The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Wed., Dec. 2, 1998

First Session

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 2, 1998

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Econ. Dev. & Tourism - MAI: Negotiations - Abandon,
Ms. Helen MacDonald 4822
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Nat. Res. - Offshore Petroleum Board: Exploration Bids - Call,
The Premier 4822
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 2282, Women - Victims of Violence: Silence - Observe,
Hon. F. Cosman 4826
Vote - Affirmative 4826
Res. 2283, Educ. - Chartered Accountants: Students (N.S.) -
Success Congrats., Hon. R. Harrison 4827
Vote - Affirmative 4827
Res. 2284, Agric. - Farm Challenges (Atl. Conf.-Dart. [12-14/02/99]):
Importance - Recognize, Hon. E. Lorraine 4827
Vote - Affirmative 4828
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 2285, Aboriginal Affs. - Eskasoni Elections: Congratulations -
Extend, Ms. Helen MacDonald 4828
Vote - Affirmative 4829
Res. 2286, Halifax - Explosion (06/12/17): Character & Resilience -
Mindful, Mr. G. Balser 4829
Vote - Affirmative 4830
Res. 2287, Fin. - Economy (N.S.): Leadership Role (Premier) -
Recognize, Mr. R. White 4830
Res. 2288, Natalie Lees (Westville): Heroism - Recognize, Mr. C. Parker 4830
Vote - Affirmative 4831
Res. 2289, GG Caring Cdn. Award: Veronica Morgan (Richmond Co.) -
Congrats., Mr. M. Samson 4831
Vote - Affirmative 4832
Res. 2290, Health Clinic (Niger, Africa): Dr. John Savage-Congrats./
Bus. & Commun. Gps.- Commend, Mr. G. Fogarty 4832
Vote - Affirmative 4833
Res. 2291, Educ. - St. F.X. Univ.: Sister Michelle MacDougall
Retirement - Best Wishes Extend, Mr. H. Fraser 4833
Vote - Affirmative 4834
Res. 2292, Sports - Community Coach (1998-Royal Bank Honour):
Lauchie Beaton (Judique) - Congrats., Mr. Charles MacDonald 4834
Vote - Affirmative 4835
Res. 2293, Nat. Res. - Coastal Properties: Ownership Review -
Initiate, Mr. W. Estabrooks 4835
Res. 2294, Culture - Anna. Co. Heritage Garden Contest: Winners -
Congrats., Mr. L. Montgomery 4835
Vote - Affirmative 4836
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 663, Tech. & Sc. Sec't. - Year 2000 Readiness: Health Care -
Status, Mr. R. Chisholm 4836
No. 664, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Tenders: Businesses (N.S.) -
Pref. Treatment, Dr. J. Hamm 4838
No. 665, Commun. Serv.: Y2K Problem - Address, Mr. R. Chisholm 4839
No. 666, Lbr. - Volunteer Firefighters: Tax Credit - Comm. Details,
Mr. M. Scott 4841
No. 667, Health - Waiting Times: Minister - Apologize,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4842
No. 668, Fin.- P3 Schools: Procurement Policy - Purchases (Ex-Prov.),
Mr. B. Taylor 4843
No. 669, Fin. - Year 2000: Cost Implications - Realize, Mr. R. Chisholm 4844
No. 670, Health - Long-Term Care: Strikes Avert - Action,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4845
No. 671, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Quebec (Port): Funding
(Gov't. [Can.]) - Awareness, Dr. J. Hamm 4846
No. 672, Nat. Res. - Forests: Old Growth - Disposal Policy,
Mr. C. Power 4847
No. 673, Health - Ambulance Serv.: Year 2000 - Ensure, Mr. G. Balser 4848
No. 674, Fish. - Groundfish: Dumping - Address, Mr. John Deveau 4848
No. 675, Health - Yar. Reg. Hosp.: Obstetrics Closure (Christmas) -
Prevent, Mr. N. LeBlanc 4849
No. 676, Health - Reg. Bds.: Task Force Review - Update,
Dr. H. Bitter-Suermann 4851
No. 677, Commun. Serv. - Women's Centres: Funding - Inadequacy,
Mr. J. Muir 4851
No. 678, Housing & Mun. Affs. - HRM: Amalgamation - Tax Increases,
Mr. J. Holm 4853
No. 679, Educ. - Schools: Replacement - Regulations, Mr. D. Chard 4854
No. 680, Health: Medical Call Centre (C.B.) - Consultations,
Mr. G. Moody 4855
No. 681, Educ. - P3 Schools: Maintenance Workers - CUPE Meet,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 4856
No. 682, Fish. - TAGS 2 (Early Retirement Prog.): Negotiations -
Finalization, Mr. N. LeBlanc 4857
No. 683, Econ. Dev. & Tourism: Winter Works Prog. -
Jobs (C.B. The Lakes), Ms. Helen MacDonald 4857
No. 684, Housing & Mun. Affs. - Bus. Occupancy Tax: Farms -
Effect, Mr. G. Archibald 4858
No. 685, Fin. - Tenderers: Affirmative Action - Statistics,
Ms. Y. Atwell 4859
No. 686, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Winter Works Prog.: Cumb. Co. -
Omission, Mr. M. Scott 4860
No. 687, Nat. Res. - Crown Land: Uses - Report, Mr. C. Parker 4861
No. 688, Environ.: Organic Materials - Disposal, Mr. D. Chard 4862
No. 689, Commun. Serv. - Soc. Assist.: Housing Allowances -
Re-Examine, Mr. J. Muir 4863
No. 690, Commun. Serv. - Cerebral Palsy (Children): Conductive
Educ. Prog. - Requirement, Mr. D. Dexter 4864
No. 691, Health - Oncologists: Recruitment - Status, Mr. J. DeWolfe 4865
No. 692, Health: Brain Injured - Progs., Mr. R. Chisholm 4866
No. 693, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Black Business Initiative:
Funding - Recipients, Mr. G. Balser 4867
No. 694, Nat. Res. - Nat. Gas: Home Heating - Cost, Mr. J. Holm 4868
No. 695, Educ. - Adult Learning: Incentives - Meetings (Mins. [N.S.]),
Mr. J. Leefe 4869
No. 696, Agric. - Hog Industry: Retailers - Profits,
Mr. John MacDonell 4870
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 2210, Nat. Res. - Nat. Gas: Plan (All-Party) - Create,
Dr. J. Hamm 4872
Dr. J. Hamm 4872
The Premier 4876
Mr. R. Chisholm 4878
Mr. J. Holm 4880
Mr. G. Archibald 4883
Res. 2242, Educ. - P3 Schools: Procurement Policy (Atl.) -
Compliance Suport, Mr. B. Taylor 4885
Mr. N. LeBlanc 4886
Hon. R. Harrison 4889
Mr. J. Holm 4894
Mr. W. Estabrooks 4897
Mr. B. Taylor 4898
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON BILLS AT 4:01 P.M. 4902
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 5:13 P.M. 4902
CWH REPORTS 4902
PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING:
No. 83, Motor Vehicle Act 4902
Mr. J. Holm 4902
Hon. J. Smith 4904
Mr. M. Scott 4904
Mr. Kevin Deveaux 4905
Mr. G. Archibald 4906
Dr. H. Bitter-Suermann 4906
Mr. M. Samson 4907
Dr. J. Hamm 4908
Vote - Affirmative 4908
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No.91, Springhill Strip Mining Prohibition Act 4908
Mr. M. Scott 4909
Mr. C. Parker 4911
Hon. K. MacAskilll 4913
Adjourned debate 4915
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Fin. - Economy (N.S.): Strongest (Can.) - Recognize:
Mr. H. Fraser 4916
Mr. D. Dexter 4919
Mr. G. Balser 4921
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Thur., Dec. 3rd at 12:00 p.m. 4923
NOTICE OF QUESTIONS FOR WRITTEN ANSWERS:
No. 13, Justice - Abuse: Shelburne Complaints - Timeline Provide,
Mr. M. Scott 4924
No. 14, Fish.: Licence Fees - Usage, Mr. M. Scott 4924
No. 15, Transport. & Pub. Wks.: Cumb. South Paving Projects -
Priority List Supply, Mr. M. Scott 4924

[Page 4821]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 2, 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 commence with the daily routine, I would advise members that the Adjournment debate today was submitted by the honourable member for Antigonish and it reads:

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature recognize that after much debate in this House regarding the merits of the Liberal Government's economic development policy, the fact remains that Nova Scotia is entering the 21st Century with one of the strongest and most dynamic provincial economies in Canada. (Interruptions)

Order, please. We will commence with the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

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

4821

[Page 4822]

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of the Retail Wholesale Union, a division of the United Steelworkers of America, Local 596. The petition reads as follows, "I, the undersigned, petition the Government of Nova Scotia through my elected representative, to request the Prime Minister to abandon negotiations on the MAI and proceed with an international investment agreement that will protect investors, and also my rights and those of Canada under the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the several United Nations Covenants.". I have attached my signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

HON. RUSSELL MACLELLAN, Q.C. (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I rise today to report a milestone in the development of the Nova Scotia offshore. The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board has announced the largest call for exploration bids in the history of the province. (Applause)

This decision is a direct result of the widespread interest of the petroleum sector to expand their operations here in Nova Scotia. Companies have been approaching the Canada-Nova Scotia board, telling them that they want to be part of the most exciting energy play in Canada today. Now they have their chance to explore, discover and develop the energy potential off our coast.

The board will award the 20 licences to the highest bidders. In all, 2.2 million hectares of offshore land will be opened to exploration and possible development. Each bid constitutes a commitment to spend money exploring in the region and with exploration and discoveries come jobs and potential royalties. The government has helped attract companies with an aggressive yet fair generic royalty structure that rewards those who are willing to be the first into underexplored areas. The call for bids will close on April 29, 1999.

While we are pleased with the interest in developing our resources, the government also wants to be able to assure that we are protecting the marine environment. We have insisted that no drilling take place on Sable Island or within a mile offshore. Sable Island represents a part of our natural and historic heritage and we must preserve it. (Applause)

[Page 4823]

Mr. Speaker, the announcement of the largest land offering ever is a fitting way to end 1998. This will be remembered as the year the dream of the offshore and its economic benefits became a reality.

Mr. Speaker, in the past 12 months, the government has delivered: a better royalty deal on Sable; reduced tolls for Nova Scotia gas consumers; an aggressive generic royalty regime to attract investment and jobs; the means to use liquids to develop a Nova Scotia petrochemical industry; a plan to provide natural gas to each and every county; and 2,000 jobs and counting. (Applause)

All of this and now the biggest call for exploration licences in provincial history. That is the government's energy record for 1998 and let me remind the House, all of this was accomplished without putting a dime of public money at risk.

Today's call for bids shows that Sable is just the beginning. Mr. Speaker, I am confident that 1999 will be another record year for the offshore, the economy and the people of Nova Scotia. (Applause)

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to respond to the Premier's statement today. Let me say at the outset that we certainly, on this side of the House, recognize the tremendous potential that exists on our offshore. We certainly want to see our offshore resources developed in a proper and timely manner, but in a manner that is going to be balanced and one which is going to see the major benefits accrued to the people of the Province of Nova Scotia. The Premier talked in his announcement about how this is the government's record for 1998. What he has done, of course, is left many gaping holes in what he has selectively chosen to say.

Mr. Speaker, first of all, let me point out that the Premier's announced that these 20 blocks are going to be awarded by the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, but there is not one red cent flowing into the coffers of Nova Scotia as a direct consequence of that. They are bidding for the right to drill on that and to spend money, not even necessarily spending money in Nova Scotia, and they are not paying any money to Nova Scotia for that right. In all other jurisdictions across this country, when they want to explore for our rights and have the mineral rights, they pay money into the coffers of the province and that is money that we could use for health and education and other services in this province. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, the Premier talks about this great royalty regime. It is one that is being laughed at across this country, because Nova Scotia is known as easy pickings.

AN HON. MEMBER: Patsies.

[Page 4824]

MR. HOLM: Patsies, Mr. Speaker. There is no question whatsoever, none whatsoever, that we are going to have a bleep in the economy in this province in the short term as construction, and so on, is taking place. What we need to have is a long-term strategy that is going to ensure that the long-term economic benefits and jobs remain in the Province of Nova Scotia, not being exported. (Applause)

When one takes a look at the Sable agreement, 1 per cent is what we are going to get under the original agreement signed by the Liberal Government; 1 per cent royalty, 1 per cent of the revenue, and your Mobil partners and company are going to be taking 99 per cent. Other jurisdictions, Mr. Speaker, have regimes where they take approximately 30 per cent from which they deduct monies that are spent hiring people from that province to work on it, and for goods and services that are produced in that province.

Instead, Mr. Speaker, the Premier stands up and talks about the number of jobs in Nova Scotia. He does not talk about the number of jobs that Nova Scotians have working in that. He also will know that there are planes, on a regular basis, bringing people in and out to work on our offshore, people who are not Nova Scotians and who are not being trained and they are being given the opportunities.

Mr. Speaker, there are many things in there and there is going to be a debate later on this afternoon where we are going to have an opportunity to expand upon this further. One of the most dismal records of the Liberal Government, and one of the cruelest jokes that they have been playing on Nova Scotians, is pretending that the kind of deals that you have been structuring have been good deals for Nova Scotia. We have been taken to the cleaners and that is a disgrace, that is a disservice for the people of this province of today and for our generations to come.

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to having an opportunity to talk at a much greater length about this and other matters related to the government's mishandling and total mismanagement of our offshore resources. (Applause)

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

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to make comments on the Premier's announcement that further exploration will go. I was rather surprised to see, after the Premier's announcement, that that was simply an acknowledgement that a higher authority than even the Premier actually put the gas under the sea. (Interruptions) In fact, it is hard to understand who it was that the Liberal caucus was, in fact, applauding. It surely could not have been this Premier.

[Page 4825]

[12:15 p.m.]

The Premier made a reference in his announcement, and he talked about how we got a cheaper toll. Nova Scotians now know that the toll is exactly where it was when this Premier became involved. We were going to pay 60 cents when the Premier got involved, and we got a 10 per cent discount, we got the $20 million over 10 years, they put it up to 73 cents, and Nova Scotians are right there back paying 60 cents again. Therein lies part of the problem.

I can't blame this Premier, but I can blame the government that he represents, as we go into the further development of the offshore. Isn't it a shame that we have given up control of the offshore pipe? Isn't it a shame that we gave up that back-in provision, giving those that control that pipe an advantage over others who will want to do that exploration and development? Giving up that particular provision will impair the development of offshore for decades to come.

The Premier talks about benefits. He wants to talk about all the benefits that Nova Scotians are getting. What we have to know is how much bread and butter will this put on the plate of the average Nova Scotian? Will it fix the roof? Will it in fact do anything? If this government is no better in delivering the benefit plan that is involved in the development phase that we are going through now, then all of these words are nothing more than simply words and not backed up with any real action. If we do not have guarantees in place that the beneficiary of this development will be better than the development up until now, then Nova Scotians will have very little to cheer about.

In terms of getting the maximum benefit, the Premier was extremely vague the other day when we talked about the industrial by-pass. But it seems to me that it was confirmed by Maritimes & Northeast as recently as yesterday, that in fact there is a separation of supply. There will be a separation of industrial from commercial and residential. What that means is that you and I and the average Nova Scotian are going to pay more for gas or you will not get it at all. The Premier talks about giving gas to 62 per cent of Nova Scotians in seven years, 18 counties. If he keeps on giving away industrial by-passes, that will never happen. That will never happen.

Mr. Speaker, the offshore gas opportunity is great news for Nova Scotia. I just hope that this government is learning from its mistakes, the mistakes that it has made up until now, and that it won't continue to replicate those mistakes any longer.

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Community Services.

[Page 4826]

RESOLUTION NO. 2282

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

Whereas this coming Sunday, December 6th, is Canada's National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women; and

Whereas we remember December 6, 1989, and the 14 women who were killed so violently in Montreal on that date, and we remember and reflect on the many women in Nova Scotia and in Canada and around the world who continue to be victims of violence; and

Whereas Ministers Responsible for the Status of Women, through this year's Iqaluit Declaration, reaffirmed our governments' commitment to sustained efforts to end violence against women, and the commitment and determination of all of us is needed to achieve this goal;

Therefore be it resolved that this House now observe one minute of silence in recognition of all Canadian women who are victims of violence, and that we resolve, collectively and individually, to continue to act against such violence, so that it may be ended and prevented in the future.

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

MR. SPEAKER: There has been 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.

We will observe one minute of silence.

[One minute of silence was observed.]

MR. SPEAKER: Please be seated.

The honourable Minister of Education.

[Page 4827]

RESOLUTION NO. 2283

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

Whereas the results of the Institute for Chartered Accountants 1998 final exams show that the Nova Scotian pass rate was 78 per cent compared with a national average of only 65.8 per cent; and

Whereas Jennifer Ann Fitzpatrick of Halifax received the highest mark in Nova Scotia and the second highest mark among all students in Canada; and

Whereas Heath Ernest Moore of Dartmouth received the second highest mark in Nova Scotia and the third highest mark in all of Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend its congratulations to all successful chartered accountant students and applaud the achievements of this province's university system which prepares our young people for leadership roles in their chosen professions.

Mr. Speaker, I 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 Minister of Agriculture.

RESOLUTION NO. 2284

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

Whereas February 12 to February 14, 1999, are the dates of the Atlantic Farm Challenges Conference; and

Whereas the conference will be held in Dartmouth and involve farm managers from across Atlantic Canada; and

[Page 4828]

Whereas this conference will highlight the importance of farm management in the development of agriculture and food industries throughout Atlantic Canada and, in particular, Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the importance that this conference plays in the development of our province's farm managers and the valuable contribution our managers make to the growth and sustainability of the agricultural food sector in Nova Scotia.

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.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 2285

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

Whereas yesterday elections were held for leadership positions for the Eskasoni Reserve; and

Whereas Allison Bernard has been re-elected Chief of the Eskasoni Reserve in a very competitive contest; and

Whereas councillors were also elected to positions in four wards;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate all of the candidates in the recent Eskasoni elections, congratulate Chief Allison Bernard and the councillors on their electoral success and wish them well in representing Eskasoni Reserve.

[Page 4829]

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 Digby-Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 2286

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

Whereas 81 years ago on the morning of December 6, 1917, the munition ship Mont Blanc and the Belgium relief ship Imo collided in the narrows of Halifax Harbour resulting in a massive explosion, the likes of which were unknown to modern man; and

Whereas the north end community of Richmond located at the epicentre of the resulting explosion was the locale of horrendous forms of death and destruction accounting for more than 75 per cent of all recorded fatalities; and

Whereas authors James and Rowena Mahar have in their book, Too Many To Mourn, One Family's Tragedy in the Halifax Explosion, recounted the loss and suffering experienced by the Jackson family, residents of Richmond, at the time of the explosion;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House, as but passing guardians, be ever mindful of the strength of character and the resilience of Halifax, the Warden of the North.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 4830]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

RESOLUTION NO. 2287

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

Whereas already the Nova Scotia economy is showing the positive effect of the Sable Offshore Energy Project through job creation and one of the highest economic growth projections in Canada; and

Whereas the Premier announced today that the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board will award 20 exploration licenses to the highest bidders; and

Whereas 2.2 million hectares of offshore land will be opened to exploration and possible development;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the strong leadership role played by the Premier in the development of the province's economy to the positive benefit of Nova Scotia and all its citizens.

Mr. Speaker, I as 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 Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2288

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

[Page 4831]

Whereas eight year old Natalie Lees of Westville is being honoured by the Town Council for saving a life; and

Whereas Natalie's cool thinking prevailed when she found a neighbour unconscious last January; and

Whereas Natalie covered the victim with the blanket and dialled 911, giving the dispatcher precise information;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize the eight year old heroine and join the people of Westville and other Nova Scotians in honouring her.

Mr. Speaker, I will 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. 2289

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

Whereas the Governor General's Caring Canadian Award will be presented to three outstanding citizens of Nova Scotia tomorrow by Lieutenant Governor John James Kinley; and

Whereas this award honours individuals whose voluntary service provides extraordinary help or care to people in their community; and

Whereas among the recipients of this prestigious award is Veronica Morgan of Richmond County, who is being recognized for her many years of service to her community, church and to her Gaelic heritage;

[Page 4832]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend sincere congratulations to all Nova Scotian recipients of the Governor General's Caring Canadian Award, and commend Veronica Morgan for her unselfish dedication to others.

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 Cape Breton Centre.

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

Whereas the Minister of Labour yelled across the floor yesterday to the member for Cape Breton The Lakes, "See how much you'll get in the Lakes.", referring to Winter Works Program jobs; and

Whereas this type of behaviour is totally unacceptable for any elected representative, and especially for a Cabinet Minister; and

Whereas a threat to people of any riding is totally unacceptable;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Labour conduct himself appropriately in the House and, more importantly, conduct himself in a responsible manner that reflects the best interests of Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I think that notice of motion is out of order in that you are commenting on a remark across the floor, which is off the record.

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 2290

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

[Page 4833]

Whereas the West African country of Niger recently celebrated the opening of a new health clinic in one of the country's small villages; and

Whereas the clinic was made possible through the generosity of Etruscan Resources, a Dartmouth company which is developing a gold mine in the area; and

Whereas the distinguished former Premier of Nova Scotia, Dr. John Savage, was on hand to present the keys to the clinic, as well as medication donated by the Dartmouth-based Novopharm, while a donation from the Dartmouth Rotary Club is en route to Niger;

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend these Nova Scotia businesses and community groups for their generosity and congratulate Dr. John Savage for his work in making the new health clinic in the impoverished nation of Niger a reality.

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 Antigonish.

RESOLUTION NO. 2291

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

Whereas next week the St. Francis Xavier Extension Department will honour Sister Michelle MacDougall on her retirement after 23 years of service; and

Whereas she has had a lifelong interest in learning, having graduated from St. Anne's High in 1951, entering the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Martha in 1958, obtaining an Arts degree from St. F.X. in 1971 and a Master's degree in Sociology from the New York School of Social Research in 1974; and

[Page 4834]

[12:30 p.m.]

Whereas Sister MacDougall is a strong advocate for social justice issues like housing, women's issues and faith development;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join with the friends and co-workers of Sister Michelle MacDougall and extend best wishes on her retirement and congratulations on her many years of community service.

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 Inverness.

RESOLUTION NO. 2292

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 third annual Royal Bank Sport Celebration Day was held recently in Halifax to recognize volunteers and coaches whose work brings Nova Scotian athletes to the national stage; and

Whereas Lauchie Beaton of Judique was honoured as Community Coach of the Year for his work with athletes from rural Cape Breton; and

Whereas athletes under Mr. Beaton have gone on to become Olympic trialists and Canada Games medal winners;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Lauchie Beaton on being named Community Coach of the Year and wish him luck as he continues to coach young athletes on to high levels of excellence.

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

[Page 4835]

MR. SPEAKER: There has been 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 member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 2293

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

Whereas coastal communities from Terence Bay to the Peggy's Cove light are deeply concerned about access to waterfront properties and numerous islands; and

Whereas control of our coastlines as one of our greatest natural resources must remain a top priority; and

Whereas there has not been a review of this neglected issue since the 1970's;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Natural Resources initiate a review of the ownership of coastal properties immediately.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 2294

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 red geranium is the traditional flower of Annapolis County; and

Whereas the only rule in the third annual Annapolis County Heritage Garden Contest was that participants must employ the red geranium in some capacity; and

[Page 4836]

Whereas winners of this popular contest, which were announced recently, include the Clarence 4-H Club, Don Smith of Milbury Lake, Jim How of Annapolis Royal, and the Paradise Women's Institute;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate all winners of the Annapolis County Heritage Garden Contest and commend them for making a significant contribution to the beauty and cultural character of Annapolis County.

