The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Tue., Dec. 1, 1998

First Session

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 1, 1998

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Anl. Rept. of the Law Reform Commission of Nova Scotia,
Hon. J. Smith 4680
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 2243, Agric. - Farm Bus. Mgt. Council (Can.): Anne Forbes
(Lower Debert) - Chair Congrats., Hon. E. Lorraine 4680
Vote - Affirmative 4681
Res. 2244, Health - AIDS: Lives Lost - Remember, Hon. J. Smith 4681
Vote - Affirmative 4681
Res. 2245, Bus. & Cons. Serv. - Driver Safety Progs.: Updates -
Support, Hon. K. Colwell 4681
Vote - Affirmative 4682
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 2246, Lib./P.C. [N.S.] - Coalition: Debt (HRM) - Similar Avoid,
Mr. J. Holm 4682
Res. 2247, Agric. - Hog Industry: Assist. - Support, Mr. B. Taylor 4683
Vote - Affirmative 4683
Res. 2248, Lbr. - Safety (Workplace & Home): Promotion -
Priority, Hon. R. MacKinnon 4684
Vote - Affirmative 4684
Res. 2249, Devco - Coal Industry: Committee (All-Party) - Form,
Mr. R. Chisholm 4684
Res. 2250, EMO - Emerg. Serv. 911: Cost-Efficient - Congrats.,
Mr. P. MacEwan 4685
Res. 2251, Educ. - P3 Schools: True Costs - Indicate, Dr. J. Hamm 4686
Res. 2252, Educ. - Min.: True Calling (Dev. Czar) - Pursuit Urge,
Ms. E. O'Connell 4686
Res. 2253, Auction - Card Game (C.B.): Correctness - Investigate,
Mr. Charles MacDonald 4687
Res. 2254, Agric. - Hog Producers: Loan Package - Prepare,
Mr. G. Archibald 4687
Res. 2255, Sports - Canada Winter Games Fencing:
Chioke Esono-Thornhill - Selection Congrats., Ms. Y. Atwell 4688
Vote - Affirmative 4689
Res. 2256, Agric. - Hog Industry: Loan Funding - Insist, Mr. G. Moody 4689
Res. 2257, Environ. - Waste Reduction: Guys. Residents -
Commitment Recognize, Mr. R. White 4690
Vote - Affirmative 4690
Res. 2258, Health - Alstrom Syndrome: Surette Family (Belleville) -
Resolve Congrats., Mr. John Deveau 4690
Vote - Affirmative 4691
Res. 2259, Agric. - Hog Producers: Loan Assistance - Plan,
Mr. B. Taylor 4691
Res. 2260, Health - Anna. Co. Commun. Health Bd.: Promotion &
Wellness Awards - Winners Congrats., Mr. L. Montgomery 4692
Vote - Affirmative 4692
Res. 2261, Housing & Mun. Affs. - Route 233 (Prospect Peninsula):
Uses Review - Input Ensure, Mr. W. Estabrooks 4693
Res. 2262, Health - Nurses (Cardiovascular): Challenges - Address,
Dr. J. Hamm 4693
Res. 2263, Environ. - Youth Corps. Div.: Road Show - Herald,
Hon. D. Downe 4694
Vote - Affirmative 4694
Res. 2264, Lib. Party (N.S.) - Candidate Recruitment: Poor -
Excuse Bizarre, Mr. D. Dexter 4695
Res. 2265, Educ. - Schools: Communities First - Ensure, Mr. E. Fage 4695
Res. 2266, Econ. Dev. & Tourism: Culinary Competition
(Cup of Nations-Que. City): Team (N.S.) - Success Congrats.,
Mr. G. Fogarty 4696
Vote - Affirmative 4696
Res. 2267, Commun. Serv. - Fatalities Inquiry Act: Warren Sheppard,
Death of - Inquiry Seek, Mr. J. Pye 4696
Res. 2268, Heritage (Can.) - Museum Assist. Prog.: Restoration -
Support, Mr. J. Muir 4697
Res. 2269, Econ. Dev. & Tourism: Winter Works Prog. - Expand,
Mr. C. Parker 4698
Res. 2270, Justice - Firearms Regs.: Enforcement - Info. Update,
Mr. M. Scott 4699
Res. 2271, Cole Hbr.-Eastern Passage MLA: Endangered Species List -
Add, Mr. H. Fraser 4699
Res. 2272, Lbr.: Environmental Illness - Recognize, Ms. R. Godin 4700
Res. 2273, Educ. - Junior Achievement Business Game Competition
(Hfx.-04/12/98): Good Luck - Extend, Mr. G. Balser 4701
Vote - Affirmative 4701
Res. 2274, NDP (N.S.) Fin. Critic - Res. No. 2132 (Deficit Claim):
Resignation - Ponder, Mr. M. Samson 4701
Res. 2275, Sports - Hockey (Oldtimers): Tantallon Buzzards -
Congrats., Mr. W. Estabrooks 4702
Vote - Affirmative 4703
Res. 2276, Linacy (Pictou Co.) Fire Dep't.: Commun. Role - Recognize,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 4703
Vote - Affirmative 4703
Res. 2277, DND - Helicopters (Search & Rescue): Acquire - Adequate,
Mr. N. LeBlanc 4704
Vote - Affirmative 4704
Res. 2278, Sports - Football (CIAU): Eric Lapointe (Mt. Allison Univ.) -
Hec Creighton Trophy Congrats., Mr. J. Muir 4704
Vote - Affirmative 4705
Res. 2279, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Ropak Can. Inc.: Commendation
(Premier) Award (ISO 9000) - Congrats., Mr. M. Scott 4705
Vote - Affirmative 4706
Res. 2280, Educ. - Maritime Museum (Atl.): Anniv. 50th - Congrats.,
Mr. E. Fage 4706
Vote - Affirmative 4707
Res. 2281, Sports - Bench Press [World Champs. (Amberg, Ger.)]:
Lee Ann Dalling (Pictou Co.) - Success Wish, Mr. J. DeWolfe 4707
Vote - Affirmative 4707
MOTION FOR ADJOURNMENT RULE 43:
Agric. - Hog Producers: Bankruptcy - Verge, Mr. G. Archibald 4707
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 639, Health - Care: Crisis - Plan, Mr. R. Chisholm 4708
No. 640, Educ. - Student Loans: Royal Bank - Expiry, Mr. E. Fage 4709
No. 641, Lbr. - OH&S Act: Recommendations (Westray Report) -
Implement, Mr. F. Corbett 4710
No. 642, Nat. Res. - Nat. Gas: Laterals - Tolls, Dr. J. Hamm 4711
No. 643, Health - Medical Call Centre: Public Enterprise - Consider,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4712
No. 644, Justice - Firearms Registration: Regs. - Enforcement,
Mr. M. Scott 4713
No. 645, Nat. Res.: Meteghan River - Land Swap, Mr. C. Parker 4714
No. 646, Nat. Res.: Meteghan River - Land Swap, Mr. C. Parker 4715
No. 647, Agric.: Hog Industry - Assist, Mr. G. Archibald 4716
Res. 648, Educ. - Student Loans: Royal Bank Negotiations -
Fairness Ensure, Ms. E. O'Connell 4717
Res. 649, Agric. - Pork Industry: Plight - Alleviate, Mr. B. Taylor 4718
No. 650, Health - Nurse Practitioners: Plan - Delay,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4719
No. 651, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Black Commun.: Unemployment -
Address, Mr. G. Balser 4720
No. 652, Justice - Pub. Pros. Serv.: Videotaped Evidence - Guidelines,
Mr. Kevin Deveaux 4721
No. 653, Educ.: P3 Schools - Site Selection (Inv./Pictou Cos.),
Mr. E. Fage 4722
No. 654, Tech. & Sc. Sec't.: Year 2000 - Progress Report,
Mr. P. Delefes 4723
No. 655, Health - Year 2000: Progress Report - MSI Computers,
Mr. P. Delefes 4724
No. 656, Devco - Coal Industry (C.B.): Instability - Solution,
Dr. J. Hamm 4725
No. 657, Health: Environ. Health Clinic - Review (Res. No. 115),
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4726
No. 658, NSLC - Truro Store: New - Opening, Mr. J. Muir 4727
No. 659, Nat. Res. - Coastal Property: Non-Resident Ownership -
Report, Mr. W. Estabrooks 4728
No. 660, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Pictou Co.: Secondary Roads -
Upgrade, Mr. J. DeWolfe 4729
No. 661, Agric. - Farmers: Retail Milk Price (Minimum) - Impact,
Mr. John MacDonell 4730
No. 662, Agric. - Hog Industry: Monies - Provide, Mr. B. Taylor 4731
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 90, Workers' Compensation Act 4732
Hon. R. MacKinnon 4732
Mr. F. Corbett 4734
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4741
Mr. M. Baker 4742
Mr. Charles MacDonald 4750
Mr. C. Parker 4751
Mr. H. Fraser 4755
Ms. R. Godin 4757
Mr. M. Samson 4758
Dr. J. Hamm 4760
Mr. J. Pye 4761
Mr. J. DeWolfe 4763
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4764
Mr. W. Estabrooks 4765
Mr. J. Holm 4767
Dr. H. Bitter-Suermann 4770
Mr. R. Chisholm 4770
Hon. R. MacKinnon 4775
Vote - Affirmative 4777
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON BILLS AT 4:42 P.M. 4777
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 6:00 P.M. 4777
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Health - Care: Continuing - Define:
Mr. M. Baker 4778
Hon. J. Smith 4781
Dr. H. Bitter-Suermann 4783
HOUSE RECESSED AT 6:25 P.M. 4785
CWH ON BILLS RECONVENED AT 6:30 P.M. 4785
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 7:30 P.M. 4785
CWH REPORTS 4785
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. J. Smith 4786
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., Dec. 2nd at 12:00 p.m. 4787
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 43:
Agric. - Hog Producers: Bankruptcy - Verge:
Mr. G. Archibald 4787
Hon. D. Downe 4790
Hon. R. Harrison 4793
Mr. John MacDonell 4795
Mr. G. Moody 4799
Mr. G. Balser 4801
Hon. W. Gaudet 4803
Mr. H. Fraser 4805
Mr. C. Parker 4806
Mr. J. Holm 4809
Mr. E. Fage 4811
Mr. B. Taylor 4812
Mr. L. Montgomery 4814
Ms. Y. Atwell 4815
Hon. E. Lorraine 4816

[Page 4679]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, DECEMBER 1, 1998

Fifty-seventh General Assembly

First Session

12:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Ronald Russell

DEPUTY SPEAKER

Mr. Donald Chard

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we start with the daily routine, I would advise honourable members that the late debate for today was submitted by the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party and it reads as follows:

Therefore be it resolved that this Liberal Government clearly define the position on continuing care and immediately work to ensure the needs of communities, residents and workers are appropriately met.

We will be debating that resolution this evening at 6:00 p.m.

AN HON. MEMBER: Is that 8:00 p.m.?

MR. SPEAKER: No, 6:00 p.m. We will go into the moment of Adjournment at 6:00 p.m. and come back in again to the session at 6:30 p.m. That is the normal routine. What we did the other day was because of various exigencies that existed.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

4679

[Page 4680]

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table the 7th Annual Report of the Law Reform Commission of Nova Scotia for the fiscal year April 1, 1997 to March 31, 1998.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Marketing.

RESOLUTION NO. 2243

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

Whereas Anne Forbes, a partner in Marshwinds Farm at Lower Debert, Nova Scotia, has recently been elected Chair of the Canadian Farm Business Management Council; and

Whereas Ms. Forbes has served for the past two years as Chair of the Farm Management Institute of Nova Scotia and worked tirelessly for the development of farm businesses programming in the province; and

Whereas the development of our province's farm managers is vital to the success of the Nova Scotia agri-food industry;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize Anne Forbes' contribution to the advancement of farm business management within Nova Scotia and nationally and congratulate her on her appointment as Chair of the Canadian Farm Business Management Council.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 4681]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 2244

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

Whereas December 1st, today, is World AIDS Day; and

Whereas there are more than 500 reported HIV cases in Nova Scotia and more than 33 million people infected with HIV worldwide; and

Whereas the proportion of total annual reported cases of HIV infected among women and injected drug users is increasing in Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that members in the House of Assembly take time to remember those who have lost their battle with AIDS and support the ongoing fight with the rest of the world in the prevention, education and research of HIV/AIDS.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice and passage.

MR. SPEAKER: There is a request for waiver of notice.

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 Business and Consumer Services.

RESOLUTION NO. 2245

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

[Page 4682]

Whereas the Minister's Advisory Group on Driver Training and Testing has been established as part of the Department of Business and Consumer Services ongoing research into drivers' safety programs; and

Whereas the group is made up of representatives from key shareholders groups involved in driver testing and training, including the Insurance Bureau of Canada, the Nova Scotia Safety Council, and other important professionals; and

Whereas this group's mandate is to review best practices in driving theory, driver attitude and behaviour in order to enhance the province's driver training and testing programs;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize and support the department's commitment to continue the upgrading of the province's driver safety programs for the safety of all Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: There is a request for waiver of notice.

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 Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 2246

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

Whereas a study of nine Canadian municipalities found the Halifax Regional Municipality the only city with a debt which has grown in recent years; and

Whereas much of the sky-rocketing debt can be attributed to amalgamation; and

[Page 4683]

Whereas amalgamation was a brain-child of the Tories and put into place by the Liberals;

Therefore be it resolved that the Liberal and Tory coalition endeavour to stay away from hatching similar eggs in future for the good of all people in this province.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 2247

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

Whereas Canadian farmers paid $4.2 billion in income taxes between 1993 and 1996; and

Whereas Nova Scotia hog farmers produce the best quality pork anywhere in Canada and probably North America; and

Whereas the hog industry is suffering from global market forces and are certainly not being helped by the continued price of pork being charged by our grocery giants;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature recognize that farmers feed us all and that we support the Minister of Agriculture in his efforts to assist the hog industry here in Nova Scotia before it is forced to shut down.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There is 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 Labour.

[Page 4684]

RESOLUTION NO. 2248

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

Whereas a recent study on unintentional injuries, commissioned by SmartRisk, revealed that injuries cost Canadians more than $8.7 billion a year; and

Whereas the report, entitled The Economic Burden of Unintentional Injury in Canada, cited that each year 47,000 Canadians are left either partially or totally disabled despite the fact that the majority of these injuries are preventable; and

Whereas this landmark study found that, every day, 6,000 Canadians are injured and, every hour of every day, 250 injuries are sustained, and no individual is exempt from the real possibility of being hurt;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House make the promotion and the awareness of safety in the workplace, and at home, a top priority in a collective effort to stem the tide of this silent epidemic.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice and passage without debate.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 2249

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

Whereas representatives of all three Parties joined to work with Finance Department officials and press upon the federal government Nova Scotia's united support for the Maersk-Sealand bid; and

[Page 4685]

Whereas the federal Minister responsible for Devco has not even replied to an invitation from the Cape Breton Regional Municipality to visit Cape Breton and discuss the future of the coal industry; and

Whereas there has been no response from the federal government to this House's unanimous call for investment in the coal industry;

Therefore be it resolved that the Leaders of the three Parties in this House should forthwith form an all-Party committee to work with the Cape Breton Members of Parliament, labour, business and community representatives, to bring coal industry concerns forcefully to the federal government's attention.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to seek 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 Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 2250

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

Whereas the 911 emergency service has been implemented throughout Nova Scotia at no added cost to the user; and

Whereas the Saskatchewan NDP Government has announced it will cost residents of Saskatchewan to receive this service and is imposing user-pay fees to finance it; and

Whereas the residential phone customers will pay an extra dollar monthly on their phone bills toward the cost of setting up a dispatch centre in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Government of Nova Scotia for setting up a cost-efficient and effective 911 emergency service unlike the one set up by the socialist NDP Government in Saskatchewan.

[Page 4686]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 2251

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

Whereas the Minister of Education on December 17, 1997, announced 36 new schools and 57 refits for $360 million and an annual lease payment of $25 million; and

Whereas these figures are no longer relevant as one project alone is costing over 8 per cent of the total; and

Whereas school boards, if not the minister, know that his funding estimates are flawed;

Therefore be it resolved the Minister of Education indicate the true cost of the P3 process and provide a realistic, affordable approach to building our new schools.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 2252

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

Whereas school sites and school construction priorities were decided locally when this government took office in 1993; and

Whereas this government has seized control of both decisions and given private developers veto powers over matters that directly affect children's education; and

Whereas teachers, parents and students in communities throughout Nova Scotia are questioning and opposing this massive centralization of power in the hands of the Education Minister;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge the Premier to let the present Education Minister pursue his true calling as a development czar, and to direct that communities regain control over vital school decisions.

[Page 4687]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Inverness.

RESOLUTION NO. 2253

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

Whereas the good citizens of Inverness County are known to be a patient and kind people; and

Whereas their patience and kindness has turned to discontent over the recent resolution, passed in this House, that names Tarabish as the official card game of Cape Breton Island; and

Whereas everybody in Inverness County knows, the oldest and more widely enjoyed card game in Cape Breton is, in fact, Auction and not Tarabish;

[12:15 p.m.]

Therefore be it resolved that this House get to the bottom of this controversy and decide that Auction is indeed the true Cape Breton card game by establishing either a Royal Commission, a public inquiry or the favourite tool of the NDP for gauging public opinion, an all-Party committee travelling roadshow.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 2254

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

[Page 4688]

Whereas the Nova Scotia hog farmers have been consistent leaders across Canada in the quality of hogs they send to market; and

Whereas $100 million in revenues for the Nova Scotia economy is generated annually by the hog industry; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Government cannot afford any additional job losses or economic activity;

Therefore be it resolved that Nova Scotia's Minister of Agriculture and Marketing and the federal Minister of Agriculture be prepared to immediately come forth with a loan package enabling hog producers in Nova Scotia to sustain their industry while preventing the loss of up to 1,500 jobs.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 2255

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

Whereas Chioke Esono-Thornhill has been selected to the Nova Scotia 1999 Canada Winter Games for fencing; and

Whereas Chioke is the youngest member selected to the men's team for the Winter Games which will be held next February in Cornerbrook, Newfoundland; and

Whereas Chioke Esono-Thornhill is the only African male representing the Province of Nova Scotia in this category;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Chioke Esono-Thornhill for his self-discipline and hard work in achieving this status.

[Page 4689]

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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 West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2256

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

Whereas both the federal and provincial governments are facing a fundamental question today, which is, do they want a hog industry in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas answering the question should be yes, because of the economic revenues and jobs provided as a result of the hog industry in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas $33 million worth of live hogs are shipped to Armstrong's in Kingston, Larsen's in Berwick, as well as to the Antigonish abattoir on an annual basis;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier immediately, in consultation with his Minister of Agriculture, insist upon funding through a loan that is producer-friendly that would carry the Nova Scotia hog industry through their worst period in time since the Depression years of the 1930's.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

[Page 4690]

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

RESOLUTION NO. 2257

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

Whereas the District of Guysborough has already reached and passed the goal of diverting 50 per cent of solid waste from landfills; and

Whereas in fact, the District of Guysborough has the highest rate of diverting trash in the eastern solid waste region; and

Whereas local officials give credit to successful education programs and help from the provincial cost-sharing programs in reaching this goal;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the residents of Guysborough for their commitment to waste reduction and congratulate them on their contribution to saving our environment.

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 Yarmouth.

RESOLUTION NO. 2258

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

Whereas Alstrom Syndrome is a childhood disease that can cause early blindness, childhood obesity, heart problems, diabetes and kidney failure; and

[Page 4691]

Whereas Alstrom Syndrome, although rare, occurs with a high frequency in the Acadian population, and at least 10 cases have been traced back to an Acadian couple who lived in Yarmouth County in the 17th Century; and

Whereas in 1995, the Surrette family of Belleville, Yarmouth County, whose daughter, Cheryl, has the disease, joined other Alstrom families from all over the world to form the Society for Alstrom Syndrome Families, which offers support from its website to the families and promotes awareness among doctors;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Leland, Sandra and Cheryl Surette for their great resolve in dealing with Cheryl's illness while reaching out with the hand of compassion and understanding to other afflicted families.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver. It is a very long resolution.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 2259

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

Whereas Nova Scotia pork producers are on the verge of bankruptcy unless a loan package from both the federal and provincial governments is provided very soon; and

Whereas global market forces following the Asian economic crisis have pushed Nova Scotia hog producers to the brink; and

Whereas both the federal and provincial governments must clearly understand that if Nova Scotia's hog industry is shut down because of government's failure to address the problem, a ripple effect on the provincial economy will occur;

[Page 4692]

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier and his Minister of Agriculture immediately set forth a plan to provide loan assistance to hog producers before 1,500 jobs vanish here in Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 2260

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

Whereas the Annapolis County Community Health Board recently honoured four local citizens with the Health Promotion and Wellness Award; and

Whereas receiving these awards was Vera Hankinson of Bridgetown, Diane MacFayden of Middleton, Janice Roscoe of Lawrencetown and Howard Selig of Middleton; and

Whereas the recipients were recognized for their volunteer work promoting health, nutrition and community service;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend congratulations to all the winners of the Health Promotion and Wellness Award and encourage them to continue their important work in their communities.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

[Page 4693]

RESOLUTION NO. 2261

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

Whereas residents from the communities along Route 233 are very concerned about the future use of the old watershed area known as the Prospect Peninsula; and

Whereas a review of proposed uses is now underway; and

Whereas citizens must continue to feel that they have input into this review process;

Therefore be it resolved that this government ensure that the wishes of the public on the Prospect Road are heeded.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 2262

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

Whereas the Canadian Council of Cardiovascular Nurses recently participated in a national forum to address the serious issues and challenges facing Canada's health care system; and

Whereas Nova Scotia nurses as founding members of this national organization are very active in professional education, health promotion and nursing research; and

Whereas the Canadian Council of Cardiovascular Nurses are urging the federal government as well as this Liberal Government to stop making unilateral and far-reaching changes to the health care system;

Therefore be it resolved that this Liberal Government commit to working closely with the Nova Scotia branch of the Canadian Council of Cardiovascular Nurses in addressing the many challenges facing Nova Scotia's nursing profession including recruitment and retention, professional development and nursing research.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

[Page 4694]

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

Is it agreed.

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of the Environment.

RESOLUTION NO. 2263

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

Whereas the Department of the Environment's Youth Corps Division has this week begun its funding and resource roadshow; and

Whereas its objectives are to inform Nova Scotia companies, communities and other organizations about environmental funding, programs and resources; and

Whereas these programs and resources provide much needed youth employment through the Youth Corps Program of the Department of the Environment;

Therefore be it resolved that certain members opposite in this House refrain from condemning this initiative as a waste of money and herald it as a valuable program which is not only good for the environment but provides jobs for Nova Scotia youth.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

[Page 4695]

RESOLUTION NO. 2264

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

Whereas in today's paper the Premier is reported to have said that Frank Magazine is one of the primary reasons why the Liberal Party cannot attract quality candidates; and

Whereas the Premier has in the past said, "How bizarre is bizarre, this is off the scale of bizarreness"; and

Whereas the Premier is also quoted as saying he is "a desperate man";

Therefore be it resolved that this excuse for poor candidate recruitment is both bizarre and desperate, not to mention a slap in the face to every member who has sat on the government benches.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cumberland North.

RESOLUTION NO. 2265

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

Whereas time after time the Minister of Education has defended the right of communities to be heard on school board issues, especially new sites selection; and

Whereas the parents, students and residents in Inverness County and Pictou County justly feel they have not been listened to on school amalgamation realignment; and

Whereas the minister continues to defend the undefendable;

Therefore be it resolved that the minister come down from Cloud Nine, land on Earth and ensure communities do come first in Nova Scotia and their concerns are listened to and addressed properly.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 4696]

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 2266

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

Whereas recently the Cup of Nations Culinary Competition was held in Quebec City; and

Whereas Nova Scotia entered a team composed of Eric Mantuchet of White Point Beach Lodge, Christophe Leuzeux of the World Trade and Convention Centre, Claude Aucoin of the Digby Pines, and Nova Scotia Community College instructor Hans Wicki; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia team won the silver medal for their offering of salmon, lobster, scallops and blueberries;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend congratulations to the members of the Nova Scotia culinary team and wish them every success in their future culinary 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 Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 2267

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

[Page 4697]

Whereas Warren Edward Sheppard died at the hands of fellow residents in a small options home in March 1996; and

Whereas since that time the Sheppard family has called for an inquiry into his demise so that others might be protected as he was not; and

Whereas the government has refused to provide any information into this incident and turned down the recent Freedom of Information application made by the Sheppards;

Therefore be it resolved that this House call upon the Minister of Community Services to find compassion and reason and seek an inquiry under the Fatality Inquiries Act into the death of Warren Edward Sheppard.

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 Truro-Bible Hill.

RESOLUTION NO. 2268

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

Whereas the Canadian Museum Association has requested that the federal government restore funding for the Museum Assistance Program to its original level of $15 million; and

Whereas the Department of Canadian Heritage has addressed only two of the five recommendations put to its Committee on Finance in its pre-budget hearing and did not address the recommendations that funds be made available to train youth to work in heritage sites; and

Whereas cultural heritage is a growing economic field in Nova Scotia and over one-half of the visitors to our province stopped at a heritage site;

[Page 4698]

Therefore be it resolved that the Ministers of Education and Culture, and Economic Development and Tourism show support for heritage institutions in Nova Scotia by writing to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Honourable Sheila Copps, and request that funding for the Museum Assistance Program be restored to its original level of $15 million.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2269

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

Whereas the Department of Economic Development and Tourism is offering wage subsidies to employers through the Nova Scotia Winter Works Employment Program; and

Whereas this program is being made available only in certain areas of the province, namely in ridings with Liberal members; and

Whereas the program would also be useful in areas like Pictou, Hants, Colchester, Cumberland and the Valley, which are now excluded;

Therefore be it resolved that in the name of fairness and good government the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism expand the Winter Works Program to cover the entire province like the Summer Works Program.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

[Page 4699]

Also the notice is a little long.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cumberland South.

[12:30 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 2270

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

Whereas federal Justice officials were quoted in Friday's edition of the National Post saying a kinder, gentler approach would be taken in enforcing new firearms regulations in parts of the country where stiff opposition is taking place; and

Whereas despite our Premier and Minister of Justice remaining silent on this issue, probably because the Premier played a significant role in the drafting of the new firearms regulations while serving as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice; and

Whereas despite the silence from the government benches, thousands and thousands of Nova Scotians have voiced their immense displeasure with the new firearms regulations time and time again;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier and his Minister of Justice provide Nova Scotians with up-to-date information as to whether the leniency rules will apply here in this province, or whether Nova Scotia gun owners will be punished because of this Liberal Government's exceptionally silent approach towards this issue.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Antigonish.

RESOLUTION NO. 2271

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

Whereas on Friday, November 27th, the Society for the Preservation of Endangered Species held a fund-raising dinner at the Westin Hotel; and

[Page 4700]

Whereas the master of ceremonies, after having introduced the dignitaries present, asked if he had omitted anyone whereupon a voice in the audience uttered, you missed Kevin Deveaux; and

Whereas the MC responded, Kevin Deveaux, who is he?;

Therefore be it resolved that the NDP caucus, in an effort to save their member from extinction, mount a campaign to have Mr. Kevin Deveaux placed on the endangered species list. (Laughter)

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank.

RESOLUTION NO. 2272

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

Whereas all Nova Scotians deserve to live full, meaningful, and healthful lives in the beauty of our province; and

Whereas the events at Camp Hill Hospital brought national attention to the issues around environmental illness; and

Whereas hundreds of Nova Scotians were made ill through the experience of working at the Camp Hill Hospital, many of whom remain in suffering to this day;

Therefore be it resolved that this government should take immediate and concrete steps to recognize environmental illness as a serious and debilitating illness and accept its responsibility, as an employer, for this workplace-related illness.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: There is a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

[Page 4701]

RESOLUTION NO. 2273

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

Whereas 16 high schools from across the province are set to compete in the Junior Achievement Business Game Competition on December 4th in Halifax; and

Whereas this competition will allow 160 students to compete in an industry computer simulation; and

Whereas the promotion and development of entrepreneurial skills in our youth is a long-range strategy for ensuring a viable economy;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend good luck and best wishes to all competitors.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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. 2274

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

Whereas last week, the NDP member for Halifax Chebucto held his own little news conference in the hall outside of this Chamber; and

Whereas the NDP Finance Critic gleefully announced that the Liberals were pulling a "fast one" and passed out photocopies of a resolution he claimed showed a $184 million deficit; and

[Page 4702]

Whereas if the NDP member actually did his homework, or even read the resolution, he may have understood the number was about money spent last year, which was matched by revenues;

Therefore be it resolved that unless it was the NDP's intent to fear-monger in their lust for power, the NDP Leader should immediately consider asking for the resignation of his Finance Critic and caucus research staff for not getting their facts straight.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 2275

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

Whereas oldtimers' hockey encourages camaraderie for hockey stars of past days; and

Whereas the true spirit of oldtimers' hockey comes to the forefront during tournament play; and

Whereas the Tantallon Buzzards Hockey Club travelled to the Prince Edward Island Oldtimers Tournament this past weekend and captured the championship for their division;

Therefore be it resolved that this House offer its congratulations to the Tantallon Buzzards as excellent ambassadors of oldtimers' hockey.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver without debate.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 4703]

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. 2276

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

Whereas the Linacy Fire Department in Pictou County is having an exceptionally eventful year in 1998, with still one month to go; and

Whereas the Linacy fire chief's annual report recently outlined a number of initiatives undertaken by the department in 1998 that included the Civic Address Signage Program, as well as rewiring of the fire hall, allowing for it to become an emergency centre in the event of a lengthy power outage; and

Whereas the Linacy Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary also played a pivotal role in raising funds enabling Linacy to be able to soon purchase a new piece of fire apparatus;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature recognize the roles played by small community rural fire departments across Nova Scotia, such as Linacy, and wish them every success in their ongoing efforts to make their communities a safer place to live.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice and passage without debate.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North on an introduction.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to recognize that today is International AIDS Day and in the west gallery of this Legislature is a well-known activist by the name of Eric Smith. I would like for him to receive the warm welcome of this Legislature. (Applause)

[Page 4704]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.

RESOLUTION NO. 2277

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

Whereas the motor vessel Lady Helen out of West Pubnico became grounded last week on rocks off Little Hope Island in Queens County and sent out a distress signal; and

Whereas a rescue was conducted by a quarter century old Sea King helicopter based in Shearwater, as the aging Labrador helicopters based in Greenwood are all grounded; and

Whereas the federal Liberal Government cancelled the contract the previous government had signed to provide a new fleet of search and rescue helicopters for Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly call on Ottawa to stop playing political games with Armed Forces and civilian lives and fast-track the acquisition of adequate search and rescue helicopters.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice and that the question be put without debate.

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 Truro-Bible Hill.

RESOLUTION NO. 2278

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

Whereas Mount Allison University student and athlete Eric Lapointe won the Hec Creighton Trophy as Canadian university football's outstanding player in 1998; and

[Page 4705]

Whereas this is the second time Eric Lapointe has earned this award and it is his third national honour, having been named the CIAU's outstanding rookie in 1995; and

Whereas his awards are a testimony to the high calibre of university football played by all teams in the Atlantic University Football Conference;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend congratulations to Eric Lapointe on his individual award and to the AUFC universities for demonstrating excellence on their playing fields as well as in their classrooms and laboratories.

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 Cumberland South.

