The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Thur., June 4, 1998

First Session


Res. 347, Estimates - Comm. of Whole House on Supply,
Hon. D. Downe 798
Hon. D. Downe 798
Mr. H. Epstein 819
Adjourned debate 823
Res. 430, Fin. - Accounting Practices: Aud. Gen. Recommendations -
Implement, Mr. R. Chisholm 824
Res. 431, Sports - Baseball: Eddie Gillis Dec'd. (Kentville) -
Efforts Remember, Mr. G. Archibald 824
Vote - Affirmative 825
Res. 432, NDP (N.S.) - Coal Mining: Policy - Variance, Mr. P. MacEwan 825
Res. 433, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Tourism Comm'n. (Can.):
Lighthouses (N.S.) - Film Send, Mr. P. Delefes 826
Vote - Affirmative 826
Res. 434, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Tourism: Advertising -
Landmarks (N.S.) Ensure, Mr. G. Balser 827
Res. 435, Culture - Dartmouth All-City Senior Concert Band:
Achievement - Congrats., Mr. D. Chard 827
Vote - Affirmative 828
Res. 436, NDP (N.S.) - Post-Election: Record - Contrast, Mr. P. MacEwan 828
Res. 437, Gov't. (N.S.) - Interests (N.S.) [Ottawa]: Hfx. Mayor - Appoint,
Dr. H. Bitter-Suermann 829
Res. 438, Lbr. (Min.) - Fish Photos: Gov't. (Can.) - Send, Mr. F. Corbett 829
Res. 439, Nat. Res. - Offshore: Jobs - Employees (Ex.-Can.) Condemn,
Dr. J. Hamm 830
Res. 440, Sports - Hockey: Richard Doubleday Award Winner -
Reg Kelly (Hammonds Plains) Congrats., Mr. W. Estabrooks 830
Vote - Affirmative 831
Res. 441, Health - Musquodoboit Valley Mem. Hosp.: Ambulance -
Station, Mr. B. Taylor 831
Res. 442, Health - Physicians: Shortage - Plan Demand, Mr. C. Parker 832
Res. 443, Educ.: Adult Literacy - Address, Mr. E. Fage 832
Res. 444, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Job Creation: Promises Empty -
Beware, Ms. Helen MacDonald 833
Res. 445, Educ. - Central Nova Ind. Educ. Council: Achievements -
Congrats., Mr. J. Muir 834
Vote - Affirmative 834
Res. 446, Health - Accounting: Clear - Demand, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 835
Res. 447, Environ. - Meadowview (Kings Co.): Landfill -
Concerns Address, Mr. G. Archibald 835
Vote - Affirmative 836
Res. 448, Educ. - P3: Promises Broken - Admit, Ms. E. O'Connell 836
Res. 449, Nat. Res. - Sable Gas: Lateral (Pictou Co.) - Ensure,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 836
Res. 450, Fin. - Direct Assist. Prog.: Promises Unfulfilled - Condemn,
Mr. J. Pye 837
Res. 451, Justice - Atl. Police Academy: Continuance - Encourage,
Mr. M. Scott 838
Res. 452, Merchant Navy Veterans Assoc. (Can.) - Gerald Yetman:
Appointment - Congrats., Ms. Helen MacDonald 839
Res. 453, Lunenburg Town: Anniv. 245th - Congrats., Mr. M. Baker 839
Vote - Affirmative 840
Res. 454, Health - Red Cross (N.S.): Emergency Response Vehicle -
Congrats., Mr. G. Balser 840
Vote - Affirmative 841
Res. 455, Bruce MacKinnon (Editorial Cartoonist): Recognition -
Congrats., Mr. M. Baker 841
Vote - Affirmative 842
No. 76, Nat. Res. - Nat. Gas: Regs. - Changes, Mr. J. Holm 842
No. 77, Nat. Res.: Decisions (Gov't. [Can.]) - Effect, Dr. J. Hamm 843
No. 78, Justice - Police Cadet Training: Changes - Justify,
Mr. Kevin Deveaux 845
No. 79, Health - Hants Commun. Hosp.: Beds Add'tl. - Provide,
Mr. G. Balser 846
No. 80, Justice - Atl. Police Academy: Qualifications - Acceptance,
Mr. M. Scott 848
No. 81, Environ. - Polletts Cove/Aspy Bay (C.B.): Protected Area -
Activities, Mr. D. Chard ^No. 82, Transport. & Pub. Wks.: Super-Port Initiative - Funding 849
(Gov't. [N.S.]), Mr. D. Dexter 851
No. 83, Nat. Res.: Nat. Gas - Mun. Roles, Mr. G. Archibald 852
No. 84, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Throne Speech: Roads - Exclusion,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 853
No. 85, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hfx. Port: Post-Panamax -
Proposals Review, Mr. D. Dexter 854
No. 86, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Pictou East: Road Repairs -
Equity, Mr. J. Dewolfe 855
No. 87, Educ. - Private Trade School Act: Amendments - Timetable,
Ms. E. O'Connell 857
No. 88, Environ. - Meadowview (Kings Co.): Landfill - Compensation,
Mr. G. Archibald 858
No. 89, Elections Act - Amdts.: Voters' List - Permanent, Mr. J. Holm 859
No. 90, Environ. - Colchester Co.: Winter Flooding - Remedy,
Mr. J. Muir 860
No. 91, Fish. - Enterprise Allocation Agreement (DFO): Scallops -
Violation, Mr. John Deveau 861
Nat. Res. - Offshore: Seismic Vessels - Workers, The Premier 862
Mr. B. Taylor 865
Mr. Kevin Deveaux 868
Adjourned debate 875
Housing & Mun. Affs. - Truro: Flood Damage - Avert:
Mr. J. Muir 876
Hon. W. Gaudet 878
Mr. J. MacDonell 880
Hon. E. Lorraine 881
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., June 5th at 10:00 a.m. 884

[Page 797]


Fifty-seventh General Assembly

First Session

2:00 P.M.


Hon. Ronald Russell


Mr. Donald Chard

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable Premier on an introduction.

HON. RUSSELL MACLELLAN, Q.C. (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure at this time to introduce in your gallery, sir, an outstanding member of this Legislature in the not too distant past from Truro, Eleanor Norrie. (Applause)

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

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, it gives me a great deal of pleasure to introduce to you and to other members of the House, 30 Kentville Elementary School children. They are accompanied by their teacher, Mrs. June Jain, and I believe this will be about the 10th or 15th time she has been here and this, I think, will be her last visit because I understand she is retiring soon. (Interruption) Oh, you are not retiring? Good. (Laughter) I am delighted to hear that and look forward to seeing you next year. Accompanying the class are also four parents: Marcella Nichols; Andrew Jamieson; Stephanie Wentzell; and Faye Bromley. I was wondering if perhaps the students and the chaperones could stand and we would give them a welcome. (Applause)


[Page 798]




[Res. No. 347, re Estimates - Comm. of Whole House on Supply - notice given June 1/98 - (Hon. D. Downe)]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance. (Applause)

AN HON. MEMBER: Show us your shoes, Don.

HON. DONALD DOWNE: My re-soled shoes, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to notice of motion given by me on June 1, 1998, and the Rules and Forms of Procedure of the House of Assembly, I have the honour, by command, to present a message from His Honour the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, relating to the Estimates of Sums required for the service of the province for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1999 which is:

"I hereby transmit Estimates of Sums required for the Public Service of the province, for the year ending March 31, 1999, and in accordance with the Constitution Act, 1967, recommend them together with the Budget Address of my Minister of Finance and any resolutions or bills necessary or advisable to approve the Estimates and implement the budget measures to the House of Assembly.


J. James Kinley

Lieutenant Governor

Halifax, Nova Scotia

June 1998".

Mr. Speaker, at this time I wish to table a message from His Honour the Lieutenant Governor transmitting the Estimates for the consideration of this House, table the Estimates Book.

MR. SPEAKER: The document is tabled.

MR. DOWNE: I would like to table the Crown Corporation Business Plans Resolutions deliver my Budget Speech and move that the Estimates of Sums required for the service of the province for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1999, being Supply, to be granted to Her

[Page 799]

Majesty and the Crown Corporation Business Plans be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Supply.

MR. SPEAKER: All the documents are tabled.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to deliver a budget that is firmly focused on the future of Nova Scotia. A little more than two months ago, I believe the people of our province delivered a clear message. I believe they said they want a government that listens to their priorities. A province where young Nova Scotians are able to reach their full potential, where families in need will be supported, where people of all ages have access to good health care, no matter where they live. I also believe Nova Scotians want a government that sets the climate for economic opportunities to grow.

Nova Scotians have realistic expectations. They know governments can't do everything. But they do expect the government to set a clear direction for the future. They expect their taxes will pay for critical public services such as education and health care. They do not expect us to mortgage their children's future, as the children we have in the gallery here today, Mr. Speaker.

On that last point, Mr. Speaker, I believe the public has raised their expectations for financial performance. Balancing the budget - making sure we do not spend more than we have - is no longer a goal; it is the minimum requirement and the beginning. After the budget is balanced, governments make choices. If there is money available, how is it to be allocated? Should priorities be changed? Which areas should get the benefit of economic growth? Today, as I outline our plans for the future, our answers to those questions will become crystal-clear.

We intend to make our first commitment to our children. By paying attention to their education, we enhance their sense of curiosity, their self-esteem, their potential. No other investment can provide as many benefits to our society.

We intend to provide a secure health care system. One that combines new technology with human compassion. A system that has well-equipped hospitals and well-trained nurses, doctors, and technicians across the province.