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.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The time being (Interruptions) We will have a slight delay, before we start Question Period. Today's Question Period will last for one hour and 30 minutes.

[12:34 p.m. The House recessed.]

[12:42 p.m. The House reconvened.]

MR. SPEAKER: We will commence Question Period. The time now being 12:42 p.m., we will terminate at 2:12 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

TECH. & SC. SEC'T. - YEAR 2000 READINESS:

HEALTH CARE - STATUS

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to direct my first question to the Premier. It has to do with the Year 2000 readiness from the Ministry of Health. I have here, and I will table, a copy of a report, the last progress report on the readiness of that

[Page 4837]

department. The status of a few of the programs: emergency health services - status unknown, project plans have not been completed.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Are you going to ask a question or are you going to read that document?

MR. CHISHOLM: Do I not have the opportunity to ask my question?

MR. SPEAKER: You have the opportunity to ask a question, but you are starting to read a document.

MR. CHISHOLM: I am not reading the document.

MR. SPEAKER: Okay, my apologies. I thought you were.

MR. CHISHOLM: Can we start again?

MR. SPEAKER: We can start again.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my first question, if I may, to the Premier. It has to do with the Ministry of Health and the progress on its Year 2000 readiness. I am tabling a report - this is it, I am not reading from it - but I would refer to a couple of points in that report. It has to do with three programs. Emergency health services - status unknown, project plans have not been completed; long-term care program - status unknown; home care program - status unknown. My question to the Premier is, will he explain to Nova Scotians, those many Nova Scotians who have already lost confidence in the health care system, how they can have any confidence that the system is not going to crash as a result of his government not being ready?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to refer that question to the Minister responsible for the Technology and Science Secretariat.

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure whether we got the document tabled or not. The Minister of Health needs that document to properly answer this question. Let me remind the Leader of the Opposition that the Department of Health, like all departments of government, will be fully compliant by next summer on essential services. That is a commitment we make to the people, it is a commitment we will keep.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, again to the Premier. Let's take a closer look at the emergency health services. The report describes this program as a high priority because of its high impact on the health and safety of Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

[Page 4838]

MR. CHISHOLM: Yet, a contingency plan is to be developed. My question to the Premier is, we are 13 months from the Year 2000, how can this Premier and his government allow things to continue at this level without any plan being put in place?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to refer that question to the Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, on the issue of compliance, the coordination is being done. The assessment teams are in place and I think things are going along very well. The issue is of concern that all of these things are running out of control is just not so. There have been assessments happening and we have assurance that hospitals like the QE II will be up and running by the summer of 1999.

[12:45 p.m.]

MR. CHISHOLM: In this report, home care and long-term care programs are also listed as high priorities and yet the readiness strategy and contingency plans are yet to be developed. My question to the Premier, what are Nova Scotians to believe, a government that says, trust me, or their own document that says you are not ready?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to refer that question to the Minister of Health.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, with home care, what is the issue there? There are programs that are being developed. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

DR. SMITH: They are being developed. The nurses aren't going around with computers that have false chips in there, Mr. Speaker, that all of a sudden the system is going to break down because it is sabotaged by some rogue chip. Things are in place, there are plans going forward. There is no question on that and essential services for the government.

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - TENDERS:

BUSINESSES (N.S.) - PREF. TREATMENT

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I will expect the same latitude as I ask my question. My question is to the Premier. This province does not have tendering policies that protect local and regional interests for all tendering that does not come under interprovincial agreements. I brought this to the minister's attention in the House in June and he agreed. He

[Page 4839]

agreed we were not protecting Nova Scotian suppliers and manufacturers. Will the Premier tell me today what action he has taken to improve the tendering policies of this province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to refer that question to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, the tendering process that we have in the province is one of the best. We have an excellent procurement policy that is in place for a tendering process.

DR. HAMM: I will continue with the Premier, because he must be concerned about what is happening to Nova Scotian suppliers. We do not, contrary to what his minister has just said, have a good tendering policy. We do not protect . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

DR. HAMM: . . . Nova Scotian suppliers and manufacturers. Are you prepared here to follow up on your commitment that you made last spring to look after and investigate and improve tendering policies in this province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, to the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, tendering policies are a concern of this government and we are working to make them even better than they are now and to make sure that Nova Scotians get the maximum benefits from things that their own government buys.

DR. HAMM: Thank you, Mr. Premier. I think we are all distressed that Nova Scotia's schools will have desks made in Texas when there is a manufacturer right here in Nova Scotia, contrary to what that minister had alluded to the other day. My final supplementary to the Premier is, are you prepared to commit here today to introduce a tendering policy that all items not covered under interprovincial agreement will give preferential treatment to provincial and regional suppliers and manufacturers?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, as I have mentioned, we are working on this to make our tendering policy even better than it is at the present time. We do want Nova Scotians to get maximum benefits and we will have further information for the honourable member, and indeed all members, before too long.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

COMMUN. SERV.: Y2K PROBLEM - ADDRESS

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am going to go to the Minister of Community Services this time and again on the Y2K issue. I will table a report here with

[Page 4840]

respect to the Department of Community Services. It says that the department's case management system contains and manages data related to abused children and the report says that it is central to the operations of the Family and Children's Services Division, but Year 2000 completion date is unknown and contingency planning has not been addressed.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: I want to ask the minister, Mr. Speaker, can she explain how, in fact, her government and her department has a handle on this when their computers are not going to be able to deal with this information?

HON. FRANCENE COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, once again the Leader of the Opposition asks a shameful question because he tries to fear-monger on all these issues, and shame on him. It just so happens that our department will be very compliant and will be ready in the summer of 1999 and I have no doubts about that whatsoever.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I repeat, Year 2000 completion date unknown continuously planning has not been addressed. We are talking about a system that contains and manages data . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: . . . related to abused children. I want to ask the minister, Mr. Speaker, what is her contingency plan to respond to the concerns raised by experts in this field about her and her department not being ready?

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the honourable member would table the date on the document that is outdated now that he is reading from. I just want to reassure this House that all our mission-critical systems will be in compliance.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, here we go again. This is a report dated October 30, 1998 and I will table it. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: My final supplementary to the Minister of Community Services, will she not, in fact, confirm that her department and she, as the minister, have sadly bungled this whole question and that she is not going to be ready for the year 2000?

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, it is really hard to take this honourable member with any seriousness. I can only state again, our mission-critical services will be done on time and in compliance.

[Page 4841]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland South.

LBR. - VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTERS:

TAX CREDIT - COMM. DETAILS

MR. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Labour. This minister has already gone against what his Liberal Government agreed to in the middle of June this year and that was a tax credit for volunteer firefighters across this province. The Liberal Government refused to allow legislation to be introduced by this PC caucus. The minister decided to proceed instead with the committee to investigate the issue of tax credits. Will the minister provide with me details today as to who has been appointed to this committee and where hearings have been scheduled?

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, the individual names from the various departments that are involved, I will have to take that on notice but I believe the individual departments, the honourable member is aware of. As the honourable member well knows, the bill that was attempted to be introduced was a financial measure which was out of order. Secondly, and most importantly, the consultation process, which we expect submissions completed by the end of December, which we announced then to allow all the volunteer fire departments across the province to ensure . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland South, your first supplementary.

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, it has now been six months since your government agreed to give the tax credit to the volunteer firefighters and then reneged on it. It shouldn't take three or four scientists to come up with such a tax credit. What is so difficult about providing this tax credit to firefighters in this province?

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, first of all, as I have stated already, we indicated that we couldn't do it in this fiscal year because it was a budgetary matter and we set aside between $4.2 million and $4.5 million in the next fiscal year. So that was for good fiscal planning. Second of all, we wanted to ensure that all the stakeholders had an opportunity to provide input before we draft the legislation.

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, you are on record as saying legislation for this consultation effort will be in place for the 1999 tax year. Do you expect this to happen? If you do, when will the work be undertaken?

MR. MACKINNON: Yes, obviously, Mr. Speaker, once the bill is introduced and approved, then it becomes law and the individual firefighters will receive their tax credit.

[Page 4842]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - WAITING TIMES: MINISTER - APOLOGIZE

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. I would like to table a memo from a Halifax medical clinic to its patients. It is an apology for longer waiting times for appointments and tests. Three doctors have left this clinic and only two new billing numbers have been issued for replacements. Doctors are not the ones . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: . . . who should be apologizing to patients. My question is, will the minister offer his apology today for the chaos his government has created in health care?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we have stopped the outflow of doctors from Nova Scotia and we have programs in place to retain those physicians. Some of these physicians are not full-time physicians. Some are adapting other lifestyles and not working longer hours, as has been traditional. There has been a big change that is taking place in the delivery of health care but primary health care is a concern. We are working on that.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the memo says, "It should be obvious by now that health care reform means reduced health care.". My question is, would the minister tell this House what concrete plans he has to restore faith in primary health care before the end of this session?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, last Friday an announcement was made for over a $2 million project within the province shared with the federal government. We are actively working on the issue of primary care, which I agree with the honourable member, that is the issue that we have to see some changes in that particular area of access into the health care system, but we have other programs that I have mentioned . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham, your final supplementary.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my final question for the minister is, will he give us more than empty promises? Will he tell us how he is going to rebuild a health care system that works for doctors and for patients?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, our program that we are developing throughout this whole province is geared for patients first. That is the issue. Primary care physicians traditionally have worked long hours and sometimes those issues have been a problem. I think we are

[Page 4843]

moving into a health care team concept. We are piloting a project. It is over $2 million and that will be the format.

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

FIN. - P3 SCHOOLS:

PROCUREMENT POLICY - PURCHASES (EX-PROV.)

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the honourable Minister of Finance. Unbelievably, this government has no formal signed agreement, no statement of compliance requiring the developers of the P3 schools in this province, asking them to honour and abide to the procurement policy, the Atlantic Procurement Policy.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Question.

MR. TAYLOR: As a consequence, Mr. Speaker, the question is, why are goods and services, such as the sheet metal trade, i.e. the ventilation systems, being done by Key Ventures out of New Brunswick and why is the furniture for the schools coming from a place called Temple, Texas, U.S.A.?

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, first of all, the schools were tendered within full compliance, both of the Nova Scotia procurement policy and that of the Atlantic Canadian procurement policy, full compliance, and all bidders came to the table under those rules and those rules do exist.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, local sheet metal companies are afraid that because Key Ventures out of New Brunswick was given the contract to supply the ventilation system for one Municipal Armoyan school, that they, in fact, will be given the contract to supply the ventilation systems for all the schools.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. TAYLOR: What is in place, is there anything in place, to stop Municipal Armoyan from dictating where the ventilation system will come from?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I do not know if the member opposite is paying attention to what I am saying. What I said very clearly here, is that every school under the P3 process was tendered in absolute full compliance of the Nova Scotia procurement policy as well as the Atlantic-Canadian procurement policy. I do not know what more the member opposite requires to hear.

[Page 4844]

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, there is absolutely nothing in place. He is talking about the Atlantic Procurement Agreement. We are talking about giving Nova Scotia companies and employees opportunity, who are not being given the opportunity. So my question is this, what is in place to protect Nova Scotian manufacturers and employees against the demands of the designers and the architects of the P3 schools, against the demands of those designers that the furniture, for example, would come from the United States of America?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I do not know if the member opposite understands the process that was involved there. Consortiums are brought together, that make a bid on a school. The issue here is getting value for money. The issue here is complying with the Auditor General. The issue here is whether or not they comply with that process and they did comply with that process.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

FIN. - YEAR 2000: COST IMPLICATIONS - REALIZE

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to go to the Minister of Finance. I have a document here released by the Technology and Science Secretariat, information by the way, along with the other reports tabled today, that were received through freedom of information. A very brief quote, "Most departments are still in the inventory and assessment stage of their Year 2000 projects. As a result, most do not yet fully realize the cost implications to remediate their business.".

MR. SPEAKER: Question.

MR. CHISHOLM: My question to the Minister of Finance is, do you fully realize the cost implications of the Year 2000?

[1:00 p.m.]

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, that report was October 30th or October 31st at the end of October. The biggest part of the Y2K project for the Department of Finance was finished a year ago for the concerns with regard to the Y2K. Our entire accounting system was brought up to date and made Y2K compliant at the same time. So the total cost to Finance of $1.8 million, most of that money was basically sent for the areas of financial planning and we did comply. We have met many of those targets already established a year ago.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, my first supplementary is that this report which comes from within government says that these departments will have to divert funds from existing budgets. My question to the minister is this, what programs are at risk because departments are being forced to divert funds to Y2K?

[Page 4845]

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, the sky is falling, the sky is falling. That is exactly what that Leader of the Opposition is trying to imply. The bottom line is we have an obligation, a commitment. This government will comply, will meet those target tests and will meet the required timetable.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, just remember, the budget is balanced, trust me. I want to table a letter here from the Alcohol and Gaming Authority. It is one small piece of proof that diversion of funds is going to lead to chaos. I want to ask the minister my final supplementary. When are you going to admit that departments like the Alcohol and Gaming Authority and many others have to choose between program delivery and fixing their computers?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition doesn't understand the issue of making choices. His choice is, increase taxes on Nova Scotians to cover anything that they want to do, it is not a matter of setting priorities, it is a matter of increasing taxation on the burdens and the backs of all Nova Scotians. That is their answer.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - LONG-TERM CARE: STRIKES AVERT - ACTION

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. As much as this government claims it has dealt fairly with nursing home workers, this simply isn't so. There are 3,000 workers in 48 nursing homes across this province that have yet to accept new contracts. My question to the minister is what action, if any, is this government taking to avert province-wide strikes in the long-term care sector?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I know the honourable member is disappointed there are no picket lines up there right now to go and join like before. That is a very serious matter, strikes are very disruptive. There has been a benchmark set and basically referred to as the Northwood Manor settlement, that is being offered throughout this province that has worked very well. Just a few days ago we had another nursing home sign and agree to that. There is a program in place where we will have parity within the long-term care sector at the end of the contracts.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, CUPE, the largest union involved in these homes, has publicly stated it will only settle for wage parity with acute care workers. My question is, will the government accept responsibility for the problems it has caused and make wage parity possible for all workers?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the long-term care sector has been long-time neglected, no question, we all agree on that. We have done something about that, we have a plan in place within the life of the contracts that are now being signed by many of the nursing homes, then

[Page 4846]

there will be parity withing that sector. We have a longer time commitment to go to the acute care but that is the longer term. We are doing it step by step.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, CUPE also says that in order to avert strikes it wants to deal directly with the government. My question is, will the minister direct officials in his department to sit down with the union and operators to ensure that we avoid the kinds of situations we have had at the Cove and at Northwood?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I guess following the activities in British Columbia, she has strikes on her mind today because there are certainly a heck of a lot of them out there. The Minister of Labour and the departments will be working with the owners of the homes. The Department of Health does not own these homes but we will assist in any way we can. We have a fair package and it is a just package.

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - QUEBEC (PORT):

FUNDING (GOV'T. [CAN.]) - AWARENESS

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. Is the Premier aware that the federal government has very recently made an $18 million commitment to the Port of Quebec to restore the wharves along the waterfront?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the federal government is looking after Quebec, it is going to be looking after Halifax. If we are successful in getting on the short list of the Maersk Sealand proposal, then hopefully the federal government will be forthcoming in that regard but it is too early to tell yet.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I want to table this document from the November 16th - which was Monday - issue of Canadian Sailings, entitled Federal Government Contributes Major Investment to the Port of Quebec. What that says of course is that the federal government has now committed to the Port of Quebec. My question to the Premier. Does he have any information that would indicate to him that the federal government has now committed to make a comparable investment in the Post-Panamax development here in the Port of Halifax?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the first thing is that we, all of us, the federal government, the provincial government, are anxiously waiting to see if we are included on the shortlist of Maersk Sealand. That announcement is expected at any time. Following that, then I would imagine there will be further information released.

[Page 4847]

DR. HAMM: I thank the Premier for that answer. By way of final supplementary to the Premier, would the Premier not agree that the commitment to the Port of Quebec by the federal government strengthens our argument with Ottawa that they should in fact be a participant and an investor here in Halifax as we develop our port?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I understand what the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party is saying, but I do feel now that the federal government is a believer, that they want to be a part of the development of the Port of Halifax in conjunction with the Maersk-Sealand application. I am hopeful that that will be very substantial.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

NAT. RES. - FORESTS: OLD GROWTH - DISPOSAL POLICY

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Natural Resources. Mr. Minister, Crown land at Little Wentworth and Wentworth Lakes, in Digby County, contains some of the best old-growth forests in this province; in fact, it contains only 2.1 per cent of Crown land in all of western Nova Scotia. My question, Mr. Minister, can you explain the Department of Natural Resource's policy with respect to assessing and disposing of blocks of old-growth forest in this province?

HON. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, the message I can give the honourable member is that we are looking at all aspects of forestry in Nova Scotia. If our department feels that there is a section of timberland that we should look at, should it be harvested or should it be kept, we will make that decision on that basis.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, protecting the Wentworth Lakes site would match the province's commitment that a high priority will be assigned to protection of significant old-growth forest sites on Crown land. My question, Mr. Minister, will you agree to a moratorium on disposal of Crown lands until such time as the integrated resource management process is completed?

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, if the integrated resource management team makes that recommendation to the minister, that is probably the direction we would take.

MR. PARKER: IRM represents the public's only opportunity for input into the status of Crown lands. Mr. Minister, can you explain why you have allowed your Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs to bully Cabinet into trading this ecologically significant land despite the recommendations of your own department?

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I will have to go back and look at the records when I was bullied on this issue. I don't recall it at this point in time, but if I was, I will take a report back to the member.

[Page 4848]

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

HEALTH - AMBULANCE SERV.: YEAR 2000 - ENSURE

MR. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Health. The Year 2000 project information indicates that health services has a projected cost of $500,000, no estimated compliance date and zero per cent progress in terms of compliance. Emergency health care services are critical to the Province of Nova Scotia. That means ambulance service. What are you doing to ensure that ambulance service will be provided after January 1, 2000?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, ambulance service will be provided after that date as well as it is now. There are programs in place. There is a new system that has been in place. It is known what is there and there is a process in place. We do not have to worry about that system, but it is integrated with other systems.

MR. BALSER: We don't have to worry about that particular part. What about public administration? That system has a compliance date of January 1, 2000. That does not leave a great deal of margin of error. What will you do to ensure that that system will be functioning on January 1, 2000, that there will be no risks?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, this is a process, this is a work in progress. There are people in place who are coordinating these efforts. There are dates and this is not the end of the line. Essential services will be met and that is a commitment we will make across the board. The whole world is grappling with this issue and we are having as good a success as anyone at that. We will meet our commitments.

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary will be directed to the Minister of Community Services. Your department seems to be well behind in addressing the Y2K problem. August 31, 1999, is listed as a compliance date for most of the initiatives in your department. That is special services, seniors' assistance. Will you guarantee that on August 31st you will have compliance?

HON. FRANCENE COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, the answer for this question is no different than the answer about 10 minutes ago. I assure you that our department will be compliant.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Yarmouth.

FISH. - GROUNDFISH: DUMPING - ADDRESS

MR. JOHN DEVEAU: Mr. Speaker, today the Ecology Action Centre is releasing this report where fishermen describe dumping and discarding in the ground fishery. Thousands of

[Page 4849]

pounds of fish may be dumped by a single boat on a single fishing trip. My question to the Minister of Fisheries is, is he aware of how serious the problem of dumping is?

HON. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable member that I am very aware of how serious this issue is. It is an issue that has been going on for years. We have discussed this with the federal government, and we are going to continue because it is a federal responsibility to stop this atrocious act.

MR. JOHN DEVEAU: Mr. Speaker, dumping and discarding is a result of a regulatory problem. This was a factor in the collapse of the fishery off the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Newfoundland. Current stock assessments for 4X and 5Z are gloomy. My question to the Minister of Fisheries is, we have proof that fish is being wasted, when are you going to admit to the problem and insist that DFO look for alternatives?

MR. COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, there is no question that there is a problem. I have met with the Ecology Action Centre and we are working with them. We are working with other levels of government to try to get this problem resolved. It is a lot bigger problem than the honourable member has described and he has not truly said the whole story on it.

MR. JOHN DEVEAU: Mr. Speaker, I have been told there were two boats up on the banks and they kept getting cod and dumping it. The captain said right over the radio that he was dumping it. Dumping is murder. My question to the Premier is, when is he going to tell DFO to stop reacting to the symptoms and start dealing with the causes?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is very concerned about the fisheries practices. I have had an opportunity to speak to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans last week. He assures me that they are doing everything they can.

[1:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.

HEALTH - YAR. REG. HOSP.:

OBSTETRICS CLOSURE (CHRISTMAS) - PREVENT

MR. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Mr. Minister, I have been informed by physicians in the local area that the Yarmouth Regional Hospital's obstetrics department is planned to be closed for at least a week subsequent to Christmas. Can the minister inform the House today whether or not he is prepared to intervene to ensure that the Yarmouth area will have an obstetrics department whereby expectant mothers will not have to travel to Bridgewater or to Kentville to have their babies?

[Page 4850]

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question. That is an important issue. I was not aware that there will be a closure for one week. Sometimes relative to an anaesthetist or back-up services, they might deem it best for high-risk patients to discontinue the service there. But I know there are three funded obstetrical positions in that hospital. I know one of the obstetricians is ill at this time; one is planning to retire, that person will stay on to help; and there is a locum in place to cover.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, one of them happens to be travelling away and is leaving only one staff to deal with all the problems. After possibly three weeks on call, the physician is saying that he is going to take some time off. I ask the minister again, as Minister of Health, whether he with his staff will come to the Yarmouth area to ensure that there is not a lack in service and that people will not have to travel to have their babies? I think it is a reasonable question, Mr. Speaker.

DR. SMITH: It is a reasonable question, Mr. Speaker, particularly for the safety of the mothers and their children and the quality of care. If a service cannot be provided safely, then it is better not to be delivered there at that area. But I have every assurance that there is a locum in place, unfortunately there is an illness with a physician and that puts a lot of strain on the system. You have to be fair about these matters and the safety of the patients is paramount.

MR. LEBLANC: Well, Mr. Speaker, I think fairness is the word that the minister used and that is what I think the people of Yarmouth County deserve. I ask again, to ask Halifax for help in order to deal with this shortage and he says himself that they have a lack of doctors . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. LEBLANC: . . . and the minister himself is saying that we deserve some services. I ask again, what will he do as Minister of Health to ensure that perhaps someone could cover during this period of time so that we will not be without a physician to deliver those services?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, that is a fair question because at the end of the day the Minister of Health is responsible for the quality of care. We will work with the Western Regional Health Board, which is responsible for the Yarmouth hospital and we will work hard to get people there so that the people in that honourable member's riding will have the service at the Yarmouth hospital. I will make that commitment today.