RESOLUTION NO. 2279

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

Whereas Ropak Canada Incorporated, one of approximately 150 corporations in Nova Scotia to achieve ISO 9000 certifications, recently received further accolades recognizing their high standards of quality assurance; and

Whereas Ropak Canada was presented with the Premier's Commendation Award, recognizing it as one of the top ISO 9000 companies in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas this recognition will help the company secure future contracts and business;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Gerry Archibald, Manager of Quality and Productivity; Plant Manager Gary Dalton; and all other management and staff of Ropak Canada Incorporated for their commitment to excellence, and wish them every future success.

[Page 4706]

Mr. Speaker, I ask for 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 Cumberland North.

RESOLUTION NO. 2280

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

Whereas this December the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic celebrates its 50th Anniversary; and

Whereas over the past five decades the museum has achieved a worldwide reputation for its extensive collections of Nova Scotia maritime history, including exhibits of the Halifax Explosion and Titanic artifacts; and

Whereas the museum is planning several celebratory events, including an open house and birthday party on December 15th;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature join in the celebration by extending our sincere congratulations to the dedicated staff and friends of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, who have helped preserve our rich Maritime history for the past half century.

Mr. Speaker, I respectfully request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 4707]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2281

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

Whereas Pictou County's Lee Ann Dalling is headed for Amberg, Germany to participate in the World Bench Press Championships between December 11th to 13th; and

Whereas the championship in Amberg, Germany will mark Lee Ann's fourth trip to the world competition; and

Whereas Lee Ann is being assisted greatly by many community groups, businesses and volunteers, including the Pictou County Elite Athlete Association;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature applaud Lee Ann for her many efforts in three previous world championship events, and wish her the best of luck as she attempts to bring home a gold medal from Amberg, Germany this year.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for 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.

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I wish to move that the business of the House be set aside at the time of adjournment today for the purpose of discussing a matter of urgent public importance under the provisions of Rule 43, one of the Rules and Forms of Procedure of the House of Assembly. I refer to the dire financial situation faced today by hog producers across Nova Scotia, who, as I speak, are on the verge of bankruptcy as a result of global market forces following the Asian economic crisis. Nova Scotia hog producers are

[Page 4708]

presenting losing about $75 for each hog shipped to market. The hog industry generates over $100 million annually and employs over 1,500 Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I provided your office with the official two hours' notice which is required for an emergency debate to take place today. I therefore move that the business of the House be set aside for the purpose of dealing with the very urgent concerns faced by hog producers in Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would just add our caucus' support for this motion.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, we would concur with the request of the member from the Third Party.

MR. SPEAKER: Very well. The debate will take place at 8:00 p.m. this evening and the late debate will be put over until Thursday.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The time is 12:44 p.m., Question Period will terminate at 1:44 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HEALTH - CARE: CRISIS - PLAN

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I will direct my question, if I may, to the Minister of Health. When the House opened this fall, we knew that the Department of Health budget was over by $30 million. We have since found out that there are debts in some of the regional hospitals, in particular the QE II, of over $150 million. The response from this minister and the government is to call on the federal government to bail them out. Last week, the federal Minister of Health was here and clearly turned them down. My question for the Minister of Health is given the fact that the federal government has indicated a lack of

[Page 4709]

willingness to bail the government out on their health care crisis, what is the minister's and his government's plan?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we have been working with the regional boards and the hospitals to work out a three-year business plan. This is going along well. There are difficulties, because the underfunding in the health care system has really impacted on the hospitals quite dramatically. I had a private meeting with Minister Rock when he was here, and we have had ongoing discussions. They have not turned us down, that there would not be funding that would help to address this issue. Certainly in the next year's federal budget, there is a commitment to do that.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I will go back to the Minister of Health, and ask him, the federal government has thrown around the total sum of $1 billion that it may consider to help the provinces. That would mean about $38 million for the Province of Nova Scotia, far short in dealing with the overall crisis. I want to ask the Minister of Health, what is his plan to deal with the outstanding financial crisis in the health field in the Province of Nova Scotia?

[12:45 p.m.]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we are working on a plan with other departments of government. We have a team in place and we are meeting with Ottawa. We are identifying priorities and trying to focus on several particular issues. We are not all over the board and asking for big handouts. We are focused and showing them ways that we need support with the underfunded health care system in this province.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary is to the Premier. The Premier ran the spring election campaign on one election plank, and that was health care; yet, he is unable to provide a plan to Nova Scotians. I want to ask the Premier, will he explain to Nova Scotians why when in the spring it was a priority, he can't now in the fall give them an indication of how he is going to solve the crisis facing the health care system in this province?

HON. RUSSELL MACLELLAN, Q.C. (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I assured the people of Nova Scotia in the spring, as the Leader of the Opposition said, that health care is a priority. It remains a priority and we are going to provide first-rate health care to the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland North.

EDUC. - STUDENT LOANS: ROYAL BANK - EXPIRY

MR. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Education Minister. Mr. Minister, the gravest situation for the future of this province will occur over the next month, and that situation is on December 31st; the agreement on student loans will expire with the

[Page 4710]

Royal Bank. Mr. Minister, are you prepared to tell the House today, if that agreement is not re-signed, what will the province do?

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, there is no question the member opposite raises an important issue. We have a private sector partner lending some $40 million so that students can access post-secondary education in Nova Scotia, and we intend to conclude an agreement with them at the bargaining table and have that agreement extended beyond the date of December 31, 1998.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Education. Mr. Minister, that is not good enough. The CIBC had to quit because you wouldn't negotiate with them. The Royal Bank is prepared, on December 31st, to terminate discussions with them. Is this minister prepared to lay before the House today, what is the plan if the Royal Bank does not accept? Will this province underwrite the student loans for 1998?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, the answer to this question is the same as the answer just given. We are sitting down at a negotiating table and we are attempting to find and strike a mutually beneficial agreement that will benefit thousands of students in Nova Scotia.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the minister knows since this government took power, tuition has risen by 54 per cent. There is no bursary; the default rate is 32 per cent in this province, the highest in the country. Is this minister prepared to ensure the people of Nova Scotia, and especially the students, that we have a workable student loan program as of January 1, 1999?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, we have many students in our province - in fact, a higher percentage than most provinces - accessing high-quality, post-secondary education. We will do absolutely everything in our power to make sure that those dreams are realized by students in our province wherever they study throughout the world.

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

LBR. - OH&S ACT:

RECOMMENDATIONS (WESTRAY REPORT) - IMPLEMENT

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Labour. Today is the one year anniversary of Justice Richard's report into the Westray mining explosion. This government committed to accepting all 74 of Judge Richard's recommendations but in many cases it has failed. Recommendation No. 74, for example, says the province should ensure company officers and directors are held accountable under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. My question to the Minister of Labour is you accepted this recommendation, why haven't you implemented the necessary changes to the Act?

[Page 4711]

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. As the honourable member may very well be aware, we are making progress on that particular report. Several of the recommendations have been implemented and we will continue to work until all of the recommendations have been implemented.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my supplementary is to the Minister of Labour. The minister knows the burden of proof by the Crown is more onerous in this province than in any other jurisdiction. Why is the minister supporting weakened laws that let corporate directors get away with injuring and killing workers, against Judge Richard's direction?

MR. MACKINNON: I don't.

MR. CORBETT: It is an awfully curt answer for a very serious problem. Through you to the Minister of Labour, again, Mr. Speaker. The government told the advisory council it will not reopen OH&S to make changes, my question to the minister - why did you say publicly you would implement these changes while privately you were working against them?

MR. MACKINNON: That statement is not correct, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

NAT. RES. - NAT. GAS: LATERALS - TOLLS

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. On November 10th, I asked the Premier if he was aware that the toll that Nova Scotians will pay for the transportation of gas went up to 73 cents and if that was due to the industrial bypass. The Premier said, "I cannot say this is the case.". Will the Premier now admit that the toll is 73 cents and, as Maritimes & Northeast has said, it is due to the cost of the laterals because the industrial bypass is allowing major consumers not to contribute the cost of those laterals?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what I can tell the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party is that whatever the toll is, it is going to be 20 per cent cheaper in Nova Scotia than it will be in New Brunswick.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, this Premier talks about his government getting a 10 per cent discount; he talks about a $2 million rebate on 60 cents. Will this Premier commit that the agreements that were reached, giving Nova Scotia discounts at 60 per cent, now result with those discounts being applied to 73 cents, that Nova Scotians will again pay 60 cents for the gas, exactly where we began?

[Page 4712]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we are hopeful that tolls will come down, not go up. Once the infrastructure is paid for, then the actual value of the tolls will start to come down. You cannot freeze tolls that companies are going to charge; if you do that, then you are probably going to freeze them up, rather than down.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, well, we are all waiting for the Premier's prediction for the tolls to go down, because they are going up. By way of final supplementary. Will the Premier confirm today that with the earliest date that the URB will report is May, that the size of the laterals in this province are going to be determined without that very useful information because this Premier and this government delayed URB hearings?

THE PREMIER: I am not really clear on what very useful information the honourable member refers to, but it probably will be approximately May or June before the URB does report.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - MEDICAL CALL CENTRE:

PUBLIC ENTERPRISE - CONSIDER

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. It seems that the minister can't manage our health care system, so he is turning to private businesses for help. Although he claims that the proposed call-in health centre isn't a move toward privatization, the very idea of this project came from MedCan, a private company whose main interest is the bottom line, not health care. My question. Why hasn't the minister considered administering such a program through the public health system as required by the Canada Health Act.

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, just to correct a few misconceptions there that she is seeding, this was not an idea of MedCan. Similar programs have been introduced in New Brunswick and other jurisdictions and there is much interest in this, how to improve access into health care. Before Medicare, and since Medicare, we have many profit groups delivering services. Long-term care sector would be the first example. How this will roll out and how this will look in the times ahead as we improve access to our health care system is yet to be determined. We are following the government's procedures . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Halifax Needham, your first supplementary.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Well, Mr. Speaker, we need to invest in health care jobs. We need a strong public health care system, but since this call centre was first proposed, the number of jobs projected has gone from 300 to a dozen. My question is, how will the

[Page 4713]

minister guarantee that jobs in such a call centre would be any more secure than jobs in other call centres we have seen in this province?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we are talking about a pilot project from the Department of Health. As the Minister of Health, that is what I am talking about. Any other developments, larger, 200 or 300 jobs, that is for the Economic Development and Tourism Minister and other initiatives. We are following the government's process, the procurement process, we have proposals of interest. Eight companies have applied. We will evaluate them, they will be put in place. They will be integrated and be part of a comprehensive, integrated health care system.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, since the minister has managed to find $2 million to $3 million to set up a call centre, my question is, why doesn't he consider investing that money where it is really needed - in face to face public health care services?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, health care is a continuum of care and there are people who work behind the scenes and there are people who work in the front lines. For that honourable member to stand and put down people who keep the machinery running and are there at night when physicians are not on call on occasion. This is access into the health care system and this is a sophisticated system and it will work. We are looking at it and may or may not adopt it.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland South.

JUSTICE - FIREARMS REGISTRATION: REGS. - ENFORCEMENT

MR. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice. Today is a sad day for thousands of Nova Scotians as the minister is well aware. National firearms registration takes place today, this being the first day of this new Act being in place. Can the minister tell me how rigidly the new regulations will be enforced here in Nova Scotia.

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, there is a difference of opinion. I think this is a great day, this is a great step. This is what the people of Canada want. Over 70 per cent of people want some registration and gun control. We are working with the federal government. It is on a fee for service basis. It will be done right, it will be done fairly, as other programs are that are administered under the Department of Justice. The choice is, if the province does not do it, to let someone else do it and we prefer that we do it.

MR. SCOTT: By regulation. Has the Minister of Justice been provided with any information from Ottawa on enforcement measures, in light of Friday's article in the National Post which said federal authorities will take a kinder, gentler approach to enforcing new regulations where they have received the most opposition?

[Page 4714]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, that article, I am sure, was written with the understanding that already Nova Scotia would be dealing with their people in a kind and compassionate way.

MR. SCOTT: Will the minister tell Nova Scotians today, will we be treated with this kinder approach or will we fall under the stricter approach because the Nova Scotia Government refused to speak up for the people of this province?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for his question. I think that is a valid concern. Certainly, the system is in place, it is running. If you go in today or tomorrow to buy a gun, it will be registered. The confidentiality will be protected, but people in Nova Scotia can rest assured that today things will be safer. They will be administered fairly and treated with confidentiality, where confidentiality is an issue.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

NAT. RES.: METEGHAN RIVER - LAND SWAP

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Natural Resources. Mr. Minister, it has been brought to our attention that the province is negotiating a land swap for frontage along the Meteghan River for Crown land between Little Wentworth and Wentworth Lake in Digby County. I would like to ask the minister, what does he know about the proposed deal and does he support it?

[1:00 p.m.]

HON. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. I think in 1996 Friends of the Meteghan River had entered into negotiations with the Department of Natural Resources relative to the swap of some lands and, of course, Natural Resources is always dealing with communities and organizations relative to land transactions.

MR. PARKER: As the minister may know, the Wentworth Lake area contains mature stands of Acadian old-growth forests, hardwoods and hemlock. My question for the minister is, will the province ensure the ecological value of this property is evaluated before the province agrees to a land swap?

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, that file, the last negotiations we had, or the last correspondence was on February of this year and there has been nothing since then. I am not sure whether that file is active or not at this time.

[Page 4715]

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, as you know, land trades are generally undertaken in the best public interests and they are only done with the approval of Cabinet. My question is, what steps will you be taking to ensure that this deal will not go through unless there is a benefit to the people of Nova Scotia?

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, this deal will be no different than any other deal relative to our department. We will put the deal through if it is in the best interests of the community and the people of Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West, a new question.

NAT. RES.: METEGHAN RIVER - LAND SWAP

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to turn my attention this time to the Premier, also on this land exchange deal. First of all, I have a memo I want to table. It is a letter from a manager of acquisition at the Department of Natural Resources and it states, "This has the potential to blow up real good. Our own staff said no but after pressure from Minister Wayne Gaudet, Cabinet said to go ahead with this exchange.".

So my question for the Premier is, Mr. Speaker, why would he allow the political interests of a single minister to sidetrack the advice and the process of an entire department?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would ask the honourable member to table the letter and I would refer the question to the Minister of Natural Resources.

HON. KENNETH MACASKILL: Again, Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, as I stated earlier, the file has not been active since February of this year, nor do I know if it will become active.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, my question back to the Premier, that tabled document is April of this year. Mr. Premier, the people involved in this land swap had donated money to the Liberal Party. They have donated money to the minister in his riding. Is there an attempt here at influence on this land deal? (Applause)

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to refer that question to the Minister of Natural Resources. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I am not aware of any contributions that Mr. Lombard made to any Party. However, that has not entered into our negotiations. If it has, it would be completely ignored. When the interest arises relative to that file, it will be opened and then we will move one way or another on it at that time.

[Page 4716]

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, again to the Premier, your minister has allowed political persuasion to interfere with the better judgement of a department, threatening old-growth forests in this province. Mr. Premier, will you tell the House this deal is not going to happen? Will you ask for the minister's resignation?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, any proposal like that is given very careful scrutiny. I can assure the honourable member that this incident is no exception and I will not be asking for the minister's resignation.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

AGRIC.: HOG INDUSTRY - ASSIST

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: My question is for the Minister of Agriculture and Marketing. Mr. Speaker, you well realize the hog industry contributes over $100 million to Nova Scotia. The hog producer's cost of production is a minimum of $140 per hog; currently they are selling for less than $60 a hog. I was wondering if the minister has any plans to help and assist the hog industry in Nova Scotia?

HON. EDWARD LORRAINE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question because that shows his interest in the agricultural industry in this province. I did meet with the hog industry on a number of occasions. We did increase from $2.00 to $3.50 to their stabilization of the risk management fund and we did increase again from $3.50 to $7.00. We now have a proposal that we will be looking at.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Agriculture and Marketing. Will the minister and the government be looking into this proposal in the near future?

MR. LORRAINE: Definitely.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Premier, would the Premier indicate whether he supports his minister's efforts in the hog industry or whether he does not support the minister's efforts in the hog industry?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this is a serious problem for hog farmers in Nova Scotia. We have to look at this very carefully. The federal government supposedly is considering a very important measure and we will be reporting back further.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

[Page 4717]

EDUC. - STUDENT LOANS:

ROYAL BANK NEGOTIATIONS - FAIRNESS ENSURE

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. The minister said a little while ago in the House here this afternoon that he would do everything in his power to get a deal with the Royal Bank on student loans. Of course, the issue is whether or not the government has any power to do that.

Mr. Speaker, my question to the Minister of Education is, what is the minister doing to ensure that the sole loan provider won't use its monopoly to favour already healthy profits at the expense of Nova Scotian students?

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: I am not sure I understand the latter part of that question, to favour an already healthy province, I am not sure I understand that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Profits.

MR. HARRISON: The question (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. HARRISON: The question is, are we negotiating with our partner? Are we sitting down at the table trying to strike a deal that benefits Nova Scotia? We are doing just that, Mr. Speaker.

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, that was singularly unenlightening since the question arises of what possible tools the government has to negotiate with. So my first supplementary to the minister is this. Does he plan to be bullied into giving away the province's right to designate the programs that get loans in order to get a deal with the Royal Bank?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, it is our intention to sit at the table and to negotiate from the point of view of what is in the best interests of the students of this province and we intend to do just that. Our private sector partner loans over $40 million to some 15,000 students. We expect to negotiate terms that benefit the Province of Nova Scotia and the students of Nova Scotia.

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I must ask the minister then, because I don't hear anything there, what possible contingency plan does the minister have to ensure real negotiation because the Royal Bank may come out with a costly and unfair solution for students?

[Page 4718]

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite will know, as do the student leaders in this province, that we are engaged in harmonization discussions with federal government partners on a harmonized Canada-Nova Scotia Student Loan Program. We intend to negotiate in good faith with our partners at the table, where that's occurring, so that we can get an extension of an arrangement that benefits the province and benefits the students of the province.

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

AGRIC. - PORK INDUSTRY: PLIGHT - ALLEVIATE

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question to the honourable Minister of Agriculture and Marketing. Could the minister tell this House how much provincial money his Cabinet and his government is prepared to put forward so as to help alleviate the plight of the pork industry in Nova Scotia?

HON. EDWARD LORRAINE: Mr. Speaker, I am not prepared to make any prediction. We received a request for a loan to the risk management fund last Friday, so until Cabinet discusses it, I am certainly not prepared to name any figure.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, the federal government in Ottawa has indicated that they are at least a week to 10 days away from unveiling their farm relief package. I wonder if the minister could tell us how far away he is from unveiling his relief package?

MR. LORRAINE: Look, there is nobody who realizes more than I and this government how important this is and how important the pork industry is to the Province of Nova Scotia. It is the best I can say right now, we will discuss their request at the next Cabinet meeting.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, talk might fill the trough but it is not very nutritious for the pigs. Again, I appeal to the minister, I understand the minister is working on this, and I appreciate that, but there are people out there who understand just as much as you do and he knows that. The hog farmers understand . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. TAYLOR: . . . and it is a near disastrous situation right now facing that industry and I commend the minister . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. TAYLOR: . . . and I commend Ottawa. Again, . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

[Page 4719]

MR. TAYLOR: . . . I appeal to the minister, when will he make an announcement in support of the hog industry in the Province of Nova Scotia? When, Mr. Minister?

MR. LORRAINE: Well, Mr. Speaker, I would be surprised if there are a lot of hog producers out there who wouldn't know an awful lot more than I do. I don't mean to say that I know all about the agriculture industry but I am damn sure I will put my knowledge against his of the agriculture industry. (Applause) I will get an answer just as soon as the first possible date I can give it.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - NURSE PRACTITIONERS: PLAN - DELAY

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. This government has delayed its plans to explore the use of nurse practitioners to improve access to primary health care and ease some of the stress on our overworked doctors, perhaps because it is an idea the NDP supports that would stabilize the health care system. My question for the minister is, would he please tell this House precisely what the hold-up is?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, this province has a long history of being involved with nurse practitioners. Dalhousie Medical School and nursing schools have been involved. We are looking at a system. We want to do it the right way. Just today I read where the Registered Nurses Association don't want to see stand-alone nurse practitioners. So here you have the regulatory body within the province with a difference of opinion than that honourable member. I think, in all fairness, this is an important issue but we have to do it right. We have secured funding from the federal government and we will be doing pilot projects.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, this government has been looking at this problem since 1996. Other provinces have acted. When will the minister introduce nurse practitioners to the health care system in Nova Scotia?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, this is a typical socialist approach, that one issue is going to solve the whole problem. We are not making a commitment when we are introducing nurse practitioners. We don't even know what the system is like. We are building teams in community of primary care. Nurses will have a major role within that system. That will solve the problem of access into our health care system. It is an important issue, we are working on it and the federal government is helping us.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it is nice to see that the minister recognizes that the socialist approach is to act.

[Page 4720]

Mr. Speaker, nurse practitioners work with teams of doctors. Will the minister commit to improving his physician recruitment strategy so that nurse practitioners can work with doctors, as they are meant to?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, there are many good models across this country and in this province where nurses and doctors work together. We do believe in acting as well but not on picket lines.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

ECON. DEV. & TOURISM - BLACK COMMUN.:

UNEMPLOYMENT - ADDRESS

MR. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is directed to the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. BALSER: The level of unemployment in the Black community in Nova Scotia is proportionately higher than it is for the province generally. In light of that difficulty what programs does his department have geared specifically to address the issue of chronic unemployment within the Black community?

[1:15 p.m]

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, we do have a chronic unemployment situation in many communities in Nova Scotia, including the one that he speaks about. We are trying to address all of those crucial problems in various parts of Nova Scotia that need attention, namely, rural Nova Scotia and particular sectors of the population of Nova Scotia.

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, again to the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. He touched very briefly on the issue as it applies to rural Nova Scotia. Could he speak at a little more length in terms of programs specifically geared toward rural Nova Scotia and the Black communities located there?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member knows we have been down in his particular county and that, I believe, is in rural Nova Scotia that he represents. We have put many initiatives in that particular county to work in the last number of months. A great deal of them have been talked about by the honourable member himself down in his county, with great fanfare I might add.

[Page 4721]

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, the Black Business Initiative has a mandate to provide support to Black businesses across this province. Will the minister confirm for me in 1997, the BBI allocated only $54,490 of its more than $1 million budget to actually fund business assistance programs?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I fail to see why I would be asked a question that should be directed to the Black Business Initiative.

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

JUSTICE - PUB. PROS. SERV.:

VIDEOTAPED EVIDENCE - GUIDELINES

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice. The Public Prosecution Service's charges against the Sheraton Casino employee on conspiracy charges were stayed yesterday, after it was determined that the original videotaped evidence presented in court was tainted. My question to the Minister of Justice is what guidelines has he produced with respect to reviewing and handling of videotaped evidence?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, this particular Minister of Justice has not produced guidelines. There are guidelines of Prosecuting Investigative Services in place and they should be adequate. Evidence doesn't always arrive perfect and you cannot expect them to act, if, in their judgement, it is not admissible. I support the Public Prosecution Service in that.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, again to the Minister of Justice. The videotape relied upon by the Crown was produced by the Sheraton's own investigation in-house surveillance. The Crown has many investigatory resources including the RCMP and municipal police. My question to the Minister of Justice is did the Public Prosecution Service request an independent investigation or did they just rely on the Sheraton?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, that is a question he can direct to the Public Prosecution Service. I am responsible and we are currently looking at all processes and procedures of the PPS under past Justice Kaufman. I take this job seriously and we are acting on that but he should direct some of those questions to the Public Prosecution Service.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, again through you to the minister responsible for the Public Prosecution Service. With all the resources the Public Prosecution Service has and other investigatory powers, why do we have prosecutions whose success or failure rely upon the Sheraton's own investigating team?

[Page 4722]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, it is fine to take light of this and make this a particular issue. The investigative process is in place, it is intact and I am not going to respond to hypotheticals. If that honourable member has information then he can lay it before the House but the allegations are quite serious that he is making about the Public Prosecution Service, as he does on many occasions.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland North.

EDUC. : P3 SCHOOLS - SITE SELECTION (INV./PICTOU COS.)

MR. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Minister of Education. The Minister of Education rose in the House yesterday and on other occasions and spoke in this House when he had been questioned on site location and community involvement, that parents, students and communities come first and that their views will be taken into accord. My question to the minister is yesterday he met with concerned parents in the Uniacke Room from Judique, Creignish, Inverness County and Pictou County. Are you prepared to answer their concerns?

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I believe the member is correct, I did meet with parents from East Pictou, Judique and Creignish yesterday who were expressing concerns about their discussions with their school boards in their area.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, while the minister met with them, those parents and students certainly were not approving of what was happening because the situation is this, they were told in a report that their communities would have a school presence. Where is that school presence? Are you going to ensure . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, sometimes there are tensions between communities and school boards as both try to do what is best for their children. We expect and we empower boards to work with communities. In fact, we have suggested advisory councils and home and schools speak for the schools. We fully expect discussions to take place in communities across this province to reach as much consensus as possible on what is right for the children.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Minister, I would like to table a document here. It is from the Chair, Marie Campbell. On March 24th, she states, "We desperately need new schools". . .

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

MR. FAGE: "Make sure the vote cast on the 24th is for . . .

[Page 4723]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member will put his question.

MR. FAGE: . . . children in education. What does it take to have the community heard? Is it a new school that they want . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I would hope that all parents in this province vote for candidates that think they will get the best education possible. My job as a minister is to ensure that the children come first. What we are attempting to do is renovate over 90 schools, build some 30 to 40 schools within that, invest $80 million in the classrooms, bring class size down and make sure we have the finest education in the country for the children of Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

TECH. & SC. SEC'T.: YEAR 2000 - PROGRESS REPORT

MR. PETER DELEFES: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for the Technology and Science Secretariat. I want to congratulate the minister for posting his government's first Year 2000 Progress Report on the Internet yesterday. But I am going to recommend to the Legislative Librarian that she file it under fiction. Let me give you one example. Of . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. DELEFES: . . . the 227 projects identified in the report, 81 have not yet had any costs assigned to them. That is 35 per cent uncosted.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Can I have your question, please.

MR. DELEFES: My question is, will the minister now acknowledge that his progress report is like Swiss cheese, full of holes?

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, there are enough people in this country engaged in fiction over Y2K. The reality and the non-fiction is that fully compliant target dates will be set for all essential services. It is in the progress report. We will continue to update those reports, department by department, as we proceed through to next summer and full compliance testing.

[Page 4724]

MR. DELEFES: Mr. Speaker, the report says the government has 227 projects under the Year 2000 umbrella, but exactly 130 of them, well over half, including 57 identified by the government as high priority report, zero progress. Will the minister acknowledge now that the government's Year 2000 efforts have more holes than Swiss cheese?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, it is important as we face the uncertainty of Y2K to reassure people with facts. That is exactly what we intend to do, department by department, regular reporting on the targets that we have set that are clear to the member opposite, and that is that there will be full compliance of all essential services by next summer, so that full testing and compliance is assured by the next millennium anniversary.

MR. DELEFES: Mr. Speaker, the total cost estimate in the report is $86.7 million. That is only for the projects that have been costed. My question to the minister is this, why is he continuing to hide the truth from Nova Scotians?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, we will do anything but hide the truth on our budget numbers, our Y2K compliance, on Government By Design. We will set targets, we will benchmark them, we will meet them and we will reassure Nova Scotians with facts not fiction, that those compliance dates will be met.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel, on a new question.

HEALTH - YEAR 2000: PROGRESS REPORT - MSI COMPUTERS

MR. PETER DELEFES: Mr. Speaker, back to the Year 2000 Progress Report. The Department of Health lists November 30, 1999, as the target date for the MSI computer fix. For the patient remediation system, the target date is January 1, 2000. My question to the Minister of Health, isn't that a little late?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I couldn't hear some of the dates over the noise. I again assumed that he was addressing the Minister of Education, but if he could repeat some of it, I will try to give a better answer.

MR. DELEFES: Mr. Speaker, the Department of Health lists November 30, 1999, as the target date for the MSI computer fix. For the patient remediation system, the target date is January 1, 2000. My question is, sir, isn't that a little late?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I cannot confirm that is the date. There is a plan in place; we have spent $6 million already within the Department of Health. I am assured the most critical things will be dealt with first, that is patient care, and there is a system in place and a priority in place. Most of that will be up in the summer of 1999.

[Page 4725]

MR. DELEFES: Mr. Speaker, the report indicates significant progress on only one of the 31 projects of the Department of Community Services, putting at risk all income support programs. This confirms information we have from private sources that Community Services is further behind than any other department.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DELEFES: My question to the Minister responsible for the Technology and Science Secretariat. What on earth is going on in that department and why have you let the Y2K problem get so out of hand in that department?

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is taking pieces of the document and trying to craft some fiction here. The Department of Community Services has already taken significant steps. They will be updating their reports, as indicated in the report, to make sure that all fully essential services are compliant well before next summer, in fact in many cases, and by next summer on every case.

MR. DELEFES: My last question, Mr. Speaker. The report shows virtually zero progress in the Departments of the Environment, Finance, Fisheries, Human Resources, Labour, and Natural Resources. My question for the minister. What on earth is going on in your government that you have let the Y2K problem get so out of hand?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, it is said with such genuineness. Y2K is a real problem, and this government has committed serious dollar commitments and staff commitments to ensuring full compliance. The date of full compliance is set for next summer and each and every department, and the government itself, will ensure that full compliance is met by next summer.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

DEVCO. - COAL INDUSTRY (C.B.): INSTABILITY - SOLUTION

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. The Premier represented his riding in Cape Breton for 18 years. He has been Premier for over a year. The Cape Breton coal industry is in very serious shape. The Premier said, when he was asked about what Ottawa was going to do: "I do not know; they do not confide in me." My question to the Premier. When are you going to confide in Nova Scotians what you are going to do with the Cape Breton coal industry?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Cape Breton coal industry is controlled by the federal government. I must say I do share the concerns of the honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party on the future of the coal industry, and that is why I brought that concern to the floor of the Legislature when we had our special debate.

[Page 4726]

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, what Ottawa is looking for is leadership from this government. We do not want Ottawa telling us what to do with our coal industry. What is this Premier prepared to do to develop a rational approach to try and save the coal industry of Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is quite possible that Ottawa will do whatever Ottawa darn well wants to do. The problem is going to be to get Ottawa to consider the position of the provincial government and I can assure you that every attempt is going to be made to do that.

DR. HAMM: Of course, Mr. Speaker, Ottawa is going to do whatever it is going to do, because it gets no direction from this government. Will the Premier make a commitment today to start and put together, in consultation with all of us, a comprehensive coal policy for the Province of Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we have, in fact, told Ottawa how we feel the process should go and we want them to give us, straight-out, exactly what their plans are with respect to the coal industry. Until we have their full confidence and the full intent of what they intend to do, it is very difficult for us to respond more fully.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH: ENVIRON. HEALTH CLINIC - REVIEW (RES. NO. 115)

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is for the Minister of Health. The Environmental Health Clinic in Fall River is the only facility in Nova Scotia offering therapies and research for people with environmental illnesses, yet hundreds of people who need treatment say the clinic is letting them down. In the spring session this House passed a resolution calling for a complete and fair external review . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: . . . of the Nova Scotia Environmental Health Centre. My question for the minister is, why hasn't the minister acted on the unanimous resolution of this House?

[1:30 p.m.]