We intend to redirect resources to families so that children get a good start in life. We intend to bolster families in need and reach out to families in crisis. We will begin to get at the root of child poverty.

We want Nova Scotians to know we are prepared to deal with their priorities on the economy. For five years we worked on a plan to restore fiscal balance to Nova Scotia. This plan helped us remove one of the biggest barriers to our future growth. But, now that we have cleared the way, it is time to build and re-build this province. Our long-range goal is to

[Page 800]

change the economic climate of this province. We will help build more self-reliant communities. We will cut the red tape that stifles business initiative. We will target economic development spending. We will seek advice on a new economic strategy. We will build our second plan from the bottom up.

Over the course of my remarks today, I will outline the details of these and other measures that will help secure the present and lead to a much better future. But, I also want to be very clear. The commitments to the future of our children and to the health care of our people are very strong. In fact, they are so strong, that we are holding the line in almost every other area of the budget. Many areas of government services are making new efforts, taking new initiatives. But, in most cases the money is redirected from their existing programs.

Mr. Speaker, the demands among the various interests in our province are many. These demands are important. But, it is impossible to meet them all. So, we have made a choice. We have chosen the future. We have chosen to support education for our children and health care for us all; for this decision, we make no apology.

Some people accuse governments of lacking long-term vision. They believe politicians won't take a risk if the result can't be seen before the next election. If this belief is true, then it certainly would be a natural inclination for a minority government such as ours. But, we are not falling into that trap. Instead, Mr. Speaker, we are taking a risk. We are looking forward because it is the right thing to do.

[2:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, before I go into the details of our new fiscal and economic plan, I want to share with the honourable members some information about a remarkable economic recovery in Nova Scotia.

II. Economic Climate

Last year when my colleague Bill Gillis stood before you, he was able to report that there were 4,000 additional people working in Nova Scotia compared to the previous year. Today, I am able to report that job growth has surged ahead. Between April 1997 and April 1998, nearly 20,000 more people were working. We have gone over the threshold of 400,000 jobs and are continuing to move forward.

The employment growth is a direct result of increased economic activity in the private sector and they deserve the credit. Sometimes the reason is obvious. Who could ignore a $750-million construction project to build a new magazine paper mill for Stora? More than 1,000 people worked on the project last year.

[Page 801]

How did that come about? It happened because Stora believed in Nova Scotia. It believed in Nova Scotians. It saw the barriers to investment coming down. It saw a government that was prepared to tackle the tough financial decisions. It knew we were not

putting the problems off to a future day, we were dealing with them as any other business and any other homeowner would do.

Getting to this point, Mr. Speaker, has not been easy. People and businesses have gone through hard times. Layoffs were common a few years ago. Plants were closing. Getting the jobs back has not been easy. Too many Nova Scotians are still without a job. But the signs are improving. Our diversified economy is responding. The evidence is in places like Trenton where the railcar works now has 1,300 people working. This is the highest employment level in 15 years.

Other factors are at work here, too. Interest rates are low. The tax system supports investment. Money for new ideas can be borrowed at a reasonable cost. Businesses have lower costs because of tax reforms that we have implemented over the last number of years. We predicted the changes would help create jobs and they have. These jobs often come in ones and twos, and most people hardly notice.

How do we know this? We know because applications for our new small business tax exemption program have increased by 26 per cent so far this year. Take-out sales in Nova Scotia restaurants grew by nearly 10 per cent in 1997. Automobile sales grew by 21.5 per cent. Department store sales rose by 24 per cent between April 1997 and April 1998. Employment in the services to business sector grew by 17 per cent.

In total, all this activity lead to economic growth of 2.0 per cent in 1997. That's more than double the rate of growth in 1996. This year, the good news continues. Employment growth is strong. For the first time, more than 400,000 Nova Scotians are working. People are spending money; they have confidence in the future. As a result, we have prepared our budget based upon the expectation of 3.7 per cent RDP growth for 1998. That will be the biggest jump in 13 years.

A substantial part of this increase will obviously come from the Sable Gas project. For every person hired at the Halifax Shipyard or the M and M fabrication facilities in Dartmouth and Pictou, for every worker that signs on at the pipe-wrapping facility in Sheet Harbour or works at the Goldboro gas treatment plant, the economic growth is real.

Halifax and nearby communities already see these results. The increase in jobs here is a major reason why we are breaking employment records. We have set the proper course. The benefits are beginning to materialize. No matter what anybody says, we are on the right track, the right direction and it is showing benefits. But, Mr. Speaker, we are not prepared to sit on our laurels, we are not prepared to put on rose-coloured glasses. But, the economic wave still isn't strong enough in the rest of this province.

[Page 802]

All honourable members know that policies for rural communities need to be different. I live in a rural community and I understand the needs there are greater and different than in Halifax. What will flourish in Halifax may not succeed in Yarmouth. The needs of businesses in Glace Bay are quite different from the needs of businesses in Burnside. We need to pay close attention to what people outside Halifax have to say, and we will. They will develop the plan, for the future of this province, not us.

Before I describe the process to build this new plan, I want to report progress on the result of our first plan. Our plan to achieve fiscal stability.

III. Progress on Fiscal and Financial Management 1997-98

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to stand in this House to announce that Nova Scotia has achieved its second consecutive balanced budget. In this, I am building on the solid and visionary foundation set by my predecessors, Bernie Boudreau and Bill Gillis. This hallmark of financial integrity should be noted. It is the first time in modern history that we have achieved a back-to-back surplus.

Mr. Speaker, this remarkable achievement comes at a time when we have also made increased commitments to services and people. In 1997-98, an additional $133 million was added to the health care system beyond the original estimate. That money went toward treating more Nova Scotians, bringing doctors home, providing more home care, and offering new telehealth services with trained technicians. All of this gives Nova Scotians good quality health care as they need it.

1997-98 also saw us face an important challenge and responsibility in wage negotiations with our employees. Overall, we have achieved reasonable wage settlements. For this I want to thank the unions: the teachers, the NSGEU, CUPE, the nurses' union, and all the others. I want to thank our employees because I believe it is important for us to express that here publicly today. I want to thank everyone who recognized the need to have fair and balanced wage settlements. For employees and taxpayers, the negotiations have been a job well done.

Mr. Speaker, at the end of fiscal 1997-98, we also made some necessary, and prudent, provisions for potential future problems.

For example, we made an allowance in the amount of $49.8 million for potential uncollectible receivables within the health care system. The amounts have come up in a number of program areas, including regional health boards and non-designated organizations such as the QE II hospital. This provision reflects the very real pressures in the health care system.

[Page 803]

Now, Mr. Speaker, the question is this: How were we able to make these kinds of commitments to people needing health care and to our employees and still keep a balanced budget? The answer in part is the fact that for all the naysayers about nothing is happening in Nova Scotia our economy grew. More sales and more jobs mean an increase in revenues. It means that our exports are up, it means that things are happening in Nova Scotia. The increase in our provincial revenues amounted to $77 million more than our original budget estimate.

Elsewhere in Canada, growth was also strong with the leadership of our federal counterparts in Ottawa and in other provinces, putting their fiscal houses in order. This means equalization payments rose by nearly $45 million. In addition, the economy of Nova Scotia and Canada grew a bit faster in 1995 and 1996 than we had originally thought. That has resulted in additional revenues for these prior years' adjustments in the amount of $75.9 million.

Finally, continued low interest rates and good financial management helped reduce debt-servicing costs by $56 million compared to the original budget estimate. At this point I want to congratulate the staff of the Department of Finance for the professionalism that is there within that department and all the people that have worked so hard over the years, for doing a tremendous job in helping to manage the taxpayers' dollars in a very prudent and a very positive way.

Mr. Speaker, this adds up to good news, this adds up to positive news for Nova Scotian, all this adds up to a forecast surplus for 1997-98 of $37.4 million. Under the provisions of the Expenditure Control Act, we are required to use this money for tax cuts or debt reduction. Today, I am pleased to announce, we have decided to do both. There will be an estimated $10 million rebate of HST for electrical consumers and a forecast $27.4-million payment against the debt. (Applause)

The sales tax relief will come in the form of a 5 per cent rebate on all electricity purchased between November 1, 1997 and March 31, 1998 by residential consumers. Our government said we would reduce taxes when we could do so without affecting critical social programs, and so we have.

We intend to work toward continuing this rebate in the future. The revenues to pay for this would come from a federal tax ruling. The province's share of these savings would be channelled toward a continuing partial HST rebate for residential electrical consumers. But the ruling has not been made. Again, we are being prudent in promising to deliver only when we know we can do so.

Mr. Speaker, the timetable and direction of future tax cuts and relief need to be laid out for businesses and consumers. We wish to pay particular attention to tax reductions and relief for those on low and fixed incomes.

[Page 804]

Mr. Speaker, before I leave this review of the surplus, I note that we have retained two partially completed, unleased P3 schools on our books as an asset. This matter is being discussed at some length by members of this Assembly and within government itself. I feel the depth of frustration in the voices of those who say we should build the schools and find the money later. I understand that strength of conviction. Nevertheless, ignoring costs or the means to pay is not the answer.

[2:30 p.m.]

Public-private partnerships are one way to build schools. The leasing feature allows us to meet the need for the school without adding to the province's net direct debt. There may be other ways to do that, but they must meet the same objectives. Our government believes we will find solutions before we finally close the books on 1997-98.

Debt Management

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to report that this is the second consecutive year in which we have reduced our net direct debt. The reason is mainly due to a combination of budget surpluses and the strong performance of our pension funds. Despite losses at the Sydney Steel Corporation and temporary losses at Nova Scotia Resources Limited, the net direct debt of our Province is forecast to decline by $219.8 million after accounting for the HST rebate.

