I want to point out one of the things that the members, particularly in that Party, are always talking about is the assessment of assets, indeed there are, but don't forget that there are hotel costs in there and about 80 per cent of the people don't even pay their hotel costs, they're paid for by the government.

MR. CORBETT: Yes, Mr. Speaker, is there a spa in that hotel? The hotel costs. The DHA has been able to streamline the financial assessment portion of that process, but there's still a bigger problem. There's simply not enough long-term care beds, that's the problem.

A non-profit group in Dominion and the New Waterford Maple Hill Manor - that I know the former minister had visited on the occasion of their 25th anniversary in operation, he and I both attended there - have tried to open more beds but have met with nothing but stumbling blocks and a moratorium on licenced beds. So I want to ask the Acting Minister of Health, as your department has studied this problem for years now, when will you lift the moratorium on new nursing home beds?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I can say that within the Cape Breton District Health Authority the department is now reviewing proposals for additional beds, whether they are new proposals or ones that have been submitted previously, and the director of continuing care up there has been working closely with the district on that issue as well.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, it's good to know that they're finally starting to move on this because it's a well-established fact that nobody has been able to open a subsidized nursing home bed for a number of years. Big corporations have no trouble getting approval to undertake huge construction projects and jack up their per diem rates by $48 a day, but

[Page 2167]

charitable or not-for-profit organizations can't get a handful of much-needed nursing home beds. So I want to ask the acting minister again, how many more seniors have to go without care while your department continues to navel-gaze instead of addressing the real problem of bed shortages in long-term care in Cape Breton?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, one of the things that this government has been founded on, and I think has been very successful and the people respect that and will support us in the future, is making the right decisions for the right reasons. As I said, there are ongoing discussions with officials of the Cape Breton District Health Authority, with the Division of Continuing Care of the Department of Health at this time and appropriate decisions, when the decisions come, they're going to be based on evidence, not hearsay.

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

ENVIRON. & LBR. - DORSEY REPT.:

GOV'T. (N.S.) POSITION - CONFIRM

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I have a question to the honourable Minister of Environment and Labour. I would like to raise with him once again this report, the 390-page Dorsey report on workers' compensation that was filed with the government 14 months ago now, in March 2002, and on which so far the government has taken one step last Fall to legislate additional supplementary benefits. The minister has invariably responded to questions on this matter by saying, don't worry, we will take action in the Fall. I would like to ask the minister through you, is that still the government's position on this report?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I'm delighted the honourable member has brought up the Dorsey report because, as a matter of fact, I had a meeting this morning with the Chairman of the Workers' Compensation Board with regard to the Dorsey report and what actions the government will be undertaking. I'm pleased to advise the honourable member that, yes, indeed, we will be introducing legislation in the Fall. We will be, I think, enacting Mr. Richard's report, and I think that the honourable member will be pleasantly surprised to find that we are going to enact most of the recommendations of that report. (Applause)

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, they applaud and I don't know if they're aware of the fact that the Nova Scotia Government has had a response plan to the Dorsey report since July of last year. I have it right here in my hand and will now table it since the minister didn't, and it's headed the Nova Scotia Workers' Compensation Board Response Plan, Government's Response to the Report of the Workers' Compensation Review Committee, Nova Scotia Environment and Labour, July 2002. Just to demonstrate how authentic this is, it has the name of the Honourable David Morse, Minister of Environment and Labour, right at the very top, and that was almost a year ago. Will the minister admit that this report - send him one, here, give one to the NDP as well - is indeed the government's response plan to the

[Page 2168]

report that has been on the table now for almost a year and if they're going to wait until the Fall to carry that out, that's kind of a long wait.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, there's a difference between a response plan and the actual actions that are taking place to implement it. We are now in the implementation stage.

[1:30 p.m.]

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I'm just going by memory, I think there were 54 recommendations for action in that report. If there were, one has been carried out so far in one year, therefore, it would take 54 years to carry them all out at the rate this government is going. I hope that they're proceeding from a plan to implementation, which has now taken almost a year, is not indicative of the general response that they intend to take to this matter. Any opportunities that I may get in the future to bring this matter up, I will, because it seems like the government needs a lot of prodding on this particular point. (Interruptions)

MR. RUSSELL: Well, no, I'm not going to tell him how many years I have left, but I will advise the honourable member that before I hang up my spurs I will have the Dorsey report implemented.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

ENVIRON. & LBR. - RECYCLING DEPOTS:

HANDLING FEES - ADJUSTMENT DETAILS

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I also have a question for the Minister of Environment and Labour. I think it's appropriate to give credit to your government when it's appropriate, and in this instance the government certainly has done well when it comes to solid waste issues. One part of that, of course, is recycling of beverage containers. This is, indeed, one aspect in which it is very publicly visible, it's one that directly involves citizens. I wonder if the minister will advise this House of his position with respect to the request of our recycling partners at recycling depots across the province for an adjustment in the beverage-container handling fees based on the actual handling costs incurred by these small businesses?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto was so nice and gentle in his approach to this question that he had me deceived for a moment. However, getting back to recycling of bottles and cans and what have you, I am well aware of the problems that presently exist between the Enviro-Depots and the Resource Recovery Fund Board. It's my belief - and this board operates at arm's-length, and it is at genuine arm's-length from government - that the board has been cogitating an increase in the amount that it pays to the Enviro-Depots for each individual container. They've been doing that for some time. I believe that they might be making an announcement regarding this

[Page 2169]

matter in the very near future, and hopefully it's going to resolve the difficulties between the enviro depots and the Resource Recovery Fund Board.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I am wondering if the minister is prepared to assist the parties. It's far from clear what mechanism would actually prevail in the absence of the minister's intervention. I am wondering if the minister will use his position to bring the Eastern Recyclers Association and the Resource Recovery Fund Board before a neutral third party who can consider all of the relevant facts, and recommend what would be a fair allocation of the 5 cent portion of the deposit between those businesses and the Resource Recovery Fund Board. Can the minister do that?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I am sure that if I did that on any other matter that the honourable member would be incredibly upset that I was interfering with a board that had been set up deliberately at arm's-length from government. So, no, I am not prepared to do that. However, I have had conversations with my deputy minister, and my deputy minister is aware of my concern. I am sure that in time that will filter down to the Resource Recovery Fund Board.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the minister has actually had the opportunity to study the details that the small businesses have put forward. One of the amazing facts is that what's really driving up their costs is the crippling costs of - you guessed it - insurance for their vehicles. I am wondering, have you turned your mind to that aspect?

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

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto on an introduction.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, earlier in Question Period, I made reference to the presence, in the gallery, of some visitors who are here from Digby Neck. They represent an association called Partnership for the Sustainable Development of Digby Neck and Islands Society. I would like to draw the attention of the members of the House to those who are present in the east gallery. There's Kim Stanton, Marilyn Stanton, Carol Mahtab, Ashraf Mahtab and Mark Dittrick. I would ask them to stand and receive the welcome of the members of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Again, we welcome our guests to the gallery today.

[Page 2170]

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 45, the Insurance Act.

Bill No. 45 - Insurance Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Premier.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to move second reading of Bill No. 45. This government is committed to protecting consumers in Nova Scotia and ensuring some stability in the automobile insurance market.

As you know, rising insurance premiums are not just simply a Nova Scotia issue. They are a global issue. We are taking a careful, considered and well-planned approach to managing this issue for Nova Scotia drivers. Over the past year, we have outlined our plan. We have released a discussion paper and we have appointed a consumer advocate for auto insurance. We have kept an open door to the industry to discuss their concerns and have clearly indicated that we want to do all we can to maintain a thriving, competitive marketplace here in Nova Scotia.

We have taken steps to enhance awareness and understanding through the development of plain language brochures. We will continue to place a greater emphasis on education and prevention initiatives in an effort to stabilize costs and to reduce accidents on our roads. The insurance industry has been part of this process and has had an opportunity to present their concerns before the Utility and Review Board. We await the decision of the Utility and Review Board as it will help to inform the debate on the auto insurance market.

We have indicated that we are seeking input from consumers, business and the insurance industry on auto insurance reform. Yesterday we moved to impose a cooling off period for rate increases until the reform process comes to a conclusion. Bill No. 45 ensures that the discussion process occurs in a way that promotes informed debate and positive solution finding. We want a viable auto insurance system that is responsible to the needs of Nova Scotians in the future.

[Page 2171]

The legislation prohibits auto insurance companies from raising their rates. The rate increase prohibition will stay in effect while the complex issues and concerns of our auto insurance are resolved. No rates will be allowed to rise between May 1, 2003 and January 1, 2004. Any company that violates this new provision on rates will effect significant penalties. Any company found guilty will face fines of up to $50,000 for each offence. This is a very substantial increase from the previous maximum fine of $200. We will not allow Nova Scotia drivers to be treated unfairly and we will not allow insurance companies to continue to raise rates while a review is still underway.

As I indicated in the House last week, we will be reporting on the results of our public consultation on auto insurance later this Spring. Final government approval and legal drafting would then be completed over the summer and a bill brought forward this Fall. This bill . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: The election will be over by then, now won't it?

MR. RUSSELL: We will still be the government though. This bill will set out some fairness while we deal with the complex issues and concerns associated with auto insurance. It is difficult to carry on a reasoned debate while constantly looking over one's shoulder and waiting for the next increase to hit. This amendment will give us the power we need to introduce regulatory improvements in the future, as part of a careful, well-planned approach to managing this global issue here in Nova Scotia.

This government has been attentive to this issue, and will continue to listen to consumers, business and industry over the next few months. We will stick to our action plan, and we will develop a responsible solution for Nova Scotians. In conclusion, I am pleased to move second reading of Bill No. 45, the Insurance Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I am surprised that that is all the minister has to say. Here we have an issue that is uppermost in Nova Scotians' minds. Almost everybody in Nova Scotia is getting hit with large and unjustified and unfair increases, and the minister can only find it within himself to speak for two or three minutes. He hasn't laid out what the problem is, he hasn't laid out why this is a solution. I find it hard to believe, like my colleague, the member for Sackville-Cobequid, who was providing a running commentary on the minister's remarks, as to whether the minister actually believes what he is saying, because it is so far from dealing with the issue that is facing Nova Scotians that I can't help but think that this government is detached from reality.

In the time that's available to me today, Mr. Speaker, what I'm going to do is lay out the problem. What is the problem that Nova Scotians are facing? I'm going to talk about what's been happening over the last year and a half or two years that this issue has come to

[Page 2172]

the forefront, and I'm going to talk about where we are now. It will be clear by the end, about just how deficient this bill is as a way of dealing with the real issues that are out there. Just to save the minister the suspense of waiting until the end of my remarks, I am going to review with him, from the beginning, just how deficient this bill is.

This bill will not save Nova Scotians from rate increases. Let's be very clear about that. It will not save Nova Scotians from rate increases, not one single person who has been shocked when they open their renewal is going to be helped by this bill, not one single person. Not only that, but over the coming months, as people open their annual renewals, they will continue to see increased premiums because this bill does not stop the implementation of rate increases that have already been filed with the Utility and Review Board. That would apply to most of the insurers.

The only thing that this bill will stop is new rate increases, that is increases on top of the very substantial, one might say exorbitant, one might say usurious increases that Nova Scotians have faced already. As somebody said yesterday, this is very much a case of putting a cheap padlock on the barn after the horse is so far down the road that you can't even see it any more. That's what this bill is.

Let me review, then, how deficient this bill is. How deficient is this bill? Let me count the ways. First of all, this is not a rate freeze at all, as the government would like to have people believe. It's a rate delay. The rate increases filed to take effect after May 1st will take effect after January 1, 2004. Any increases filed until the end of the year will take effect January 1, 2004. The first point, Mr. Speaker, is that this bill is not a freeze, it's a delay. It's a delay, like many other things that we see the government doing these days. It's a delay that will take them from where they are now until after the election. Just like on long-term care, just like on tuition fees, just like on so many issues, it will take them from now until then, where they don't actually have to do anything, where they don't actually have to understand the issue. In the true Tory tradition, this bill is all about what they can make people believe rather than what is in fact going on because what this government wants to make people believe is that they understand the issue and that they're actually going to do something constructive about it, but they're not. It's all about what they can make people believe.

[1:45 p.m.]

So there's the first one, Mr. Speaker. It's not a freeze, it's only a delay. Here's another point. The bill doesn't address in any way the problem of the so-called Facility Association which is, a newspaper columnist remarked the other day, sort of the perfect bureaucratic name for something, it sounds lovely, the Facility Association, but it's actually quite harsh and unfair. The Facility Association is the pool of insured who cannot get insurance any other way. It's the last place to go. It's where all the drunk drivers are. It's where the people with the very worst driving records are and it's where thousands of Nova

[Page 2173]

Scotians, ordinary, decent, law-abiding Nova Scotians, have been put because of the insurance industry's unfair underwriting rules.

There are people like the young woman in my constituency who owns her own business which she runs out of her home and she bounced a cheque. Okay, she's not perfect, you know. Sometimes it's difficult to juggle things and something slides and one month her insurance cheque bounced and because of that, nothing to do with her driving record, not one thing to do with whether she was any better or worse a driver than before, because she bounced a cheque she was put in Facility Association along with Nova Scotia's very worst drunk drivers. They're in there together and, do you know what, they're paying the same rate. As the statistics showed that we released last week, because we are doing our work on this, we're doing the digging, we're finding out what's really going on, the number of drivers in Facility Association has increased dramatically in the past couple of years, dramatically. It has gone from a few hundred to several thousand people, people who are put in that pool because they can't get insurance any other way.

This bill will do nothing to assist the people who are in Facility Association. The section of the Insurance Act that's being amended does not apply to Facility Association and so the insurers are free to crank up their rates in the Facility Association, yesterday, today and tomorrow. In fact, another increase in Facility Association rates is going to kick in in June, just next month, another 33 per cent on top of the already exorbitant rate being paid by those in the Facility Association.

Let's not be under any illusion here, Mr. Speaker, some of the other people in the Facility Association are seniors, seniors who their insurers have refused to cover any more because of their age, and because they can't find a regular insurer to cover them, they have no choice but to go to Facility Association. That's why the numbers are so high. It's not because Nova Scotians have become six times worse drivers than they were a couple of years ago, that we have six times as many drunk drivers in that pool. No, it's seniors who because they had another birthday have been pushed over the cliff into Facility Association. It's because of people like that young business owner in Fairview who bounced a cheque and has been pushed over the cliff into Facility Association. That's why the numbers are so high and this bill does precisely nothing for them.

This delay in rate increases does not apply to many small, medium, and for that matter large businesses because a fleet of five or more vehicles is dealt with in a different section of the Insurance Act. So this rate delay, I'm not even going to credit it by calling it a rate freeze because it's not, this rate delay will not assist those business owners who have a moderately sized fleet. As part of my work on the NDP Task Force on Auto Insurance, I have spoken to business owners who are saying this is getting close to the last straw. They cannot afford to pay the increases that they are being requested to pay. Many fleet owners have found that, in fact, there is no competition in the Nova Scotia market, that there is only one place that they can go. This is not something where there are three or five or 10 or 20

[Page 2174]

insurers competing for their business. If they're lucky, they can find one. The rates are going through the roof for small-business owners with a fleet, they can't afford them.

What's this bill going to do for them? Nothing. It doesn't apply to them. Is that an oversight? Did the minister just not realize that? If that's the case, we have a problem. Or does the minister realize that it doesn't apply to them and he goes ahead with the bill anyway. If that's the case, we still have a problem. Small-business owners want to know what this minister and what this government is going to do for them, and the answer today, with this bill, is nothing.

This delay in rate increases doesn't prevent insurance companies from asking drivers to agree to a higher rate as part of a renewal. As long as the insured agrees in writing, companies can still deviate from their filed rate schedule, because the only thing that's being delayed here, let's remember, is an increase in the rate schedule. This bill is like the Swiss cheese of legislation. I can't believe that the minister who introduced this actually understands how the insurance industry works, because there are so many ways around it. This is like the Conservative version of the Maginot line.

I am sure the minister remembers the Maginot line, where the French built a defensive wall across the border between France and Germany, and said, fine, there, we're safe; look, they can't get in. Of course, the Germans just went around it. That's what we have here. The Tory Maginot line of insurance. Anybody who doesn't think that the insurers already have discovered dozens of ways through this bill doesn't know the industry.

Then we have the spectacle of the Premier saying - I don't know if he believes this, maybe he does - that they expected a voluntary time out from the insurance industry, that the only reason they felt it necessary to bring this forward was because the insurance industry wasn't playing by the rules. Well, who does this government think they're dealing with? Do they think they're dealing with a bunch of Boy Scouts, a bunch of people who know the rules and understand the rules and have the best interests of Nova Scotia drivers at heart? Does the Premier really believe that? Or is that just the spin that his PR people told him to say, because it was the only way it could justify the government's lack of action over the past couple of years. I don't know.

We're not dealing with people who have the best interests of Nova Scotia drivers at heart. We're dealing with people working out of offices in London, Amsterdam and New York and other world financial capitals. They have one interest and one interest only, and that is delivering value to their shareholders. Do you know what, Mr. Speaker? That's okay, that's what they're supposed to do. That's what the leadership of corporations are supposed to do, in some ways it is their duty, to increase and improve and maintain and enhance value to their shareholders. That's fine.

[Page 2175]

We have to remember that that's what they're there for. That's their job. That's what they wake up every morning trying to do, increase the profits for their shareholders. The president of ING doesn't wake up in Amsterdam and say, how am I going to lower rates for Nova Scotia drivers today? He doesn't walk to his office saying, how can I make sure that we don't discriminate against Nova Scotia seniors today? No, Mr. Speaker, there's one question on that person's mind and one question only - how can I deliver value to my shareholders? That president is going to do whatever it takes to deliver value to his shareholders.

We're kidding ourselves. The Premier is kidding us. We're all kidding ourselves if we think that these multinational insurance companies think anything else. The Premier says that he was disappointed because they didn't obey the rules, they didn't institute a voluntary time out while the government was thinking about what to do. Who do they think they're dealing with? Do you think the Insurance Bureau of Canada and their spokesperson here in Halifax wakes up saying, how are we going to deliver lower, fair rates to Nova Scotians? No, Mr. Speaker, that's our job. That's what we do in the NDP. We say how are we going to deliver lower, fairer rates to Nova Scotians. We wake up in the morning and we ask ourselves that question and then we get to work. But the IBC doesn't. Don Forgeron doesn't. Let's remember that the IBC is a lobby group. The CEOs of the insurance companies are there to protect and enhance and maintain and develop shareholder value. Don Forgeron and the IBC are there to protect them, to speak for them.

They're not on our side. I hope the MLAs on that side know that. We discovered that, we know that, we realized that a long time ago. The IBC is not on our side. They're not on the side of our constituents. They're not on the side of my constituents and they're not on the side of your constituents. They're a lobby group from multinational insurance companies. And so, if you expect them to play by the rules, you'll be waiting for a long time.

Here's another significant feature of the bill, another significant deficiency. This is such a glaring omission, this is such a hole that it's like having a chunk of Swiss cheese where the hole takes up the whole chunk so there's nothing left of the cheese. That is the only thing that's being delayed is an increase in the rate schedule. But in case the minister hadn't noticed, a very, very large part of the problem are the discriminatory rate categories. There is nothing, nothing, in this bill that deals with that problem. They can shift people around from one category to another, like they've been doing over the last couple of years. There's no change in the rate schedule, you just move, say, from category 7 up to category 15, which happens to have a premium a few thousand dollars higher. The rate schedule hasn't changed, but your rate's gone up. This bill does nothing to deal with that. Nothing. Nothing there about it. You don't have to change the rate schedule to discriminate against people. It's astonishing that the government doesn't seem to realize that.

[Page 2176]

Let's suppose you have a 69 year old in your constituency and then they have a birthday and they tip over to age 70. That person's insurance company might very well have an underwriting rule saying that they don't cover 70 year olds or they charge them a much higher premium. So when the renewal comes in the mail, what happens? The rate goes up - sometimes way up, sometimes they get a cancellation notice because they had another birthday. The rate schedule hasn't changed, but what has changed is they've had another birthday and so they've been tipped over into another rate category.

Another thing the government doesn't seem to realize, in the same vein, is that you can be moved around different insurance companies under the same corporate conglomerate umbrella. Even though there's - I forget the exact number, it's something in the neighbourhood of 29 or 32 individual insurance companies - there's only about 10 umbrella companies. What they do is set up subsidiaries under the same corporate umbrella, but they're technically separate companies. You have the cream of the crop going into one company and gets one rate, then if you're a medium risk you're in another company and the high risk go into another company. They're all technically separate insurance companies, but it's all under the same corporate umbrella being directed by that same rapacious CEO who wakes up in the morning not saying how can I do right by Nova Scotia drivers.

What they do and what they have been doing is moving Nova Scotia drivers around between those different insurance companies. But the important thing to realize is they're not changing the rate schedule. They can move you from the low risk group to the medium group, to the high risk group. You don't have any say in the matter. You will just get a notice saying, hey, your insurance company has changed. It hasn't really, but it appears to have and meanwhile your rate is going up, but they haven't changed one penny of the schedule.

[2:00 p.m.]

What does this bill do about that? Nothing, because all it does is delay implementation, new rate increases, delays implementation of new rate increases. So never mind that our constituents, yours and mine, have seen rate increases of 50 per cent, 60 per cent, 80 per cent, 100 per cent, 200 per cent, 300 per cent. To this government that's all water under the bridge and now they're going to try to build a dam after all that water has flowed under the bridge. After the horse has gone so far down the road you can't even see it on the horizon any more. Now they're going to put a cheap padlock on the stable and say, look, you know, aren't we good boys and girls. How long will it take people to realize that the horse is gone and the padlock on the stable is going to be broken off by the first insurance company that comes along?

Finally, Mr. Speaker, as I count the deficiencies of this bill, Cabinet only gains regulatory power to prescribe grounds for which an insurer cannot refuse to insure or continue insurance, but the continued or newly offered insurance can be in any higher rate category that is available to the insurance companies. So at the end of the day, after this bill

[Page 2177]

and after this bill becomes law, which it will in due course, what are Nova Scotia drivers going to see? Are they going to see their rates rolled back? No, no rates are going to be rolled back. If you've already got your rate increase, it's too late. The government has nothing to offer you. They're not going to do anything for you. They're going to make you believe they've done something for you, but they have not as a matter of fact done anything for you.

Does that mean that people's rates will be frozen where they are today, that if you're paying let's say $1,500 today, that you can be confident that you will be paying only $1,500 tomorrow? No, no for a couple of reasons, one, it is not a rate freeze, it's only a rate delay. It's only a delay, but more important than that, if increases in the rate schedules have already been approved, you're out of luck. Those increases that have already been approved, they're going to come into effect over the next 12 months.

So as people with trembling hands open their auto renewals, they are going to see increases, they're going to see substantial increases because all the insurer has to do is apply the rate schedule that was in effect before May 1st and I think we know already that Nova Scotians now pay among the highest rates in the country. You don't have to believe us, believe international consulting firm Runzheimer International. You don't have to believe us, believe Statistics Canada which says that Nova Scotia not only has the highest rates, or among the highest rates in the country, but they're going up faster than any other province except New Brunswick. I'm sure that over the next little while we will be hearing a lot more about New Brunswick as we hear about the Tory Government's mishandling of the issue there.

The Liberal Opposition's zap, your rolled-back approach to rates, where with no explanation or idea of how it's going to work, they just announced they're going to roll back rates 25 per cent. That's the Liberal way. You just wave your magic wand and hope nobody notices that you don't actually have any idea how it's going to work. Today New Brunswick heard the first sensible, reasonable, rational proposal on auto insurance in the debate and it came from Elizabeth Weir and the NDP, Mr. Speaker. I will leave it for the members on that side of the House to watch the nightly news tonight, to read their papers tomorrow, to hear how the New Brunswick NDP is going to deliver low and fair auto insurance to New Brunswickers.

Mr. Speaker, we have to remember what the problem is. The reason that this bill is so deficient is because it doesn't deal with what the actual problems are. In a nutshell, we have two problems, our rates are too high and they're unfair. The rates are among the highest in the country. Why is that? Why should that be? What is it about Nova Scotia and Nova Scotia drivers and Nova Scotia families that make them the highest risks to drive in almost all of Canada?

[Page 2178]

My friend and colleague, the member for Sackville-Cobequid, has suggested one possible reason for that, that we have a patsy Tory Government that the insurance industry knows it can take shameful advantage of. This is the government that complained yesterday because the insurance industry didn't call a voluntary time out. That's what we're dealing with, member for Sackville-Cobequid, that's what we're dealing with, a government that expected the insurance industry to have the best interests of Nova Scotia drivers at heart. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I have to ask the honourable member for Halifax Fairview and the member for Sackville-Cobequid to remember that the debate is supposed to go through the Speaker. If the honourable members want to discuss this issue further, they are entitled to do it, but I would ask them to take it outside the Chamber.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview does have the floor.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, now how high are our rates in Nova Scotia? Well, the very highest rate that I heard was $11,000 for one vehicle; $11,000 for one vehicle. It's not even that - well, I hope the person who showed me this example isn't listening - great a car. It's not like it's the latest, greatest, most expensive car. Why is that family paying $11,000 for one car? Well, I will tell you why, because there are three teenage drivers. One of those teenage drivers had an accident, not a tremendously serious accident. There was a bit of damage to the vehicles involved, nobody was hurt, thank goodness. There are three teenage drivers in that family, and their rate this year went - in one year - from $3,000 and change to $11,000 and change, $11,000 to insure one vehicle, just because teenagers are driving.

What about the family who, for the first time in a very long time, has had to choose between paying for insurance or keeping two cars? They also have two teenagers. These are people who live in my constituency. The $11,000 car, as a matter of fact, is not in my constituency, it's in the constituency of the member for Sackville-Cobequid. I was talking to another family that has two youngsters, one of whom is now old enough to drive, and because of that, solely because of that, not because there was an accident, not because the insurers had to pay out one dime, but just because a young Nova Scotian reached a birthday, the insurance rate for that family has now put having two vehicles out of reach for them.

So they had to choose. Should they let their teenager drive and allow her the responsibility and the privilege of driving a vehicle, or should they sell a car? They chose to sell a car. It was that important to them that they send a message to their teenage daughter that they trust her, that they believe she can take on the responsibility and that she's up to the challenge. That's not something that the insurance company allowed them to do. That family had to choose. Insure the vehicle or tell their daughter to stay out of the driver's seat. They chose to let their daughter drive.

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I have visited businesses, Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, and I don't hesitate to say that the last business I visited to talk about insurance was in your riding. I said, well, why don't you approach your own MLA? This business owner said, well, he says his hands are tied. I thought what a shame, what a shame that that member who has been here for a very long time and who has been elected several times appears to have convinced his constituents that he can't actually do anything. He's on the government side. In the last election, the pitch from the Tories was about all the benefits of having a Tory on the government side. The by-election in which I was elected, just about the only thing that the Tory candidate had to say was that if he were elected he'd be on the government side.

When people are having a problem do they call their Tory backbencher MLA? Sometimes. This particular person didn't, he called us. He called us because his MLA has convinced him that he can't actually do anything. He has to follow the orders coming from the front benches.

This business owner employs quite a number of people. He has a small fleet of vehicles and his insurance has gone up to the point where he says that if all the costs that are affecting him go up much more he might just shut the doors because he's not making any money. He's not making enough money, not taking enough money out of the business for him and his family to live on any more. Because he lives in an industry like so many - like a trucking firm that I talked to out in the Ragged Lake Industrial Park, they have no price flexibility. They're price takers. No matter what industry and particularly in the agricultural sector - I'm sure the member for Hants East will agree - if your input costs go up, you don't have the flexibility to increase your prices. For many of the companies selling to the local food distributors, there are only two major food distribution companies working in Nova Scotia - two major ones, at any rate - and they're not about to give people a break on price. They tell the producers what price they're willing to pay, not the other way around.

So, when the input price goes up, the company owner eats it. There's no place else for it to go. He can't raise the price of his product and that's true whether he's a pork producer or a beef producer or whether he's producing fruit and vegetables. No matter what the product is that that farmer is producing, he can't increase his price because he won't get it. He's got to eat it. Insurance is killing people. It's killing businesses. It's killing them.