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the Environmental Health Centre is functioning. We have had a report. There was a very high-standard, professional person who was involved in a review of that. I am in the process of reviewing the information that has come forward, and if there seems to be a need for an external review, then we will assess that. It costs a lot

[Page 4727]

of money for a review, and unless it is absolutely necessary, then I will not take that step. It is a commitment that I made to look at it.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: With all due respect, that Party should not have supported that resolution if that is the case, Mr. Speaker. People are being told that this clinic cannot help them and that they will have to travel to Europe and Texas for treatment. My question is, why has the minister not taken steps to ensure people who need treatment for environmental illness get that treatment in their own facility?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians have the only environmental health clinic in Canada. We have made attempts and we are working on this issue. There is $1.2 million a year going specifically into that operation, plus all the other facilities and professional people who are working on that. I would say that in Nova Scotia we have a good record, but we certainly seem to be saddled with a lot of environmental sensitivity in this province.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the minister is correct. Nova Scotia has a chance to be a leader in environmental medicine. I am wondering, is it too much to hope that the minister might act now to ensure that all people who need treatment for environmental illness can get it here at our own Fall River facility?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, as the member knows and said earlier, the Canada Health Act. We make every effort and with great cooperation from other departments have put monies and services into the Department of Health to address all the medically necessary services as required under the Canada Health Act. That is the commitment and that is what we are doing.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill.

NSLC - TRURO STORE: NEW - OPENING

MR. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for the administration of the Liquor Control Act. I understand that liquor stores basically have a monopoly on liquor sales in the province and according to the information provided by your department, the single motive for establishing these stores is based on profit. You are going to put a new store in Truro; when will that open?

HON. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, to the best of my knowledge, I believe it is January 1, 1999.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the new store in Truro is going to be located fairly close to the old store. As a matter of fact, if you were to measure from parking lot to parking lot, you probably would not get to 150 feet. Who would make the decision on about November 25th

[Page 4728]

to put up a great big ugly sign saying, liquor store opening soon, in the new location there? (Interruptions)

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the members opposite I am not a painter or an artist, but I would say that it is good business practice to inform the people where the new location will be and to inform the public where they may go to purchase their spirits.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, let me tell you that that sign is an eyesore. There is absolutely no need to put up about a four by eight foot sign with about 150, two by fours; probably the member for Colchester North may have seen that. Anyway, will the minister commit to having that sign removed and a more tasteful one put up at an appropriate time if he thinks it is necessary?

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I have to be honest and inform the member that I have not seen the sign, but I would assume it is not a permanent sign. If the honourable member has a design that he would like to see in Truro, by all means present it to the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission and we will look at it and see if it would be more attractive.

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

NAT. RES. - COASTAL PROPERTY:

NON-RESIDENT OWNERSHIP - REPORT

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Natural Resources. In this House on June 23rd, Mr. Minister, in a reply to a question that I asked you about the issue of control of coastlines, you said, "We are always discussing important issues with staff and that is something I promise him . . .", I assume that was me, ". . . I will do and bring him back a report.". Mr. Minister, where is that report?

HON. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I will promise the member opposite that I will look into that again. I want to tell the House that I have met with the member since that time and he did not raise that issue with me when he met with me in my office.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Minister, on last Tuesday evening, November 24th, in the Law Amendments Committee, the Mayor of Lunenburg, Mr. Mawhinney, also expressed a concern about non-resident control of our coastlines. Mr. Minister, is it not time for some leadership, since there has not been a review of this issue since the days of Leonard Pace in the 1970's?

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, this is an issue that has been dogging many communities for a number of years. It is difficult for any government to dictate to people who they can or can't sell their properties to. It is an issue that I am sure concerns the honourable

[Page 4729]

member, but it is a very difficult issue and it is going to take some time to reach a resolve on it.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, over the last decade, over 17,000 acres of Nova Scotia have been purchased by or leased to non-residents. Mr. Minister, one of our greatest natural resources our coastline . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. ESTABROOKS: . . . is slipping from our control . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. ESTABROOKS: . . . and quickly . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Your question.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Minister, my question is, what are you prepared to do about it now?

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I don't know what I can do. But I will assure the honourable member that I will do whatever I can to stop the slippage.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou East.

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - PICTOU CO.:

SECONDARY ROADS - UPGRADE

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, my question is directed to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. Whatever the minister is doing to look after the rural and secondary roads in Nova Scotia, it is not working in Pictou East where many of my roads are in destitute condition. My question to the minister is, when will the minister address the serious conditions of these roads?

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, last summer I did have the opportunity to drive with the honourable member on several of these roads through Pictou East. I do agree with him, they are in a hard state and there are several secondary roads in the Province of Nova Scotia that need upgrading. What I have informed him is that we are working to deal with these roads and we are working, as I have said many times before, with our priority list and when the money becomes available, we will be working on these roads.

[Page 4730]

MR. DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, the minister seems to hide behind the so-called priority list but for the residents who traverse these roads, such as the Marsh Road that leads into Thorburn and the Greenwood Road each day, can the minister provide this House and those residents with what time-frame they are facing?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, as far as the time-frame goes, we are certainly working on determining when these roads will be completed. We would like to have a list, we like to work on a 5 or 10 year project where we can put each road into a category and have it looked after within, say, a 5 or 10 year program.

MR. DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, I certainly agree with the minister that we need a long-term plan and to stick with it in repairing our roads. In light of the situation that we are facing with continuing deterioration of our roads, will the minister commit to increased funding for grading, ditching and gravelling for the upcoming year?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, thank you and to the honourable member, right now as I speak we are working on budgets for the following year and I will certainly take that under advisement and I will look into that to see what we can afford for additional gravelling, ditching and bush cutting.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

AGRIC. - FARMERS: RETAIL MILK PRICE (MINIMUM) - IMPACT

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Agriculture. Mr. Minister, during the Estimates debate in the spring I questioned you on the minimum retail milk price and the possible removal of it. You expressed that it would have an impact on Nova Scotia farmers. Would you explain that impact for us in the House today?

HON. EDWARD LORRAINE: Mr. Speaker, I missed the first part of his question. Would you ask him to repeat it, please?

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member repeat the question.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, certainly. The minister stated during Estimates debate that removal of the minimum retail milk price would impact negatively on Nova Scotia dairy producers. Would he please explain that negative impact?

MR. LORRAINE: Mr. Speaker, right now the milk producers did get an increase last spring when they were in financial crisis. That increase is still there and I say it is having a pretty good impact on the producer, if I understand his question.

[Page 4731]

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I don't think the minister did understand. I was talking about the removal of the minimum retail milk price. In investigations with the President of the Canadian Dairy Association and the former President of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, who is also a dairy producer, they say there would be no negative impact and as a matter of fact, they might sell more milk. My question to the minister is, would it be true to assume that the minister doesn't really understand what the impact would be?

MR. LORRAINE: Mr. Speaker, I think I understand what the impact would be all right, I don't understand his line of questioning.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my line of questioning is to the point that it is possible to remove the minimum retail milk price without affecting the farmers. I want to know from the minister, the reduction of the milk price would be beneficial specifically to low income families, would the minister commit to investigating the removal of the minimum retail milk price?

MR. LORRAINE: Mr. Speaker, yes.

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

AGRIC. - HOG INDUSTRY: MONIES - PROVIDE

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the honourable Minister of Agriculture. Earlier on in Question Period the minister indicated that he knew a lot more about hogs and pigs and I take it he would certainly know more than I would know about being at the trough and things like that. Will the minister make a commitment today that his government will commit to provide the hog industry with the monies that they have requested.

HON. EDWARD LORRAINE: Mr. Speaker, I have a lot of sympathy for the hog industry. I won't make any commitment until this plan is taken to Cabinet and discussed there.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted for Question Period has expired. Before proceeding to Orders of the Day, the honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank has an introduction.

The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank.

MS. ROSEMARY GODIN: Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring the attention of the House to the west gallery where we have some members of the Halifax Regional Municipality Injured Workers Association here today watching the proceedings with great interest. We

[Page 4732]

have the President, Mr. Russell Gallant and we have members, Carl Dorrington and Wilfred Landry. (Applause)

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 90.

Bill No. 90 - Workers' Compensation Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Labour.

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to move Bill No. 90, an Act to Amend Chapter 10 of the Acts of 1994-95, the Workers' Compensation Act, for second reading. Before I do I would just like to offer a few comments.

I rise today in support of Bill No. 90 and it is assured that this legislation reflects the recommendations of the select committee and the concerns voiced by many Nova Scotians from one end of this province to the other.

[1:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, by creating this committee and dispatching them across the province, we sent a clear message to all stakeholders. First, we were telling them that we knew there was a problem. We knew there were concerned citizens who wanted their voices heard. This committee was the vehicle for this. When you consider that 11 public meetings were held, and at those 11 public meetings, 174 representations were made, I believe that we afforded just about every Nova Scotian the opportunity to voice their concerns. Many times governments are accused of not consulting with the people. This claim cannot be made on this issue. We listened, and now we are acting.

Mr. Speaker, we appreciate the work of the committee, and in particular, I pay a special compliment to the chairman, the honourable member for Lunenburg, for the terrific leadership that he has shown on this issue. (Applause) They accomplished a lot in a very short period of time. Certainly, workers' compensation is a major issue in Nova Scotia. It affects many

[Page 4733]

people and their families. It affects employers. It affects us all. The honourable member for Lunenburg had barely closed his briefing book in the Red Room when this bill was tabled.

Mr. Speaker, this is a very serious matter, and it is important to keep the momentum going. To that end, I am introducing an amendment to Clause 8, which reinstates pensions to survivors who have remarried. My amendment, when tabled, will move the year back from the suggested 1992 to 1985. (Applause) I will do this in fairness, and by adding six years, we will be expanding the base.

This report is an important step towards real action on a long-standing problem. To continue that process, we table this bill. I certainly restate, this is in order to ensure an air of understanding. We understand that people may have questions or concerns about certain parts of this legislation. While some clauses are complex, the principles are simple: fairness, respect, balance and responsibility. Fairness is also important when it comes to employers as well. This report and this bill also attempt to address those issues.

When it comes right down to it, there is a need to address the problems. We encourage people to come forward with suggestions for any improvements that they may see fit during the Law Amendments Committee process. As we did, by having a Select Committee on the Workers' Compensation Act, go to the people, and certainly in concert with the Auditor General's report, we want people to come to us with their concerns.

Mr. Speaker, we are committed to improving the system for injured workers and their families, as well as employers. The goals, as I have stated, are: fairness, respect, stability and balance. This legislation before us outlines a number of steps aimed at addressing problems in the system, including the current backlog at the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal, and the unfunded liability of the Workers' Compensation Board, which now stands at more than $360 million. Mr. Speaker, I believe that if we work together with one aim in mind, making this bill work for the betterment of all Nova Scotians, much can be achieved.

Mr. Speaker, this is not about ideology; it is about real competence. This is about striking the right balance within the confines of fiscal reality, working together to create an opportunity and a good life for all, doing the right thing by the employees and the employers. That is all those who made representation asked for, and I believe this bill is the vehicle to meet their needs. It is clear that the problems in the system did not happen overnight and they likely will not be solved overnight but, today, we are taking an important step towards achieving real results. In the end, the goal is to improve the system for injured workers and their families, and to ensure a strong, viable environment helping businesses to compete. The key principles are fairness and respect.

[Page 4734]

Mr. Speaker, in keeping with the responsive tone that the government has been keeping, and in consort with the select committee, I would certainly like to make note that Clause 20, as raised by the select committee on a point of concern, they feel strongly about leaving that in as it is. We have reviewed that with staff and we have no problems with that.

There is concern about Clause 21, that it may be somewhat detrimental to the injured worker. That was not the intent and the select committee again has clarified that. We have no problem adding at the end of Clause 21, except any changes that would benefit the worker. We have no problems with that, Mr. Speaker.

Concerns were raised on Clauses 28 and 33. I have reviewed that with senior staff and legal counsel. It does not diminish the principle or the intent of the bill in any great measure. We are open to eliminating those as well, bearing in mind that we have to be mindful of the public consultation process which takes place at the Law Amendments Committee.

MR. JOHN HOLM: I wonder if the minister would entertain a brief question? I was just curious, Mr. Speaker, in the choice of the words. The minister said that we would be open to those last two clauses and I am wondering if that means that the government would be supportive at this stage of the game when it goes on to the Law Amendments Committee, eliminating those two particular clauses?

MR. MACKINNON: I believe that is exactly what I indicated. I mean, we cannot close the door to what may take place at the Law Amendments Committee, but I have given my undertaking that pursuant to the further discussions that we have had from the chair of the select committee, on behalf of the committee, we find that these suggested amendments are very reasoned and we are very open and supportive of those, bearing in mind that unless the majority will of the Law Amendments Committee decides otherwise. I cannot state otherwise but, on that note, Mr. Speaker - since the honourable member has raised that, and I believe it is important before I close my remarks - these clauses were included in the bill in response to the select committee's report.

These four clauses were in and still are in that report. They are there in black and white, signed by all members of the select committee. So, Mr. Speaker, if it is my misinterpretation, if it is my legal counsel's misinterpretation, if it is a misinterpretation of the majority of the members in the Legislature, I apologize, but the fact of the matter is we are open and we are very willing to support these amendments. (Applause)

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I, too, would like to add my voice to thanking the chairman of the committee, the member for Lunenburg, for all of his hard work. We had the pleasure of travelling the province . . .

[Page 4735]

AN HON. MEMBER: And the other members.

MR. CORBETT: Yes, the other members. We had the pleasure of travelling across this province together and by large measure this report was one of consensus. We had to listen to reasoned arguments about certain positions and we came upon what we hoped would be a compromise that could benefit the stakeholders in the workers' compensation system. The problem that faced us when we hit the road with this committee was the fact that we knew there were many problems and there are injured workers out there not getting proper access to the board or proper access to benefits that were owed to them.

What quickly became apparent was that we were doing these deliberations under a heavy financial burden of the board. The minister stated that the board is now under the crushing deficit of $360 million unfunded liability. That is onerous on any board or commission in this province, but particularly this one where it is perceived to be one that has to help the injured workers. Most people who have any dealings or any knowledge of the board, as it is referred to, realized that it is a no-fault insurance system which is based on what are broadly termed the Meredith principles. Some of those principles are ones that the employer and employee will not engage in legal action against one another as a result of an industrial accident. With that comes other compromises. The compromises flow out of this.

The compromise, I guess, boils down, when everything is said and done, to trust. For the longest time that has been lacking at the WCB level in this province. This province has seen a board used by various governments as a way to reward its friends. Whether it was through - if I knew somebody in government, that I could get my pension rammed through or if I knew somebody in government, I could get my rates lowered as an employer. All of these things, over the years, led to this overbearing deficit that this board now faces, unfunded liability of $360 million. We have talked about this and said, where do we go from here. We are between a rock and a hard place. We know that we must look after the employees and the workers in this province. We know that they deserve to work in a safe environment and if, indeed, an accident befalls them, that they will be adequately compensated. Fairly simple.

Now, according to the many people we have come in contact with, this simply was not happening. There was a problem. This is not old legislation. This was enacted, in large part, on February 1, 1996. We have had people telling us when we travelled across this province, you almost had to take people in three categories. Those on the committee knew what we were talking about. One was the group that revolved around the Hayden decision, the window period, which is from 1990 in rough terms to 1996, then the people falling under the new Act. By and large, we did not have as many people coming to us about the new Act. The biggest proportion, I would say, that came to us to talk about their ills at the WCB were the people stuck within the backlog. People, because of the Doward decision, and the board's ineffectiveness to institute something directly on chronic pain, which the Doward decision clearly made a statement on and directed the board, a backlog started.

[Page 4736]

[2:00 p.m.]

I guess the question about the backlog is a chicken and egg thing. Was it the Doward decision or was it the ineffectiveness of the Appeals Tribunal? Now the Appeals Tribunal saw this huge backlog come to their doorstep, and how was their reaction formulated. It was one of first come, first served. The Appeals Tribunal did not bother to take these cases and say, where are we at? Who is most in need? Are we looking at people who are out there in the appeals system that have no income whatsoever or little or none? Should we take these people?

What happened? They were taking, if you are number one, you are dealt with as number one. My feeling, and it certainly was borne out by the Auditor General, that this showed a whole lack of vision by WCAT. I think I am probably greatly understating it when I say a lack of vision. It caused many problems to many injured workers in this province. I don't think there is a member of this House that would disagree with me.

We talked in terms of this report and this bill that arises somewhat from the report as being one of compromise. I think the compromise was struck, again I can't overstate this too much, the fact of the financial constraints in which the board found itself. Again, I laid out my ideas of why they ended up in that financial mess they are in, but that being said, it is the reality. We can talk about it and point fingers all we want, but the reality is we had to deal with it. The realities facing the members of the committee and also a group of people who helped us greatly in this, the advisers. We had a medical adviser, a legal adviser, an injured workers' adviser and a business adviser. Those folks added tremendously to our understanding of those various sectors.

We come there, and the minister quite rightly says that we can't be great idealogues about the problems that face us, we must move off our positions. At the committee level, we talked at length about stuff like environmental illnesses, and there are things like environmental illness and what is commonly referred to as repetitive strain disorder, that we, as a Party, as probably a foundation would have liked to see more on that, but the other side is that right now we appreciate that the money wasn't there.

We have to look at these illnesses and say, it is a changing workplace. We are 13 months away from a new century. The workforce is changing. The minister has often said that in here, and we appreciate when he makes these statements that the heavy mechanization of industry that we saw at the turn of this century is certainly changing. We are going into a more technological-based industry. Indeed, that tells me that workplace industries may very well change, and we have to be aware of those. On one side, be aware, but truly on the other side, we must have a board that is in a financial position to address these matters. It is not simply good enough for us to say to workers suffering, whether it is from environmental illness or repetitive strain disorder, that we would like to pay you but we don't have the

[Page 4737]

money. I know we talked about it in our report, about further study being done on these diseases, which I think is a great idea.

Another factor that we looked at in this report, and weren't successful in our talk about it was the benefit of the doubt, which is a basic tenet for a lot of workers. A lot of workers see this as their right, when they gave up the right to sue, they need to be given a step-up when at the board. That step-up to a lot of injured workers is the benefit of the doubt. The benefit of the doubt, while one could make a quasi-argument that it is in there, that it surely is not hard for the board to work around it.

In the old Act, it was clearly stated that when it was close - it wasn't a matter of a tie with the runner as we say - it went to the injured worker. As we found again through our deliberations it was like the injured worker was coming into hearings or he was filing his report as a guilty party, that he or she were told again and again to prove it, prove it, prove it. These people, quite rightly, were angry at that system and they lashed out at the workers of the board, they lashed out at the people who worked as workers' advisers, they lashed out at the people at the tribunal level. The reason for that was frustration. Do you know what was one of the common phrases? We didn't ask to be injured. What they said after that, I guess the second most common phrase was, we want dignity. I was glad the minister brought that up, because dignity is the key.

Just a short time ago in this very House we introduced some members of an injured workers' group here in metro Halifax. These people were honest, hard-working people. They didn't jump in front of any freight train to come here as injured workers, they were injured through no fault of their own and, I would go so far as to say, through no fault of their employer. They were injured and were expecting help and relief in a financial way, but what did they get? They got roadblock after roadblock. They got caught up in a system that gave them no respect as an injured worker, gave them no respect as a parent, gave them no respect as a person who gave greatly to their society and their workplace and, truly, that was incorrigible. These people deserve better and that is why I am so glad what the minister said today about dignity because that is what this is based on; truly, dignity.

We have talked to the minister and various members of the committee about clauses the minister brought up, Clauses 20, 21, 28 and 33. We concur that Clause 20 can stay. We concur with Clause 21, with the added line, and Clauses 28 and 33, which is our position that they should be struck from the legislation. We believe that that is not what was contemplated in the report.

If you look on Page 30 of the report, "A great number of presentations and submissions were made on this topic . . .", which is Section 183(6), which allows for retroactivity of WCB policies, ". . . and the unanimous agreement is that this policy is viewed as totally unfair by the workers and must be removed.". That is the direction the report took vis-à-vis these clauses.

[Page 4738]

Clause 33 deals somewhat with the WCAT and your right to appeal at that level. It is the position of many that at that level, if that clause was allowed to stand, that it would raise the bar so high that it would be nearly impossible for an appellant to have a successful appeal. That clause, when we talked about it, was not to do that. If it was to be kept it was to be talked about as the fact of intervening on the side of what is commonly referred to as frivolous proceedings, and we hear that. It is our position that we would like to see that removed but again, I will agree with the minister that there is a compromise here, but our position is that it should be gone.

I would be remiss not to talk in some terms about the backlog. I think in a large way that is what brought us to today, somewhere between 2,500 and 3,000 cases jammed into the system.

I talked earlier about what the problems were at the WCAT. The predecessor of the WCAT was an external appeals tribunal which in some ways worked but it was also seen by some as, if I can't get you there, I will get you there, and it was not truly an appeals tribunal but it was, wait, we will get to you and we will give you your pension later. It was not truly what it was meant. I mean it was weighted in some way, if you will, and its fairness lacked some independence, but what sprung out of there was the fact that one time you could get a forum of fair and honest but quick justice, that you could go and your appeal could be heard, and they could dash off a one page decision with the relevancy of your appeal and explain the reasons why you lost or why you won.

The vast majority of Nova Scotians who were in that system enjoyed that system. It seemed to work better but somewhere down the line we got so legalistic in dealing with injured workers that we had to get these massive volumes printed. What appeared to be happening was that there were lawyers, or commissioners, writing large volumes to protect themselves against further legal action and who was suffering - the injured worker again, Madam Speaker. It was the injured worker who had to wait in this system so then, again, it started a whole new ball rolling of going to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal Trial Division and that caused more delays. Out of that, again, comes the infamous Doward decision.

The Doward decision, which goes some way again to clogging up the system, spoke on chronic pain. What is chronic pain? Well, I guess in some respects we had to rely on a report done by Dr. Jock Murray and his description of what chronic pain is. I guess in short terms, and I am no physician, but his short description of chronic pain is that it is a persistent pain that has no real pathology or acuteness to it. So how can we treat that? It was a worry because the board - again we have to remind ourselves of how we were looking at setting out this report. We had to look at it in the sense, is that we have got a board that is incurring a massive underfunding here and can we afford to increase it any but yet we have injured workers out there that we know very quantitatively are suffering.

[Page 4739]

So the question comes to us, do we say, yes, everybody in this province is entitled to coverage under chronic pain since 1917, or whenever the WCB was incorporated in this province? Do we draw parameters around it? Do we build walls around it? Well, you know, through a consensus we came up with a device that we hope will go some way to helping chronic pain sufferers. Is it perfect? Not by a long shot. Are there people still suffering? Truly they are. It is the old thing of there is no 100 per cent solutions. While I do not think our report by itself endorses in whole Dr. Murray's study on chronic pain, we have certainly walked up to the door and looked in and seen some items that we could concur with.

Again, I must reiterate that I think - and I cannot speak for everybody else on that committee - but it was the fact that it was the daunting debt load that was hanging over the heads of everybody in this system, where we come up with the decision on chronic pain, it was certainly a saw-off. I see that this report and this legislation is a chapter in the WCB saga and it is definitely not the whole book. This is a living document that we see growing. We see that it will answer the ills of the worker of the future, whether it be in environmental illness, whether it be in the area of repetitive strain.

[2:15 p.m.]

We must be open to these things. We must also be cognizant always of the cost factor, but we must always be cognizant of the injured worker, because the whole precept of this legislation is the one that these people were not asked to be injured. We must be able to put our partisanship aside and ask, what can we do that best affects the injured workers and their lifestyles?

We have heard - and I am sure other people will talk about this - many discussions about things such as deeming, and these things, if they are not put out in a proper way, are certainly injurious to workers. We have seen people where they were trained in areas of Cape Breton and told to go out and get a job as a parking lot attendant, and the only parking lot that uses attendants was owned by the fellow who worked in it and he was not hiring anybody. The other one was that you can work as a trucking dispatcher, and here is a coal miner in Cape Breton being told to work as a trucking dispatcher, and the closest available job - there was one job open, I believe - was in Moncton, New Brunswick. We were asking . . .

MR. MICHAEL BAKER: That's correct.

MR. CORBETT: Thank you. The honourable member for Lunenburg acknowledges my correctness. Here was a man . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Don't get overconfident though, Frank.

[Page 4740]

MR. CORBETT: That's right. Here was a man in his mid-50s, a coal miner with Grade 9, deemed to do this work. One would say, my, my, that is silly, but it only gets sillier, Mr. Speaker, when we talk about how they were trying to retrain this man. This man was a fine fellow, he lives in my riding as a matter of fact . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Makes him a very fine fellow.

MR. CORBETT: Yes, makes him even better. He spent three weeks in school, writing down "to, too, two" and putting them in a sentence. What recuperative capacities that word has is beyond my comprehension, but the board spent good money on training this poor fellow, and when you asked them that - as we did in this very Chamber - it was a deer-in-the-headlights look. It was, like, we have to retrain them because deeming is necessary in a wage loss system. That just does not cut it. These folks, and you yourself, Mr. Speaker, know vastly more about this subject than I do, because I am sure at one time you were Minister of Labour and saw some legislation trying to be shepherded through this House on that very Act, so you know of whence I speak.

We have seen these types of horror stories. Again, we must look at the context. Injured workers trying to get relief, business people trying to get a fair bang for their buck, and a board that seems out of step with those two. Every time, during our committee hearings, that we went to move something forward with the board, it was my distinct impression that they were obstructionists, that they, of the three - and I don't like this phrase - stakeholders were the least cooperative; it seemed to be a group that wanted to close ranks on either one. They told the injured workers one story about the business, and told business another story about injured workers. I am not going to speak for the other members, but we had just one heck of a time trying to ferret stuff out from those guys.

The minister spoke today about the widows who remarried. We asked that board for simple information, where were their deceased loved ones employed when the accident occurred. Well, goodness, you would think you were asking the mafia to rat out on their friends, they just wouldn't tell you. We realized they had been through court with this so one would assume that somewhere on a page in the hallowed halls on South Street that they would have had this information but for some reason they would not impart this information to us. One has to wonder.

I guess the question could be asked, why is that important? Well, it is important to the fact that some of these employers that pay out are what is referred to as self-insured. So in reality, except for administrative fees, it has no overall economic effect on the board. We will say, for instance, a large group of these may come out of the Cape Breton Development Corporation. If it comes out of the Cape Breton Development Corporation it does not come out of benefits directly paid by or accrued to the WCB. These were things, I think, that we had to know to make a reasonable and rational decision on such items. Yet, when the board was asked on at least two different occasions, I think it is fair to say they were less than

[Page 4741]

cooperative about it, would give excuses but not really tell you who was who and that caused us some problems.

Another item that is dealt with here and I think can cause a bit of a firestorm, is universality, who is in and who is out in the lines of the business sector and who pays. The report clearly states that three and under will be exempt, agriculture will be exempt and those others by regulations. I think that everyone is quite well aware that there will be presentations made to the Law Amendments Committee on everybody of why they should be out. There have been some statements in the media that this is a tax grab, if you want to call it that. I like to think employers are more enlightened than that, that it is one where it makes everybody equal. It is not one just to come in and say you have got some money there, gimme, gimme, gimme. It is like what someone had said during these deliberations hi, I am from the government and I am here to help you, it rings hollow.

We have to address this problem and I think when everybody is in, everybody is slotted in a fair way on the board and when I talk about the board I don't mean the WCB, I mean on a board figuratively that says, you have so many injuries this is what you pay and this is your rate. That is what we are talking about here is rates. There is no doubt that these people will be entering the system when this bill is passed with no historical data to reflect the accident rate. One would assume that they are brought in at a low level, just by virtue of those being excluded before, many were in the clerical-type world and so we must be cognizant of that when we bring them in.

I think we have to be honest and clear about this, the fact that we don't just want their money. I think it is a matter of being able to show the people out there that this is a good system. I think the minister is sincere about this, that we want to show the people that WCB is a system that will work. We know it is not perfect but we want to prove to people that it is very functional and that the people of Nova Scotia should be proud of it. Before I continue, Mr. Speaker, I have been asked to yield the floor for a member to make an introduction so I will be seated until that is done.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, thank you and I would like to thank the honourable member. In the west gallery we have a visitor today who is a constituent of mine and a good friend but also a perennial voice of reason, I think, in the Letters to the Editor of both the Halifax Chronicle-Herald and The Daily News, where he injects some much-needed balance quite often in their editorial policy. I would like to ask him to stand and receive the warm welcome of the House. He will be known to many, certainly by name, Tom Creighton. (Applause)

[Page 4742]

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, it is not my intent to tie up much more of my fellow members' time here in talking about this bill. It is just something that is very dear to me because again, I must point my words toward the minister and the fact that being a fellow Cape Bretoner, we have seen more than our fair share of people having to take advantage of the benefits of the Workers' Compensation Board. So it is something that it topical and it is always something maybe even elections can be won and lost on and it should not be that. We should not be talking about this at this great length in this House, it should be such a fine-oiled machine that it is looking after the people that it is supposed to be looking after, the injured workers. For the longest time, it seemed to have failed them.

I would be remiss, I suspect, if I didn't publicly declare that people like Mary Lloyd of the Pictou County Injured Workers were not a driving force behind this committee. While some may disagree with their methods, one cannot disagree with their intent so we respect those people. Again, it is one of we can't get too dogmatic about our positions on these. If you talk to each one of those people, they were people that were let down by this system. We have heard tales of people losing homes, marriage break-ups, suicides, children going without and there were nights when you would leave those meetings and just wonder where we go from here. There were people who put their trust in the people of this province and we let them down, they told us that.

In my comments, I talked about the board itself down on South Street and so on and I have problems with that, I have problems with how the WCAT was set up but by and large, we, as legislators, have to take the responsibility. If we are going to take the glory, we must take the downside.

Mr. Speaker, I think that while I don't agree with everything in this bill, as I don't agree with everything in the report, I can't state strongly enough, it is one of compromise. I hope that by doing this that the injured workers of this province aren't compromised, that their injuries are the foremost thought in everyone's mind. We must pay them an adequate wage, we must train them, we must look after them, we must get them back to work for a healthy Nova Scotia. We, as legislators, as Nova Scotians, can do no less than that. If we do, no matter what legislation is brought into this House, we have failed, we have failed our friends as injured workers, we have failed our fellow Nova Scotians. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg.

MR. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I can tell you with absolute honesty that it gives me great pleasure to speak on this bill at second reading, because there were times over the last number of days that I despaired that I might ever have this opportunity. I am very pleased to have the opportunity, because it means that this bill is hopefully going to be receiving second reading today, and will be going off to the Law Amendments Committee. I think that that is clearly in the interest of every member of this House, and most importantly, it is in the interest of every Nova Scotian.

[Page 4743]

Mr. Speaker, since August of this year, when we began our hearings, I had the great honour and privilege of going around Nova Scotia with eight other members of this House, equal members from my Party, the Progressive Conservative Party, from the government Party, the Liberal Party and from the Official Opposition, the New Democratic Party. I say it was an honour and privilege, because I had an opportunity to see first-hand that quality and the empathy of people for Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, it is obvious to me that members of this House, no matter what political Party are all concerned about their fellow Nova Scotians. I had the great honour and privilege of sitting down, after we finished meetings at the end of the day, discussing what we had heard that day, and there would be a consensus on what we heard. It would affect us in many of the same ways. What we were hearing, we were hearing as individual members from our own ridings, and we were hearing as individual Nova Scotians concerned about our fellow citizens.

[2:30 p.m.]

I had the great honour of talking with these people about these important issues. While in absolute terms, we never absolutely agreed on all the solutions, we did agree, I think, largely on the problems. We recognized that the fundamental problems in this particular system were very wide ranging, and in many respects had been ignored for a very long time. The problem, I won't say begins, continued with the so-called 1996 Act. There were some very valuable changes made in 1996, unfortunately, there were some stakeholders who felt left out of that process.