Mr. Speaker, this is the largest decline in this area probably in decades but the reality not only for members of this House but for all Nova Scotians is, yes, we have gotten out of the $617 million operating deficit to a balanced budget and, yes, the economy is starting to grow and more needs to be done but the other reality is that we are starting to pay out of the debt we have had for far too long. But there is still $8.3 billion debt in the Province of Nova Scotia and the challenge before us is great. It is beyond the rhetoric of this House, it is beyond the positions of Parties. It is about the youth that were here today. We need to make sure that we continue to keep our eyes focused on the fact that, yes, we have turned the corner but we still have obligations for the future to meet. On a budgetary basis, and on wider public-sector basis, we are going in the right direction and I am very proud of the accomplishments of this Liberal Government here today.

One of the best measures of our financial performance is how our debt stands in relation to the size of our economy. As of March 31, 1998, the net direct debt as a percentage of GDP stood at 39.3 per cent. That is far less than three years ago when the ratio was 43.7 per cent. A major reason for the change is the performance of our pension funds and the overall better management of the affairs of the Government of Nova Scotia.

[Page 805]

Three years ago, the unfunded liabilities in the Nova Scotia Teachers' Pension Plan and the Nova Scotia Public Service Superannuation Plan amounted to over $1 billion. Today, the Teachers' Pension Plan has a small unfunded liability based at a little over 95 per cent and the Superannuation Plan has a significant surplus.

With respect to the Public Service Superannuation Fund, the surplus was so large that, under federal and provincial rules, further contributions would not be allowed. Accordingly, we have taken a number of steps to deal with this issue in a fair and equitable fashion.

First, for 1998-99, contributions by the employees and the employers in this plan will be suspended. This measure reduces the surplus in the plan by an estimated $57 million and this was done in consultation with members of the NSGEU and senior members of the pension fund as well.

Second, we will introduce legislation to increase pensions for those who are now receiving a spousal pension. I will give you an example, Mr. Speaker. The Province of Nova Scotia, for those who are retired and the spouses who are left, the pension provided about 60 per cent of the benefits of a former wage earner. We are now ramping that up to 66.6 per cent because we believe that that is the right thing to do for the people who helped build this province. Pensions will also increase for those who retired many years ago when inflation was high.

Mr. Speaker, those who retired before 1984 built this province, they spent their lifetime working for government, many of them with 30 and 40 years of service. They deserve better. They happened to retire at a time when inflation was rampant in this country and when you see inflation at 15 or 20 per cent and interest rates at 21 per cent, these individuals who worked their lifetime building a future for themselves and their families were destroyed by the ravaging effect of uncontrolled fiscal insanity in this country. Because of that they have suffered. What we have tried to do in our discussions with them and what we are proposing here today is to allow them to have dignity about themselves and about their future and that is why we are proposing that we will provide 100 per cent of CPI for those individuals who were affected prior to 1984. Our measures with respect to spousal pensions are similar to what has become common practice in the pension industry. (Applause)

Third, at a time when people are retiring earlier, we are protecting the interests of all by making our assumption more realistic. This will further reduce the surplus by $65 million.

Once the previously announced pension contribution holiday for 1997-98 is included at $57 million, these measures will reduce the pension plan surplus by $247 million. As a result, we expect an actuarial evaluation will show that the plan is still 108 per cent funded after all of these measures.

[Page 806]

The government's share of the pension plan savings has been used to enhance our commitment to education and health care. The surplus has come largely through investment gains. We believe it is only right that we reinvest these gains in the education of children and the care of our people.

Like any prudent investor, we cannot count on all this money to be available every year. Some savings are likely. Good pension management will keep the taxpayers' costs down. Nevertheless, we will face a challenge in the years to come. We are already starting work on measures to address future needs.

IV. Progress on Social Responsibility

Strengthening Our Children's Future

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians believe that our future starts with our children. We want them to get off on the right foot, from the first day they start school. They deserve the best education possible, so they can make the most of out of life at work, at home, and in the community.

Therefore, in fiscal 1998-99 we are making a very significant and unprecedented commitment to our children. The province is making a direct additional contribution of $52 million to public education spending. In addition, the school boards have requested a refinancing of their obligations concerning the teachers' early retirement programs. This measure, plus additional funding in other program areas of the department, has put a further $30 million into the classrooms for fiscal 1998-99. In total, this means an extra $82 million for the public school system in Nova Scotia.

What does it mean to parents and children and teachers? It means new and updated school programs in both French and English, with professional development, more textbooks, technology, and other classroom supports.

It means more relevant choices in high school and support for students with special needs. Above all, it means smaller class sizes, more teachers, and teachers' aides. It means additional funds for the increases in teachers' salaries.

This commitment to the education of our children is also matched by a commitment to lifelong learning for all Nova Scotians. We are providing an extra $1.2 million for people who need help with literacy and students who need assistance.

Students graduating from our community colleges are getting jobs in record numbers. We will strengthen this system with an extra $2 million this year.

[Page 807]

We're adding $5.5 million over 1997-98 funding levels to our universities this year. That money builds to a $23-million increase in university assistance by fiscal year 2000-01. That money will help stabilize tuition fees and provide more young people with a great foundation for future success.

Mr. Speaker, we say our priority is education, and this budget is the proof.

Building a Secure Health System

Mr. Speaker, our government is also committed to meeting the growing needs of our people for health care. A little more than three months ago the Premier promised to add $80 million to the health care budget. Today we deliver on that commitment.

Third Quarter Report, February 1998, $1,375 million

Budget 1998-99, June 1998, $1,455 million

Total Increase, $80 million

Mr. Speaker, this extra money addresses very real needs for many Nova Scotians. It will make a difference. For example, people who have remitting and relapsing multiple sclerosis now have new hope. The budget today means we can start providing treatment with forms of interferon such as Betaseron to people with multiple sclerosis who can be helped by this therapy.

Additional health spending increases funding for people in nursing homes and homes for special care. This 18 per cent increase in funding adds up to a budget of $133.2 million in 1998-99. It pays for extra staff to provide additional care and other improvements begun last year. It helps to cover increased operating costs and salary increases and to address other health and safety issues.

Planning is beginning for an additional 170 long-term care beds to look after Nova Scotians who are no longer able to care for themselves. They will be located where the need is greatest, especially in industrial Cape Breton. The beds are expected to be in place during fiscal 1999-2000.

[2:45 p.m.]

Also helping Nova Scotians is our Home Care Program. This program means 18,000 people a year get care where they want it most, in their own homes. The budget for Home Care Nova Scotia has been increased by $8.3 million compared to the forecasted spending for 1997-98.

[Page 808]

Construction begins this month on new health care facilities in Cheticamp and Neils Harbour, as well as the redevelopment of the regional hospital in Yarmouth. Planning is now under way for a new regional hospital in Amherst.

In addition, $9 million has been budgeted to pay for the increased number of doctors that have been recruited to come to Nova Scotia, additional services for patients, and an increase in physician fee levels.

It's important that, while increasing health care spending and the services available to Nova Scotians, we maintain a watchful eye on the sustainability of this very important system, a system that we cherish as Nova Scotians and as Canadians. We can't fall into the trap of only a few years ago when the province was borrowing money to pay for its day-to-day operations.

That's why we're asking health boards across the province to present three-year business plans to ensure that the same fiscal responsibility we've shown with the province's books will be reflected by those institutions that care for Nova Scotians. These business plans will ensure that any deficits incurred during that time will be recovered by the end of the three-year period.

Mr. Speaker, the extra funding for education and health has put real constraints on what we can do elsewhere. In other government services, we have asked departments to look carefully at what they do, and find ways to meet new needs within their own budgets. The Department of Community Services is a good example of how this has been done.

Caring for Families and Children

In this department, we have a budget that is only a few million dollars higher than the forecast for 1997-98. But under the tremendous leadership of the minister responsible and dedicated staff, they have been able to deal with the issues of financial pressure and expand the opportunities for all Nova Scotians. But, underneath that number is the fact that the dollars are being put to better use in the Department of Community Services.

In partnership with the federal government, we are launching a long-term strategy to improve opportunities for low-income children in Nova Scotia. The National Child Benefit program is intended to reduce child poverty, while providing extra support for parents. The National Child Benefit program will come into effect in July 1, 1998. Federal, provincial, and territorial governments agreed to the following components:

the federal government will increase the Canada Child Tax Benefit, targeted specifically to low-income families, with the National Child Benefit Supplement

[Page 809]

provinces will decrease social assistance payments for families with children, up to, but not exceeding, the amount of the National Child Benefit Supplement

provinces will reinvest the provincial social assistance funds freed up under this approach into benefits and services for low-income families with children.

In Nova Scotia, this reinvestment fund is estimated to be worth $14.6 million annually. This money will go directly to programs and services for Nova Scotian families and children.

Nova Scotia will direct $13 million from this fund annually toward a new Nova Scotia Child Benefit program, which will provide extra money for families in the lowest income brackets. This will be available whether people are working or not.

We will also allocate $2.2 million for a range of Healthy Child Development Initiatives to help overburdened families in many circumstances. We will build on partnerships with existing public and private agencies to offer community-based prevention programs and more support for early intervention programs and child care.

These Healthy Child Development Initiatives will be developed in consultation with our stakeholders. They appreciate, as we do, that investing in young children can prevent problems and give children a solid grounding for future success.