Like that trucking firm I talked to out in Ragged Lake, their insurance has shot through the roof. They did have one accident a couple of years ago, that's what they had insurance for, they thought. But what happened was that after the accident their insurer cancelled them outright. They looked around and they found there was nobody willing to insure the fleet because there was only one or two companies, nationally, who were willing to insure that kind of fleet anyway.

[Page 2180]

So, as soon as your insurer drops you - and believe me, Mr. Speaker, they are dropping Nova Scotians like hot potatoes, they're not sending notices with higher rates, they're sending cancellation notices - like a hot potato because they don't want you any more, because you have teenagers, or you're too old, or you're running a business, because, heaven forbid you had an accident, you have nowhere to turn. Many of the insurers have another policy that's not going to be affected by this bill, and I'm sure the members on that side must have heard of this policy, if one insurer cancels you, the others won't pick you up. They have a policy that they won't take people who've been cancelled by another insurer.

That's where the cheque bouncing problem comes from. If you bounce a cheque, your own insurer will cancel you as being a bad credit risk. It's because of the policy that many, many of the insurers have that they won't pick up somebody who's been cancelled, no matter what the reason, that people are forced into the Facility Association if they bounce a cheque. If any member on that side doubts me, I would encourage them to bounce a cheque with their insurer once and see what happens. Just see what happens. See if you believe me. See if the stories that we're hearing from Nova Scotians are true, that all it takes is one bounced cheque and you're in the Facility Association at double, triple, quadruple what you're paying now.

That's all it takes, you don't have to be a bad driver, you don't have to have a conviction for drunk driving, although you're rated the same as if you did. All you have to do is bounce a cheque. What's this bill going to do for those people? What's this bill going to do for seniors, for students, for business owners like the one in your constituency, Mr. Speaker, what's it going to do for them? Nothing. Nothing.

[2:15 p.m.]

So that's only the first problem, the high rates. Now let's talk about the second problem, which is the unfair rates because what the insurers have done now is they have multiplied the rating categories so that whatever happens to you, you get a little bit older, you get a little bit younger, you get a little bit richer, you get a little bit poorer, you have an accident or two, bounce a cheque - whatever happens to you - you get another vehicle, you get an old vehicle, you get a new vehicle, you paint your vehicle with tiger stripes or you don't paint your vehicle, your vehicle has a birthday - never mind you, your vehicle has one - there's all this multiplicity of rating categories and they're just going to shuffle you around there.

In other provinces that have the same insurance system as Manitoba, there are three or four rating categories. They don't discriminate against you based on age, they don't discriminate against you based on gender, but they will take your driving record into account and there are two or three other things that they take into account, like whether you live in the City of Winnipeg because, you know, the City of Winnipeg dominates the Province of Manitoba - it's got like 700,000 people out of Manitoba's 1.1 million people - so it's a big city and if you live in the city it's a little riskier, so you pay a higher rate than if you're out

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in the country. But they only have three or four categories. How many do we have here in Nova Scotia?

We don't know because every insurer has their own. There's no limit to how many categories they can create. There's no limit to how they can shuffle people around the different categories, and that's why people are hurting so much because now they are being put in categories that don't make any sense, and that's if they can even get somebody to explain to them why their rate has just gone through the roof. Try and get somebody to explain to you why your rate has gone through the roof and you will either get people saying I don't know, I can't tell you, or you will get people who just won't tell you. Call your insurance company and ask why this is happening.

They just won't tell you. They won't return your call, or they will give you some bafflegab. You know, they will say it's about September 11th, their re-insurance rates are high, or something like that, but, just imagine, Mr. Speaker, what if we had an auto insurance system that was based on the experience of Nova Scotia drivers? What if we didn't have to pay for September 11th? Although one broker - well I was going to say something about him, but it would identify who he is - he's actually a lovely man, very bright, very experienced, and I'm really hoping that he will be at the insurance brokers' dinner tomorrow night, and if you want to learn about the insurance industry he's the guy to talk to. He, who's no friend of public insurance, says all the stuff about September 11th is just nonsense, that's not what's really going on, that's not the reason. But if you call your insurance company, that's what they will tell you, but he says that's nonsense, my very experienced constituent who's a broker.

So now we have identified the problem. We have very high rates, among the highest in the country, and we have a rated increase that's second only to New Brunswick. Why is this happening? Are we the worst drivers in Canada? Are we that bad? I know I'm not. I've been rear-ended twice, both when I was 16 years old, and it wasn't my fault either time. Actually it makes for an interesting story. Let me tell you a little story about that, Mr. Speaker, about the second time I was rear-ended.

The first one was at a stop light and that was no problem, but I was driving a van for my first-ever job which was washing windows. So I was in this window-washing van and I was stopped at a stop light. This was in Winnipeg and I got smacked pretty hard from behind. I thought, oh, no, here I am, this is the first job I've ever had, the first paid employment I have ever had, I'm driving the employer's van, and I thought this is the second time, I'm in trouble. So I go around back and it turns out, quite miraculously, that the van that I'm driving, you can't even tell that it has been hit. If you looked very carefully and knew where to look, you might see a scratch but, considering the force of the impact, it was actually amazing there was no damage to the van, but the car that hit me wasn't so lucky. It had the left front all bashed in and it looked terrible and it was going to cost quite a lot of money to fix that car.

[Page 2182]

So I went out and I said to the driver, okay, well, - because I had never been in an accident before, but I was pretty sure that I knew I was supposed to exchange insurance information and things like that - can I get your insurance and your driver's licence and all that. She said, no, I think we will just forget it, let's just forget it. Let's just not bother. She drove off in this really quite damaged car, and I got into the van and my co-worker was in the passenger seat, he had had his licence suspended so he wasn't eligible to drive, that's why I was driving. I said, you won't believe what just happened there. The woman who hit me, her car is badly damaged and she didn't want to know my name or where I worked or my insurance information. He said, oh yeah, do you know why she did that, she's driving without insurance.

I learned something that day, Mr. Speaker, about how many people are on the roads, driving without insurance. That's another impact that this insurance crisis that we have right now is having. It's impossible to know, unless you do a road check and actually stop a statistically significant sample of drivers and check to see if they have insurance, there's no way of knowing for sure how many uninsured drivers there are on the roads; the best estimates are that it's anywhere from 5 per cent to 20 per cent of the cars on the road, and it's going up.

Mr. Speaker, I don't care what the Minister of Environment and Labour says, you can't dismiss the numbers. The number of people being charged and convicted of driving without insurance is going up, and you can't just dismiss that. It's going up quite a bit. Now we have people admitting on open-line shows and elsewhere that they're driving without insurance because they can't afford it. They're saying, yeah, I'm driving without insurance. Incredibly, it's cheaper for some people to drive without insurance and run the risk of the fine, which I understand, for a first offence, is something like $925, it's cheaper for them to take that gamble than to actually buy insurance.

Mr. Speaker, I have to say that as the father of two young children, and two hours from now, as I leave this place, I'm going to pick up both of my children and drive them home from their daycares. I am going to be driving on a road where anywhere from 5 per cent to 20 per cent of the drivers around me and my children are driving without insurance. That scares the heck out of me. It really does.

What's this government doing to deal with that problem? What does this bill do to deal with the growing problem of uninsured drivers? What are they doing to keep my children safer? Nothing. This bill doesn't even address that. It doesn't even begin to look at thinking about addressing that problem. Yet, they're going to be running into this upcoming election campaign, trying to make people believe they've done something about auto insurance.

[Page 2183]

It was the NDP who first raised this issue, Mr. Speaker, I have to say, although I want to take the members back and say, the very first time that we all heard that this was going to happen was when representatives of the IBC visited our offices and said, you know what, rates are about to go up, and you're about to hear from your constituents. My theory, my personal theory, all along, is that this is a concerted campaign, organized by the IBC to get legislative changes to increase corporate profits. The evidence that we have is circumstantial to be sure. But the very first time that any of us in this caucus heard about the upcoming rate increases was not from our constituents, it was from the IBC warning us, saying, this is coming, you better do something about it.

I believe the IBC will not rest content until they have the legislative changes that they want, which are to let them continue doing what they're doing but pay less to injured Nova Scotians. That's what they want. They want to keep on conducting business the way they are today. They say there's nothing wrong with them. They're pointing the finger and saying, it's somebody else's fault. I fear, Mr. Speaker, that that's what this government is going to deliver. At every opportunity that this government has had to do something constructive, to stand up to nurses - oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean nurses, they have no trouble standing up to nurses - what I meant was standing up to the insurance industry, to stand up to the big corporate behemoth that our insurance companies have become, what have they done? Nothing. They have shown themselves to be devoid of leadership on this issue, although from time to time, they have shown that they can be pushed.

Mr. Speaker, who first raised this issue publicly? It was the NDP. It was my colleague, the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, my colleague, the member for Cape Breton Centre, who pointed out to the government that the Utility and Review Board had the power to review rates. At first, what did the government do? Did they say yes, that's what we'll do and we'll do it now? No, they pooh-poohed it at first; they said, oh don't be silly. There's no problem, they said, oh don't be silly, we have it under control, but sure enough, a month later, the minister, indeed, referred it to the Utility and Review Board. Now I don't know if the government expected a quick resolution but here we are, well over a year later, still no decision from the Utility and Review Board.

Now, Mr. Speaker, which caucus was it that registered as interveners at those hearings? Which caucus was it that attended those hearings on behalf of our constituents? Was it the Conservative caucus? If that was your guess, you'd be wrong. Was it the Liberal caucus? No, they didn't register as an intervener, although their Leader did go and call for a group hug. We went, we registered as an intervener, we attended the hearing, we asked questions of the industry because, after all, that is the primary difference between the Liberals and us. They talk, we act. They talk over there, action over here. So we were responsible for getting the matter referred to the Utility and Review Board. We went to the hearings and made our pitch on behalf of our constituents, and, I might add, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of yours, and on behalf of the constituents of all the members on that side of the House, because they weren't there. The PC caucus was nowhere to be found at those hearings.

[Page 2184]

As time marched on and we continued to see no action from the government, we formed a task force to lower auto insurance premiums in Nova Scotia. We went out, we visited your constituency, Mr. Speaker, we visited the constituency of Truro-Bible Hill, we went out and about. We talked to people, we reached out to them. We got lots of e-mails and letters, as well, but we reached out to people, to tell us their story, what's really going on. We have issued one interim report which, if I may say, was a most excellent piece of work, and laid on the table what the options are, what options are available, and the pros and cons of each of the options. We are not afraid to take on the industry; we're not afraid to say to the industry you've let Nova Scotians down. Even today, the Minister of Environment and Labour still says that they believe in "a thriving, competitive marketplace" which is Conservative code for saying, there are some options they will not consider, no way, no how are they going to consider some of the options on the table.

Whose side are they on, Mr. Speaker? Are they on the side of the people who elected them or are they on the side of the insurance industry? That corporate executive that I talked about earlier in my remarks, puffing a cigar as he strolls down the streets of Amsterdam saying how can I deliver fair and reasonable rates to Nova Scotians? Actually, that's not what he's saying. What he's saying is, how can I deliver more value to my corporate shareholders? That's what that corporate executive is saying.

Whose side is the minister on? Is he on the side of that cigar-smoking, cognac-swilling corporate executive in Amsterdam or is he on our side? Is he on the side of his constituents or is he on the side of corporate executives? Whose side is he on because he has given no indication that he understands the dilemma being faced by Nova Scotians. He has given no indication that he knows how to solve their problem. We're not afraid, that's why we are here, Mr. Speaker, and that's why after the next election we are going to be over there.

[2:30 p.m.]

Nova Scotians know that if they want to look for solutions they look to the NDP. That's what we need. That's what we need, a government that will fearlessly look at all the options, all of the options and not rule out any for ideological reasons. Let's remember that it's the Party on that side of the House that privatized Nova Scotia Power without any study because in the words of the chairman at the time, a very well-known Conservative, it was done on a "philosophical feeling." They did it because, well, the Conservative philosophy told them they should.

Our job in this House is to deliver low, fair rates to Nova Scotians. The law says Nova Scotians must have auto insurance, and it's our job to figure out how to deliver that to them at as low a rate and as fair a rate as possible. This bill will not do that for all the reasons I talked about. The holes in the Swiss cheese are so big that there's no cheese left. The insurance industry is already walking all over this bill, all around this bill, all through this bill because it doesn't deal with the real issue.

[Page 2185]

We're not afraid to raise the real issue. We need to consider public auto insurance in Nova Scotia. We need to look at the other provinces and say why is it exactly that the three provinces with a public system have the lowest rates in Canada. Is it coincidence? Is it because they have flat roads, as the minister would have us believe? Well, one of the three provinces doesn't have flat roads, so that can't be the reason. We have to look at the reasons why it is that Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia, deliver the lowest and fairest rates to their people.

We don't know all the answers. That's why the NDP's task force is still looking at that, and I'd be very pleased to personally deliver a copy of our final report, which I'm expecting before the end of the month, to you and your constituency office, because you may find it interesting reading. We're not afraid to look at the options. We're not afraid to do the right thing by Nova Scotians.

Where are we now? We have insurers, some of whom are profitable - they're not all losing money, despite what you hear from them. It was well established at the Utility and Review Board hearing that some of the insurance companies in Nova Scotia are profitable, but they're driving the rates up anyway. Why is that happening? We have insurance companies who are leaning on the government to do nothing, to give the appearance of doing something, the facsimile of doing something, to make it look like they're busy, just busy enough to carry them through the next election and, after the election, Nova Scotians will find that nothing in fact has been accomplished.

We have insurance brokers - good, decent, hard-working Nova Scotians who are trying to do their job. They're the ones who deliver the bad news to Nova Scotians and they're not getting much help from the insurance companies that they supposedly represent. The brokers are in a tough position because their independence is being cut away here. The consolidation of the insurance industry is such that there are very few insurers left, and some of the brokers who maybe used to have four or five clients now maybe have just one. They're not really independent at all, they have to do what that insurer says to do. The brokers are in a tough state and they're not in a position to diverge from the insurance company line. What one very experienced broker told us is that if we, the NDP, find solutions, find a way to deliver low and fair rates to Nova Scotians, there will be a lot of silent cheering coming from brokers' offices. But they are not in a position to disagree with the position of the corporate behemoths in the insurance industry.

We need to deal with the issue of repair shops. I think, as is well known, there's one rate that repair shops will quote if it's an insurance job and another rate if you're paying for it yourself. I notice the increasing evidence that more and more Nova Scotians are paying for the repairs themselves rather than taking the risk of making a claim to their insurance company. How did we get to the point where people buy mandatory insurance and are afraid to submit a claim? But that's where we're at, and it's worth reflecting on for anybody on that side who thinks insurance companies are on our side, or that insurance companies are on the

[Page 2186]

side of the people of Nova Scotia. People would rather pay out of pocket for damage, even if it's thousands of dollars, than run the risk of admitting to their insurance company that they've had an accident.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, we have consumers. Where are consumers? They are beside themselves.

Mr. Speaker, do I have two minutes, three minutes?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member has approximately four minutes.

MR. STEELE: Four minutes, so much the better, Mr. Speaker, because I would like to close by talking about two cases that recently came to my attention, which I can add to the dozens that have previously come to my attention.

The first one was from a gentleman who lives in my constituency, but his mother, who he was calling about, lives in the constituency of Dartmouth South. She has a clean driving record and she drives a 1990 Mustang, which she bought new and after 13 years, it has 40,000 kilometres on it. She drives about 2,500 kilometres per year. That lady has just been notified that her premium is going up from $603 to $1,067. No explanation was offered except that rates are going up for everyone. She was told by her insurer that no one is taking new customers. The clear implication being delivered to this Nova Scotian senior was, take it or leave it, Mr. Speaker. She is on a fixed income of about $15,000 a year; she cannot afford the increase; this will take that woman off the roads. Is it because she's a bad driver? No, its because she had a birthday. She had a significant milestone birthday that tipped her over the edge and that woman will no longer be able to drive her car.

I'd like to close with another one, also from my district, and this is from a young married couple at the other end of the spectrum. This couple last year paid approximately $3,000 for insurance. Their renewal notice was for $4,752. Why? They don't know, no reason has been offered, no explanation given. This person is one of the many caregivers in Nova Scotia who travelled around delivering care to Nova Scotians in physical need and this person says that this rate increase could well cause her to lose her job, to give up her job, because she can't afford it any more.

So we have young Nova Scotians who may have to give up their employment because of these rate increases; we have older Nova Scotians who are being taken off the road because they can't afford the increases under a fixed income. Let's be clear about this, Mr. Speaker, the increases dwarf the amount of the rebate cheque that this government is about to send out, not to say that that lady on $15,000 a year is going to get it anyway, because she probably won't, but even if she did, it's only a brick in the wall of what insurance companies are now asking for.

[Page 2187]

Mr. Speaker, what is this government and this minister and those 31 members on that side of the House and this bill going to do for those decent, hard-working Nova Scotians? Nothing. Thank you.

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

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise and speak on second reading of Bill No. 45, an Act to Amend Chapter 231 of the Revised Statutes of 1989, the Insurance Act.

Mr. Speaker, this bill will freeze insurance rates until January 1, 2004. I'm sure there are many people out there - let's be fair - who do certainly welcome this legislation that's before the House, but I'm sure, at the same time, there are many people out there as well - saying what then, what after January 1, 2004. In speaking on this bill, it goes without saying that this issue is one that all of us in this province have an opinion on since it touches every home from one end of this province to the other. We are all aware of stories from Nova Scotians about how their car insurance rates have risen dramatically in the past year.

I just want to look at an article that came out in The Chronicle-Herald back on April 12th, several weeks ago. It talked about the rising rates, increases in auto insurance premiums between February, 2002 and February, 2003, and in Canada, the insurance premiums rose by 30 per cent. Here in Nova Scotia, the insurance rates rose by 65 per cent. But with this piece of legislation before the House freezing rates until January 1, 2004, it is only a slight measure that will undoubtedly provide some relief to Nova Scotians for some time. It's a delay tactic and I'm sure many people are probably wondering, why only until January 1, 2004? Again, what this clearly demonstrates is another example of this government's demonstration that it will only provide some relief for a small period of time.

We probably have to wonder about the timing behind this piece of legislation tabled yesterday in this House. I'm sure it has to do with the expected election call that will be coming soon. It goes without saying that people want good insurance coverage, but they also want reasonable premiums. When you look at these high insurance premiums, especially in the last year across Canada, Nova Scotia was one among the highest provinces in Canada faced with high insurance premiums. According to the information that was reported here from Stats Canada, Nova Scotia was the province in Canada that faced the second-highest insurance rates in all of the country.

This bill that's before the House, we know that with a Tory majority government this bill will eventually get passed in this House. Once it gets through second reading, the bill will be referred to the Law Amendments Committee and I'm sure many people from the public will take this opportunity to come in and provide the government with some of their own stories. This will be an opportunity, once the bill goes to the Law Amendments Committee, to hear what the public has to say.

[Page 2188]

By freezing insurance rates now, this government is simply using it as a delaying tactic. They're telling Nova Scotians that something is coming, but you have to wait. You have to wait because we heard from the minister yesterday that more will be done in the Fall. But yet, right now, with this piece of legislation that's before us, the waiting is now over, at least until January 1, 2004, and that's just six or seven months away from now, and what then?

[2:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, this issue has been before this House many, many times because Nova Scotians expect their government to address this issue of higher insurance rates. Instead, a year after something that could have been done, this government and this minister responsible says Nova Scotians will have to wait until the Fall session of the Legislature before legislation will be brought forward. Well, you know, in the last year we know that the government has asked the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board to examine private passenger automobile insurance rates in Nova Scotia. These hearings started just several months ago, in late September 2002. We know that the Liberal caucus called upon the government back in February of last year to create an all-Party committee to examine why insurance rates were going up, were increasing drastically in this province.

Mr. Speaker, a number of neighbouring provinces actually did that last year, went out and consulted with the people in New Brunswick, in Newfoundland, to hear what people had to say, but our government, for whatever reason, decided to delay. Then, just several months ago, the URB decided to examine why private passenger automobile insurance rates were being increased in this province. At the same time, or shortly thereafter, our Tory Government tabled this back just last month, in March, a plan they called the Road Ahead - A Planned Approach to Auto Insurance Solutions. That's dated March 2003.

Mr. Speaker, this report went out to the people of our province. The government wanted to know what they thought, a survey. I just want to look at one of the questions here. What do you think that the government should be doing in terms of examining a no-fault system for Nova Scotia? Again, this is simply window dressing, it's an exercise to pretend that this government is doing something, but this government had well over a year to do something and then with an election call on the horizon, the government decides to do something. They went ahead with the URB. They went ahead with the survey wanting to hear what the people of Nova Scotia had to say and then last month they appointed a consumer advocate on auto insurance. So now this individual will be looking at some of the concerns that will be brought to his attention, then later on this individual will report back to government.

So again, Mr. Speaker, you really have to wonder why this bill is before the House today. This issue has been ongoing for quite some time. We've seen other provinces taking the lead, creating an all-Party committee, listening to what the people have to say, consulting

[Page 2189]

with the people in New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador, but here in Nova Scotia we have decided to bring a bill forward to freeze insurance rates until January 1, 2004. That's six or seven months away. I suspect the election will have taken place by then and again, the people of Nova Scotia will be looking at their government to come up with some solutions. Not delaying tactics, not just temporary tactics to delay some solutions that can once and for all address these high insurance rates that the people of Nova Scotia have been faced with.

Mr. Speaker, this government could have had an insurance package ready, ready to go during the last Spring session but decided, for whatever reason, not to and wait on this very critical issue that is being faced by many Nova Scotians. Here we are, probably on the eve of an election, debating this bill that's before the House, a bill that is basically delaying insurance rate increases until January 1, 2004.

Mr. Speaker, because of this government's inaction or with so-called half measures that include freezing rates and empty regulations, you can be sure that this issue will grow and will continue to grow. It will continue to grow and force many rural residents and other residents in this province who must rely on their vehicles for transportation to choose to go without insurance.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to share with you an individual from home who I spoke with quite a few months ago. This individual has two vehicles and because he couldn't afford the insurance increases on his premiums - trying to save money, trying to cut corners in order to make ends meet - he decided to cancel his collision insurance on both of his vehicles. I'm sure this is not the only individual in this province who has decided to cancel his coverage for collision on his vehicle in order to try to save some money, in order to try to make ends meet. This is not the quick-fix solution that this individual and many are looking for, but they are forced to. They are forced to because they have no choice.

Mr. Speaker, in speaking with this individual, he also indicated that some of his friends have told him that they have cancelled their car insurance altogether. They are driving on our roads with no car insurance, simply because they can't afford it. They can't afford it, and, at the same time, are trying to make ends meet living on limited income or on fixed income for some, they chose to cancel their vehicle insurance. We know that number is increasing day by day in this province, people in Nova Scotia deciding to cancel their vehicle insurance and doing without.

Mr. Speaker, the government says it will address the unfair issues by bringing in regulations. Well, the obvious question is when will the government be bringing in these regulations.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Ah, after the election; in other words, there won't be any.

[Page 2190]

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, as my colleague, the member for Sackville-Cobequid indicates, chances are these regulations will only be brought in after the election. Again it's this pre-election campaigning. You know it's just window dressing. Again we will have to wait to see this government bringing in these regulations. (Interruption) My colleague here indicates that the Leader of the NDP will be bringing these regulations. I can tell you in my part of the province, the NDP are not even on the ground, you know, there's no interest, no candidates in sight. I can tell you from my personal experience back in 1993 and 1998, the NDP had to find someone from Halifax to run in my own riding. I'm sure I wasn't the only riding in western Nova Scotia that the NDP had to try to recruit someone. (Interruption) I see some of my neighbouring colleagues from across the floor indicating that they encountered those very same individuals. Anyway, I will come back to the debate that's before the House.

Mr. Speaker, seniors and those with older cars, those living in certain parts of the province, want the details now as to how these regulations will be affecting them. They want the help now, but this government tells them that they will have to wait until the Fall when the legislation will be passed. So again we have to really ask why the delay, what's the game plan, why is it being delayed, and I'm quite sure that a lot of people out there will not be fooled. They certainly understand the reasons why this will be done.

Mr. Speaker, with a provincial election expected to be called soon, this government is appearing to be doing something to try to quiet down the howls of protest from drivers who are making tough choices, choices that they make themselves to decide not to take insurance coverage that they need. Unfortunately, some of these choices that people are making now are probably not the best for protection. We have to recognize there are many people who are trying to make ends meet, who are facing very difficult choices, and these choices aren't easily made, but at the same time they have to be made.

Again, Mr. Speaker, with rate increases, you know, pushing some insurance payments to thousands of dollars a year will only continue to force people to risk driving without insurance or stop driving altogether. We have seen earlier that insurance rates in this province have increased by 65 per cent. There are many people in this province, unfortunately, who don't have that extra cash. They don't have that extra money to pay these insurance increases.

Mr. Speaker, because of this government's inaction to address this issue, many will either pay these higher insurance rates or at the same time decide to sell their vehicles, or park their vehicles at home. Again, Bill No. 45 has some merit but it fails to address the other issues that many Nova Scotians want answers to with regard to insurance. As I have stated earlier, this bill that's before the House will eventually pass. When? I don't know. This bill that's before the House will pass second reading and it will be moved on to the Law Amendments Committee. That will allow the public to come forward, and give us the opportunity to hear what the people of Nova Scotia have to say with regard to Bill No. 45.

[Page 2191]

[3:00 p.m.]

I'm quite sure one question that many of these individuals will have is, what will happen to insurance rates after January 1, 2004? Again, unfortunately, we will probably have to wait until the election takes place to find out the answer to that question. For the time being, the people of Nova Scotia are being told that this piece of legislation that's before us is probably . . .

MR. JOHN HOLM: The best the Tories can do.

MR. GAUDET: You're right, as the member for Sackville-Cobequid indicated, it's the best that they probably can do at this time.

MR. HOLM: The Tories can do.

MR. GAUDET: That the Tories can do, you're right. But what happens over the next few months with respect to seniors wanting and needing to get insurance coverage in rural areas? What happens to those already hit with high insurance rates over the last year? I was visiting an individual this past weekend, a senior, living on limited income, they have limited resources and they're currently doing some repairs on their home. This individual indicated that his truck insurance used to be $1,100, and he is now paying $2,000. His obvious question is, why is my insurance being increased by $900? Why is the insurance company gouging me? This individual has many questions. In terms of choices, if he wants to continue to drive his truck he has no choice than to pay this high insurance increase of $900.

Again, I'm sure this individual is not the only one being faced with making some real tough choices. Once this bill goes through - and I'm sure it will in the next little while - this individual will probably be asking himself, and probably be calling the minister responsible for insurance. The insurance rate increase that this bill freezes until January 2004 won't do any good for this individual. His rates have already gone up. He's already paid his insurance this year - close to $2,000 - yet this bill will do absolutely nothing for this individual and I'm sure this bill will probably not have an impact on many, many Nova Scotians because their insurance rates have already gone up. They have already, I'm quite sure, paid up their bill or decided to make some other very difficult choices - selling their vehicles, parking their vehicles at home. There are a lot of people in this province that this bill will do absolutely nothing for them, nothing.

What happens to those already hit with high insurance rates over the last year, or before May 1, 2003, that this bill covers? What happens to those individuals before May 1st and what happens to these individuals after January 1, 2004? Clearly, this is an important question, it's an important issue in the lives of many people here today. It's also a pressing issue. The issue that's before us has been a pressing issue for quite some time. It hasn't just been brought up to the floor of this House, to the minister's attention for a short period of

[Page 2192]

time. As I have indicated, this has been an ongoing critical issue that many people here in this province have been faced with and many people in Atlantic Canada and across Canada have been faced with for well over a year.

In fact, we would not be here today debating Bill No. 45 if this government had proceeded with actions last year, maybe following some of our neighbouring provinces' leads with an all-Party committee.

AN HON. MEMBER: They didn't do anything.

MR. GAUDET: They didn't do anything. This was an opportunity to do something, but here we are today with Bill No. 45 that's before the House. The government is attempting to do something, or at least show the people of Nova Scotia that they are doing something until January 1, 2004.

Mr. Speaker, again, we have to wonder about the delayed tactic here, the reason behind it. Again, I am sure it probably has to do with the election call that will probably be made in the next several weeks or in a very short period of time. I believe that we have to have diligent efforts by all parties. It's not just up to the government to come and provide the people of Nova Scotia to try to minimize the cost to the system that will assist in providing some solutions, maybe some short-term solutions. I think all partners, everyone, all the parties involved have a role in providing some solutions. Again, there is one thing about this issue that needs to be stated and restated. This issue that's before the House has been here many times in the last year. At that time, Nova Scotians were calling upon their government to address this issue earlier last year, but for whatever reason, the government decided not to. It's not because of an election call, it's not after the election, it's probably not during an election that this critical insurance issue should be addressed.