[Page 4851]

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

HEALTH - REG. BDS.: TASK FORCE REVIEW - UPDATE

DR. HINRICH BITTER-SUERMANN: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Minister of Health. At NDP health forums across the province, people have said that regional health boards aren't listening and that they aren't accountable to communities. A task force was to review regional health boards. My question to the minister is, will you give us an update on the work of this task force and tell us when we can expect its recommendations?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the Task Force on Regionalization is up and running. I have met with them personally the past week. We are looking at ways to improve their secretariat service and matters of collecting information. I have no guarantee of the time but I will be looking for an interim report early in the new year.

DR. BITTER SUERMANN: Mr. Speaker, major criticisms of regional health boards are their lack of accountability and transparency. Mr. Minister, while we wait for that task force report, can you assure us that regional boards will be more transparent and accountable?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the regional health boards are volunteers. I think they have done a great job. We have hundreds and hundreds of volunteers also in the community health boards and I think they are in each of those regions. What I am hoping will come from the task force is how we can best coordinate and use all those volunteers and that there is a transparent system there.

DR. BITTER-SUERMANN: Mr. Speaker, regional health boards are not accountable and are not open. Will the minister assure me and this House, maybe in the way of a New Year's resolution, that in future he will give relevant answers to relevant questions on health care?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, there was a bit of noise and the last sentence I could not even hear except some relevancy or resolution? I could not hear it, if he could repeat.

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

COMMUN. SERV. - WOMEN'S CENTRES: FUNDING - INADEQUACY

MR. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. On March 24th, the day before the last election, the Premier met with representatives of women's centres and assured them that the problem of inadequate funding for their operations would be addressed. Up to this point there is no indication.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

[Page 4852]

MR. MUIR: There was no indication in this year's budget and no indication that that is going to be addressed. Will the Premier direct the Minister of Community Services to honour his promise?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to refer that directly, right now, to the Minister of Community Services.

HON. FRANCENE COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, this question has come up fairly often in the last two weeks. It is very important because we are working with the women's centres and the transition houses. We do have a team of people in place addressing these questions and they are raising very serious concerns. We are working together to get the answers.

MR. MUIR: The value of the women's centres, as the minister just indicated, is great to this province. The people from the women's centres suggested a base funding for 1999-2000 of $130,000 per centre. Will the Department of Community Services and the Minister of Community Services commit to providing that base funding in 1999-2000?

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I think the honourable member opposite knows that there is no way we can commit to next year's budget in this year but we are discussing their needs. They are very serious. The work they do is very well respected and we will try to come up with the right approach to give them the levels of funding they need to do a better line of core service.

MR. MUIR: My final question also goes to the Minister of Community Services, Mr. Speaker, and she has just confirmed that she is trying to get together an interdepartmental approach to address the issue of funding for women's centres.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. MUIR: That interdepartmental approach was supposed to begin in September. Now it is scheduled for December. When will that report from the interdepartmental group be ready?

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I am not certain which report the honourable member is speaking about but, clearly, the departments are working with the women's centres and the transition groups to come up with funding formulae that will better address their service requirements.

[Page 4853]

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

HOUSING & MUN. AFFS. - HRM:

AMALGAMATION - TAX INCREASES

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, through you, I would like to address a question to the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs. Last night the Halifax Regional Municipal Council introduced a new planning strategy in an effort to try to control the huge debt and deficit that continues to grow since amalgamation and in large part, because of amalgamation. My question to the minister is quite simply, did the government know prior to the amalgamation that you imposed upon the residents in HRM that that would result in deficits and increased taxes?

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for bringing this to the floor. As the honourable member knows, and I have stated this on numerous occasions so far, basically with the amalgamation that is presently being implemented with the Halifax Regional Municipality, definitely with the short period of time that we have gone through at this stage, I think it is too preliminary at this stage to basically indicate whether or not it will be to their benefit or not. I think at the same time, when we look down the road at the Queens amalgamation, we see just the opposite.

MR. HOLM: I interpret that to mean that the short answer is yes. My next question to the minister is, of course, back in 1993 there was an independent report that indicated that there were to be no real benefits from amalgamation. My question to the minister is, quite simply, what is your government now prepared to do to ensure that the residents who live in HRM are not forced to pay higher taxes and to pay for the problems that your government created?

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, again, as I have indicated to the honourable member, at this stage of the amalgamation, I think it is too early in the game to indicate exactly what the increases are going to be and, of course, we agree there certainly have been increases with the amalgamation, but, I think time will certainly show just the opposite. There are benefits, and we are seeing this with the regional amalgamation in Queens County.

MR. HOLM: A survey that was released today confirms that the majority of residents know what the minister apparently doesn't, and that is that it isn't working. My question to the minister, who doesn't know the answers on the other things. Is your government prepared to sponsor or have an independent review conducted of the amalgamation, and to support measures to correct the problems that your Liberal Government created by following the Tory plan?

[Page 4854]

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, presently there is a study that is going on, it is called the Donner Study, basically led by a group of researchers through Dalhousie University. I think the ongoing study will certainly show at some time in the near future, exactly what the member is indicating here, the benefits exactly, at the same time if there are any costs that have been attached to it. I think we will see that with time.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

EDUC. - SCHOOLS: REPLACEMENT - REGULATIONS

MR. DONALD CHARD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is for the Minister of Education. When school boards in the province review schools for possible closure, they are required by the Department of Education to undertake a thorough public review to ensure that, whatever the decision is, it can be justified. Departmental regulations do not, however, require the same process if the school is being replaced. My question, will the minister please explain the lack of consistency in the regulations?

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: If I understand the member correctly, he wants to know why, when there is a regulation applied to school closure, that same regulation isn't applied to the renovation of say Digby Regional High or the replacement of that school on that site. Is that the question, Mr. Speaker?

MR. CHARD: If I can help the minister. Where a single school is being replaced by another school in the same vicinity, there may not be a need for a full review. I would submit that the regulations should apply to consolidations which are really tantamount to closures. Will the minister plug that loophole in the regulations?

MR. HARRISON: If I understand the member's answer to my question, he said that if you are replacing a school, he can understand why there might be the need for a full review. I agree with him totally, Mr. Speaker.

MR. CHARD: I appreciate the fact that the minister acknowledges that we have to answer questions that he can't answer. What I would like to ask him now is if he will accept his responsibility under the Education Act and make a commitment to due process wherever schools are being closed, if they are not simply being replaced on a one-for-one basis?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, both questioner and answerer make a pledge to due process under the Education Act, absolutely.

[Page 4855]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

HEALTH: MEDICAL CALL CENTRE (C.B.) - CONSULTATIONS

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is for the Minister of Health. The proposal for a call centre in Cape Breton, since the Medical Society, nurses, all those people that have said that they are not in favour of this proposal, I would ask the minister who he consulted with before the call for proposal went out?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, there has not been a call for proposals on any of the telephone triaging. We have consulted with the Medical Society, and we have agreement from them that they will pursue, they want to remain involved. We have also had other groups that have expressed interest, particularly in the area of improving access into the health care system.

[1:30 p.m.]

MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, expression of interest and I don't know what he means by consulting because I saw the president's comments. I would ask the minister since he is moving along this road for a call centre, could he indicate to the House the exact procedure that his government is following involving the health care workers in the system in involving with the proposal?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my understanding is that the honourable member is asking for the process that is in place to work with those who will be working in the system. We have a review committee that is in place that will be reviewing the proposals of interest but also will be meeting with anyone who has any interest there. Some have been referred already, there is a review committee within the department but it does involve people outside of the department.

MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary is, since we have a great public health care system, one of the best in the world, I would ask the minister why he is not pursuing this as a public health proposal and not a private proposal? Why is he not going down the route of the public health care system to be totally involved in this kind of proposal?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the purpose of this and the reason that we are proceeding cautiously is that we want to look at the options and keep our options open. If there is a better way to do business then we will do that. There is certain expertise in this area, this is not just someone answering a 1-800 number as has been reported in the media, these are skilled people and the whole process in place has been very sophisticated, it has been developed and that is what we would be looking at.

[Page 4856]

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

EDUC. - P3 SCHOOLS: MAINTENANCE WORKERS - CUPE MEET

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Premier. Officials from CUPE have attempted for several months to meet with the Premier, the Minister of Education, the Minister of Human Resources or any single official from the above departments. My question to the Premier is why won't you meet with CUPE to discuss the threat that P3 schools present to more than 1,000 maintenance and custodial workers in Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, there is no threat to maintenance and custodial workers in Nova Scotia, there is no reason to meet with CUPE.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, the Premier's scheduling assistant wrote back and said he was too busy to meet. That is all they have heard from this government. My question to the Premier is, do you realize that more than 1,000 jobs are at stake here? What is more important than 1,000 jobs in Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is fabricating a problem that doesn't exist and I will turn it over to the Minister of Education and Culture.

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite should table that letter that he is referring to because on October 9th we wrote CUPE and invited them to come and have a meeting to hear that not one single contract would be affected by P3 schools in this province.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, CUPE workers have negotiated a P3 clause protecting their jobs until 2001, which is when P3 schools would be in full swing. Will the Premier commit that he or any members of his Cabinet will meet with CUPE before 2001?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to refer that question to the Minister of Education and Culture.

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, speaking of 2001, Space Odyssey, we wrote on October 9th and asked them to come and meet with us and we are still waiting for a response. In the letter we indicate that no contractual arrangement with any board will be affected by private sector leasing of schools in this province. We respect those jobs. We don't fear-monger. We don't put panic where it doesn't belong.

[Page 4857]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.

FISH. - TAGS 2 (EARLY RETIREMENT PROG.):

NEGOTIATIONS - FINALIZATION

MR. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture. Some months ago the TAGS 2 program was announced and in that there was an early retirement program whereby the province is to be a participant at 30 per cent. Can the minister first of all acknowledge that is correct and whether or not the province has finalized its negotiations in the early retirement program?

HON. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question, it is a very important question for the fishing industry in Nova Scotia. We are still in the negotiation process with this retirement package and we have committed to participate.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, it has been since the spring that we are waiting to negotiate this deal. The minister didn't answer the question as to what percentage it is. If it is 30 per cent, it is 30 per cent. What is the hold-up? People need to know what is going on so they can plan their lives. I ask again, what is the status?

MR. COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, the program is still in negotiations and the amount is 30 per cent the province will participate with.

MR. LEBLANC: Well, Mr. Speaker, people who are receiving TAGS 2 have received one buy-out plan and they will receive another one in January. If they receive the pension, my understanding is that it will be clawed back. Why hasn't the province finalized this deal so the people who do qualify for early retirement can plan their lives and not receive a . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

MR. COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, we are still negotiating this process and it will be done shortly.

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

ECON. DEV. & TOURISM:

WINTER WORKS PROG. - JOBS (C.B. THE LAKES)

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is to the Premier. Yesterday, the member for Cape Breton West responded to a statement on the government Winter Works Program by saying, see how many jobs you will get in The Lakes.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

[Page 4858]

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: My question to the Premier is, why did this government, yesterday, threaten to punish the unemployed in my riding of Cape Breton The Lakes?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable member that all members of all constituencies will be treated fairly.

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: My question, then, to the Premier, Mr. Speaker, is, does the Minister of Labour's view represent his government or will this program go to benefit unemployed Nova Scotians, whatever their political view?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Winter Works Program relates to the unemployment rate and there is no way that that can possibly be altered. Whatever the unemployment rate says the participation in the program will be in accordance with that.

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: My final supplementary, Mr. Speaker, again to the Premier, is, will the Premier protect against his minister's political ambitions by ensuring that these jobs are fairly distributed and by accounting at the end of the Winter Works Program as to where the jobs were given?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I have told the honourable member it will be based on fairness, so I want to turn it over to the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism so he can tell her the same thing.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member. Last time I looked, Cape Breton The Lakes was in Cape Breton, represented by that honourable member and I will remind the honourable members that this program is based on the high unemployment areas throughout Nova Scotia, of which her constituency is certainly qualified. That constituency will be treated in the same way as any other constituency, regardless of who represents the constituency.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

HOUSING & MUN. AFFS. -

BUS. OCCUPANCY TAX: FARMS - EFFECT

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs. The business occupancy tax is being expanded to include many small farm operations. I am just wondering if the minister could indicate how far he is prepared to go with business occupancy tax affecting the farm industry?

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for his question. To my knowledge, I don't believe that farming does qualify for the business occupancy tax. I stand to be corrected.

[Page 4859]

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate his answer. Now the minister would know that his department is putting the business occupancy tax in some processing facilities in the Annapolis Valley. I am just wondering whether the minister intends to go to the packing houses for apples and potatoes and vegetables and so on, as he expands the desire for the business occupancy tax.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I don't believe that packaging plants do pay a business occupancy tax, but I can certainly check.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, it is a very fine line on the processing, again to the minister. One of the people in the Annapolis Valley who is a farmer is very interested in the response, because she has been charged the business occupancy tax. I am wondering if the minister would look into this case of Maxine Bruce in Sheffield Mills and put an end to the harassment that the tax department is putting her through.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, first of all, there are different assessment rates, to begin with. The second point I wish to raise, for resource properties such as farming or forestry, these businesses are exempt from paying a business occupancy tax. However, in the case that the honourable member raises to the Assembly this afternoon, I understand there has been an appeal on this particular case. The fact that there is an appeal process in place, I certainly would encourage anyone to use that, but . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Preston.

FIN. - TENDERERS: AFFIRMATIVE ACTION - STATISTICS

MS. YVONNE ATWELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. The government promotes itself as being an affirmative action hirer, that is, employs a workforce that represents the cultural diversity of Nova Scotia. An increasing means of employing Nova Scotians is the tendering or contracting out of services to the private sector. My question to the Premier is, what percentage of the companies receiving government tenders are affirmative action hirers?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can give the honourable member my assurance that we are absolutely committed to equal opportunity in the Province of Nova Scotia. What the percentage is, I honestly cannot say at the present time.

MS. ATWELL: Mr. Speaker, last year this Liberal Government tendered at least $1.4 million worth of legal fees to several large downtown firms. These are huge fees for these firms. My question to the Premier, are any of these firms affirmative action hirers?

[Page 4860]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I honestly think that is an unfair slap at the legal fees in the Province of Nova Scotia. I don't know of a law firm in Nova Scotia that is not affirmative action.

MS. ATWELL: Mr. Speaker, there is not one Nova Scotian Black or aboriginal lawyer working at these large downtown firms. My question to the Premier is, why are you contracting services out to these firms when they do not employ a workforce that represents Nova Scotia's cultural diversity?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, that is not the fault of those downtown law firms. It is the fault of people who want to make believe that they are interested in minorities, the people who want to create a different program for Blacks and aboriginals in the Law School so that they don't get the same education or the same standard other students do. Totally unfair to the minorities in this province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland South.

ECON. DEV. & TOURISM -

WINTER WORKS PROG.: CUMB. CO. - OMISSION

MR. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. Yesterday, the Nova Scotia Government announced a Winter Works Program in eight areas of the province. Seven of those areas are represented by Liberal members. My area of Cumberland County, which is in the northern region, has as high or higher an unemployment rate as some of those listed, was omitted from the list. Can you tell me why?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, in determining which areas were going to be included in this particular Winter Works Program, the one that was announced yesterday, we took the eight largest unemployment areas in the province. That has been traditional; we have done that each and every year. I will table this document. It ranges from Victoria County, 27.7 per cent unemployment, down to Digby County, 15.6 per cent unemployment. The county that he refers to does not figure in those statistics, they are much lower than that.

[1:45 p.m.]

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, I would like to table a document as well, from the Department of Finance, which indicates my area, the northern region, is higher than some of those that have been selected. I would like to ask the minister, why was the only Liberal constituency of Eastern Shore and Halifax County included, and not the Musquodoboit Valley which has just as high an unemployment rate?

[Page 4861]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I think, if I was referring to percentages here, I would rather refer to the percentages I have from Statistics Canada and the official unemployment records of this province, in terms of constituencies rather than the member's opposite.

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, those numbers are from your own Department of Finance. Will the minister commit to extending the program to Cumberland County and Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, as well as other areas which have equally as high or higher unemployment rates than those that were offered the wage subsidy program?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, again, I am going by seasonally-adjusted numbers, that we given to me by Statistics Canada, equalized over a period between January to September. All we can do is go by the numbers that we have on hand, and not artificial numbers that are given to us to probably expedite matters in their own county.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

NAT. RES. - CROWN LAND: USES - REPORT

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Natural Resources. Recently the DNR conducted an integrated resource management workshop in Breton Cove, Victoria County, looking at Crown land uses. In fact, it was on November 4th, and they have issued a report. My question. Mr. Minister, have you read the report?

HON. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, yes. I have read the report.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, it is in the opinion of the community that a proposed land tract transaction at French River not proceed, as the land has provided public access to the shore of St. Anns Bay for decades, is a safety watch location for fishermen, and an important recreational site. My question. Is the minister aware of the views of the community, expressed at the IRM meeting?

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable member that I know the situation far better than he does.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Minister, the community has indicated very strongly that they do not want this transaction to happen. I want to table a report here with the House, Mr. Speaker, the minutes of the meeting, and I ask the minister, why is he stepping outside his department's own process? Why has he phoned a few friends in his community and recommended that the transaction not go through?

[Page 4862]

MR. MACASKILL: I can assure the honourable member, no decision has been made on this parcel of land at this point in time.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

ENVIRON.: ORGANIC MATERIALS - DISPOSAL

MR. DONALD CHARD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is for the Minister of the Environment. As of November 30th of this year, organic waste, including grease trap waste, is banned from Nova Scotia's landfills. Will the minister please explain what will happen to organic materials such as grease trap waste after that date?

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite asks a good question. I just want to inform the House that this morning I was there in Dartmouth at the Miller compost facility, the first of its kind in North America, the largest facility of its kind anywhere in North America and, in fact, this $8 million facility is going to help make HRM go from 41 per cent diversion rate to 65 per cent diversion rate by the year 2000, a leader in Nova Scotia and a leader . . .

MR. CHARD: Mr. Speaker, that was a very interesting response because it implies that grease trap waste is going to go to composting facilities but I think the minister should know that you cannot compost grease trap waste.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. CHARD: You cannot send it to sewage treatment plants.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. CHARD: And it cannot go to . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. CHARD: Will the minister please tell us where this particular type of waste, which is produced in large quantities by institutions and fast food restaurants, where is it going to go?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, as the Party opposite, the Official Opposition of the Province of Nova Scotia, has wanted to have all the answers to all questions immediately. What we have been able to do since 1995 (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

[Page 4863]

MR. DOWNE: Since 1995 have gone from 8 per cent diversion to 31 per cent. The member opposite asks a very good question and what we have said very clearly is that we are prepared, unlike the Party opposite, to work with industry to find the proper process that we will be able to deal with that particular problem.

MR. CHARD: Mr. Speaker, responsible institutions, as the minister should know, treat this kind of waste at source. The problem is that some operators are irresponsible and dispose of it improperly. Is the minister prepared to create a level playing field by bringing in regulations to ensure onsite treatment so that this material does not keep getting pumped and dumped into Halifax Harbour?

MR. DOWNE: Well, there is a lot of pumping and dumping going on here today, Mr. Speaker, but what I would like to say is that we have indicated to the restaurant and institutional trade that we are prepared to work with them as well as other producers of this product to be able to find a solution. We are trying to do that through a scientific way and also in an economic way, something that the member opposite in the New Democratic Party is not aware of, and that is creating economic opportunity as well as sustainable development.

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

COMMUN. SERV. - SOC. ASSIST.:

HOUSING ALLOWANCES - RE-EXAMINE

MR. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. Last Friday in this House the House passed a resolution, endorsed by the members of your government, that your department would re-examine the housing allowances paid under social assistance programs and adjust them to reflect the changes in the housing market. What has the minister done to this point to initiate that resolution?

HON. FRANCENE COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I think the resolution was passed unanimously by this House last Friday. It does show that there is a concern around these rates. I just wanted to assure the member opposite that there is an ongoing review process in the department around the rates that we pay to social assistance recipients.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the minister has just said that there is an ongoing process and I would like to ask the minister how this process works?

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, the process works through consultation, through stakeholder consultations, through senior staff doing the assessment and analysis on figures, and that is the process that actually helped us increase funding this spring by $10 million to our social assistance recipients.

[Page 4864]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, again to the Minister of Community Services, inasmuch as the House unanimously adopted this resolution, we expect that some action will be taken so when can we expect an adjustment will be made by your department?

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, again, the honourable member opposite, as have others today, are asking questions around a budget process and asking that we make budget decisions in the middle of a fiscal year. We cannot do that. I just want to assure the honourable member there is a process. It does result in review and it does result in actions.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

COMMUN. SERV. - CEREBRAL PALSY (CHILDREN):

CONDUCTIVE EDUC. PROG. - REQUIREMENT

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. The minister will recall that on October 16th I wrote to her in respect to the need for conductive education programs in this province to benefit children with cerebral palsy. In my letter I pointed out that there is a pilot project in Ontario to assess the success of this treatment and that a similar program is needed in this province. Since I have not had a reply I would like to ask, what efforts has the minister made to make her department aware of this important treatment option?

HON. FRANCENE COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member makes mention of a very important issue for our department and for others across government, and it is an issue around the particular special needs of children that are very significant. If he hasn't had a reply to this I am very surprised. I would like to check out exactly the status. I was quite convinced that you had had a reply on this.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the minister recently said that investing money in early intervention programs is a priority. When will the minister be reinvesting the National Child Benefit clawback into the development of a conductive education program for children with disabilities?

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, again the honourable member is mentioning the early intervention programs that we are doing under the National Child Benefit. A consultation process has begun on that and I am sure he will look forward, with great anticipation, to the results of that consultation process.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, because conductive education isn't available in Nova Scotia, parents presently pay thousands of dollars to take their children outside the province for treatment. Will the minister offer assistance to these families, perhaps by using money from the National Child Benefit clawback?

[Page 4865]

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I had a problem listening to the question at the start of it. I think we are always going to have some particular circumstances where children are required to go outside this province for some services. I don't see where there is a way to always eliminate that from happening given our population base. We are working, though, with our stakeholders on identifying the issues of concern; they are very serious ones and we are working together in a corporate fashion to get the answers on those.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou East.

HEALTH - ONCOLOGISTS: RECRUITMENT - STATUS

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Two weeks ago I asked the minister about the ongoing shortage of medical oncologists and what efforts were being made to recruit replacements for the three medical oncologists who recently left. The minister said that three candidates were recently interviewed. Could the minister please indicate if this has resulted in an increase in the number of full-time medical oncologists for Nova Scotia?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, there has been a second oncologist confirmed for Cape Breton, I think, since we spoke. I don't have an update as of today but there is a process in place where there have been interviews conducted. There is every indication that we will slowly, in time, return to the full complement. The market is very competitive but with Dr. Padmos, I am assured that it looks like there will be some. I can't announce any right today.

MR. DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, the minister continues to promise good news is around the corner but it seems like it never is. I appreciate the fact that there is one for Cape Breton. Could the minister indicate what specific incentives his government is offering to help deal with the critical shortage of medical oncologists that we have?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, like I said before in the House at different times, the treatment of cancer does not depend on one particular type of specialist. The medical oncologists are important, so are the surgery oncologists and so are the radiotherapists and so on. We are moving very rapidly in this province, ahead of other provinces, to what we call an alternative funding. That is where a salary can be guaranteed and those positions can be guaranteed. That not only benefits the oncologists, it benefits paediatrics throughout the province and those types of specialties.