We will allocate a total of $2.5 million this year toward developing new placement and treatment options for children and youth in care. With new services available in four regions, Nova Scotian children and youth will be able to receive appropriate treatment as close to home as possible. So they are close to their environment, their families and their communities. This was the main priority of the report on placement options, "Too Good to Lose.". We have lived up to that commitment with the leadership of the minister responsible.

This government is also increasing support for parents of children with special needs through the In-Home Support Program. It covers support services such as respite care and specialized equipment.

On April 1st of this year, the Province assumed responsibility for the administration of social assistance programs across Nova Scotia. Up to $10 million more will be available for better services or direct payments to those most in need. The cost of this will be offset by programs and services designed to help people find employment where possible. As I said many times before, people want a paycheque not an EI cheque. They want a future, they want dignity, they want responsibility and they want options to go forward.

Mr. Speaker, our government takes its social responsibilities very seriously. They are the bedrock of why the government exists. We have examined the many demands in this area. We have exercised leadership. We have chosen to meet the health care needs of our people. We have

[Page 810]

chosen to enhance the future of our children. We believe that these are the choices most Nova Scotians would also make.

Quite frankly, though, some people would have us do more. We are committed to meeting legitimate needs, but, in many cases, we do not have the money right now. A growing economy will provide part of the solution to what we see in the future, but it will not be enough. We need to find ways to spend the taxpayers' dollars more wisely. I will have more to say on this shortly.

V. Progress on our Economic Future

Mr. Speaker, if I may, I now want to turn to the issue of economic development. For too long, too many Nova Scotians have lived with the belief that we are a have-not province and there is no future for people. I say this belief is wrong. I say we have the capacity, the capability, and the opportunity to become masters of our own fate, able to rely on our own people, skills, and resources.

Mr. Speaker, for the past five years we had a fiscal plan. The plan has set a proper fiscal climate for economic growth. We have created a better environment to foster economic reality in this province. Now it is time to build on that plan. Now it is time to build a climate of self-reliance. Self-reliance is not a bad word, it is what this country was built on and what this province was built on many years ago. We want ideas to encourage economic prosperity. We want these ideas to come from our successful businesses, our entrepreneurs, our young people alive with ideas, and our communities, who know best their strengths and weaknesses of their areas. As a result we are developing a new economic strategy to achieve these goals.

Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge we are not starting from the beginning. Over the past number of months the Provincial Labour Market Development Secretariat has consulted widely on a key issue related to this strategy: How can we develop the pool of labour that the market needs to achieve the economic development we all want? These groups included businesses, economic development organizations, organized labour, and the unemployed. The secretariat also sought the opinion of equity groups, training providers, educators, as well as community-based organizations and volunteers.

The consultations showed that the labour market provides the link between economic and social development. Therefore, we believe it is important that our new economic strategy be developed with the full understanding of the consequences for the labour market; the potential social impact; and future public costs that may result from those decisions.

As we move forward, I want to remind all members of this House that we already have a very important institution for consultations on these issues.

[Page 811]

In 1963 Robert L. Stanfield recognized the need for widespread consultation and advice. His solution was Voluntary Planning. Their track record over the past 35 years has been remarkable. The Departments of Economic Development and Tourism, and Finance will now work together to help create a new Economic Advisory Council working closely with the Voluntary Planning structure. The council will consult widely and build on work already done.

To get this process off the ground properly, we have already talked about this with the Leaders of the two official Parties in this House. We are looking for individuals who have a background in economic development, are innovative thinkers, and have excellent track records in making things happen.

The council will be given the task of examining the barriers and opportunities to economic development in Nova Scotia. They will be asked to examine our tax system and ways to use it to promote economic growth. Given the revenue demands to pay for public services, they will ask if there is a fair balance between consumers, businesses, and other organizations. What measures can the government take to encourage individual self-reliance? Community self-reliance? What role should government departments play in creating a better economic climate? How can we enhance our education and training efforts? What can we do to help more businesses succeed outside Metro Halifax?

We know the strategies for development are not the same. We know the kind of business that thrives in Sydney may not be the same as the kind that can prosper in Louisbourg, Inverness, Springhill, Digby, or Shelburne. We expect good advice on what needs to be done differently.

Mr. Speaker, consultation works. Ideas emerge when people talk. As an example of this, we are now working with the health care sector to explore what we can do with the vast amount of public dollars devoted to this part of our economy. Nova Scotia already receives nearly two-thirds of the private-sector medical research in our region. We believe we can build on this.

[3:00 p.m.]

These ideas promise solid benefits for Nova Scotians, but they are not enough. We need to make sure we do not smother our economic recovery in a new round of red tape. As a farmer and a small business owner, I am personally committed to the idea that government action to reduce the cost of doing business is more meaningful than government handouts. Accordingly, we will soon table a second bill on Licences, Permits and Approvals. We hope to have cooperation from all Parties in passing this legislation later this year. We know we have the support of the small business community, because they have been actively involved from the beginning. One of the leaders in this effort has been the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. Accordingly, the Minister for Business and Consumer Services and I

[Page 812]

have asked the Executive Director, Atlantic Canada, for this organization, Peter O'Brien, to join our implementation team to make sure we move forward in this initiative and he has agreed.

We are also committed to improving service through a number of key initiatives. These initiatives include accepting debit card payment at our Access Nova Scotia service centres; introducing a standard application form to reduce paper work; and running a pilot project to deliver tender documents to bidders electronically. We are also developing an electronic one-stop business registry in partnership with the Workers' Compensation Board and Revenue Canada.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, our Equity Tax Credit provides investors with a real incentive to take risks in new Nova Scotia businesses. Now we need to connect the investors with the entrepreneurs.

We think the development of widespread computer communication links opens up the opportunity for creating low-cost investment marketplaces. Over the next 12 months, we will consult with business, investment dealers, the Department of Economic Development and Tourism, and the Securities Commission to develop the most appropriate means of matching energetic entrepreneurs with seasoned investors so we can grow the economy and give the opportunities to the people with the dreams and the vision of building a stronger province.

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to natural resources, government action is sometimes the most effective way to help solve a common problem. Our action against the tussock moth is an example of how we have taken a proactive move. Another is our investment in the future growth of our forests through silviculture. I am pleased to announce that with federal cooperation, we are able to put $3 million to work in this area to help the Department of Natural Resources and the forestry sector.

Mr. Speaker, we know where we want to be. We want to be able to stand on our own. We want to build on the strengths of our people. We are clearing away the barriers. Our new plan will build the economic opportunities based on ideas developed in our community. It is the best way to go. It is the only way to go.

VI. Progress on Fiscal Responsibility 1998-99

Mr. Speaker, I now want to look at the fiscal climate for 1998-99 and beyond. In this budget, we have taken the best of all possible fiscal steps. The budget is balanced. As my colleagues to my right said, it is balanced again. The surplus for 1998-99 is estimated to be $1.15 million. The budget delivers on legislated tax cut commitments. On April 1st, the temporary transitional tax on motor vehicles and heavy equipment was cut in half, as legislated, from 2 per cent to 1 per cent. Not only legislated but committed by this government and that went forward.

[Page 813]

In addition, the tax cuts set in place over the past two years continue to work their way through our economy. 1998 will see the full benefits from the first provincial income tax cut in the history of our province. I might say, Mr. Speaker, that the income tax cuts that are here, the lowest income tax from a provincial point of view anywhere in Atlantic Canada, better than New Brunswick, better than P.E.I., better than Newfoundland. The best place to be is Nova Scotia. The provincial rate is now set at 57.5 per cent of federal taxes. This is the lowest in Atlantic Canada.

Our improved Low Income Tax Reduction Program started delivering a few months ago. Thousands of Nova Scotians on low incomes have recently filed income tax returns that include the benefits of this program. Most have seen the benefit by reduced taxes or increased refunds. Those refunds include $300 per adult and $165 per child for individuals and families at the lower end of the income scale.

Mr. Speaker, I am proud of the way our income tax system works. The benefits may not be widely understood, but our system is already very fair compared to many other provinces.

Our business tax system is getting more effective in creating jobs. The Manufacturing and Processing Tax Credit is attracting interest and encouraging more investment. Notwithstanding the HST, the economic benefit that has provided to this province is unprecedented in the development of businesses across this province, no matter what anybody says in this area. Our approach to taxes is paying off. We intend to remain competitive. Accordingly, we are announcing a modest increase in the Tax Credit for Television and Film Production in Nova Scotia. This measure allows producers to lower their labour costs when they use Nova Scotian workers. The rate will move from 30 per cent to 32.5 per cent. A step in the right direction in building a new industry for this province.

Mr. Speaker, I believe the tax system should reinforce other critical areas of the Nova Scotia economy. For a modest sum of money, we have been able to do just that. Effective April 1, 1998, we are reinstating the Farm Land Tax Exemption for our farmers. Just to set the record straight, yes, I am a farmer but this doesn't benefit me because I don't have land in production and crops so there is no benefit for me. But this is the right decision. This measure is a critical commitment to our farming community and helps us all by keeping food costs low and provide benefits and competitive position for our farm community. I might say, not only our farm community, our forest community, our mining community, our fishing community, our tourism community, are bedrocks in this province. They are the foundation upon which this province is built and will continue to build on because they are the people who built this province and we are a government that shows respect to those people. Municipalities will be fully compensated for the impact this measure has on their tax base.

[Page 814]

This budget contains a number of measures that protect and enhance the fiscal climate for municipalities. This is largely due to the decision to begin absorbing social service transfer costs and other measures to equalize municipal finances.

We also intend to extend our Nova Scotia Home Ownership Savings Plan for one more year. We would intend to consult with the housing industry on the effectiveness of this measure and examine possible alternatives.