However, that issue is before this House now, and we are debating it today. Again, I am sure many people will be questioning the timing of Bill No. 45, why the government has decided to bring this bill before us at this time. As you know, many residents rely on their vehicles for transportation. This issue has a dramatic impact on them, particularly in areas where there is no public transportation. In many rural parts of this province, that choice is not available. Many of our residents in rural Nova Scotia depend on their vehicles for transportation. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, these individuals don't have a choice, as some other residents of this province have.

Mr. Speaker, again, I cannot stress strongly enough that we would not be here today debating this issue if the other two Parties in this House had agreed with our request last year, when we brought our request 13 months ago to have an all-Party committee sit down and hammer out a solution to this problem. That request was denied by the government and here we are. A year later we are still no closer to a solution. A year later, we are debating this

[Page 2193]

issue again (Interruption) As we are moving closer to an election. So here we are, still talking about something that should have been settled some time ago.

When this issue first came up last year, Mr. Speaker, our Liberal caucus came up with the idea about proposing that the government appoint an all-Party committee. Unfortunately the government decided, for whatever reason, that was probably not in the best interests of the government. They decided in September to appoint the Utility and Review Board to examine private passenger automobile insurance rates in Nova Scotia. So, again, here we were, in September, and (Interruptions)

Where were they last year when this problem was just as important as it is today? They were nowhere and here again we are going nowhere with this piece of legislation that's before us. January 1, 2004, we will freeze, we will delay the increase in insurance rates until then, and then what?

AN HON. MEMBER: Hammer time.

MR. GAUDET: Yes. Mr. Speaker, they don't have to ask people what's wrong. You know what's wrong. The rates in this province are too high and people can't afford to pay them. But the government is going to go around this province, say that they have a bill and they have some regulations and some changes are coming. They're pinning their hope on this half measure that is before the House. This bill that they expect will help them, probably will get passed through the next election. This is all politics, this bill that is before us, Bill No. 45.

Mr. Speaker, again if we had established an all-Party committee 13 months ago, this issue would have been decided and dealt with and hopefully in the best interests of the consumers in Nova Scotia, long before now. So, again, the time for inaction must pass. Nova Scotians deserve better than the half-measure bill that's before us, especially on the eve of an election. Again, as I've indicated, a year later, this government decides to do something, or at least make it look like they are doing something by introducing this bill, by delaying the process until later, until the Fall, but we shouldn't be surprised. We should not be surprised since this is more inaction by a government comfortable with inaction.

So Nova Scotians won't be fooled by this government, with this bill that's before us that doesn't address the issues and won't for some time. But, again, this will not help Nova Scotians since the results will only come well past the election. Mr. Speaker, again, the rising rates in Nova Scotia have gone up in the last year by 65 per cent and the bill that is before us, does very little in addressing the real issue that is before the people of Nova Scotia. So, again, you really have to wonder why Bill No. 45 is before the House today.

[Page 2194]

So I think it's quite obvious, this is plain politics. With an election call around the corner, the government has to pretend that they are doing something. We have seen very limited action by this government in addressing these real critical insurance rate increases that are before us, so they are hoping that Bill No. 45 again will try to convince some of the voters going into the next election that they're doing something. I'm sure, especially with the election around the corner, insurance rates again will certainly be talked about from one end of this province to the other.

[3:15 p.m.]

So, Mr. Speaker, I will take my place, and again with Bill No. 45, it's simply a tactic by this government to delay the real issue that's before the people of Nova Scotia.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I'm rising on a point of order, I'm not going to take part in the debate. I had given you a notice in advance that I intended to do this. I'm rising on a point that I had discussed with you privately earlier today and I'm not rising to question your authority to make the decision you did, but to ask for a rationale for it and possibly another way to look at coming up with what might be a more consistent type of policy.

Mr. Speaker, what I'm referring to is the decision that has been made to limit the number of those who are visiting us around this Chamber to protest the failure of the government to allow negotiations, or I should say arbitration, to take place in the current labour dispute. The ruling has been made by yourself to limit the number of protesters, strikers, to 20 at a time to enter this particular building, 10 on the main floor and no more than 10 in the gallery.

Now, Mr. Speaker, as I said, I'm not challenging your ability to make rules. This House is under your jurisdiction. However, in the past we have had situations where we have had, for example, the paramedics, we have had health care workers during the Bill No. 68 debate and so on and others where the numbers were not restricted below that number set by the Fire Marshal's Office unless they created a disturbance for which they had to be, for example, evicted from the building.

Going by the public record, Mr. Speaker, you're in the public record yesterday as saying even though they were noisy, they did not disturb the proceedings of this House and I am seeking the rationale for the ruling and I'm also requesting, so that in order that this could be dealt with on a consistent basis for not only the present but for the future, suggest that this is an issue that should be referred to the Committee on Assembly Matters to come up for a consistent policy to be followed now and in the future.

[Page 2195]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, speaking to the point of order, I think that what the honourable member, the House Leader for the New Democratic Party, has suggested in some respects is true. In other words, people should have the right to come into this place and whether they're demonstrating outside or not doesn't really matter, but when they come into this place, I think that there are common-sense rules that they must abide by and I noticed yesterday, for instance, that we had a crowd up in the gallery who came in with signs on their T-shirts. Now, you say, well, that's completely acceptable, but I don't think it's acceptable to have a whole bunch come in and then take off their shirts and display themselves in T-shirts, that are sending a message either to the government or to the Opposition, but that aside, when people come in and sit on the floor and impede the progress of people to come into the building and to leave the building, I think it's time to draw the line.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I would like to say on a point of order and in response to the comments made by the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid that, in fact, he probably is in a roundabout way trying to challenge your rule and in confronting your rule, I would just say that it is within your jurisdiction. It's the Speaker's House and it's the people's House, and school classes, seniors, and everybody, I think, has an opportunity and a right to come to this House, but it is the Speaker's decision, and you can cut it any way you want. I believe the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid has some difficulty with your ruling, and I respect your ruling.

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

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, both members opposite who spoke, I think, made compelling arguments as to why we should refer this matter to the Committee on Assembly Matters, so that we can come up with consistent rules that can be followed in a consistent manner, not only for the current situation but also for those in the future. As I began my comments, I appreciate and I accept the authority that you as Speaker have to make these kinds of decisions, however, I believe as a guidance to yourself, and I know that some members on the government benches find it very uncomfortable to be confronted by those who aren't happy with government policies, but I know that's not what is guiding your decisions, but it might be what's guiding some of the directions or encouragements that are being provided by members of the Tory caucus benches. (Interruptions)

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order. Could I put in my two cents' worth? I appreciate the point that the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid has made, but there is no question that yesterday there was a deliberate attempt by that group to disrupt the proceedings of the House. There's no question. As a matter of fact, there was a

[Page 2196]

letter that came out from the president of the union today which was circulated to all members, which - Mr. Speaker, you've read it - said, "With the exception of . . . May 5, we have been respectful of the operations of the Legislature." There's no question of what they did yesterday.

Mr. Speaker, the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid - the issue of people coming, we've lived through that the last four years, but in most cases they didn't deliberately try to disrupt the operation of the House, and clearly that was the case. (Interruptions)

SPEAKER'S RULING: Limiting number of protesters allowed in Province House. (Point of Order by Mr. J. Holm [Hansard p. 2194, 06/05/03])

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid, when he started his comments asked if I would explain to the House why I made the decision I did, and I am certainly prepared to do that. I think there's a process that's in place in this House that if the House doesn't agree with the decision I've made, I think there's a process in place that could be followed to overturn that decision.

First of all, I would like to say that the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid is right, this is a place for people to come, from throughout this province, and they have every right to do so. There is a million of those people who have the right to come here. I don't think it's fair to prevent anyone from entering this building at any time, whether it's Nova Scotians or tourists, and particularly children.

As I mentioned to the honourable member today, we had a class of children here today, that I think if they had arrived here yesterday they probably wouldn't have been able to get into this Chamber. I know they wouldn't have been able to, because they would have been turned away because of the numbers. The second thing is I am sure they would have been intimidated by what they saw when they came in this building. Whether we want to agree with that or not, I believe that's true. I think we have a right to (Interruptions) I believe it's incumbent upon us to ensure that this is a free and safe place to enter, and I don't disagree with that, but without intimidation.

The other thing is, I think we have to remember, and I am sure the honourable member would agree with this, this is a workplace for staff, students, people who work in this building throughout the year. Whether you agree with it or not, again, an issue that was brought to my attention was the level of noise yesterday made this an unsafe and not a very good workplace to be within. That's been mentioned to me by staff in this building. The other thing that has been drawn to my attention, and I think it's incumbent upon us as members is that the business of the House has to carry on. Whether we agree with what's happening outside, whether we agree with the issue or not, the business must carry on in this House.

[Page 2197]

The individual group yesterday made a decision to occupy this building. I respect their decision to do that, and I have been criticized, as I mentioned to the honourable member today, that I didn't take action yesterday and actually bring that to an end. Maybe I should have. In other jurisdictions, protestors are not allowed to enter the building, period, none. If you want to refer it to the Committee on Assembly Matters and have that as an option, I am fully prepared to live with the consequences of that decision.

We, in this House, have, on occasion, allowed people in here. I did yesterday. They entered this building, they occupied the building. I made a decision, to the security people, not to take any kind of action that would cause a confrontation that may cause injury to any people, whether it was staff or those individuals. I respect them and I respect their right to come here. I think they made their point, and I said that to the media.

When it ended last night, I also made a decision this morning that for the remainder of this session - and I will document this to the president of the union - I will not allow any more than 10 members of that union in the gallery or on the second floor of this building. I am fully prepared to justify my decision to do that. However, if I am overruled by the House, then I will live with that as well.

Back to second reading on Bill No. 45.

[PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

Bill No. 45, Insurance Act.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to join, this afternoon, in debate on Bill No. 45, the Insurance Act. My colleague was mentioning, before me, that he considered this bill to be kind of the Tory Maginot line, the way he described it. I am sure that's a reference the House Leader for the government will understand, because, of course, the Maginot line was a line of fortifications built along the eastern boundary of France. The idea was that they would build a line of fortifications that could defend their citizens. They built it, as I recall, up to the forest in the Ardennes.

Unfortunately for the French, the Germans, under Hitler, decided just to ignore the Maginot line and went around it, through the impenetrable Ardennes. Of course, the Maginot line, although it did, in fact, serve its purpose, which is it did defend the area which it was intended to defend, it did not in fact stop what was the real point of the fortification which was to prevent the action they feared most, which was the invasion to take place. It did take place, and France fell.

[Page 2198]

This bill is very much like that. It is designed to have a very narrow focus, and to give the government something to hide behind, very much like the Maginot line. You might know, Mr. Speaker, that the Maginot line came to a fairly ignominious end, in fact it was sold off in pieces. In fact, it was used for mushroom farming, if you can imagine, the great fortifications were used for mushroom farming, which is not at all unlike the way the government treats the people of this province, very much like mushrooms, most of the time, keeping them in the dark.

The parallel goes much further than just the Maginot mentality, which is, incidentally, what it became known as. It's really too bad because, of course, André Maginot, who the Maginot line was named after was a great war hero in France and very much loved, yet history records him only because of his name - I shouldn't say only, but primarily because his name is attached to the line. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, the point that the Maginot line made was that this was a defensive fortification, and it was based on France's experience in the First World War. Essentially, what they were doing with it was fighting the last war, which is essentially what this government is doing with the insurance companies.

Nothing in this bill will have any real effect that will benefit the consumers of Nova Scotia. It is not a freeze, it is a delay in rates that were to be brought into force May 1st or later. Of course, all of the increases in rates that were earlier put in place will all be effective, the 65 per cent increase that Nova Scotians have sustained in auto insurance rates will all go ahead. In fact, when Nova Scotia consumers receive their renewals, they will, in fact, see increases in the amount that they will have to pay for auto insurance coverage.

Mr. Speaker, that is essentially for the same reason that the Maginot line was ineffective which is that the insurance companies are simply going to ignore it. The Premier said, well, you know, we expected the URB to come down by now and in any event we expected that the insurance companies would voluntarily agree to a time out until the URB decision came down. Well, that didn't happen. The Premier was wrong and the minister responsible for skyrocketing insurance rates seemed quite surprised by the idea that these increases in the premiums would take place while the URB continued their deliberations and while they reserved their decision and obviously are working on the decision that they intend to release. Certainly the minister has said that he hoped that would be sooner rather than later. Certainly we hoped it had been sooner and I'm sure that the consumers of auto insurance coverage in this province certainly wished and believed that the decision of the URB would be earlier.

[3:30 p.m.]

All this bill really does is deal with what was a pre-emptive strike by the insurance industry to try to raise rates before the URB decision came down in case the decision by the URB was to roll back its rates because, of course, the new increases would not be subject to the URB decision. So to the very, very limited extent that this bill deals with that in the very,

[Page 2199]

very short term, Mr. Speaker, I suppose that one could justify it, but the reality, of course, is that it's just chock full of holes. I know we in this caucus, and I assume - although I'm not sure about - the members of the caucus of the Third Party, will certainly be looking for substantial improvements in this bill before it's passed into law.

There's much work to be done and, of course, we intend to try to assist the government in making this a better piece of legislation as we do with all pieces of legislation that come before this House. The job, of course, of the Official Opposition is to hold the government accountable, to go through legislation in a concise way, to offer constructive criticism of the clauses in each piece of legislation as they exist and at the same time to offer alternatives to what exists in order to make the legislation on the whole better not only for the government's sake and for the sake of those of us in this room in terms of doing a good job, but because the law is the servant of the people; it is not the master of the people, it is the servant of the people.

If we are to truly serve the people, then we must take the responsibility to make good laws, Mr. Speaker, and as it stands now, this is not a good law simply because the insurance industry has displayed every intention to ignore the government and to ignore the wishes of the government and to simply find new and inventive ways to raise its revenue levels. Now, I'm assuming - and it's always dangerous to assume - that people understand somewhat how the insurance industry in this province works, but that of course may not be the case because over and above the rates themselves that you pay of course, there are rating categories in which individuals fall. Of course, the easiest way, if your rates are frozen, to get around that is to simply start shifting people among the rate categories. So if you have people who in previous years you would have insured in a preferred category, you simply knock them out of the preferred category or perhaps you knock them out of the premium pool altogether and put them in the Facility Association.

Mr. Speaker, you may know the Facility Association is the insurer of last resort and, of course, there is an obligation on the industry to provide insurance to all drivers. That obligation, however, is not coupled with any kind of responsibility to provide it at a reasonable rate. So if you're willing to pay enough, of course, you can get insurance and in many cases, when these people are shifted into the Facility Association, they pay very high rates for the privilege of being able to operate a motor vehicle in this province. I know you know that, and I know, because of your profession, certainly when you were on the byways of this province, no doubt from time to time you would have cause to see occasions when people were driving and were not properly insured. That wouldn't be at all surprising.

I know I was recently in Shelburne County, at a nomination meeting down there. The local candidate there was Sheriff of Shelburne County for 22 years. He was saying that one of the prime concerns in Shelburne County is just the cost and availability of insurance. People who live in rural communities, they know this is true. They know it is true, they know that doctors don't make house calls any more, if a senior citizen, or anyone for that matter,

[Page 2200]

wants to go to a medical appointment, if they want to pick up their groceries or a prescription or anything else for that matter, they have to have a car.

As Mr. Stoddard was indicating to me, he said the problem is it's endangering the way of life in rural Nova Scotia. In rural Nova Scotia, if you don't have the ability to get access to all of the things you need, what you do is you have to travel to where people have access to those, which is in metropolitan Halifax-Dartmouth. I can hear the member for Yarmouth-Clayton Park over there. He is another one who is facing the same problems in Yarmouth County, as well, but I am sure that he won't have to worry about them much longer. (Interruptions)

I can hear him carping over there. (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, the reality is that insurance is a very important issue in rural Nova Scotia, and I know that the member for Yarmouth-Clayton Park - is that the name of the riding? No, I think it's just Yarmouth. He lives in Clayton Park, that's right. Okay. (Interruptions) The reality is that this is an important issue in rural Nova Scotia, and the member over there shouldn't make light of it. (Interruptions) Yes, I do. Yes, I do as a matter of fact.

This bill just doesn't meet the needs of the people of Nova Scotia, and I will tell you why it doesn't meet the needs. It doesn't meet the needs because the system of insurance in this province - and if you ask insurers, they will tell you the same thing, they have a different answer but they will tell you the same thing - is broken, and that it needs to be fixed. I heard my colleague say that they thought that over the long term that this had been an orchestrated campaign on behalf of the industry to try to force the hand of government to bring in caps on the benefit levels that are paid with respect to the existing policy. That could be in many different ways.

The most important benefit cap they want, or the most important cap they want was on the amount of money that is paid with respect to non-economic loss; in other words for personal injury, pain and suffering, those kinds of awards. That's what they want and they really make no apologies about it. Their answer to this crises is not to lower auto insurance premiums, it is to lower the benefit levels that people are entitled to and my view of that is that is no answer at all to the problems that we face.

Many people don't understand, with respect to their policy, that their policy in this province already contains a great number of no-fault benefits. In fact, under Section B of their insurance policy, if you look at your policy, there is a whole list of no-fault benefits that exist within the provisions of the existing insurance policy. There's a reason for this, and it is that often after there's a motor vehicle accident there is a dispute about liability, about who is at fault. In fact, even if there wasn't a dispute, an insurer - again if you look at your policy - is appointed under the terms of your policy as your irrevocable attorney, they could decide to defend any claim for any reason.

[Page 2201]

You can imagine - you're injured in a motor vehicle accident, you make a claim against an insurer and you say that you want to be compensated for your losses, including economic loss, including the loss of your wages and the way that you're compensated for the work that you do. The insurer could say we're not going to pay you, you have to get a determination from the court. You get a determination from the court and we'll pay you, other than that, you're not getting anything - they could say that.

So wise legislators, at one point in time, brought in a series of no-fault benefits that said regardless of who is at fault, if you're injured in a motor vehicle accident, you will be entitled to certain benefits. You will be entitled to receive a weekly indemnity payment for loss of income. The reason for this was because they knew that if the insurance companies took the position that they weren't going to pay anybody, then they would essentially be able to starve out a claimant. Because they would have no means of income, they would have no way to support their families and so the insurers could simply wait them out. When they became desperate, they could offer them a small amount of money and that would result in a claim settlement, but it certainly wouldn't adequately settle the claim of the individual.

This Legislature brought forward, as part of the Insurance Act, a standard endorsement form, a policy, that included these no-fault benefits. If the member for Yarmouth was in a motor vehicle accident tomorrow, no matter who was at fault he would be able to claim under his insurance policy a weekly indemnity payment for loss of income. The unfortunate thing about this is that those provisions were brought into play so long ago that the maximum weekly indemnity payment that you can receive is $140 a week. Certainly an inadequate amount, because no one would be able to survive very long, I don't think, under any circumstances. Certainly if you had a family you wouldn't be able to survive on $140 a week - which makes us wonder about some of the other rates in this province, but that's a subject for another day, we're talking about insurance today. The $140 a week has never been amended and therefore it has become, with the affluxion of time, inadequate, and unfortunately the Legislature has never seen fit to revisit those provisions and to change them.

The same is true with other benefits that exist under Section B. There are medical benefits that cover those treatments that are not covered under Medicare, and they include chiropractic treatments, physiotherapy that's not conducted in a hospital, and there are various other medically necessary treatments that are covered as part of no-fault benefits that already exist in your policy.

[3:45 p.m.]

In my view, Mr. Speaker, the current insurance policy, in that it provided a certain level of no-fault benefits on the one hand but yet allowed for the proper adjudication of non-economic loss on injury claims, gave Nova Scotians, in terms of the policy, the best of both worlds. You had the benefits you needed in order to be able to sustain yourself when you

[Page 2202]

were injured, and you had the full recourse, through your civil rights, to the courts of the land.

Unfortunately, the one thing that you don't have is control over what you pay for that policy. In this province, we have seen, over the last year, a dramatic rise in the cost of auto insurance premiums. It is our contention, and I think the contention of many people who are observers of the industry and those, like myself, who had the opportunity to work in close connection with that industry for many years, that the reason, the primary reason, for the increase in the auto insurance premiums is because the insurance companies took quite a beating in investment income in the stock market.

The only way that they can make up for that, and the only way that they can satisfy and build value for their shareholders is by finding a way to recover the lost investment revenue. Well, they only have two sources of revenue, that is the investment income and premium income. If the investment income is gone, the only way they can recover it is by coming back to the consumer and demanding higher premiums. That, in a nutshell, is what I believe is happening in this province.

As much as they deny it and as much as they like to say that claim costs are spiralling out of control, the reality is there is little or no evidence that supports that. In fact, the industry itself has been loath to bring forward anything in the way of evidence to prove the case that they're trying to make. They rely on two things, they like to rely on what is always an urban myth, somebody who had a tiny back sprain and got $100,000 or some outrageous figure for it, and if you travel to any town in Nova Scotia or anywhere, go to any place in the province, you hear these stories. I know when people would come in to see me, they would tell me, and I would say, you tell me the name of that person, because I'm going to phone them. You try to track down the story and it would inevitably turn out to be false, or they would confuse different types of damages, because it doesn't really exist to any large degree.

Mr. Speaker, that's one thing and, of course, the other thing is they get a free kick at the members of the legal profession, because those are the other people - it's a funny world. You have the insurance industry blaming it on the lawyers. All the consumers are saying is I don't care which one of these guys is at fault, I just want lower insurance claims. God knows, as a practitioner, it's one of those things that comes with the territory, you have to put up with it. Really, it is the fact that for the insurance companies, this is a method of deflection rather than dealing with the real issue. They simply blame it on litigators.

Of course, Mr. Speaker, the litigators they are talking about are the ones who represent the insurance companies. That's where they're paying out the big fees. They have no problem paying their own lawyers, what they don't want to do is they don't want to pay plaintiffs' lawyers. They don't want to pay the plaintiffs' lawyers, that's the point. They don't mind paying their own. Let me tell you, there has never in my experience been any shortage of lawyers who show up to represent the interests of insurers.

[Page 2203]

So that's in a nutshell where the insurance companies' argument is and, frankly, it is not believable so far as I'm concerned and it certainly is not dealt with in Bill No. 45. Bill No. 45 is only meant, in the most cursory of ways, to satisfy the public at large while the government goes about its business, hopefully trying to hold an election. Once the election is over, this bill will expire with the coming of January 1, 2004, and the insurance companies will be right back at what they were before which is raising the rates of the people of this province.

There's much that could have been done, Mr. Speaker, and simply wasn't. One of the things that the NDP caucus undertook was an opportunity to go around the province to talk to people. We mailed out some 150,000 insurance cards to people to inform them about what was going on in the province and asked them to respond. They went out just a very, very short time ago, I think the end of last week, here we are on Tuesday of this week and we have received almost 1,000 of those cards back already. Most of them represent a response, one that is - I don't think there's any delicate way to put this - just pure anger at the ineffectiveness of this government in dealing with this very, very important issue.

I think, Mr. Speaker, as you can see, the government in response to the NDP task force then came up with one of their own. In response to the NDP's urging that this matter be sent to the URB, they finally sent it. In response to the NDP's insistence that there be a consumer advocate, they finally appoint one and at every stage of the game the Tories are failing to see the emerging problem with the position that they take, much like, as I mentioned earlier, the French did with the Maginot line. They have failed to understand that the world had moved on past them and they were left playing catch-up. That is the unfortunate reality for the members of the government caucus. I have to say that they never have really caught up.

This is a serious problem and I just want to demonstrate this by reminding the members opposite of a few cases that have come to our attention over the last little while, Mr. Speaker. We spoke with a Dalhousie student who was the student senate representative for the Dalhousie Student Union and last year his insurance tripled. It tripled and why did it triple? Because he had sent a cheque off to his insurance company, I think he was moving accounts or something like that, and realized after he sent the cheque off that he had sent it on an account that he had closed. So he phoned his insurer and said to his insurer, look, don't cash the cheque, I will get you another one down and you can use that one, but the insurer went ahead and tried to cash the cheque anyway, even after he had instructed them to do otherwise. As a result of the bounced cheque, the insurance company has a rating rule whereby if you bounce a cheque, you go into another category and you're not entitled to the premium discount. So what happened was they ended up with this dramatic and drastic premium increase, a tripling of what he had paid the year before.

[Page 2204]

Well, Mr. Speaker, after much work and explaining to various agencies, he shopped around and managed to qualify for a group rate and to pull his insurance rate back down somewhat, but not to what the original rate had been, creating a very considerable hardship for a young person who is simply attempting to get a university education. I must say he's not alone.

When we attended Saint Mary's University, we met there with a group - the task force met there with a group - of students. There was one young man who was there who resides in the Timberlea-Prospect riding. In fact, I believe he was a former student of the member for Timberlea-Prospect. He was pointing out that in order to go to university, he needed a car to get back and forth. The bus service wasn't sufficient to service his needs, but the problem was that he just couldn't afford the insurance that he required in order to be able to travel back and forth.

Unfortunately, because of his age, he is being taken off of his parents' insurance, because of the dramatic increase in costs in their rates. So he started looking around. He thought maybe he would go out and find himself a car and find out whether or not he could get insurance. Well, what he found out was that he was getting insurance quotes from $4,000 to $6,000 to insure a car for him. He was looking at a new car or a newer model car and he decided that what he would do is get an older vehicle, that perhaps that would make the insurance more manageable.

Mr. Speaker, he found that the quotes he was getting were down somewhat, down to $3,000, if he didn't want collision coverage. Hardly manageable. On top of that, what they found out was that if you buy an older car, there is a point at which the insurance will simply refuse to insure it. This is a mystery to me because, of course, the Province of Nova Scotia has taken it upon itself to make the inspection of motor vehicles mandatory. You have to reach a certain safety standard in order to be on the roads. The government has determined what that standard should be, and yet the insurance companies can decide arbitrarily, based on simply the age of the vehicle, that they're not going to insure it, even though the government says that it is perfectly safe to be on the road.

Certainly, in many neighbourhoods we would know of someone who may be of advancing years who uses the vehicle for relatively short runs around the neighbourhood to get groceries and that sort of thing, has a very low number of kilometres on the vehicle, has taken excellent care of it, and although it may be 15 years old, it is practically in pristine condition and very well-maintained and absolutely safe, but the insurers, for reasons that are completely arbitrary, decide that they're no longer going to insure it. That creates hardship, as I said, to a great number of people in our communities.

The one that really got me was a young fellow who was insured, had been insured for $700 - I should say young, he is under 25. He had a clean driving record with the exception of a ticket, I think, and he had a 1991 van. Now when he bought it, it was inspected but the

[Page 2205]

paint was peeling, so he decided that he was going to find some cheap paint and paint the vehicle, which he did. Well, he made a mistake, because when he painted it - you may have seen this case in the paper - he painted it with tiger stripes. In order to get insurance, the insurer asked him to send in a picture when he was getting his insurance, and they, on the basis of the photograph, decided that the van had somehow been modified and therefore they were going to attach a different cost to the auto insurance premium, and in fact decided in the end, I believe, that they were not going to renew it at all based on that and based on the age.

[4:00 p.m.]

The young fellow quite sensibly offered to paint it back to its original colour, but the insurance company said no go. Mr. Speaker, this is a vehicle that is worth $1,000, it doesn't have a tape deck, and is safe to be on the road according to the Government of Nova Scotia. I certainly haven't done any inspection of it, but his original insurer wouldn't insure it so he started to phone around and, on a $1,000 vehicle, the best price that he could get was $1,900. I told him in the end, look, you are better off selling your vehicle and getting another one, a newer model, than trying to insure, because when you look at the cost of insurance over the next number of years, it is going to be cheaper for you to sell the one you have and buy something else.

You can say well, that's part of what it is to be younger, you are put in a different place in the premium pool but, Mr. Speaker, this has a serious effect on communities because this young man, among other things, was a volunteer firefighter. So it has an important impact on the life of the community.