The honourable Minister of Labour and my colleague for Cape Breton Centre who spoke I think would agree me, that that was one of the fundamental flaws with the 1996 bill, that there were stakeholder groups who, in the government of the day's effort to make changes to the system, their concerns weren't addressed. These people were there, their concerns weren't addressed, and that was a problem. But even a more significant problem was that the 1996 bill created a surge of cases on appeal. This is the famous backlog, of which we have all heard so much, and which has caused so much concern to so many people in their own homes and families but also to Nova Scotians generally.

When you talk about the backlog, and the backlog may have been partly created by the bill and some of the changes that were made, but the backlog existed before that. It wouldn't be fair to say that the backlog was created overnight in 1996, because that wouldn't be true. What happened was that as a result of the creation of the WCAT, we had a system in place in Nova Scotia where the backlog was there, it was created. I often use the analogy, it was like a tidal wave offshore. Everybody could stand on the beach and look and see it coming.

[Page 4744]

The WCAT, unfortunately, for reasons which I never quite had a good explanation, didn't actually have the mechanism to deal with the tidal wave. When it came ashore, frankly it came ashore in the Premier's Office this spring, it became obvious to all members here and to all Nova Scotians that we had a serious problem. That only served to highlight what many Nova Scotians, those people involved in the system for years, had already known, that there were problems that needed to be addressed.

I would like to thank three members of the House, and those three members of the House are the member for Cape Breton North, the member for Halifax Atlantic, and the member for Pictou Centre. I refer to them as members, because in many respects in dealing with this problem, they were acting not as Party Leaders or as government figures, but as Nova Scotians representing a community who were concerned about their fellow citizens. That is important to remember, that while each and every one of us are here, standing in our particular places as a result of Parties and all that kind of thing, we are here because we were put here by our fellow citizens, the people whose constituencies that we represent. In our constituency, in each of our constituencies, there are people who are hurting.

This bill, while is it absolutely, unequivocally not perfect - there was never any attempt by any member of the committee to suggest that it was perfect - represents a reasonable compromise, a consensus on some measures that will make a tremendous difference if implemented. I am not suggesting that, as a result of the Law Amendments Committee process and hearing further from Nova Scotians, further improvements are not possible.

I took with great pleasure the fact that the Minister of Labour suggested, for example, today, that he was in favour of an amendment that would push the window back from 1992 to April 1985, which is the charter date, for the widows' group, so-called - 120 Nova Scotians who have been long ignored - and there are 120 Nova Scotians who as a result of changes in the charter, they had been disenfranchised as relative to the law. The charter in many respects made that illegal or unconstitutional because it constituted discrimination on the basis of marital status, and the minister came forward with a suggestion which I think bears very serious consideration because it will address a concern. So what this is all about, Mr. Speaker, is working on reaching a consensus.

The work of this House is not completed. The work of this House is not just to have second reading of the bill and send it to the Law Amendments Committee. The work of this House is to finally pass a bill, and I think all members present would agree that - to paraphrase Churchill - this is not the beginning of the end but maybe the end of the beginning. So what we are doing here today is to send this back to the Law Amendments Committee, to hear from Nova Scotians, and then the House will consider in the near future - and I do not mean years from now, which is the fear of many workers and employers - the suggestions of the Law Amendments Committee and will pass a bill which will help address the concerns that so many Nova Scotians have suffered.

[Page 4745]

A very valuable part of the advocacy for Nova Scotians on this bill has been the injured workers' groups: the Cape Breton Injured Workers, the Pictou County Injured Workers, the Halifax County Injured Workers. These groups have been strong advocates for their fellow citizens who, in many cases, would have been ignored and whose problems were not being addressed by the system. These groups and the people who serve on their executives have been wonderful advocates for their fellow citizens.

I think it is important that we recognize the contribution that these people have made. That is why one of the recommendations in our report was that injured workers' groups in this province receive some assistance from government to allow them to better represent injured workers, because many injured workers in this province have lacked effective advocates. It is so important that someone have someone who knows the system, because many of these people who did not ask to be injured are bewildered and confused by a system that does not seem to care about them. They are confused. It is a complicated system with rule books six inches thick, and to ask someone, who is in pain in many cases, to try to figure out a system, which is Byzantine at best, is very unfair.

One of the problems we have suffered, frankly, is that occasionally the advocacy program in place, the Workers' Advisers Program and others, have not been as effective explaining to these people what their choices are and so these injured workers' groups have been very effective in helping Nova Scotians, and in appearing in front of the select committee and explaining to us where the system was breaking down. That is what you need to hear when you are going out saying, okay, we need to know what the problems are.

They would offer suggestions on solutions, which is the other part of the component, because it is one thing to identify a problem, but it is quite another to identify the problem and suggest a solution. Maybe not all of their solutions were accepted, but I can tell you that all of them were considered and they were considered by all members of the committee regardless of political stripe or position.

I think it has taken a great deal of strength and courage on behalf of all members of the committee to do what they felt was best, and hopefully the other members of this House will accept that decision for what it was, an opportunity to reflect on what they had heard.

I am also going to just address a few things in the bill, because I know, Mr. Speaker, that I have no desire, I assure you, to hold up this bill. I do think it is important that we address the three components of the system. The first component is, obviously, the Workers' Compensation Board. I share other members' concerns that the Workers' Compensation Board sometimes is not always part of the solution, it is sometimes part of the problem. Our committee has addressed that under the issue of accountability.

[Page 4746]

We feel that the board has to be more accountable for the decisions it makes. It has to implement things in a much more timely fashion because many times we would hear from the board - I will give you a good example. On the issue of payroll-based deductions for employers, the board, and the minister has risen in this House speaking strongly in favour of that, so the employers in this province will be paying their premiums with their payroll. It would be a great cost saving for administration and it will be of great assistance for people, such as in the construction industry, who may have no idea when they are making their payments in February how many people they are going to hire in June.

The board sometimes sees all the problems in implementing something, as opposed to deciding this is the right thing to do and we are going to do it. That is exactly the way that problems should be addressed. It should not always be an opportunity to see all the problems, but to see sometimes the possibilities. I am hopeful that this report - because there are things in this report that are not all legislative. There are administrative changes recommended in this report. I am hopeful that the board will implement the legislative changes, but also implement the administrative changes. We, as members of this House, cannot individually administer the workers' compensation system in this province. What we can do, is make sure we hold accountable those charged with that responsibility, which moves me now to the WCAT.

The WCAT has a responsibility to each and every person involved in the system. That responsibility is to make sure that appeals are heard fairly, independently, and that based on the law, the rules are applied in such a way that if people have a legitimate claim, they are paid, and if they are not, that reasons are given. That will happen in any system, but the reasons have to be appropriate. They have to not be legalistic and long and convoluted and difficult to follow and nothing other than covering themselves against possible appeals. That is not their concern. Their concern is to make the right decision and to do it in a timely fashion, to make decisions and get them out the door.

The important thing is that people know where they stand. If the Nova Scotia Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal can make decisions on murder cases, can make decisions on all sorts of very serious civil litigation, by simply saying, we find for the plaintiff, we find for the defendant, we find for the Crown, this is what we are going to do and we will give reasons later, why the heck should we have to put up with a system where the WCAT has 25 and 30 page decisions to grant leave to appeal? It is madness. I know that all members in this House think it is madness. It is time that the people who are responsible for WCAT take the message and do the job. We are going to hold them accountable. That is what the report is about.

Finally, the Workers' Advisers Program. The Workers' Advisers Program is a very fine program. It is cost-effective, it has many positive sides to it, but it has been neglecting people, particularly in rural Nova Scotia. We went around and, frankly, there was a great deal of misinformation around about the Workers' Advisers Program, because we had been led to believe at some point that the Workers' Advisers Program was available to people in rural

[Page 4747]

Nova Scotia. The reality was that when you talked to people in rural Nova Scotia, you are hard pressed to ever find anyone, who was an injured worker, who the Workers' Advisers Program had ever offered to come to them. People with no income, in some cases, who were disabled, in many cases, living 180 miles away from Halifax, were expected to find their own way in to talk to their lawyer. Well, in many cases, they did not. What it meant was that these people never had a chance to have an advocate who even knew what their case was about. No wonder these people were frustrated.

[2:45 p.m.]

So there were deficiencies all through the system but, again, our report makes an attempt to address the solutions. Now it may not be perfect and, I guess that is the caution I would give to all members, over the next little while we will all hear from Nova Scotians who will see some of the shortcomings - and there are shortcomings, I am sure - in our report and in the bill. I would ask every member in this House to look at determining whether or not those presentations are done in the positive method of trying to provide improvements to the bill, to make the system better, or if they are really people who are trying to destroy the system.

That is another issue we all have to deal with because, if we are in favour of the system, we must filter what we hear to see what is best for Nova Scotians, best for workers and best for employers, and we must make sure that we don't allow the negative to overwhelm the positive. If there is positive, we must recognize that, and if there are things that need to be improved, we need to improve them.

I fully support that, and so does my Party fully support improvements to this bill. Improvements are improvements, not only for workers but for employers. I am sure that we do not have a comprehensive list of either in our report, but I am sure that we did make a real effort to address their concerns; of that there is no question. No person can ever say that we did not take an opportunity to listen. We added to the number of hearings we held. We made a real, concerted effort to do what was best in our eyes.

Now I would also like to say - because it is so important - that workers' compensation reform is all about providing justice. It is about providing justice and justice delayed, as has been said before, is justice denied. So we need to move all these cases out of the backlog, through the system and get them out the door. What we have to ensure is that in the future there aren't any more backlogs, that cases are decided in a timely fashion, and our report and the bill addresses those kinds of things. It makes sure that we are not going to be looking at another 2,500 Nova Scotians who are going to be waiting 8, 9 or 10 years to have their cases heard.

[Page 4748]

Now I think it is also important that we consider that there are issues which will need to be addressed and I will give you an illustration of that, Mr. Speaker. When we brought down our report, the committee made a concerted effort to inform and consult with the stakeholders, those people - the injured workers groups, the employer groups, the trade unions and others - who had been most active in advocating. We held a briefing that took literally hours, where these people had an opportunity to ask questions and certainly give us dialogue on what they thought about the report.

Clearly, those concerns are going to have to be addressed; they are going to have to be considered. What it shows is two things: first of all, the committee was concerned enough to make sure that these people had an opportunity to have the report provided to them; and, second, it showed that we are interested enough to make sure that their concerns are considered. I think that these groups are clearly part of making sure this bill moves forward, to make sure that we are back in our places in the not-too-distant future, speaking on third reading of this bill, and as much pleasure as second reading gives me, third reading will give me even more pleasure.

I think that the day when some of these people will receive cheques, when some of these employers receive fairness - because premiums are also a problem, Mr. Speaker - these things are all going to be dealt with. My friend, the honourable member for Cape Breton Centre, indicated, he talked about one point, the mini-problems. I certainly wouldn't disagree with them but, in particular, one of the problems that we all wrestled with was the issue of the unfunded liability. The unfunded liability hamstrings anyone who wishes to change the system because that liability must be addressed. I am confident that the government will read the report and see that we have made some suggestions on ways to deal with the unfunded liability. It has to be addressed, it compromises the ability of our committee and the Legislature to address many concerns in the ways we would like to have dealt with them.

The report was one of compromise and I will be honest that myself and other members of my caucus wrestled long and hard with some things. I know members of the government caucus and of the New Democratic Party caucus wrestled with things as well. We stated from one proposition though and that was we were acting sincerely in the best interests of workers. Once you gave each other that amount of respect, we could have a dialogue about the things we could or couldn't live with. The report that was created was created as a result of that dialogue and the fact that people were prepared to accept that there is more than one point of view. What you do is you try to create a total package that is good and I think it is one.

Since I am speaking today on approval in principle, which is what second reading really is, I could never say anything more heartily than I certainly approve, in principle, of the contents of the bill. That does not mean that I do not suggest that there are changes that should be made to the bill or that fine-tuning may need to be done to the bill on what the minister referred to in Clauses 20, 21, 28, and 33 to make sure that the bill carries out the intent of the committee.

[Page 4749]

I also recognize that the Law Amendments Committee has a responsibility to make changes as well. That committee is also equally represented from all three political Parties so again, in order to move that thing through, it requires compromise and a willingness to listen to others points of view and to balance those points of view against your own. One has to recognize that while one may have particular interests in mind, others have other legitimate interests in mind as well.

I am about to close and I am sure all members will be very happy about that. I wouldn't want to be outdone by my friend, the member for Cape Breton Centre, because given the fact that I am a professional talker, be outdone by him. I think it is very important that we all make an effort to make sure that in the very near future, this bill is given second reading and forwarded to the Law Amendments Committee and that we also continue to explain to people who have questions.

There are Nova Scotians who are legitimately concerned because they feel that their particular problem was not addressed. The issue, of course, for example, is the issue of chemical illness, chemical sensitivity, the issue of repetitive strain injury, those are important issues. We cannot address everything at this stage and I am not suggesting that the Law Amendments Committee may or may not make something. But what I am telling you is that what you have to do is make the balance and it is not a sell-off, it is not a trade-off but you do have to balance different issues and we, as legislators, have to balance those issues.

If there weren't an unfunded liability, if we could wake up tomorrow morning and poof, it would be gone, maybe we would do different things. Unfortunately, I don't think that magic is going to happen. It is going to take an awful lot of hard work to get rid of that unfunded liability. I can assure you that workers and employers in this province will be much better off the sooner that happens because the sooner that is gone, the sooner we can look at some of the changes that have to be made. The fact that there are different levels in the system and those create injustice and unfairness, the fact that depending on when you were lucky enough to be hurt because you are never lucky to be hurt. You never ask to be hurt but depending on when you were hurt, you may or may not be eligible for certain benefits. That obviously offends, with good cause, many people. The difficulty we have is balancing that off with the cost to the system. I think that we have done that.

I think that although over the last number of days, as I indicated earlier, I despaired whether or not the appropriate compromise, I guess that is the right word, would be reached to allow this to move forward. I appreciate the efforts of all Parties to compromise and move this bill forward. I think it is imperative that we all, however, remember one thing, that there is a time for action, and the time for action is now. Thank you. (Applause)

[Page 4750]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Inverness.

MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I don't intend to be long-winded. I am not noted for that, it is not one of my finer points. I am very proud to stand here today and address the House. I was extremely proud to sit on the original subcommittee and then to be named to the all-Party committee and to work with the group across Nova Scotia. I enjoyed that side of it. I think that the job that they accomplished is tremendous. I think we listened to a great number of people and heard all the issues and tried to deal with them as best we could. The other thing that I discovered once again in travelling across Nova Scotia is that it is beautiful from end to end, from Cape Forchu to Meat Cove on the northern end.

I don't want to talk to many of the issues today, however, the issues that came before us, and those that were faced by injured workers, they were common to all of Nova Scotia. As we travelled across the province from Yarmouth back to Sydney and back into Halifax and New Glasgow, each and every meeting that we went to, there were common issues that came before us. My hope is that this bill gives some solution to the issues that were placed before us.

Beyond that, one of the most serious issues for me, beyond the physical hurt and frustration that was felt by many of the people that came before us, is the damage that is done to the families. That is through the loss of the financial ability, when they are injured. These families are groups that husband and wife have raised their family or are in the process of raising families and trying to pay for a home, for retirement or whatever. Once they get hurt on the job and they end up on workers' compensation, there is an interruption in earnings, they certainly don't earn the same amount as they did while they were on the job. They begin to lose some of the things that they did have. They don't have drug plans, some had to sell their homes, some had to move out, the families broke up, because the husband in fact, or the wife, could not provide for that family in the way that they wished to provide for that family.

This gives me a great deal of concern. I hope that some of this is resolved with the new Act, but I believe beyond that that it is an area that we will have to deal with in the future, and we all have to be conscious of that, people that sit in this House, the Legislature, is that people don't have a cheque on a regular basis, they don't have a pension plan at the end of the day, they don't have a medical plan that takes care of them. We just received a raise ourselves, and we have some money, and for me, it is one of the best, I guess, I am very happy with what I am getting today, but I feel for those who are out there who don't have that cheque on a regular basis. To me, they are truly part of the group in Nova Scotia that are the most hurt of the injured workers.

I am not going to say a great deal. That is basically what I wanted to say. I want us to be concerned in the future as well. I know this bill goes a long way to addressing some of the wrongs or inequities that were in the old Act, but I hope that we will go forward and pass on to the Law Amendments Committee.

[Page 4751]

[3:00 p.m.]

Hopefully this bill will come back before us in this sitting of the Legislature and we can finalize it while we are here so that some people may get on with their lives. Beyond that, we have to be conscious, I believe down the road, that we continue to look at the injured workers and the impact that the loss of salary or income has on a family, and that is on the whole family, not only the injured worker himself.

In ending, I just want to say that I truly did enjoy working with the groups and I look forward to seeing this bill into third reading. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, I, too, rise for a few minutes to talk about this Bill No. 90 that has been introduced, the improvements and amendments to the Workers' Compensation Act. I had the distinct privilege of being a member, as previous members who have just spoken, of the select committee that travelled the province and looked into the problems and the difficulties of the whole system and how it affected injured workers and how it affected employers and the actual people who work at the WCB and its various agencies. It was quite a process.

We started in August with nine committee members, and four advisers were travelling with us and the support staff. We travelled to Yarmouth, Wolfville, Bridgewater, Halifax, Stellarton, Sydney, Port Hawkesbury, a second time in Sydney, I believe back to Halifax for a second time and also to Amherst. In total we had 11 different stops and listened to various presenters from one end of this province to the other. I believe in total we heard 174 different presentations and in addition to that we had approximately 90 written or e-mailed addresses as well. So a total of 264 presentations were made to our committee. It was an all-Party committee, as mentioned, three from each Party.

As was mentioned by previous speakers, I think the committee did work very well together. I am not just sure how select committees have come together or worked in the past, but we did have a common goal which was to try to find a solution that would be in the best interest of everybody but especially, I think, for the injured workers. After all, it really was the injured workers who pushed this initiative and made it happen and the reason the select committee was set up to begin with was because of pressure from injured workers. As many of you may recall, we had the demonstration and the sit-in at the Premier's Office last April and from that, flowed a solution to try to find the best way to address the real major concerns that injured workers had throughout this province, from one end to the other.

It was certainly a privilege for me to be on that select committee and to hear some of the concerns and issues that were out there. I would say probably about 95 per cent of the presentations were from injured workers; the other 5 per cent being from employers or groups

[Page 4752]

of individuals like the Federation of Labour or a business association. But 95 per cent were from injured workers and they came forward because they were really concerned about the problems that are in there and they felt the system wasn't treating them fairly. It really wasn't meeting their needs. They had a grievance. They felt they were being poorly treated and we heard some really heart-wrenching stories and heart-wrenching testimonies from many of the injured workers who had been affected, and their families. As mentioned by the previous speaker, it really does affect more than just the injured worker, it affects their families in many ways as well.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to take a couple of minutes, I guess, before I go to the actual legislation and just tell you a little bit about what I heard from some of the people who were on the road and some of the injured workers who are out there. These are just a few samples of some injured workers and some of the things that they brought to us and their concerns. We had one gentlemen who came before us in Yarmouth. He said he is getting no help at all and the WCB people never call him back, a real level of frustration. I can remember another lady, a registered nurse who came before us. She had been hurt in a nursing home nine and one-half years ago and had hurt her back. Now she can't walk properly. She said that they played Russian roulette with my life. In the end she settled for 25 cents on the dollar but she is in a bad financial shape at this time. She had a report from a doctor who had never even seen her. The doctor filed a report and had never actually talked to her in person.

We had another injured worker who asked, who has the power to kick their butts? They really felt there is nobody holding the WCB accountable and they feel that somebody, the minister, or some agency, should hold them accountable. There is another example of an injured worker, he has endured 10 years of pain. He says it is an unfair system. The board cuts people off whenever they feel like it and the caseloads are far too high to adequately deal with every individual case that comes along.

I am just looking through my record book, Mr. Speaker, at some of the other testimony that we had. One injured worker indicated that family doctors, their evidence should be used because lots of times the injured worker goes to their family doctor and it is determined they do have an injury. Then they go to the WCB and it is overruled and they are no longer compensable or they cannot get any benefits at all. There is a real problem there between medical specialists on the board and what family doctors are saying or if in the end they do get a pension, it is so small, like $60, or $70, or $100 a month, that it really does not help their situation at all.

Looking through my notes here, I just want to touch on a couple others. In Kings County we heard from an individual who said that he had been cut off three times and that meant when he was cut off from the WCB, he did not receive any benefits. He had to reapply and go through the system again and it is several months, sometimes up to a year, before he could get reinstated. That happened to him not once, not twice, but three times. It is just a total period of frustration and they are just not being looked after like they should be. There

[Page 4753]

has got to be some compassion, understanding and a quicker system to look after the needs of the injured workers.

Here is one individual who told us he thought the WCB was like an armed camp. He could not get any answers. He could not get his phone calls returned and in the end he took a lump sum but only because that was his last resolution. He felt he had to have something out of desperation. He had to pay his mortgage and his other needs.

Here is an individual who appeared before us in New Glasgow and said that he hates every day because he is just not being looked after in the system. He feels he needs honest people at the board to deal with cases like his. He felt that he should be innocent until proven guilty or that he should be given the benefit of the doubt as an injured worker rather than being turned away and the benefit of doubt going in the opposite direction. He also called for a toll-free number for injured workers.

I could go on and on, Mr. Speaker, but that is just a little bit of some of the flavour of what we were hearing from injured workers. Here is a gentleman from Centreville in Kings County. He said, we do not ask to be injured and that was mentioned by a previous speaker, that they are there not out of choice but because they have had an accident and they should be given the benefit of the doubt and all being equal, they should be fairly compensated. So those are just a few comments from the notes that I took but there is a real level of frustration and feelings of inadequacy and loss of self-esteem and not only all that, but when they get to the point of no money coming into their household, then they start to lose their possessions, their house, or their car, or whatever, and it is just a downward spiralling effect. I just throw that in, Mr. Speaker, to just give you some idea of some of the things that we heard in our select committee report as we travelled around the province.

I want to turn now to Bill No. 90, itself, and just a few of the items that are mentioned in it. I am very pleased to see that the bill has made it to this stage because I know the select committee worked very hard listening to the testimony of the 274 individuals who presented and then came together and discussed and compromised and came to a consensus and put our report together. It was not always easy but we did try to work in the best interests of injured workers.

The bill that is here before us today is partly as a result of the report that our select committee put together and partly some other things that had been added in there since the committee reported, but I will touch on a couple of things that are in the bill that I think are good.

Clause 1 deals with universal coverage and in the Meredith Principles of 1912 this was one of the founding principles of the workers' compensation system in this country, that there should be universal coverage but truly, at this point, we have never reached that level of full coverage for all workers in the province and for all employers to be paying premiums. So it

[Page 4754]

is in the bill now that every employer in the province would be a participant in the system and all their employees, with a couple of exceptions, and it is suggested that anybody with three or less employees or those in the agricultural industry.

Another section allows for chronic pain, and this was a difficult issue for our committee. We wrestled with it, we struggled with the amount of dollars that were available to work with and, while it is not perfect, we have come up with some suggestions. For those in the pre-1985 period, they would get a 5 per cent increase in their pensions; for those between 1985 and 1990, they would also get a small increase in their pensions plus in addition for those that had never been able to return to work, they would get a lump-sum payment of $7,500 to help them with medical aids and help them get on with their life.

I guess we are recommending that, after 1990, the proposal that the WCB has at this time would be followed with the assessment program and then, after 1996, the FRP program would be - again, it is our recommendation - that we continue with that. So there is something there for everybody. It is not as much as is needed but it is a help, a step in the right direction. While we would have liked to have helped more people, I do feel that with the pressures we had in the three-Party set-up, by consensus we did come up with some help for some people. I know down the road, hopefully, there will be more improvements for more people.

In the bill, it mentions third-party claims and we asked for a change there so that people who are injured, perhaps in a car accident while on the job, could have the opportunity to pursue a claim with an insurance company against a third party. Right now they don't have that option, only the WCB can pursue a claim on behalf of an injured individual, and this way they would have a better opportunity to receive a fair settlement.

Certainly, what was introduced today by the minister that adds additional benefits for spouses or widows, we had recommended that up until 1992. After that date, anybody who was the widow of an injured worker would receive a lump-sum benefit and it has been improved now back to 1985, and I believe that fits with the Charter recommendations of the bill. So, there will certainly be a substantial pay-out for those spouses or widows who have lost a loved one on the job.

There is some mention of the level of benefits being improved or topped-up in the bill and while I am not entirely happy with the amount that injured workers are going to be receiving in general, there is some benefit to it. I am going to wrap up here shortly, but I do feel overall that the bill has a lot of good things in it and it is the best that the select committee could come up with and it has some good recommendations in it.

We certainly heard the injured workers and I think it is important that we pass this legislation on to the Law Amendments Committee and, hopefully, on to third reading and Royal Assent in this House. If we don't, we are going to be hearing more from the injured workers. We thought the occupation in the spring was serious, but if we don't get something

[Page 4755]

to address the serious needs of our injured workers in this province, there are going to be lots more demonstrations by them. So let's hope the bill does pass and improve it, if we can, in the Law Amendments Committee and get some help for those who most need it in this province. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

[3:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Before I recognize the next speaker, I should advise the House that I was in error earlier this afternoon after Question Period when I advised that there would be no late debate tonight. The rules, very briefly, are different when you are in extended hours. When you are in normal hours, at 6:00 o'clock you go into the emergency debate and there is no late debate. However, when you are in extended hours, you still have the late debate at 6:00 o'clock and then you go into the emergency debate at whatever hour you adjourn. So there will be a late debate at 6:00 p.m. this evening and the emergency debate will start at 8:00 p.m. I am sorry for misdirecting the House, perhaps.

The honourable member for Antigonish.

MR. HYLAND FRASER: Mr. Speaker, I will be very brief in speaking a little bit about Bill No. 90, the amendments to the Workers' Compensation Act. I guess first of all, I would like to say that I was pleased to have been a member of that committee and selected, as were two others, to represent our Party. I think we were not long underway when any partisan politics were put aside because we, in fact, as nine people with our advisers soon found out that the differences among our three Parties were very little because the workers who came forward with the sad stories were in serious need of being heard.

I think that I would have to stand here today to thank the other members of the committee because, for the most part, we did put those partisan issues aside and as we heard the stories repeated and repeated and as we talked on the roadshow, socially, I guess we formulated some of the things that perhaps we would like to see changed in the Workers' Compensation Act at another day, which day came this week. Hopefully, we will move on in second reading and then to the Law Amendments Committee.

I look at the workers' compensation program, the whole system as an insurance program which, in fact, it is. Having an insurance license to market insurance in the Province of Nova Scotia, I think one of the things we learned early in our career was that when you put something in place for somebody, they have to trust that it is going to be there some time down the road in case they need it.

If I was to sell the head of a household, for instance, a life insurance policy that agreed to pay out a certain number of dollars in case of that individual's death, then the family trusts that that is what would happen. The same thing would happen if I were to sell a disability plan

[Page 4756]

to a wage earner. If their wages were cut off, that individual and his family would expect to have an income.

I do not think workers' compensation is any different. I think when the employer pays a premium to look after their employees in case of an accident on the job, both the employer and the employee take a sense of comfort in that if something does happen, unplanned, an accident, that they would expect to get paid. I think that is where the workers' compensation has fallen down because there was no sense of trust any more. So many people were out there with claims that could not get settled and people were losing their properties, their families and everything - everything they had - because they could not get a cheque that they thought they were entitled to.

I am not saying that the report that we tabled and the bill that has been tabled on the floor here is going to fix all of that, but I think that there had to come a time when something was brought forward that would put the workers first in case of an accident. The problem I think, is twofold, the problem that I felt we needed to address. One of them was the problem of the backlog. How do we deal with that sector of employees who still are not satisfied with the settlement they got, if they got any?

I think the other problem is that from this day or from the Royal Assent of this bill onward, hopefully this will never happen again, Mr. Speaker, and I think the committee members took both of those items seriously as we tried to put our ideas together on how we could fix the system and make it better, a system that seemed to have gone awry.

I guess the one other concern that had to be addressed that was mentioned by the other speakers was the unfunded liability and the tremendous cost that is on the doorsteps of all employers in this province. Some of the measures that we have recommended in our report are measures that hopefully will make employers feel that we thought about them as well. We had the SIC codes, some employers came to us and said that they didn't feel they were in the right category. Well, I think now there will be a review process that if an employer objects to where they are placed in the coding system, that they can go and have an appeal on that because, in fact, they may be in the wrong category. I think the rate deadline for assessments was a problem with employers and we have recommended that that go back to September 1st, that they be notified. It allows better planning for them into the next year.

I think the waiting period for out-of-province employers coming into this province and not having to pay premiums into that being at six months, we felt that having them start paying after one week was much more appropriate. If they are going to be taking from this system, they should be contributing to it.

I know, as a former employer of a number of people, this is a big bill for employers and I have been told that by a number of business people who have contacted me over the last three or four months. In fact, some of the measures that we are suggesting, hopefully the

[Page 4757]

premiums will not increase a great deal from some of the additional benefits that we are providing to try to deal with the backlog and look ahead.

Mr. Speaker, no system is perfect and that is why I think it is important that we go on to the Law Amendments Committee. I am sure we are going to have representations from injured workers who feel that the amounts are not large enough, from some other injured workers who perhaps nothing has been provided for those and perhaps employers as well and employer groups, as we try to implement universality which, in fact, is pretty well universal across this country as most of the employers have to take part in the plan. So I look forward to hearing what comes before the Law Amendments Committee, suggestions to improve what we have done and I think really add credibility to the work of our committee.

Just before I take my place, Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the chairman of the committee. He did a wonderful job to keep order in meetings, to bring us to conclusions a lot of times when we were scattered around the board and, in fact, over the last couple of days has really, I guess, put his law hat on and tried to get us all out of a jam so that we could get this to move forward. So in concluding, I was really glad to have had an opportunity to sit on the committee. I certainly understand the program and the plan a lot better than I ever did before and hopefully will move on with something that is better for all the workers and employers of this province. Thank you.

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

MS. ROSEMARY GODIN: Mr. Speaker, the select committee was struck to deal with the backlog at the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal and this was a horrendous and unexplainable backlog. I was gratified to hear the Minister of Labour acknowledge that his department knew that there was a problem today when he introduced legislation. But I also want to say that unless you attended these meetings and travelled the province, you would have no idea of the scope and of the tragedy of the problems that are out there and appear to be directly attributable to the WCB system. I also want the injured workers of Nova Scotia to know that I believe that every member of the select committee had a sincere desire to make things better for injured workers and their families.

This Bill No. 90 is based on the report that came out of the experiences that we heard from injured workers, and I say based because it doesn't accurately reflect everything that was in the report but that is exactly why we need to progress with this important bill and get it on to the Law Amendments Committee for further public input.

In introducing this bill, the minister praised the consultative process that Nova Scotians took part in. He said that just about every Nova Scotian had the opportunity to appear before the committee. I want this House to understand fully, that we probably did not hear from everybody as we prepared the background for this bill. We probably did not hear from the hundreds of people who long ago gave up on this system and may be receiving financial or

[Page 4758]

medical help from some other source, so beaten down and betrayed by a system that took an adversarial approach to the very people that it should be supporting, and we will never know how many people out there have just given up, never daring to believe that they would ever see the day that legislation from this House would ever help them.