MR. DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, again to the Minister of Health. I hope the minister will stay on top of the situation; it has reached an extraordinary state of disrepair. When does the minister expect that we will achieve our full, much-needed complement of eight medical oncologists?

[Page 4866]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we have provided funding spots for nine even, I believe. This is very competitive. There are 45 shortages in southwestern Ontario alone, Mr. Speaker. That is the magnitude of the problem. What is happening is that there is a comprehensive cancer care treatment program right throughout this province . . .

[2:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HEALTH: BRAIN INJURED - PROGS.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to direct my question to the Minister of Health and it is on the matter of Marion Anderson, a woman who has suffered from a brain injury and who is at risk because there is inadequate long-term care for brain injured persons. The minister knows of this case. I am going to table a letter from Steve Anderson, Marion's husband, to the Deputy Minister of Health about a meeting held with her back in the early part of September.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: It is regarding the question of a plan to deal with the needs, to assist persons with brain injuries. I want to ask the minister, will he give details of that plan to members of this House, to me, because we continue to wait for the details of that plan which he talked about in this House last week?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we have had funding provided to the Brain Injury Society. There is a small options home that is up and functioning in the Dartmouth area. So we have made progress on that. We have had placements within an institution here, in Nova Scotia, that we have worked with, many departments. We are also, on an individual basis, trying to keep people in their own communities and we are doing that with people in the Truro area and those types of communities. So there is a plan and there is great improvement being made.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the issue is, there isn't a plan. An independent review found that due to the lack of proper rehab programs, Marion Anderson's safety, recovery potential and basic human needs have been neglected.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: My question to the minister is, will the minister tell us what he intends to do to develop long-term care for more than just a few people with brain injuries, leaving others like Marion without the care needed?

[Page 4867]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, there have to be individual assessments done. Each person is different. These are very complicated, they cross many different areas. Their rehab starts at the acute care stage, it goes through the rehabilitation phase. It has not been easy but we have programs for independent living here right in the metro area and we are rolling that out to the rest of the province. There are many initiatives. There is no one, simple answer. This is something that the whole country struggles with.

MR. CHISHOLM: They had an independent review in this case. The government, the Department of Health continues to ignore the fact that Marion Anderson is at risk . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please. You are on your final supplementary.

MR. CHISHOLM: . . . where she is right now. My question to the minister is, will he explain the criteria his department uses to decide whether someone like Marion is worthy of their attention?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, it is a very interesting tactic that the Leader of the Opposition uses. (Interruptions)

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

DR. SMITH: I don't know if that is a socialist trait or not. Mr. Speaker, he doesn't want an answer, he won't listen. (Interruption) He brings people's names to this House . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

DR. SMITH: . . . of Assembly. Mr. Speaker, you know that I cannot . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable minister will take his seat.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

ECON. DEV. & TOURISM - BLACK BUSINESS INITIATIVE:

FUNDING - RECIPIENTS

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. BALSER: Yesterday, in the House of Assembly, you questioned why you might be expected to have some knowledge of the Black Business Initiative funding contributions. Your department, along with the federal government, has contributed $1 million annually for

[Page 4868]

the last three years and is expected to contribute $2 million more over the next two years. Are you telling me that you don't know where the money goes?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, first of all, the honourable member, again, is wrong in his question. I didn't say that yesterday. What I said yesterday was simply that it is not up to me to determine what is going to happen and what is going on with the Black Business Initiative. Yes, we and the federal government fund that particular program but as far as we are concerned, the program is working well.

MR. BALSER: So you feel it is reasonable for a government-funded organization with a mandate to support and grow business initiatives for the Black community with an annual operating budget of $1 million, it is reasonable for them to contribute only $53,000 for business assistance?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I don't understand whether the member is for the Black Business Initiative or against the Black Business Initiative. That is the difficulty I have with this because as far as I am concerned, that initiative is working. We are monitoring it, on an ongoing basis, but the initiative is working. I would like to know whether that member is for or against the Black Business Initiative.

MR. BALSER: For good, sound business decisions. What I am questioning is the wisdom of an organization that contributes so little of their operating budget to funding business initiatives, when they have, in fact, as administrative expense, $295,000 of the $1 million budget; 29 per cent of their budget goes for that. Is that reasonable, for 29 per cent of their costs . . .

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the Black Business Initiative is making a difference for Black entrepreneurs in this province. They loaned out $556,000 in loans and leveraged another $515,000 in loans to Nova Scotia Black business this year, and I think that is a good record. He should not be questioning that record.

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

NAT. RES. - NAT. GAS: HOME HEATING - COST

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, my question is through you to the Premier. Back in 1993, and members will recall that the rallying cry of the Liberals for economic development was 30-60-90; now it is natural gas. Natural gas, supposedly based upon the Premier's assertion that natural gas will be 15 per cent less expensive than home heating fuel. My question. Upon what is the Premier's assertion that it will be 15 per cent less expensive based?

[Page 4869]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the percentage was compiled by the Petroleum Directorate, based on the price of heating oil today and the price of natural gas as it is distributed in North America.

MR. HOLM: Will the Premier table in this House today the study, the analysis that has been done that backs up the assertion he is making?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we used every bit of information we could possibly find. There is no particular analysis. We know what heating oil is being sold for in Nova Scotia. We know what the companies are telling us, the prospective applicants. We know what natural gas sells for, what the apparatus entails, and we put together a figure of 15 per cent. It is purely based on information that is generally known.

MR. HOLM: We also know the government said that the toll rate was going to be 60 cents and now we know that it isn't. My question to the Premier. Is it not true that you are really floating a lot of hot air because you do not have a kind of analysis that will stand up, and that is why you are afraid to table your analysis on the floor of this House?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we are not saying that the 15 per cent is a fixed price. This is the price that we believe will be 15 per cent below home heating oil; that could come down even more. Some of the applicants are saying it will be even less. As the infrastructure is paid for, then natural gas will decrease even more in price.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

EDUC. - ADULT LEARNING:

INCENTIVES - MEETINGS (MINS. [N.S.])

MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. Last June when we were doing the minister's estimates, the minister reminded the House that he at one time as Minister of Economic Development, joined with the Ministers of Health, Justice, Community Services, and Education, to meet regularly respecting incentives for adult learning as one of the highest priorities of any governmental team. My question to the minister. Has that team met regularly since last June, and where is it with respect to adult learning.

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, two things have happened. One, the CAYAC as it is called, the Children and Youth Action Committee, meets regularly, both senior staff and ministers. Secondly, adult education is part of a study of human resource development for this province that is ongoing, that deals with issues related to post-high school training and workplace education.

[Page 4870]

MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, again, at that time, the minister said that he could not comment on the expenditures by the Southwest Regional School Board respecting adult education. We have had now, half a year since he advised me of that. I wonder, could the minister could tell me what the current situation is with respect to expenditures for that?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, again, I would need clarification on whether we are talking about, obviously, the portion of the board's funding that is related to age 5 to 21, and what portion of that is spent in programs in its jurisdiction for, say, the 18 to 21 year old population; perhaps the member could be more specific.

MR. LEEFE: The 18 to 21, Mr. Speaker.

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, the answer then will be, or the question is what amount of their budget is spent on that population, and I would be happy to provide the member opposite with that information.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

AGRIC. - HOG INDUSTRY: RETAILERS - PROFITS

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Agriculture and Marketing. Yesterday the minister said he would put his knowledge of agriculture up against the knowledge of another MLA in this House. Why won't he use his knowledge to determine why retailers are profiting at a time when hog farmers are forced to absorb huge losses?

HON. EDWARD LORRAINE: Mr. Speaker, at the present time our deputy minister, through our marketing branch, is studying that very issue of the difference in the price due to the drop in the price of pork. I really think that question should go to the Minister of Business and Consumer Services but, nevertheless, our staff is working on it.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East, a quick question. You only have one minute.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Business and Consumer Services. What is he and his department doing to investigate the huge disparity between retail and producer prices for pork?

HON. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, we are taking this issue very seriously. We are in the process of reviewing it right now.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I wonder when the Minister of Agriculture will table the results of his investigation?

[Page 4871]

MR. LORRAINE: Mr. Speaker, as soon as I receive it from our deputy minister, I will let the member know what the results are.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted for the Oral Question Period has expired. I have several requests for introductions.

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

HON. FRANCENE COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to introduce, in the east gallery, constituents from Bedford. I would ask them to stand, Don and Ann MacVicar, and receive the applause of the House. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

MR. PETER DELEFES: Mr. Speaker, I would like to make an introduction. Seated in your gallery, I would like to introduce a former member of this House and one of my constituents, Dr. Ed Kinley. (Applause)

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

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the attention of the House to two guests in the west gallery. We have Councillor David Hendsbee, who is an HRM Councillor. (Applause) As well, I would like to draw the attention of the House to another guest, Mr. Jamie Cochran, a metro resident who is a member of the Elections Commission. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, in the east gallery, I am very pleased to introduce two very special people. First, last night I had the pleasure of opening up a brand new culinary delight restaurant at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

AN HON. MEMBER: There is chicken in every pot.

MR. DOWNE: Chicken in every pot, I wish. It is called the Cheapside Café, which is historic - for those who are not from the Halifax area - to that particular area; Cheapside is very much reminiscent to the area years ago.

I am very pleased to introduce today, two very special people that were there last night. Obviously, the Director and CEO, Bernie Riordan was there, and also I would like to introduce Uni Simensen, who is the owner and operator of Scanway Catering. I might want to say to members of the House when you have a chance to go across the street to enjoy some absolutely beautiful food, go over there. I understand they serve delicious chicken by

[Page 4872]

the way. I want you to go over there. I would like for the House to please give a warm welcome as they stand in the east gallery for a warm welcome to this House today. Thank you. (Applause)

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order as a consequence to Question Period, and I did try to get up as you were doing your introductions. Earlier on in Question Period, the Minister of Finance told us that the developers of the P3 school were complying with the Atlantic Procurement Policy, and the Progressive Conservatives have proof that they are not. I would ask the Minister of Finance to table proof that they are.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. A dispute among two members as to facts is not the basis for a point of order.

The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I rise on an introduction as well. Appropriately, in the west gallery is the wife of one of our NDP colleagues, the wife of Pictou West MLA Charlie Parker, Mrs. Marilyn Parker. (Applause)

[2:15 p.m.]

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Progressive Conservative Party House Leader.

MR. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, actually I was trying to introduce the wife of the member for Pictou West because I hoped she would knit me a sweater during the Opposition Members' Business here today. I was trying to get her attention during Question Period. Anyway, back to business. Our intention today is to call two resolutions. Would you please call Resolution No. 2210.

Res. No. 2210, re Nat. Res. - Nat. Gas: Plan (All-Party) - Create - notice given Nov. 30/98 - (Dr. J. Hamm)

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

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to talk on this resolution, " . . . be it resolved that the Premier acknowledge the price Nova Scotians have paid for his government's failure to plan and that the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition agree to

[Page 4873]

our recommendation to create a three-Party, all-encompassing plan for Nova Scotia's natural gas industry.".

All of us are excited about the prospects of offshore gas, offshore development, the employment opportunities both direct and indirect, and the opportunity to have a cheaper supply of energy. We talk about the very substantial expenditure of money by the private sector, the Sable partners and the partners in the onshore pipe, over $3 billion in this first development phase. While we talk about the tremendous economic activity, the question that really has to be answered here is how much of this benefit will accrue to Nova Scotia and Nova Scotians?

It is easy to talk about the activity, to be excited about the number of people from out of province that are here, that are occupying the hotels in Halifax and that are moving back and forth across the province, who are very interested in this economic activity. The bottom line is what is the true benefit to Nova Scotians, to the Nova Scotian worker, to the Nova Scotian family, to the Government of Nova Scotia in terms of revenues to build our social programs and to do all of those things that we are expected to do as a province?

We have gotten off to a very bad start because we have not benefited from the experience of other provinces who have developed a similar industry and who have made mistakes. But the template is there to do it right, the template to receive the maximum amount of benefit for the people of the province, the government of the province and the revenue base of the province.

There is no better example as to how we are doing if, in fact, you take the benefits plan, the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board Benefits Plan because this illustrates, identifies and quantifies what it is we should be receiving during this particular period of time. It calls for development expenditures of 28 per cent of the total for materials and a development phase employment of 53 per cent, now that is 53 per cent Nova Scotia content and that is a pretty easy concept to understand.

So we look at this document and we looked at the benefits that were to accrue and the objectives that were to be addressed by the offshore and to be protected by this government. Then we come to another set of figures because these are the facts. This is the third quarter report of Sable Offshore Energy and this is where we are. Material expenditure, not 28 per cent, 19 per cent. The development phase employment, not 53 per cent, 27 per cent. We are barely reaching by half where we should be. Not much wonder, when the government gets up and they talk about employment possibilities and they talk about the great benefits for natural gas, that Nova Scotians are suspect because up until now this government has not delivered. The benefits plan is not being realized. The target numbers are simply not coming up on the graphs that we are now being presented by Sable.

[Page 4874]

If this keeps up, we keep talking about exploration and the Premier, today, had a happy announcement - more companies are interested in doing exploration on the offshore but if, in fact, we do not do any better than we have done up until now, then it is small reason to celebrate. The oil companies are very excited about what is happening here and others have commented that perhaps the interest by Exxon in Mobil is perhaps related to the very advantageous position that Mobil has established for itself here in the offshore.

Goodness knows, it is a position that has been strengthened by this government who gave up to Mobil and partners the controlling interest, a 50 per cent back-in provision, in the offshore and the onshore pipe, absolutely guaranteeing that the current participants in the offshore will have a leg-up as we do other offshore development and making others less competitive.

I believe in the competitive market, Mr. Speaker, but I do not believe in giving competitors an advantage and thereby locking out or putting at disadvantage their competitors and that is what we have done by giving away absolutely free, absolutely gratis, our control of the offshore and the onshore pipe. We have given away an asset that becomes more valuable day after day after day. We, as a province, have received nothing for it. We will pay the price of that mistake for decades.

We learned in the last couple of days that the policy of this government to separate industrial uses from commercial and residential users is, in fact, a policy. We looked askance when industrial bypasses were granted to three major industries in this province, absolutely guaranteeing that the rest of us will pay a higher price for gas. Residents will pay a higher price, commercial interests will pay a higher price and smaller industrial units will pay a higher price. So the benefits of averaging out the cost of gas to all consumers has been lost. This means that the very optimistic numbers provided by the government, and that is 62 per cent penetration of the province, all 18 counties will be extremely difficult because as we increase to the residents, as we increase to small commercial enterprises, as we increase the price to small industries, we, in fact, discourage the penetration of the distribution of natural gas right across this province.

One of the concerns that I have is how we are going to preserve, protect and grow the economies of rural Nova Scotia. The biggest advantage that has come our way in living memory to those communities is the advantage that natural gas and cheap energy will bring. By continuing to impede the ability of the distributors to very quickly come to grips with a high percentage penetration across this province by continuing to advantage the major users will mean that many small communities will have the supply of gas to their community delayed by the government policy that the Liberals have brought forward in the development of gas here in this province.

[Page 4875]

It is a tremendous advantage that we see here but, surely, we should be looking at the mistakes that others have made. Surely, we should recognize that the government has actually made the work of the National Energy Board more difficult. We are the only gas project in the country that has its interprovincial laterals controlled by the National Energy Board. The reason is unclear to me why the government has been so remarkably complacent in allowing this to happen. Why is it that this government has delayed the URB hearings to the point where now the decision probably will not be available until May or June of next year? How can the National Energy Board decide the size of the lateral here into metro? How can the National Energy Board decide the size of the lateral under the Strait of Canso, until it has had an opportunity to examine the proposals that are put forward to the URB in terms of gas distributorship? Part of those proposals will be the estimated annual consumption requirements. If you do not have these, how can you plan the size of the laterals? It is clear, Mr. Speaker, you cannot.

We have the cart before the horse. We have delayed the process. The National Energy Board will be forced to come up with a lateral size, without really knowing what it is we are going to require in this province. If the laterals are built and they are too small, it is not a case of the next month or the next week deciding we will make the lateral a little bigger. Let's say they are 10 per cent too small or 20 per cent too small, you do not build another lateral to satisfy that small increment in requirement. What you do, is you build the lateral initially 10 per cent or 20 per cent or 30 per cent too large to anticipate the increase in requirements that that lateral is going to have to satisfy over the next short period of time.

By building the laterals too small, and that is what is going to happen, we are going to slow up the distribution of natural gas to many communities, Cape Breton communities, communities in the western part of the province, because they are dependent in the western part of this province on the size of the lateral that goes into Tufts Cove. That will be the take-off for their supply.

Industrial Cape Breton will be dependent on the size of the lateral to Point Tupper. If that lateral is too small, then there will not be enough gas available for the residents of Cape Breton. It is a shame, it is just a shame, that we have gone ahead with this topsy-turvy approach to the development of our gas industry. Again, I call upon the government to look at the proposal to approach this in an all-Party approach. I believe that members of other Parties have the ability to influence this in a very positive way. I would hesitate to say that in the House of Assembly there is really an expert on all of this, but I believe that bringing a composite of political minds to bear on this subject, we will at least sort out the politics of what we should be doing as we develop our natural gas industry here in Nova Scotia.

Clearly, until now the builders of the offshore, the developers of the pipe, have had the upper hand in negotiations with this government. The ultimate penalty will be paid by the people of this province, in slow development of the industry, poor benefits and a failure to

[Page 4876]

address and access the single biggest opportunity that this province has had in living memory. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to discuss the quantum leaps that Nova Scotia has taken in the oil and gas sector. I would like just to begin by reviewing some of the facts. First of all, this government is the one that brought natural gas to Nova Scotia after it had been talked about for 20 years. There are approximately 2,000 people working directly on the project here in Nova Scotia today, and most of them are Nova Scotians. There is a gas liquids plant under construction in the Strait of Canso today.

[2:30 p.m.]

AN HON. MEMBER: More jobs.

THE PREMIER: There is over $3 billion in private sector investment planned for the bringing of the natural gas ashore. The payroll will be nearly $500 million over the life of this project and that is hard cash, not air; $700 million in materials will be purchased from Nova Scotia companies over the life of the project; up to $3.5 billion in royalties will be received to help improve health care, schools and standard of living for Nova Scotians. We are putting natural gas in industries, businesses and the homes of Nova Scotia.

The new Memorandum of Understanding with the Sable partners and Maritimes & Northeast, means gas will be cheaper here than anywhere else - 20 per cent cheaper, because of the 20 per cent reduction in tolling - including the Province of New Brunswick. It also means that we have the potential now to develop a world-class petrochemical industry.

These are the facts, all of this on top of today's announcement of the largest call for exploration bids in the history of offshore Nova Scotia. Twenty parcels will be auctioned, 2.2 million hectares of territory off the coast of Nova Scotia, with the bids closing on April 29, 1999. These are exciting bits of information and this has all taken place in less than one year.

The Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party talks about how we are not doing as well as other jurisdictions. I would quarrel with that and quarrel with it very strongly because you could look at the statistics, at the percentage of natural gas delivery in other provinces, and what they have done with their petrochemical possibilities. In Alberta, it took them at least 20 years to develop any kind of petrochemical activity. We have a company that is interested right now in doing it less than one year after we signed the Memorandum of Understanding and even before the natural gas comes ashore.

[Page 4877]

Let's address, as the honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party has mentioned, the details of the Sable third-quarter benefits report; a snapshot of one-quarter does not tell the full picture, Mr. Speaker, and it is misleading. Let's look at some of the other numbers from the third-quarter report. Nearly 3,200 people are working on the project. More than half of those are here in Nova Scotia. Contracts; $73 million in contracts awarded during that third-quarter, with $47 million or 64 per cent awarded to Nova Scotia firms.

There are 903 companies providing direct goods and services to this project; 482 of those companies are based in Nova Scotia. Office staff numbers at SOEP put up to 285 from 250 three months ago; they have taken over three floors in the office tower in Halifax. The company is closing down Calgary operations and moving people to Nova Scotia.

What about Jacques Whitford which provides the geo-technical services, a Nova Scotia based company; Parker Brothers of Waverley, suppliers of heavy lifts; Bremner's Plumbing & Heating of Halifax for plumbing services on the platform; Superior Vallen of Dartmouth, suppliers of safety clothing; AB Mechanical Limited of Sydney, which is providing pipe fabrication for the project; A & G Crane of Antigonish, also in pipe fabrication. These are just some of the companies throughout the Province of Nova Scotia that are selling to the SOEP project. This project is building our offshore and our economy.

Let's remember the required benefits. SOEP is required to provide 28 per cent of the benefits of the project to Nova Scotia in Tier 1. In Tier 2 that number will rise and over the lifetime of the project the Nova Scotia benefits will reach 50 per cent. The Opposition should not be fixated on Sable alone. Today's calls for bids shows Sable will not be the only player in the field. The Sable project has and will continue to give Nova Scotia companies an opportunity to develop the skills needed to take on more and more of the work.

We agree that the offshore is an important part of the entire provincial economy and we are consulting. We are bringing the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities to the table. The UNSM is about to appoint its representative to the staff of the Petroleum Directorate.

In conclusion, I can only remind the House of how much we have accomplished in one short year. For the past twelve months the government has delivered a better royalty deal on Sable, reduced tolls for Nova Scotia gas consumers, an aggressive generic royalty regime to attract investment and jobs, the means to use liquids to develop a Nova Scotia petrochemical industry, a plan to provide natural gas to each and every county, 2,000 jobs and counting.

We have just completed the hearings on the pipe lateral to the Strait area and as I mentioned to this House, we have intervened as a province and asked the tribunal to look into not only what the pipeline company is advocating is sufficient and what their statistics indicate is sufficient but also to look at the jobs that must be and will be created, the industries that will be coming and locating in Cape Breton, as a result of the accessibility of natural gas. That is a very important statistic, we want that to be factored in. We want the Natural Energy

[Page 4878]

Board to think of that primarily when they are considering the diameter of the pipeline that will be going to the Strait.

The natural gas liquids, of course, are being brought to the Strait area for the fractionation plant. We are presently in negotiations with at least one company that is interested in petrochemical activity, Sable Petrochemical announced a few weeks ago that they are pursuing this very aggressively. We, of course, are doing due diligence on this because we want to make absolutely sure that the price for the liquids is sufficient for the project. We are quite prepared to have a delay of a few months in the signing of a petrochemical deal to make sure that the feedstocks are going to be given the proper compensation. We want to make sure that the price for the feedstocks are adequate and that all of the benefits for the people of Nova Scotia would be in place in such an undertaking.

We have told the people of Nova Scotia that this is their natural gas and it is; first and foremost it has to benefit the people of Nova Scotia. We have to be assured that all parts of this province can benefit from natural gas. We have some direct access to Stora, Canadian Gypsum and to Nova Scotia Power. There may be a few others where the public interest warrants the direct connection, in order to have a large concern locate in the Province of Nova Scotia that can create the jobs for the people of Nova Scotia but those will be exceptions.

In most cases, the industries will be delivered the natural gas as will the consumers, small businesses and other commercial enterprises, via the pipeline and the laterals that are going to be put in place in Nova Scotia. This is going to be the proper way to do it and people of Nova Scotia, no matter what county they live in, will have the ability to have jobs created in their particular counties. Industries can locate in any of the 18 counties in Nova Scotia, albeit that gas may not be there for seven years but when you consider that there are provinces that have had natural gas for 40 years and will not have a much better record than that after 40 years, this is quite exceptional. We have Sempra already declaring today that it will be applying to be the supplier of the natural gas in Nova Scotia, shortly after we made our announcement on the regulations for the distribution of natural gas.