These are the kinds of stories that we are hearing all the time and I did a resolution today, Mr. Speaker, that said a young man, between auto insurance premiums and tuition fees, he was going to be paying through the nose until he was dead. That was the quote that was on the card that was returned to our office and I think that kind of sums up the frustration that people feel with these exorbitant auto insurance rates. I think it also sums up the frustration with the government and their seeming inability to be able to deal with it.

Now the government for its part, over and above this bill, has introduced a kind of consultation process. They have a book called The Road Ahead. The Road Ahead sets out what the government sees as possible alternatives to the existing system. But do you know something, Mr. Speaker, the one thing they never discussed in The Road Ahead is an independent, not-for-profit auto insurance company, one that would provide the public of the province with the fairest and lowest auto insurance rates because it would not be in the business of paying out dividends to shareholders who, unlike other companies' shareholders, as you know, for the most part don't live in this province - and might I say, Mr. Speaker, for the most part don't even live in this country. Their concern about the auto insurance rates and

[Page 2206]

what it is that consumers in this province are paying, simply doesn't exist. They don't care about it because that is not the business that they are in.

I know the Minister of Finance will remember my story about the Ford Motor Company versus Henry Ford. I remember one day I told this story, and he got up and stormed out of the House. That was, I think, in 1998, Mr. Speaker. I never did understand it, but he seemed to be quite offended by it. It was a good story and some things bear repeating. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, the case of Ford versus the Ford Motor Company is a very interesting one because it sets out the reason for the existence of corporate entities. It was a very simple little case. It was Henry Ford, who was manufacturing cars. He decided at one point in time that he had simply made enough money, that he made a good dollar off the product he was selling, and of course he wanted to continue to make money, but he wanted to do something else as well, he wanted to lower the price of his cars, lower the price of his vehicles so that everybody could afford one, and he wanted to pay his workers more, because he thought that they should share in his prosperity.

This is a fairly progressive view for a guy who was also known, incidentally, to have some not-so-very-progressive views as well. That was a fairly progressive view. He went ahead and did that, and the shareholders of the Ford Motor Company sued him. They sued him because they said, you are damaging our rights as shareholders to make the maximum profit off our investment. Mr. Speaker, today this might sound astounding, but the reality is that the United States Supreme Court agreed with the shareholders. They called Henry Ford a menace, they said he was a menace to the shareholders, because the sole purpose of a corporation was to make a profit for their shareholders and to maximize the profit for their shareholders. That's what that case stands for.

We sometimes lose sight of the fact, because we have, by legislation, brought about many different kinds of regulations that require that companies, that corporations, especially the large multinational behemoths - I think they were referred to earlier - comply with a certain standard of conduct that is consistent with what we would expect in a civilized society. It's not that they want to do it, it's because they have to do it. You should remember, always, that many of the companies that serve us very well in this country have practices in other countries that are less than laudable.

That was the point I made, and I never did understand why the Minister of Finance got up and stormed out. I was simply giving him a broader understanding of what the purpose of these multinational corporations were. It's not a matter of debate, Mr. Speaker, it's a matter of historical fact. That's what I was trying to impart to him that day, and I think it was worth repeating because I think the case is the same today. Although I will say, of course, there are many people involved in these very large corporations who, because they move to these communities - and I know in my own hometown, in Liverpool, there was a man who

[Page 2207]

came from England, who worked, and some members opposite would know well - who came to live and work in Liverpool and stayed, and always argued what was in the best interests of the Town of Liverpool and the County of Queens. I think he gained a very wide measure of respect among all people who know him and who had the opportunity to work for or with him over the years. He's retired now.

So we know that, of course, these individuals exist in all organizations. But the fundamental fact is the purpose of the corporate entity is to make and to maximize the return for their shareholders. We should never lose sight of that, because it is an interest that is adverse to the interest of the consumer. The consumer, in this case the auto insurer, of course, has an interest in paying the lowest possible rate for the product that they want. These are the opposite ends of the spectrum.

In this province, Mr. Speaker, auto insurance is a compulsory product. If you're going to drive on the highways or the streets of this province, you must have auto insurance. It's a requirement and it's required for good, sound public policy reasons. We don't take issue with that at all. It's an appropriate and proper policy. The reality is, if you're going to make a product compulsory, you must also make it affordable. That's where the problem lies with this government, with this piece of legislation, because this piece of legislation does absolutely nothing to make the product that is compulsory affordable.

Now, we look around the country, we look for examples of where they do have affordable and fair auto insurance premiums, and what do we see? We find that the lowest and fairest auto insurance rates exist in the Provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. Three provinces that have very different products. Manitoba, for example, has a pure no-fault system, they have the lowest rates in the country, there is no doubt. They have had a rate freeze for five years and as I heard in the interview this morning, they repaid some $80 million to consumers in the Province of Manitoba. The only increases the individual from the Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation said was due to a rating classification change with respect to newer vehicles that caused the cost of the insurance to go up very marginally - I think he said 7 or 8 per cent. A particular system, a very reasonably priced product.

Next door to Manitoba, in the Province of Saskatchewan they have a hybrid system where when you go down to buy your auto insurance, you can choose. You can be insured in a no-fault system or you can be insured in a tort system. One assumes that either your deductibles or your premium fluctuates depending on the choice that you make of the product that you want to buy. Regardless of which system you choose, you end up with, guess what? The second-lowest auto insurance premiums in the country, second only to the Province of Manitoba.

[Page 2208]

British Columbia, unlike Manitoba which has a no-fault system and unlike Saskatchewan that has a choice system, they are a tort jurisdiction, much like our own, but yet, they have the third-lowest auto insurance premiums in the country.

Now, what is it that all of these provinces have in common? What is it that they share? It is true, they have the fortunate heritage of having had a New Democratic Party Government in those provinces, that's one thing they shared, but that's not it. As much as I would say that would be a grand feature, it is not the reason why they have lowest auto insurance premiums. The reason is because they have a public auto insurer. That is what they share in common, unlike my colleagues reminding me that the minister responsible for auto insurance believed it was the flat roads in Manitoba that gave them the lower auto insurance.

I was on my way down to Berwick to a nomination meeting down there, a fellow by the name of Greg Stoddard is running down there, a grand candidate. When I went down to his nomination meeting, I said to him, you know something? I couldn't get over how flat the road was all the way down here. You guys in Berwick, according to the minister responsible, must pay the lowest rates in the province. It turns out it's just not true. They have very flat roads all the way down to Berwick and they're still paying high auto insurance premiums.

MR. HOLM: Not in the minister's riding though?

MR. DEXTER: Well, it goes right through the minister's riding now that you should mention it. So, I don't think it has anything to do with how flat the roads are. I believe that the common feature is simply that there's public auto insurance in those provinces. Unfortunately for the consumers in Nova Scotia, unfortunately for the people who rely on this government for assistance, this government is not even prepared to consider public auto insurance. The minister has said it over and over again, some days I don't know exactly where they stand, but usually he says, that crackpot scheme over there, or something of that nature, some derogatory remark. Yet this is a system that exists in three provinces that not only provides the lowest auto insurance premiums in the country, but also creates a pool of capital from the premium revenue in the province which is borrowed from by the Government of Manitoba through bonds and is used to build a community infrastructure, health care infrastructure, education infrastructure. The interest that is paid by the Manitoba Government, instead of going out of the country as it does here, goes back to the people of Manitoba and the Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation. What a brilliant idea, one that we could do here but, unfortunately, the minister rules it out.

[4:15 p.m.]

The other thing, Mr. Speaker, I would point out is that the actual auto insurance policy that exists in that province, in my view, and it's only one person's view, but I had a look at it. The auto insurance policy itself delivers a better and more comprehensive product and if that wasn't enough, if that wasn't enough, it is also based on rating criteria that are the

[Page 2209]

fairest anywhere in the country because they don't rate you on the basis of gender or marital status. They don't rate you on the basis of age. What they rate you on is your driving record, a very simple concept. If you're a good driver, you qualify for a good rate. If you have a poor driving record, you pay more. It's a very, very simple concept, one that we don't unfortunately have in this province because in this province, Mr. Speaker, if you have what we refer to as a milestone birthday, you're going to pay more. If you're too young, you're going to pay more. If you've had a speeding ticket, you're going to pay more. If you've had a ticket for not wearing your seatbelt, you're going to pay more.

The insurance companies are sending out a medical authorization form with the renewal forms and if you want your renewal, you have to sign the medical authorization form and send it back to them. Do you know what they do? They are then, of course because you've authorized them, legally entitled to your medical history, all your medical history, whether it's relevant or not. Mr. Speaker, this is unbelievably invasive and I believe it smacks of an industry that has lost touch with the people who they are supposed to serve and primarily it is because they have ceased to be insurers in the true sense and have become financial institutions. They have converged, as I understand the lingo is today. They really are looking at various ways to maximize investment revenue and the premiums that you pay and the insurance product is only a small part and seen as only a small part of their business.

Mr. Speaker, there was a time when insurance companies were truly interested in the safety of the people on the roads and, in fact, it was the insurance industry that built the first, an executive of an insurance industry, that built the first modern vehicle with seatbelts and may have even had air bags at the time, I don't recall, but certainly proper braking systems and bumpers and all that, and the insurance executive took it from auto manufacturer to auto manufacturer to try to embarrass them into building safer cars because the responsibility of the insurers was to not only insure people, but to try to prevent loss.

In this province, Mr. Speaker, there's very little incentive for the insurers to do that. Let us suppose that the largest auto insurer in this province has 20 per cent of the market. Well, Mr. Speaker, at 20 per cent of the market, if they were to identify a dangerous intersection or a dangerous part of the highway, and let's say, rather than just going to the municipality and saying you must fix this, say they actually decided to fix it themselves, saying we're not going to wait for the municipality, we are the people who are responsible for loss prevention, we are going to fix it ourselves, well if they did that in this province, 80 per cent of the claims that would be prevented on that stretch of highway would be with some other company. So 80 per cent of the benefit of the work they would do would accrue to other companies. Well, of course, in the world of the insurers, that is not seen as something that's desirable.

So, Mr. Speaker, in provinces like Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia, because they have to respond to every claim, it is in their best interests to see that these problems are fixed. In fact, all of those insurers invest heavily in road safety because every

[Page 2210]

claim that is prevented is a claim that they don't have to pay, not to mention the fact that it is an injury that is not suffered by a member of the motoring public.

I see, Mr. Speaker, that my time is now drawing to a close so it is my intention now to take my seat and to thank you for the opportunity to join the debate on Bill No. 45.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in my place today to speak a few words in second reading of Bill No. 45. I would characterize this bill as an election carrot, one of many that this government has been trotting out over the past few days and weeks leading up to an election. This one is no different. It is an election carrot. Another probable statement one could make about this bill, it's a half-measure bill, a bill that while it is a start, I guess, down the right road in trying to protect consumers in this province, but certainly it's only a half measure.

Mr. Speaker, in speaking on this bill, it goes without saying that this issue involves everyone in this province, from one end of the province to the other and is of great concern to Nova Scotia consumers. As recently as this morning I had a call from a constituent of mine, a good friend of mine, his name is Donnie MacLean, and Donnie called me up expressing his concerns about this particular bill. His concern was that over the past year his insurance rates have gone up for his car considerably, to where in the past year he was paying over $100 a month in insurance.

Now Mr. MacLean is a pensioner, a gentleman who has worked all his life, and finds himself on a much-reduced income, but I guess what incenses Mr. MacLean, what he was telling me, was the fact that this bill does nothing to help him because not only did he have to pay over $100 a month up until he got his last bill, his last bill now means that he is paying over $200 a month. This bill before the House doesn't help him at all because his increases have already been levied. He simply can't afford it on a retirement income. I could imagine, Mr. Speaker, that you could take the case of Mr. MacLean and multiply it many times from people in my area or people across the province who are hurting.

I want to refer to an article in the Halifax paper of April 12th in which it states the rising rates in insurance between February 2002 and February 2003 and it gives a comparison rate from Nova Scotia versus the rest of the provinces. Nova Scotia's highlighted here at 65.9 per cent increase in auto insurance rates in one year.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I don't know, perhaps members of this place, members of the government and people who have substantial incomes may be able to support those kinds of increases, but average Nova Scotians simply can't afford it. They simply can't afford to drive cars in this province any more, and some are very frustrated about that fact. Now we have

[Page 2211]

a bill, as we're leading up to an election in Nova Scotia, that effectively is going to freeze rates. Well, like the old saying goes, the horse has left the barn.

In this case, the insurance rates have already been raised to the point of intolerable increases in this province, so this is just a half-measure to try to get this government through the election. They're only going to do it until January of next year. Isn't that wonderful? What are we going to do after that, or what are we going to do for those people who had substantial increases in the past year? Nothing. That's what this bill does, this bill doesn't address that at all.

Mr. Speaker, I want to make the House aware, and Nova Scotians who may be watching this afternoon, as the rates go up, the government itself gets a windfall off this. Again, when you talk about balancing the budget here, how much of this budget is balanced on the backs of consumers who have had to pay increased rates? Well, I will tell you. Nova Scotia levies a 4 per cent tax on auto insurance premiums. This is in a story in The Herald, Thursday, May 1st. It goes on to say the province got about $7 million more than budgeted from its tax on premiums in the last fiscal year.

Well, the government has had a $7 million windfall off the backs of Nova Scotians who did not expect increased rates in the auto insurance. Not only did they get hit, the government got a $7 million windfall. Is that $7 million windfall part of that much-trumped budget surplus they had this year? Probably. Again, it's on the backs of Nova Scotians, along with all the other user fees that have been put on the backs of Nova Scotians since this government took office close to four years ago.

Mr. Speaker, we have all heard stories from Nova Scotians about how their rates have increased dramatically in the past year, but freezing rates until January 2004 is only a slight measure that will undoubtedly provide some relief to Nova Scotians, there's no doubting that. Those who get hit between now and that time may have the rate stayed until January 1st. What happens after January 1st? The insurance company is not allowed to increase the rates - if I get this right - from the time this bill comes to the House, retroactive to May 1st until January 1st of next year, notwithstanding the fact that people in this province have had exorbitant increases put on them, like Mr. MacLean did, over the past year. That doesn't count. That increase stays in place.

What counts is from May 1st until January 1st - freeze. So what does the insurance company do? Those they haven't gotten before May 1st, they will get after January 1st next year. They will just wait and send them out a bill on January 2nd. This government is only putting this measure to the House to try to suggest to Nova Scotians that they're really doing something for them, when, in effect, this bill was never going to see the light of day in this House except for public pressure that came on this government.

[Page 2212]

Once again, this government has misread the public mood, like they did with the casino issue, Sunday shopping, cigarette smoking in this province. Once again, the government finds itself off-side with public opinion. In a rush to get this bill to the House, they come up with a half-baked measure. Remember, anybody who has had their auto insurance increased substantially is not going to see any benefit from this bill, it's too late for them. The only people who may see a benefit are those whose premiums may come due between May 1st and December 31st.

If one can project forward, again I say, there's nothing to stop the insurance companies from increasing them after that date. What it clearly demonstrates is another example of this government preferring inaction instead of meaningful action to actually do something about this problem.

[4:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, the people of this province want good insurance protection but they also want reasonable insurance protection. They don't want to be placed in a situation where they can't drive their cars or they can't insure their children who are eligible to drive their cars because of exorbitant costs or, worse than that, will run the risk of driving without insurance because they simply can't afford it and have to drive. I think the government by its lack of attention to this problem is encouraging Nova Scotians to find other ways of being able to drive their vehicles.

Mr. Speaker, diligent efforts by all parties to minimize costs to the system will assist in promoting these conditions but this government's inaction has prolonged the problem. By freezing insurance rates this government is simply using it as a delaying tactic. Tell Nova Scotians that something is coming but you have to wait. The waiting is now over. Nova Scotians have sent the message. Don MacLean has called me and sent the message. Other constituents of mine have called me and sent the message that they are angry that through no fault of their own, their insurance costs have doubled in this province.

Bill No. 45 is all the government can come up with? I suggest to you that the government had no intention of coming up with this bill but because of public pressure in the past couple of weeks the government has changed its mind. I can tell you that the government had no intentions because it set out by establishing a committee to go around the province and ask people if they feel their insurance rates are too high. That's like the postcard the NDP sent out asking questions, do you feel your insurance rates are too high? If so, tick here. Do you think you should be paying less? If so, tick here. What a brilliant exercise to send out to people. What an objective survey. If you feel your insurance rates are high, tell us.

[Page 2213]

It's not telling them, it's what are we going to do about it. It's all right for Nova Scotians to tell on a postcard how they feel, I want to know what the Party is going to do about it and what this government is going to do about it other than bring a half-baked, half-measure bill to this House. (Interruptions) It's not hard to get the attention of the New Democrats when you accuse them of trying to grab smoke again with the electorate and that's what they're doing here because they have no plan, they're sending out a postcard saying, if you disagree with insurance rates in this province, tell us. What a brilliant question to ask Nova Scotians. If you disagree with high insurance rates, please tell us. Surprise, they're going to get everybody - everybody's going to write back and say, yes, we disagree. Then what do they do? That's what we want to know. (Interruptions)

The issue - it's not hard to get their attention when you expose the kind of carrying-on that goes on in that Party, when it comes to any issue in this province. No answers, no solutions, just grabbing smoke, trying to grab the vote. (Interruptions) It's already a matter of public record that our Party will be coming forth with a plan for this insurance problem. It will be coming forth with a plan that will mean something to Nova Scotians. (Interruptions) It won't be smoke and mirrors or it won't be trying to con Nova Scotians with a postcard - they even stole the idea of the postcard from the government and put a postcard out because of the famous Jane Purves postcard - they got the idea from that. I'll tell you, Mr. Speaker, that's not going to work. Give Nova Scotians more intelligence than tick here if you agree that insurance rates are too high in this province. (Interruptions)

AN HON. MEMBER: Obviously by raising this issue we've got the Liberal's attention.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: The government could have had an insurance package ready to go during the Spring session but wanted to wait, perhaps the issue would pass. Well it didn't pass. Because of this government's inaction with half measures that include freezing rates and empty regulations, you can be sure that this issue will grow and will continue to grow. As I've said, this does nothing for people who have already been hit with high insurance rates, does absolutely nothing, and it does nothing for the future. What it is, is a bill to get them through the election. Maybe they will get this off the front pages for a few months and weeks by doing this. I don't think so.

The bill suggests that this problem is continuing to grow and forces many rural residents to go without insurance who can't afford to insure their cars and also have no alternative with public transportation. So they're going to be really affected because if they can't afford to pay they're literally going to have no transportation in rural areas. Seniors and people with older cars, they want some assurance that they're going to be able to drive their cars in the future. The government tells them to wait, wait until the Fall so we will come in with some new legislation. Wait until after the election is what that means, wait until after the election. It's like everything else that this government is doing, wait until after the election.

[Page 2214]

With the provincial election expected to be called the government is appearing to be doing something to quiet the protesting drivers who are making tough choices. Choices that make them decide not to take the insurance coverage they need or to simply park their cars and throw the keys away. With rate increases pushing some insurance payments to thousands of dollars a year, it will only continue to force people to risk driving without insurance or, again as I've said before, to stop driving altogether. Some people will either have the option to pay the rates or sell their cars because they simply can't afford it.

You know, when I get calls from Donnie MacLean and other people in my area who are saying, what's this bill going to do for me? It's not going to do anything for me, I've already got my insurance rates doubled. Are they going to roll that back, are they going to ask the insurance company to give me my increase back? I don't think so, I don't think so. You know, it's just like some other bills here that have come before this House or some other initiative of the government that project into the future like the student loan program. Nobody that's in the system now is going to reap the benefit of it. All this government has stated is that in the future there's going to be a half-measure program there again, that doesn't do anything.

I make the analogy because it's the same smoke and mirrors game that this government is playing with everything. They make you believe they're doing something with student's loan remission but they're doing absolutely nothing. They make you believe they're doing something here with car insurance rates in this province but they're doing absolutely nothing, they're freezing them for a few months. The damage has already been done. The damage has already been done, the rates are far too high in this province as it stands.

What happens to the insurance rates after January 1st next year? We have to ask that question. We don't know. The government hasn't projected past that date. What happens over the next few months with respect to seniors wanting and needing to get insurance coverage in rural areas? Are they going to be able to get it? What happens to those people who are already hit with high insurance rates in this province? The question is, are they going to be helped? Maybe they should be helped. Maybe a start would be to give them back the $7 million more that the government took in increased taxes this year because of the rates. Maybe that's a start. Maybe the government could be really innovative here and say, you know we've got this $7 million off the backs of consumers who had to pay more insurance this year. So, maybe a start would be to return that $7 million to consumers in this province instead of putting it in the balance sheet of the government and trying to tell Nova Scotians they're balancing the budget.

Well, it's not hard to balance budgets when you borrow money and put user fees on just about all goods and services the people need in this province, including allowing car insurance to go the way it is going.

[Page 2215]

This is an important issue, Mr. Speaker, in the lives of virtually all the people of this province. But let's go back in history a bit; it was an issue a year ago. It's not just an issue that popped up last week or this week, what popped up last week and this week was people were getting bills that were even more exorbitant than the ones they got last year, so they're starting to speak out. The government has now realized that this is a public issue. I believe the government had an opportunity a year ago, and you hear the government and the Official Opposition talking about what a waste of time that would have been, but if you go back a year ago, just think, we, as a Party, advocated an all-Party committee to sit down and come up with a solution. The government turned us down, and the New Democrats turned us down.

What do we get in place of that? We get a government that did nothing for nine or 10 months, except wish the issue would go away, which it didn't. So then they come in, on a deathbed conversion on this issue, with a bill that does nothing for anybody who has already paid high rates, or their bill increased to sometimes double what it was last year. That could have been avoided, perhaps, if all the Parties had gotten together a year ago and come up with a plan to deal with this issue. Nobody wanted to deal with it. The NDP response was let's send out a postcard and ask people, do you feel that your insurance is too high? If so, tick here. Do you feel you're paying too much for car insurance? If you feel it should be rolled back, answer yes.

What kind of intelligence do you they think Nova Scotians have here? Nova Scotians are too smart to buy that kind of smoke and mirrors, a postcard to ask questions, the obvious questions of Nova Scotians. Will the sun come up tomorrow? If you think so, answer yes. There was a lot of thought that went into that program, the NDP on insurance.

AN HON. MEMBER: I think it's Jerry Pye . . .

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Yes, it must have been the member for Dartmouth North who wrote the question. I will tell you, Nova Scotians aren't going to be fooled by that, because there was nothing in there to suggest anything that the socialists would do, just we think you should know that insurance rates are too high. If you agree, say yes. If you agree, say isn't that brilliant, just check here. Wasn't that brilliant? The member for Dartmouth North certainly must have thought that one up. Haven't said anything, they haven't said anything about how they would cure the issue.

Mr. Speaker, clearly the issue is a complex one, and it's a complex issue in this province. Huge rate increases in this province have made it impossible for Nova Scotians to drive legally. Worse than that, they have to play Russian roulette with the fact that they may have an accident, and then where would they be? Liable. It would be a shame to see that happen in this province because of the fact that they've been driven away from buying adequate protection because of the cost.

[Page 2216]

I believe, Mr. Speaker, we have to have diligent action and efforts by all Parties in this House to minimize costs to the system. It can't be a matter of one-upmanship - they say one thing, they say another thing, and we're going to come out with a third plan. I think what we have to do is come to grips with the fact that Nova Scotians are being gouged here, and something has to be done about it. There's no rationale for the kinds of increases that are being placed on auto insurance carriers in this province, senior citizens like Donnie MacLean, students who can't afford to drive any more because the cost has driven them away from the driver's seat.

At the time Nova Scotians called upon the government a year ago to do something and the government did nothing, we suggested, as I stated, an all-Party committee to sit down and come up with a solution. Everybody that I talked to seemed to warm up to that, except the government and except the socialists who don't have a plan for anything about anything in this province. (Interruptions) The member for Dartmouth North keeps baying away over there, not making any sense like he usually doesn't.

[4:45 p.m.]

I want to talk about rural residents again because they are particularly vulnerable here because there's no (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, if the member for Dartmouth North wants to get on his feet and do some more baying at the moon like he's been doing for the past 15 minutes, he can certainly do that. But I tell you this issue is far too important to be sidetracked with that kind of stuff. If he comes up with something constructive, I'll listen, but to date that Party has come up with nothing constructive on this issue.

We had a request 13 months ago for an all-Party committee to sit down. Here we are, 13 months later on the eve of an election and the government comes in with this bill. Well, I'll say one thing for this bill, it's light-years ahead of what they were going to do because they weren't going to do anything. But it's far, far from the kind of bill that Nova Scotians deserve. It's far, far from the kind of action that the Government of Nova Scotia should be expected to put in place regarding this issue. Nova Scotians were looking for more. Nova Scotians were looking for a government that was going to look out for their interests in terms of the costs of insurance. And for other government services, which I spoke of earlier in debate and on earlier motions of this House and on other subjects that the government has been dealing with in this House.

The fact that the government is not only not paying attention to it in a meaningful way, the fact is that they're making money from it - $7 million they made from it. They've taken in an additional $7 million in taxes because of increases. So here we are a year later, no closer to a solution. But we know the election's coming. This issue is still out there, along with all the other issues that the government has half dealt with in the dying days of this session of the House. We're talking about something that should have been settled long ago. Not in the dying days of this session of the House.

[Page 2217]

You don't have to ask people in this province what's wrong. You don't have to send out a card and say, what's wrong with your insurance? People know what's wrong - they're paying too much for it. Their costs have doubled and that Party is sending out a card asking them how they feel about it. The NDP want to know how you, a Nova Scotian, feel about your rates going up. Is anybody going to write back and say we're happy about that? What they want to know is what this government is going to do about it. What this government's going to do and what that Party's going to do about it. They will find out what our Party's going to do about it in the coming days. Stay tuned. I will tell the member for Dartmouth North, at least our program will make some sense to Nova Scotians. It will be something that Nova Scotians will be able to rely on.

If we had established an all-Party committee 13 months ago we wouldn't be standing here today talking about this issue. This is just more inaction by the government who's comfortable with inaction. I just want to say and I'm not going to misuse the time of the House much longer today, but I expect that we may be back on this bill in more depth as the days roll along, but I can tell you that Nova Scotians who have had their car insurance increased in the past year are angry. They're angry because they feel that nobody has come to their rescue and it's only now the government is realizing that we have an issue here that could be an election issue so let's get it off the election table by putting this amendment forward that would freeze rates between May 1st and December 31st.

After all the - oh, yes, the NDP sent a postcard out, so that alerted Nova Scotians to the fact there was a problem. As if they couldn't read their bill and see there was a problem, they had to be told there was a problem. If you don't agree with it, send a letter back and tell us or tick here and send the postcard back. (Interruption)

I'm going to tell you, it had to be the member for Dartmouth North, it had to be him that put that together because I'm going to tell you, the sheer brilliance of the NDP to ask people how they feel about an increase, how do you feel about an increase. I'm sure they got lots of postcards back that said, oh, we're happy with it, sure. Yes, don't bother us, we're happy. Yes, what a brilliant - I support lower auto insurance, take care and send it back. I support lower auto insurance. The brilliance of this document, the brilliance of it.

I have to tell you that Nova Scotians want action on this issue. They want action from all three Parties in this House. They don't want any more rhetoric. They don't want half measures. They want a program that's going to stop the increase of auto insurance in this province and in some cases roll it back. The auto insurance rates in this province are too high. They're too high and people cannot afford it and they don't want promises, they want action. They want action. I would hope that this government will realize that and come in with a program that's going to mean something to Nova Scotians and, as I said, they might want to start by giving this $7 million windfall they got off the increases this year back to the consumer of this province.

[Page 2218]

The Premier of this province has said, Mr. Speaker, on more than one occasion, we're going to do what's best for Nova Scotia. We're not going to increase taxes, he said that, but he did. We're not going to have user fee increases, but they're all over the place and now he gets a windfall off the misfortune of people who have to drive vehicles in this province. I suggest it's time that this government told Nova Scotians exactly what they're doing here and what they're doing here is trying to get themselves past an election. I think they owe more than that to Nova Scotians. What they owe Nova Scotians is an explanation of why they did not act on this issue when it first came to be a problematic issue for Nova Scotians over a year ago.