Mr. Speaker, in the future, we offer the following list of priorities for further tax reductions:

First, we wish to consider the issue of effective delivery for our low-income tax assistance programs. It is critical that the tax relief be targeted in the most efficient and effective way possible. It has been suggested we could do more to get the tax credits into the hands of low-income Nova Scotians faster and more regularly. I agree with that and we are looking to how to do that. To this end, we will be looking at how we can streamline and improve the delivery of our tax credits and our Direct Assistance Program. We will consult with, and take advice from, representatives of groups that represent those who benefit from these programs.

Our second priority is for continuing HST relief on electricity and other areas we can provide when the money is available. The financing for this measure may be some time away, but it remains our second choice for direct, widespread tax reduction. It is a priority and a commitment that we believe is real and we can attain when provided the opportunity to do so.

Our third priority is for a second round of general income tax cuts, when the fiscal climate allows.

This priority list is a natural outcome of our recent round of tax changes involving income and sales taxes. We believe this is the correct set of priorities, but we are open to other suggestions from our Economic Advisory Council and from members of this House who want to come forward with suggestions.

Mr. Speaker, I now want to turn to the challenges in the years ahead. At this time I would like to table a critical companion document to our budget, Government by Design. This document includes the business plans of the government departments and our overall four-year fiscal plan. It allows us to anticipate challenges and make plans to meet them. Over the next few months, we will be rising to the challenges.

First and foremost, we need to make more progress with the federal government. Part of the reason why we find it a challenge to make ends meet right now is because the federal government has withdrawn so much money from traditional cost-sharing relationships.

[Page 815]

However, Ottawa has now put its financial house in order and thank the Good Lord they have. The benefits across this country are widespread. Like Nova Scotia they are running a balanced budget.

Later this month, provincial Finance Ministers from across Canada will be meeting with the federal government on this matter. We are united in our demand that the federal government put money back into the health care system. What point is there in asking the provinces to fund a national drug program if communities do not have doctors to write the prescriptions?

[3:15 p.m.]

I am optimistic that the federal government will listen to our arguments. We have begun to make some progress. For instance, in the area of economic development we have been able to refocus our priorities and take advantage of federal programs.

One such example is the Information Economy Initiative. This three-year program will put thousands of computers into the hands of school children, university students, and people in our rural communities. The $62.1-million cost is being shared by the two governments. It is a prime example of the leadership our Premier has shown in being able to negotiate deals and programs with our federal colleagues in a very positive way for the future of this province and they deserve the credit.

Mr. Speaker, we believe the federal government must remain involved in helping to build a national transportation infrastructure. Accordingly, we are seeking a 10-year highway improvement agreement to help renew our road system. When I was Minister of Transportation and Public Works, I brought this issue forward. I know the present minister has brought this initiative forward. I know our Premier has brought it to the attention of the Prime Minister and I can assure you - together with the three ministers - the Premier and the other two ministers bringing it to the Minister of Finance level, we will get the message loud and clear, not only here but right across this country. We will continue to insist the federal government recognize its responsibilities in upgrading the Halifax International Airport. As a key part of the economic opportunity of this province and they do have a responsibility to go forward with a proper program to enhance the opportunities for jobs and economic prosperity of this province.

As well, the federal government has a responsibility in the whole issue of the Port of Halifax. These are key, fundamental underpinings of economic opportunity - a responsibility that truly the federal government has had and continues to have. We will make sure they realize they need to have it here in the Province of Nova Scotia.

[Page 816]

Mr. Speaker, we will renew efforts to establish fiscal fairness when it comes to designing the Equalization Formula. This agreement is being rewritten now, and a new formula is scheduled to be in place next year. We will vigorously pursue the rights of the people of this province in making sure that the provincial interests are at the forefront of those negotiations at the federal level.

We intend to continue our efforts to have Statistics Canada count our people accurately. We have nearly 8,000 students in our province who use our health care system, our education system, and all the other public amenities, but the discriminatory part is they are not counted as Nova Scotians but are counted elsewhere. It could be added to British Columbia or Ontario, Quebec or another province. We are saying that accounting is wrong. This discrepancy costs us an estimated $25 million a year, and fairness demands that the formula be changed.

Another formula that needs to be changed is the one that phases in the fiscal impact of increased offshore gas revenues. Yes, gas revenue will come ashore, jobs will be created, economic opportunity is there and we do have a future on that side of the industry.

Mr. Speaker, I'm afraid to go off the script too much because my voice is getting a little thin but I can't help but say that there were many times that all sorts of vials were shown in this room, and hype, and up and down the proverbial flagpole about the offshore.

Well, it took this administration, it took this Premier, it took this government to bring the reality of offshore alive in the Province of Nova Scotia and we are darn proud of it.

Mr. Speaker, these efforts to improve the federal fiscal system only reflect a desire that Nova Scotia be treated fairly. I believe, if I may be so bold, it reflects a desire of the honourable members sitting in this House.

A few moments ago I outlined the steps we are taking to build economic growth. We think this strategy will pay off in the long run.

In the short run, we need to implement a program of continuous improvement in our government operations. During the planning for this budget last year, the government discovered a fair amount of creativity and flexibility in the system. We will put together a team of senior deputy ministers to build on this discovery. They will seek ways to free up money in the system. They will identify solutions that range between 1 and 3 per cent of total government program budget.

We already have examples of savings. For instance, this year we are renegotiating the contract for mainframe computer services. This contract was one of the first instances of a public-private partnership in Nova Scotia. I believe, Mr. Speaker, it was started by the Progressive Conservative Finance Critic, the member for Argyle. We are able to build on that

[Page 817]

decision, extend the contract, and lower the cost at an annual saving to the taxpayers of approximately $800,000. In another example, we are in the process of negotiating a substantial reduction in our telecommunications costs. Every government department will have significant savings. We have redirected this money to areas of need in health and education. This is another excellent example of getting good value for taxpayers' dollars.

We also have a group in my department that is taking a different look at many government services. This Strategic Research group is looking at issues that cut across a number of departments and agencies. Many of these issues have long-term implications but we are prepared to review them. They will provide advice to Cabinet on options for future service improvements as well as ways to redirect money to meet new needs.

Mr. Speaker, these initiatives are really no different than the ones a prudent family takes when it draws up its annual budget. The family asks questions like: "Can we afford a new car? Is this the year to paint the house? Are there new children, new needs?" Families look at what they are doing, how they are spending and ask, "Do we have our priorities right?" Our government is doing the same thing.

VII. Progress on Government and Financial Accountability

Mr. Speaker, a little while ago I referred to a budgetary surplus in 1997-98 of $37.4 million, less the distribution of surplus to taxpayers. I talked about a financial snapshot whereby the net direct debt of the province was reduced by $219.8 million after the distribution of surplus. In most respects, those are the consistent and well-understood signposts of our return to financial health. People use these signposts to judge our performance.

In a strict sense though, there are better signposts. In a strict sense, generally accepted accounting principles call for a broader examination of government responsibilities. Members of this House have spoken about the need to include the regional health boards. But, there are other aspects of government responsibility that might be included too. The Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commission is one. If we are to tell taxpayers what assets we hold on their behalf, and what liabilities we have incurred to meet their needs, we need to know where to draw the line.

We also want to modernize other elements of our accounting policy in a careful, controlled fashion. We want to review adjustments that need to be made so we fully record revenues when they are due, rather than when they are received. This was highlighted to us as the province benefited from additional cash transfers in fiscal 1997-98. These transfers were the result of adjustments to the instalment schedules implemented by the federal government.

[Page 818]

Mr. Speaker, along with our budget today, I am tabling a document entitled Improving Financial Accountability: A Blueprint for Success. It outlines a process and a three-year timetable for bringing Nova Scotia into the forefront of financial disclosure and accountability in Canada.

We are asking for significant input, consideration, and advice. Among those who are being asked to comment are the Public Accounts Committee of this House and the Auditor General of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I want to move from the text for a second. When I assumed the position of Minister of Finance, I had the opportunity and the pleasure to meet with the Auditor General. I asked him the question, how do you perceive the Province of Nova Scotia? How are we doing in our accounting?

His response to me was, back in 1993, I would rank Nova Scotia 13th. Out of 10 provinces and 2 territories, you were 13th, you were off the table. Your accounting processes in this province were the worst in the country. Since that time, I have asked him how we rate today. He said, Mr. Minister, you are somewhere in the middle of the pack. But you have led the nation in many ways. For example, when we take a look at the numbers in our Budget Estimates, they are audited by the Auditor General, the only province in the country that does that.

Mr. Speaker, we lay out a blueprint to where we are going in the future so Nova Scotians can see exactly where we're headed. He appreciated the work done.

So the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party has pointed out, more accountability is needed and I agree with him on that initiative. We want to move ahead, we want to look at the opportunities we have for a more accountable system, a more transparent system for all Nova Scotian. But we need to do it in a thoughtful way. We need to do it in a way that will consult with the people of this province - people who know that we have a right to make sure the numbers that come forward are numbers that are legitimate and real as they have been in the past and they will be in the future.

VIII. Conclusion

Mr. Speaker, I want to end this budget address on a personal note. I am a Liberal and proud to be. That means I want a government that offers care to those who are sick and protection for those in need. I want a government that shows compassion and concern. I want a government that looks to the future and invests in children, families, and communities.

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[3:30 p.m.]

As a Liberal, I also believe that the government must help unlock the chains that hold us back from economic self-reliance and prosperity. I believe the government must help us find a path to develop our own plan, our own dreams and, yes, our own future. The key to our prosperity truly lies within ourselves. Our search for the key is a guide and is guided by our teachers, our friends, our families, our communities. The government cannot necessarily hand us the key, but it too must support our search.