This is a tremendously exciting project. It is one in which the people of Nova Scotia are going to benefit tremendously. It is one in which we are going to be able to use the royalties for the benefits of the people of Nova Scotia. It also will allow us to be able to interest other companies to come to Nova Scotia. This is the natural gas that belongs to the people of Nova Scotia, that cannot be lost sight of. We have to keep that in mind. This government will keep this in mind, first and foremost.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Sackville-Cobequid. I want to deal with the part of the resolution that talks about a

[Page 4879]

recommendation to create a three-Party, all-encompassing plan for Nova Scotia's natural gas industry. There is no question, you can't question the sincerity of the PC Leader's concerns about the Nova Scotia content of the Sable project. He raised the issue in the campaign, he raised it shortly afterwards when he held a news conference at Alderney Gate to urge a slowdown in natural gas distribution. He raised it when he held a summer news conference at Province House to urge a speed-up in natural gas distribution.

Unfortunately, the Progressive Conservatives want to have it both ways. Their Leader admits to the remaining Progressive Conservative Party members that he doesn't have any agreement with the Liberals on what the program of government will be during this minority Legislature. But he goes on to tell the faithful, as he did last week in Lunenburg, we are still in control, and we will decide when the election will occur. He wants to justify the decision he made in June by saying, as he did at that meeting in Blockhouse, we made the choice, as bad as it seems today, I look back on it and I still feel as bad a choice as it was it was the only choice.

Mr. Speaker, as he knows, only one Party can govern, barring a coalition government, and he was quick to dismiss any talk of a coalition. If only one Party governs, only one Party exercises executive power, directs the Civil Service, sets the agenda of this House, or makes binding agreements on behalf of the Province of Nova Scotia.

Now, I want to talk a little bit about the whole idea of a three-Party agreement. Three-Party committees and consultations have worked. It was done on the Constitution when Premier Cameron delegated his authority over that matter to the three Leaders, acting on a consensus basis with defined terms of reference. Government officials took directions from the three Parties. Decisions were made with all three Parties in the room. All three Parties took their turn as Nova Scotia's chief representative at the table during the Charlottetown negotiations. But that was the relatively simple matter of developing a policy position and taking it forward into negotiations - no corporations, no resources, no regulations, no legislation.

In this case, the three Parties have, in this House, joined in a delegation to demonstrate unity in support of the super-port bid. By the time all three had met, they held the same position and the issue was merely how to present that unity most effectively. The delegation was formed, went to Ottawa, returned and reported within a week. The Leader of the Progressive Conservatives made the proposal to which this resolution refers. The very first question that he was asked was, how would this work? He didn't have an answer, and we have been waiting for that answer ever since.

Questions. Would all three Parties choose the chairman of the offshore board? We weren't consulted. The Progressive Conservatives can speak for themselves, and their responsibility for the person who cast the deciding vote on that provincial-federal board. When we proposed a three-Party approach to the URB appointments that are pivotal to

[Page 4880]

natural gas development, nomination by consensus from among the applicants, was our suggestions, we wanted to see if three-Party cooperation would work for a very specific limited decision affecting the offshore, both the Progressive Conservatives and the Liberals turned us down.

[2:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, would this Premier be expected to do the same as Premier Cameron and delegate his authority over natural gas to the three Parties working on a defined consensus basis? Are there proposed terms of reference on how that would work? What about the related energy issues - coal, oil, a comprehensive energy policy - how far is this idea supposed to extend? You see, the problem that we face here is that there are lots of questions, but no answers. The Conservatives did not want to take any formal responsibility for the course of action taken by a government during this minority period. Are they now proposing a three-way sharing of responsibility, having already rejected a two-Party agenda?

Our province is on the brink of enormous opportunities, and those opportunities can be squandered in a few short years or they can become the foundation of increased prosperity for generations to come. The Sable gas project itself is so large that its construction phase alone will significantly lift Nova Scotia's economic performance in a brief burst. To make this project and the whole offshore development work for Nova Scotians and for Nova Scotians' advantage in the long run takes careful management, the highest quality administration and expertise, and clear goals that are widely shared with the industry and with the public.

As things stand, ultimately, only the Party in power can make those decisions. We are open to any specific proposal, but we know that after last March's tie between the two Parties, only Nova Scotians themselves will decide who in the future is to take charge of this portfolio. Now I would like to turn it over to the member for Sackville-Cobequid to deal with some other specifics. Thank you.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak for about eight or nine minutes on this topic; the reality is that this is something we could be talking about for hours. Whatever the approach is, whatever the style that is going to be followed, certainly the government needs some help on how to manage and how to develop the offshore. More importantly, even more important than the government, it is the people of this province who need somebody to finally give them some help.

My colleague, the Leader of the Opposition, talked about the fact that we are on the brink. We can, by carefully managing and developing of our resources, move this province forward on a very secure, sound foundation for many, many years to come, or we can squander that for short-term gains and squander the benefits for the longer term.

[Page 4881]

Let's look at some realities; let's look at some hard realities. The Premier talked about the National Energy Board holding hearings and just concluding them. In other jurisdictions, in other places, transportation lines, transportation laterals - which is that which is going to Cape Breton and the one that is supposed to come to Halifax - those are regulated by the provincial government to ensure that the benefits are there for the people in their province. They do not abdicate their responsibility but, instead, what this government did, it secretly reconvened the Energy, Minerals and Conservation Board of the Petroleum Directorate to grant approvals for a lateral size that was inadequate. Then the Premier, who had the opportunity in the department that he leads himself, turned around and said, we went to the National Energy Board and asked them to do our job for us.

Well, it is about time they started doing it for themselves. This industry, natural gas, has a potential to create major hardships for industrial Cape Breton, yet this government, which is conducting a socio-economic impact study through the Premier's own lawyers, refused to make that information available to the National Energy Board.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Shame. Shame.

MR. HOLM: That is a shame; that is a disgrace. There is no question we are going to have some jobs. We are going to have a lot of short-term jobs created in construction. The Premier talks about the 2,000 or so people working in Nova Scotia or about half on the project which means, of course, that the others are not in Nova Scotia. He also doesn't talk about the fact that a lot of those people working in this province are not Nova Scotians. He doesn't talk about the fact that the kind of benefit package that he agreed to doesn't encourage them to hire Nova Scotians or to procure their products in Nova Scotia to create that industry. (Interruptions)

I hear the wannabe Premier over there from Richmond squawking away; he is happy because he believes his Stora is happy and I am happy for them too. The reality is this province and this government has a responsibility to more than one riding or one area. It has a responsibility to the entire province.

If this government had set up a royalty regime and insisted on one, the kind of royalty regime that those who are involved in the industry - those who explore for and exploit the resources understand because they do it elsewhere - if we had a royalty regime that said, you pay when it comes out of the ground, let's say 30 per cent royalty, not 1 per cent that the Liberals first accepted and going up to 2 per cent after the costs have been increased, that they will continue to pay a rate of 2 per cent until they have recovered every cent that has been invested, every cent that they have paid in interest, return to them the monies that the federal government provided in the way of grants, approximately $600 million, plus get the average of the 10 year bond rate plus 5 per cent, then Nova Scotians go up to 5 per cent; imagine.

[Page 4882]

Instead, what other jurisdictions have done is they have said you pay 30 per cent when it comes out of the ground and then from that amount you deduct the wages you pay for people from that province that you hired; the incentive to hire Nova Scotians. They also say, you can deduct dollar for dollar monies that you spend to purchase goods and services produced in the province; the incentive to purchase in Nova Scotia and to encourage the development of industry and businesses in Nova Scotia to hire Nova Scotians. It is our gas. It doesn't belong to Boston, it doesn't belong to the United States; it is ours and it is about time this government got that message.

If you consider that those dollars would be going into the pockets of families in this province, 100 per cent dollars would be going in but when they get their 1 per cent and then their 2 per cent royalties, those dollars are going to be 30 cent loonies because for every dollar we get in royalty, we lose 70 per cent in transfer payments. But we lose nothing if that money is paid into the pockets of men and women from this province working here, receiving that in the way of wages, and we don't lose anything in the way of transfer monies if that money is paid into the pockets of the businesses of this province which are providing and producing the goods and services. That makes too much sense for this Liberal Government.

This government has said that they are supporting laterals across this province. They are running around and saying there is going to be 62 per cent availability for all households and small businesses in this province of penetration. They know that the size of the transportation lines are inadequate to meet those demands, at the same time they are allowing the indirect industrial bypasses. They also have to know that when you do that you are taking these major customers out that would be cost-sharing in the development of the distribution systems, which makes it more expensive and it is making it harder. (Interruptions)

Of course, you have the squawks over there, you have the penguins, the cheerleaders going on, but it is time. This is not about you, it is not about me, it is not about any member in this House. We can and will be replaced sometime and, I hate to say this for the government members, but people will very soon forget about you. The consequences of decisions that are being made by the government in this province today will affect your children, my children and my grandchildren for generations and for years to come.

Mr. Speaker, we do have an opportunity. We have never in this province been in a better situation, whether we are talking about the natural gas, we get that at a fair competitive price and we do not even, of course, right now have any guarantees we will get it and when we get that Panamax port, let me tell you this province can take off. We can take off and we can be the Alberta East and we will be if this government does not squander it, if you do not make too many more of these kind of bad agreements that you already have. You are compromising our future. You are compromising the future of our children and it is darn well time that you start to remember that your job is to serve all Nova Scotians and that is a far bigger responsibility than playing political games or trying to get short-term electoral success. Thank you. (Applause)

[Page 4883]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, it is a real pleasure to be here today to talk about this debate called on by the Leader of my Party. This morning there was a press briefing and so on from Sempra Atlantic Gas and, you know, I went. It was really refreshing. There was even some pipe there and they did a teleconference. They had people in Yarmouth, in Bridgewater, in Kentville and in Cape Breton on the television and they were talking back and forth. I mean this is high-tech stuff but the great thing about it was, Sempra wants to distribute natural gas in Nova Scotia.

Sempra is working under adverse conditions because they are trying to do it here. This has got to be the most backward government I have ever seen in my life. Everything they do seems to be sideways or twisted. It is the gas off our shore. (Interruption) Thank you. The member in the back row for the NDP is agreeing with me and I think he is right.

In Maine, Mr. Speaker, they have got 10 miles of pipe in Bangor already. What do you suppose it is for? It is to burn Nova Scotia (Interruption) I have had enough help from your colleague, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is to burn Nova Scotia gas in Bangor, already 10 miles of pipe. How in the name of all that is good and holy did they do that? They approved it. While we were snoozing . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: We were losing.

MR. ARCHIBALD: . . . we were losing and they were winning. The offshore pipeline, the Province of Nova Scotia taxpayers do not have it. This government gave it away. They said it had no value. If it had no value, that is fine, give it away if it has no value but I think it did because 12.5 per cent of the onshore pipeline is valued at $200 million because that is what Nova Scotia Power Inc. is willing to pay for it. I cannot imagine, Mr. Speaker, the amount of money that this government just gave away.

Ethane. A year and a half ago, what is that? What is ethane? Nobody knew, including the government. The minister did not know what it was used for either. So they gave that away. That is going right along down the line with the gas - they say the liquid plant in Cape Breton. The liquid plant, well, it is really not all the liquids. The ethane is still leaving town. There is some interest from a company that said they want to have an ethane plant in Cape Breton and it should. A year ago the minister in charge was telling us that there was not enough ethane in the gas to warrant having a chemical industry in Nova Scotia but suddenly out of the blue an American company comes in here and said with 8 per cent of the gas we want to set up a chemical plant.

The industrial bypass, it is an advantage for some, for instance, Stora, but does that put a level playing field for the big pulp and paper mill down in Queens County? Is it fair? You see the industrial bypass has an advantage for those that happen to have it and it is a real

[Page 4884]

disadvantage if you do not have it. It is a disadvantage for me as a taxpayer because I need all the big industrial users on the same pipeline I am using to bring the cost down. That might be selfish, but all Nova Scotians should be selfish when it comes to keeping the costs down.

[3:00 p.m.]

If all of the industrial users in this province are suddenly not on the same pipeline, there is nobody who can build a pipeline for simply domestic use in the little Village of Upper Dyke. It just isn't going to work.

AN HON. MEMBER: But they are going to have a nice road.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Yes, but we are going to have a good road. The pipeline size to Cape Breton, eight inches, I know very well that there have been presentations made at the hearings in Cape Breton that said eight inches is not enough. The neat thing about that is, the pipeline company has already gone out and ordered the pipe, and it is eight inches.

The federal government regulating pipelines inside the provincial boundaries in Nova Scotia: Did you ever hear of it? No, you never did, because it never happened anywhere else. Nowhere else is there federal jurisdiction on a pipe inside a province, except here and in New Brunswick. Why isn't the URB the direct control of all pipelines not concerned with trans-provincial? (Interruptions) Why isn't it?

MR. JOHN HOLM: It should be.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Sure, my colleague for the NDP says it should be. He is right. The UNSM passed a resolution, asked for a cooperative, comprehensive planning policy between the federal, provincial and municipal governments. That met with a deaf ear. This is a problem. The government isn't listening to me or to the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities. The government is saying what a fine job they are doing, and maybe they are doing a fine job at something. I am not sure what it would be, but it sure isn't this. The government stands around and tells us how many people are working here. I will admit, look, you can't get a hotel room in this city, you can hardly rent office space. Things are booming, they truly are. Nobody will argue that.

Mr. Speaker, just imagine for a minute how they would boom if we really had an agreement, where products were purchased and manufactured in Nova Scotia and the jobs were here. If the benefit plan was addressed as it was supposed to be addressed, what a difference that would make. You wouldn't be able to get a hotel room in Kentville or Truro either. I was in a store the other day and the person in Kentville was lamenting that it was a little slow. I said, it isn't slow in Halifax, things are busy.

[Page 4885]

We haven't seen this blip in the economy in rural Nova Scotia from the offshore. Some day we might. If the policies were adhered to by the agreement, we would. Pipe purchased in Mexico. Other pipe purchased by Nippon Steel, not even Canadian. Boats that were built in the United States. All these things that could have been done in Nova Scotia or Canada were done somewhere else.

Now the government and the Premier, in his release today, listed a bunch of things he did that were pretty good, in the last 12 months. I don't know where it went. He listed all these things. One of the things that was neat was this big reduction in transportation costs, $20 million over 10 years, from 73 cents or a 20 per cent rate. All it meant was the pipeline company said, all right, we will give you a 20 per cent discount if that will keep you happy. Then, what do they do? Do you know what they did? I will tell you, they put the rate up 20 per cent. So now we are right back where we started from only we are worse. We are just seeing a silly policy that will not fool anybody.

The market for natural gas is going to be dependent on the price. Well, the price is of great concern to all of us, but so also is the availability to deliver. The Mayor of Cape Breton indicates the pipeline going to Cape Breton isn't large enough. The pipeline users who want to distribute natural gas have indicated the pipeline is not large enough. Even Fredericton seems to be getting ahead of us, because the control switches for the pipeline are going to be located in Fredericton. You might say, that is reasonable, maybe it is the middle of the pipeline or something but, when they close at 4:30 in the afternoon in Fredericton, they are controlled by somebody in Ontario. It doesn't seem fair that it doesn't matter if it is buying pipe, giving away pipelines, the rate of haulage, we are coming in second. You don't even have to be a tycoon to beat us up in Nova Scotia. New Brunswick did it by locating the headquarters for the pipeline in Fredericton.

We want every single job in Nova Scotia. We do not want to lose any jobs to New Brunswick. We want them all right here. The pipeline toll will cost users. There are not many bright spots in this. I will sum up. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. It has been a pleasure taking part in this debate this afternoon. I do hope that the government will work cooperatively with all the members in the House so we can design a policy that will be more beneficial to Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Progressive Conservative House Leader.

MR. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, will you please call Resolution No. 2242.

Res. No. 2242, re Educ. - P3 Schools: Procurement Policy (Atl.) - Compliance Support - notice given Nov. 30/98 - (Mr. B. Taylor)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Progressive Conservative House Leader.

[Page 4886]

MR. NEIL LEBLANC: I will read the operative clause:

"Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature support the developers of P3 school projects having to abide by the Atlantic Procurement Policy as was signed on January 1, 1996.".

For those members of the House who do not know what the Atlantic Procurement Policy is, it is a document that was signed by all four provinces in Atlantic Canada. I have a copy of it here in my hand. I am very pleased to be able to speak on this because since becoming involved in politics back in March, we have heard a lot about the P3 concept and what it all means. Although the educational concept is very important, what I am speaking about today - I am not speaking about the education portion of P3 schools - is the construction phase of those schools and what economic benefits can accrue to this province if it is handled properly. I will put my remarks to that side of it.

This government announced that they were conducting a P3 concept, which is a private-public partnering concept, and they announced 36 or 37 schools. I think that the first 6 or 7 schools cost - I don't know how much, maybe the government members when they have the opportunity to speak can indicate - it is probably well over $100 million. I will look at just the one that is in the minister's riding in Horton; that is over $20 million, whether it is $25 million or $27 million. When the minister gets up, he can clarify it. There are other schools such as Sherwood and East Hants and Meadowfields and Amherst and Porters Lake. Those are some of the schools that are either started, finished or will be built shortly.

Besides that, there are another 31 schools that encompass approximately $350 million. When you look at it, you ask, if you grasp it, how much money are we talking about here. If the track record of the government in controlling costs in the 31 schools which are going out is the same as the first 6 or 7 that were built, the $350 million component of that could very much grow to $400 million or whatever. We do not know and we will not know until they are completed. If you take that portion of $350 million, along with the ones that have been built, we are speaking somewhere in the vicinity of $450 million to $500 million. That is half a billion dollars. Even if it is $450 million or whatever, we are talking one of the biggest capital expenditures that this government is undertaking at this present time.

They are going to build them in very short order, so that means that these decisions that they are making now are not necessarily long term; they are short term. What is going on is that we have learned from speaking to different Nova Scotian companies, that this government has entered into these agreements with these developers and they have not required them to enter into compliance with the Atlantic Procurement Agreement. What that has done has allowed these people, these developers, to basically take their own decisions as to how they are going to provide for the services, for the construction portions of those schools and also for the goods.

[Page 4887]

When you look at the Atlantic Procurement Agreement and just for the information of the House, I have been a former minister of government, a former Minister of Supply and Services which doesn't exist any more, it has been merged. I was a proponent and I was a participant in the signing of the first agreement which was called the Maritime Procurement Agreement, it was signed in 1991 or 1992, I don't know the exact date and it was signed with the Provinces of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Subsequent to that, Newfoundland and Labrador entered into it so now we have an Atlantic Procurement Agreement.

The agreement is very specific and it says that if you buy goods over $25,000 or you buy services over $50,000 or you construct some buildings or some sort of construction over $100,000, you have to go through the public tendering process. The reason for that is to ensure first of all that we are getting value for money. We entered into this agreement with all these other provinces to ensure that Nova Scotia companies could bid in those areas as much as those other provinces could bid in Nova Scotia, so that we would have, as much as possible, chances within the Atlantic Provinces for our companies and other companies to grow. We, as government, as much as possible try to ensure that Nova Scotia companies have a chance to partake in these projects. So when you listen to the concept, the obvious question is why wouldn't the government have ensured that a potential $0.5 billion construction phase would be covered under it.

We have asked questions in this House and the government ministers, the Minister of Education, the Minister of Public Works and the Minister of Finance all evaded the question. When we asked them whether this was covered under the Atlantic Procurement Agreement they all said yes but they talked in circles and they didn't come to the point, like we used to say, they didn't answer the question. What has happened is that they are not covered under this. They say that these are private companies and as such they are not covered. But they are saying they have been tendered.

What that means is that they entered into a tendering process for people to take packages of these schools. Now that is another thing that I could discuss at length as to whether that process is in the best interest of Nova Scotia or whether the tendering process that they have entered into makes sure that we are getting value for the dollar and that we are not throwing money away.

I am not going to get sidetracked, we are being very specific as to whether these projects, once they have been accepted or won by different developers, whether or not they will come under this agreement. The reason I know they are not is because we have been getting calls from Nova Scotia companies saying, we are frustrated and we can't get into the doors of architects, we can't get into the doors of developers, to show our products. Now, Mr. Speaker, how can a government bring about a $0.5 billion construction phase of our schools and not ensure that Nova Scotia companies are given every opportunity to compete in those projects?

[Page 4888]

I said before I have been a Minister of the Crown and I remember in my time there that New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island bent over backwards to ensure that their companies could always participate in tenders. I did the same thing as much as possible to ensure that government departments didn't suddenly put specifications for certain chairs, or for certain equipment, that they wanted this type of goods or materials that when you read the specifications, Nova Scotia companies couldn't compete.

My responsibility was to make sure that we got value for money and to make sure that we didn't discriminate against Nova Scotia companies because oftentimes, governments or other agencies of government sometimes want what they want, whether that is in the best interests of the province. Our job is to make sure that they get quality and that Nova Scotia companies get every possible chance to bid on those contracts. If I didn't do that when I was the minister, I would expect to be removed and this government here has essentially removed that capacity for them to go to these developers and say, are you sure that people can compete on these projects.

The honourable member for the beautiful constituency of Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley mentioned today that the sheet metal workers actually almost had to beg the developer to be allowed to bid on a project. Can you believe that, that Nova Scotia tradesmen had to get together and they almost had to beat the door down so they would be able to bid on a contract that this government is funding?

[3:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, there are other examples. I remember the member brought up a point that there were supposedly four or five truckloads of school equipment coming here to Nova Scotia from a place called Temple, Texas. Now, if that equipment is coming here, it obviously is going somewhere, and the reason it is coming here is because we are building a lot of schools. I do not think it is coming here on pure speculation. Obviously, there is some commitment by the developers that they will use this equipment in the schools that are being built.

The obvious question that we have to ask is, do we have Nova Scotia manufacturers of school equipment? Do we have Nova Scotia producers of other types of furniture, here in this province? If the answer is yes, then there should have been someone at the switch saying, are the specifications fair so that there can be competition from this province and I guess in a sense who is asking those questions. That is the whole point of why we have brought this issue to the forefront here today.

I go back to the point that I tried as much as possible in my capacity as the minister to make sure that every Nova Scotian business had the chance to compete. I can honestly say that on four or five, well, four or five, a lot more than that, people came to me and said to me, your department is actually precluding us from bidding on certain contracts because they are

[Page 4889]

making the specifications so specific that this company is going to win the tender. I can tell you now, because it is so confined that we cannot compete. We cannot fulfil the specification. Our product is as good as theirs but because the specification is so specific we will never be able to enter a bid into this process.

Now, if we are not being able to interfere as government, then, obviously, all these developers are in a position of saying, we are going to accept this company's bid or we are going to go to this company to ask for tenders. It begs the question, will that company in turn maybe give them some business in some other type of venture that they have that this developer could perhaps benefit from?