Why has it taken so long for this bill to get to the House and why was it only the half measure that it is? Why doesn't it protect people like Donnie MacLean who have had their insurance doubled in the past year and other consumers in this province? Why doesn't it deal with the problems of those people? And why doesn't it deal with the problems of those people? Because the government has no intention of trying to deal with the problems of Nova Scotians, no intention. It's only when this matter is raised publicly, it's only when the matter becomes a matter of political numbers and they've done the numbers on this, it's an issue, so they're going to try to defuse this issue before the next election .

Also - and I will wind up my remarks by saying this - I'm going to say to you that Nova Scotians are going to be very angry at this bill. They're going to be very angry when they're told that, I'm sorry, it doesn't affect you, you've already had your increase last year and you have to live with that. Even like Mr. MacLean's increase doubled, he's going to have to live with that, there's no relief for him, just like there wasn't any relief for university students - and I make that analogy again - who have gone through the system and are now saddled with high debt repayment costs to universities, the half measure, and I say half measure because it's the same half measure that this bill is.

AN HON. MEMBER: It's not even a half measure.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Well, maybe not even a half measure as my good friend to my right - not philosophically - has said. (Interruption) What I'm talking about is the analogy of trying to fool Nova Scotians into thinking the government is actually doing something for them, when in the issue of the students, they did nothing for any student, absolutely nothing for any student who has gone through the university system. They're projecting a half measure in the future for future university students and this is the same thing here. What they're saying is from now until December we're going to freeze the rates. Everybody has had an increase already and the ones that don't, they will be frozen all right, but unless this government comes up with some other measure, the insurance companies will put it right back on on January 2nd of next year.

[Page 2219]

So, in conclusion (Interruptions) Our Party will have additional speakers on this matter. We're very concerned about it. As I take my place, I would just say to you and to the government and to the Official Opposition, when all is said and done the Liberal Party position on this will be one that Nova Scotians can trust. Thank you.

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, that's quite an act to follow. I'm not going to trace rabbit tracks, I'm going to inform Nova Scotians. Unlike the previous speaker, who accused us of not doing anything, there wasn't a member of our caucus who didn't go out and meet with groups and find out what they had to say around public auto insurance and around these exorbitant rates. We did do that. We consulted. We were face to face. We were in Inverness where we met seniors in a complex in the Town of Inverness. (Interruptions) No, we were right in Inverness. The Minister of Tourism and Culture says that he played the fiddle there. Well, they did say this much, he was a good fiddler. They stopped short of anything else.

Bill No. 45 is a bill that is similar to what this government did with Bill No. 1, with the firefighters. It's not about a government that's out there being proactive, it's a government that says, oh, look, look, we have to acknowledge this. We know that these folks are out in front of us, and we have to bring a bill in now to supplant it, similar to what's going on here with this Bill No. 45, regarding an insurance delay. Anybody who calls this an insurance freeze I think has a brain cramp because it's not, it's a delay.

There is nothing here that says from this day hence they will not be allowed to set rates, or after December 31st rates can only be raised subjective to certain criteria. All this bill says is we're going to freeze them retroactively to May 1st, and then go out to December 31st, which sets no regulation, no control. Again, it's the extreme, wide-open market that the international and private insurance companies are left to frolic in at the peril of Nova Scotia taxpayers.

Let's look at some items that this bill doesn't or will not address. I want to talk about one in particular. The representative for the Insurance Bureau of Canada says regulations aren't the way to go. We don't need a regulated industry. We don't want you to regulate the marketplace as it performs for our profits. Well, one could philosophically disagree with that from time to time, if you're a little bit left of centre, or maybe you want to buy into it completely if you're right of centre. What is really objectionable about IBC and their crowing is that they want regulations put on the consumer, they want you, as a consumer, to say, well, I will still pay this exorbitant rate for this product, but here now are the lists of things that you cannot do. If you have a soft tissue injury, you can only get this much. They want that side of it suppressed and regulated, but they don't want the fees you pay to them regulated. They can't have it both ways.

[Page 2220]

This province, through Schedule B in your insurance, has a form of no-fault already and we've talked about that, as it relates to certain matters in insurance, but the insurance companies don't want to acknowledge that. They will tell us one thing and one thing only is driving these rates through the roof and that is litigation, litigation as it purports to personal injury.

[5:00 p.m.]

Now, look at the CBA, the Canadian Bar Association, what do they say? They're saying that Nova Scotia is one of the lowest areas for litigation around insurance . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: The awards.

MR. CORBETT: The awards are the lowest, yet our rates are growing exponentially. And they say that's it, it's the awards that are putting it through the roof, but when you say to the insurance association, the Insurance Bureau of Canada, substantiate that for us, tell us why you see that as being a fact, show us the litigation, show us the awards, then they just kind of, oh, I will talk to you later. It's gone, it's out the window, Mr. Forgeron folds his tent and leaves. They don't really come up and tell us that here is a substantial one-for-one incident of why your insurance is going up, here are the rates, here are the awards, here is why they are going up.

Well, let's even take that rate idea a step further or the litigation and the awards. Most insurance companies, it's almost an unwritten rule that if you talk to people, especially independent brokers in the industry, they will tell you that insurance companies will not litigate under $12,000 we will say. So if they're not litigating, if it's not worth their while to litigate, then what is happening is, you know, you're inviting almost, if there is, just a rampant amount of leaving that gate wide open and people are going to walk through that gate and, Mr. Speaker, the Liberals have said they have not done any consultation, but I will tell you in one of the meetings I had, in my role as a committee member, or a caucus committee regarding insurance, I had a private meeting with an insurance broker and I put that forward to him. I said what about these unlitigated claims, and he said, well, there's really nowhere it's written, you will never find it written down anywhere, but by and large it's an accepted practice. I said, has anybody ever really done a study to say if these soft tissue injuries were, to put it in a word, " bogus".

So he said, well, there was a study a few years back and it was in Alberta, where a few of the larger insurance companies had seen a spike in these $8,000, $10,000, $12,000 claims and they weren't being litigated. So they said, well, look, we're going to go in and start litigating, and what they found was that almost 100 per cent of those claims all had merit and should have been paid. So it's not as the Insurance Bureau of Canada would have you believe, that these claims are not only costly, but they're quite possibly bogus which is

[Page 2221]

contrary to what a broker has told me and I have no reason not to believe that broker. He had no reason not to be forthright and honest with me about these things.

Another broker, when we were going around doing our investigation on this, Mr. Speaker - an investigation which I may say the Liberals didn't do - is we went out and I talked to another broker and he said, look, I'm retired from this business, but I was a broker for over 30 years and he said, historically insurance companies did not make a profit off their premiums, they made their profit off investments. So basically what that meant is that they weren't taking $100 for coverage and assume that coverage, and other people that paid on their premiums, would cover their liabilities in association with those policies. Basically what it meant was that they realized they were getting that money in the door and then they would invest it and the investment would take care of the premiums.

So, it goes back to the fundamental problem largely around the insurance industry, it's not really what they talk about - the impact of the amount of claims, the amount of litigation, it's investment. It's clear, unabated investment failures in this industry. If you followed their logic, they say - again I've got to go back to the soft tissue injury - that's the problem. If we could put a cap on soft tissue injury, then we could rectify this.

Again, by itself, maybe that would be an argument, but it's auto insurance we're talking about here today but, Mr. Speaker, I'm sure in your community, as well as in mine, that homeowner's insurance has just as many complaints. So, why all of a sudden are they going through the roof? It's a good thing I say the roof because a lot of people will come in and say, your roof's 20 years old, can't insure you. Your oil tank wasn't approved to put in, can't insure you. You got a coal furnace? Can't insure you. Got a wood furnace? Can't insure you. How on God's green earth has that got anything to do with soft tissue injury? How can they look us in the eye and say that's soft tissue injury? How does Bill No. 45 protect those consumers?

It's hard to take the IBC at their word. They've come in and, Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, as another part of your function around this House you're also Chairman of the Economic Development Committee. You were there when the members from the IBC were there and I think they were - informative is always a good word to use. I think they were informative, whether you agree with them or not, it's always good to get the other side. They laid us out a nice slide show and told us what they thought the problems in the industry were. Yet, when the wood was kind of put to them, they weren't as responsive in some of their answers. That kind of interrogation, if you will and cross-examination of those witnesses was from all sectors, not just from this Party, but from the three Parties. It is something that's consumer driven and it's important.

[Page 2222]

The IBC, while they purport to have a position and saying that regulation is not the answer, regulation will not do, that we need it, but we only need it on our side is wrong. This Bill No. 45, the delay bill introduced by the Minister of Environment and Labour, doesn't cut it.

Another group here is seniors. I want to go back to what I mentioned earlier about meeting with seniors. I met with seniors at the Reserve pensioners' club, we have two groups there, two different times. We met two times with seniors in Inverness County - once in Whycocomagh and once in the Village of Inverness. We sat down and the seniors, especially seniors in rural areas, had told us the devastating impact of them not being able to afford auto insurance.

In many areas - I know the Minister of Tourism and Culture knows this as well - a lot of areas in Inverness County where people have lived in the family home for generations, some of these are pretty rural areas and - I mean pretty in the pretty sense and pretty in the sense that it's far.

Those people, they're proud people, some of the finest people in this province come from Inverness County, and I am more than happy to say that. My children's grandparents are from Rocky Ridge and from Westlake (Interruptions) I didn't get what the Minister of Justice said, but I will tell you that my children's grandparents are from Rocky Ridge and from Westlake, and I know the minister knows that area well. (Interruptions) We're not going to go off on that right now. Another day we will do a tour. Maybe the Minister of Tourism and Culture will buy a bus and take us all through (Interruptions) He and the Graham that I agree with, Glen, will play for us while we travel the rocky roads of Inverness County. (Interruptions) We will do that, and I will take you up on that, minister. The minister offered me a tour of the riding, and I couldn't think of a more marvellous place to be. We will start at the Pioneer Cemetery. (Interruptions) Sounds good. Okay, minister, I will take you up on that.

Mr. Speaker, to get back, the seniors in that area really need transportation. In rural areas, whether it's Inverness County or Victoria County or Colchester County or the Musquodoboit Valley, there is little or no public transit. With little or no public transit, they rely on either their own vehicle or the vehicle of a loved one to get them to very important things, very important medical appointments, to get groceries, to go to their house of worship, yet this is taken from them. These people who are on fixed incomes realize that something has to give here. It's either give up the car so we can live or we can insure the house.

That goes back to another problem, because with the idea of some of these seniors, what they have, and as I mentioned before, a lot of these seniors live in homes that have been in the families for generations. What happens is they say to themselves, okay, one of these bills has to go, the skyrocketing cost of auto insurance or the skyrocketing cost of home

[Page 2223]

insurance. I have to get rid of one. What they do is they sometimes allow their homeowner policy to lapse, which is just an awful thing to force seniors into doing. Nonetheless that's their option. Insurance on your home isn't mandatory, but when a disaster happens, they're left with nothing. They have exhausted all the funds they had in keeping their car so they could get to those things that most Nova Scotians, I think, see as priorities in their lives, to get to medical appointments, to get groceries, to go to your house of worship, when you feel fit to go.

Mr. Speaker, those are things that are taken away, because they do not have access to transportation in rural parts of Nova Scotia. Yet, this government doesn't feel that's important. This government feels they will give them a seven- or eight-month delay, with no idea of what's on the horizon. The day after, it can go through the roof again. It's gone. Now we've levelled out your insurance for some time, and that's it. The day after, it goes 50 per cent, 60 per cent, again, because we're dealing in days here of 60 per cent auto insurance increases.

The seniors are just one group. There are whole communities being affected by the discriminatory practices of the insurance industry. One of those really awful things that insurance companies do, and I have heard it referred to in two different ways, red-lining or red-circling communities. I know somewhat of what I speak, because my community is one of those ones that insurance companies have done that to.

That term, red-circling or red-lining, is a way of saying that they look at either the prefix on your phone - like 862, 849, 842 - or your postal code and say, no, that you live in a high-risk area. You live in a high-risk area, therefore it doesn't matter that you've had a perfect driving record, doesn't matter that you've never, ever even had a speeding ticket, by virtue of where you live we, as the insurance company, are saying we're not going to insure you or we're going to put you in facility. Just for the reason where you live. Is that fair?

[5:15 p.m.]

I heard a lady being interviewed on CBC radio this week, by Jennifer Henderson, the business reporter for CBC Radio. The woman lived in Dartmouth North. One of the reasons she was told her insurance was going up was because of her postal code. Her postal code is why her insurance has gone through the roof. Is that fair? I ask you, just because she lives in an apartment building in Dartmouth North, that's where it's going.

Where I have my constituency office in New Waterford, there is a young husband and wife who had opened their own insurance business as brokers in the Town of New Waterford. It allowed employment for those two, plus one other person in a town that desperately needs young entrepreneurs, and it provided a very worthwhile service to many people in New Waterford who did not want to go to Sydney to get their insurance services, to keep it within the town limits. They had one company that has since been bought out,

[Page 2224]

Zurich, they had one underwriter who at the end told them, that's it, we're not underwriting in your postal codes any more, so if you want to write businesses in Sydney or if you want to write businesses in other areas, fine, you can stay open, but you can't be writing businesses for these postal codes or these phone prefixes. That was it. They basically had put a small broker in a town that needed that employment, they had put that broker out of business.

Not only were these consumers without a local representative to go to, but they killed three jobs in an area where three jobs meant a lot. They took away the revenue from the person who was running the premises, all these ancillary things. Was that decided in Nova Scotia? No. Was that decided in Toronto, even? No, that was decided in Switzerland, it was decided in Holland, where we have no control. This government and its predecessors have not done anything to protect the consumers in this area. Now we're without those jobs, we're out that income, we're out those resources because governments didn't react. Governments allow areas of this province to be discriminated against.

There's nothing in Bill No. 45 that tells insurance companies that rates in New Waterford have to be as fair as rates are - and the criteria have to be the same - in Spryfield or in Clayton Park or in Chester or in Hubbards, wherever.

AN HON. MEMBER: Or Yarmouth.

MR. CORBETT: Or Yarmouth, wherever, there's nothing there. We will hear the minister tell us that this is a great bill, that this is what's needed. Well, he and his cohorts over there are probably the only people who think that this bill will do anything but delay the inevitable. There's nothing in this bill, not one thing in this bill stops the insurance companies from their usual shenanigans. There's nothing in there that stops them from red-lining communities, there's nothing in there, not one thing, that stops them from putting a driver in facility. There's nothing in there that stops them, after a birthday, humping somebody up into a new category. There is nothing in that bill that says when your car gets a year older, we are going to give it to you again. There is nothing in Bill No. 45 that stops insurance companies from doing that. There is absolutely no protection.

The minister will boldly stand up in his place today and tell us this is the bill. As he has done with Bill No. 1, he's done with Bill No. 45, he has introduced a bill in this House that's not proactive for the people. What it is, it's kind of like an illegal block in football. It's kind of holding downfield, just delay until you get to the ball, only in this case, the ball is the election. Yes, Mr. Speaker, it's almost a Statue of Liberty play, as I see the pose over there. Those are some of the issues and there are many more here that I'm going to talk about in the next short while of why this bill is not anywhere near adequate to protect the consumers of Nova Scotia.

[Page 2225]

Now I want to get to this farcical idea that the Liberals have brought up about the all-Party committee. Now they've come and told us all that this is the panacea. This was reported just before now, Mr. Speaker, that the previous speaker, the member for Cape Breton South, whom I had sat on a committee with, when we were trying to set the committee up, had said, well this committee is useless anyway because the Tories are going to have the majority, so all-Party committees don't work. But he now has this idea, he has done a complete circle on this, and said oh, no, the all-Party committee works. So I guess it worked in New Brunswick. I guess the all-Party committee worked in New Brunswick. Oh, no, I don't think it did because I think the Liberal Leader in there is now disagreeing with what came out of that all-Party committee in New Brunswick. I'm not sure what his position is today. A Graham is a Graham is a Graham so I don't know. Maybe they'll have another view tomorrow.

It's like, this idea, if you'd listened to us last year on an all-Party committee, that we'd have it now, that it would be fixed. Well in May 1995, a select committee was struck in Newfoundland. Then they re-struck it in 1996, and then they submitted a proposal in 1998, and from 1998 to 2001, they did some more research by government staff. The government polled public opinion in November 2001 and in February 2002, the government polled public opinion again. In 2002, the government reports 1,077 submissions received. So, Mr. Speaker, these were all (Interruptions) The Minister of Justice says the Liberals are doing that, and he is absolutely right.

So, Mr. Speaker, this is a committee that is almost eight years in the making, eight years, and they are telling us that their idea of an all-Party committee, if we had struck it when they had asked for it, that that would be the resolve, that we would have everything. Well that's an eight-year-old Liberal-headed committee that really does not do anything and that's what it is. That's where we are with that.

So this idea of Liberals calling for an all-Party committee of the House to look into insurance, they kept saying well we've got a plan. As much as I disagree with the government on this, Mr. Speaker, at least for the past year and a half they've been engaged in the process. They haven't been on the outside looking in. But the Third Party, all of a sudden, I guess the Leader-neighbour candidate decided that it's time to enter the fray. So, if you want an eight-year committee to study insurance rates, support the Liberals. So that's the horrific side of our idea of an all-Party committee (Interruption) Yes, that's right, Mr. Speaker. So the idea of - a sore point over there because the Richmond boy is whining.

So, let's talk about the idea of how this government has made out over skyrocketing insurance. There is in fact here the idea that they have made $7.1 million in increased revenue from the 4 per cent tax on these skyrocketing insurance rates. The Minister of Finance is quite bold about them. Here's what the Minister of Finance said in August 2002, basically this is a reflection of a phenomenon that you see in the insurance industry. He noted the province hasn't raised the tax rate on insurance premiums. Well he shouldn't have to

[Page 2226]

because the stuff is coming in in buckets. It's the type of money that would come in here that would make the mafia blush, but this government has no problem with that. Not only have they seen windfalls directly from the 4 per cent tax, they've not only made a windfall off that, they also have a windfall here from drivers' abstracts.

Now, Mr. Speaker, consumers get this problem in two ways. First of all for those that may not know, a driver abstract is basically, it's someone who calls the Registry of Motor Vehicles and finds out what your driving record is and so on, if you've had any tickets and moving violations and so on, it's all in there. Now, on March 1, 2000, the fee was raised from $7 to $15. Now, there's rarely an increase or a renewal of insurance policy now that the insurance doesn't call down to RMV to request a driver's abstract because they're looking for a way to milk more money from you. So, first of all the consumer gets it this way, the consumer gets it because that $15 is obviously going to go into your policy some way. They're going to put it in there, you don't see it in there but right off the top the $8 more over the $7 is going to be the cost.

I want to take you through some numbers on that and the impact of that increase. From April 1, 1996, to March 31, 1997, the revenue fees collected for drivers' abstracts, driver insurance abstract financial information was $1,489,300. In 1997-1998 for the same time period the insurance abstract they requested $220,000, they collected $1.5 million. In 1998-99 it was $1.4 million, round numbers. When we get into the increase of fees we see a dramatic jump, we see a jump of over $1 million, of $2.7 million. Then we see another jump in 2000-01 of $3.21 million. Then for the year 2001-02 we see it up over $4 million. Then from December 1, 2002 to December 31, 2002, which I don't have the up-to-date version to the end of March, but that was up to $3.5 million with still a quarter of the year to go. So, my idea is that they're going to beat the record of $4 million.

These are all revenue increases, that's over a $3 million increase in four years. That is money that could have been invested for insurance premiums to come down that this government could have helped. Yet it's money they say they have for balancing the books, but really what it is, it's money they're gouging from Nova Scotians. I put forward to you, Mr. Speaker, it's a twofold way of gouging the consumer - it's gouged by your government by raising the rates and bringing revenue up and not telling us and it's gouged because the insurance company makes that increase and puts it into your premium without you really noticing it. So it's a can't-win for the consumers, that this government has burdened us yet again.

[5:30 p.m.]

We know the front-line group as far as the consumer goes that bears the brunt of this, is actually the consumer because they have to pay this price, but another group who's out there bearing, almost the harassment side of it, are the independent brokers, the truly independent brokers, Mr. Speaker, because some people, you know, companies would have

[Page 2227]

you believe that they are independent brokers, but really they're not. They're confined to just certain lines of business that the large insurer sells. These independent brokers come out and it's people that you have maybe dealt with all your life, maybe you've had the same company all your life and all of a sudden you have to call them up and you notice this year your rates have gone from $500 to $2,000 and you're going to give them an earful when you call them because that's the person you see as your insurer. You really don't know that it's Royal SunAlliance, or it's ING, or it's Monnex, or whomever. You just see it as economical. Any of those big companies, you just see your broker and a lot of people take that heat out on the broker and the independent broker has no bearing, he bows to the pressure of these large companies. They tell them what the rates are and who to insure.

As I said to you earlier, Mr. Speaker, we saw when a company like Zurich was on the go, what it did to a small broker in my hometown, where it forced them to close and this is the international power wielded on a small company in a small town, in New Waterford. So these are the people and people call up and say, you know, my rates are going through the roof, what am I going to do? So this is unbelievable. This is what they do. The idea again of the insurance company, and the IBC, in particular, not wanting regulations, just is so baffling to me because they want it all, but give up nothing for it.

Now, let's talk about the time line on the government here, Mr. Speaker. Now, this government has been pretty lackadaisical in everything it has been asked to do. It has been dragged, kicking and screaming, to this. They have not come to this in any way as a willing partner. In the Spring of 2001, the consumers and the insurance underwriters or insurance writers starting to inform the public that rates are going up. Did this government react? No. Then we see in the Fall of 2001 a particularly big increase especially around the ones with what we would call less than perfect risks, like students and seniors, and they begin to notice enormous increased premiums, some as large as 300 per cent. We see this, we react when consumers start telling us and then we asked the government in the late Fall of that year to react and it really did nothing.

Then the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, Mr. Speaker, sends a letter to the URB asking to review the rate changes and a week later, myself and that member called for URB hearings into skyrocketing insurance rates, but what does this Premier do? He rejects the request, because, I would submit to you, it's a philosophical bent that this Premier has, why hurt big industry, big industry and big insurance are our friends, and we should let them go unfettered.

Mr. Speaker, there comes a point when even this government has to act. Due to mounting pressure from ourselves in this Party and public outcry, the then-minister decides that he's going to refer it to the URB, saying the board would examine rates to determine if they are excessive, inadequate, unfairly discriminatory - I don't know how you can be unfairly discriminatory, to me, discriminatory is discriminatory, that's the then-minister - or otherwise unreasonable, and the board may order an adjustment.

[Page 2228]

Later on in the Spring of that same year, Stats Canada's index begins to show sharp spikes in the cost of auto insurance rates. Then we see another huge jump, again, in rates in August 2002. As I said earlier, in August the Finance Minister releases his quarterly statement showing the government would have slipped into a deficit if it hadn't received a $7 million windfall from 4 per cent tax on insurance premiums. That's where it's at. It's on the consumers of Nova Scotia. That $155 cheque looks pretty inadequate when you look at this $7 million increase.

In September of that year, the auto insurance industry hearings get underway and then in March of this year, once again, our Party reveals that Stats Canada figures show auto insurance rates in Nova Scotia went up by 65 per cent. The minister says that the NDP are saying this. Well, of course we're saying it. These are not our numbers, these are Stats Canada's numbers. I would wish that the learned minister would take the time to really look at this issue, as opposed to being flippant when people ask him questions in this House and saying, oh no, that's wrong, that's just the NDP saying it. It's not the NDP saying it, it's Statistics Canada telling us these things.

Mr. Speaker, unlike the Liberals, we have moved forward. In March of this year, after a consultation with some major groups, from Yarmouth to one side of this province to the other, we put an interim report together and talked about what we've heard. The first part of our report dealt with prices. We showed a price comparison right across this country, and showed where prices were best was where there was driver-owned insurance.

Mr. Speaker, for these other Parties to stand in this House today and say, what have you done? We can tell you where we met, the groups we've met with and where we have travelled throughout this province to ask these questions. It's not a matter of this House not having a plan. The unmitigated gall of the Liberals to stand in this House and say we're going to have a plan, when they basically stood on the sidelines and then told us, all of a sudden Danny sends over a letter and says we have to get in the middle of this. Talk about things that won't wash with the public. The johnny-come-lately to this dance is going to go home without a date, I will tell you that much. I certainly hope they have a friend to drive them home.

Let's look at another part of what's happening in Nova Scotia, the inactions around trying to help Nova Scotians. Let's look from April 1, 2002, to March 31st of this year - 2,700 people in this province were convicted of driving without insurance. That's part of a question I asked the minister in Question Period today and again, he was - well, you know, I have great admiration and respect for that minister for his years in this House. He never, ever answers a question substantively. He will give you a flippant answer and make up some kind of gesture.

AN HON. MEMBER: He's the President of the Flat Earth Society of Nova Scotia.

[Page 2229]

MR. CORBETT: That was a good one, Mr. Speaker. I have to say that because not very often does the Minister of Finance - he may look funny, but he never says anything funny. But you know what he said? I said, I'm all ears and you know what he said? I thought you were all mouth. So I thought that was pretty good. It got on the record too, Mr. Speaker. But again, Grace has often told me she laughs at him too. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The collegial atmosphere is appreciated, but it's a little digression from the bill. The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre has the floor and he's doing a great job.

MR. CORBETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Any time you can get any member of that front bench to be engaged, is a victory so I'm happy for that. I want to get back to - 2,700 Nova Scotians were turned into criminals in this province because this government gave them no choice. They said, look, we rolled the proverbial dice and said I'll take my chance of getting caught and see what happens because it's cheaper.

Let me say right here and now, that's not a position that my Party supports, that I think I can speak for all three Parties on this one, that not a member in this House believes that the right thing to do is not to have adequate insurance, or up-to-date insurance on your vehicle and on yourself, that would make you eligible to drive in the Province of Nova Scotia. We're not saying that in any way, shape or form. What we're doing here is informing the public that is what is out there. These, again, as I said before, are Stats Canada numbers. These are real numbers. These aren't NDP numbers, these aren't Tory numbers, these aren't Liberal numbers. These are numbers presented to us by the Department of Justice in this province. The minister is here and he could back them up if he wishes.

That also represents, in five years, a 45 per cent increase in rates in this province. That's just a huge, huge increase. I want to go back to part of an answer that the minister gave me today and said, well, we've had those happen from time to time. Again, as I laid out to him, it's a 45 per cent increase in five years. What we've seen is the time line I've given you before from 2001, it's a steady growth. In the years from 1998 to 2000, they had levelled off somewhat, but there was steady growth from 1997-98 to 1,800 to 2,264 then it fell the following year to 2,247 and then it starts its increase - 2,460; 2,619; and, 2,737 people convicted of driving without insurance.

Those are devastating numbers because I don't know what the ratio is, but I'm sure that there are - and I'll use the insurance industry as they use numbers to project outwardly, actuaries and so on. They take a number and they use it so they certainly could exponentially say 2,700 people out there, caught probably represents x amount or more who are out there without the coverage.

[Page 2230]

[5:45 p.m.]

So that's what we're saying. We don't know, without a study, how many more people are out there. Mr. Speaker, could you imagine the devastation that would happen if either party that was in an accident, if that person was uninsured had a serious accident. I suspect the argument could be made that any accident is serious. What I'm saying is beyond a fender-bender, I'm talking about maybe something as disastrous as a fatality and what ruin that could bring to that person's life without having adequate insurance and being taken through the system.

We have not really delved into that in any way. I would say we didn't get the adequate answers we were looking for today in Question Period regarding these types of statistics, Mr. Speaker. The other problem in this province, particularly, is how the insurance companies get their increase. It would be like if we ever ran our household like this, with little kids, I think our homes would be in a sorry state. If every time one of the children came in and said, mom or dad, I want some money, and then we say, how much, and they would say, 20 cents, and you give them 20 cents. They come back a while later and say, mom or dad, I want some money, well how much, 50 cents, and there's no questioning of where that money is going, you're just giving it to them.

Well, that's the type of system we have here in Nova Scotia when it comes to insurance companies. They send a note over to the URB and say, we're jacking rates up; effective this time frame, it will be 20 per cent, we'll say, for renewals, 30 per cent if we're going to write a new policy. That's all it is. They don't have to even give a reason why. With that said, even in provinces like Alberta and Newfoundland and Ontario that have prior approval, there's really nothing there. They just go in and it's more of a delaying tactic, but they, by and large, get what they want. There has never been a rollback of any real proportional means to say that we're not going to do this, and we're not going to allow you to do this, and so on.