We heard only from the injured workers who took enough pain medication, or had nerve blocks, just before the meeting so they could make it. We heard from people who spent the entire day lying down so they had the energy to appear before us that evening and help make recommendations that went into this particular bill. I think every one of us on the select committee feels indebted to each and every one of those injured workers who overcame physical, emotional and financial barriers to participate in this process.

The goal of this bill is to make things easier for the injured worker and more fair across the board for employers. The whole system needs to be made more accessible, more flexible, and more service-friendly for injured workers and for the people who employ workers in this province.

The unfunded liability problem has to be addressed. The financial debt of the board has contributed to what I will charitably call the perception of a mean spirit in a lot of the dealings among the WCB, the WCAT and injured workers. Time and time again we heard from people who thought they were not being believed. Their injuries, their disabilities and even their pain received no validation whatsoever from the very system that was supposed to protect and support them. The goal of Bill No. 90 is to improve this system, and that will happen if the key principles of fairness and respect are upheld and passed by this Legislature.

Injured workers and their families and survivors of workers deserve legislation that will improve the quality of their lives. They deserve it, Madam Speaker, and I have no reservations in supporting the bill's passage on second reading and on to the Law Amendments Committee. Before I take my seat, I just want to say it was a pleasure working on this select committee. I appreciated the help and support that we got from the four consultants on our committee and from the support staff. Thank you.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Madam Speaker, I, too, want to rise today to express a few sentiments on Bill No. 90, the Workers' Compensation Act. I, too, had the privilege of representing our Party on this committee and I am sure I will join with all the other members in saying that this was a difficult task and one that, today, we can stand and be proud that we took part in. But it was difficult for many of us. Many of the members had quite a busy schedule to juggle in all of this, in going throughout all parts of the province, and certainly everyone showed a lot of dedication to this committee and a lot of dedication in listening to everyone who came before us.

[Page 4759]

I also want to extend my thanks and congratulations to the chairman, the member for Lunenburg, who certainly did an excellent job and I do not think there was one day I would ever say that the chairman showed any sort of partisanship or politics in the way he handled the committee and how he arbitrated the committee.

Madam Speaker, on that topic, I think if there is one message that many of the people who appeared before the committee left, especially in Cape Breton, was a clear message of saying, here is a great opportunity. You have an all-Party committee. All three Parties are represented. Here is a chance to bring forward legislation that is good for the injured workers and for everyone involved with workers' compensation. The message was one where they told us, let's not play politics with this committee. This committee was formed to be an all-Party committee, not one where politics should be played, but one that could listen on behalf of all members of the House of Assembly, listen to the concerns and bring forward concrete recommendations. That is a message we all took very seriously.

[3:30 p.m.]

Other than the member for Cumberland North, the other eight members of the committee were all first-time elected to this Legislature in March. In making that message, those who gave us that warning, I kind of felt that they were indicating that we were sacrificial lambs, but certainly in the end, what they were trying to say was that we were coming in with clean hands. For many of us, we had never had experience with workers' compensation. I had a little bit articling with a law firm, having dealt with a few files. Certainly, for most of us as members, it gave us an opportunity to see what these injured workers were going through and what employers were going through in working with the workers' compensation system. For all of us, it was a learning experience. We ourselves had to learn how the system worked. It certainly became quite clear to us why there was so much frustration around the Workers' Compensation Act for everyone involved.

Madam Speaker, in keeping my comments brief, I certainly want to say that the warning or request given to us, that politics not be played with this report, on behalf of those people who issued those comments, I would extend that to the entire House here. This entire House should look and work together. This report is something to be proud of. It is the work of nine members, representing all three Parties of this House. It is not a time for members to stand up and say, we got this, we got that, we didn't get this, we didn't get that. It is not a time to say that. This was a very difficult process for everyone. It is a time to stand together to say, we have done well. We haven't done everything.

Madam Speaker, I think the message we all want to give is that this is just a first step, by no means is this an end, that we are not going to look at this issue for another 10 years. This is simply a first step that we have done here. I certainly want to extend that message to the members of this House. It is important that we have this legislation passed. It is important

[Page 4760]

that we address these very vital issues as soon as possible, and certainly that this House does not play politics with this very important issue.

Again, Madam Speaker, I want to say that I was very proud to be a member of this committee. It was a difficult process, but certainly, we have a lot to be proud of, and the report that was reached was signed by all nine members of the committee. Thanks go out to the consultants who worked with us. I know on my own behalf and I am sure on behalf of most members of this House, we want to see this bill go to the Law Amendments Committee and to third reading as soon as possible, so that all people involved with workers' compensation can have the most serious issues addressed as soon as possible. Thank you. (Applause)

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou Centre.

DR. JOHN HAMM: Madam Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to make brief comment on the bill before us. I wish to congratulate the members of all caucuses who participated in this. In this group, they were the busiest people over the last number of months, as they wrestled with what is a problem that had been ignored far too long. The process is a healthy one. I believe that addressing a problem about which we all had concerns in a very constructive way says something about the process in which we participate in this House. I for one am pleased to have been able, through our caucus representation on that committee, to participate in that process. It was the right way to go, and I believe workers and the Workers' Compensation Act will be the ultimate beneficiary for the very great effort that was put forward on behalf of all of us in this place on that committee.

I would hope that as we reach this particular point in the delivery of this bill through the House, that we will look upon the challenges that are presented in the Law Amendments Committee in the same way as the committee looked at the challenge that was presented to it as it went around the province and listened to the great number of presentations, both by employers and injured workers.

All of us realize that being an all-Party committee, is a compromise of what was heard in those public sessions. While it does not address completely the concerns of any one committee member or the concerns of any one Party or the concerns of any one member of this Legislature, it is, I believe, a fair representation of what should happen at this point, in terms of being fair and in terms of being doable. I would hope that the onward passage of this bill will not be impeded and will continue uninterrupted until, finally, we have a piece of legislation that will address the concerns, the problems and the financial hardships that so many injured workers have been subjected to over far too long a period.

While there will be some who will be disappointed, on the other hand to do nothing would be unconscionable. We cannot let this bill die. We must pursue it until its logical conclusion and have it made part of the laws of this province and, as a result, developing and

[Page 4761]

having a better compensation system. There are none of us, as MLAs, who are not approached by injured workers who have suffered as a result of the process that is in place. If we are determined to pursue this, as I believe we are, then we will have done something of great consequence in this sitting of the House. So I rise only to encourage all members of the House to follow the example that has been given to us by the members of the committee. If we do that, we will be successful and we will have done something of real consequence in this sitting. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise to speak on this Bill No. 90 with respect to workers' compensation. I want to say first, at the onset, that I want to congratulate all those committee members who have served and served diligently on behalf of this Legislature to bring about this bill. I have to say that that is something that has to be truly recognized by this Legislative Assembly. Also, I want to recognize 134 presenters and the 29 organizations that made representation before the Workers' Compensation Committee. Without their representations and their presentations, the committee would not have been able to do the kind of work and present the kind of report to this Legislative Assembly that we do have.

Having said that though, there are a couple of issues that I want to look at and I want to look at closely. One is the issue with respect to the backlog of claimants that need to be processed. I do believe that the number is somewhere around 2,500 or approximately that number. I am very pleased to see that the government is going to, hopefully, speed up the process with respect to bringing in individual persons, appeals commissioners, who, in fact, can address this very issue. Hopefully, within a very short period of time all this backlog will be addressed so that there is no prolonging or processing of the applications.

Number two is a significant and serious issue with me, and it concerns the lump sum payment. I believe the lump sum payment is a number of some $7,500. The lump sum payment is a result, it is my understanding and if I can clarify this, that these are people who pre-Hayden decision were, in fact, some people who received very little workers' compensation payments; some who, in fact, as a result of a future decision were actually cut out completely of workers' compensation. These individuals now are left with this carrot being dangled in front of them to accept this $7,500. My concern is, how did we arrive at that number?

I would hope that in the Law Amendments Committee, that the Law Amendments Committee looks at that particular number, how that number was arrived at and if, in fact, it is relevant to today's economics. When I say that, the cost of living, the kind of medical attention that these people need, because these claims were never settled, that is an issue that I want to have acknowledged and addressed at the Law Amendments Committee, to see if

[Page 4762]

the actual figures were used and what statistical component of those figures were used in arriving at such a particular number.

The other one is with respect to the cost of $1,200 to individual caseworkers because an adviser is not able to attend. I don't know how that number has been arrived at. Again, it would have been great to see within the recommendations of the report how that number was arrived at and if, in fact, it is a logical number. This number was a number that represents legal advice, if I understand it, and as a result of representing legal advice and knowing the cost of lawyers today, it is a very important and serious issue to look at.

I personally wanted to say that I have had a number of individuals who have come to me with respect to workers' compensation issues. I must tell you that there was one particular individual who had an outstanding 30 year issue with workers' compensation. I must say that in fairness to the Workers' Compensation Board that we were able to, at least, acknowledge that it was a recognized injury and that, in fact, they did but they only made it retroactive to about 10 years. I think with respect to some of this new legislation, it may be possible to go back and have a look at that. I certainly hope that I can.

The other issue that is truly a significant issue, I know that there is, what I believe to be, this blanket coverage. Now we are encompassing all employees under this universal coverage. As an individual employed in the education institution, particularly university communities, one would have to measure the benefit values of that now versus the benefit values of being in the workers' compensation.

I want to tell you that there is a very good reason for that and I acknowledge the committee encompassing and bringing a larger scope into the workers' compensation coverage, simply because it allows more people to participate and pay into the plan and, as my understanding of it would be, by bringing this blanket coverage in we now have more participatory parties involved and a better chance of at least stabilizing and balancing off the economic side or the cost factor side of this workers' compensation. Even though I do have some concerns about that, I could say that, in fairness, one could certainly look at that again after we had some method of doing a measurement to that.

The other issue is a very significant and important issue. During Question Period this came up and this was with respect to environmental illness or chemical sensitivity. There was the question that although they heard presentations with respect to this, in fact, under the Workers' Compensation Board it has never been recognized as a disability. Even though there were presenters before the Workers' Compensation Select Committee, they still didn't recognize it as a disability and it is my understanding and it is my belief - and although I never served on the committee, I had my ears open to this - that there was no one in the medical profession who would, in fact, determine what a chemical sensitivity or an environmental illness was or is or should be.

[Page 4763]

Another point was, in fact, with respect to the enormous cost of bringing individuals in under that workers' compensation issue as well. What we have to recognize is that environmental illness is an illness of the future and although it is not addressed here now, someday we are going to have to come to grips with this and we are going to have to bring it forward. An environmental illness has to be seriously looked at and addressed. We said that Nova Scotia was one of the only provinces and/or territory in Canada that recognized environmental illness. As a matter of fact, Nova Scotia built a medical centre to evaluate environmental illness in Fall River.

[3:45 p.m.]

We recognize that it does exist, even though the medical profession doesn't, Nova Scotians recognize that it exists, and as a result of that, I think that what we have to do is we have to measure this with some temperament, but by the same token of measuring it with some temperament, we also have to acknowledge, as I go back before I was distracted, Mr. Speaker, go back to the point whereby environmental illness is an illness of the future. It is recognized as an illness that is going to continue to grow, and it is something that we have to come to grips with. Much of the European community has come to grips with this very issue, and we have to as well. I just bring that up as a point, I don't bring that up as an issue, because I know that the Law Amendments Committee will in fact have a tremendous amount of work to do anyway.

Mr. Speaker, in summary I want to say, on behalf of the colleagues who represented my Party and of the other two political Parties, that in all fairness, we can't get everything at one time, but I can tell you that this is a move in the right direction. For that, I hope, we receive less calls in our constituency offices as a result of this. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou East.

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of putting this important piece of legislation forward. I was certainly delighted to be part of the Select Committee on the Workers' Compensation Act, and I am pleased to make a brief comment. This report is the result of three Parties working cooperatively to a common goal, to attempt to put some sort of fairness in a system that was quite frankly riddled with holes, fairness for all stakeholders.

Not to delay the movement of this legislation, I want to make some thank yous. I would like to thank the legislative staff for their assistance and dedication, Mora Stevens, Kim Sheppard, Paul Walsh, Paul Read. I want to thank Doug Hadley, who compiled and wrote our report, our business consultant, Luc Erjavec; our medical consultant, Dr. Anthony Lamplugh; the injured workers' consultant, Jim Neville; legal consultant, Michael Power; and Gordon Johnson, our Legislative Counsel, who provided the expert drafting of the legislation that was so necessary.

[Page 4764]

Most importantly, I would like to thank the injured workers who took the time and effort and sometimes with a great deal of difficulty and discomfort to come out to one or more of our hearings and to share their thoughts and concerns with the committee. I must not forget the business community who played a very important role in our hearings, who put forward their concerns. Also, I want to thank my colleagues from the Liberal caucus, and the NDP caucus. I am proud of all of you. I thought I would never say that, some months ago, but we did work together very well, and I am proud to be part of this process. It is a very important step. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a few moments to speak to Bill No. 90 from a number of perspectives. As the MLA for Halifax Needham, I certainly receive a lot of calls from people in my constituency who have occasion to be in need of accessing the workers' compensation program. Many of the concerns that we have heard expressed through the discussion so far are concerns that my constituency assistant and I have every day. My constituency is one where, within the constituency, there are many different forms of work, heavy industrial settings, light industrial settings, and of course, a fairly large service sector, nursing homes and residential facilities, and increasingly these are the facilities where people are experiencing injuries at work and need to be taken into consideration.

I think as well, Mr. Speaker, it is not simply as an MLA in the north end of Halifax with this kind of a constituency that leads me to be concerned about workers' compensation and have an interest in it; as the Health Critic for my Party and as the Chair of the Standing Committee on Community Services, I certainly have an interest in this particular piece of legislation. I think it is important that we note that workers' compensation is an extremely important part of our social safety net in this country. Historically, workers' compensation was the first social welfare program in Canada that paid cash directly to claimants. Nova Scotia, while not the first province to enact workers' compensation legislation, was among the first. In fact, I think it was the third in 1915.

This is a very important piece of legislation for Nova Scotians and for working people. I have an inordinate amount of respect for the members of the committee and the work they did. I think we all recognize how difficult it is sometimes to work under a great deal of pressure and in situations where ultimately a compromise is what is required. The comments I am about to say in no way is a judgement of the work of my colleagues, both inside or from outside my Party caucus, but I think it is extremely important that the record reflect that the work with respect to overhauling workers' compensation in this province is not completed with these amendments.

[Page 4765]

I think that we need to be reminded that as the world of work changes our social programs need to change as well. There are a number of issues that have yet to be dealt with in our current legislation. My colleague, the member for Dartmouth North, talked about environmental issues, the fact that environmental illnesses need to be recognized as compensable, the importance of those suffering environmental illness today, it is important that they not become the backlog victims of tomorrow. This is something that we need to keep at the front of our thinking with respect to workers' compensation.

I think the other thing I would like to say, Mr. Speaker, is that increasingly the world of work is a world of non-standard work. It is the world where workers work in homes, home care workers, domestic workers who work for franchises like Molly Maid and these kinds of companies. In fact, this is the sector of our labour force that is growing. It is the most rapidly growing part of employment in this country and this kind of non-standard work needs to be considered now in terms of the social programs that we have. We need to consider the way that work is changing. We need to look at new areas of knowledge that are being developed with respect to our understanding of workplace injury. Carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive strain injuries are conditions that result from activities that occur in the workplace and quite often these are activities that have a primary impact on women because, quite often, these are settings where it is women who are doing this kind of data entry and this kind of work that results in these particular kinds of difficulties.

I think that we need to remember that our work in terms of overhauling workers' compensation, having it reflect adequately the needs of working women and men in this province, has not been completed. This is an important start. It is extremely important to remedy the wrongs of the past, the backlog, the unjust termination of benefits for survivors of persons who were injured in the workplace. Our work is not yet done here, Mr. Speaker, there is more to do. Thank you very much.

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a few moments, if I could, to speak on Bill No. 90. As a member of the Law Amendments Committee, I can assure you that I look forward to the experience of listening to, and the suggestions and, hopefully, additional recommendations that can be brought back to this House at a future time.

Firstly, however, I first want to congratulate the committee for their good work, the chairman in particular, for the long hours, and also to thank those many workers who took the time and made the effort to go to these types of meetings. In my work, in my constituency, many of these injured workers are not the Dale Carnegies of our community, they are extremely nervous speaking in public, and that, of course, is compounded with the fact that it is on a topic very near and dear to them personally.

[Page 4766]

The intent of this report and legislation, hopefully, will be met with the reduction in the backlog with the idea that there will be faith again in the system. This morning I had the opportunity to meet with one of my constituents who is involved in this process. Not to make it extremely personal, but it comes down to the fact that on certain occasions, he once called me and said, he actually thought of shooting himself. That is a grave concern when you look at the fact that this man, his marriage, his mortgage, his children's education have been put to the litmus test; meanwhile, he is literally moved from one doctor to another because the system is not working for the individual.

The stress that has been created on some of these workers is absolutely inexcusable. From my perspective, I find it difficult to understand because I have never been in that situation. Many of these men and women did not go out of their way to get hurt; however, the system has not been working for them.

I have a couple of particular concerns and, hopefully, at the Law Amendments Committee these will be brought to our attention. The issue of chronic pain. I still believe that chronic pain and the definition of what it is about, a pain which persists beyond the normal recovery time - although this is not a thesaurus competition - that is a definition which I believe needs much more work. The benefit of doubt section, that rhyme: if in doubt don't pay out. That is a nasty piece of poetry, Mr. Speaker. After all, that is the heart and soul of the argument when it comes to workers, if, in any way, that nasty rhyme had anything to do with this backlog of decisions.

More particularly, Mr. Speaker, I must express my grave reservations about the lack of leadership when it comes to the issue of environmental illness. It has been said by one of the earlier speakers that environmental illness is an illness of the future. It seems to me there is a severe lack of leadership on this issue forthcoming from this bill. Environmental illness, particularly with constituents of mine who have been involved with this Camp Hill situation - and Camp Hill, in my opinion, is nothing more and nothing less than an industrial accident whose many victims are still suffering - I look forward to recommendations coming forth to the Law Amendments Committee on the topic of environmental illness.

There is also that fascination with dates in this legislation. I understand the reason for some of these dates. I have asked the questions because as someone who wants to know - you can't let on you know everything - it is important to ask these things. However, I take for the example a worker hurt in 1982, who then went through retraining, who wanted to go back to work and in 1994 was hurt again; same problem, yet his whole case file reverted back to 1982 and that, in my opinion, is grossly unfair.

[Page 4767]

[4:00 p.m.]

The lump sum payment is an issue which I know we will hear more about at the Law Amendments Committee. The key thing is that we return dignity to the process, we return faith to the process, which allows the workers to feel that they have a forum to which they can turn that will listen to their concerns, that will judge them fairly and make a decision that they and their families can live with.

There is more yet to do, the process is about to continue. I congratulate the committee for their work and, as a member of the Law Amendments Committee, I look forward to hearing from further submissions at that time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I too welcome the opportunity to speak for a couple of minutes this afternoon. I chose the words a couple of minutes, rather than a few minutes, because sometimes when I speak for a few minutes, it tends to mean an hour and I don't intend to speak that long this afternoon on this legislation.

This is a very important piece of legislation, it is a very important topic, workers' compensation. Like some others who have spoken, I want to express my appreciation to all of those members who served on the committee that travelled around this province because I have also been on some select committees in a different regime - when it was the blue team rather than the red team occupying the government benches - and I think that you might have been rather familiar with the lengthy hearings that were taking place on workers' compensation, Bill No. 99 it was called at that point in time, back in 1991.

Certainly, I know that it is indeed a very complex issue and the problems that exist with the system, many of them have been very long-standing. I want to congratulate all of those who have served on the committee from all three Parties within this House for the effort that they have put into these hearings and for the reasoned consideration that they have put forward in considering those presentations and bringing forward the report.

I would be remiss, however, if I did not pay a special tribute and a special thank you to all of those who came before the select committee to make their presentations. Very often, they were unveiling an awful lot about themselves. They were baring their own personal situations to highlight the difficulties that existed in many cases with workers' compensation and baring themselves in a very public way and for many people, that is not a very easy thing to do.

They and others who appeared before the select committee did so with the stated purpose in mind of trying to get improvements to the system and changes that would benefit injured workers of today and tomorrow because of their actions. I think that we all in this

[Page 4768]

House and, in fact, I would say all Nova Scotians owe them a debt of gratitude for their willingness to come forward to bring those concerns into the public view.

The workers' compensation system itself is really an insurance program. It is an insurance program that is aimed at providing a means of support to workers if they become injured or ill as a result of something, or an incident or incidents, that happened at the workplace because very often the illness or the injury is not as a result of a single event, one single traumatic event, but it can be as a result of a cumulative effect over a long period of time.

The workers' compensation system also has to be able to be adaptive and it has to be able to change to changing circumstances. If and when new illnesses are identified and new injuries are identified as being work related, then the system has got to be able to adapt and it has got to be able to adapt and to provide programs, services and support, both financially and otherwise, to those injured workers in what can only be seen as a fair and a timely manner. Those kind of things are, indeed, extremely important. The kinds of backlogs and those kinds of issues must be addressed and must be addressed expeditiously.

There is a saying that justice delayed is justice denied. Many injured workers and injured workers' families across this province are correct, I suggest, when they say that they have been denied justice because, Mr. Speaker, their very legitimate claims for compensation in many cases have been allowed to drag on, often in the appeal process and without being addressed for extensive periods of time. Five and 10 years is not uncommon to hear. To do that is to provide injury upon injury and it is an unacceptable situation.

Mr. Speaker, our caucus, and I say this through you to all members of this House and to the general public, we are very interested and we have been very interested in seeing this legislation go forward; legislation to go forward that was going to be in keeping with the select committee's report. I know that, unfortunately, this bill was preceded by what would not be characterized as amicable discussions between the various Parties in this House. Some might say that the discussions were downright cantankerous and some members, particularly on the government benches, did not appreciate the fact that we in the Official Opposition had to use the tactics that are available for us to try to elicit some commitments from the government for changes.

Mr. Speaker, the legislation as it is going on to the Law Amendments Committee certainly is not legislation in its entirety that this caucus does, in fact, support. There are some provisions, some very odorous, as well as I might say onerous, provisions in that legislation, that we are now only able to support the legislation going on because of the public commitment that the minister made on the floor of the House today, that he is prepared to support the revisions and deletions of those clauses. (Interruption) We are taking the minister at his word because I know that in the scrum outside as well, the Premier fell back on using words like we are open to considering the changes. (Interruption)

[Page 4769]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, we were not just only open to hearing the government making a commitment, we wanted a commitment from the government that they would be supportive of those changes. Those the minister gave finally on the floor of the House today in the calling of Bill No. 90. It is on the basis of that commitment that we have agreed to be providing the cooperative approach that we normally do provide for the legislation to move forward.

Mr. Speaker, it is going to be, therefore, incumbent upon this government to honour the commitments that it made in introducing Bill No. 90 because despite what the minister has said or tries to say publicly every time he can find a microphone to talk into, that those provisions are in fact in the select committee report. They are not. In fact, there are minutes of the committee meetings that very directly contradict what the minister has been trying to spin publicly.

Mr. Speaker, the legislation that we agreed to support would be legislation that is based upon the principles and only the principles that are covered in that select committee report, and nothing more than that, in order to get the legislation going on to the law amendments process. I will be voting on the basis of the commitment that the minister has made after consultation with his colleagues and presumably with the Premier and, on the basis of those commitments, I will be voting for the bill to go on to the Law Amendments Committee.

I look forward to that bill, therefore, at the law amendments process receiving the consideration that it is deserving to receive from the general public, those who wish to come before it, and I am looking for a date, after the law amendments process has concluded its hearings for that bill, revised to address the issues that we have mentioned, and others that have probably and surely will be raised at the law amendments process, then that bill coming back to this House to be debated here in the committee stage, and going on.

Mr. Speaker, I acknowledge that there are some positive things in that legislation, and it would be a shame for us not to carry through and to make sure that those positive features in that legislation do, in fact, get put into law. Those provisions, of course, that we had raised objections to, when we first saw the bill, those provisions are not; however, some of those positive ones we would want to see brought forward. But there are other clauses that are important.

I do welcome the opportunity to have spoken on this bill, albeit in a very much abbreviated fashion from my normal method of speaking on the floor, but I think that it is important, now that the logjam has been broken, to have this legislation go forward in a cooperative manner as we normally do have to go on to the Law Amendments Committee process.

[Page 4770]

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

DR. HINRICH BITTER-SUERMANN: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to briefly rise and speak on Bill No. 90, the Workers' Compensation Act. My colleague, the member for Timberlea-Prospect, just briefly mentioned the Camp Hill disaster that occurred in the 1980's, where health care workers were suddenly struck by an illness that until that time and day was unknown to medical science. Unfortunately, as we all know, the Pathology Lab at the VG later on had victims that behaved similarly, and later on in Glace Bay, in the hospital that is now closed, OR staff were stricken.

Mr. Speaker, we in our NDP huddle have not been happy with the fact that the environmental illness victims of these three different disasters, but still linked by the same system to those disasters, have not been addressed in the report. Most likely, because the committee felt that there is not enough medical evidence to sustain a mention in a committee report. That is so utterly unfair to those people. The argument is really that because there is no chapter in a textbook on environmental illness for these health care workers, hence they are not entitled to be called victims of accidents at the workplace. Of course, that goes back to when medicine started, there are illnesses that come our way, like HIV did some two decades ago, that are unknown. Just because it is unknown doesn't mean that it is non-existent.

That is the only argument, Mr. Speaker, with your permission, I want to make. I hope that these victims of that particular sector of industrial accidents will come to the Law Amendments Committee and once again make their stand. We will hopefully get them incorporated in this very important legislation. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I am going to wrap up for my caucus colleagues, I think; I have the privilege to conclude discussion today. As you know, Mr. Speaker, I have a bit of history on the issue of workers' compensation, maybe not the kind of history you have, but I was certainly involved as a trade unionist, as an activist in the fight against Bill No. 99 because of the changes that it was attempting to bring forward at the time that many people thought were onerous, were disadvantageous to workers. In fact, you will recall very well that there was a huge storm from both the business community and the workers' community against those changes. In fact, I remember when the next bill on workers' compensation came forward in 1994, because many of us were quite concerned about that bill, and you saying maybe everybody should not have made such a fuss about the bill I brought in, Bill No. 99, and we would not be in this predicament at this particular time.

[Page 4771]

[4:15 p.m.]

As I said then and I still say, that is perhaps debatable, but nonetheless, we have had quite a history over the past 10 years of trying to deal with problems at workers' compensation. I don't know how successful we have been at solving them. In reviewing the debate and preparing to make some comments today, I was going back over some of the debate and some of the papers that we had, going back to 1994, when Bill No. 122 was introduced by the Liberal Government, and recalled what a difficult period of time that was for, certainly, the members of the NDP caucus and others in the Province of Nova Scotia, as we watched what we felt was an attack on injured workers.

There was no question that there was huge pressure. At that point the unfunded liability of the Workers' Compensation system was in excess of $500 million. A huge burden, and the system was about to explode or implode, whatever. Many of us felt that the changes that were being made to address that were unnecessarily burdensome to the injured worker, and it was the injured worker who was paying, in large degree, an overproportion of the costs of trying to repair a system that had been badly managed over the previous 10 to 15 years. You will recall the battle that we tried to wage here against a very significant majority government to try to stem some of that attack and to ameliorate it to some degree. There has been some discussion here today about WCAT and the backlog problems at WCAT. WCAT was originally set up back in 1994 to deal with the backlog of the old system, of the independent appeal board, which, at that point, had a backlog in excess of 2,000 cases. It had become so bureaucratic or so legalistic, however you want to look at it, that there was very little movement and there is no question that there were problems.

I, for one, certainly fought hard against the idea of the WCAT or the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal that was brought in under the workers' compensation system and under the influence of the board. I felt then and I still feel that we should have an independent appeals board, independent of the Workers' Compensation Board, that can make decisions based on their merit and if the board policy is wrong, then they should be able to say so and overturn that policy.

We have gone away from that, Mr. Speaker, and you have heard the outcries over the past couple of years from people who feel they are not being justly treated. Last fall and last winter there was some commitment by the government that they were going to deal with the problems at the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal, the backlog and some of the problems injured workers were facing in dealing with workers' compensation. It came to the point where in the spring, after the election, a group of injured workers from Pictou County went to the extreme of occupying the Premier's office. There were demonstrations held, trying to bring home the point that there had been commitments made and there had been assurances given that these problems would be addressed and corrected. They were not and these people were at the end of their rope and they were lashing out, there is no question.

[Page 4772]

The selection committee, is, I guess a consequence of a lot of that pressure that was built up. There were different proposals made by different people, different parties, different groups about how to deal with this situation. Regardless of the merits of each individual proposal, the decision was made to establish a select committee. The select committee got going in the summer and, if I may, Mr. Speaker, the mandate of the select committee was to review changes to the Workers' Compensation Act, and, in particular, to review recommendations of the Auditor General with respect to his audit of the Workers' Compensation Board, Workers' Advisers Program and Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal.

I don't think it is an understatement to suggest that the members of this committee undertook one of the most difficult jobs that legislators can take on, that is to go out and talk to the people who are suffering as a result of abuses of a system, as a result of a system broken down, people who have their very livelihoods affected as a result of a particular administration not working properly.

Since before I became a member of this Legislature, I have worked with injured workers as a trade unionist, previously, and then as an MLA in my constituency office, and, from one end of this province to the other, talked with injured workers whose lives have been devastated as a result of having been injured, through no fault of their own, at their workplace.

You get up in the morning, you go to work, you are providing for your family or for yourself, you are making a contribution, you are expressing yourself through your work or however you want to dress it up, and suddenly get injured. You slip and fall or you pick someone out of bed and all of a sudden your back goes and your world comes crumbling down around you, in far too many cases. Not only in some cases are you injured for life, but your livelihood and your ability to earn a livelihood is interrupted and the impact is tremendous.

All members of this House, from all sides of sides, know just what the face of that looks like, as a result of the people they run into. I say to all members of the committee who took the time to travel this province and to hear representations from injured workers, good for you. I know that was an extremely difficult thing to do, to have them come to you with expectations that you were going to solve their problem and to listen to that, to respond to that in a positive and a responsible way and in a mature and sensitive way, and then to take that experience away and get in a room somewhere and try to hammer out recommendations that you would all agree to, a tough job, Mr. Speaker, there is no question. My hat goes off to all the members who participated in that.

You and I know that we all come at this with different perspectives, with different histories. Let me just talk about ours, here in this caucus. The New Democratic Party is extremely concerned, and I am not saying that anybody else is any less concerned, I am just

[Page 4773]

talking for a second, if I may, on behalf of the NDP caucus. Our members are extremely concerned about what is happening to injured workers and the whole question of working people being protected by a system that will support them, that will ensure that they continue to earn and provide for their families and that they are able to return to work. It is something that we care very much about. Some members of our caucus came from previous experience dealing either with working people or injured workers in some advocacy role or whatever.

When our three members began to bring back their response and reports from the all-Party committee, I will tell you that we had some pretty tough discussions. Whether it is environmental illness, chronic pain or benefit levels or the Appeals Tribunal or the benefit of the doubt, members around our caucus table had some pretty strong feelings about what should and shouldn't be done to the workers' compensation system.

The three members of our caucus who participated in this select committee stood up and said, this is what we have done, this we feel is the best that we could do under the circumstances. They took time and explained with all members of the caucus why they felt it was better in the final analysis, why they felt it was a step forward and why they felt such an incredible responsibility to respond to those women and men who had brought their concerns and their problems to these committee hearings and that they needed to do something about that.