To me, Mr. Speaker, this budget is intended to do this, that is to build on the future of this province. Thank you very much. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto. (Applause)

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I very much want to thank the minister for his announcement with respect to Betaseron. It is exactly the kind of provision that would have been in any budget delivered by this Party.

Mr. Speaker, listening to what it is that people have actually said that they need is extremely important. That is one of the reasons why I was extremely disappointed that not only was there no formal consultation with either of the two Opposition Parties over the Speech from the Throne, there was no formal consultation with respect to the contents of the budget. It is not clear that this typifies the new spirit of cooperation. It is important that there be this kind of consultation in this particular climate, not just with the Official Opposition Parties, but with all of those who have something serious to say about what ought to be in the budget delivered by government.

The formal consultations that took place in January of this year were with entities that ought to be consulted: with the Federation of Independent Business; and with the Alliance of Manufacturers. They should indeed be consulted. There are other people in our province who have an interest in what is to be contained in a budget. There was no formal consultation with those who operate day cares. There was no formal consultation with those who run the health clinics. There was no formal consultation with labour, nor has there been for many years in this province. It is important that that kind of consultation takes place. That is the way in which a government can learn what is appropriate to put in its budget, so that the real needs of the people in the province can be met. It is a question, as we have been told, of what are the priorities.

Let's start by thinking about a question that has preoccupied many of us here. Are the budgets balanced? I say budgets because there are two budgets for which promises of balance have been made. There is the budget for the year we have just finished, 1997-98. There is the budget for the year we are starting now, 1998-99.

[Page 820]

Let's think first about the budget for the year we just finished, 1997-98. Have we seen a truly balanced budget? The only person who is really going to be able to tell us the answer to that is going to be the Auditor General, when the Auditor General finally goes through the detailed accounts of the province.

However, there are many reasons to be skeptical and I will give a few. What we have seen between the time of the third quarter financial statement that was issued relative to December, but issued in February, concerning the estimates for the expenditures and revenues for the year, has changed enormously in that three-month period. There is suddenly, in that three-month period, an additional $143 million of revenue. This is a big surprise. This is a very dubious figure. I look forward to hearing what the Auditor General has to say about whether these are really accurate figures.

There is another question. There is a question of all of the expenditures that were made by the hospitals and the regional health boards around this province. We know that many of those, the QE II included, went well beyond their budgets this year and this government was forced to give extra money to those health care entities. The question arises, how is that money shown on the books of the province? Now, we are told that this money has been loaned and, therefore, is not shown as operating revenue. Whether this is technically correct according to auditing standards, we will hear from the Auditor General.

Even should it prove to be the case that it is technically correct, it is not the usual way in which health care is financed in this province. Health care is financed by giving the money as operating funds. We would have expected that instead of showing that money as a receivable, as money that will be paid back to us by these health care entities with dollars that we give them in future years, clearly an accounting device, it should be shown honestly and forthrightly as part of the operating budget of this province. If that is the case, we are not looking at a balanced budget for 1997-98.

What about 1998-99? What are the projections? The projection is for a $1 million surplus this coming year. Now, on an overall budget of more than $4 billion, to project $1 million in surplus, given that apparently in the last three months of the fiscal year there can be a $143 million variation that suddenly appears out of nowhere, is not the kind of figure designed to give anyone confidence that we are looking at a truly balanced picture for the coming fiscal year.

In addition, this extremely slim margin is dependent on a one-time payment of $28 million payable through a pension contribution holiday that the government proposes, if it can get the legislation through the House, to pay to itself. That is a one-time, non-repeating number. In addition, it is dependent upon $77 million in HST relief to be transferred from the federal government. Now, these items cannot be depended upon as ongoing items. They are clearly one-time items and to say, that on the basis of those two one-time receipts of revenue that the budget for this year is in balance would give a very misleading picture. It is one thing

[Page 821]

to be in balance, but are you in balance moving towards stability or are you in balance temporarily moving towards instability?

In the election just gone by, the government offered us one promise only. The promise was that there would be an $80 million payment annually into the health care system, on top of the $100 million that had been put into the health care system last year. The numbers offered to us by the government do not support this to be the case. When you look at the year-over-year, budget-to-budget figures for the Department of Health, leaving aside, of course, the business of the loans, if you just take the figures that were offered, we see that the difference is an additional $133 million.

Now, if the numbers we were offered in the one promise that the Premier did make to us during the election, that should be $180 million. There should be an extra $100 million put in during the year, and there should be an extra $80 million put in later on for this year. In fact the numbers are much less than that, the real increase this year is $37 million. Will it work? Will there really be the appropriate allocation of money inside the health portfolio in effective ways? That remains to be seen. It remains to be tested. There is relatively little in the outline for the Department of Health that inspires true confidence.

Let's look at the other main area that formed a great deal of the discussion in terms of programs during the election just gone by, and that is the area of education. To start, with post-secondary education, when this Party announced that we would put in place a tuition freeze for post-secondary education students, the Premier announced that he too would put in place such a tuition freeze. It's not there; it's just not there. The universities told us, for example, how much money they need this year in order to stabilize tuition fees; the figure was $22 million. The funds that have been announced for universities are to be spread over three years. This will in no way stabilize tuition fees. This is clearly another of the broken promises that we have seen.

What of the additional funds that are to go to education, to the schools component of education? It is certainly desirable that additional funds go to the schools. What we have not heard is a frank acknowledgement that the government is putting a portion of that additional cost onto the municipal property taxpayer. Because of the 90/10 split, because the government has not taken 100 per cent of the cost onto itself, then what they've done is they have raised the municipal tax burden across this province by more than $8 million - in HRM, probably about $3 million or $4 million - something that no municipal taxpayer is going to welcome.

What about one of the other major issues that people spoke of during this campaign, relief on the HST? Again, there was a very explicit promise that was made time and time and time again. HST relief would come directed to those least able to pay it on electricity, on home heating fuels, and on the cost of children's clothing. That is not what we have been

[Page 822]

offered in this budget. We have been offered a one-time, five- or six-month relief not targetted to those most in need, and only with respect to electricity.

You may recall that, at one point during Question Period, I asked the Premier why it was that he had not used other funds in order to support the HST relief that he had promised, and I cited the example of the financial subsidies, the write-off of loans to Michelin Tire. "Do your homework" he said, "if you had researched it further, you would have found that the loan wasn't to be paid back until the year 2000. We couldn't have done anything with it this year." Now we see in the budget tabled by his Minister of Finance today - and this is proper accounting - that as soon as you know that a loan is not going to be repaid, that's the year you write it off. Lo and behold, in the departmental budget, we find $14 million added to the department budget in order to write off the loan, to show it as written off. That's money that could have gone for HST relief for those who most needed it in this past fiscal year and that's what should have happened. Thank you Premier, thank you Minister of Finance, thank you Michelin. (Applause)

We have been told about priorities. What about those who are most in need? That is an example. If there had been proper consultation, if the government had been prepared to listen, they would have acted properly with respect to HST relief. They would have done better with respect to how they are directing the Child Tax Benefit, but there simply is not enough in this budget for those who are most in need.

[3:45 p.m.]

We also see in the supplementary documents that have been tabled that Nova Scotia Resources Limited, one of our now largest remaining Crown Corporations, is preparing to spend, it may even be - since it is not clear in the figures - have spent this past year on building its share of the pipeline on expenses associated with the extraction of gas on the offshore, $83.5 million, thereby putting Nova Scotia Resources Limited even further into debt, a debt that it is not able to service with the revenues that it is getting from the oil production that is already out there.

Earlier I raised the issue of whether the budget is in balance. There is a very interesting statement that appears in the Budget Address. It is as follows, on Page 17, "However, Ottawa has now put its financial house in order and, like Nova Scotia, is running a balanced budget.". Now, that is a very interesting statement. If anyone had been reading the reports . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: It is true.

MR. EPSTEIN: It isn't true. If anyone has been reading the reports of the federal Auditor General, they would know that the Auditor General, three years in a row, has criticized the federal government because the federal government's books are not balanced,

[Page 823]

they are in surplus. They are in surplus and have been for three years and my question is, where is Nova Scotia's share?

This year the federal government is $4 billion in surplus. If you simply take it on a proportion of our population, that is $120 million to our province that should either not have been paid to the federal government in various taxes arising here or should have come back to us, and it is not coming back. The efforts to negotiate with the federal government by this government in our province have not borne any fruit at all. There is no shortage of places where we could use $120 million or, indeed, any other revenues that can be garnered either by way of transfers that rightfully should come to us from Ottawa, or on our own, especially if generated through a fair tax system.

Mr. Speaker, these are preliminary comments that I have after reading the budget documents that have been tabled. I would like to continue my comments tomorrow and I move that the debate be adjourned until then. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: There is a motion for adjournment.

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 now commence with the daily routine.








[Page 824]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.


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

Whereas the 1997 Liberal budget predicted a budget surplus of $4 million; and

Whereas the provincial auditor was quick to point out that the surplus was in fact a deficit of some $11 million; and

Whereas the phoney balanced budget of 1997-98 was produced like the phoney balanced budget of 1996-97, by playing tricks with capital expenditures;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House will not be fooled by Liberal shell games and accounting tricks; (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House will not be fooled by Liberal shell games and accounting tricks approved by their private auditors, but will demand clear and honest accounting practices in keeping with the recommendations of the provincial auditor.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.