One of the provinces that's quite different is Quebec. Quebec has kind of a mix between public and private auto insurance, a hybrid-type of system. Certain brokers say, look, that should be looked at. Again, it's one that should be looked at. I guess I go back to the minister's position of one point that this government has said, noway, nohow are we going to look at public auto, noway, nohow, even though our first report showed, on prices - and that's what we looked at - on prices, the three provinces that have the lowest rates are driver-owned public auto; that's Saskatchewan, Manitoba and B.C. With them, they have a mix to look at. They have a lot to offer.

Manitoba - while I am not a fan of no-fault - has public-owned no-fault insurance. Saskatchewan has the mix. B.C. has the full tort system. So those systems are all to be looked at. Yet this government, I would say, has a philosophical bent that says, no, that won't work, no way, we're not going to look at it, no matter what that means for consumers, we're still

[Page 2231]

not going to do that for you. We've eliminated that, therefore it's off the table. It's off the table, yet what they will do here, though, is insurance companies will take the windfall tax money they get from them, they will take the windfall tax money from them and spend it where they want, they will drive the rates up at the drivers' abstracts and they will take that, and go with it, and they will allow the international insurance companies to take their money offshore and not invest it at all in Nova Scotia.

That's where I think the public-funded auto sector really comes in with the type of logic that we have to look at here and that's re-investment in our province. We have hundreds of millions of dollars being re-invested in the economies of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia and all the while that we're keeping rates low, it has an effect that we could be - if we had that type of revenue with roughly the same amount of driver population, we could be doing something substantial in areas like Cape Breton and investing in the economy there with our own money as previous speakers from my Party have put forward. It's revenue that's put into real driver safety programs, that they've seen areas of - where they have a high propensity for accidents and they repair - we may not be - we wouldn't still be kicking the ball around on what to do with Highway No. 101. If we had that type of revenue we wouldn't be going with cap in hand to the federal government. If we had that type of industry - or that type of capital - we could be going it on our own and we would be saving lives on some of the dangerous stretches of highway.

Mr. Speaker, there also is a debate, you know - well, I know that the idea of Highway No. 101 is always one about safety, I'll tell you another road we could be investing in, and that is Highway No. 125, the Sydney Bypass it's often referred to. Again, there have been studies from T&PW that says that, as a matter of fact, is the most dangerous stretch of highway in Nova Scotia. We could be investing in safety for our residents but yet this government, just because of a philosophical bent says no way will I look at - or the minister says - no way will my government look at driver-owned insurance. I don't believe in it, I don't care how good it is for the province, I don't care how safe it'll make the roads, I don't care what type of income it'll take in here for us to invest in industry and economic development, I don't care. It's more important that companies in Copenhagen and in The Hague, that they take our money and enjoy it over there and don't re-invest it in Nova Scotia.

That is fundamentally wrong. Bill No. 45 says nothing about that. It says nothing about making insurance companies be responsible to the people of Nova Scotia. Indeed, this bill does nothing to make this government responsible to the people of Nova Scotia. It's a delay bill, it's delay until such time as we can hopefully get it by the electorate, for such time as this government sees itself in - quite possibly they would want to get themselves re-elected and we're going to try to fool people. It's not going to happen. This bill doesn't cut the mustard, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 2232]

This is a bill that is only going to hurt the driving public of Nova Scotia. What it's going to do, it's going to delay a rate and you know, as soon as they lift this rate, that the insurance companies have the paper in the fax machine ready to go on 12:01 on January 1st. It'll be sent over to you or me and saying we're going to raise our rates. We were going to raise them 50 per cent last year if we hadn't had an election and we're going at 'er.

Mr. Speaker, that's what we need. We need fairer insurance costs. We need lower insurance costs. This is not what's happening with this government. This government is giving us a part-time tax delay and it's not going to work. Thank you very much.

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

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I propose to speak until 6:00 and then after an appropriate adjournment of half an hour to resume. (Applause) That seems to excite my friend from Kings North. I hope when my speech is finished, he will feel even more excited.

AN HON. MEMBER: It might encourage him to speak.

MR. MACEWAN: I think it may perhaps encourage him to write in Thursday's Daily News, but we will see, we will see. (Interruption) I will put the Arabic textbook away and start speaking English for awhile.

Now, what I was going to speak about, Mr. Speaker, was the topic of insurance and this bill. I think I should begin by paying tribute to the Liberal Party for the great work that they have done in making this an issue and in bringing this to the forefront so that this bill is now before the House. I hear the NDP laugh. The NDP laugh whenever they see the Tories in power, I know that, I know that, but I don't want to get distracted by the laughter of the NDP. I want to stick to the bill.

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party brought this issue to the forefront, I can't give you an exact date, but it was approximately two years ago. It was approximately two years ago and the suggestion at that time was that an all-Party committee be established so that the NDP would be in it, as well as the PCs as well as this Party, and that all three could work together to pool their respective resources and find a common solution. Well, that was the idea of the Liberal Party. What did the NDP say to that? They said, oh, no, we can't possibly, never, never, never, never, heaven forbid, shocked and appalled, and after they had gotten over the shock and appalled act, there wasn't much more they could say except, no, we don't want, we won't participate, out with it. So that was the response of the NDP and as for the Conservatives, well, they looked to the NDP to get a cue as to what they should do and when the NDP said be shocked and appalled, they said we're shocked and appalled. Hear, hear, they said. That's what the NDP said hear, hear.

[Page 2233]

So what happened, Mr. Speaker, was that this two-Party coalition, this alliance (Interruption) Do I hear something from Cape Breton Centre? Carry on. (Interruption) All right, when the Conservatives had gotten their cue from the NDP and they too were shocked and appalled, that pretty well brought the idea of an all-Party committee to an end, but I want to tell you something while I have the floor here. In the Province of New Brunswick where they have a Conservative Government, they weren't nearly as averse to the idea of an all-Party committee as they were here in Nova Scotia. I have here in my hand a report from the all-Party committee of the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly to the Speaker of the House from Mr. Wally Stiles, MLA, chairperson, and it's almost as long as the Dorsey report. It goes 55 pages of recommendations and given the record of the Conservative Party on the Dorsey report in taking one year-plus to carry out one recommendation, and I think there were over 50 recommendations in the Dorsey report, it would therefore take the Tories 50 years to carry out that report's recommendations and at a similar rate of progress they could work through this report, if they had one here, at the rate of one per year and by the year 2025, or perhaps 2050, they would be halfway through the report, they would be. That's where we could be if the government and the NDP had listened to the Liberals instead of listening to their own perverse inclinations.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I see that the clock is quickly approaching the hour of six o'clock and so we will have to await a future installment to continue this lecture over the passage of time as to what happened and where we could be as compared to where we are had the government but listened to the Liberals. I thank you.

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

"Therefore be it resolved that an insurance freeze does not address the issue of high insurance rates, it is merely a pre-election band-aid."

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

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

INSURANCE: RATE FREEZE - PURPOSE

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I want to speak on this issue of insurance and insurance rates in the resolution that we've submitted here on behalf of the Liberal caucus today. I think it's universally shared by all Nova Scotians that the escalating insurance rates in this province are simply unacceptable.

[Page 2234]

[6:00 p.m.]

AN HON. MEMBER: When did the Liberals discover that?

MR. MACKINNON: Well, Mr. Speaker, if I could (Interruption) Well, yes, Mr. Speaker. When you hear the catcalls from the socialists that (Interruptions) have no intention of participating in a fruitful debate, then I would ask if perhaps they could just at least be attuned to what's being said or perhaps find another mission in life that would be less disruptive because this is a very serious issue. (Interruption).

Maybe the NDP like to play politics with the insurance rate by going around and asking people with their postcards if they feel that the insurance rates are too high. Well you wouldn't have to be a rocket scientist (Interruption) and use the taxpayers' money and send that around Nova Scotia. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member knows that he's not to use props in the house. The honourable member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

MR. MACKINNON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The question that's being asked by the socialists are yes Darrell, I support the NDP Task Force on lower auto insurance. Nova Scotia drivers deserve a fairer deal. Well, Mr. Speaker, every MLA knows in Nova Scotia we deserve a better deal than what we're getting from the insurance companies. That's in part why the government introduced this piece of legislation. We don't agree that this legislation goes far enough, we don't agree that the government has taken the appropriate action to deal with some of the problems.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Don't take offence, I'm just going out.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, we know that there will be only so many more exits for the member for Sackville-Cobequid, so we wish him godspeed. (Interruptions) This particular piece of legislation that's now before the House of Assembly is essentially the equivalent of closing the barn door after the horse is out. (Interruption) The interest rates and the insurance fees have gone up quite substantially. (Interruption) We want to see where the NDP is going on this. They're determined to have me respond to some of their catcalls.

I'll table this document, Mr. Speaker. Here's what an NDP Government would do in Nova Scotia according to the manifesto that they subscribe to, that no CCF government, socialist government will rest content until it has eradicated capitalism and put into operation the full program of socialized planning which would lead to the establishment in Canada of the co-operative Commonwealth. Well, that's the philosophy that the NDP would subscribe to. That's the philosophy that they would try to make the Nova Scotians who are being hurt by the high insurance rates (Interruption), we should commit ourselves to.

[Page 2235]

Mr. Speaker, why don't they come out, why don't they put it on their Web site what they really stand for. At least the Liberals and the Tories mark down what their political philosophy is. At least they will put in writing, they will put on their Web site exactly what their manifesto is. (Interruptions) Unlike the NDP from Nova Scotia who completely avoid the issue from A to Z. You know why, because they continually used veiled references to the socialists from Saskatchewan, Manitoba, British Columbia and you have it. They are so far to the left that all they believe in is socialism, they believe in the CCF dogma which Nova Scotians do not want. On this issue the people are not being treated fairly. So, we as a caucus, we subscribe to the fact that we should have had an all-Party committee.

The NDP said that all-Party committees don't work, they're a joke. Yet when there was an Opposition Government in this House that's all they called for, day in and day out, whether it be at the committee level, Community Services, or whether it was workers' compensation. Every day that they came in here, all they wanted was an all-Party committee because of their desperate grasp for power. That's all it was and now that that's no longer in sight, they don't want to have anything to do with it. An all-Party committee could have achieved a tremendous amount of success over the last six months on this issue.

Now, Mr. Speaker, let's look really at what should be done. The rates are too high, we all know they're too high and the insurance companies have not justified why these substantial rates should be in the offing for the people of Nova Scotia. Some have received 50, 75, 100, 150 per cent increases over the previous year. Is that acceptable? No, it's not. This simple rubber-stamping, as was done in the past for nearly 40 years going to the Utility and Review Board or its predecessor, and saying this is what we're going to increase rates by and the board would rubber-stamp it. That's not acceptable any more, people want input into it. That's one aspect of it and that's why we supported that all-Party committee.

Mr. Speaker, the government appointed Mr. Jordan to be kind of an advocate, a consumers advocate for input into the process. Well, we support it if the government would only take the gag order off Mr. Jordan. He's not allowed to say anything about this issue to anybody, from anybody or anything, unless the minister and the Cabinet give him the okay to do that. That's the confidentiality clause, so much for protecting the consumer. That's not protecting the consumer. The member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, on a previous day, said, we in Opposition only wanted to discuss private matters before the House. That's simply not true, and the member knows that. It goes far beyond that. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, certainly a lot of issues can be addressed without having to bring names of individuals before the floor of this Legislature without their approbation as the NDP have been doing for the last three years, (Interruptions) never once, in years. It's always been a rule of this House and the Speaker always ruled that you had to provide some validation for raising people's names in this House. Never once did they do that. They use this. They're very carefree with the personal information of citizens of this province, all for the sake of trying to score a few political points. At no point in time was that ever the rule, the precedent

[Page 2236]

or the custom of this House. That goes to show you what they will do, not only on that issue but the insurance issue and a number of other issues.

Mr. Speaker, personally, I think some of these insurance rates should be rolled back. I think they're too high. It's gouging in the first degree. The government may not be saying anything because it is making an extra $13.5 million in taxes this year, over and above the $35 million they collected last year. So now they're going to be up to $48.5 million this year alone in taxes. (Interruptions) Yes, as one member has suggested, maybe they're profiteering. Maybe that's why the government has been soft-pedalling this. Now we're on the eve of an election and what does the government want to do, it has to at least create the optics, the image, the perception that something is being done for the consumers of Nova Scotia. Let's get through an election, let's implement the Rumsfeld plan, manage and control your stakeholders. That's the key word, control your stakeholders. This is what the government wants to do.

Mr. Speaker, they seem to be very good at that type of marketeering, but it doesn't address the problem. What about the seniors? As I mentioned last week, one senior's insurance rates have doubled in one year, with no accidents all her life. Is she being prosecuted? Is she being punished now, today, simply because she's a senior citizen? Or, is it because maybe her car is about 12 or 13 years old? Maybe she can't afford to buy a newer vehicle, and the insurance companies are now saying, well, you have to pay a higher fee because it's an older vehicle. It's going to be costing more for us as an insurance company.

Maybe the people of Nova Scotia, the citizens, the consumers should not be punished because these insurance companies don't know how to invest in the marketplace. If they want to take insurance premiums and invest, there should be some type of a security blanket there. If they lose in the marketplace, we, as consumers and the people of Nova Scotia, should not be punished. We saw what the Government of the United States did, they moved to bring in legislation to stop, to protect insurance companies. Well, maybe that's the Republican plan. I realize, Mr. Speaker, my time is coming very short. I thank you for the opportunity to introduce this resolution.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak this evening for a few moments on the resolution that was put forward by the Liberal caucus and more especially the member for Cape Breton West. He certainly does feel very passionately about this topic. I know there are times when there is a certain amount of - I guess you could call it rhetoric and a little hyperbole that goes with any given topic - but I think in this particular instance, especially relative to his comments about the NDP and the NDP caucus, he is speaking genuinely from the bottom of his heart.

[Page 2237]

I don't think at this particular point - and the honourable member is nodding - and it's quite frequent I guess, that the honourable member takes the opportunity and sometimes follows the rabbit tracks that lead to some snares that are set. Some snares are big and some snares are small, but the fact of the matter is, we that believe in the capitalistic society do have some difficulty - well, no, quite frankly, you know we may be called socializers, but never can they label us as socialist.

Just this afternoon the honourable member for Halifax Fairview was standing on his feet and talking about how the Tory Government was more concerned about some big corporate business person in the executive of an insurance company in Holland walking down the street, smoking a cigar and drinking the finest liquor and used some very strong language. I think it was regarding the fact that he was allegedly swilling some type of drink and smoking these big cigars. In all the Halifax Fairview member's sanctimonious splendour and in his demented lust to criticize the government he forgot to mention that the NDP, in spite of their efforts - I do, somewhat backhandedly commend the NDP for coming forward and going out and meeting with Nova Scotians and listening to the concerns that Nova Scotians have about automobile insurance rates. Lord knows, we all hear concerns from constituents, but you don't have to reside in an NDP riding to hear concerns about automobile insurance rates. Or you don't have to reside in a Tory riding or a Liberal riding to hear these concerns. These concerns are provincial in nature.

That's why this government decided to take a look at this concern. Yes, many members in this House, opposite, in fact, in both caucuses agree that it's a step in the right direction, but it's not really a big enough step. Is that not what members opposite are saying? Irrespective of our philosophical views - and I have to agree, the member for Cape Breton West clearly articulated the views that some of us have regarding the NDP's sanctimonious approach, no matter what the topic is. They get up on the soapbox and they criticize the poor, beleaguered worker here not too long ago. I was really surprised and quite disappointed that the member for Hants East, of all members in that caucus was to stand in his place and acknowledge that somebody that makes $15,000, $16,000, $17,000, maybe $18,000 doesn't pay provincial income tax. If they do, they would somehow grudgingly accept this $155 rebate.

That's an insult to the intelligence of the people of Nova Scotia because anybody that's earning $15,000, $16,000, $17,000 and $18,000 is struggling to pay those insurance premiums. So how can you stand, or in the case of the member for Dartmouth North, sit in your place and criticize the working poor in this province and say, they don't deserve that $155 rebate. I'm very, very disappointed that the NDP caucus and the member for Dartmouth North would be against that poor, beleaguered working-poor person in Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley or in Hants East or in Dartmouth North or Halifax Chebucto or in Sackville-Cobequid receiving a cheque for $155. The audacity, the temerity of that caucus and that speaks through the Speaker to the member for Cape Breton West, that speaks to that philosophy, that socialist philosophy that those poor people in Nova Scotia don't deserve a

[Page 2238]

break. My goodness, it's a shame. It's a shame. That caucus in its entirety should hang its head in shame, stand up and apologize to Nova Scotians. Stand up and apologize to Nova Scotians. It's disgraceful. They talk about cigar smoking and liqueur drinking, but in their sanctimonious splendour, in their demented haste to berate all other members in this Legislature, they forget that there are working poor people out in Nova Scotia, people who pay income tax. (Interruptions)

[6:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, don't you ever forget that the working poor, the people who are working in Nova Scotia deserve a tax break. Our Premier and this government made a promise to provide a tax rebate, and we're going to follow through. We're going to follow through on the promise we made. Over the past year, the government has been working hard, and it's not just as simple - and I think the member for Cape Breton West may agree, and the Liberal caucus - as pulling out of that lightbulb, an answer to the problem with insurance. Let's not think that it's just only automobile insurance that Nova Scotians are concerned about. They're concerned about home insurance, they're concerned about all kinds of insurance.

Mr. Speaker, we would like to bring, as a government and I am sure all members in this House, even the NDP caucus, would probably like to bring stability to the insurance, especially the auto insurance market. Do you know what I heard this afternoon? I heard the member for Halifax Fairview stand in his place and try to take credit; he was more interested in one-upmanship than actually doing something positive and concrete for Nova Scotia consumers. He was saying, well, it was the NDP that brought this to the forefront. It was the NDP that did this, and we wanted it referred to the Utility and Review Board.

But do you know what? It was the all-Party Economic Development Committee that brought Mr. Forgeron and his ilk over to the Economic Development Committee. It wasn't the NDP. Go back and do the chronology, go back and study the chronology, and you will find out that the Liberals, the Progressive Conservatives and the NDP on that committee brought in the insurance industry, the Insurance Bureau.

Mr. Speaker, instead of standing in their place and trying to take all this credit, why don't they try to come up with practical solutions, why don't they come up with some solutions. They said, oh no, it's no good to come out and appoint a consumer advocate. That doesn't help a thing. We're opposed to that, that's no good. That's too little, too late. Oh, there must be an election coming.

Mr. Speaker, I have been around here for nearly a decade. Sometimes we forget how quickly time goes by when we're having fun and enjoying representing our people, but I think every member in this Legislature, irrespective of what political stripe they wear, is in here for the best interests of Nova Scotians. Don't try to tell us (Interruptions) Normally, except during one government's term, I think it was from 1993 through until 1998, they

[Page 2239]

probably went the full five years. Even during the Buchanan-Cameron Regime, the last tenure that they served as government, they went the five years.

The fact of the matter is most governments, I think, conventional wisdom will tell you, and the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova, I think, might agree that you go every four years. So, obviously, I think we all know that there may be an election called this year, in fact the Premier said there was going to be an election. Just because you bring in legislation that reflects concerns, perhaps not all the concerns that the NDP caucus would like addressed or not all the concerns that the Tories or the Liberals would like addressed. Just because it comes forward doesn't automatically mean that, oh well, they're just doing that because we brought it. No, it has nothing to do with the Liberals or the Tories, the socialists are the only Party that cares. Can you believe that? The only Party that cares for Nova Scotians.

Well, that's absolutely preposterous. It's ridiculous, it's ludicrous. Why don't you come up with practical solutions. Stand in your place and speak to solutions, try to provide good government for Nova Scotians. You have never had the opportunity, you will probably never get the opportunity, because all you want to do is sit back like a pack of wolves, and I use that figure of speech figuratively. I heard the honourable member talk about throwing something in to the dogs. They just want to sit back, I would say more like - how would you say - scavengers, waiting to come in. Oh, my gosh, here's an area where we will hit them quick. They haven't got a solution right now. We will hit them with insurance rates. We will hit them nursing homes. We will try to do this. We will try to do that.

But, do you know what? The fact of the matter is our government is listening to all Nova Scotia, irrespective of political stripe, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: I begin to understand why it's often referred to as the late show. It's not a competition of volume in which I intend to engage this afternoon. I'll try to stick to the resolution in front of us.

There seem to be two parts to the resolution. One, of course is the hard core issue of the increase in automobile insurance rates that so many Nova Scotians have encountered, the other part, of course, is a question of political credit and the question of whether the actions of the present government are adequate to deal with the problem. Two parts to the resolution, straightforward and worth having a look at.

The fact seems to be that in the spring of 2001, fully two years ago - a little over two years ago - the insurance industry in Nova Scotia began to give advance warning to all of us that they anticipated a big increase in premiums. They knew that it was going to occur. They began to state publicly at that time that that was going to be the case, although they started

[Page 2240]

out with private briefings, I think, for the political Parties and for those who are involved in the insurance industry, particularly the brokers. Over the ensuing months Nova Scotians indeed encountered what was predicted by the insurance industry in Canada. They knew it was coming because they had control and they do have control, continue to have control, over the level of premiums that are charged to the customers.

It was in the fall of that year that we began to hear in our caucus complaints from Nova Scotians about the increasing rates. Promptly after hearing a number of these complaints, in January 2002, well over a year ago, several MLAs in our caucus - my colleague, the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, my colleague, the member for Cape Breton Centre - spoke about referring the matter to the Utility and Review Board. In fact, they wrote to the Utility and Review Board and they called publicly for formal hearings into the increasing rates. Let's be clear what the power of the Utility and Review Board is in Nova Scotia. It doesn't have the power to veto in advance the rates. It only has the power to step in after rates are being proposed and in fact put in place by the companies to determine retroactively whether the rates are reasonable and whether they ought to be modified, and only then after hearings.

The initial response of the government to the suggestion that there be full scale hearings by the Utility and Review Board was to say no. The response was to say that it wasn't necessary. The response was to leave it to the interaction in the private market. The hope was, apparently, that competition among the insurers would work out the problems. It very quickly became evident, however, that this was not the case. It very quickly became evident that there was a huge amount of concern among the public. Therefore, within a two to three week period the minister who was at that time responsible for insurance matters agreed to refer the matter to formal hearings at the Utility and Review Board.

The leisureliness of this has been amazing. That was at the beginning of February 2002, and the hearings didn't start until September. We still don't have a report from the Utility and Review Board and this is well over a year later. This matter is proceeding at a very slow pace and it's only now that the government is stepping in with anything that looks like an attempt to try to deal with the rates.

Let's look briefly at the justifications that the insurance companies are offering for their increases in rates. They say two things and two things only, really. One is they say that their payouts are higher than the amount they take in in premiums, the second thing they say is really an elaboration of that first point because they're trying to explain it. They say the reason their payouts are higher is because of soft tissue injuries and the amounts that the courts award.

Let's look at the first point, this question about the bare fact that their payouts are higher than the premiums. I quoted this passage on a previous occasion and it's been tabled so I don't think I need to table it again, but I looked at the federal Department of Finance's

[Page 2241]

Web site in which they describe the financial institutions in Canada, the banks, the trust companies, the insurance companies, the stock brokerages. When you read what they say about the insurance companies, here's what they say, they describe profitability and investment by the companies as in other countries such as the U.S., P & C insurance activities in Canada normally result in underwriting losses for most major product lines. This means that premiums paid for policies each year do not generate enough revenue to cover outgoing claims and expenses. However, these underwriting losses are normally more than offset by the investment income generated from assets held by the industry.

The key word there is that this is the normal practice, normally, it's the usual thing for property and casualty insurers, of which automobile insurers are the largest portion, not to take in more in premiums then they pay out in claims. That's just the way they do business. As the Department of Finance says, they make their money from their investments. That's where they make money. So the only logical conclusion is that they have lost money in the stock markets and, of course, we know this. We know this from their own industry publications.

Now, the justification, the secondary justification they offer is that soft-tissue claims are driven way up. If there is any part of the world where that might be true, it might be the United States where very large claims are sometimes awarded by juries. It certainly isn't true in Canada and it is especially not true here in Nova Scotia. Any lawyer who has practised in this area of the law in Nova Scotia knows that the claims awards from the courts are exceptionally low in Nova Scotia, shockingly low I would say, inappropriately low I would say. That is not the problem here, end of story. So far as it comes to the insurance industry, they're wrong, we're right.

Now, what about the freeze? Is the freeze an adequate measure? Well, it isn't and here's why. It's easy to follow, very simple steps, we will elaborate this in second reading debate, but the first thing, of course, is that it ends. The freeze is temporary. It ends in 2004 and the insurance companies will be able to step in there and increase their rates even more at that point and say we need this to make up for the lost increases from last year that we didn't get. Secondly, it does nothing, absolutely nothing about the big increases that are already in place over the last two years since they told us in the Spring of 2001 the rates were going to go up. Those increases have been enormous, for many people hundreds of dollars, for some people multiples of their insurance. This is just not tolerable.

The other thing the freeze doesn't do is it does nothing about the unfairness categories. It does absolutely nothing about discrimination on the basis of age, or place of residence, or on payment records, or in relation to minor infractions, minor driving infractions, nothing at all. It doesn't regulate the industry when it comes to them determining who's the major driver of the car, none of that. Furthermore, the freeze is a complete illusion because there are entirely too many ways to avoid it. The most obvious way in which the companies can go around the so-called freeze is on the basis that for every 12 months that

[Page 2242]

go by, your car is going to be a year older. So at that point, never mind that there's a freeze in the rate for what you might have paid last year, now they can apparently legitimately say, well, your car is a year older, it's in a different category. The rate for that hasn't gone up because of the freeze, but now you're in a different category, the car rate has gone up. Or, for every 12 months that goes by, you're going to get a little older as well and if you happen to tip over into the other age category and you're in one of the categories for pre-existing, increased rates, then you're in trouble. There are innumerable ways for the companies to get around the freeze. So in the end it's completely illusory.

But what are we left with when we look at this resolution? What we look at is that on both scores the question of the companies and the question of political credit, we have to conclude that the companies are wrong and that indeed the members of this Party were right in bringing this issue forward as forcefully as we have. We have been very gratified to find such a strong reaction from the public and it is clear to us that the reaction of this government is motivated by nothing except the forthcoming election.

MR. SPEAKER: The time has expired on the late debate.

We will revert now to Bill No. 45.

[PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING]

[Bill No. 45 - Insurance Act.]

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

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, prior to the Adjournment debate, I was speaking on this bill and we were developing some themes which I now propose to develop somewhat further.

[6:30 p.m.]

We were saying that the Liberal Party made this an issue about two years ago, proposed then an all-Party standing committee of the House that would look into insurance, come up with some solutions and bring them back here. I was also mentioning that in the Province of New Brunswick that was done. As a result we have the report of the committee on insurance in the New Brunswick Legislature which I would like to table. I don't propose to read it, it's 55 pages in length. There's one copy for the table, one copy for the NDP and one copy for the Tories. Three copies. (Interruptions) How many trees have I chopped down today? Unfortunately, I haven't done any today, but I have enough calluses on my hands to show I do it pretty often.

[Page 2243]

Going back to the bill. I want to say this, had we done what the Liberals invited all of us to do two years ago, we would have a similar report now. It could be tabled as the guide for this government to follow. (Interruption) It's 56 pages, now read them my friend and then you'll know. I only have an hour to speak, you want me to speak for 54 hours. That's like the government carrying out the Dorsey report - 54 years. I haven't got that kind of time tonight, I've only got one hour so let me get back to my speech.

I was saying that in New Brunswick they did this. Under a Tory Government, Bernard Lord. The outcome? Time will tell. I don't know what the outcome will be but I know that New Brunswick took a step that the Liberals here in Nova Scotia recommended and the reason we didn't do it here was because of those two - the NDP-PC alliance, working together against the people.

Lately, the NDP have developed new interest in this subject because they think that there's an election coming. I think we can all agree that there's an election coming, therefore, the new NDP are interested in insurance. The NDP have put out a flyer, a pamphlet. I don't know if it has gone into every mailbox in the province or not, but I have here photostat reproductions of the front and of the back of the NDP pamphlet to table so we can all see what it is that I'm talking about if you didn't find it already in your mailbox and throw it into the waste-paper can already.