I think without doubt and without an exception, every member around that caucus table heard what our members said, heard what members of that committee said. After some considerable discussion, not easy discussion, we accepted with great respect what our members had to say and we agreed with them that this report tabled by the select committee is, in fact, a step forward in trying to address the problems.

Does it go far enough on some things? Probably not. There are those who will come to the Law Amendments Committee who have already spoken to me and members of this caucus who have said, it is not good enough. They have said whether it be on chronic pain or whether it be on environmental illness or whether it be on the benefit of the doubt clause or other things, it is not good enough. They are going to come to the Law Amendments Committee and they are going to speak very strenuously against some of what the committee has done.

We have said to those people, that is fine, come to the Law Amendments Committee and let us hear what you think but understand that we have tabled this in good conscience, believing that it is a step in the right direction. On behalf of my caucus, I say to you, Mr. Speaker, that we do firmly believe that.

I want to thank those three members of our caucus who have worked so hard with us and have worked so hard on that committee to make that report as positive a contribution as they possibly can. (Applause) That is our caucus and I can speak best for them because I have

[Page 4774]

been in the meetings with them. I don't know about the other two Parties but I can only imagine that they likewise have had some fairly strenuous discussions because we have been through a lot of these debates in the House with some of us.

Somebody earlier pointed out that all of the members of this select committee were all, if not first time members, fairly new members to the House and maybe hadn't been through some of the battles and that is not such a bad thing. Perhaps they came at it with somewhat of a clear mind and less . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: And less baggage.

[4:30 p.m.]

MR. CHISHOLM: Less baggage, that is right; good point. Less baggage. That is not a bad thing at all. Hadn't fought those fights in 1994 and gotten beat up and roughed up and so on. I say, too. I said it earlier and I will say it again - to all members of the select committee, as a member of this House I appreciate the work that you have done in trying to respond to the concerns of injured workers and others in making your report as good a report as it could be. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate members wanting to move forward with this and we will in a second, but I have to tell you that I just want to say a few things as I wrap up. The whole question dealing with workers' compensation, it all comes down to a question of choices. We have a $360 million unfunded liability that has to be dealt with; there is no question about that. This report and other steps to resolve some of the problems that are outstanding are all about choices, and there are choices that this government has to wrestle with and there are choices that the next government is going to have to wrestle with because, as an earlier speaker from our caucus said so well, this is a problem that resulted over a number of years, and the solutions, unfortunately, are not going to happen overnight.

We are all going to have to work hard and commit ourselves to making the workers' compensation system in this province more responsible and responsive to the needs of injured workers and to those people injured on the job, but also recognizing the economic circumstances facing the employers in the Province of Nova Scotia. I think all members are committed. I know that members of this caucus are certainly committed to do that.

I want to say that I know there is going to be a fair debate and discussion at the Law Amendments Committee. I am quite happy to see this piece of legislation go to that stage, but I want to make one final point on why it is that we are able to do that. There has been some controversy around some clauses that members of this caucus felt were not reflective of the report. The bill, as you will recall, Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 90, was stapled to the report but it, in fact, was not part of the report and members did not agree to that; they signed on to the body of the report and in the report were many recommendations. We believed, members of

[Page 4775]

this caucus believed, that there were some clauses in Bill No. 90 that were contradictory to the spirit and to the intent of the recommendations of the report, or were not properly addressed and, therefore, should not be there.

We can have the debate, if we want, about whether that is good or not, but Clauses 20, 21, 28 and 33, Mr. Speaker, we felt needed to be addressed. I appreciated the response from the Minister of Labour, because there is no need in us proceeding in a way that does not reflect the unanimous intent of all members of that committee. That I think is something that we need to be responsible for, and the minister in his opening remarks recognized the concerns we had and committed himself to supporting making changes to those as the bill moves forward. That really was what we were looking for in order to see this happen because, ultimately, this bill, the work of this committee has been to improve the system, improve the conditions facing injured workers, and far be it for us to allow something into that final bill which contradicts that principle.

I am pleased to say that I support this bill moving forward. I have reservations about it. I have some concerns. My major reservations have been dealt with. Other reservations, in terms of what is not in the bill, whether or not things are addressed part-way and not far enough, will be addressed in the Law Amendments Committee. That is not a bad thing, Mr. Speaker. I hope all members of this House are committed to ensuring that the work of the select committee through this bill does not get lost and that we ensure that this bill gets passed in the near future so that changes and improvements can be made to the workers' compensation system as a step forward to rectifying some of the problems that now exist.

On that note, I will take my seat. Again, I thank the members of the select committee for their hard work and thank all members of the House for recognizing the need to move this bill forward. I will join my caucus in voting in support of this bill leaving second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the Minister of Labour it will be to wrap up the debate on Bill No. 90.

The honourable Minister of Labour.

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I would first of all like to thank each and every member for his or her intervention on this most important piece of legislation. I believe that the important part of the democratic process is to ensure that all members have an opportunity to reflect the wishes and the aspirations, concerns, of their constituents and, in particular, all the stakeholders who are affected by this particular piece of legislation. In moving this bill for second reading and on to the Law Amendments Committee, I would like to just give some clarification and undertaking to some of the individuals and some of the points they raised. I think it is important. They raised some good points. It is important.

[Page 4776]

The issue of the backlog at the WCAT, I believe we made a statement on an earlier point that the leave to appeal decisions have already been shortened in point form. So I think they will be pleased with that. We now have 15 full-time commissioners at the WCAT. The last group is now being trained to help deal with that backlog. I believe that honourable members will agree that is quite a considerable departure from the previous process where, I believe, we had three or four and the rest were part time. These are all full time. As well, bear in mind that the workers' compensation system deals with 33,000 caseloads a year, and of that only 1 per cent goes on to the first level of appeal and only one-half of that 1 per cent goes on to the second level of appeal. I think there is some clear indication that progress is being made.

The issue of environmental illness that was raised by the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect is a very good point. I believe that if you check in Clauses 20 and 21, part of the rationale, which I interpreted from the select committee, was to include that retroactivity clause in there because presently, as some members may or may not be aware, we have the policy on chronic pain which is driven primarily because of a Supreme Court decision. That is very limited for the time period. It is what we refer to as the Hayden or Doward decision - ultimately, from Hayden on to Doward - for the period of 1990 to 1996. Conceivably we could have three or more policies on chronic pain if we did not deal with this legislatively.

Part of the rationale for putting that retroactivity clause in there was that in the event a court challenge did arise because of chemical sensitivity, that we would be in a position to address that. Albeit, the agreement was to take it out of the hands of the board and at least put a little more accountable process at the Executive Council level, so that because at least at the government level we could be held more accountable. There was some disagreement on that and I respect that. That is why we agreed to withdraw on that process.

Bear in mind as well - and it is another clear indication that this process is working very well - when this government took over, the unfunded liability that was nearly $460 million, today it is $360 million. That is a clear indication that we are doing things correctly on that particular aspect.

Mr. Speaker, the honourable Leader of the Official Opposition, I don't think he meant to be mischievous, I think it was an honest mistake when he felt that the bill that is a part of the select committee report was indeed Bill No. 90. The fact of the matter is, this report was prepared before Bill No. 90 was drafted in its final context. I think if he will check, that this particular piece of legislation that is in the report is in fact draft legislation that was prepared and signed off by all members of the committee and indeed referenced in their index as being part of the report.

[Page 4777]

I don't think the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid or the honourable Leader of the Official Opposition intended to be mischievous intentionally, but I think that if we look very carefully in Bill No. 90, the four clauses that became contentious for the NDP were in fact in their own report with their own signature on it. I think it was important to draw that so that all members (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MACKINNON: . . . would be aware that this is consensus building, and that is the purpose, to bring it on to the Law Amendments Committee to ensure that all stakeholders and indeed all members of the Legislature have an opportunity to provide further approbation. Therefore, I move second reading. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 90. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

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

The motion is carried.

[4:42 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Bills with Deputy Speaker Mr. Donald Chard in the Chair.]

[6:00 p.m. CWH on Bills rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Ronald Russell, resumed the Chair.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The hour is now 6:00 p.m. The debate at the moment of interruption was submitted by the honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party. Who is taking that debate?

[Page 4778]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg.

HEALTH - CARE: CONTINUING - DEFINE

MR. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, for the benefit of the members, I will read the resolution: "Therefore be it resolved that this Liberal Government clearly define the position on continuing care and immediately work to ensure the needs of communities, residents and workers are appropriately met.".

Now, Mr. Speaker, there is no sector in the health care system that is more important to many people than the continuing care sector and there is no segment of the health care system which has been more neglected and I would say not only neglected, but underfunded, than the continuing care sector. Over the last while, members of this House have had an opportunity to see the performance of the government on the issue of continuing care. Frankly, it does not inspire either confidence on the part of the people who are directly affected, the workers or the families of workers or the residents, because these people have been adversely affected because this government has failed to address the concerns in a timely fashion.

We have had a number of strikes in this province which were created for no other reason than that the government would not address the concerns of the continuing care sector in a timely fashion. Mr. Speaker, when you look at the difficulties that they had at Northwood and other facilities, you can see what happens when you do not address the concerns. I read this week that another facility, that in Lunenburg County, the Shoreham Village, is also facing similar problems. The reason that they are facing problems is because the government does not take a proactive stance. It does not work with the sector to ensure that the problems are addressed. It stands back and hopes things work out.

What that leads to is what we have today. That system we have in this province is haphazard where you have no uniform level of payment for workers in that sector. You do not have access to that sector and, even worse, it is also affecting the ability of acute care facilities because acute care facilities in this province are being filled up with people waiting for long-term or continuing care beds. These people require the continuing care but do not, in many cases, require the acute care. Those beds could be freed up, given to people who need those beds in acute care facilities and, at the same time, better take care of the residents who are in those beds.

[Page 4779]

Mr. Speaker, I had occasion to speak to one resident. It was a lady in the Rosedale Nursing Home in New Germany. It was during the election campaign. This particular lady had spent 10 weeks being bounced around from one acute care hospital to another acute care hospital, was very unhappy because she needed a home to go to, a place to live. She needed continuing care. So she was very upset by this and she had to wait 10 weeks before she found an appropriate continuing care placement. That is what is happening. It is happening to her and it is happening to others.

I can name literally dozens of people in my own community who are waiting for continuing care beds close to their loved ones because we cannot create a system in this province where we shuffle people off to a continuing care bed no matter where it is. I know in my own municipality that we have people who, because the government will not address the continuing care shortage, are being sent to Halifax, away from their families, their friends, the communities were they have lived their entire life. This causes a great deal of hardship for these people. These people cannot get the support from their families that they require, they cannot get the visits from their families that they require and it is a great difficulty to people who are often in ill health. To be cut off from their families at that time is unacceptable.

You consider the plight of this sector. The government has to take a stand. What they have to say is we are going to guarantee fair wages for everyone so it doesn't matter whether you are a registered nurse or an LPN or a personal care worker, you are going to be getting a fair wage no matter where you are in this province and no matter whether you are covered by a collective agreement or whether you are a non-unionized facility, you are going to get fair treatment. That is the first step.

The second step is the government has to begin to really license continuing care beds so that the shortage can be taken off. Unless the government does that, we are going to still have a problem with an inadequate number of beds, people unable to get into facilities. The third thing the government has to do is a very simple thing, is to put people first, to stop being bean-counters, and to look at what the needs of people are.

Do you know what, Mr. Speaker, I think you would find that this would be a less expensive solution than the existing system where we have acute care beds, some of them at thousands of dollars a day, being taken up by continuing care patients. These people need homes. It would also alleviate the difficulty that this government has created with the so-called unlicensed sector. We have literally dozens and dozens and dozens in this province of facilities that are so-called unlicensed. These facilities in many cases are not unacceptable. These facilities, in fact, provide adequate care at a reasonable rate to a large number of our fellow citizens. Why are they unlicensed? Because the government will not license them. There is no problem with them meeting the regulations or the standards. There is just a moratorium. They will not license them.

[Page 4780]

So what happens is, then the government says, you know, we have got to close and we have got to move these people around because they are in an inappropriate facility. They are not in an inappropriate facility. The government simply will not grant them the licensing that is required and, Mr. Speaker, it is a very simple solution, is for the government to have a plan for health care, a plan for continuing care, and if this government develops a plan for continuing care, I think we would find a large number of the problems in this province would be addressed.

I have gotten a letter just the other day from a continuing care facility in my riding, Mr. Speaker, the Harbourview Haven Home for Special Care. They are concerned because government is not listening. They feel that the Minister of Health and the government do not care to listen to their concerns. They are frustrated. They are frustrated because these people provide good quality care.

AN HON. MEMBER: What are the concerns?

MR. BAKER: The concerns are the regulation regime, the staff salaries. They are concerned about the fact that they have got demand. They are prepared to finance additional space. They can provide it in a cost-effective way but the government will not deal with this.

AN HON. MEMBER: Will not issue more licenses.

MR. BAKER: The solution is so simple but the problem is that some of these solutions, Mr. Speaker, require that the government devise a plan for the resources. There is no plan and remember, you know, we talk about the plan, remember the plan of the Savage Regime, which was that all these continuing facilities were going to be managed by the regional health boards. Now, that would be wonderful, wouldn't it? These people cannot manage adequately the acute care facilities of this province. In many cases there has been a disaster in the administration of these facilities. Now we are going to take away the independent boards that are managing these facilities in a very adequate manner and what we are going to do is we are going to put the regional health boards in control.

In my opinion, Mr. Speaker, that would be a very grave mistake. Our Party stands for improvements in the sector to guarantee fairness to workers, fairness to residents and a plan that will guarantee that people have adequate care in facilities near their home at a reasonable cost. In closing, I would call on all members of this House to support those kinds of initiatives. Thank you.

[Page 4781]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for addressing the late night debate resolution. I was not sure quite what the definition of continuing care might be and I am sure there is a definition, but also there is continuing of care and those are other terms that are used.

I am going to expand a bit on that definition of continuing care and include home care as well, Mr. Speaker, in addressing the long-term care sector. In the resolution the government is being asked to clearly define its position on continuing care. I welcome the opportunity. This government's commitment to continuing care is unprecedented in the history of this province. In 1993 when we came to power, home care was almost non-existent. You had to qualify for social assistance to be qualified for home care. Long-term care had been seriously neglected for a long time.

Mr. Speaker, I believe times have changed. Home Care Nova Scotia was introduced just three years ago, in 1995 and about 20 years later than in other provinces, such as Manitoba. We had a long way to go in a short period of time. Along this road we had many challenges, not the least of which was the enormous debt left to us by the former government. What we could do with the $600 million to $800 million a year that we, as a government, the taxpayers of Nova Scotia paid to debt services alone. We could do a lot in long-term care, continuing care, home care.

Where are we now, Mr. Speaker? Since June 1995 Home Care Nova Scotia has served more than 29,000 Nova Scotians. In fact on average, in 1998-99, 27 people were added per day to the Home Care Nova Scotia Program. At any given time there are about 11,000 people benefitting from home care services in this province.

We are pleased with our successes to date but realize that the job is not done. We are working to introduce new services on a priority basis, to respond to Nova Scotians' most immediate health care needs.

In home care let's look at some of the things we have achieved; a range of services to meet Nova Scotians' health care needs at any time of the day or night throughout the week; chronic and acute home care services; a province-wide oxygen service which has served almost 700 Nova Scotians since it began less than two years ago; in addition, set standards for quality care services delivery to Home Care Nova Scotia clients; quality management in evaluation initiatives across the province. In fact that means standards were put in place for the first time. Strong partnerships with regional health boards. This was mentioned by the honourable member and the hospitals to ensure people get the care they need when they leave the hospitals. This has been the crucial break in the link that I believe strongly is improving daily.

[Page 4782]

Simplified access to home care, including care coordinators in all the hospitals, placed in the hospitals. That was a debate for a while, where should they actually be placed. They are placed in hospitals where the patients are and where they are leaving. They are placed also in the communities, Mr. Speaker, right across this province. There is a toll-free 1-800 number to simplify access to the program and a streamlined assessment process.

We also have a new paediatric home care pilot program for children with orthopaedic needs and they are working with the IWK-Grace to allow children who previously have spent many weeks in hospital to go home with their families.

In addition, Home Care Nova Scotia is part of a provincial palliative care working group that will develop a provincial palliative care strategy to greatly benefit the terminally ill and their families, treated not only in the hospitals but also in their homes, Mr. Speaker. Home care is not and cannot be all the answers and never will be. There needs to be some integration with acute care and closer work with families to ensure that needs are met. We are working very hard with a very short period of time to reach this point and feel we are making progress in home care in Nova Scotia.

We have targeted areas that need to be developed to meet the needs of Nova Scotians. For example, respite care and palliative care. We also know that Nova Scotians need other specialized services in the home, such as occupational therapy and physiotherapy. Legislation for those two professions has gone through this session of the House, Mr. Speaker.

Our goal here in Nova Scotia is to build a comprehensive, sustainable Home Care Program that continually adjusts, expands and, yes, adapts to meet the changing needs of Nova Scotians in the health care system. Nova Scotia is very fortunate to have such a talented group of men and women committed to working together with the community to deliver quality health care services to Nova Scotians at home.

Home Care Nova Scotia will continue to work in partnership with physicians and nurses, hospital staff, families, regional and community health boards, non-government organizations, volunteer groups, the public and a long list of others to ensure that we continue to have a quality-equipped program to meet Nova Scotia's health care needs.

We are very much committed to our Home Care Program and since it was launched we have set aside increased funding for home care; $48.7 million in 1995-96, that figure has grown to $60 million in 1996-97 and increased again this year to nearly $70 million.

I would now like to address, as I mentioned earlier, long-term care. It is another health care priority for this government. In the three fiscal years since March 31, 1998, the equivalent of 400 new full-time jobs were approved for the 70 long-term care homes in the province. We will build on this progress in this fiscal year. These numbers alone demonstrate our commitment to long-term care in Nova Scotia. This government has already significantly

[Page 4783]

increased spending in this area. The budget for Nova Scotia's long-term care sector this year is $133.2 million. That is an increase of $21 million over last year and a 27 per cent increase in funding over the past two years.

We are also bringing more beds to long-term care. Planning has started for an additional 170 new long-term beds announced by the Premier. We have identified a bed shortage in long-term care, we all agree on that but we are taking necessary steps to rectify that problem. This government wants to ensure services. Quality continuing care services are in place to provide the care that Nova Scotians need and deserve. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the collective bargaining process well underway on the long-term care sector.

This government has provided nursing home operators with the resources needed to ensure that workers in this sector achieve wage parity by the end of the contract period. That is a commitment we have made and that is a commitment we are keeping. Our provincial financial commitment clearly demonstrates our desire to treat long-term care workers with the fairness and respect they deserve.

In closing, I want to reiterate this government's commitment to continuing care in Nova Scotia. We are proud of the strides that we have made and remain committed to meeting the needs of the communities, residents and workers. Much has been done and much remains to be done. I thank you.

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

DR. HINRICH BITTER-SUERMANN: Mr. Speaker, it gives me absolutely no pleasure to be the only one tonight to speak on health care without reading from a prepared piece of propaganda. I personally feel what Ralph Surette recently said in the Halifax Chronicle Herald, namely when he discussed what the future of this Tory-Liberal coalition would be, he said, they will dance together until the curtain falls. The honourable Leader of the Third Party has defined the time line as to when that curtain will fall as two years.

The Leader of the Third Party introduces a resolution but is not here to talk on it and the honourable Minister of Health talks to it by reading. When I listen to it, it is like a repetition of the Speech from the Throne 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, and 1998. Three Ministers of Health have rung up our health care expenses by $0.5 billion. We have less health care than we had five years ago. The only excuse for that is that the Tories ran the finances of this province into the ground - $8.5 billion, that is a heavy debt. So in comes Ron Stewart and then Bernard Boudreau and then the honourable Minister of Health and they have tinkered with our health care system. It is no longer recognizable, it is not longer there.

Mr. Speaker, the way we treat our seniors, the way we will be judged in the history books of this province. Our seniors, the ones that are in long-term care beds, they need workers, they need PCWs, they need nurses, they need technicians to care for them. Those

[Page 4784]

seniors, they built this province with their backs. They saw this province through wars, through depressions. They built the roads, they built the schools, they built the hospitals. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

DR. BITTER-SUERMANN: If that member opposite is not able to listen to the achievements of our seniors, he should be ashamed of himself. Our seniors have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. At this moment, they are, like in my municipality, we have one nursing home, one long-term care facility. There are 83 seniors cared for by 123 under-paid minimum wage nurses and PCWs and technicians and cleaning staff. Wage parity is on the minds of those people that care for our seniors.

The Premier promised that. He went across the province like the Pied Piper and said, you will get wage parity. Where is that wage parity? Instead we get a prepared statement read by the Minister of Health, which some deputy minister prepared, which is totally irrelevant to the merry-go-round our seniors suffer at this moment in this province. They go from long-term care facilities into an ambulance into the VG, back to Shoreham Village, and so on and so on. In between, they are cared for by people that are overworked, burnt out, underpaid, they are often the only breadwinners in their family. They are often alone, they are often single mothers with children, and they fall through the network of our society.

We sit here and have to listen to that absolutely monotonous propaganda that this health care is the best thing since sliced bread. I wish the Tories and the Liberal Government good luck in the next two years, but it will not be good for our seniors, it will not be good for the PCWs at Shoreham Village. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

DR. BITTER-SUERMANN: It is absolutely astounding to listen to, all that money that is spent in health care and where has it gone? Where indeed has the money gone? There the Minister of Health says, it has to come from Ottawa. Ottawa has defaulted on supporting Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, Ottawa should give more money, but the debt was run up. There is a debt run up, and there is no return for the monies that are spent. Where has the extra $0.5 billion gone, that we are in debt? Well, it is hidden in the regional hospital boards, it is hidden in the villa shell games, it is hidden in the QE II, it is hidden here and hidden there. Then they make three-year business plans, and then they make five-year business plans. Just pushing the debt away from our bottom line. Our bottom line is what the honourable Minister of Finance wanted to tell us, that we have a balanced budget. It is one of the most ridiculous statements that has ever been uttered in this Legislature, that this budget was balanced.

[Page 4785]

Mr. Speaker, it filled me with great pride, with a great satisfaction that when this particular fictitious number and the elaborate positive response by the Leader of the other Party was uttered in this House a few months ago. It filled me with great pride and satisfaction that I could live up to my campaign promise and tell the seniors and the people in Nova Scotia that I had promised to work against the government that had sold our health care down the river. It fills me with great pride that I could join a Party that has stayed its course. Mr. Speaker, I leave it at that. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: If there are no further speakers, we are adjourned until 6:30 p.m. You have a 5 minute break.

[6:25 p.m. The House recessed.]

[6:30 p.m. CWH on Bills reconvened with Deputy Speaker Mr. Donald Chard in the Chair.]

[7:30 p.m. CWH on Bills rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Ronald Russell resumed the Chair.]

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

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

Bill No. 52 - Business Efficiency (1998) Act.

Bill No. 64 - Condominium Act.

Bill No. 89 - Medical Act.

and the chairman has been instructed to recommend these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, each without amendment.

Also, Mr. Speaker, that the committee has met and considered the following bills:

Bill No. 47 - Municipal Government Act.

Bill No. 86 - Real Estate Appraisers Act.

and the chairman has been instructed to recommend these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, each with certain amendments.

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

[Page 4786]

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please revert to the order of business, Presenting Reports of Committees.

MR. SPEAKER: The request is to revert to the order of business, Presenting Reports of Committees.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

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

Bill No. 24 - Wilderness Areas Protection Act.

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

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Yes, Mr. Speaker, that completes the government's business for today. I would now ask that the Third Party set the agenda for tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.

MR. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, for tomorrow the hours of the House will be from 12:00 noon to 6:00 p.m., with the first four hours being Opposition Members' Business. Our intention is to call Resolution No. 2242 and Resolution No. 2210. We have an agreement with the Government House Leader for two extra hours, from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. He has indicated that he would call second reading of Bill No. 83, the Motor Vehicle Act, and if there is time . . .

[Page 4787]

AN HON. MEMBER: Committee of the Whole House.

MR. LEBLANC: I'm sorry, that is correct, I apologize. Then from there, if there is time, we would go for second reading of Bill No. 91, Springhill Strip Mining Prohibition Act. If there still is some time, the intention is to go to Bill No. 85, the Elections Act, and that will depend on the progress of the House tomorrow.

Mr. Speaker, the Government House Leader is indicating maybe some third readings. If there is time over and above, our caucus would be prepared to entertain any other business. We are here to do the people's business.

MR. SPEAKER: I take it that there is agreement that the House consider that we are at the hour of Adjournment.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 43

MR. SPEAKER: We are going to go into debate on the resolution that the honourable member for Kings North presented this morning on the hog industry.

The honourable member for Kings North.

AGRIC. - HOG PRODUCERS: BANKRUPTCY - VERGE

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I do want to indicate to you that I appreciate your indulgence and I appreciate very much the agreement of the other members of the House that we do enter the emergency debate. I refer, of course, to the dire financial situation faced today by the hog producers across Nova Scotia who, as I speak, are on the verge of bankruptcy as a result of global market forces following the Asian economic crisis. Nova Scotia hog producers are presently losing about $75 on each hog that goes to market. The hog industry generates over $100 million annually in Nova Scotia, while providing 1,500 jobs.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the purpose of this debate is not to be critical of this government, nor is it to be critical of the Minister of Agriculture, who is working very diligently with the Federation of Agriculture and the commodity groups to help make agriculture in Nova Scotia stronger. This is to lend support to the government and to the Nova Scotia pork producers who are trying to save their very existence.

[Page 4788]

Mr. Speaker, by way of example. One year ago, a hog producer in Nova Scotia was receiving $160 for a hog; this week that same hog is going to market for $58, a reduction of over $100 in 12 months. Is there any member of this House who knows of any other business enterprise that has suffered such a dramatic turnaround in such a short period of time?

Mr. Speaker, I think it is incumbent upon Nova Scotians to say, look, the hog industry is a valuable addition to the Nova Scotia economy. In the 1970's, the Government of Nova Scotia looked around and they said, we are bringing in way more pork than we should. Nova Scotia should establish a policy whereby we are producing and, in fact, whereby we are working towards self-sufficiency in pork. So they established a program and encouraged agriculturalists to get into the pork industry and they did. That trend that was started in the late 1970's was continued on right through the 1980's, Mr. Speaker, and there were policies and programs sponsored by the government of the day and the Department of Agriculture and Marketing to encourage the production of hogs in Nova Scotia.

At the present time, Mr. Speaker, there are 160 farmers in Nova Scotia registered as hog producers. However, I think the actual figure would really be about 70 who are full-time, large, commercial producers. Those producers are putting out 220,000 hogs per year. That is just a huge number. Those 220,000 hogs are the finest quality anywhere in the world and I know that because of the international grading system that Canada uses. Our hogs are shipped at 108, an index of 108; 100 was the average where they started a few years ago. There is no other province in Canada which averages 108. There is no other hog produced in the world that is as high a quality as the Canadian and Nova Scotians lead the Canadian. Therefore, it is safe to say Nova Scotia hog producers are producing the finest hogs anywhere in the world. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, we can produce the finest hogs in Nova Scotia but what we cannot do, we cannot produce the price in Nova Scotia. The price is not set here. The price is set in North America and around the world. We have seen the adverse effects on business, the stock market and everything else of this Asian flu they talk about, the Russian financial collapse. Those things have both had an alarming detrimental affect to the hog producer in Nova Scotia. It is hard to believe but the hog producer in the community in Nova Scotia, so far removed from the world market, is really in the world market.

The hog industry in Nova Scotia is so adversely affected, Mr. Speaker, from the North American market. Nova Scotia has 12,000 sows approximately and in 1997 the gross farmgate receipts were $37 million for the hog industry. The big hog producing areas in Canada are, of course, Ontario, Quebec and the West. Just by way of comparison, in the United States they market 2 million hogs per week. Canada ships 4 million hogs a year to the United States. Canada cannot process all of our own production. Therefore, we have to send hogs to the U.S.

[Page 4789]

At the present time, Mr. Speaker, production in the United States is at an all-time high. The U.S. markets in Europe and Asia are pretty well closed. So suddenly the pipeline is full. There is a surplus of hogs in Canada and, therefore, the price is down. Nova Scotia is only 65 per cent self-sufficient in hogs; 35 per cent of the pork we eat is coming in from somewhere else. The supplies in Nova Scotia are great but the prices are not. A Nova Scotia hog this week at about 83 kilograms, which is what they try to ship them out at, brought in $58.93.

Mr. Speaker, do you have any idea how much it costs to feed a pig to get to market weight? Well I will tell you, it is $90. If you subtract $58 from $90 and very quickly you can see the farmer has a loss. That doesn't even account for the overhead, the price of buying the small pig or growing the small pig up to market weight. The cost of production for this $58 pig is about $130 to $140. How on earth can we expect farmers to exist in Nova Scotia and survive? It is impossible. No big business, small business or home business would expect these figures, however, hog producers are faced with this dilemma. What do we do? Are we just going to close the barn doors and leave or is the government going to come to bat and save this very vital industry? I am inclined to think that the Government of Nova Scotia is going to come to bat for the farmers.

There is no single organization in all of Nova Scotia that is more deserving of support than the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture and its commodity groups. We all realize agriculture is the backbone of Nova Scotia. It is what makes Nova Scotia strong. Nova Scotians will not abandon their farmers at this very critical time, this time when the hog producers, through no fault of their own, are having tremendous losses.

Over the last few years production in hogs has increased. In 1991, there were about 192,000 hogs processed and last year there were 220,000 hogs. This is the direction we have to go in. We have a very modern processing facility in Berwick at Larsen Packers, they have the most modern smoke houses and the most modern methods of adding value to these carcasses. They are doing their part to help make the industry strong.

The industry will not be there unless the Government of Nova Scotia agrees with Pork Nova Scotia's request for a $3.5 million loan. Now $3.5 million to you and to me and to most members of the House is probably a lot of money, it is more money than we will ever see no matter how long we live. However, when you compare that to an industry that is worth in excess of $100 million a year, that is not very much. When you think too of the loans that the farmers have, if they just put the padlock on the door, close up shop and leave, the Farm Loans Board is going to lose a lot more than that in the loans that are outstanding. It makes good business sense to save the pork industry during its very temporary problem.

The hog futures, and that is the futures market that shows you the trends in hog pricing, indicates that very early in the new year the price of hogs should start to go back up to a level of profitability for Nova Scotia farmers. So are we going to have a hog industry in Nova

[Page 4790]

Scotia? That is the question that is facing this government today. That is the question that this Cabinet of Nova Scotia has to face.

I have a lot of faith in the ability of the Minister of Agriculture to persuade the government of the importance of the industry. I know that hog farmers have been talking to the members of the Legislature, I know they have been discussing this with the Premier and I know some of the Cabinet Ministers are very supportive of this. We cannot allow our hog industry to disappear without the assistance of this government.

All of us in this Legislature, I know, support the hog industry because it is important. It is not just important for me because I am from the Annapolis Valley and so many hog producers live in the Valley but there is hog production from one end of Nova Scotia to the other. Digby County is a very large hog processing area and we have to look at the other areas around Truro and Antigonish. In Antigonish there is a processing plant. We have to be looking at the global, all-encompassing industry that is affecting Nova Scotia agriculture. The hog industry is one of the most important bricks in this great building of agriculture and the Government of Nova Scotia today has the opportunity to say to the hog producers, we are going to support you, we are going to be there and we are going to follow the advice of Pork Nova Scotia and we are going to make the loan necessary so that the hog producers in Nova Scotia can continue to survive and to grow.