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

Whereas the Nova Scotia sporting community lost one of its pioneers this week with the passing of long-time Kentville resident Eddie Gillis; and

Whereas Eddie Gillis coached the Kentville Junior Cardinals Baseball Team who, in 1962 nd 1963, made very strong showings at the Canadian Junior Men's Baseball Championships; and

[Page 825]

Whereas Eddie Gillis' baseball knowledge served him exceptionally well as he went on to become a major league baseball scout with both the Milwaukee Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals before being elected to the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame at the inaugural dinner in September 1980;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House of Assembly remember and reflect upon the efforts of the late Eddie Gillis, and the joy and the prestige he brought to Nova Scotia's sporting community and, in particular, the sport of baseball.

I request waiver of notice, Mr. Speaker.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.


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

Whereas the NDP Finance Critic and would-be Deputy Premier is quoted in The Chronicle-Herald of November 15th as stating that he is not worried that his stance against the coal mining industry will turn off Nova Scotians, especially Cape Bretoners; and

Whereas the honourable member stated every coal miner knows that it is not healthy or safe to mine coal, as coal miners lose their lives as we saw in disasters like Westray or as we have seen for 200 years in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the would-be NDP Minister of Education further stated that an NDP Government would use alternatives to create a better, safer fuel industry and generate more jobs than coal mining does;

[Page 826]

Therefore be it resolved that this public expression of NDP socialist policy, as regards coal mining, scarcely squares with the posturing claims of the two NDP members from Cape Breton, who seek to persuade us that the NDP stands for the expansion of the Cape Breton coal industry via a three-mine operation.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.


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

Whereas tourism has been identified as a vital growth industry in this province; and

Whereas Nova Scotia is best symbolized by the Bluenose II and by a number of prominent lighthouses along our coastline; and

Whereas the Toronto-based Canadian Tourism Commission paid $200,000 for a televised commercial that promotes Atlantic Canada by using the Portland Head lighthouse in Maine, U.S.A.;

Therefore be it resolved that this government and its tourism officials take steps immediately to send the appropriate footage of our noteworthy Nova Scotian lighthouses to the Canadian Tourism Commission for use in its advertising campaign.

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.

[Page 827]


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

Whereas the Canadian Tourism Association paid $200,000 for a television commercial that promotes Portland Head lighthouse in Maine, in the United States; and

Whereas the use of an American lighthouse to depict Atlantic Canadian vacation destinations is a clear indication that many firms involved in the tourism promotion industry do not appreciate or understand Atlantic Canada; and

Whereas the growth potential for tourism is directly related to effective advertising;

Therefore be it resolved that the Department of Economic Development and Tourism take steps to ensure that firms retained to promote tourism in Nova Scotia have a demonstrated knowledge of geography and the tourist attractions of this province.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth South.


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

Whereas the Dartmouth All-City Senior Concert Band, coordinated by Chris Rozenrolle and Terry Hill, took the highest marks of all groups in their category participating in the Heritage Music Festival in Boston the weekend after Easter; and

Whereas this band consists of 60 students from Dartmouth and Prince Andrew High; and

[Page 828]

Whereas the band has achieved very high standards and was praised lavishly by the adjudicator at the festival;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Dartmouth All-City Senior Concert Band for its achievements.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.


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

Whereas prior to the election, the New Democratic Party published literature claiming that their Leader offered, strong leadership for a new direction, and that as a priority they would make government open, honest and accountable; and

Whereas the NDP pamphlet, Priorities for People, claimed that the NDP would clean up government, that an NDP Government would open up the procedures of the Judicial Council and would appoint an Ethics Commissioner in addition to their much vaunted promise of a Commissar of Jobs; and

Whereas the NDP Leader since the election has a record of cover-up, equivocation, waffling and Pontius Pilate-like hands-washing, in stark contrast with these convenient pre-election posturings;

Therefore be it resolved that the socialist New Democratic Party be reminded of the old saying, what you do speaks so loud, I can't hear what you say.

[Page 829]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's.


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

Whereas the Mayor of Halifax is fighting the federal Liberal Government on behalf of the Halifax International Airport; and

Whereas the Premier of Nova Scotia is not; and

Whereas this is no surprise when reflecting on the Premier's 18 years in Ottawa;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier appoint the Mayor of Halifax to represent all of our interests in Ottawa.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

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 in the June 3rd late debate mentioned his frustrations with bureaucrats in Ottawa who do not know the difference between a cod and a trout; and

Whereas it is important to assist these federal officials in knowing the difference; and

Whereas a photo is worth a thousand words and much easier for those officials to grasp;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Labour, with the assistance of the Minister of Fisheries, send the appropriate photos to Ottawa immediately to assist these federal officials for a greater understanding of Cape Breton and all of Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Inverness.

[Page 830]

MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to recognize the gentleman in gallery, Mr. John MacIsaac, our IDA Director from Inverness. I would like to show him our usual welcome. Thank you. (Applause)

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


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

Whereas the federal Liberal Government has dropped the requirement that Canadians crew seismic vessels operating off our coast; and

Whereas this summer will be even busier than usual for seismic vessels as five companies have applied to conduct seismic work off Nova Scotia this year; and

Whereas one business agent for the offshore has a data bank of 2,000 experienced Nova Scotians and Canadians looking for jobs in the offshore;

Therefore be it resolved that this Liberal Government be condemned for once again failing to represent Nova Scotia's interests to their federal Liberal cousins which once again has resulted in hundreds of Nova Scotians and Canadians being shut out of what were once our offshore jobs.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.


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

Whereas physical exercise and camaraderie must remain an important part of the health of our aging population; and

Whereas old-timers' hockey meets those stated expectations and more, particularly for hockey stars from the past, of which I am included; and

Whereas a laugh in the dressing room after the game can produce better punch lines than television could ever deliver;

[Page 831]

Therefore be it resolved that this House offer its congratulations to Hammonds Plains resident and old-timer hockey star, Reg Kelly, this year's winner for the Richard Doubleday Award as the player in the St. Margaret's Hockey League who best typifies the spirit of old-timers' hockey.

[4:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I 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.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.


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

Whereas provincial policies and legislation are committed to guaranteeing people access to emergency services within a minimum length of time regardless of where they live; and

Whereas the rates of death and disability in rural areas are higher than those for similar degrees of illness and injury experienced by people in urban areas; and

Whereas ambulance service providers for the Musquodoboit Valley admit that due to distance, location, inclement weather and road conditions response times are rarely, if ever, at the minimum;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health, who has general supervision and management of the Emergency Services Act, immediately authorize the stationing of an ambulance at the Musquodoboit Valley Memorial Hospital as recommended.

[Page 832]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou West.


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

Whereas the 1997 Liberal budget promised to spend more money to get doctors into parts of Nova Scotia where they are needed; and

Whereas whatever additional money was spent hasn't solved the problem because many areas of this province are still without adequate physician services; and

Whereas this shows clearly that the problem of physician supply is not something that can be solved simply by throwing money at it;

Therefore be it resolved that this House demands a clear plan from the government to solve the physician supply problem, not just a repetition of vague promises.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage on an introduction.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I just want to draw your attention to the gallery opposite me. There are some legal scholars, graduates of Osgoode Hall Law School and their partners who are here: Mr. Kim Davidson and his wife, Lorre; and Cam Hutchison and Darlene Goddard. If they could just rise and we could give them a bit of applause. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland North.


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

Whereas Voluntary Planning in 1991 moved forward a significant economic strategy for Nova Scotia in its paper, Creating Our Own Future; and

[Page 833]

Whereas instead of moving ahead with the plan, the Liberal Government has ignored the insights of Voluntary Planning in favour of a 30-60-90 process and done the province a great disservice; and

Whereas a significant plank in the Voluntary Planning report signalled the economic impact that a lack of basic literacy and numeracy skills has on a person's future as well as the province's workforce;

Therefore be it resolved that this government revert to the advice of an effective economic strategy and advisory body and ensure that this budget adequately address adult literacy so those adult Nova Scotians looking to upgrade their basic educational skills to find jobs have open to them the opportunity to seek and sustain them.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.


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

Whereas the 1997 Liberal budget promised to focus on lasting jobs for areas of high unemployment like Cape Breton; and

Whereas in the intervening 14 months, there has been no such focus on Cape Breton or any other area of high unemployment; and

Whereas the unemployment rate continues to be in the 20 per cent range in Cape Breton and in other rural and coastal areas of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House will not be fooled by a repetition of empty Liberal promises about focusing on jobs in high unemployment areas.

[Page 834]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill.


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

Whereas the Central Nova Industry Education Council is a non-profit, charitable corporation which seeks to promote mutually beneficial cooperation among industry, education, government and the private sector, thereby helping students make the transition from school to work; and

Whereas in recognition of its contributions to enhancing public education and the quality of life in Colchester-East Hants, the Conference Board of Canada awarded the Central Nova Industry Education Council and partners its prestigious National Partners in Education Award in 1997; and

Whereas the Central Nova Industry Education Council is celebrating its 10th Anniversary;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Assembly congratulate the Central Nova Industry Education Council on its 10 years of achievements and wish it continuing success in its very valuable initiatives.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

[Page 835]


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

Whereas the 1997 Liberal budget promised that new health care dollars would be invested in programs like palliative care and mental health services; and

Whereas no one knows for sure whether there were new health care dollars and if there were, where they went; and

Whereas wherever they went, they did not go into services like palliative care or mental health services which continue to be grossly inadequate;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House will not accept vague promises but will demand a clear accounting by the Minister of Health of past and proposed spending plans by his department.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.


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

Whereas residents of Meadowview have been forced to endure problems associated with the Meadowview landfill site for many years; and

Whereas property owners in Meadowview have written the Premier on several occasions asking for his personal intervention into this very serious issue; and

Whereas the Municipality of the County of Kings has agreed to provide capital funding to make necessary improvements for the community;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier immediately address the concerns of the people of Meadowview.