What does the NDP pamphlet say? It says on the front, There's no good reason why Nova Scotians pay more for car insurance. But the NDP, Mr. Speaker, are wrong. They failed to look into the mirror and look at themselves. That's why Nova Scotians are paying more for car insurance, because of the NDP. That's why, because they rejected any idea for a compromised all-Party peaceful working together solution. They said, no, no, we can't have that. So that's why Nova Scotians are paying more for car insurance.

I see the member for Dartmouth North is not happy with what I'm saying. He can certainly get up and take his turn in the debate. There was a tear-off postcard section to the NDP flyer, postage paid, yes. This is their idea of consulting with the people. I know that they criticized the Conservatives for appointing a person to consult with the people on the matter of insurance. They say, no, no. Still not enough. What is their idea of consultation with the people? It is to fill out this wee little form here - that's life size, about three inches across and the heading is, Yes, Darrell, count me in. "I support the NDP Task Force on Lower Auto Insurance. Nova Scotia drivers deserve a fair deal! I think auto insurance rates in Nova Scotia are fair: Yes or no?" I would think one would probably say no. (Interruptions) You get your turn in the debate - take it.

The second point is, "I think the government should take action to lower auto insurance rates: yes or no." Tick a box. That's point two and there's also point three. We must move on to point three. Point three is, "Do you agree that today's families deserve the lowest and fairest auto insurance rates?: yes or no." Tick a box.

[Page 2244]

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, the learned member has served in this House for many years and he has indicated that he won't be re-offering and I want to thank you very much because obviously I would never have had that information because in Argyle the NDP wouldn't waste their money to send it to each household. So I want to thank the member most sincerely for sharing that information with me.

MR. SPEAKER: It's not a point of order. The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova has the floor.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I have another copy of all this, front and back, for the Minister of Finance. Take that over to him for weekend reading. Now, let's carry on with the NDP questionnaire. As an illustration of their commitment, their level of commitment to consultation with the people on this issue that this bill deals with, because underneath all that they have a section headed comments. Underneath comments they have not one, not two, but three little lines, each three inches long and about 1/16" apart so there's probably enough room to write in Yes, Darrell, as an answer. That's all the space they provide.

MR. MACEWAN: Underneath all that they have NDP Darrell Dexter and a great big smiling face looking something like the big bad wolf in the story of Little Red Riding Hood. Anyway, that's the NDP idea of consulting with the people. We see it from the evidence. I don't need to resort to any cumbersome proofs of this, it's right here in their own flyer. The amount of space they allow for a response from the people is about that big. So much for their commitment to the people.

They say they want to tell us about the response of the people. My question is, have they told the people the whole truth? Have they told the people the whole truth about their own Party? I did some research recently and I came off the Internet with this copy of the Regina Manifesto and I know that the people of Nova Scotia would love to know what the Regina Manifesto says. The Regina Manifesto . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Were you there?

MR. MACEWAN: Sit down, please. The Regina Manifesto (Interruptions). The Regina Manifesto (Interruptions)

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

MR. MACEWAN: It's like the Ten Commandments for the NDP only there are 14 of them, not 10.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova has the floor.

[Page 2245]

MR. MACEWAN: Let me just read the concluding paragraph of the Regina Manifesto so you can get the flavour of the document. It says, "No C.C.F. Government will rest content until it has eradicated capitalism and put into operation the full programme of socialized planning which will lead to the establishment in Canada of the Co-operative Commonwealth.", which means the socialist state. That's what the Regina Manifesto says which is their foundation document. They would not exist as a party if there wasn't the Regina Manifesto.

MR. JOHN HOLM: On a point of order, to the member, it seems to me that he was a member of the Party around that time and that he was a strong advocate of that principle which of course is no longer a principle that we are talking about here today. I think that the member should come clean about how he was able to purge that thought from his mind and why it is that he knows that quote off by heart if he wasn't spouting it as his principle for many years.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It's not a point of order. The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova has the floor.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I detected that perhaps the honourable member is confessing his sins and admitting that they have rejected their founding principles. They have no principles therefore I should conclude. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, it's not my intention on the debate on this bill to get into the Regina Manifesto point by point, line by line, but I do think that all voters who want to see this document in context should read the Regina Manifesto to get the whole picture. That's my point.

I was talking before about the New Brunswick Committee on Auto Insurance and the report that they tabled, and how that could have been done here but wasn't because of the NDP. Therefore, we have this bill before us. That's where I'm coming from, Mr. Speaker. That's how all this relates to the bill now under discussion. This is the alternative to the Liberal solution of an all-Party committee that could have looked at this matter in depth over the past two years and by now have arrived at a solution, similar to what was done in the Province of New Brunswick. That's, perhaps, not a very profound point, perhaps I don't need to go into Saskatchewan to illustrate it, but I think it is rather self-evident to those who want to see the point.

Now, instead, we're here. Instead, we're considering this bill. This bill reminds me of the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railroad problem. On that issue, also, they came up with a short-term solution. They deferred action for two years. The railway was going to close, it would have been closed by now, from Port Hawkesbury up to Sydney, that was what they were faced with. They took action that means that will not now be faced until the year 2005. They pat themselves on the back and say, what a good job we've done. The NDP pat

[Page 2246]

them on the back and say, what a good job we've done. They both say the same thing together. They solved the railroad problem.

Mr. Speaker, I don't think it's been solved. I hope it has been. I am wishing them good luck in spite of themselves, but I don't think that a two-year deferral is going to solve the railway problem any more than this bill is going to solve the insurance problem, because it's simply putting a time deadline on the insurance companies. It's not telling them they can't maximize their profits, it's not telling them they can't gouge the consumer, it's not telling them that they can't strike all kinds of different carriers, such as pizza drivers or taxis or ambulances or whatever they want, off the list of vehicles to be insured, it doesn't say any of those things. It says, but you can't do it until Thursday. That's what it says.

Now, they want us to stand up and applaud them, too, and say, what good boys and girls you are, and yes, we will vote for your nice bill and send it down to the Law Amendments Committee, and we hope it comes back as soon as possible so we can put the big rubber stamp on it, and off you go to the polls. Well, I don't know why they should expect undeserved co-operation on that kind of proposition.

AN HON. MEMBER: You don't think this is something to do with an election year, do you?

MR. MACEWAN: I do think. Now, that's what you call a comment made in passing.

Mr. Speaker, I don't intend to lecture the House for an hour on the Regina Manifesto. (Interruptions) They want more. I don't intend to lecture any more than I have on this pamphlet, because enough is enough with respect to that pamphlet, although you can be sure that they have another one coming out next week, posing now as champions of something else, maybe of Sunday shopping, or maybe whatever new cause it is that they think the wind is blowing that particular way. As my good friend, the honourable member for Cape Breton South says, the flavour of the day for the NDP. Whatever the flavour of the day is, they take it up until they forget it for a new one tomorrow. (Interruptions)

Well, that kind of political opportunism makes me believe that the NDP realize that they find themselves politically boxed in as we come into the upcoming election. They have 10 seats now, there are at least two of them I think they can safely expect to lose, and their question is, can they hold the eight or will it be down to seven or down to six or down to five or down to three or down to one? That is the issue that faces the New Democratic Party going into this election. Why? Because of the way in which they have manipulated the system, the political system to their own perceived, short-term advantage but to the overall detriment of the public good of the people of this province. That's the price you have to pay when you paint yourself into a corner, the corner gets mighty small as you continue to apply the paint.

AN HON. MEMBER: How is Graham going to do in Halifax Fairview?

[Page 2247]

MR. MACEWAN: Now, how is Graham going to do in Halifax Fairview? He wants a seat-by-seat projection. Well, I don't know. I was talking to the Liberal candidate in Timberlea-Prospect the other day, and he wasn't so sure that the honourable member who now represents that riding would continue to. I leave that to the people. Let them decide. Let them decide these types of questions. I don't give a riding-by-riding prediction, except to say, I should think that (Interruptions) Who's that? (Interruptions) I don't know what he is referring to. I didn't catch it.

I will say this, that all three Parties will put up their candidates and the people will decide who the winner is, seat by seat and on the overall and that's how our democratic system works and I'm sure you don't want to hear a half-hour lecture on democracy. (Interruptions)

[6:45 p.m.]

Let me say a few words about insurance. They think I know nothing about insurance. That has always been the NDP outlook towards me. They tried to defeat me at the polls six times and away they came with their deposit lost, I think, four of the six times, but anyway. Let me say this, Mr. Speaker, few would take issue with the fact that I have worked very hard and long on workers' compensation and I don't mean just on individual cases, I mean on the system as a whole. I was on select committees that this House appointed to examine workers' compensation, not once but several times. I was a supporter of reform legislation such as the one we passed last Fall. Everyone knows that. Workers' compensation is an insurance plan.

Now, those who think I know nothing about insurance should examine the evidence in terms of my long-time commitment to not just winning individual workers' compensation cases, but protecting the overall system as a whole so that it would continue to be there to protect the workers of Nova Scotia. In a similar sense, Mr. Speaker, I've taken a good deal of interest in many insurance cases involving automobile accidents, fire insurance claims that sometimes get rejected and people will come to someone like me saying can you help us, because while the insurance industry is private, it is under government supervision and control. There's an inspector, an insurance inspector, superintendent is the proper word, a Superintendent of Insurance to whom all insurance companies in this province have to answer and the government licenses all insurance companies to do business in Nova Scotia.

It is, therefore, an area that is a legitimate subject for concern and interest and involvement by any member of this House who wishes to and I think that in that sense, I have taken as much of an interest in the subject, if not more, than many members of this House have. (Interruption) We have interruptions from, I was going to say Colonel Sanders, but I'm not permitted to so I won't, I will be quiet. (Interruption) Well, maybe he's gotten better since those days.

[Page 2248]

I think the bottom line is that the bill is not what we had hoped for. We in this Party had called for something that we thought was better and still do. Now, some have called attention to the fact that they want to know what the Liberal Party policy is on insurance. I want to tell you this, Mr. Speaker, and I think you will agree with me, that there is an election coming and in the course of that election campaign there will be an election platform released by every Party in this House and we will see, when we read it, what the insurance position of the Liberal Party is versus those of the NDP and the PCs, but I suggest to you that in a very real way this bill sums up what the PC position on insurance is. It's the same tactic that they took to the Cape Breton Railway - defer action, don't move now, let it happen later. As they say in Spanish, manana, tomorrow, not now. Is that correct, Mark, my pronunciation on that Spanish word, manana.

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

MR. MACEWAN: Si. Now, this is their platform. Therefore, I guess we're going to have to vote on it. Are we going to vote yes? Are we going to vote si or are we going to vote non, no. How do you say (Interruption) No, all right. We have that choice. We have that choice. I think that you will find members on this side of the House rather not inclined to want to vote, at least this side of the House, I don't know about those people. They may be jumping up and down with joy (Interruption) We'll leave it to them. (Interruptions)

All right, you said it more than I did. You said it better than I did. (Interruption)

Mr. Speaker, I was asked to speak until the hour of seven o'clock. It may be rather difficult to do because I do believe in that rule book is a rule against repetition and I don't want to have to say the same things over and over again. That was a great habit of Joey Smallwood, thinking that if an audience didn't capture the message the first time you should repeat it again and then again. Finally, the people said yes, we will vote for Confederation, since you've said it eight times in a row. (Interruptions)

I can tell that there is good reason to be less than enthused about this bill as a long- term solution. In fact it's not a long-term solution at all. It's a temporary solution, a transitory solution. One that quickly goes away, like a mirage. In terms of an answer, I don't think they've found the answer here at all. In fact, I suggest that this bill is a confession that they haven't, that really they don't know what to do. They do want to get re-elected, they know that and they hope that this bill will make the problem, the menace of insurance rates out of control, seem not immediate, seem like something down the road. Therefore, that and the $155 cheque they hope will get them through, this time round. So, a piece of cake, they think, now that they've thought this one out. It doesn't meet any long-term public need, it only meets their short-term need to get re-elected. Based on that, I don't think that I should be sending them a $5 or $10 cheque to encourage them. I think that's enough for now, Mr. Speaker. Thank you.

[Page 2249]

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak for a few minutes this evening following my friend, the member for Cape Breton Nova. (Interruptions) I won't get into the Regina Manifesto tonight. The member who just spoke was one who was more familiar than I on that particular topic and had preceded me in support and therefore was closer to the time of that, so I won't get into that.

I do want to say that with a few items that he did say, I am in full agreement with him - a few of the items. (Interruptions) The main thing that I want to say I agree with him on is that he is very insightful into the obvious. The obvious is that what we have before us today for debate is a bill that was introduced by what I call the Health Minister for Tories. The reason I say that the minister responsible for our skyrocketing insurance rates is the Health Minister for the Tories is because what he is attempting to do is to innoculate the Tories against what they know is a very volatile public issue.

Mr. Speaker, the legislation that is before us is something that was done in a very hurried manner, behind a veil of secrecy in the Premier's bunker, crafted - I'm sure by the moguls who are planning the election campaign - aimed at trying to deflect criticism away from this government for their years of inaction, leaving Nova Scotians vulnerable to the gouging - and I say gouging without any hesitation whatsoever - being done of today's families here in Nova Scotia and today's businesses here in Nova Scotia - by the insurance industry.

Mr. Speaker, when my Leader raises questions, when he raises questions of the Government House Leader, minister responsible for skyrocketing insurance rates, he gets some warm fuzzies thrown back at him. He is called things like - what was it he was called today? - a snivelling whiner.

AN HON. MEMBER: Whining and snivelling.

MR. HOLM: Whining and snivelling, Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Official Opposition. It is the government's view, obviously, that people who are bringing forward concerns about skyrocketing insurance rates, which means that many families are not able to maintain their insurance on their vehicles, who have every right to be upset, those who complain about the skyrocketing and unjustified insurance rates are accused of being whiners and snivellers.

I want all Nova Scotians, all Nova Scotians, not only those who have returned the cards, Mr. Speaker - many Nova Scotians haven't seen those cards but are still upset about insurance rates; go into any coffee shop, go anywhere and start up a conversation with anybody, don't raise the issue yourself, but see how long it takes them. Nova Scotia families,

[Page 2250]

see how long it takes them to raise with you, especially if they know you're a politician, see how long it takes them to raise the insurance rate issue with you.

Now the brain trust behind the bunker crowd, behind the veil of secrecy, that bunker crowd, that brain trust must have done some polling. They may even have done some focus groups. They said, what are those hot button issues out there that could bring the government down, and cost members of the Tory benches their precious seats? Mr. Speaker, they, in a very half-hearted approach, tried to deflect or tried to dampen the whole issue about long-term care health costs. The Minister of Health and the Premier like to brag about, oh, we're going to do something before the next election, four years away. Now, lo and behold, they have finally discovered it's to their political advantage, they hope, to try to address an issue that this caucus has been trying to get addressed for years.

Mr. Speaker, this government finally, a month after they had refused to refer the matter of the insurance rates to the Utility and Review Board, a month after they refused to do it, lo and behold, they must have had some kind of vision, probably came from a pollster, because this government is certainly out of touch with Nova Scotia families and what's affecting them in their daily lives, some pollster must have given them a result that said, whoops, insurance rates are an issue. So we had better do something about it.

Mr. Speaker, the government, on a very principled move, did the flip and decided to follow the advice given to them by our caucus. However, even though they did that and they finally did refer the matter to the Utility and Review Board, the government was unprepared to go forward with the measures to roll them back. Now we have a bill. The government likes to say, this is to create a time-out period, a time of calm, to give the insurance company a few moments to think about their bad behaviour. It's like the classroom, the government is saying, what we will do is we will stand you in the corner for a few months' chilling time, until after the election.

The bill that is before us - I say at the beginning I will vote for it. Not because the bill is a good bill, but I anticipate I will vote for this. If I were dying of thirst and somebody offered me a thimble of water, I'd take it. I'd take that thimble of water. What the government is offering here is a thimble of hope. They're not doing their job, unless you consider trying to hoodwink Nova Scotians is their job.

[7:00 p.m.]

We listen to and we hear all the time from Don Forgeron going out and talking about all the reasons why the rates have to go up. Let's face it, he's a mouthpiece for the insurance industry. He is a paid lobbyist. His job is to go out and to sell the big insurance industry's message. That's his job. He does it very well. He does it with a straight face. Just like the minister responsible for skyrocketing insurance rates and the Premier, when they announced that this was being done and I watched the interviews. They said that this is being done not

[Page 2251]

because of any election, it's just because we thought it needed to be done. They said that with a straight face. Didn't crack - well, the minister cracked a little bit of a smile.

But, come on. Do you think that Nova Scotians believe for one minute that this bill that is before us now has nothing to do with the election that is likely to be called not this weekend, but the following weekend? The minister said that he's expecting an interim report on insurance from Mr. Jordan in June. He said if the House isn't sitting - of course, he knows it isn't going to be. I've been accused in the past of being a filibuster and using every ample opportunity or every opportunity I had on the floor of the House to maximize the amount of time that I spent speaking. But I'm telling you it would take some magician and a whole new rule book with the agenda that this government has brought forward as they head to the polls, to keep this House in session for many more weeks. There isn't a chance, not any possibility, that this House would be in session then.

Then, the minister went on to say, well, if the House isn't in session, I'll table the report with the Clerk. Table in the House through the Clerk. If, as most of us suspect, I've even heard reports that some Tories are out there renting campaign headquarters. That might be a clue that something is coming. Might be a bit of a clue. If the election is called, the House is prorogued so you can't table a report with a Legislature that doesn't exist because there is, in effect, no government.

The way that I think that it would be tabled if there is any such thing as a tabling being done, is some kind of statement by a gentleman who is currently the Premier. He'll probably have a backdrop behind him and since whatever report is coming back has to be ferreted through the government, you can be sure that there will be a certain political spin put on it.

What Nova Scotians want, what Nova Scotia families need, what Nova Scotia families deserve, what Nova Scotia businesses need and deserve and expect this government to deliver, are the lowest and fairest possible insurance rates and I would suggest to the member for Queens, to the member for Halifax Bedford Basin, to the member for Kings South, to the member for Kings North, to the member for Shelburne, to the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, to the member for Truro-Bible Hill, to the member for Cumberland North, Mr. Speaker, that no matter where you live in this province, Nova Scotians expect that their government will be working for them rather than for the shareholders of the multinational insurance companies, most of whom are located south of the border. They expect to have you working for them to ensure that they pay fair insurance rates and rates that are the lowest possible.

Now, as I said, this bill has nothing to do with trying to really improve the lot of Nova Scotia families and Nova Scotia businesses, but everything to do to try to improve the political fortunes, to protect the hindquarters of those members who want to continue to occupy the government benches. That's what this is all about. Hopefully I'm making myself

[Page 2252]

clear because I wouldn't want to have to repeat myself on that. Mr. Speaker, if this government (Interruptions) I think some Tory members over there aren't obeying the instructions that they've been given because they've been ordered not to heckle. Oh, they're going to be in trouble. They're going to be in trouble. They're going to get their knuckles rapped because some of them over there are showing some expression and some life.

Oh, they breathe, even the member for Yarmouth has come to life and do you know the people in Yarmouth depend on the automobile in many ways far more than I do or people in the urban communities because (Interruption) And he says that they are counting on their member to represent them and, yes, indeed, they are and they're waiting for that day to finally come. They're waiting for it and I look forward to the member for Yarmouth getting to his feet and bringing to this House the concerns of the residents of Yarmouth about (Interruptions) I'm trying to think of the right word and still stay within the rules, let me just say the obscene rates that the insurance industry is charging the residents down in that area. (Interruption) Yarmouth-Clayton Park, that's it, that's it, yes.

Anyway I won't go there, Mr. Speaker, I did get that, but if the government truly had been concerned over a year ago when they first knew or got the scent that this could become a political issue that could hurt them and they finally referred the matter to the Utility and Review Board, the end of February 2002, you know what they could have done and do you know what it would have meant? It would have meant that the residents of Yarmouth would be paying approximately 65 per cent lower insurance rates than they are today, as would the residents in Truro, in Kings North, but I'm sure we will be told that this is a socially responsible measure that the rates went up by 65 per cent by the member for Kings North. The rates, if the government had wanted to, would have been frozen when it was sent to the Utility and Review Board for approval over a year ago. Over a year ago they would have been frozen and Nova Scotians, and the Tories, they wouldn't - in hindsight they probably wish they had because then they wouldn't be facing this political crisis.

It wouldn't be a crisis for them as they go to the polls because Nova Scotians would be happy because they wouldn't have had to pay 65 per cent more average increases. So that wouldn't have been a political crisis for the Tories that now they have to try to undo. They could have put in place programs and procedures to ensure that Nova Scotians were not going to be gouged. What is this government doing to try to get the insurance companies to be responsible? They have delayed, they haven't frozen, they have delayed insurance increase.

I had a constituent call my office this morning about insurance. Her insurance rate is supposed to go up in June by approximately 25 per cent. I think it was, I'm trying to remember the exact figures, its going up from a little over $1,900, it might have been $1,990, but above $1,900 but less than $2,000, to just shy of $2,700. So, either closer to $600 or $700 and I don't have the actual details before me, but it was a $600 to $700 increase. She wanted to know if this will stop it, will this protect me from that insurance rate increase? I had to tell

[Page 2253]

her, I'm sorry no, she will still face that insurance rate increase. Do you know why? Because her insurance company had put her before into facility insurance. You know, this bill does not affect all of those who are in facility insurance and the insurance companies have been driving all kinds of people into facility insurance. It's up by what, about 300 per cent?

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

MR. HOLM: About 300 per cent. The insurer of last resort, the expensive insurance, the ones where the bigger bucks are made. You don't have to be a bad driver to get put into that. If you tried to get a policy and you don't have a current insurer, just guess where they're going to put you, it's facility insurance. We in this House, correctly, take tremendous pride in our women and men who serve in the military and we have every reason to be proud of the sacrifices that they are making on our behalf. I see the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley giving an applause to that statement. I wonder if he also knows that those who are off serving our country in the war against terrorism on the ships offshore, if they have been away for six or seven months, as many of them have been, a logical thing to do, one thing I certainly would have done if I was a driver and the only driver of that vehicle, I would have taken my insurance off for that period of time and plunked my car in the driveway. (Interruptions) And you don't want to do that.

AN HON. MEMBER: No, because what happens?

MR. HOLM: Because, you know what happens, and I see the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley nodding his head. You come back, you've had interrupted insurance, and let me tell you, the insurance companies say, oh, we love to see you, because your rates have just gone through the roof. You're back to being, basically, a new driver and facing facility insurance. That's a wonderful way to treat our women and men who serve this country so faithfully, putting their lives at risk on our behalf. Does the government do anything about that? No.

[7:15 p.m.]

I heard the minister, during one of his interviews outside. The media asked him what I thought were very common sense questions, such as the legislation that is before us, are the regulations that were to go along with it prepared? The minister took a respectful pause, trying to think, you could see the cogs going, now what do I say to this, and he said, and I am paraphrasing him here, I didn't have a tape running, but he can correct me if what I am saying is basically wrong, my paraphrasing, he said, well, staff have a pretty good idea of what kind of regulations would be needed. So, staff, presumably, according to the minister, have some kind of idea of what kind of regulations might be needed if the insurance companies don't behave like good little do-bees until after the election.

[Page 2254]

Of course, Mr. Speaker, it takes time to have those regulations prepared and proclaimed. You can be darned sure that it would be well after an election. Then, after an election, the government will be saying, oh, we have until 2007 before we need to worry about it again. It becomes a non-issue, except for the Minister of Finance, whoever that may happen to be, who will be sitting there, wringing his hands in glee, thinking about all those loonies and toonies that flow into the coffers of the provincial government because every time the insurance rates are cranked up (Interruptions) I think somebody is asking, who is going to fill the current Minister of Finance's shoes? From what I have seen on the budget debate, I think they're hoping it will be the current member for Cape Breton The Lakes. (Laughter) I think that's who they're planning for it to be, hoping anyway.

Mr. Speaker, every time the rates go up, the Tories profit. Every time the rates go up by $100, they make $4, a straight tax on it. Nova Scotians, as a result of the abuse that they have taken at the hands of the insurance companies, have had to contribute an amount that would be equal to, just about equal to what the Minister of Finance claims was his surplus last year. Nova Scotia families are being hurt and hurt badly by the insurance rates. There is nobody in here, I don't imagine, who knows any better than the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, who spoke passionately, in sort of an irrational way I must admit, but passionately irrational, during the late debate. He certainly would know how these insurance rate hikes have hurt the trucking industry in this province and those who make their living in the trucking industry and those businesses that depend upon trucks.

Mr. Speaker, this is a point that the member does know and it's something I had asked him, do you know what profession has more people employed in it than any other profession in North America, and the same would apply for Nova Scotia? It is the trucking industry. The trucking industry that we depend on for everything. Everything I've got on, all of the paper in this place, our pens and papers, sometimes the carpet, all the furnishings in this building, unless there was a stone that came originally way back when, when the building was built. Everything in the grocery stores, in businesses, they depend on the trucks. (Interruption) As the member says, if you've got it, the truck brought it.

What is happening to those trucking companies, those independent truckers and those small businesses that depend upon trucks? I know I've talked to some in my community, the community of Sackville, that have said that their insurance rates have gone absolutely through the roof. They're hurting and that means that those hurting costs, if they can't eat them, they have to pass them on. If they eat them, those kind of increases, they may well be gone. That can be the straw that breaks their back.

Mr. Speaker, saying, as this bill does, that if a rate increase was to be announced after May, it won't come into effect until next January, that's all this does. It doesn't roll it back, it doesn't freeze it, it doesn't say that the rates aren't approved. It just simply delays it for a few months. That may help some of those businesses for the short term, but it doesn't dodge the bullet. If the government had wanted to do something positive, you could have introduced

[Page 2255]

legislation - not a political piece of fluff aimed at trying to deflect attention and to put this off until after the election - you could have introduced a piece of legislation that would have taken concrete steps to bring down insurance rates and to put an end to discrimination.

I don't think I'm the only one in this House who has heard from constituents about insurance rates. I'm not going to use anybody's names as I'm going through here, I'm not even paying any attention to my notes.

You know, Mr. Speaker, here is the kind of story that I have heard. For example, one gentleman told me that his broker, from whom he used to get his automobile insurance, contacted him to tell him that the insurance company that normally underwrote his policy had taken that business away from that insurance broker. So that broker could no longer write insurances on a particular company. So the broker said, well, I'm looking around for other insurance companies where I can place your insurance. Clean driving record for years, 20 to 30 years, but the broker was no longer the underwriter for that particular insurance company. The other companies that that broker dealt with would only take that person on as a new insured client at guess what, the Facility Association.

The company that he had been with - great way to treat a loyal customer, somebody who carried their coverage with you for years, they wouldn't let them switch it to another broker. So, all of a sudden this gentleman's insurance was going to jump by about 200 per cent to get coverage. Clean driving record. Anybody in here think the government bill's going to do anything about that? Not going to do a thing to help that person.

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

MR. HOLM: Certainly.

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

MR. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, today in our west gallery we have visiting from the 1st Hammonds Plains scout troop, on behalf of myself and the member for Timberlea-Prospect as well I would add, 17 youth and 7 adults - Colleen Vincent, Grant Smith, Phil Gensey, Mrs. Catsburg, Dan Ferguson, Mr. Redden, David MacLean along with 17 young people involved in scouting. I would ask them to stand and receive the ususal warm welcome from the House. (Applause) Mr. Speaker, they had the usual tour of the House today and are very interested in the debates that are going on today.

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our guests to the gallery this evening and hope they enjoy the proceedings. They came at a good time, there's a good debate in the House with regard to automobile insurance.

[Page 2256]

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

AN HON. MEMBER: You used to be a teacher, didn't you?

MR. HOLM: Indeed, and since I used to be, I have to remember to be on my best behaviour. I certainly do also welcome our guests. It's always great to have young people in the gallery and the scout movement is certainly something that in my former life before I got elected here, was one of the things that I used to enjoy once upon a time being a cub and beaver leader. I think I can even remember the salutes and all those kinds of things that went along with that and the mottos that went with it.

I would have to say though in terms of what we're doing here tonight, it's not really so much a debate, although it's called a debate. We're talking about the bill that is introduced by the government and, I'm sure that our guests in the gallery will get the idea if they haven't already, that some of us on this side of the House are not overly impressed with the efforts of the government with regard to insurance rates. We think that they do have some ulterior motives.