Mr. Speaker, I do want to thank all of the members again for allowing this debate to take place because it is so important that we all realize the importance of the hog industry to Nova Scotia. With that I will take my place, thank you. (Applause)

[7:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I first want to congratulate the member opposite for bringing this debate to the floor today and requesting the fact that we have an emergency debate about an issue that is very real, not only to Nova Scotians but more importantly to the 90 to 100 farm families that we are talking about. The support we had from the Official Opposition and obviously from the government today to discuss this is very critical.

As we said a few weeks ago, the agricultural industry has been going through a number of crises, not only on a national level but certainly here at home. That is why we just recently announced the drought program that talked about helping individual farmers that have gone through some very serious problems that are not related to their inability to be good producers. It is not a reflection of their inability to grasp a challenge of that competition in the market place or anything to do with that. It is because of conditions that are beyond their control.

[Page 4791]

That is what we are talking about here today. We are talking about a circumstance that affected family farms, and we have a few of them here in the audience today, and I am very happy to see them come out, that it is not because of their inability to adapt to new technology, it is not about their inability to be competitive and productive and efficient. It is the fact that things have happened beyond their control that have basically taken out the ability to cash flow the hog operation.

We are not talking about here, we have used the term the hog industry, the hog industry is about people. The hog industry is about family farms. We are talking about farmers, not only in this province but I can say beyond this province in the hog industry, that are experiencing crises that they have never seen before. We talk about suicide, potential suicide in the farm community; that is unacceptable in society today to allow that to continue to happen. We are seeing that the hog industry on a national basis and certainly here in a Nova Scotia perspective will have a tremendous negative effect on the overall economy within the agricultural community as well as, broader, to the overall rural community of this province, if we allow that industry to collapse.

The hog industry, like all agricultural industries, are cornerstones, they are foundations of rural economic development. Because of that, we as a province should be very understanding of the crisis that they are going through. As a farmer myself, and I know that I take a lot of ribbing in this House for being a farmer, especially a turkey and chicken farmer, but I think the turkey farmer helps me relate to some of the conversations we have in this House, but nevertheless, I have never been ashamed of the fact that I am a farmer and I talk about it all the time.

The reality is that I know some of the farm communities that are going through these financially rough times in the hog industry. Those producers, those families, those husbands and wives, and mums and dads are experiencing a very serious crisis, one that I believe is really profound to the overall community in agriculture. All you have to do is think about 220,000 hogs that are produced a year, and what effect that would have on the feed industry in the event there wasn't a hog industry, what effect it has on the local garages, what effect it has on the Home Hardwares of the world and other stores that farmers usually spend their money at. It is the only industry I know of that buys everything retail and sells wholesale, and spends all that extra money that they seem to sometimes get right back into rural Nova Scotia. That is what our farm families are all about. That is keeping rural Nova Scotia alive.

Just recently, we announced the program to help farmers in this province who are experiencing drought. I know that the farm community had come and knocked on the door and said, look, we need help, this is a real problem, and we need the participation of government to see what they can do, because we have been knocking on the door of Ottawa for a long time and we haven't seen any assistance. Sometimes you wonder about Ottawa, if they understand the dimension of agriculture in this province.

[Page 4792]

They seem to understand if it is in other jurisdictions, but we have now got a crisis in agriculture on a national basis. Whether you are in Alberta or Saskatchewan or any other province in this country, farmers across this land are going through some very serious financial crises, and we as a country have got to understand the importance of coming to the aid of those that are really in need. It is not meant to be a subsidy to stay home and do nothing. That is not what the farm community is asking for. They are not asking for a subsidy that gives them a comparative advantage. We are talking about investing money in agriculture that is a cornerstone and a builder of this nation, to be able to get through a very hard financial time.

I believe that with this world crisis that we have and the national crisis that we have, that we have to continually send a message to Ottawa that this cannot be resolved on the backs of provincial governments alone. Ottawa has a responsibility, a social responsibility, an economic responsibility, to make sure that they support their federal Minister of Agriculture at the national level and find some solutions to some very serious financial hardships that we are experiencing in rural Canada today. I know that our Minister of Agriculture, the Honourable Edward Lorraine, has fought very hard on behalf of the farm community here. I know that he has talked to his federal counterpart on many occasions about the need to move it forward.

As long as Canadians have food to eat, as cheap as they have it, they do not sometimes realize the importance of guaranteeing food supply to our people in this country. We take for granted the tremendous opportunities or the tremendous benefits we have because we have a productive and efficient and a dynamic farm community in this country. We take for granted that every day we can go to a store and find the food at ridiculously low prices. In fact, food is negative to inflation, overall.

Yet, when we have a crisis like that, we do not see the people in this province or in this country, at the political level and beyond, standing up and talking about the real financial need that the farm community is now experiencing. I believe that Ottawa has that responsibility to wake up to their obligations of coming forward and finding programs.

We have set aside $6 million out of that $20 million program that we brought forward and announced just recently. We set aside a $6 million program opportunity to partner with that of the federal government. We have been waiting and waiting and we had to announce the program because farmers needed that sense of hope so they could go to the banks and be able to go to the banker, which we all know the bankers are great when you don't need them, but when you need them they are the hardest people sometimes to deal with. I am Minister of Finance, I deal with them all the time.

I remember on the farm, when I did not need a banker, they were all there. Could I give you a loan? But when I went through some hard times - and I have been there - I can tell you, it took a long time to be able to borrow operating lines of credit at the bank when you were

[Page 4793]

not in a really good financial situation. That is what is happening in some of those farm communities and some of those farm industries. That is why I think that announcement last week gave a vote of confidence to the farm community, showing that the government was committed to work with the farmers and, hopefully, to allow them to have some hope and the banks to have some hope to reinvest some money in some of those sectors that are experiencing some very tough times.

Mr. Speaker, I know there are a number of members here who want to say a few words, but I want to voice today my concern for that of the hog industry across this province and beyond, to let them know that people have not forgotten that agriculture is vitally important to this province and to this country. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education. You have approximately six minutes.

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, we are agreeing to split our time here because there are members who represent agricultural areas in hog production right across this province and we may not even have enough time for all the speakers to address this issue tonight. Let me first of all thank the member for Kings North for bringing this to the floor of the House and, more importantly, for saying as he prefaced his remarks, that he is not here to slam government tonight. He is here to support government, both provincially and federally, on an issue that is of extreme concern to hog producers, I am sure in the United States, but more particularly throughout this country.

In my home area of Kings County, where 80 per cent of those 93 growers or 80 per cent of the production and probably more than 80 per cent of the processing when you consider the impact of Armstrong's and Larsen's, in particular - some 350 people working at a plant that has turned itself around completely - there is no question that the provincial government has to stand by the farm community and that as an MLA representing farmers and many others in my area, but also everyone in my area who knows that agriculture is the foundation, the very base on which the Valley economy exists, that the crisis facing hog producers right now is one that requires both provincial and federal support, without any question whatsoever.

Just to remind members opposite of the domino effect here; 20 per cent of the feed industry, of the trucking, of feed support, is related to hog production. If something happens in one sector, it affects all sectors - transportation, feed grain, even the Halifax elevator, the ports here, are affected by the hog industry - were anything to happen to it.

Let's look at advantages for the moment. We have got a pork risk management system that is unique in North America where equal contributions originally of $3.50 a hog by producers, processors and government is now $7.00. That fund, that is an insurance fund in

[Page 4794]

a sense, made up the difference between production costs and sales and puts us in an advantageous position when you look at the North American climate.

The problem here though, Mr. Speaker, is not so much immediate, although it is crisis, it is immediate and help is needed, but we also have to think about how do we compete with the big barn, high tech farms. What is happening in the hog industry is almost unprecedented. It is not unlike the factory-freezer-offshore trawler. We have massive amounts of investments pouring into corporate barns, super barns, that are producing hogs and will continue to produce hogs. Even though the Asian market collapses, even though prices are deflated, they will continue to attract investment and produce hogs.

What we are experiencing here in this gallery tonight or what we are experiencing in my home community are family farms. We have to figure out how we can compete with 93 producers, all of those employees, all of that production, on a global basis with some of the most competitive technological forces that have ever existed in any farm group, in any commodity group ever in history. In other words, investment and super barns are pouring in. They will continue to pour out supply and Nova Scotia is sitting here as a part of Canada trying to respond.

There must be times when despair is the rule of thumb here, where people just despair at how are we going to compete with these forces. There are so many examples of how vertically integrated multinational corporations that keep pouring out supply can be beaten by regional decision-making that is vertically integrated, where people who sometimes compete with one another link up with processors, with governments, with banks, with producers, to become equivalent vertically integrated companies that also protect family farms.

In the short term, Mr. Speaker, as the members on all sides of this House will tell you tonight, there is no substitute for support in the short term. We are already there. We have got to support somehow these farmers through this crisis, but we cannot stop there. We have got competitive forces the likes of which we have never seen before. We have a plant in the honourable member for King West's riding that turned itself around, associated with Hub Meat Packers, Larsens, it turned itself around with government support, I must say by your former government's support. They trusted in Carl Larsen. They trusted in the workers. They trusted in the producers and they created a vertically integrated company even though there are 93 different producers out there.

We have got to believe that we can compete with multinationals no matter what they are doing out there because we can do that regionally if we learn how to cooperate and collaborate at the same time and if it is a total team effort. There is no shortage of support from government, both federal and provincial. There can be no shortage of smart, innovative thinking among 93 family farms. There can be no shortage of innovative processing like Larsens. We have to become the equivalent of a vertically integrated major corporation right

[Page 4795]

here in Nova Scotia with our veterinary services linked, with our governments linked in a full partnership that is as creative and as innovative as any place in the world and we can beat this system. We can beat this threat. We can compete just like other farm groups have done in this country, right here in Nova Scotia, and I pledge every ounce of my effort to make sure that we are there when we are needed as a government but beyond just being there in the short term, we have got to figure out how to compete in the long term against forces the likes of which we have never seen.

I will tell you there are lessons to be learned in the fishing industry. There are lessons to be learned in the retail sector. We can compete here in a small jurisdiction and we have got to do it through teamwork. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable member for Kings North as well as the other members of the House for bringing on the debate and allowing the debate. Certainly I hope that my words will not just be a repeat of some that have already been stated. I know that in the past the Department of Agriculture perhaps under the auspices of the Third Party, took a look at the pork industry and said that this is an area where we can have development, that we can develop a greater pork industry in this province and they set about policy to do that. Certainly, we are seeing the benefits of that policy today that Nova Scotia has a strong, viable pork industry. I think probably there are members in other organizations, particularly the beef industry who would like to have an industry as strong.

[8:00 p.m.]

More than half of the pork production in this province is located in Kings County and I can see why the honourable members that represent that area would speak so passionately for their constituents. They have every right to do so because in that area it is a major concern. The rest of the production is scattered throughout the province, some in Truro, Antigonish, Amherst, Concession, a little bit in Hants County, certainly, Maple Lane Farms is one that I can think of.

The risk management fund is contributed in three ways, by producers, the plants and the province. As the honourable member for Kings South has mentioned, recently it has been topped up to $7.00 per animal but if we consider that the producers are contributing $7.00 an animal as well, they are actually only receiving $14 an animal, instead of $21. The risk management fund basically now is exhausted and is paying out purely what producers pay into it and that is the impetus for the call for the loan of $3.5 million.

[Page 4796]

I think it would certainly be in the best interests of the industry and of the province and of the people of Nova Scotia, for the department to strongly consider this loan. I think when we consider the basis on which it is being asked and the fact that they are requesting a loan, they are not requesting a grant. We certainly know that much larger amounts of money have been given to other companies in this province and some that were not home-based, given in the forms of grants or loans that are written off. Certainly, for the people of Nova Scotia who have shown their commitment to this province, they have been here for years, they have no intention of going anywhere.

As members have stated, the agricultural sector is the backbone of the economy of Nova Scotia and certainly for rural communities we have seen that not everybody wants to come and live in Halifax in order to try to make a living. So for those people who made a conscious decision, and in some cases we are talking over generations, to stay on the farm then certainly for the cost of the interest on the loan for the most part, that is not too much for those people to ask of this government or for Nova Scotians to want to contribute to ensure that the pork industry is stabilized in this province.

Producers were getting roughly $144 a carcass about a year ago and it is now down to about $76. This industry, as has already been stated, represents $37 million, roughly 1,500 jobs and that is at the farm gate. Now in indirect spin-off to the province, it is somewhere in the area of $110 million. We are saying that not only does that maintain the families of the producers themselves but we are talking about the families of all the related industries that are connected to that sector. We have the feed industry, the equipment and the packing plants. Some people will say, those are not entirely or solely supported by the hog industry. They are definitely supported to a large extent by the hog industry and certainly the people who are involved in those industries do not want to see anything happen to the hog industry because that means in one way or another it is going to cut down on the incomes to those businesses and to those families.

It has already been mentioned about Larsen Packers and 500 employees there. There are other packing plants in the province, Armstrong's is another. Even for a number of people in this House, whether they are aware of Meehan's in Rawdon who do slaughter a large number of hogs, the sad thing is that Nova Scotia producers are caught in a global market. If we consider that Nova Scotia producers are only meeting 65 per cent of the domestic market in this province, and if we go by the ordinary rules of supply and demand, that would mean that they are not meeting the demand and they should be getting a premium for the hogs they produce.

Because of the influence of the global market and, in particular, the Asian market and the Russian market which have both collapsed, then those hogs that ordinarily would have gone to export, from here usually to the United States, but that certainly means that the American hogs and western hogs from this country that are not going out of the country are still here. American packing plants are at over-capacity. Because of that, hogs are not moving

[Page 4797]

and that means that the 30 per cent of the Canadian market that is for export, is not leaving the country. That is causing this low price. To me that seems basically unfair.

I know there are international agreements, NAFTA and GATT and so on and on. It doesn't mean that there could not be some regulation across this country that would affect price structure province to province. It is something that I think all governments should look at because in the case of the Nova Scotian hog producer, if 65 per cent of our need is all that we are meeting, then they should not have to bear the brunt of the effect of the global market, in the case of 30 per cent of production that is not leaving this country.

Now by what mechanism should that be done? Well, that would have to be done through consultation with all the stakeholders. It may not be a bad idea to have a round table or a commission or some mechanism to seriously look at what is happening in this industry. Some people will say, well, we expect that by the first quarter of next year that this condition will start to turn around so therefore, if we can get money enough to get us through until May or June or so of next year, then we expect to see, according to the futures market as was mentioned earlier, that we will see a change in conditions and, with that, prices will start to rise.

Well, that is a great thing. Who can deny that? The question would be, what do you do in the long term to ensure that this doesn't happen again? If it is going to be left to the whim of the global economy, then we want better strengthening of the domestic market to ensure that producers here are not affected in a year or two years or three years or whatever, that they have greater stability in the market and it might be to the benefit of all stakeholders to take a look at what happens in this market.

We have heard for sure, and I have seen the honourable Minister of Agriculture on television stating that he does not know why the price in the retail store has not gone down, even though the price to the producer certainly has gone down. That is a very good question, why has that not happened?

I would say that the retailers here certainly want to get the best quality pork they can. We know from the indexing that Nova Scotians produce some of the best quality pork in the world. So, we know they can produce consistent quality over a long period of time. If you can produce consistent quality over a long period of time that should be something that the retailer would demand. They want to know that this carcass and this carcass are equally as good because when that goes on the shelf, at whatever store, they want to be assured that when the customer sees it they are going to be happy when they get it home.

Nova Scotia pork producers have shown they can do that. So the question is, why doesn't that somehow affect the price in the store? Well, if it is shown that in the times when producers get the price they need, the stores do not complain about the price they have to pay to the packers, then we would assume that they are certainly willing to pay a fairly high-level

[Page 4798]

price to ensure quality. The question is, how do you regulate it so that the difference in that price goes to the producer?

I think this is something that we really should analyse, because I am sure that in the big chain stores, in particular, their biggest concern is consistent quality and enough of it. If they can be assured of that, then they would be willing to pay a premium price to get that. I think we have seen that, certainly in the case of Northumberland Lamb abattoir, which works out of Truro, it is a co-op actually and run by producers, and the Sobeys stores in particular pay a premium price for lamb from that abattoir as long as they are guaranteed supply and consistent quality. So the price doesn't matter to the retailer, if they can move significant volume.

Now the price here to Nova Scotia producers is set globally, basically, but it comes out of Ontario and the producers here get that Ontario price plus roughly 4.5 cents a kilo for transportation costs. We would assume that that price is basically the price that producers are going to get everywhere in this country, and we would certainly like to think that if that is the highest end of it that Nova Scotia producers are going to get that.

We are hoping, at least the information statistically would show that in January, there will be some slight increase to $1.00 a kilo, and by July and August maybe $1.58 a kilo. Well, $1.58 would probably get producers to a point where they are not drawing on the risk management fund. As far as making any money, they are not going to be making a whole lot at that price. They are going to need roughly $1.78 a kilo in order to be making any money.

It is expected that conditions will improve, and we certainly hope they will, and that improvement will have to be improvement in both the Asian and Russian markets, and also the fact that some large producers in the West and the States may go out of production, but what kind of an alternative is that, if there is a risk to producers there, and that is our hope that they go out of production, well, that doesn't sound good for producers here. We don't want producers going out of production, we want them staying in production, and we want to establish the conditions for more producers in this province, not for fewer of them. The agriculture sector is not attracting anybody. Therefore, we should be working to at least save what we have and try to expand that somewhat.

I think the things that definitely should be looked at, certainly by the government, I hope that they will consider the request for the loan that pork producers have asked for. I would like to ask the minister to consider some forum of all stakeholders that we could get the best handle on this industry in the long-term, whether that is in the form of a commission, a round table, or whatever appropriate term would be available, and also to look at inter-provincial regulations and how they are impacted by NAFTA and GATT to see whether or not Nova Scotians can actually claim a bigger part of their provincial market. The 35 per cent that they are not filling, they have every right to have that expansion in the market, and we should be looking at some better way to stabilize price.

[Page 4799]

The safety net programs are good in the short term, but if you have a drastic effect that causes withdrawal in those safety net programs, then there is usually not enough there to carry the industry for any significant length of time. So what happens when you run out? Well, that is the situation we are in now, and it takes a long time in order to build those funds back up. The best way would be to secure long-term markets at good prices. The safety net is a good buffer in the short term but certainly not in the long term.

I want to thank the members, and thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: I understand the honourable member for Kings North wants to make an introduction, and it is going to be in the time allotted to the caucus.

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, it gives me a great deal of pleasure this evening to welcome some Nova Scotia hog producers who have come down to listen to this debate. Unfortunately the debate started a little bit before they got here. We finished the House business at 7:30 p.m. instead of 8:00 p.m., so we started early.

But tonight, Mr. Speaker - and I would ask them to rise after I get through - we are joined by: Patrick Ueffing; Don Ueffing; Joe Ueffing; Terry Beck; Doug Morris; Dave Ross, the veterinarian; Anthony Ueffing; Lester Palmer; Linda Tupper; John Gerrits; John Hutton; Brian Kinsman; Jim Lamb; Rene Vanvilstem; Craig and Douglas Nichols; Kevin Ells; Bernie Tracey; Shane Tracey and Ann Tracey; Rodney Atwell; Murray Brooks; and Martin Porscamp. If you folks would all rise, we will give you the traditional welcome of the House. (Applause)

[8:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I welcome our guests in the gallery as well. I want to first of all say thank you to the member for Kings North for rising today in his place and asking for an emergency debate on the pork industry in this province. I know I want to say from the start that the Minister of Agriculture, who I know very well, has been very supportive at any time that I have approached him on issues that face farmers in this province. I know he knows that this is a very serious issue that the pork producers are facing at this time.

This pork industry is conservatively estimated at $110 million, with 1,500 jobs or more to this province, that is what it adds to the economy. When you look at people's lives that are affected by this whole industry, not only is it the growers that are affected but those in the processing end of it too. So there is spinoff far beyond that that has a great effect on the economy of this province.

[Page 4800]

If we look back at the hog industry, in the late 1970's there was government support. Mr. Speaker, as you know and I know, in the 1980's when we were members of government there was another crisis in the pork industry at that time. At that time, we were hoping to solve the pork industry's problems for the long term. Everybody says, you have got to solve these problems for the long term. Well, some of the things that occur are not foreseen in the future and this is one of them in a sense.

We are in a world economy now. We are into global markets and things that didn't used to affect us in Nova Scotia when they happened somewhere else in the world, now affect us. Sometimes that is beyond our control but when those things happen, I don't have any difficulty planning for the future and trying to ensure those pork producers and their families that we are committed to this industry and we are committed in the long term.

I look at what happened at Larsen Packers and I remember when the decision was made. First it was going to be sold to a New Brunswick company and we found out it was going to be closed and all of the processing was going to be done in New Brunswick. The government then took action and, you know, yes there was some government funds but I am also told that Larsen Packers have not missed a payment back to the government on that loan.

We have now not a processor in trouble, we have the producers in trouble. We have to work together collectively to obviously find a short-term solution to a long-term problem. We cannot walk away from that short-term solution. Yes, I know the member for Hants East says we have got to be sure but we have got to help in the short term so that we can find out in the long term whether the things we do will ensure that the pork producers and their families have a place in this province.

I can't imagine farming in Nova Scotia without a pork industry. When you look at the prices and some members have already indicated of how the price has dropped from $160 about a year or so ago, way down to about $58.93. The farmer every day that takes that hog to market has lost a tremendous amount of money. Somehow, we have to in the short period of time, make sure that those producers are around when that price goes up. I know there are predictions that in January the price may start gradually moving up and maybe next summer it will go back to a level where it can support the industry. But in the meantime, we have to ensure that support.

One of the things we should be proud of in this province, our producers in this province produce and it has been said before but it can't be said enough, top quality pork, the best in the world is produced right here in Nova Scotia. (Applause) And you have to give credit to the producers because quality doesn't just happen because you raise hogs. Quality happens because you want to make it happen and it costs extra money to produce quality hogs and to make sure that your farm has all the modern equipment and you are making sure that your hogs are produced in a manner that is lean, attractive and has that kind of quality.

[Page 4801]

Unfortunately, I am sure that the consumers in this province who buy Nova Scotia pork sometimes don't realize the extra quality they are getting for the same price somebody else is paying for lower quality somewhere else. That is something we cannot say enough about the pork produced in this industry.

Mr. Speaker, we don't even produce the amount of pork that we use in this province. We produce only about 65 per cent of the pork consumed and used in this province, so obviously we are importing pork, many times of lesser quality than is being produced here.

I know first-hand many people who rely on this industry in the area where I live. I believe, like so many people do, that we have a future in this industry. We have gotten through crises before, we got through one in the 1970's and one in the 1980's. I think with government's help we can get through one in the 1990's. From there we go on to 2000 and beyond.

I have to be careful of my time, Mr. Speaker, because I am sharing my time with the member for Digby. I think I have spoken about seven minutes.

MR. SPEAKER: You have gone seven minutes and 16 seconds.

MR. MOODY: Oh, well, I have to stop. I want to say that I could talk much longer but I, as a member for Kings West, support this debate and support the government. I know they have to work with the feds but I support this government in taking the first step, so we can take the giant step to ensure our hog industry for a long time in this province. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

MR. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by thanking the honourable member for Kings West for giving me this opportunity, to you the Speaker for doing the same, and to the members for putting aside their political agendas so that we can devote some much-needed time to discussing this very important issue.

The pork industry in this province is in crisis, there is no question. It is a crisis that is so significant because it has come upon us. We saw it coming and didn't take action to address the problem. This difficulty that faces us now is every bit as significant as the closure of the Volvo plant, the problems facing the Cape Breton coal industry, the problems faced by every major industry. It is no different and it requires the members of this Legislature working together, working with their counterparts federally, to ensure that the problem has a short-term solution to allow us to weather this storm, and with a long-range plan.

The difficulty the agriculture industry is facing is, by and large, the fact that the people of this province do not fully appreciate and understand the contribution that industry makes to the province, not only in terms of its economy but in terms of its very fabric. Farming is

[Page 4802]

more than just an occupation, it is a way of life that has been passed down from generation to generation. The lack of understanding on the part of the people, and I include myself in that, comes from the fact that we are becoming more of an urban population, the fact that there is increased competition and that there are artificial pricing structures in place that cause fluctuations in market prices that can't always be controlled. We are, to some degree, at the whim of a much larger global economy and that is difficult.

So when pork producers or people involved in the agriculture industry generally, try to take stands and anticipate, sometimes they are caught in issues and circumstances beyond their scope.

This problem has a fundamental question. It is a question we must ask ourselves, that is do we genuinely want to have a pork industry in Nova Scotia? That is at the root of whatever decision we choose to make and that must be answered. I certainly know from my perspective that the answer will be a resounding, yes, we do. We value the industry and we need it. We need to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure it is there, that this is just a glitch in the overall road and that we emerge from this with a better and stronger plan and a stronger pork industry. That is what we need to do and that is what we need to have come out of the discussions tonight. It is not enough to simply stand and speak, it has to result in some action that will see end results, that improve the position.

As has been said, the pork industry directly employs 1,500 people and many indirect jobs. It contributes about $100 million to our economy. Last year the price of a hog carcass was in the neighbourhood of $144. This year, as has been said before, the price has fallen well below that, well below what is needed to break even. It is my understanding that the break even point for a hog carcass at market is in the neighbourhood of $150. It is not hard to do the math and look at the fact that the current price is less than half of that. It cannot sustain itself if the price stays depressed.

The price difficulty, of course, is partly due to the global economy and the fact that the Asian economy has been in recession and that because we are at the whims of supply and demand, overproduction in other areas has meant that this extra production is being dumped in our market, causing a depressed price. The problem is, as I said earlier, in the grander scheme of things, in terms of the global economy, Nova Scotia is not that big a player. So we are, to some degree, caught in a cycle of events that we can only marginally control. Because of that, we need to be able to, as governments, provincially and federally, step in to help bear the cost of this, to help the farmers weather this storm so that they are not forced out of business.

The reality is that there are a number of pork producers across Canada who are actually looking at destroying their hog stock simply because it is not economically viable for them to continue to feed these animals in a money-losing venture. I can't even begin to appreciate what that must mean to a farmer who has devoted his life to building up his hog operation and

[Page 4803]

be faced with that reality. Not only that, but in many instances these are not just businesses, they represent a commitment by families, families who have been farmers for generations and to see that possibly slide away, not through any fault of their own, but simply because they are caught in a cycle of events over which, to a large extent, they have absolutely no control.

The other factor to be considered is that it is fine in the short term to look at falling hog prices. As a consumer, when you go to the store and say, my, these prices are very reasonable and we can divert our shopping habits to buy more pork. For a consumer, that is a good thing. The problem is that overall that has a long-term ripple effect in agriculture, in other sectors. For example, if consumers make a conscious decision to move from purchasing beef or poultry products to purchasing pork, simply because of the price, it means that there may be a decline in those related industries.

What on one hand can be seen as a short-term advantage to a consumer - that is, a decline in the price of pork - may have an impact on other sectors of the agricultural community. Also, over time, it could actually create higher prices in the long term because it is the basic rule of supply and demand that the prices reflected by a supply, if in fact producers are forced out of the industry and there is not sufficient pork production to maintain the level, then the price would, in turn, go up.

It is more than just a problem with pork; it is a problem with all industry. I would echo previous speakers and say that it is incumbent on us as elected representatives to work together to find a solution, to commit the funds, in the short term and in the long term, to develop a plan that will ensure that the pork industry is maintained in Nova Scotia. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs.

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased, as well, to participate in this urgent debate this evening, and I, too, want to thank the honourable member for bringing this debate to the floor this evening. Also, I would like to welcome our guests in the galleries this evening.

The hog industry plays a very important role in the economy of the Municipality of Clare. The hog industry in Clare has a solid foundation; this industry in Clare is built on the success of previous years. The hog industry in Clare maintains close ties with the industry in this province and in Canada. The hog industry in Clare works closely with other organizations and groups representing this important sector of our Canadian economy. We all realize that the global economy now impacts directly on our local enterprises, and we have a clear example today of how a troubled economy in Asia affects our markets and, of course, the production and distribution of farm products.

[Page 4804]

I give high priority to the debate engaged today in this House, because it is vital to the backbone of the local economy in our area. Hog farming, along with fishing, mink farming, and the forestry, generates our basic revenue and creates jobs. Since these industries are controlled by world markets, it is imperative that measures be put in place to protect our provincial and national interests. The rule of economic order, that of supply and demand, cannot be controlled locally. The provinces, and Canada as a nation, have to step into this debate to make sure that every possible solution is looked at and developed and develop an action plan to address this important issue. I am confident that the industry will continue to cooperate with governments to find solutions to serious problems.

[8:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, in collaboration with the local industry, governments right across Canada must develop a strategic plan. I am confident that this cooperation is possible from previous experiences. I have worked with the Nova Scotia farming communities. I know these people up here and throughout Nova Scotia are dedicated to their industry. Farm management efficiencies on Nova Scotia hog farms are considered among the best in North America.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform this House that the hog farmers in the District of Clare are leaders in this industry. They spare no effort to solve problems. They are committed for the long haul and they compete with strong forces. The weather, market trends, technology, scientific breakthroughs are all challenges that have to be met on a daily basis. All these factors require constant adjustments and tremendous efforts, and I am very proud to speak today on their behalf. I plead for cooperation between all those who have part of the solution to come together to find corrective measures.

Today, Mr. Speaker, as Nova Scotians we face a real challenge. The pork industry in Nova Scotia consists of 93 commercial producers and the question is, how can we protect over 1,000 jobs? There are 200 to 250 jobs directly on these family farms; the processing plant, somewhere around 350 jobs; in the feed industry, about 200 jobs; truck drivers and related jobs; the total is well over 1,000 jobs.

I draw the attention of all Nova Scotians to the plight of our fellow Nova Scotians associated with the hog industry. It is a concern for all Nova Scotians for the simple reason that the major economic spin-off of this industry touches everyone among us. The range and scope of the problem facing our hog farmers today will eventually challenge other sectors of the economy. The resources we channel to tackle this problem will help us solve similar challenges in the future.

Mr. Speaker, we need to put in place a strategic plan where the industry and government can work together to draw measures that will not only save an important sector of our economy, but will also help us prosper as a province. I know there are reports and

[Page 4805]

studies that illustrate the dimensions of the problems we face today in the hog industry, but we have a good record in problem solving.

What I suggest is to strengthen that partnership between the federal government, the provincial government and the industry with its associations and agencies. We can benefit from a vast pool of resources from all sectors to help us see clearly through the storm that we face today.

Yesterday morning I met with the Chairman of Pork Nova Scotia, Mr. Hubert LeBlanc, to discuss the current request that is before government. Mr. LeBlanc and I grew up in the same community of Concession and I can assure you that Mr. LeBlanc is a leader in the pork industry in Nova Scotia today.

In closing, I agree with our Premier and with our Minister of Agriculture that this government, our government, will help the Nova Scotia hog industry regain its stability and strength. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Is your intention now to do a 10 minute round?

MR. GAUDET: I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, my time was to be shared with my colleague, the honourable member for Antigonish.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Antigonish.

MR. HYLAND FRASER: Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to get up for a couple of minutes to speak a little bit about the problem in the pork industry that the farmers are currently facing. I just want to speak a little bit about the four pork producers that are in Antigonish County, my constituency. These pork producers ship over 120 hogs per week to the local Antigonish abattoir that does other business besides hog production.

These four pork producers are four family farms. I believe that six families make their living off these farms and to them the world market, which is determining the price of hogs, is probably not that important to them. What is important to them is what they take home every week and every month to pay their bills. They are expecting someone else to go out and to do the marketing job for them to market their product wherever it has to go. They deliver them to the abattoir and they wait for the cheque to come. They have got bills.