That is what the problem is, Mr. Speaker, you get into trade-offs and there should never be trade-offs when you talk about Nova Scotia jobs because we should be defending them. (Applause) I will be very interested to hear the ministers get up and try to explain to me that these agreements, or these P3 schools, are under the Atlantic Procurement Agreement because the people who we have spoken to are saying that they are not. They have said during Question Period in a round-about way, trying to infer that they were because they were tendered, but I will be more than interested in hearing what they have to say here today as they have their opportunity to speak on this issue which I say is important to the Province of Nova Scotia. (Applause)

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

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to debate this issue today on the floor of the House. I would ask the member opposite, or any of the members of the Progressive Conservative caucus, to table any documents, or any indications from companies, that they believe have not been able to compete for the opportunity to win contracts, either goods or services, with any of the projects related here, either because the specs are too tightly written or because they are not permitted in. I want them to table those statements, those accounts, those people, and I will tell you why. (Interruptions)

First of all, what we want to do is have the opportunity to talk about the positive aspects of some 30-plus new schools, some 60-plus renovations, 10,000 indirect and direct jobs created by what is probably the largest single investment in the province's history. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, the members opposite do not want the answer to their questions today. They write reports that say, companies essentially ignored and I have said table them, name the company that has been unable to compete; a number of companies from out of province should not have had Nova Scotia work.

[Page 4890]

Just table the information, Mr. Speaker, as to what companies in Nova Scotia have not been included in the process to date. We are building all those schools. There are direct jobs. First of all, let's look at what is expected of those private sector partners who are, in fact, partners because of a fair and open procurement policy, an Internal Trade Agreement which Nova Scotia is proud to be a partner, an Atlantic agreement which is even tighter than the federal-provincial Internal Trade Agreement of which Nova Scotia is proud to be a partner, our own Nova Scotia Procurement Agreements which we are proud to offer, write and improve.

In the first stage of selecting the processes, the strongest possible language is built into the very tender call in the first place. When I say strongest possible language (Interruptions) The Progressive Conservative Government would like to have it both ways. They would like us to be able to write in exclusive rights on any tendering process, and that can't be done in Canada anymore. It couldn't be done in Atlantic Canada when the member opposite was so proud to sign the Maritime Agreement.

The fact is that the strongest possible language on preferential treatment to Nova Scotia companies, on fully competitive Nova Scotia companies, on looking for and running ads in papers for Nova Scotia companies, do you think there is anyone in this province who would deny the ability of a Nova Scotia quality and competitive bid, to be part of the process of supplying and working in our schools?

It is not only what is written into the documents which are fully public and available to the Progressive Conservative Party, but in fact, it is in practice. Let me give you some examples. We will take Nova Learning, for example, the partner building schools in an area close to the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. Nova Learning considers Nova Scotia companies first; 40 of 43 subcontracts in the middle school in East Hants went to Nova Scotia companies. In fact, using conservative estimates, we expect that more than 90 per cent of the goods and services that go into those schools are Nova Scotia companies first and foremost.

Back to the middle school in East Hants, you look at the work of Miller Excavation from Truro; Basin Contracting from Milford; Ven-Rez from Shelburne; Nova Wood Products; Wood Trusses, they are all Nova Scotian. Those companies are competitive bidding companies with high-quality work at best cost, and do you know who benefits? Not just the children, but Nova Scotians benefit from that kind of work. (Interruptions)

Would these members suggest that we go back to the old days of only Nova Scotia companies? Is that the world they want us to go back to, the world that they left behind in May 1993, where you write in exclusive jurisdiction for Nova Scotia? Or are we living in a world of internal trade among and between provinces? To the Leader of the Third Party, I want to remind him of some consultation that took place in May 1993, because this was a hot issue, this was a tough issue. We came in on the basis of fair tendering and hiring practices,

[Page 4891]

and we have implemented those changes in this province - fair, open and transparent tendering.

The member opposite might be interested to know that we went out to the business community and we said to them, Newfoundland has a 15 per cent preferential rate, when you tender in Newfoundland, there is a 15 per cent advantage to Newfoundland companies. Mr. Speaker and members of this House, do you know what the business community told us about preferential rates and exclusive jurisdiction? They said, don't do it. Nova Scotia business said, do not do it; not even a 5 per cent preferential rate. Do you know why? Because they had their eyes on export markets. Nova Scotia companies have such high quality, Nu Air is shipping to Japan, outside, into New Brunswick.

They wanted to win contracts in Atlantic Canada; they wanted to win contracts in Canada; they wanted to win contracts in North America and throughout the world, because they were proud of the quality and cost of their products from Nova Scotia. They said, do not build-in a preferential rate for Nova Scotian companies, because do you know what will happen? Other jurisdictions will reciprocate. (Interruptions) So, Newfoundland has done it, goes the logic of the Progressive Conservative Party. Our businesses said don't do it, even if another jurisdiction does, because we want to be able to compete, not just here, but outside Nova Scotia. We responded to those businesses. That is why we have fair procurement. That is why they are in compliance with Internal Trade Agreements. That is why Nova Scotia companies are prospering.

Let me go on, Hants East Elementary, under construction. Conrad Excavation, from Chezzetcook; the masonry, bricks and blocks from Shaw, a Nova Scotia company; and the labour is from a firm called Titus, from Lantz. The flat portion of the roof, Fosco in Truro; sloping roof, Lindsay, from Dartmouth; windows from Alumitech, Bedford; mechanical from Baxter, in the Valley; trusses from Joint Truss Ltd. in Weymouth Falls; and asphalt from Basin Contracting in Lantz. Does that sound like Nova Scotia companies are shut out of a bidding process? Not at all.

And further, Nova Scotia contractors - I mentioned, what about the chairs - table the document that says we have a Nova Scotia company that is shut out of this process. I ask them to do that because, first of all, I want to know. There is a requirement on our partners that they, in the strongest possible language, do what they can, favour, look for, examine every possible, under the trade agreements, (Interruption) Mr. Speaker, without, and the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley wants us to rewrite the trade agreements again and put in Nova Scotia only.

It is a big world out there and our companies want to compete in it. They told us not to do that, but the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley wants us to go back and ignore the wishes of the business community in this province. Table one company, just table it here and I will, and I don't mean that as a challenge. I don't doubt that they are hearing

[Page 4892]

from - when they say that, I believe them - table it, I want to know who it is. I want to know how they are shut out and I want to know because it says in the agreement we have with our partners that they cannot do that. They cannot do that in the strongest possible language. You know what, Mr. Speaker? They don't want to do it.

Nova Learning contractors and subcontractors tender every step of the way. That is because they want the best products at the best price. Ashford Developments, another partner we have, publicly advertised for subcontractors. I will table a list in response to the Ashford Developments ad that went out in the paper. I will be proud to table that tomorrow because every single company that responded to that ad is located in Nova Scotia, Canada. Right here in this province.

These partners have contracts with this government. It is a privilege for them to build our schools. They have won those contracts fair and square in the best tendering in compliance with internal, Atlantic and Nova Scotia procurement that is open, fair and above board. Built into the specifications before they even come back to us is the strongest possible language. In today's trading world that makes sure that Nova Scotia companies have a fair chance.

If the members opposite have an example or any member for that matter or any company for that matter, feels that for some reason, one reason or another, they have been dealt with in an unfair manner on quality, on price, on an opportunity to present both to the companies, then I would like to know. I would really like to know about that because all of our due diligence, all of our working with our partners, all of the evidence we have to date, is not only are Nova Scotia companies benefitting, but they are exporting from the advantages of working through these companies.

You know, at the opening of Horton High School the other day, Canada chose three projects to win environmental awards - at 25-plus, under 26, under budget, on time, modern high school, no marble floors, no one way glass; a school, Mr. Speaker, for the children of this province - one of three Canadian projects nominated by the federal Government of Canada in a world conference on environmentally advanced buildings, one of three, the only school.

It is an award winner, it is an international award winner, and I could go on with all of the Nova Scotia companies that built it, the tradesmen from Nova Scotia who built it, the goods and services that went into it. They lived up to their agreement. I have an office right in New Minas. I have a place right in that area. I did not have one call from one company that felt in any way excluded from having a chance to bid fairly and equally. (Interruptions) I ask the members opposite to table them. Just table them and we will attempt to deal with those companies.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

[Page 4893]

MR. HARRISON: Let me remind the Conservatives once again, you cannot solve today's problems with the same consciousness that created them. There was a consciousness back then. I would stand on my feet as we did last night for the hog producers of this province. I will defend Nova Scotia businesses to the end. We will do everything we can, through input tax credits, through reducing red tape, to make our businesses as competitive as possible.

We spend millions of dollars making sure that those businesses are selling in Japan and eastern Europe, that they are selling all over the world, whether it is apples from the Annapolis Valley to Louisiana or fish products to Iceland. Any government worth their salt will do anything to make sure that our GDP, our productivity, our ability to create jobs and our ability for businesses to prosper is second to none right here in Nova Scotia.

[3:30 p.m.]

When we go out to build schools on an unprecedented level, built right into the terms of the partnership is that Nova Scotia businesses will have every conceivable opportunity to compete on quality and price and that will not be denied Nova Scotia businesses and they will (Interruptions) Table it. They keep saying it has been. Just table it because, clearly, if they have information, we need it. If they have information, they do not have to wait for the floor of the House to present it to me.

Name the company, name the CEO, and I will be calling them within minutes of getting the information because we are proud of Nova Scotia companies. They are building our schools. Those tradesmen are uncles, brothers, mothers, sisters and aunts of the very people who will attend those schools. They build them with pride and they build them with care. They are full of Nova Scotia products and ingenuity.

We will continue to do that, Mr. Speaker, because despite the fact that another era would have directed procurement in one direction, what kind of favour did that do those companies? What kind of benefit did they gain? When we went out to consult with them and asked that very question, they said to us, do not do that, do not write in specifications for exclusions, specifications for a cushion on bidding. Treat us as we want to be treated when we go to do business in other places. Do not create an unlevel playing field for Nova Scotia companies.

That is reflected in our procurement agreements. It is in full compliance in our own agreement. It is in full compliance with the Atlantic agreement and it is in full compliance with our obligation under the International Trade Agreement of Canada, and that is the way Nova Scotia businesses wanted it. That is what they want today and if the member opposite has a business that is being treated unfairly under these agreements, bring the information forward. Let me know who they are.

[Page 4894]

In addition to that, Mr. Speaker, I will take the last minute to explain that this government has not stopped on that. Let me give you an example. When we do an incentive program to bring a business to this province or to keep one here and have it expand, the question becomes when we loan taxpayers' money to a business, should there be a condition that asks of them the same thing we are asking of our private sector partners and demands of them that, in fact, they procure within the province first and foremost, that they give businesses every opportunity, that the strongest possible language is built into that agreement?

Just about two or three weeks ago in Cabinet we had a discussion about that very issue. We want to bring business to this province. We will continue to compete with the world for that business and we will ensure that Nova Scotia companies, first and foremost, have a chance to compete on quality and price and that is the way they want it. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid. (Interruptions)

Order, please.

MR. JOHN HOLM: It sounds, Mr. Speaker, as if there is a bit of a rift in the family of the Liber-Tory Party and that the alliance might be having a few strains. They maybe are in need of a marriage counsellor, now, after I just heard the last exchange. I am not sure if the two years it was being proposed can last. However, . . .

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, and I do apologize to the member, but something should not go unnoticed. The honourable Minister of Education and Culture was indicating that we were talking about a protection that other provinces are not providing their vendors. I want to read to you a provision from the New Brunswick tendering policy. Vendors are advised . . .

MR. SPEAKER: I am sorry, I do not think this is a point of order. I think it is a point of information.

DR. HAMM: I wonder if the Speaker would hear me out before making his ruling? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order here. This is information.

DR. HAMM: Would the Speaker hear me out before he makes his ruling?

MR. SPEAKER: If you can be brief, because you are on another member's time.

DR. HAMM: Thank you. Vendors are advised - and I would point out to the honourable minister this is from the New Brunswick policy - that for procurements which are not subject to the revisions of one or more of the interprovincial procurement agreements, the

[Page 4895]

Province of New Brunswick reserves the right to apply provincial and regional preferences, consider local content in the evaluation of bids and/or refuse to consider bids from vendors from other jurisdictions when it is considered to be in the best interests of the province. That clearly contradicts what the minister has said.

MR. SPEAKER: Whether that information is helpful to members or not, it is a point of information, not a point of order. The member for Sackville-Cobequid has the floor. (Interruptions)

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I can't help but say to the Third Party House Leader that there is a resolution to the marriage rift that has apparently developed between the Liberals and the Tories. There always is the opportunity to have a vote of confidence and we would invite you to join with us and to take part in that. I can't help but point out the rift.

I want to address the resolution first of all - and I will be sharing my time with the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect - in the resolution it says: "Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature support the developers of P3 school projects having to abide by the Atlantic Procurement Policy as was signed on January 1, 1996.".

I want to say that I agree with the Minister of Education, certainly on one point, when he said the Progressive Conservatives would like to have it both ways because during the leaders debate of the last election the Leader of the Third Party stood up and in that debate said quite publicly that the public-private partnerships will be more expensive than building schools the traditional way and it will be a long-term hardship on school boards for the next 20 years if you go forward with this plan. Now, that was the position then. On the basis of the resolution that is before us today, it sounds like he has switched his position a little bit now and, in fact, they are supporting the P3 schools. The reality is we have not varied from our position . . .

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The resolution is mine and clearly the member for Sackville-Cobequid is choosing to misinterpret what that resolution is all about. The resolution is not about support of P3 schools.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is no point of order.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I feel rebuked and so I will ignore that.

The reality is that the one way that you can ensure that schools in this province are going to be built and developed in the most cost-effective manner, and ensure that, proper procurement policies are being followed, is to keep that under government control and to do that the way things have been done before.

[Page 4896]

I don't fault developers of the schools for this, they are in business. I don't fault developers because their primary interest is not the education, that is not the driving feature. Their driving feature is not to have the highest-quality facility for education purposes, what is motivating them, and they are in business, so this is totally acceptable, it is to maximize their profits. That is fact. That is a given. That is business. You want to make money. If you don't, you won't be there very long.

Mr. Speaker, governments have the ability, if they are not trying to play shell games and pretending that they have phoney balanced budgets, they have the ability to bring projects on stream at less expense than, in fact, the private developers can, because we can get borrowing rates at a lower interest rate and we can do things at a better rate.

Let's take a look at the O'Connell School. Under the O'Connell School, the premises, under that, in the agreement, it talks about items such as chattels and these are all things that are to be leased, including computers, sports equipment, cutlery and many other items. If you go on and you go farther in that contract under Clause 7(3), it talks about it - it acknowledges. Gee whiz. Rocket science here they have discovered - that chattels have a limited useful life. A soccer ball won't last for 20 years, Mr. Speaker, nor will the knives and forks and spoons and all those other little utensils, nor will the computers and all those things. But government is responsible for replacing them. That means the school board is going to have to bear those costs. Those costs are not to be reduced. The rent is not being reduced as those items wear out.

Mr. Speaker, the school board is going to be responsible for paying the costs of the repairs of every nature, every kind, to the building, including maintenance, repairs and rebuilding any parts if there are going to be structural problems, as if the tenant were the absolute owner of the premises. So here we have a game being played by the government, pretending that they don't own the building - and they don't - and that they, therefore, are saving monies. Yet all of the maintenance, all of the repairs, major structurals, roofs that the minister was talking about, the trusses and anything else, any problems that go on, they pay the cost of the repairs as if they are owners. But at the end of that 20 years, who owns the building? It is a private developer whose primary purpose is to make profit.

Mr. Speaker, there is a way to resolve this, if the Progressive Conservatives really want it resolved. Let's have a vote of confidence. We are committed, we believe that this process is going to be far more costly. It is going to be harmful to the education in this province because those boards are going to be required to divert scarce dollars to these costs that the developers, who are there making their profits, who are basically, after they build the building, only collecting the rent.

Mr. Speaker, I said I am going to be sharing my time with the member for Timberlea-Prospect, so I will draw my remarks short at this stage. I regret that the Third Party Leader interfered, using up some of the time, but my colleague will speak from now on.

[Page 4897]

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: To a veteran of this House, a few moments means more than a few moments. Mr. Speaker, I rise in my place today, not to talk about past examples, not to look at what has happened in the past with regard to the building of some of these schools and the subcontracting of some of these necessary items that are in schools, but the schools that are currently being built and the rumours that are in the community and the facts that are going to take place.

I, first of all, want to inform the minister that I placed a call today to downtown, beautiful Shelburne County, to Ven-Rez Products Limited. That particular company, over the years that I was in the school business, delivered truckload after truckload of top quality desks, tables and chairs to the schools in which I worked. The response that I received from the calls was that our sales people, Mr. Speaker, are harassing the developers, harassing them, so that they will at least listen to us. We are knocking down their doors, the quote that I received, and in response, however, we are aware of the fact that Temple, Texas is now competing for classroom situations in our very schools in our very province. There is no excuse for having the sales people from that well-known company having to harass these developers, who have been given carte blanche to do as they wish with the development of these schools.

[3:45 p.m.]

Secondly, I received a phone call yesterday morning at 7:15 a.m. from a past student of mine who works for a plumbing contractor locally. He will be laid off, it has been said, unless there is . . . Yes, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Will the honourable member entertain a question?

MR. ESTABROOKS: If it takes into my time, I am sorry, no. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, why should this young man, working for a local plumbing contractor, whose sons and daughters will be going to the school, not have work in the very school that his own children are going to be attending. Why, I ask you Mr. Speaker? Because you must have, when you build schools, developers with a conscience. I am not aware of the developers in Milford or Hants East, but the developer who is building schools in the community that I live in has no conscience. He had no conscience when he squeezed those houses into lot after lot after lot. Why would he develop a conscience now when it comes to hiring Nova Scotians first? Thank you.

[Page 4898]

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, first of all I want to say, Nova Scotia should not be fooled by the NDP. They don't have (Interruptions) Right now in Nova Scotia, schools have to be built and schools needs to be renovated (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, the Progressive Conservatives recognize that schools must be built. Now at a meeting out in Lantz when it was politically advantageous to the NDP, the Leader of the NDP signed a document insisting that the P3 school be built. He is a signatory to it. So I ask the member for Sackville-Cobequid, who speaks for the NDP, the member for Sackville-Cobequid or the Leader of the NDP? Let's set the record straight. Where does the NDP stand on this issue? Let's come clean.

Mr. Speaker, we are not saying and we have never stated that the government is intentionally shutting out Nova Scotians, but what is happening, whether it is intentional, unintentional, on purpose or whatever, it is happening. What we are saying to the government is require the developers of the P3 schools to sign a statement of compliance, where they clearly must honour, respect and abide by the Atlantic Procurement Policy. The government has absolutely no devices, designs, checks and balances in place to monitor this situation.

Yes, schools and desks are coming in from Temple, Texas. Yes, the sheet metal workers in Nova Scotia, all working for local companies are being shut out. The ventilation systems, which are bid on a square foot basis, are going to New Brunswick companies. A company called Key Ventures. Municipal Armoyan is building several schools. And the Nova Scotia companies' concern, the sheet metal workers' concern is this, if they are going to do one school, are they going to do all the schools? Are we going to miss out on all the work?

We bring that to the honourable member's attention, because it is a serious problem. The bricklayers in Nova Scotia have missed out on a lot of work. A lot of members in my constituency, from the Dutch Settlement area, from the Milford area, have complained that they can't get a job working on the new middle school in Milford. In fact, that project, that P3 school has been constructed. A lot of Nova Scotians missed out.

What we are saying in terms of goods, services, construction, we want where possible. We would love to be able to say, like the government would like to be able to say, Nova Scotia content. But it is not good enough to just speak it, we want checks and balances in place that ensure at every opportunity a Nova Scotia company has the opportunity. Give them the opportunity. That is all that they are saying. Whether you are in Shelburne, whether you are in Cape Breton, Musquodoboit or wherever, give Nova Scotians a chance and they produce a first-rate, quality product. That is what we were talking about last night. The best products . . .

[Page 4899]

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: A question, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the honourable member. Would the honourable member not agree, contrary to the NDP position, which is against the Armoyan Group, that should the NDP receive political contributions from this very organization that they condemn, in the last provincial election, would that not compromise their position on being so self-righteous?

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, can I simply say, because I want to get back to the topic, and I apologize if I am a little bit enthusiastic because we are talking about Nova Scotia companies. All I can say to the Minister of Labour is that he knows as well as I do, and every other member in the House, that the NDP operate in mysterious ways. Can we just say that and leave it at that, to be kind?

Let's go back. Last week during Question Period - and I checked Hansard - the Minister of Education, who was replying to a question relative to this concern, indicated that the private partners were, in fact, adhering to the Atlantic Procurement Agreement. When you look at the agreement, and it is a good agreement - I know my colleague, the member for Argyle, was instrumental in crafting this document - but unfortunately, the agreement applies only to the public sector. The scope of the agreement, perhaps, should be amended, perhaps should be changed, perhaps could be expanded, because we understand the dynamics.

Even though the Official Opposition does not recognize the need to build schools, and the need to renovate schools, we recognize that they have to be built. They have to be built and we have never, irrespective of what the member for Sackville-Cobequid says, we have never spoken against the principle of P3. We have a lot of concerns about details and the overall dynamics of the P3 concept, but we have never spoken against the principle.

One thing that always, absolutely, must be adhered to and honoured is this document. To go and tell them - and I use the example of Municipal Armoyan or any of the developers - and use the strongest possible language, as the Minister of Education said that he uses, that is fine. But the strongest possible language just does not cut it. Did you know that the designers and the architects are making demands and issuing decrees that only certain suppliers and providers of goods, services and labour can submit bids for these projects? What we are saying is, open up the bidding process to all Nova Scotia manufacturers and companies and you will get a first-rate product. The services that they provide are first-rate, top-notch.

It really upsets me, and I believe it upsets the government and probably upsets the Official Opposition, when we learn that sheet metal workers from New Brunswick are going to be supplying the goods and doing the installation of the ventilation system. That is a big component of building these new schools. Let's not fool anybody.

[Page 4900]

It is fine to always criticize and say we are absolutely opposed to P3, but when 200 or 300 people come out to a meeting and a federal member of your Party happens to be at the head table and your Education Critic is at the head table and the Leader of the Third Party is there and sign a document in support of the P3, it is all right to pick and choose. Let's not fool anybody about that. (Interruptions) That's right. Let's make our minds up. You cannot have it both ways.

We are not terribly in love with the P3 concept, but schools have to be built. In my riding, in the Chignecto Central riding that is honoured by the school board, in fact, (Interruptions) If the honourable member would like to ask a question, I would gladly yield the floor, but if he wants to sit there and rave on and gyrate, that is not going to accomplish anything. What we have to do is build schools and we have to ensure that Nova Scotia content is given an opportunity. How could you speak against that? You cannot speak against that.

We support farmers in this province. We support fishermen in this province and we support the tradespeople and the manufacturers and the businesses. It is a shame and it disturbed me, two weeks ago, to get a call from a constituent telling me that five or six truckloads of goods were coming in from Texas to supply a P3 school. We were pretty careful, as Progressive Conservatives, not to name the company, but the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect did a pretty good job of doing that so you know what the company told us? With all respect, I say, through you, Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Education, the company is concerned that they may face some reprisal and I know that you can say, no, that will never happen.