Ulterior motives - that meaning that they are slightly different in truth from that which they are publicly stating. Because they have to downplay the political motivation behind that which is motivating them here today. It might have something to do with that date with the electorate which is coming up very soon. (Interruptions) That's true. The member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley is over there saying I'm impugning motives. No, I'm not impugning them, I'm stating them. A slight difference - I'm not impugning that they're motives, I'm stating quite categorically that that is a primary motivation and driving force behind what this government is doing.

I talked a little while ago about that Facility insurance and the fact that this legislation does absolutely nothing to help those on Facility insurance. Do you know what I didn't point out is that the insurance companies have already told the URB that those Facility insurance rates are going up by one-third in June. That's next month. Next month.

I was talking about trucking. The member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, in fact the member for Yarmouth because he's had a construction business, he may still do that, the member for the Eastern Shore has a construction business as well. I don't know how many vehicles you have, either one of them, but if you have a fleet of five or more (Interruptions) You have six? You should speak to the Government House Leader because if you have five or more, you can still be hit with rate increases. You can still be hit with rate increases. If you would like to know the clause, afterwards, he can go out and talk to the minister about, please see me afterwards and I will educate you on what clause in the bill is going to be causing you problems. So the member for Eastern Shore, his business with a fleet of six vehicles can still face the automobile insurance rate increases. Do you know what, Mr.

[Page 2257]

Speaker, one of the other things that can affect today's families by the insurance companies to get around this, they can turn around and reclassify.

[7:30 p.m.]

We've had members of this House in our caucus bring forward examples, true examples, where people have been told that their insurance rates are going up because of "their postal code". (Interruption) Yes, indeed, the member for Chester-St. Margaret's should know about that one because insurance companies decide - absolutely nothing to do with the driving record of the individual.

AN HON. MEMBER: I've got a new postal code.

MR. HOLM: You want a postal code?

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The honourable venerable member for Sackville-Cobequid has offered several illustrations and examples of how insurance has impacted Nova Scotians and we certainly agree on this side that it is a reason for concern and have brought forward legislation, but we're just wondering, and I think perhaps some of his constituents may be wondering, when he's going to stand in his place and offer some practical solutions for this problem.

MR. SPEAKER: It is not a point of order. The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid has the floor.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to say that I welcome that and let me just point out that this isn't the original document. This is a photocopy. It is a photocopy of a brochure that was sent to Nova Scotians and I know I personally sent this to many thousands of residents of Sackville. Yes, those comments are rolling in. What it does, the brochure points out, and this isn't information taken from us, it's not NDP propaganda that we prepared, it is information (Interruptions)

Well, you know, Mr. Speaker, we have got pretty powerful and far-reaching stretch because we've got national and international research organizations, supposedly independent, now just working for us, as well as Statistics Canada, but you know one of the things that that points out is that for a comparable car, and it's a 2003 Taurus, 4-door sedan, that the insurance rates for identical coverage in Winnipeg, Manitoba - for your clarification that's where it is, I'm sure the young people in the galleries would know where Winnipeg is - the insurance rates there are $1,164. If we go to the neighbouring province, Saskatoon, which is in Saskatchewan, the price for the insurance goes up to $1,263 for exactly the same coverage. Vancouver, the same insurance on the same car, the same driving record, it would cost you $1,630. Let's skip over a few and come all the way to Halifax, Nova Scotia. The

[Page 2258]

same insurance coverage which costs $1,164 in Manitoba, here where you represent constituents costs $2,574; that's well over double the price.

So you want to have a question about what I think is going to be a good solution, Mr. Speaker, it's to stop kowtowing to the big friends of yours in the insurance industry and start to put in place programs that are going to genuinely drive down insurance rates. The insurance industry wants everybody - you know, they run around and I hear Mr. Forgeron the paid lobbyist for big industry. The big insurance company whose primary interest is to suck as many dollars out of Nova Scotia pockets as they can to ship to the shareholders mainly in the States. They say this is all because of soft-tissue injuries. I'm going to give you a personal example with one of my vehicles.

AN HON. MEMBER: Tell us, tell us about it John.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, our van was struck in the back. It was a very minor injury. The vehicle that struck the van had, what do you call one of those hooks on the front that you would pull something with, a tow hook. (Interruptions)

A tow hook, yes, and all it did was cut and punch a hole in the rubber on the bumper. So, needless to say the gentleman who struck the vehicle didn't want to go to his insurance company because he knew that the rate would go through the roof. A small accident claim like that would drive his rate through the roof for years and the insurance company would recoup what they paid out five-ten fold over the next couple of years if not more. I, even though our vehicle was not at fault, our rates since the vehicle was involved in an accident could also well go up. I took the vehicle to the dealer where we bought it and I asked for an estimate on the cost of getting it repaired. The price was just under $500, it was $497 because all they had to do was to take the coating off, or the rubber that's on the bumper off, apparently it can be taken off, you put a patch of some sort behind it, they do some kind of ironing and they can paint it and put the same one back on. They didn't even have to replace it.

So, I then went and took it to another company and I asked for an estimate. I was given a quote of just approximately $1,000. Needless to say, I wasn't impressed. I wasn't impressed by that double rate and I started to question it. When I questioned it they said oh we will give you 10 per cent break off that, I'm sure we can do 10 per cent for you. Then they gave me the quote sheets and I looked at it because they're telling me this is what it would cost. I look at it and I see an hour and a half for electrical work. I said, an hour and a half for electrical work, what electrical work are you going to do? You're not going to touch a wire. They said, well no we won't but that's what is permitted on these estimate claims. An hour and a half electrical time is allocated. So then I asked, what is this hour and a half for sheet metal work? I got the same response.

[Page 2259]

Then I got a question, this is an insurance claim isn't it? This is an insurance claim because these are the forms that the insurance company give to the dealers or to the body shops and say what is allowable and what they will pay. And Mr. Man, they were going to charge the maximum amount that the insurance companies tells them they will pay. When I said, no its not an insurance claim, I'm paying for it myself, you know what, the price dropped to just over $400 and I walked out the door. I would pay more to get the work done somewhere else than to have somebody escalate the price by over 100 per cent. What is the insurance industry doing to solve that? Nothing, why should they because they can crank the claim prices up. What is the government doing to address that issue? Nothing.

MR. HOLM: Nova Scotians are being hosed. If an insurance company wants to increase your rates and you're not going to be prepared to pay a higher rate then they can turn around to you and say, well we aren't going to cover you anymore. We're dropping you as a customer unless you sign a legal document giving an agreement to paying the higher rate that we want. You tell me what Nova Scotia family - you speak to the VON nurse, you speak to the home care worker, you speak to the man or the woman of this province who needs their vehicle for work, or to get to and from work, or maybe to transport their loved ones, their seniors to doctors' appointments. You tell them, you either sign this or you get no insurance and therefore you won't be able to drive a car, or you will be driven into Facility insurance if you try to go to somebody else, or you drive without insurance and then you are a criminal.

Mr. Speaker, people are going to be bullied into the position, many of them feel that they have no choice but to pay the higher rates and to sign the documents. These are the same insurance companies that are sending letters to people, to clients, telling them that they have to go to the doctor and have the doctor give permission, or give their doctor permission to send every bit of medical information, whether it has anything to do with your driving ability at all, to the insurance companies. That's an absolute invasion of privacy. The minister's response and the Premier's response is, well, we don't plan to have to go any farther than this, because we expect the insurance companies to be reasonable.

Mr. Speaker, I almost wonder, if the insurance companies came along to them and said to the minister, look, we would like to sell you the Macdonald Bridge, will you buy it? He would say yes. (Interruptions) Oh, he says we already own it. (Interruptions) I know you do, but you would still buy it if they asked you. (Interruptions) He got my point. He's the same one who said the insurance rates in Winnipeg or Manitoba are lower because of the flat roads. (Interruptions) The Flat Earth Society.

Mr. Speaker, the insurance companies have other ways of doing it. Most people, if they have more than one vehicle, they get a discount. Insurance companies killed that right away. You can't have competition. They know that you can't get insurance anywhere else. If they want to turn around and reclassify you, maybe they will decide that instead of age 70, we're going to drop down to 65, and we will say that age 65 becomes the higher risk that they

[Page 2260]

used to say was age 70, so now at the age of 65, you are going to be classified as you would have been before at the age of 70. They can reclassify, and your rates go up.

They can say to you, and they do, your car is older, so it's a greater risk. You're reclassified, your rates go up. What does the government's bill do to address those issues? Zippo. Nothing. Nothing at all. As I started my remarks, what I said is, what the government is offering the person who is dying of thirst is not a glass of water but a thimbleful. A thimble is better than nothing, but barely.

Mr. Speaker, companies can switch. They can decide that what they are going to do, and they start a sub-company and it's being done all the time, and they're going to switch your insurance from one company to another company, all owned by the same Edgar Roos, the same CEO running them both, reporting to the same masters, board of directors, maybe in New York, maybe in London, maybe in The Hague, but since you've been switched to a different insurance company, the rates can change.

Mr. Speaker, the minister said, if the insurance companies act naughty, if they aren't the good little boys and girls that he expects them to be, then we can bring down with the hammer. We have ways to bring in the hammer if we have to. When asked what the hammer could be, the minister said, I'd rather not talk about it at this time. I'd rather not talk about it at this time because the election hasn't been held yet, so here I have to talk tough. After the election is over, I'll trade my hammer for the feather, or the whisk so I can sweep it under the rug.

[7:45 p.m.]

Suggesting, as the insurance companies are, that soft tissue injuries are the major causes of driving up rates is a bunch of hogwash. I don't doubt for a second that it is having an impact. But I'm telling you, our insurance rates in Nova Scotia haven't gone up by 65 per cent over the last year because soft tissue injuries claims have gone up by 65 per cent; not likely at all.

Let's say, hypothetically, I had claimed soft tissue injury when I was struck in another car accident about a year and a half ago in the rear end of the car. Little damage was done and I came through it quite A-OK. But let's say I had had an injury. Let's say (Interruptions) The member said no wonder rates are going up, the way I drive. Well, on that one I was stopped at a crosswalk allowing somebody to cross when I was struck from behind. Whatever my infraction was, I'm glad I got hit rather than my running over the pedestrian. But that having been said, if I had gotten a settlement from the industry, which I didn't apply for, because of soft tissue injury or something else and I invested that money in the stock market - the chances are very good if I had done that, it would be worth less today than it was a year and a half or two years ago, because rates have gone down. I couldn't go back to that insurance company and say to them, oops, my stock portfolio didn't perform very well so I lost 40 per

[Page 2261]

cent of my investment. Would you please be good blokes over there? Would you be good fellows and please make up that 40 per cent that I lost? Plus, make up the profit I didn't make that I expected. How about giving me an extra 50 per cent more?

They'd show me the door, maybe put me in a straitjacket and tell me some things that weren't very complimentary. What Nova Scotians are being expected to pay for, what's happening is that the insurance companies primarily, I suggest, is the main reason despite what their paid lobbyists are saying, lost money in the stock market, their value went down, the dividends to the shareholders therefore went down, so what they've decided to do is turn up the heat on Nova Scotians and others they can get at who are vulnerable; crank up our rates, increase their revenue, increase the dividends they can pay and build back up their portfolio.

That's really what's happening. The minister of the flat earth society who believes in the flat road theory about insurance rates, whose responsible - or maybe I should say whose irresponsible actions - have led to the rates skyrocketing. He knows as each and every one of the Tory members over there know, that your bill is going to do absolutely nothing to drive down those rates. The 65 per cent higher rates that Nova Scotians are unfairly paying now will still be what they're being charged in two months from now. How much time do I have left, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: It's 6:52 p.m. Two minutes.

MR. HOLM: A whole two minutes. What we have is another political smokescreen. We saw the politics, how the Minister of Finance, with what I call the glass-turkey budget, with the $155 cheques that are supposed to be coming out and arriving in people's mailboxes just about the same time - maybe in fact the same day - they go to vote. Now we've got a bill before us that is supposed to deflect attention and make the Tories look as if they're being proactive on an issue of primary concern to Nova Scotia families and Nova Scotia businesses as you head to the election. It's all electioneering. It's not about providing good government, it's not about providing responsible government, it's all about trying to protect the hindquarters of the Tory members of this House.

The Government House Leader has an opportunity to agree to strengthen this bill to make it meaningful and if he really wants to make it meaningful, let's say roll the rates back to what they were on March 1, 2002 when it was sent to the Utility and Review Board. Yes, indeed, the insurance companies will squawk, they'll cry. They might even become what the Government House Leader likes to call those who complain about the insurance rate increases, they might become, what was it, snivelling whiners? They might whine and snivel.

[Page 2262]

Nova Scotians would applaud and I doubt very much, despite all the - I'm sure they might take out some advertising and waste some of their money to cry and complain about it, but it's a profitable business for them - they know it and they're not going to pull up stakes and leave. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise in my place this evening for a few moments and talk about Bill No. 45. As the previous speaker has said, I will vote for the bill because I think it's a little bit. It certainly displays this government's inaction of what should be done, but I think it will help some Nova Scotians in a small way. Even in a small way, will be of help to many Nova Scotians who are facing difficult times, who are facing huge increases in insurance. This bill goes without saying, that the issue involved here is one that all of us in this province have an opinion on since one way or another it touches every home from one end of the province to the other.

Mr. Speaker, we are all aware of the stories from Nova Scotians about how their auto insurance rates have risen dramatically in the past year, but it's not only car insurance, it's home insurance. If you have an oil tank or a wood stove or any other avenue that the insurance companies can find to dip into your pocketbook and find a reason to increase your insurance rates, they do that. Freezing rates until January 1, 2004, is only a slight measure. That will undoubtedly provide some relief, albeit a small amount, but it will provide some relief to Nova Scotians. It will probably be of some relief for me because my insurance comes due in November, so I'm one of the lucky ones.

What this bill clearly demonstrates is another example that this government demonstrated again that it prefers inaction rather than action. This is a small measure, as this government prepares to head into an election. It goes without saying that I believe that people want good insurance coverage but they also want it at reasonable rates, rates that they can afford and diligent efforts by all parties to minimize costs to the system will assist in promoting these conditions but this government's inaction has prolonged the problem.

Mr. Speaker, by freezing insurance rates, this government is simply using it as a delaying tactic. They're trying to tell Nova Scotians that something is coming, but you have to wait. I think the waiting should be over and the time is now. This issue has been before this House many times, because Nova Scotians expected their government to address this issue. This government should have acted some time ago. They knew this crisis was coming, they could see it. This has been on the horizon for two years. Instead, a year after or a year and a half after, this could have been done. This government and the minister responsible say Nova Scotians will have to wait until the Fall session of the Legislature for legislation to be passed. This government could have had an insurance package ready to go during this Spring session, but decided to hide its head in the sand and wait for the issue to pass.

[Page 2263]

Mr. Speaker, the issue is not passing. It's growing larger every day, because of this government's inaction with half-measures that include freezing the rates and empty regulations. You can be sure that this issue will grow, and it will continue to grow. It will continue to grow and force many rural residents in this province, who must rely on their vehicles for transportation, to probably choose to go without insurance. Sure, the government says it will address the unfairness issue by bringing in regulations, but seniors, those with older cars, those living in certain parts of the province, they want the details now, they want help now. This government tells them to wait until the Fall, when legislation will be passed.

Mr. Speaker, I am wondering if I may adjourn the debate and continue on Thursday, due to the lateness of the hour.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria has moved adjournment of debate.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow being Opposition Day, the House Leader for the Liberal Party will provide the agenda for tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Liberal House Leader on tomorrow's hours and order of business.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow, following the daily routine and Question Period, we will be calling Resolution No. 901 and Bill No. 21. I would now move adjournment of the House until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn until tomorrow at 2:00 p.m.

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 2264]

We are adjourned until 2:00 p.m.

[The House rose at 7:58 p.m.]

[Page 2265]

NOTICE OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

[Tabled May 5, 2003]

RESOLUTION NO. 1077

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Chief Arnold Wood of the Parrsboro Volunteer Fire Department was recently honoured; and

Whereas Chief Arnold Wood was presented with a plaque and a medal for 20 years of service to the department; and

Whereas Chief Arnold Wood was thanked for the 20 years of exemplary service and dedication by the Parrsboro Fire Department;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Chief Arnold Wood and thank him for his dedication and service to the fire department and wish him all the best in the future.

[Page 2266]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 1103

By: Mr. Barry Barnet (Sackville-Beaver Bank)

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

Whereas annually our schools hold a Heritage Fair where students are asked to create a project about Canadian history and heritage; and

Whereas the Halifax Regional School Board will be holding its Heritage Fair May 10, 2003, at which the best projects from school fairs will be judged, the winner representing the Halifax Regional Municipality at the National Fair in July; and

Whereas Heritage Fairs have been prevalent in Canada's schools for the past 10 years - sponsored by Historica, the foundation behind television's Heritage Minutes - and are one of the fastest growing education events;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend all of those involved with the Heritage Fairs for the promotion of Canadian history and heritage and congratulate all the students who submitted a project to their local school fair.

RESOLUTION NO. 1104

By: Hon. David Morse (Community Services)

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

Whereas Coldbrook resident, Belinda Manning, has shown herself to be deeply concerned about her community; and

Whereas this interest has included both environmental and land use planning matters both within and outside her neighbourhood; and

Whereas her pursuit of these concerns has led to a considerable grasp of environmental legislation, regulation and policy and municipal planning strategies;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Belinda on being one of two Nova Scotians nominated for a Canadian Environment Award sponsored in part by the Canadian Geographic magazine.

[Page 2267]

RESOLUTION NO. 1105

By: Mr. Kerry Morash (Queens)

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

Whereas the Liverpool Fire Department held its annual banquet on May 3, 2003; and

Whereas Dwayne Hurshman was chosen as Volunteer Firefighter of the Year; and

Whereas the Volunteer of the Year was chosen for his or her outstanding contribution to the fire department during the year;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Dwayne Hurshman on being named Liverpool Fire Department's Volunteer of the Year and thank him and his colleagues for the tremendous service they provide for our community.

RESOLUTION NO. 1106

By: Mr. Kerry Morash (Queens)

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

Whereas the Mill Village Fire Department held its annual banquet on April 26, 2003; and

Whereas Mike Lockwood was chosen as Volunteer Firefighter of the Year; and

Whereas the Volunteer of the Year was chosen for going above and beyond the call of duty and helping to ensure that the fire department has the ability to meet the community needs;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Mike Lockwood on being named Mill Village Fire Department's Volunteer of the Year and thank him and his colleagues for the tremendous service they provide for our community.

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RESOLUTION NO. 1107

By: Mr. Richard Hurlburt (Yarmouth)

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

Whereas since 1981, the Atlantic Journalism Awards has been an annual celebration of journalistic excellence and achievement in Atlantic Canada, providing awards in 23 different categories; and

Whereas in the category of Spot News, journalists from print, radio and television are judged on the challenges experienced in getting and filing the story, the deadline pressures, the comprehensiveness of the report and the quality of information, writing and presentation; and

Whereas this year in the Spot News - Radio category, the gold award was presented to Gary Nickerson and Ray Zinck of CJLS, Yarmouth, for their report "Theatre Collapse";

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Gary Nickerson and Ray Zinck on their excellent radio news reporting, an excellence people in the Yarmouth area have come to rely on.

RESOLUTION NO. 1108

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 recognized worldwide, the Pressure Point Control Tactics Defensive System is a training program for police and military personnel which identifies the most common types of resistance officers encounter and addresses the appropriate force level for every level of resistance; and

Whereas Westville Officer Kelly Oickle has undergone rigorous training at the Atlantic Police Academy in Summerside and has surpassed the PPCT training to become a qualified PPCT instructor; and

Whereas Officer Oickle has undertaken this and other training to be current and ready for every possible crisis scenario and is now prepared to give this important training to other officers;

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Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend Officer Kelly Oickle of the Westville Police Department for his hard work and dedication and his efforts to provide important training to his fellow officers.

RESOLUTION NO. 1109

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 early morning explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear plant on April 26, 1986, is still a grim fact of life for the people of Belarus, the small country which received over 70 per cent of the radioactive fallout; and

Whereas through the Canadian Relief Fund for Chernobyl Victims from Belarus, over 600 children were brought to Canada last year to get a health respite for weakened immune systems, part of the after-effects of the nuclear disaster; and

Whereas while the fund pays for the children's transportation costs to our country, the children's expenses once in Canada, are borne by the host families so in Pictou County the community came out to support both the children and host families at the 9th Annual Children of Chernobyl Fund Raising Auction;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the community for its support for this wonderful cause and commend the families who give freely of their time and money to provide respite for the children affected by the Chernobyl disaster.

RESOLUTION NO. 1110

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 on Saturday, April 26th, the 1st Westville Police Venturers, the 219th New Glasgow Army Cadets, men and machines from MacGregor Machining and Jim Purcell arrived at Lansdowne Outdoor Recreational Development Association park (LORDA) to help with the post-flood clean-up; and

Whereas joined by the Board of Directors for LORDA and several patrons of the park, a total of over 50 volunteers worked together to make sure the park could be re-opened, even if at a reduced level, on May 1st; and

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Whereas the only one of its kind in Canada, LORDA is a park made accessible for the benefit of those who are physically challenged as well as for seniors;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend the volunteers who came together to support LORDA and acknoweldge the value of this unique park for those who would be otherwise too constrained by physical limitations to fully experience the great outdoors.

RESOLUTION NO. 1111

By: Hon. Rodney MacDonald (Tourism and Culture)

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

Whereas since 1981, the Atlantic Journalism Awards has been an annual celebration of journalistic excellence and achievement in Atlantic Canada, providing awards in 23 different categories; and

Whereas in the category of Entertainment Reporting, one winner is selected from print, radio or television on the basis of creativity and journalistic merit as well as certain ingredients: novelty, drama, personalization, human interest and humour; and

Whereas Global Television's Nelson Hansen best demonstrated these qualities in his story Red Shoe Pub and was the overall winner for 2002;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Nelson Hansen on this success in entertainment reporting.

RESOLUTION NO. 1112

By: Mr. David Hendsbee (Preston)

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

Whereas since 1981, the Atlantic Journalism Awards has been an annual celebration of journalistic excellence and achievement in Atlantic Canada, providing awards in 23 different categories; and

Whereas in the category of Enterprise Reporting-Television, judges are looking for initiative, the degree to which reporters go beyond the obvious, how well issues are put in context, the perspective and how complex issues are made clear; and

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Whereas the 2002 gold award winners are Mary Munson and Alan Inkpen of CBC TV Halifax for Angela's Journey, the Angela Vecchio-Ozmon Story of Living with Cancer;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend their congratulations to Mary Munson and Alan Inkpen of CBC TV for the excellence they bring to news coverage in Nova Scotia.

RESOLUTION NO. 1113

By: Mr. David Hendsbee (Preston)

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

Whereas since 1981, the Atlantic Journalism Awards has been an annual celebration of journalistic excellence and achievement in Atlantic Canada, providing awards in 23 different categories; and

Whereas in the category of Spot News, journalists are judged on the challenges experienced in getting and filing the story, the deadline pressures, the comprehensiveness of the report and the quality of information, writing and presentation; and

Whereas this year in the Spot News - Print category, the gold award was presented to The Daily News reporters, Beth Johnston, Keith Bonnell and David Redwood for their story G-7 Tear Gas;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Beth Johnston, Keith Bonnell and David Redwood on their 2002 Atlantic Journalism Award.

RESOLUTION NO. 1114

By: Mr. David Hendsbee (Preston)

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

Whereas since 1981, the Atlantic Journalism Awards has been an annual celebration of journalistic excellence and achievement in Atlantic Canada, providing awards in 23 different categories; and

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Whereas in the category of Spot News, journalists from print, radio and television are judged on the challenges experienced in getting and filing the story, the deadline pressures, the comprehensiveness of the report and the quality of information, writing and presentation; and

Whereas this year in the Spot News - Television category, the gold award was presented to CBC TV's Tom Murphy and Phonse Jessome for Abductor Arrest;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Tom Murphy and Phonse Jessome on their 2002 Atlantic Journalism Award for spot news coverage.

RESOLUTION NO. 1115

By: Mr. David Hendsbee (Preston)

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

Whereas since 1981, the Atlantic Journalism Awards has been an annual celebration of journalistic excellence and achievement in Atlantic Canada, providing awards in 23 different categories; and

Whereas in the category of Enterprise Reporting - Print, stories and series, judges look for initiative, the degree to which reporters go beyond the obvious, how well issues are put in context, the perspective and how complex issues are made clear; and

Whereas this year in the Enterprise Reporting - Print category, the gold award was presented to a team from the Halifax Herald including: Amy Smith, Tera Camus, Susan LeBlanc, Dean Jobb and Paul Schneidereit for their series Sydney Tar Ponds;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate these journalists  - Amy Smith, Tera Camus, Susan LeBlanc, Dean Jobb and Paul Schneidereit and commend them on the care, detail and perspective they bring to issues facing Nova Scotians.

RESOLUTION NO. 1116

By: Mr. David Hendsbee (Preston)

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

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Whereas since 1981, the Atlantic Journalism Awards has been an annual celebration of journalistic excellence and achievement in Atlantic Canada, providing awards in 23 different categories; and

Whereas editorial cartoons are a visual commentary featuring both quality of drawing, argument, humour and polemic and in choosing a winner in the category of Editorial Cartooning, the judges consider the pertinence of the editorial point, the significance of the issue, the bite, humour and originality of artwork; and

Whereas for 2002, Michel de Adder of The Daily News was selected as the overall winner for his cartoon War and Peace;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Michael de Adder on this award - and for his precision skill which is both scathing and funny - depending on the day, the issue and the subject of his scrutiny!

RESOLUTION NO. 1117

By: Mr. David Hendsbee (Preston)

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

Whereas since 1981, the Atlantic Journalism Awards has been an annual celebration of journalistic excellence and achievement in Atlantic Canada, providing awards in 23 different categories; and

Whereas the Feature Photojournalism - Television award is presented to the journalist whose work displays excellence and creativity in the visual presentation of feature or human interest stories with journalistic merit with preference given to spontaneous shots over set-up shots; and

Whereas rated on composition, clarity and crispness of the photographic images, the story value of the photographs or video, as well as the imagination, persistence and creativity of the photographer, George Reeves of ATV Maritimes, won the Photojournalism Feature - Television award for Southbound Trooper II;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate George Reeves on winning the Atlantic Journalism Awards, Photojournalism Feature - Television award for 2002.

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RESOLUTION NO. 1118

By: Mr. David Hendsbee (Preston)

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

Whereas since 1981, the Atlantic Journalism Awards has been an annual celebration of journalistic excellence and achievement in Atlantic Canada, providing awards in 23 different categories; and

Whereas the video journalist Show of Work category is for television journalists acting as reporter, camera operator and editor and is awarded to the journalist displaying the most skill in reporting, shooting and editing a news story, while taking into consideration the quality of their research, writing and presentation, the degree of difficulty in getting the story as well as the composition, clarity and crispness of images;

Whereas video journalist Craig Paisley of CBC TV was selected the overall winner for his Long G-7;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Craig Paisley on receiving the Atlantic Journalism Awards, 2002 Video Journalist Award for his comprehensive coverage of the G-7 summit.

RESOLUTION NO. 1119

By: Mr. David Hendsbee (Preston)

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

Whereas since 1981, the Atlantic Journalism Awards has been an annual celebration of journalistic excellence and achievement in Atlantic Canada, providing awards in 23 different categories; and

Whereas the substance of the story, how well the story is told and the creative use of writing, photography and layout in telling the story are the criteria used to choose a winner in the category of Magazine Story; and

Whereas the article Northern Lights best fit all the criteria and Peter Evans and Larry Jenkins of Saltscapes were the overall winners;

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Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Peter Evans and Larry Jenkins for winning this 2002 Atlantic Journalism Award.

RESOLUTION NO. 1120

By: Mr. David Hendsbee (Preston)

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

Whereas since 1981, the Atlantic Journalism Awards has been an annual celebration of journalistic excellence and achievement in Atlantic Canada, providing awards in 23 different categories; and

Whereas in the category of Continuing Coverage - Television, judges look for tenacity and creativity in continuing coverage of a major, developing spot news story, including the initial story and those stories written over the days, weeks or months to follow; and

Whereas for her story Trapped Under Water, Elizabeth Chiu of ATV Halifax was the gold award winner in the Continuing Coverage - Television category of the 2002 Atlantic Journalism Award;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Ms. Chiu and acknowledge the quality of the work contending for this award.