I look at the four farms, one of them is not that far from where I live, and I see that they obviously, probably, have loans with the Farm Loan Board or Farm Credit Corporation or the banks or maybe all three. These pork producers are depending on someone else when times get tough. They haven't got time to go out to market their own product, that expertise belongs to someone else.

[Page 4806]

I understand from doing a bit of research on this over the last bit of time that the reason for the low prices is the world market but these farmers didn't get in when the price was $160 or $180 a hog, these farmers got in many years ago and they have gone through the ups and the downs. When the down times were up they rode it through somehow or other and they got into it when the times were better in recent years. They tell me that a few years ago it was a wonderful business to get into and some people said, maybe more of us should get into it. There were all kinds of pent-up expectations at that time that perhaps it was a wonderful business to get into. But these farmers went through that and when times got tough in the 1980's they stayed with it.

For most of these pork producers that I know, this is their only income, they are not gentleman farmers. They do that every day of the week, seven days a week and these families who are in the galleries, I am sure that they understand that. You have to go out to do your work seven days a week and generally it is yourself, your spouse or your family that look after the chores that need to be done on weekdays and weekends.

I know my time is up, but I just wanted to speak in support of the farmers. I know our government is as supportive as we possibly can be. I know that the Minister of Agriculture really does care about the farming community and in the case of the pork producers, I know he will make the best representations that he can to our Premier and our Cabinet so that pork producers, when the time comes back again, they will have ridden the wave and they will still be with us, contributing to our economy. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate this opportunity to have a few minutes to say something on this important topic for the hog industry of Nova Scotia. I want to ask you, Mr. Speaker, we have 15 minutes here?

MR. SPEAKER: You have 15 minutes but the government side has changed the second round to 10 minutes and taking 15 minutes in the last.

MR. PARKER: Very well, that explains it. I intend to share some of my time with the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid. I do appreciate the opportunity to say a bit in support of the hog industry here in Nova Scotia and, really, for all the farming industry in this province.

I should indicate that I come from a rural community in this province and actually grew up on a family farm in Pictou County. I can remember that amongst other animals, we certainly had hogs or, as I guess we called them, we had to feed the pigs. We had a variety of sows, a boar and always a litter or two of pigs in the barn. So I have some appreciation for the folks in the farming community today.

[Page 4807]

Although times have changed since then, I guess mainly in that farms have gotten much larger and are much more a full-time occupation and have specialized into hog farming as a full-time income, away from the mixed farm and a variety of income and even off-farm income. The county I come from, Pictou, certainly at one time had quite a large number of hog farms but today, with market forces and changing lifestyles and the pressures of making a living from that industry, there are actually very few pig producers in our county.

I think there are two or three left. One of the larger ones would be Toney River hybrid hog farm and there are a couple of other folks I know who are in the business, plus, of course, all the people who raise a hog or two during the year and have freezer pork. There are a couple of people in the business of looking after their meat in the fall, so it is still an industry but not as big, certainly, as I know it is in Kings County and in Antigonish County and Cumberland County and some of the others, but nonetheless important.

We have heard quite a bit here tonight about the hog industry and how it is in trouble. I was reading an article recently on the Chicago mercantile trade futures industry. His quote was that the world is awash in pork and there is too much of it at this time. As indicated by previous speakers, that is primarily because of the downturn of the economy in Asia and the problems we have at this time elsewhere in the world, in particular in Russia. So those two sources were primary markets for pork and where that has at least temporarily dried up, it certainly puts much more demand on the other markets of the world. I guess secondly I understand the overproduction in the United States and in western Canada certainly is also contributing to our problem here in this province. It is really a global mix and one part of the world affects another at this point in time.

I guess no one really expected the prices to drop and to keep going down but it has happened and there really has been a disintegration of pork prices in the whole world economy at this time. It is forcing some producers to liquidate and others to think about it. I read an article not too far back in the daily paper here in the province about a problem in Saskatchewan where a farmer just walked away from his herd. It must have been a very hard thing to do. Hopefully, that is not going to happen here but I guess if you are right down to your bottom dollar and have not got enough money to buy the feed, but surely there must be some better solution than that, even if it is call on your neighbour, call on your fellow farmer. There has to be some way to at least get that group of weaner pigs through to market.

The other thing that was mentioned here by my colleague was that the price of pork in this province has remained relatively stable at the retail level, in the supermarkets at Sobeys or Super Value or wherever you buy your weekly groceries. So ham or bacon or pork chops or whatever have not really changed significantly in their prices. I don't know if that indicates that somebody out there is making extra off the plight of the farmer at this time, whether it is at the wholesale or perhaps at the retail level, but it might be one solution that perhaps our government could look at. If some way could be found to work with the large retailers to

[Page 4808]

bring the price down, if that was a temporary measure to help get more pork sold in the stores it would, in turn, help bring the demand back up.

[8:45 p.m.]

A couple of other things that were mentioned here on pork prices, they have dropped from a high, I understand, of as much as $190 a head, although the average was probably $160 a head last year, and it has continued to drop through 1998 to $110 a head and, today, the latest figure I heard, it is right down to $76 a head, and perhaps even lower than that was mentioned; it has gone right through the floor and continues to drop.

Yet on the other hand, the production costs, the cost of buying the feed and the labour and your infrastructure for buildings and electricity, everything combined, the estimated production cost is around $140, $150 a head. It is not hard to see how our farmers are in real dire straits here with the difference between the cost of producing an animal and the cost of what they receive at the wholesale level.

Mr. Speaker, I guess I have talked enough about the problem. I am going to ask now, what are some of the solutions? There have been two or three things mentioned here, and there are a couple of others that I want to throw in that might add some food for thought for the minister, and I know the department has been working on it. One thing that I know they have looked at is the Risk Management Fund, and the share, the levy - whatever you call it, - has gone from $2.00 recently to $3.50, and now today, December 1st, up to $7.00. That is a three-way split between the producer, the plant and the government. Even that, I understand, is still not meeting the needs; there is not enough money going back out to help farmers.

The suggestion has been made that a loan could come from the Department of Agriculture to supplement that fund, at least temporarily until we get over the hump and world prices start to rise again; that, to me, seems like one feasible solution that would work. I think the figure $3.5 million was mentioned, and that would be one immediate measure that could be taken, that amount or more, whatever is required, at least on a temporary basis, a loan to the fund to keep our producers going.

One of the biggest costs that producers have is feed, and since 1995 there has been no freight-rate subsidy coming on the feed from the West. I think our minister could press the federal department to reinstate that Federal Feed Assistance Program again; it would help alleviate at least one of the production costs, as one of the major production costs is the cost of feed. I would ask the minister to talk to his counterpart, Mr. Vanclief, and see if some help could be brought to bring the subsidy on feed grain.

[Page 4809]

A couple of other suggestions. One of the problems with hog farms has been the environmental aspect, what to do with the manure. It might be another way that the minister or the department could offer some assistance through an environmental program. It is just another way to get cash to the farmer, but maybe some assistance to look at the environmental side, perhaps more dollars could come to the producer that way. Maybe even the idea of encouraging local grain production. If one of the costs is feed, then maybe spending some dollars to have more grain grown here in the Maritimes might help lower the cost of production, and maybe reopening the grain centre in Middleton would help provide some local relief to farmers in the Annapolis Valley area.

I know my time is just about up, Mr. Speaker, but I guess the main thing I am trying to put across is that maybe there are some other alternatives to get some cash into the hands of producers now, whether it is through the environmental or feed grain or whatever, through the Risk Management Fund, so that they can get over the hurdle and keep going. It is an important industry to Nova Scotia. We must continue to work on this problem and, together, I know we can find a solution. With that, I am going to turn over to my colleague. (Applause)

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for agreeing to share his time with me. I say at the outset, I know I don't need to persuade the Minister of Agriculture of this, but I come from a community that hasn't any farming at all. I don't hide the fact that I, quite honestly, don't know anything about hog production. I know nothing about hog farming, but I do understand a little bit, I believe, about economics. That is really what we are talking about in a large part, the economics, and the importance of the hog industry to the Province of Nova Scotia.

Let's face it, there was a discussion earlier about the fact that we just, in this province, are able to produce 65 per cent of the amount of pork that is consumed within this province. If our hog producers in this province go out of business because of the short-term crisis that is being faced, pork will still appear in the grocery stores, but our dollars will be exported from this province, along with the jobs that are currently attached to those, in both the production stage and also in all the packing, trucking and all of those other aspects. Those jobs, with our dollars, will be leaving the province.

I guess, to put it in a short type of way, as I see it, we are facing in this province right now a decision. Do we want to ensure that this important way of life, and this important element of our economy, is going to be able to survive the short-term crisis that is now affecting the world markets and is being imposed upon us as a result of the downturn in the economies of Asia and Russia where markets have dried up? Do we want to ensure that the industry is going to continue and that those families and those communities that have depended upon this very important industry are going to be able to survive, to be there for when it recovers? Or are we going to take a short-sighted view and say we are prepared to

[Page 4810]

let those industries, those producers, go out of business, lose our money, lose a very important way of life? I suggest we do not want to do that.

I believe that it is extremely important that all sides of this House, whether we come from a rural community or from an urban community, recognize that we are talking about the wellness and the wholeness of our whole province. In order for urban communities to be strong and healthy, that means that our rural communities have to be healthy and strong.

I don't claim to know what all of the various programs are that can or cannot be made available or that may or may not be able to be of assistance. The Minister of Agriculture, my colleague the Agriculture Critic and the Agriculture Critic for the Third Party would know that information better than I, but those who are the producers, those who are the stakeholders, also have a great deal of information that can be provided. I would suggest to the Minister of Agriculture that what we need to do is to ensure that in order for this industry to survive, that we actually come together and recognize, and I believe from the speeches that we have heard tonight, all sides of this House do recognize the importance of this industry.

Maybe the Minister of Agriculture could draw in the critics from the other two Parties in the meetings that are going to take place with the stakeholders and that we can work and try to come up with a united policy where we can, not come back here on the floor to play games or try to make political one-upmanship about this, that or the other thing, but actually where we are putting the producers, and all of the others who are depending upon their production, first so that we are actually able to come up with solutions.

We have seen in this House today that when we put our heads together we can cooperate and we can achieve common goals, common objectives. I believe, and I think I have heard this from the Third Party and I have heard it from the government members who have spoken, that we do have a common objective in this situation. The agriculture industry in this province needs to be strengthened.

I believe we, in this province, are producing some of the finest products. The member for Kings West would know from his involvement in the grocery business and is able to compare the quality of produce that is produced here and that which is imported. We have that expertise. We know that it is here.

I guess my reason for intervening today, is to say to those in rural communities, those who are involved in the hog industry, that some of us in this House who come from urban areas recognize the importance of the industry and that we want to work with you, with your organizations, with the government, for us to come up with common strategies; working together to ensure that not only will the hog industry and the producers survive in the short term, but that they will be there in the long term and actually growing as the economy in the whole area increases. So I am looking forward to ongoing cooperation and working together to strengthen the industry and to ensure it survives. (Applause)

[Page 4811]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland North.

MR. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I was going to say I am looking forward to rising tonight to speak on behalf of the motion of the member for Kings North, but I rise with great concern, a lot of empathy and feelings toward my friends, former colleagues and myself, as a former pork producer because certainly I have strong feelings of being in that same position through the early 1980's as my former colleagues in the gallery here tonight. I have a great deal of understanding, I hope, of the situation.

I notice when I look in the gallery, James Lamb, I want to compliment you, that barbequed pork I had in the constituency of the member for Kings North was wonderful. You did a great job. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, this is a situation of gravity because we are facing a situation in the hog industry in Nova Scotia where serious decisions have to be made. We only have to look at what has happened to the price of a carcass in a year. We have gone from $140, $150, down to, last week a producer in my area contacted me, $64; this week, $58, for an entire carcass of pork. Those type of situations spell ruin for an industry in a small province like Nova Scotia.

All members of this House have to put aside the political rhetoric because we have some short-term crisis decisions to help this industry get through this and we have some long-term commitments to make to this industry and the farming community of Nova Scotia. When we have an industry which is the backbone of this province, probably the second largest employer, and it is less than 1 per cent of the provincial budget, we have a problem. That is part of the long-term one and we all have to take that responsibility to provide that direction, that support, that infrastructure, to put something there for tomorrow.

In the short term, when we look at $600,000 was the requirement three weeks ago for a loan, now we need $3.5 million, Mr. Speaker, we have to be prepared to support the minister. We have to be prepared to support the government, as all members of this House, to ensure that that funding, that loan is there for the hog industry or pork industry in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, the kind of situation we are in, we had better be committed, if this goes on longer than January, to commit some more funds because this is not about a Band-Aid, this is about ensuring that this industry gets through the crisis now. (Applause) We have to be prepared to commit that kind of money and we have to be prepared to commit that kind of support because these people running these operations, they are family farms, but these are experts. These are experts in pork production worldwide, bar none. Breeding stock in this province, the expertise of 108 on the index, clearly indicates this province is a world leader.

[Page 4812]

If we are going to protect that expertise, if we are going to protect the investment each and every one of these members of this industry have put into the farms over the last 20 or 30 years, we got to show them some commitment and that is long-term commitment. We have got to face it with reality, Mr. Speaker. We have heard some talk in here this evening and it was not, I do not think it was meant to be helpful, but there are world trade agreements out there. There are ways to handle them and we have to work within the rules. We have to make sure we expand this market.

The other reality that we have to face head-on, Mr. Speaker, is a volume market. It is a supply-demand market and we do not want to kid ourselves, we support the Nova Scotia pork industry and hog producers, not someone else in the world. We are in an over-supply situation. That is why we are hearing this debate tonight. We are here to support Nova Scotia hog producers and not the hog producers, I am not ashamed to say, in other places in North America or other places in the world because these producers are the ones who count to us. That is why we are here. That is why we are representing them. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to turn it over to my colleague with my pledge to the minister and the government, whatever needs to be happening in the short term to help ensure that support, Mr. Minister, and fellow government members on the opposite side, what is needed in the long term, I will certainly be there to help and support. Thank you. (Applause)

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I want to credit some pork producers in my constituency for bringing this matter more to my attention and my colleagues from the Valley have certainly been front and centre on this issue, not just tonight but through this legislative session. They have been speaking about it, and I want to say that the Minister of Agriculture has responded to the requests that were put forward by the Progressive Conservatives in a favourable manner.

[9:00 p.m.]

The headlines in Saturday's Truro Daily News read, "This pig . . . went to the market, but he'd have been better off staying at home". I think this pretty much exemplifies the situation. This is a story about Herman Berfelo and Brian Berfelo and their families. Just outside of Stewiacke, they operate a 500 acre farm. The Berfelos are struggling along. They have been in business, Herman and his father before him have been farming that land for years and years. Members of the Legislature have opportunity from time to time to speak to the media, but I think when a farmer takes the time to go to the media and explain and articulate a concern that they have, we as legislators had better listen.

[Page 4813]

I want to say right off the top that I think it was indicative of the Premier's support that he stayed around for most of this debate tonight. It was really nice to see the Premier in the House. He has a very heavy agenda, we all do, but it was nice to see the Premier in the House, and I am sure that all members want to congratulate the Premier. (Applause)

Now, Mr. Berfelo ". . . says that global market forces following the Asian economic crises are pushing Nova Scotia hog producers into dire straits.". What he is saying, "'We're in a real crisis. We'd be better off if we went out and (shot the pigs),'". He says, "'But I could never do it,' . . .". He also told me, by way of a phone conversation, that some farmers are in fact doing that. That is just unconscionable that that has to happen, but it is a reality.

The biggest problem, and there are several problems and many of them have been mentioned here this evening, but Mr. Berfelo says, "The biggest problem I see myself is when I go into our local store and see pork hocks selling for $2.69 per kilogram and centre cut pork chops going for $9.99/kg, when I'm only getting about 65 cents a kilogram. With price like that it's not going to convince consumers to buy more pork.'". Brian, his son, told me on the phone, he said, look, if somebody goes to give you a pig, Brooke, don't take it, it is not worth it.

There is a serious situation out there. The Berfelos claim, and I certainly concur after hearing the stories and speaking with hog producers, that they are losing $75 per pig. It is costing the farmers $140 to raise a pig, to bring it up to market weight, and they are only getting $65; probably today they are getting $60 or less. So there is a real problem out there, and I wish I knew more about the dynamics. I, too, grew up on a small farm, we raised pigs and cattle, but things have changed. Technology has changed, everything has changed.

I think, where we have this minority government in Nova Scotia, and we see members opposite, we see members with the NDP and I know my Conservatives support the Minister of Agriculture, the Premier and the government going into the Cabinet and approving the $3.5 million loan that the pork producers are requesting. That is what they are asking for. I know Ottawa is working hard to come in with some type of relief package, and we certainly commend Ottawa and the federal Minister of Agriculture. But we have to somehow forget about the program in Ottawa because we know how slow things are working through the bureaucracy and how long it takes to bring in relief packages. But the farmers in Nova Scotia need aid now. In fact, many farmers are facing immediate bankruptcy.

The time to act is now. One farmer told me that talk will fill the trough but it won't nourish the pigs. I think he certainly knows of what he speaks. Yes, a farm relief package will be helpful, and that is what we have to be concerned with here tonight. Long term, yes - and I know the government is willing to work with industry, government has worked with industry, and governments in the past have worked with industry - but the hog industry in Nova Scotia means 1,500 jobs, 1,500 jobs, and untold economic benefits to this province. It is a way of life for the farmer. It is a way of life, it is not just a job. It is a way of life.

[Page 4814]

We all have to work together, and I see the will here. I see the will here tonight to do something positive. The Progressive Conservative caucus pledges its support to the government in their efforts to assist the pork producers in the Province of Nova Scotia. My only request is that you act post-haste. I thank you very much for the opportunity. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Annapolis.

MR. LAWRENCE MONTGOMERY: Mr. Speaker, I too would like to thank the honourable member for Kings North for bringing this topic to the forefront this evening. I welcome the opportunity to say a few words on behalf of my constituents and speak as well to the pork producers in Nova Scotia.

One of the things that we have indicated is that this came upon us very quickly, without us even foreseeing such a drastic change in the pork industry. I think that in itself provides us with the opportunity to say that we want to support what we have here in Nova Scotia. We have producers that produce the best quality product anywhere in the world. As a government, that leads us to say, look, we are here and in the short term we are going to support this program. We are going to also lobby Ottawa to make sure we get the proper funding to assist the producers in this particular predicament that they are in at this time.

When we look at the price of pork since June going from $1.72 per kilogram down to .74 cents per kilogram or if you like looking at it in terms of pounds, from 80 cents a pound down to 35 cents a pound, which is less than half, I think all of us here are pretty well shocked with this occurrence. This therefore leads to the necessity in our recovery program for the producers and processors and for the government to put in more monies in our management program. We have seen this just this year go from $1.50 each to $3.00 and then eventually now to $7.00. Even this is not going to be sufficient as we are looking at the thing down the road in terms of a solution.

When we look at the figure of $37 million that was suggested as the farmgate amount of money that is produced in the hog industry and also when we got through this process from the farmgate to the processors and then to the retailers, this expands to over $100 million. Also when you consider the fact that hog producers are consumers, they are employers and you look at the spin-off effects in terms of the feed industry that supports the hog industry, all of this amounts to a lot of dollars. They therefore need some assistance at this time and it is up to us that this assistance is forthcoming and it will be forthcoming from the Nova Scotia Government and it will be forthcoming with lobbying on the part of the Nova Scotia Government and others to the federal government.

This to me is a situation that is short term and this is the kind of approach that we have to use at this particular time. In addition to that, if we go back a little bit and look at the farmgate price - this is something that has always been a concern of mine - that the farmgate price in comparison to the retail price is out of whack. Some way, somehow we have to take

[Page 4815]

a look at this. Perhaps we have got to look into also looking at marketing procedures and other forms of marketing. Also, maybe we have got to make sure that an industry loan is available. These are the kinds of approaches that I would see occurring at this particular stage and I trust that we can more forward in this regard. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: With agreement, the honourable member for Preston will speak next and then the Minister of Agriculture will wrap up the debate.

The honourable member for Preston.

MS. YVONNE ATWELL: Mr. Speaker, I realize that this debate has a time limit and it is my pleasure to give up time to the minister. I just want to say first that I am not a farmer. I grew up on a farm, my father was a farmer and his father before him in Preston. We did raise hogs at one point in my history on the farm. I must say also that I don't buy pork and I don't eat pork but that is not the issue, nor is that what we are talking about here tonight. This is a very serious issue, particularly in the communities of Preston. I say that only because that is the community I know so well. I have seen over the years the decline of hog farming, significantly. There was a time when we had quite a large number of farmers raising hogs. It was a community-based business, so to speak; families passed their skills down from generation to generation. At one point we had more than 22 farms in the community of Preston and they were fairly large. Right now we are down to about five.

The individuals who run these farms basically use them to supplement their salaries because employment is not very much in the Preston area, so they use the hog farming to supplement their income; also, in terms of the rest of the family, being able to provide them with a means of incomes, some of the younger men and women in the community. So I think I understand a little bit about the significance of how the prices of pork and the industry of pork has been declining. Many people tonight talked about the reasons for that and there have been many reasons for that. If you look at the fact that farmers around this province in the last several years, whether it is hog farming or agricultural farming or whatever, it has been very difficult, especially with the weather we have had. I drove through Canning and Kentville this summer and you could pick up the soil and run it through your fingers and nothing was hardly growing.

I just wanted to say that it is really important to communities, I believe; the hog farming has been important to communities. Communities have survived over many years, depending on the industry and they still do. As I said, the community of Preston depended quite a bit on hog farming, because historically and traditionally it has been part of our community, now it is almost like a part-time hobby. However, right now people do have a fair number of hogs, anywhere from 20 to 100, which for that community is quite large, but that, too, will continue to decline.

[Page 4816]

I think all communities need support, they need the dollars to move the industry forward because it is about communities and it is about people who live in communities. There has been enough taken away, in terms of the industry in Nova Scotia. This is just one more industry that we see declining. I don't think we can allow that to happen.

I, personally, don't know what the solutions are. I think there are probably many. I think if we work together as government, as community, to find solutions not only to the hog farming problem, not only to the agricultural community, but for all of our industries. We know that free trade, the global economy has played havoc, especially in Nova Scotia, where sometimes people can hardly find us on the map, let alone Preston. However, I think we have a strong will, that we have a strong spirit in Nova Scotia, that we know how to diversify our resources and that if we continue to do that, it doesn't matter whether we are in hog farming or any other industry, we will find a way to do that.

I believe government needs to support this industry. We need to take care of what is happening at home. We need to put the money where it is needed. I think certainly this is an industry that needs our help and support right now.

Of course, we also need to look at developing some type of long-term plan, not only for the hog farming industry but for all of our industries. Therefore, I support what everybody else is saying this evening but I also thought it was really important that I talk about the few small farmers who are left in the community of Preston because they, too, will be looking for support. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Agriculture.

HON. EDWARD LORRAINE: Mr. Speaker, I, of course, want to thank the honourable member for Kings North for bringing this debate that I consider very serious, to the floor of the House. I want to first of all welcome all of our hog producers and their families who are in the Chamber, both the west gallery and the east gallery. I do not have much time, so I am going to skip over quite a few notes and I want to say, and I want to illustrate, why the hog producers are in the financial bind they are in now. There are a number of reasons and two of the main reasons are the Asian market and the Russian market that went flat. Of course, they still require the hogs, but they cannot pay for them. That is one of the reasons.

[9:15 p.m.]

Just to indicate: in January 1998, hogs were going for an average price of $1.28 a kilogram; it went up a little in February to $1.38; March, back to $1.32; April, $1.36; May, $1.59; June, $1.72; July, $1.55; August, $1.37; September, $1.18; October, $1.17; and November it reached 74 cents. That gives you a little indication of what the problem is. That

[Page 4817]

is why - and I am going to say here and now - we are not going to forget the hog producers in this province. We are going to support the hog industry in this province.

This government, and I will give a lot of credit to our Premier who backed me last fall on the Drought Relief Program we brought in, my Cabinet colleagues, some of them spoke here tonight, excellent support. I could not have asked for better. Just a week before last week, we came out with another program of some $20 million over five years to support the agriculture industry. The Government of Nova Scotia believes in the agriculture industry and as long as I am in this office we will support the hog producers along with the other commodities in the agriculture industry.

I just want to repeat these for an illustration of what we have done to support the agriculture industry in the province. Sometimes you hear a lot of low and grim stories, but this government, besides the $20 million program we announced week before last, last spring brought back the farm tax credit, which was a great benefit to all the farmers with a land base in the Province of Nova Scotia. Just recently I had a letter from the federal minister and I have talked to him on many occasions recently and I have talked to him about this very crisis we are in in the hog industry. In fact, we had our deputy minister, Alan Steel, our executive director, Brian Smith, in Ottawa two weeks ago. They were there again, I believe, last week, or at least the deputy was, to discuss a disaster relief program.

I am saying that we are going to support the hog industry in the short term, but what I want to see in the Province of Nova Scotia, in conjunction with the federal Department of Agriculture, is a long-term program called disaster relief. That is what they are working on. Our staff has been meeting with their federal counterparts and we are going, I hope, to be able to negotiate. Things are looking fairly good and, hopefully, we will have something in place next year so that we can assist these people who are here tonight, we can assist the total agriculture industry in terms of drought, like we have had two years back to back. We want a long-term program called a disaster relief program so it can support the agriculture industry.

I have talked again with the federal minister, Lyle Vanclief, I have a phone call in. I hope to be able to talk to him again tomorrow. You all know that he has announced a program to assist the hog producers across Canada, as well as grain producers, as well as others. He wants to support the agriculture industry. He will support the agriculture industry, I believe, but he has announced and he took to Cabinet last week a program that - I don't know the details. We won't know the details until the federal government agrees and that may be two or three weeks down the road. It may be 10 days, I don't know when, but I do know that we want to support these people in the gallery and all hog producers in the province in the short term. I am making a commitment here tonight without the authority because, of course, it will depend on Cabinet but I have a program that I am going to take to Cabinet on Thursday of this week and I hope I come out of that Cabinet meeting Thursday or very shortly afterward with a decision in support of the pork industry in the Province of Nova Scotia.

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I do want to thank each and every member who spoke here tonight because they have all been very supportive, including our Cabinet colleagues. The decision, you would gather by what our Cabinet colleagues said tonight, is made now and I hope it is; we certainly want to support the pork industry.

How much time do I have, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: You have nine minutes if you wish.

MR. LORRAINE: That is great. (Interruption) Now if the member for Sackville-Cobequid would listen, he said he didn't know much about agriculture and I am not going to debate that issue, whether he does or not, but if he listens and if he thinks I know anything about it then he could learn a little bit about the agricultural industry.

Today I asked and got the numbers of where our hogs are produced across the Province of Nova Scotia, and this is 1997. In Annapolis County, they produced 14,153 hogs; Antigonish produced 82,080 hogs; Colchester produced 12,810; Cumberland County produced 10,532; Digby-Queens produced 37,682; Halifax County produced 738; all of Hants County produced 7,411; and in Kings County 122,000 hogs were produced. That is a very important industry in the County of Kings - it is one of the larger agriculture producing areas next to Colchester; of course, I would have to get an oar in for Colchester County - Lunenburg produced 3,086 hogs; and Pictou County produced 3,753.

Now there is nothing showing here for Cape Breton but I understand there are a few hogs produced in Cape Breton and they are sold through shipping clubs on the mainland, so that would be the reason I wouldn't have any record.

I want to repeat again that this government has and this government will support the agricultural industry. We proved that the last two years through our drought program but that is not good enough. We have got to have a long-term plan in place so we can protect those producers. I know our own farm operation was caught last fall. This year we were very lucky, we had excellent crops in our area of Colchester, not to say there were a few areas in West Colchester that didn't get affected by the drought again.

When we brought out this program, I think it was said by the president of the Federation of Agriculture and the vice-president was there, both spoke when we announced it in Kings County, they said it was the best program that was ever developed to support the agricultural industry. I give my Cabinet colleagues the credit for supporting me when it came to taking those things to Cabinet. That was a good program and last year we had a good program.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Talk about the hog industry.

[Page 4819]

MR. LORRAINE: We will get back to hogs, honourable member for Kings West.

Last year we brought out a program - and it was necessary, and it had to be - of $26.7 million that we could loan to farmers through the Nova Scotia Farm Loan Board with interest forgiveness that amounted to $3.2 million. That is a pretty darn good program. Last week at the Federation of Agriculture in Kings County, and the member for Kings North was there with me, I was asked by a farmer in a good gentlemanly manner why we were not able to assist the producers in this program this year before April 1st.

I will tell you, if I were still farming and could borrow $100,000, I will use that for a figure, and 50 per cent of that would be written off over the next five years and that loan was interest free, I do not believe there is a financial institution in the Province of Nova Scotia that would not support and loan that farmer money temporarily until this program comes into effect next April 1st.

I want to mention our own staff in the Department of Agriculture. Since I went in there we have had a change in deputy ministers. Any of you producers that have ever met our new deputy minister, Alan Steel, he is one of the best organizers I think I have ever seen. Alan is working very closely on this program and, in fact, Alan will be at Cabinet, available to come in to explain any of the details on this program, next Thursday when we take it to Cabinet. Alan is going to be there to back me up. I do not think that I have ever seen a person that could go in, with no agricultural background, but when the Premier told me who the new deputy was going to be, the first thing I asked was what is his knowledge of the agricultural industry.

The Premier said I believe not much. I said, all right, what is his administrative ability because I thought if we had a good administrator, we could work well together to solve some of the agricultural problems. I will tell you we got a good administrator. He is one of the best guys that I have ever worked with. In fact, that member for Kings North went on a trip with me. He did not pay his own way, he charged it all to me, and, in fact, it is going to make my expenses look very high for the month of September but that does not make any difference. I enjoyed his company. He was a former Minister of Agriculture. He did farm himself. He had a good knowledge of the agricultural industry and on that trade delegation he was a great benefit to Alan Steel and me, the fact we had him there. (Applause)

Now, George, I am not buttering you up, the member for Kings North, but we did appreciate the fact and I know our deputy minister appreciated the fact, too. I still have got two or three minutes. Anyway, I want these hog producers who are in the gallery, if they have never met Alan Steel, make a phone call to him. I have had Allan Steele go out, I want him to meet the farmers on the farm. I do not want him meeting farmers at meetings. I want him to meet so he will know exactly what takes place right on the farm. He has done a lot of that with some of the directors and he has travelled a lot with me through the summer months.

[Page 4820]

I want to impress on you people, get in contact with our Deputy Minister of Agriculture. The member for Kings North sure knows what I mean. He knows the type of a guy he is to work with and I encourage each and every person in this House to talk to our deputy minister. I am sure he will try to solve the problem as he is going to try to help us solve the problem this week. If we do not get the announcement on Thursday, I am going to say to these hog producers who are here that this government is behind this industry. This government is behind agriculture because we know how important it is to the economy of the Province of Nova Scotia. It is the economic backbone of the province. If you go back and you look at those rural municipalities that have a good strong agriculture base, so goes their economy. If the agriculture is doing good, so is the economy of that rural municipality and so is the Province of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I do want to thank you. I want to thank the hog producers for coming in. I want to thank each and every member that spoke here tonight and particularly my own Cabinet colleagues because I am telling you, with their support and what they said tonight, we are bang right on. We are going to help this industry and maybe we won't make the announcement Thursday, but we hope to in the very near future. Thank you very much. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We stand adjourned until noon tomorrow.

[The House rose at 9:30 p.m.]