For goodness sake, I will appeal to the MLA for Shelburne, make sure that they are given every opportunity. They shouldn't have to twist arm and cajole and take six months to get a meeting with the developers of the P3 school. That shouldn't have to happen to a Nova Scotia company. That Nova Scotia company provided chairs, tables and desks and furniture to 10 schools in Ottawa, but is not good enough to supply schools in Nova Scotia. Something is wrong. You talk about quality product. I have heard that their product rates right up there with any product in the world. It is number one quality, but we don't want architects and designers saying, hey, look, that product just doesn't cut it. Even though it is cheaper, we don't want it. We don't want it because we want a company out of Texas to supply the furniture for these schools. That is no good.

Mr. Speaker, what we are saying here today is work up some type of agreement, we are saying to the minister something that will ensure, words are not good enough. It is not happening now. A few mistakes were made. We never disagreed that the schools have to be built. We have never said that. But what we are appealing to you, Mr. Minister, and we have told the minister (Interruption)

[Page 4901]

Two years, well, Mr. Speaker, we heard from another country there. My concern today is a Nova Scotia company in business. It is not about people jumping around and leaving an association hanging high and dry to my political advantage. That is no way to treat associations, but this is no way, more importantly, to treat businesses, good, sound, solid Nova Scotia businesses.

Mr. Speaker, again, we have to mention the fact, and it is a fact, that when bids were first received regarding the ventilation system for a Municipal Armoyan school, local companies got together and they did submit a bid, although it came in $2.00 or $3.00 higher, the Nova Scotia bid, both companies were given an opportunity to go back, if you will, to the drawing board. I do want to say, in that particular case, regarding the one school, that Nova Scotia, local, companies were given the opportunity to submit a bid. They still now are concerned that they may not be given, and I say may, an opportunity to bid on other schools.

Regarding Ven-Rez, the company in Shelburne, it makes first-rate, number one quality school furniture. They submitted a bid that was $2.00 per unit cheaper than the company out of Temple, Texas, or down in Texas, wherever. So something happened there. So these are concerns. These things happen. We are all human. We make mistakes and some of this P3 stuff may have been put together, and probably was, in a little bit of a hasty fashion. But we are saying, now here is an opportunity. We have outlined a few concerns. We have some more. Perhaps, on another day, Mr. Speaker, we will have an opportunity to raise some more concerns with the government. But let's not fool anybody. Schools have to be built and unless you want to raise taxes, somebody tell me how you are going to build them.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.

MR. NEIL LEBLANC: The time has expired. Mr. Speaker, as agreed before, the Progressive Conservative Caucus has agreed to sit for six hours today, giving two hours to the government to debate some bills.

[4:00 p.m.]

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 4902]

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

The motion is carried.

[4:01 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Bills with Deputy Speaker Mr. Donald Chard in the Chair.]

[5:13 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 bill:

Bill No. 83 - Motor Vehicle Act.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that this bill be read for a third time. When shall this bill be read for a third time?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: With the permission of the House, I would like to have it read for a third time now and I so move.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING]

[Bill No. 83 - Motor Vehicle Act.]

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak very briefly on third reading. I think it is important that we say, on the public record, something that is going to be in the written word, also, because things that you say in the Committee of the Whole House on Bills stage,

[Page 4903]

there is no record of it. I certainly want people to know that our caucus is extremely in support of the legislation that is before us.

Mr. Speaker, we had a number of amendments, of course, as you would know, made in the Committee of the Whole House on Bills stage. We attempted to have some others to strengthen it again, but, unfortunately, that didn't all come to fruition. Certainly, we are very much in support of the legislation.

Let's get it straight, Mr. Speaker, operating a motor vehicle on the roads is a privilege, not a right. When people get behind the wheel of a vehicle and they are impaired, they have turned that vehicle into a dangerous weapon from a mode of transportation. I think that everybody here recognizes that. I congratulate the member who brought this bill forward. It was positive. It was very positive. We did not get all that we would have liked. (Applause)

[5:15 p.m.]

Yes, indeed, I applaud, it is an important piece of legislation. It is an important piece of legislation that all legislators from all sides of this House say that we agree with what the position of the general population is, and that is that impaired driving is unacceptable in our society. It is unacceptable for people to place the lives of others and themselves at risk because they get behind the wheel of a vehicle when they are impaired.

We would have liked, and we tried to have the penalties increased for those who are convicted of impaired driving or refusing the breathalyzer. We attempted to have the legislation amended to bring it back up to, in fact, the 18 months that the Minister of Justice, in second reading debate, had suggested from the one year period that is currently the case in the legislation. We were unsuccessful this time in getting that level increased.

We were also unsuccessful in trying to have the licenses revoked, permanently, for those who have been found guilty on three occasions. Those who are killed, those who have been injured, those who have been maimed for life don't get a second chance. I think we are being, as a society, more than generous in giving people two chances, because one is unacceptable. We would have liked to have had it permanent. That wasn't successful and our second attempt to have it then banned for a minimum of 10 years, instead of the 5 years that it reads now, was also unsuccessful this time.

I am sure we won't have heard the end of this. I am pleased that we have strengthened our legislation. I am pleased that we are sending a strong and clear message that we understand what the general public understands; that is, the lives of our neighbours, the lives of our loved ones and the lives of our fellow citizens are far more important than protecting the privilege of somebody driving a motor vehicle. We cannot tolerate, we must not tolerate, and I suggest we will not tolerate, people who abuse alcohol and then get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle and threaten the lives of others.

[Page 4904]

I am pleased that this legislation has gone forward and is going to be accepted and adopted into law. I look forward to the next step when maybe we can yet again do what we didn't do this time, and another chance, because legislators will have another chance to make our rules, although strengthened, even stronger, because we must ensure we have done everything reasonably possible to ensure that the lives of our fellow citizens, our neighbours and our loved ones are not going to be placed at risk by those who abuse their privilege by driving on the roads while they are under the influence of alcohol. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I will be very brief because it is third reading and a lot has been said about this bill. I just want to really thank the honourable member who sponsored this bill, the honourable Leader of the Third Party. I want to thank him for bringing this forward and giving us this opportunity to pass legislation that speaks well for the minority government situation and also speaks well for the cooperation in this House.

I spoke to this bill in second reading and brought in some amendments. Some of them have survived and some haven't, but I see this as a good step along the way. As other members have said, I am sure this bill will be revisited. I think that roadside apprehension is overdue and it is time that now we at least have that part of our legislation on equal status with other provinces.

That will be the extent of my comments. Our interdepartmental review committee will continue their work, I am sure. Advice will be given to the Road Safety Advisory Committee and we will continually, as legislators, have changes to this bill before us. I just hope that we can again address those in the spirit of cooperation because this bill that we pass here today will save lives, I am convinced of that and that is really the purpose of it. I think, without making too drastic steps all at once, it allows the police and the judiciary prosecuting service and all of those and that department, not only Justice, but that department also that has to administer much of this Act, that it will allow the process and the procedures to flow and then I think we will look at it again sometime and maybe get some of those amendments through that I submitted to the House this time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland South.

MR. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me, from my experience as a police officer for 20 years, to stand in this House and support this bill the way it has been brought forward. It is good to see three Parties come together on an issue that is so important to all Nova Scotians. Maybe the penalties are not what everyone wants and maybe it could be more severe but, certainly, this is a step in the right direction; it is a lot better than it was yesterday.

[Page 4905]

Again, I want to state that I am fully supportive of this legislation and I believe it is the right thing for Nova Scotians. Thank you.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I only want to take a few minutes on third reading to put my thoughts on the record. I want to thank as well the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party for bringing forward Bill No. 83. It is an important piece of legislation and I am glad it is before us. Again, it is also a timely piece of legislation as it clearly sends a message to those, during the pre-holiday season, who may be going to parties, to think twice before drinking and driving.

My friend, the member for Sackville-Cobequid, has already discussed some of the amendments we moved and were not able to have approved. I just want to take the opportunity to put on the record an issue that from the beginning we have had concern with and now the rest of the House, through amendments, has agreed with the position. It is with regard to the issue of flagging driver's licenses and license plates. From the early discussion of this issue by the Minister of Justice at second reading, our Party has always said that it was not a good idea, that it would result in the branding of those through association with the guilty who may be driving vehicles, if it was license plates, zebra plates as I guess they have been called in the media.

With regard to driver's licenses, whether or not it is unconstitutional could result in someone getting off on a criminal offence where they might otherwise be convicted. As a police officer who might have reasonable and probable cause for stopping a vehicle would be challenged in court where they may have seen a driver's license that indicated the person had been drinking and driving in the past.

I think the last thing this Legislature wants to do is pass legislation that would have the ironic effect of actually resulting in people getting off on charges or being acquitted of charges of drinking and driving or failing to provide a breathalyzer when, indeed, what we want through this legislation is to create legislation that will actually keep people off the streets and keep people out of cars when they have been drinking.

I am glad to see that the cooperation of the House did work with regard to that amendment. I am glad to see the House has, through sober second thought through the Law Amendment Committee and Committee of the Whole House on Bills processes, seen this as an opportunity to ensure this legislation is good for all Nova Scotians; for the Department of Motor Vehicles, so that they are able to enforce the legislation; and for police officers, so they are not going to be handcuffed with requirements and regulations that in the end will have a negative effect on them.

[Page 4906]

Again, I stand in support of this legislation and I look forward to its passage. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I think all members of the Legislature should be very pleased with what they have done with this bill. I think this bill is a step in the right direction. Several times our caucus have met with MADD representatives, that is Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. I have to tell you their message is so clear and so crystal clear.

Two of the people who are active in MADD Nova Scotia are Pat and Pam Dutton and they both live not far from where I live and I have met them on many occasions, socially. I know that they and the others in MADD will be very supportive of this measure. It is not perhaps exactly what everybody wanted, maybe it should have been stronger, but we move ahead and we make things better as we go along. This is a better bill than the one we had before and I think it is worth looking at and working with. I believe it will make a very positive contribution toward highway safety.

I know that all members of the House support it because we all have received these ribbons for this time of year for putting on the antennas of our cars so that when we are driving, people will know that we do everything we can to discourage drinking and driving. I think all members of the House could be very proud of themselves for taking part and doing such a good job at bringing in a bill and passing a bill, working together, that will make a real contribution towards the betterment of all Nova Scotians. Thank you.

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

DR. HINRICH BITTER-SUERMANN: Mr. Speaker, I would similarly echo the sentiments of the honourable member for Kings North and congratulate the Leader of the other Party to have brought in this important piece of legislation. I want to repeat what I said during the Committee of the Whole House on Bills that it is unfortunate that the three strikes and you are out rule will not apply for a while. As the member for Sackville-Cobequid has mentioned, in parliamentary democracy a no today does not mean a never. So we may revisit this particular aspect.

There was only one thing I would like to point out and that is that the impetus for this particular piece of legislation came from a courageous effort by mothers who have lost their children due to impaired drivers. Obviously, it is good to be lenient and say, okay, we understand that a first offender should not be too harshly punished, but that is where I have a problem. The whole bill here is not about punishment. It is about protection and deterrence.

[Page 4907]

Punishment, I do not think was on anybody's mind in this House. When it comes to a third offender, in my experience as a physician I would say that is a recurrent offender being allowed by society to drive a vehicle and potentially kill. For that reason, if we show lenience, then at least the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Health who, at this time, has been condemned to wear both hats, should strengthen the arm that is missing in Nova Scotia and that is the arm of rehabilitation of chronic offenders who have been convicted.

[5:30 p.m.]

If there is hope, then at least we have to use the time that the honourable member for Kings North mentioned, that a third offender should have some hope, but society should use their time and help those chronic alcoholics get back on their feet. Just to wait for another day and, after five years, let them loose again on our streets, is not good enough. So I would encourage the honourable Minister of Health to set a few minutes aside and look at where in Nova Scotia, accessible to people all over the land, not just in Halifax, there are institutions that help repeat offenders who have lost their license a third time, to rid themselves of their chemical dependency. I leave it at that. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to rise for a few minutes to speak on this bill, as the member for Sackville-Cobequid said, to go on the record. It is clear that all members of this House, all 52 of us, understand the seriousness of this problem of drinking and driving that is being addressed by the bill before us.

Mr. Speaker, I want to state, at this point, that I did not support the amendments put forward by the NDP caucus with regard to penalty stage. The reason I did not do that was because, as far as I was concerned as a lawmaker and a new member of the Bar, I felt that they were unconstitutional and they would not survive a legal challenge. That was the reason that I did not support these. Everyone realizes that this is a serious problem, but, as members of the House, we must put penalties in place which are reasonable and which meet the goals of our justice system, which is rehabilitation. That is always the fundamental principle of our justice system, the idea that an offender can be rehabilitated.

Mr. Speaker, I had great concerns about this three strikes and you are out rule. As you know, this has never taken place in our justice system. We have seen it work down in the United States and I think it is quite clear that we here in Canada and Nova Scotia never want to see it take place in our justice system, because it really goes against the idea that someone can be rehabilitated. This idea would be that, after the third offence, you can no longer be rehabilitated for the rest of your days. I certainly do not support that proposal but, at the same time, we certainly recognize the importance of this.

[Page 4908]

The other thing is, Mr. Speaker, this is just one other step in addressing the serious problem. It is not a closed case. This issue will be revisited, I am sure, again in the near future and this is another positive step and, in that light, I certainly want to extend my congratulations to the honourable member for Pictou Centre for bringing forward this bill, and my congratulations to our Minister of Justice for his continued support of this very important issue. This has been a very good session, especially in light of this bill passing now, and I certainly hope that it will get speedy passage in third reading and that this can become law as soon as possible. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, a brief remark. I want to thank the Government House Leader for calling this bill. I wish to thank the Minister of Justice for his cooperation and his support in getting the bill through. I thank the honourable Opposition House Leader for their cooperation. The way in which this bill went through is, I believe, typical of how we can work here when, in fact, we do share a common goal and a common purpose. So I thank all members of the House for support of the bill and we can go away from this place this evening knowing that this bill makes our highways safer. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for third reading of Bill No. 83. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 91.

Bill No. 91 - Springhill Strip Mining Prohibition Act.

[Page 4909]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland South.

MR. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a privilege for me to speak today in regard to Bill No. 91, an Act to Prohibit Strip Mining in Springhill. If I could for moment, I would like to speak to the House, the members here, about a community that is built on strength, courage and heroism. In the Town of Springhill, coal was first discovered in that area around 1827. From there, the community continued to grow. It continued to grow until in 1891, the first mine explosion struck that community and 125 people lost their lives. It continued to grow until 1956, No. 4 explosion, 39 people were killed. Again in 1958, the bump in No. 2 took 75 lives.

In 1958, there were approximately 7,348 people in the Town of Springhill. In the Town of Springhill, that was pretty well the end of coal mining, as they knew it at that time. In November 1959, the Town of Springhill, only the second group and community to ever receive the Carnegie Medal was awarded the medal. It was awarded to the officials and the workmen of the Dominion Steel & Coal Corporation Limited, local doctors who risked their lives to rescue 174 miners who were trapped by an underground explosion at the company mine in Springhill on October 23, 1958. The only other group to receive that was the Titanic. That community is very proud of that.

Since then that community has tried to revive itself through people fixing their properties and their homes, rebuilding their lives, trying to attract industry there. The federal government recognized that strength by locating a federal institution in that community. Coal mining is the heritage and history of the community, but as they try to put that behind them, never forgetting it but looking to the future, along comes someone with an idea of reclaiming that coal or getting that coal from the ground in other than in the traditional way.

That way was a proposed strip mine. In the proposal, there were plans to mine 14 sites in and around Springhill. The excavations would have covered 220 acres. The total disturbed land would have been 440 acres. Each mine site would include an excavation itself, a settling pond - the size of which would have held 15,000 cubic metres of water - and a screening area.

Mr. Speaker, there were proposed mine sites that would come as close as 50 metres to people's homes; other proposed sites, even closer than that. Because of the natural rock in the Springhill area, blasting would have been required. Some of these excavations would have been up to 130 feet, or 40 metres, deep. People in Springhill were opposed to that at the time, and they are still opposed to it today.

As I mentioned earlier about the community trying to revive itself, we have been able to attract companies to Springhill such as Ropak, which just this last week received the Premier's Award, acknowledged for their success in the plastic-making industry. Ropak requires a dust-free environment and they use what is called geothermal energy to heat and cool the plant. The way that works is the mine water which is underground, which is warmer

[Page 4910]

than any ground water is pumped up, the heat is extracted from the water, and it is pumped back down. In the summertime, the exact opposite takes place. The water is pumped up, the cool is extracted from it, and it is pumped back into the ground. Surrette Battery factory is another company that has just recently invested in geothermal heating and cooling. In the area, there is also a furnace-making plant, which does precision, computer control work, and it requires a stable and vibration-free environment.

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to strip mining, the town and the county get no direct income from that. Royalties of 50 cents per ton would go to the province. The municipal units would only get revenue if there were buildings occupied by the company doing the actual strip mining. There would be some revenue to the local area but we feel not very much.

It has also been proven, Mr. Speaker, that as a result of strip mining property values decrease during the period of mining in areas especially close to the mines. There would also be a probable decrease in people wanting to move to the area as a result of strip mining and likely an increase in people moving away. There was also an indication at the time, some indication from banks that loans for building would be more difficult to obtain because of the effect strip mining would have on the community. Wear and tear on roads from truck traffic in the community would be the sole burden of the town.

Mr. Speaker, as has been proven in other areas, the blasting does cause damage. We were told in Cape Breton one road caved in as a result of subsidence to the cost of $200,000 to the Town of Glace Bay and it could not be proven that it was caused by the company that did the blasting so the municipality had to absorb the costs.

Mr. Speaker, I mentioned earlier about geothermal heating and there is a threat to the geothermal heating resource from blasting and other aspects of mining. Geothermal energy is one of Springhill's best drawing cards for new industry. It is not an easy sell but certainly we have had positive results from geothermal and we do not want to jeopardize that renewable energy.

When it comes to tourism, there is the possibility of a drop in tourist revenue due to the town looking less attractive through dirt and dust, noise from blasting, machinery and the heavy truck traffic. We have the Springhill Miners' Museum which is world renowned. Would we still ask people to go underground when they are blasting just metres away from that or, indeed, Mr. Speaker, would it be safe to ask tourists to go underground? We do not believe it would be. There is also the risk of damage to people's property from blasting, whether it be cracked walls, foundations, chimneys, or whatever.

Mr. Speaker, Springhill is undermined by many old mine workings which were from both official and bootleg mines. Subsidence is of much concern to the residents of Springhill and we feel that blasting in the area could possibly make it very unsafe. There is also the concern in regard to increased dust levels in the air that could cause serious health problems

[Page 4911]

both for children and adults. Springhill has a population with higher than average respiratory problems and 20 per cent of the population of Springhill is 65 years of age or older.

Mr. Speaker, time does not allow me to go into more detail in regard to the feelings of the people of Springhill but I can tell you that there was a plebiscite taken in the town and of those who voted, 84 per cent of the residents of the Town of Springhill were definitely opposed to strip mining. I would like to remind this House that on Friday, May 22nd of this year, in the spring session, Resolution No. 36, which I introduced, was agreed upon by all members of this House. All three Parties agreed to it. The government agreed to it.

Mr. Speaker, it, ". . . resolved that all members of this House agree to support the overwhelming majority of Springhill residents in their desire to place a moratorium on strip mining in and around the Town of Springhill to prevent this travesty from happening.". I would remind the members of this House that they voted for this. This bill, Mr. Speaker, will affect one community and one community of this province only and that is the Town of Springhill. No matter what may be told to the government by employees, or politicians, about other areas of this province, about past history, this bill talks about one community and one community only and that is the Town of Springhill.

I have a commitment from the mayor and the council that they support this bill. They are totally against strip mining and I just want the House to know that if this bill is not successful in passing, then whoever votes against it is voting against the wishes of the people of the community of Springhill who this bill will only affect directly and no one else in this province.

Mr. Speaker, I am asking for all members of this House to support it, as they did in the resolution, and support the Town of Springhill to prevent strip mining in the Town of Springhill. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, I rise for a few moments to say a few words on Bill No. 91 and certainly from the outset say that I fully support the nature of this bill. I certainly am against strip mining in the Town of Springhill.

[5:45 p.m.]

I had the opportunity earlier this year, I think it was June 11th, which is Davis Day here in Nova Scotia, to be in Springhill with the member for Cumberland South and the mayor and her council there in that town, and a number of other folks, to commemorate Miners Memorial Day or as I mentioned, Davis Day, to remember all the miners in that town who unfortunately gave up their lives going to work in the mines of that town. There are hundreds

[Page 4912]

of men and boys who have lost their lives in that town and in other mines throughout our province.

I certainly got the feeling while there that mining has a strong and long history in that area. I do know people are not in favour of strip mining. It is a nice little town that is sort of isolated - or out by itself - but it is a quiet, little, peaceful town. I can tell you what strip mining can do to a town or to an area, coming from Pictou County, because I have seen where strip mining has occurred in a number of our towns and villages, and the effects of it can be quite devastating. I just want to tell you a little bit about the strip mining that has occurred in Pictou County.

The first strip mining that we had was in the Town of Westville and it started in 1983. The residents of that town really did not want strip mining, they voted in a plebiscite. I think it was 65 per cent against strip mining but it happened anyway. The government allowed it. The environmental controls were pretty lax at that time and Pioneer Coal was allowed to set up a strip mine.

Ever since, there have been real problems there with the development of the mine: the noise and dust that was created from the mining; air pollution; loss of water - the water table went way down and some people's wells went dry - there was a lot of damage to the town's streets and certainly to the properties of the people who lived very close to the strip mining area; the value of their properties went down, some by as much as 50 per cent. The member for Cumberland South mentioned that strip mining might be as close as 50 feet to homes and that was certainly true in Westville; some homes were right next door to the strip mine. You can imagine the value of those properties, how they dropped in price.

Since that time, in Westville, after about 13 years or so, they pretty well cleaned out all the coal that was there and they moved on to the Town of Stellarton. As you can recall, here recently, we had the mayor and some councillors from that town again protesting against the strip mine and the problems I mentioned: noise, dust, pollution, water loss, street damage, and property devaluation. All those things are still true in that neighbouring town.

The other big concern is the lack of revenue that goes to a municipality where a strip mine occurs. As is written under the present law in this province, there are no royalties that accrue to a municipality, absolutely nothing. In spite of that they are putting up with all the problems I have outlined. Even the province only gets 25 cents a ton for the royalties. Really, all those resources belong to the people of Nova Scotia. It shouldn't belong to a private developer who comes in and scoops it out of the ground, trucks it off to a power plant or wherever. There are millions and millions of dollars being made by the private developer and there is nothing for the municipality and very little for the province. It is just not right.

[Page 4913]

The third area in our county that has strip mining is the Village of Thorburn. Again, there are no royalties being paid to the municipality and very little to the province. Out there, where they are not on a central water system - everybody has their own well - a lot of the wells have gone dry. You can imagine if you are depending on water for drinking, bathing, cooking or whatever and all of a sudden you haven't water. We take water for granted but, when it is not there, you sure miss it in a hurry. So people have tried to get a resolution, tried to get things resolved there, but many people are hauling their own water. That is just another difficulty that can occur with a strip mine.

I guess, overall, there are concerns in an area where strip mines have occurred, whether it is environmental or property devaluation or the loss of revenue that should be going to the municipality or the province. I can certainly see where Springhill is coming from. It is a nice little town and I think it was mentioned that 440 acres would be devastated right in the centre of town. I fully support this bill and I think it should pass. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

HON. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate on Bill No. 91, Springhill Strip Mining Prohibition Act. It is an opportunity for me, as Minister of Natural Resources, to point out the many benefits that mining provides to the people of Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia has a rich and vibrant history of mining that spans more than 300 years. Over the years mining has played an integral role in the development of our province and it continues to be a cornerstone of Nova Scotia's economy.

Going back to the member and the proposed bill, reference is made to strip mining. Strip mining refers to a specific mining technique that is seldom used in Nova Scotia and would not be suitable for use in Springhill, from our point of view. I wonder whether the member means surface mining. If the member does mean surface mining, would this proposed bill restrict all surface excavations and quarry operations in and around the Town of Springhill? In terms of mining and mineral production, this industry provides significant benefits to the Province of Nova Scotia. It contributes more than $500 million to the provincial economy and 3,800 jobs for Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, as the former speaker said, the coal that underlies the Province of Nova Scotia belongs to all people of the province. The development of this resource is intended to benefit all Nova Scotians. Historically, coal mining has produced tremendous benefits to the province. There are many Nova Scotian communities - including Springhill, Stellarton and Glace Bay, to name but a few - that were founded because of the nearby coal resources.

Coal is defined as a mineral in the Mineral Resources Act and is owned by the province. The province has the right and the responsibility to decide where, when and how its mineral resources are to be developed. (Interruptions)

[Page 4914]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MACASKILL: It is my position that mining can be a good thing for a community, if carried out responsibly and in an open manner and in consultation with the community.

Coal resources in the ground represent a significant source of new wealth that can be developed for the benefit of all communities. In the face of ever-decreasing world energy resources, the coal in the vicinity of Springhill could represent an important and valuable future energy resource for the people of Nova Scotia. Furthermore, mining is only a temporary use of the land. Land reclaimed from mining operations can, and is, used for other purposes such as recreation. I would draw your attention to the famous Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia, which occupies the site of a former limestone quarry. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, particularly in areas where mining has taken place in the past, new mining can actually enhance the land for future use by the community and its citizens. For example, Mr. Speaker, I would like to mention Westville. Surface mining by Pioneer Coal Limited has returned a large area of land back to a condition where it can now be developed for residential and commercial purposes. This land was substantially underdeveloped before this mining activity took place, because of the historical coal mining activity. In fact, Mr. Speaker, a municipal park, I believe it is called Acadia Park, was built over part of this reclaimed land and it is now used for the residents of Westville. But that was only possible because the land was remined and reclaimed by the recent surface mine.

Another example, Mr. Speaker, is in Cape Breton County at Sullivan's Creek. Brogan Mining Company, at the request of the local citizens, remined an area of that town where historical mining was a hazard. (Interruption) This is another excellent example of reclamation work. The local residents now enjoy an area of land that is safe and available for development and use as a park. In other parts of the world, such as the United Kingdom and the United States, areas are being remined so that historical coal mining areas around towns and communities can be responsibly reclaimed.

In Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, we have Acts that ensure our mineral and energy resources are responsibly developed. There are safeguards in place to ensure governmental protection and input from the people who stand to benefit or who may be affected. Today, all mines are governed by the Environment Act and must undergo a strict environmental assessment before they are allowed to operate. The environmental assessment process includes extensive public consultation and as part of every environmental assessment, there is a reclamation plan.

[Page 4915]

Mr. Speaker, prohibiting strip mining in Springhill will have significant negative consequences on the province as a whole. As I have said, the province owns its mineral resources and all Nova Scotians benefit from mineral development in any area through royalties, taxes and enhanced economic activity.

Mr. Speaker, passage of this bill will send a bad message to the mining industry in this province. It is critical to this industry that government not be seen as arbitrarily altering the rules by which they are granted access to lands and to our resources. If we agree to prohibit strip mining in Springhill, this will be interpreted by industry as a precedent that might be applied next in Stellarton, Glace Bay and other municipalities.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the honourable minister to either wind up his remarks or move adjournment of the debate.

MR. MACASKILL: I will move adjournment of the debate on Bill No. 91, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the House will meet tomorrow between the hours of 12:00 noon and 8:00 p.m. and following the daily routine and Question Period, we will be calling Public Bills for Third Reading and, also, third reading on Private Members' Public Bills and whatever other business comes before the House tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education. We still have 34 seconds.

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Just a question about House Orders, Mr. Speaker. Are we dealing with those or have they already been dealt with?

MR. SPEAKER: No, we ran out of time. The motion is to adjourn. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The time being 6:00 p.m., we move into the late debate, which was submitted today by the honourable member for Antigonish.

"Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature recognize that after much debate in this House regarding the merits of the Liberal Government's economic development policy, the fact remains that Nova Scotia is entering the 21st Century with one of the strongest and most dynamic provincial economies in Canada.".

[Page 4916]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Antigonish.

FIN. - ECONOMY (N.S.): STRONGEST (CAN.) - RECOGNIZE

MR. HYLAND FRASER: Mr. Speaker, again, it gives me great pleasure to stand in this House and speak on the topic of the economy of Nova Scotia. You may remember that last week I spoke along a similar vein and I return to the issue of economic development because it really is about the future of Nova Scotia. I wish to return to this topic again because good news stories are happening every day in Nova Scotia. The announcement made this afternoon about our offshore by Premier MacLellan is just the latest example of good news. The positive growth of our economy can not be overstated. The potential of Nova Scotia and the opportunities for Nova Scotians cannot be ignored.

[6:00 p.m.]

Unfortunately, it was with a certain degree of disappointment that I listened to the response to my remarks from members of the Opposition last week. Opposition speakers agreed that Nova Scotia was experiencing a period of tremendous economic growth, however, they said this was not because of the Liberal Government but in spite of it. The Opposition said that economies all over North America are booming, and it is only natural that Nova Scotia should follow.

Mr. Speaker, I don't wish to dwell on the criticisms of the Opposition, but I feel it is important to address two of these points. First of all, an economic boom is not happening in all parts of North America. I will give just one example of the thriving economy that is currently going down the tubes, British Columbia. Secondly, the growth of Nova Scotia's economy is no accident. If the Opposition truly believes that the kind of prosperity that we are experiencing is just plain old good luck, then I fear for our province should they ever gain power.

The fact is that it is because of this Liberal Government that Nova Scotia now leads the country in economic growth. Housing construction is up, employment is up, consumer spending and retail sales are up, investment in Nova Scotia is up. Things are looking up in Nova Scotia. Critics argue that this optimism is only happening in the metro Halifax area, while rural Nova Scotia suffers. It is true that more work needs to be done in spreading our prosperity, however, that work is well underway. Rural Nova Scotia has not been ignored by the Government of Russell MacLellan.

[Page 4917]

Mr. Speaker, last week I mentioned how rural Nova Scotia is getting the major piece of the offshore pie. I spoke about the positive economic impact on the Strait area. The entire Liberal caucus understands how important this work is. That is why I travelled with my caucus colleagues to the Strait area a few months ago, to see first-hand the work that is being done. The fractionation plant being built in Point Tupper is already employing over 200 people. This number will rise with the recent announcement of a petrochemical facility and a pipe assembly yard in Goshen.

Today's announcement by the Premier of the largest land sale in Nova Scotia history is another indication that every corner of our province will experience the benefits of Sable gas. Provincial employment on the Sable project was nearly 2,000 in October. I must also speak of the effect this project is having on my own constituency in Antigonish. R. MacLean Forestry was recently awarded a lucrative contract to clear land for the pipeline route. A & G Cranes of Antigonish has been contracted to work on the project. This means more jobs for rural Nova Scotians.

This project is building our offshore, our economy and our workforce. The Liberal Government is already working with the Nova Scotia Community College to make sure training for these jobs is available to Nova Scotians. A special training initiative is also underway in the Strait area that targets women who might not consider a career in the industrial workplace.

Mr. Speaker, I ended my remarks last week by explaining how this government is helping the rural Nova Scotia economy by introducing local businesses to foreign markets. Business leaders know that a healthy export market is the key to growth. Nova Scotia's latest trade mission to Boston generated close to $4 million in contracts for eight companies from rural Nova Scotia. This was the sixth trade mission to New England, organized by the Department of Economic Development and Tourism since last December. In total, these missions have generated close to $24 million in sales for Nova Scotia. These sales are worth between 200 and 300 times the cost of the missions themselves. You can't find a better return on an investment than this.

I defy critics to say that this is a waste of money, but like I said last week, don't take my word for it. In a recent letter to the Cape Breton Post, Barry Samways, the President of the National School of Learning in Sydney praised Economic Development Minister Manning MacDonald for opening the door to Cuba for Nova Scotia businesses. "From our point of view, Mr. MacDonald's expenses were an excellent investment for Nova Scotia businesses and for us the trip promises to yield dividends for years to come.".

Mr. Speaker, one of the favourite punching bags of the Opposition Critics is Michelin. However, it is difficult to talk about jobs and growth in rural Nova Scotia without mentioning the contribution of companies like Michelin and Stora. Stora recently underwent the largest industrial expansion in the history of Nova Scotia. The provincial government provided

[Page 4918]

assistance for this project because of the large number of rural jobs that would be created. These are not the short-term, low-paying jobs imagined by the Opposition. These are jobs that require high-end skills and provide high-end salaries.

Our investment in Michelin will be returned in about four years through payroll taxes alone. Opposition critics like to play with the numbers. They enjoy trying to find out how much our investment is costing Nova Scotia per job but, Mr. Speaker, this is a very narrow view of the roles these companies play in our economy. Companies like Stora and Michelin are cornerstone industries in Nova Scotia. They not only employ thousands and contribute millions to provincial revenue, they also promote community growth through donations to schools and libraries.

Mr. Speaker, this Liberal Government truly believes that the best social program is a job. The Liberal Government of Premier Russell MacLellan is moving in the right direction in regard to the economy. Reports from Statistics Canada, the Royal Bank and the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council prove that but there is still much more to be done and issues to be addressed. As members of the House of Assembly we must all listen to the concerns of our constituents.

Mr. Speaker, recently I was proud to read a resolution in this House about a visit paid to Antigonish by representatives of the Department of Economic Development and Tourism. Deputy Minister, Ed Cramm, led a team to Antigonish to speak with the local chamber of commerce. They explored ways to promote economic growth and talked about services available to businesses. This is they type of community-based approach that is working in Nova Scotia.

Another example of business involvement in community growth is the Sunshine Cafe and Bistro in Antigonish. Owner and chef, Marc Garbrieau, recently won the prestigious Food & Beverage Award in the tourist industry of Nova Scotia. His business was recognized for staff development, community involvement and contribution to the tourist industry. It is through local leadership that development can occur that respects the unique historical, cultural and social character of each community.

Mr. Speaker, I just might refer for a second to the debate that took place last night. I think, once again, our government has indicated its full support for agriculture in this province. That is one of the cornerstones of our economy and certainly from my area of Antigonish and the pork industry and the pork producers as well as all the other farming commodities are important aspects of the economy of my community.

While the Opposition Parties speak of funding our social services through tax hikes and cutbacks, this Liberal Government believes in growing our economy. We must applaud our successes in economic development. We must make sure the good news gets out because if

[Page 4919]

Nova Scotia is seen as a good place to do business, more good businesses will locate here. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to the resolution submitted by the member for Antigonish. We have to look at this resolution and set it in context. As a government member and an apologist for governmental inaction, he tenders this resolution to try and take credit for the economic activity generated by the offshore.

It is a sad, pathetic truth-twisting, a pronouncement from the other side of the looking glass, a Panglossian view of the world. The member says everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. How do we respond to such misinformation conveyed either negligently or willfully but not innocently? What do we do with this resolution?

I say, Mr. Speaker, that our obligation is to expose the hoax. We must ask the questions that the honourable member refuses to ask. We must lay out for the people of Nova Scotia the facts as they lie before us. The health of an economy is not measured by the health of the stock market. It is not measured by artificial scales like investment intention. It is not measured by contrived, self-serving economic indexes. The health of the economy is measured by the general benefits conferred on its citizens. We must look at the standard of living of those who are affected by economic change. How are middle class and working families making out? How are the poorest and most disadvantaged in our society doing? What expectations do our young people have for education and advancement? What quality of life are we providing for our seniors? How are we protecting children from the inequities of poverty? These are the real indicators of a healthy economy.

You can't say to the unemployed worker, don't worry that your wages don't keep pace with the cost of living; just turn on the TV and watch the stock market report and you will see that everything is fine. You can't tell a single parent struggling to put food on the table, don't worry, everything is fine; just read the latest economic forecast. Can you imagine? Lunchtime comes at a local school and the children of the province stream into the cafeteria. They open their lunch boxes and there instead of a sandwich is a neatly folded copy of the morning stock quotations; no apples, just an extract from Atlantic Report and no milk but a generous serving of the latest projections of Econoscope. This is ridiculous, but sadly this is what the government offers instead of real economic benefit.

What are the facts? The fact is that the average family income in this province is in decline. These families can't take this resolution to the butcher or to the baker, they can't take it to the local pharmacy. They have to rely instead on their declining incomes. The government has engineered, over the last six years, one of the largest tax hikes on the backs of the middle-class and working families, on the backs of fixed-income families. The HST - and this is a fact - has hit seniors and those on fixed incomes the hardest. The tax on home

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heating fuel is a cruel tax measure, the brunt of which is felt at this time of the year. You can't put The Globe and Mail Report on Business in the oil barrel and turn up the thermostat.

The face of our workforce is changing. We are losing high-paying manufacturing jobs which are being replaced by low wage service sector jobs. This is not success, it is dismal, unrelenting failure. Perhaps the honourable member will mail out his resolution to the hard-working, highly skilled Volvo workers who will work their last day on December 18th, to see if they take the same comfort in his words as he obviously does.

I wonder if the member has ever had time to visit Hope Cottage and to see the long lines of individuals, men, women, and children who feel each day the jagged edge of the dismal performance of this economy. Perhaps the honourable member works for his local food bank. Perhaps he has more than one in his riding. If he does, then he knows that these services are expanding to meet the increasing demand. The success or decline of a society is measured by the length of its breadlines. If this is true, then we have great cause for concern because as the stock market has continued to rise the breadlines have continued to lengthen.

Service organizations, the churches, non-profit societies are now more active than ever. Necessity has driven charity into high gear because of economic inequality. The gap between rich and poor is not declining, it is increasing. The number of those falling below the poverty line in Nova Scotia has increased every year for the last four years. Sociologists are speculating about the collapse of the middle class as more and more families are falling into poverty. You won't see these families sitting around at the supper table at night, unzipping their portfolios, mulling over the most recent stock yields. They won't be banging down the doors of the members opposite, asking for larger exemptions for capital gains. No, Mr. Speaker, these families will be trying each day to scratch out a living.

[6:15 p.m.]

In rural Nova Scotia, the government's short-sighted economic policy is leading to rural depopulation. This is causing great hardship for these communities, as the erosion of the population base means that there is even greater economic strain on the municipalities and their ability to provide the municipal services that are required. And for what? For what do they undertake this economic policy that is so devastating to rural communities? Is it for the approbation of the bond-rating agencies? Perhaps this explains the rural roads policy of the government. Maybe, if they take their time and they continue with this present economic regime, they won't have to fix the roads because there won't be anyone around to use them.

Mr. Speaker, what is the real state of the economy for which the government can take credit? Well, they must take credit for lower family incomes, for tax increases, for increasing the numbers of homeless and poor, for continuing child poverty, and for declining standards of living. This is the record of this administration. While it is not directly tied to the economy, they must also take responsibility for policies which have left our health care system in chaos

[Page 4921]

and have undermined the public service. They have pushed the provincial education system to the brink of collapse.

The people of Nova Scotia do not need these resolutions designed to congratulate the government. The people of Nova Scotia cannot put these prognostications in the stomachs of their children. They cannot sew these reports together for clothing, but, Mr. Speaker, they can use them in their fireplaces to keep warm this winter, and that is the only way that Nova Scotians will truly be able to bask in the warm glow of this resolution. Thank you.

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

MR. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, once again, I rise to respond to the resolution, "Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature recognize that after much debate in this House regarding the merits of the Liberal Government's economic development policy, the fact remains that Nova Scotia is entering the 21st Century with one of the strongest and most dynamic provincial economies in Canada.".

I think it was Yogi Berra who said that this feels like déjà vu all over again. The problem is that if the economy of Nova Scotia is actually a little stronger than it was in the past, it is not a credit to the government, it is in spite of them and, not only is it in spite of them, it is a credit and a testimony to the hard work of Nova Scotians. Nova Scotians look to themselves to better their position, better their situation.

They don't look to the government, and whether that is the government currently in power or the government in 1993 or the government before that, by and large, the people of Nova Scotia have realized that government is, to some degree, an impediment to getting ahead and they work around it or through it or by it. So, for the government to say that they are the reason for the present economy in the Province of Nova Scotia is a little bit presumptuous - not only a little presumptuous, a great deal presumptuous.

I would say that Nova Scotians themselves have begun to rethink what they have to do, what Nova Scotia has to do as a province if it is going to be successful. For many years, we were told by our federal partners in Ottawa that the East Coast is a have-not area. Nova Scotia is a have-not province. In 1867, when Canada was formed, it was Nova Scotia that called the day, and without Nova Scotia becoming involved, this country would not have happened. We have taken a stand of late to say we are tired of having that foisted on us by the government in Ottawa. If we are going to be successful, we are going to do it ourselves.

We are looking, as 130 years ago our forefathers looked, to the New England Seaboard, saying our future lies with that market. We are starting to do that again and we are doing it with success. We are doing it not because of government, but because we see our future and we are looking there to make a future and that is where the credit goes. It doesn't

[Page 4922]

go to a government that says, yes, we are doing wondrous things. It goes to the people who have taken charge of their own destiny and I say, credit to them.

The fact is that we do, right now in this province, have 12 per cent unemployment on the mainland of this province and 17 per cent unemployment in Cape Breton. We have an economy that operates on two levels. We have an economy that, if you look at the metro area, is strong and vibrant and growing. We have an economy in rural Nova Scotia that is reeling from the devastation that was caused when the fishery collapsed, the devastation in Cape Breton as a result of the coal mining industry being under constant attack. To stand and say that, yes, Nova Scotia is forging ahead, we need to put in place economic policies and strategies that are going to ensure that people in Lockeport, people in Louisbourg, people in Digby, people in every small community in Nova Scotia have choices.

For 100 years we have seen people looking to move out of their communities because that was where their economic future lay, to move to more urban areas, to move to Ontario. Most of us, I am sure, have brothers and cousins who made that decision years ago that they had to leave. That is still happening to some degree in rural Nova Scotia. What is happening is our future, our youth, are saying, what can we do to stay here? We have to move. Many hope to move to metro and it is a good thing if they can stay within the Province of Nova Scotia and have a future. The real problem is that with this constant migration out from the rural communities, the very fabric that made Nova Scotia is being eroded. That is a problem and that is a problem that the government does not seem to be willing to address.

We have a real issue in our schools, and that is that many young people, in spite of being told that their future lies with completing Grade 12 and taking post-secondary or training beyond high school leaving, are making a decision that they will leave school early in hopes of entering the job market. What that, in fact, does to them is that it sentences them to seasonal work, to some degree, to jobs that are term positions, to a life of perhaps EI benefits and then seasonal employment, a job where it is very difficult to put down roots and plan a real future. That is a testimony to the government, if they want to talk about things they have done. They have created this kind of environment where large businesses can make conscious decisions to create term contracts, contracts that do not require any real commitment to their employees beyond a six month term or maybe, if you are really fortunate, a 12 month term.

The reality is that there is a whole generation of young people out there who do not put a whole lot of faith in the dreams that we are holding out to them, saying, yes, there will be a pension plan, there will be a future. They are saying, if I am going to have a future, I am going to make it myself. That is why you see a growing entrepreneurial spirit in this province. Young people are not looking to us, to the government, they are looking to creating their own advantages. That is a wonderful thing and that is something we should be promoting. If the government can help to do that, that would be a good thing.

[Page 4923]

The reality in this province is that you have 100,000 people who are out of work, 100,000 people who have to rely on employment insurance or, in many instances, social assistance. Young families, and that is the reality, you have many young families, single parent families, and you have, by and large because it is a statistical fact, the mother who is trying to balance raising a family, trying to find a job, trying to do those kinds of things to ensure that their child or children can have a better life. That is a testimony to the government. We have heard repeatedly, I know in my constituency office and I am sure it is the same across this province, by and large the bulk of the people who come to my office are coming because of the problems they are having accessing services in the system. That is a problem the government should be addressing.

We have had a great many people who have talked about the benefits that are going to accrue as a result of the growing offshore and that is a wonderful thing, certainly it is. Certainly we hope that many jobs come and many jobs stay. The problem is, I think, that some of these jobs are going to be much like the jobs that were created when the fixed link was constructed, that is, you are going to have a boom period of a few years, where many people come from outside the province, maybe some will return, Nova Scotians who had to leave will return and take advantage of job creations that happen as a result of the construction of the pipeline and so on. Those are temporary, and what happens is, when there is a sort of growing of economic hopefulness, people pin their hopes on that and move to the province thinking that they are going to be able to take advantage of the economic boom that is being created. The problem is, for many of them, there are no jobs. They don't have the training; they don't have the skills that will ensure that they can come home and make a life for themselves, and that makes it very difficult.

Once again, if this government is going to stand and bang on their chest and say what wondrous things they have done, I think that they are giving more credit than is their due. This whole situation reminds me of John A. Macdonald. John A. Macdonald was an eloquent speaker and a true visionary for Canada. John liked to imbibe a wee bit, and I remember a cartoon where he was trying to show one of his colleagues the future. He was looking through a whiskey bottle at the time, and he was holding it up to his eye. The fellow was saying, yes, when I look through this, I can see the future clearly. I am afraid, to some degree, that may be the vision that is being created, not necessarily through a bottle of alcohol, but just simply through glasses that have blinded them to the reality.

I think that what we need to do is we need to have a government that takes credit when it is due, and takes responsibility for the lack of success. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We stand adjourned until 12:00 noon tomorrow.

[The House rose at 6:26 p.m.]

[Page 4924]

NOTICE OF QUESTIONS FOR WRITTEN ANSWERS

Given on December 1, 1998

(Pursuant to Rule 30)

QUESTION NO. 13

By: Mr. Murray Scott (Cumberland South)

To: Hon. James Smith (Minister of Justice)

(1) Will the minister provide a time line and a deadline for when he expects to have the claims regarding the Shelburne abuse complaints resolved?

QUESTION NO. 14

By: Mr. Murray Scott (Cumberland South)

To: Hon. Keith Colwell (Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture)

(1) Will the minister forward information explaining what Nova Scotia sport fishing licence fees are used for?

(2) What percentage of those fees is reinvested into the province's fishing industry to, for example, replenish stocks and assist with waterway clean-up?

(3) Who is responsible for enforcement, particularly in Cumberland County, in regard to sport fishing and how many officers are assigned to Cumberland County for enforcement purposes?

QUESTION NO. 15

By: Mr. Murray Scott (Cumberland South)

To: Hon. Clifford Huskilson (Minister of Transportation and Public Works)

(1) Will the minister supply a priority list of paving projects for 1999 for Cumberland South?

(2) Will the minister explain how lay-offs in the Department of Transportation and Public Works in Cumberland County for seasonal workers are arrived at annually?

(3) Will the minister explain how lay-offs in the Department of Transportation and Public Works in Cumberland County for seasonal workers are arrived at annually as they pertain to CUPE workers and NSGEU workers?