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

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

[Page 836]

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.


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

Whereas in the last budget this Liberal Government said that its P3 school construction scheme would mean, more schools will be built more quickly; and

Whereas that budget went on to state that seven of those schools were now in various stages of planning and construction; and

Whereas only one P3 lease has ever been signed, while P3 has led to an unending delay in the construction of critically needed schools;

Therefore be it resolved that this Liberal Government admit its P3 school construction promises, especially those made during Budget Speeches, have been broken.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou East.


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

Whereas the Sable natural gas pipeline will be going through Pictou County and the constituency of Pictou East; and

Whereas the companies in Pictou County, which represents the third largest industrial base in Nova Scotia, would substantially benefit from natural gas; and

[Page 837]

Whereas the Premier has been unable to secure funding from the federal government, as was provided to other provinces, for building laterals;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier put a position forth in his negotiations with Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline that will ensure a lateral is extended into Pictou County.

Mr. Speaker, I move waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.


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

Whereas the 1997-98 Liberal budget promised $8 million for working and retired low income Nova Scotians through the Direct Assistance Program; and

Whereas the Direct Assistance Program was designed to assist low income Nova Scotians who do not benefit from the Liberal's income tax cut; and

Whereas at the end of the first year of the program, the government had given out less than 20 per cent of its promised budget for the program;

Therefore be it resolved that this House condemn the actions of this Liberal Government for failing to honour its own budget promises and for robbing low income Nova Scotians of this much-needed financial assistance.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

It is agreed?

I here a No.

[Page 838]

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, through you and to all members of the House in the west gallery, I have the pleasure of introducing Mr. Sheldon Miller. Sheldon is the President of Mount Saint Vincent University and comes from the beautiful constituency of Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. Sheldon, please stand. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland South.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I apologize, he's the President of the Mount Saint Vincent Student Union. (Laughter)

MR. SPEAKER: Quite a promotion.

The honourable member for Cumberland South.


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

Whereas the Atlantic Police Academy in Prince Edward Island is the only recognized training facility for police officers in Atlantic Canada; and

Whereas the Atlantic Police Academy is recognized nationally as a police training centre; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Chiefs of Police Association and the Police Association of Nova Scotia have publicly supported the Atlantic Police Academy;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House encourage the government to continue to support the Atlantic Police Academy as the only recognized training centre for police officers for the Province of Nova Scotia.

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

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

[Page 839]

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.


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

Whereas Gerald Yetman has spent many years working on behalf of the people of Cape Breton; and

Whereas Gerald Yetman has continued to fight to convince Ottawa that wartime merchant navy veterans deserve the same benefits as people in regular armed services; and

Whereas the Canadian Merchant Navy Veterans Association has appointed Gerald Yetman to represent Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island on its national executive;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate long-time community activist and Victoria County Councillor Gerald Yetman on his appointment to the national executive of the Canadian Merchant Navy Veterans Association.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled. (Interruptions)

Order, please. The honourable member for Lunenburg.


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

Whereas the Town of Lunenburg was founded on June 7, 1753, by German, Swiss and French settlers seeking a better life for themselves and their descendants; and

[Page 840]

Whereas the Town of Lunenburg represents an outstanding example of architectural preservation, which has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site; and

Whereas on June 7, 1998, the Town of Lunenburg will celebrate the 245th year of its founding;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly congratulate the Town of Lunenburg and its citizens on the 245th Anniversary of its founding and the House of Assembly extends best wishes to the Town of Lunenburg for its future success.

Mr. Speaker, I request 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.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.


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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Chapter of the Red Cross has unveiled its first Emergency Response Vehicle for use in this province; and

Whereas the implementation of this Emergency Response Vehicle program has come as a result of extension partnering by the Red Cross, Lions Club of Nova Scotia, EMO and concerned private citizens; and

Whereas the Emergency Response Vehicle will be available for emergency response services to all Nova Scotians wherever and whenever it is needed;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Assembly offer their congratulations and best wishes to the Red Cross on the implementation of their Emergency Response Vehicle.

[Page 841]

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.

The honourable member for Lunenburg.


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

Whereas the ability to find humour in the day-to-day political issues of this province is a much needed relief for all Nova Scotians; and

Whereas there is a tendency among some of those in political office to become lost in their own self-importance; and

Whereas Mr. Bruce MacKinnon has received national and international recognition for his timely and witty caricatures of political issues in Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend their congratulations to Mr. MacKinnon in recognition of his stature as one of the most highly acclaimed editorial cartoonists in Canada.

[4:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice on this motion.

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.

[Page 842]

The motion is carried.

I would like to advise all members that the late debate for today was won by the member for Argyle who wishes to debate the matter:

Therefore be it resolved that this government take the time to look at the various issues which must be addressed so that the damage caused by the annual flooding in the Truro area, which was especially devastating this year, be averted so that it does not continue to aggravate the lives of the citizens of this area.

That resolution will be debated at the hour of 6:00 p.m. The time now being 4:16 p.m., we will begin Oral Question Period and we will finish at 5:16 p.m.



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


MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, through you I would like to direct a question to the Premier. This morning there were press reports that would appear on the face of it to be a betrayal of Nova Scotians and Canadians. It was announced in the press today that the federal government had changed the regulations so that those who wished to do seismic work off our coast will no longer have to employ Canadian sailors or workers on those particular vessels. My first question to the Premier. Was the Premier and/or members of his government consulted prior to that decision having been made?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, no we were not, nor do I think a lot of the members of the federal government were consulted before this. It seems to have been something that seems to have slipped through without anyone noticing it.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, it is a matter that is causing great concern. Already, today, our office has received some calls from people who have said that they had hoped to work in the offshore and they are now planning to head out to Alberta. It was a political decision obviously, because the department that had been administering that particular program and ensuring that Nova Scotians and Canadians got jobs working, looking for our gas and oil, they didn't even know it. Since it was a political decision, it is obviously going to require a political answer. My question to the Premier. What has he done or what is he planning to do to ensure that Nova Scotians get those jobs instead of those jobs being given to workers from offshore, who will be taking cheaper wages and taking our jobs with them?

[Page 843]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I don't think it was a political decision. I think it was inadvertence, quite frankly, and I think that no one really realizes the ramifications of this. It wasn't even an oil and gas decision; I think it was more or less an immigration decision. I have a call in to the minister responsible and I will be speaking to her before too long. I don't think there is any cause for anyone to worry, certainly. I think the matter is well under control for the time being by the Offshore Development Board.

We must remember that before any seismic work is done anyway, there has to be a filing of a benefits plan. That plan has to be filed with the Benefit Review Committee of the Offshore Development Board, so unless that benefits plan is approved, there can be no seismic work and there are quite a few considerations before a plan is approved.

I want to thank the honourable member for his question; it is a concern of mine as well. We are not just going to rely on the benefits plan. I am going to get to the bottom of this with the federal government, and I share his concern that something like this should be allowed to get through.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I thank the Premier for his answer and hopefully that is an indication that those who are packing their bags to leave can stay here.

The Premier led into my last question when he talked about the Canada-Nova Scotia Petroleum Board because that board, Mr. Speaker, although it is a joint board, Nova Scotia has control of that board and it does have to give the permit.

My question to the Premier is quite simply this, is the Premier prepared to tell his members, his representatives on that board, that they are not to approve any permits unless the benefit packages that are being offered will guarantee that the job components on that offshore work will be at least as good, in fact, better, than it had been under the previous regime? Will he give us that guarantee?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, you can be sure that Nova Scotia representatives on that board will have the instruction that no plan is to be approved unless the maximum employment benefits for Nova Scotians are in that plan.

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


DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I, too, wish to question the Premier. I don't share the Premier's view that this was done inadvertently. I think it is part of an ongoing tendency of the federal government simply to ignore what is going on here and not to be truly conscious of what can help or what can hurt Atlantic Canadians and, more particularly, Nova Scotians. I certainly will be among those urging the Premier to take a very strong stand. The

[Page 844]

Premier has indicated that he is going to make a phone call to the federal minister and find out exactly what is happening.

Is the minister prepared to agree with me today, because he certainly didn't agree with me yesterday when I brought up the tendency of the federal government since 1993 to ignore Atlantic Canada, having read this headline and now knowing that this action was taken without any consultation with this Premier or his government, is he now prepared to agree with me that the federal government in Ottawa is continuing to ignore the needs of Atlantic Canadians and, more particularly, Nova Scotians?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can understand the concern of the honourable Leader of the Conservative Party because this is not the sort of thing that one wants to see happen. However, at this stage, I am prepared to believe that it was inadvertence. I just can't believe that the federal government would take this kind of initiative intentionally. This would be completely callous to the needs of Nova Scotia. If subsequent information proves otherwise, then I would be prepared to state that publicly to the honourable Leader of the Conservative Party. But I think, in the interest of trying to get this matter resolved, I will, just for the time being, assume it is inadvertence.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, to continue with the Premier, it would be obvious, I believe to all in this Chamber, that this news would be equally disturbing to Premier Tobin. Would the Premier be prepared, perhaps, to coordinate a lobby from Atlantic Canadian Premiers involving, certainly, Premier Tobin, and provide a very strong lobby in Ottawa? This is absolutely inappropriate. It is an affront to the unemployed people in Nova Scotia who are looking to get these offshore jobs. We are providing an opportunity with these new contracts for great employment out there beyond the 12-mile limit. Would the Premier give some consideration to coordinating his efforts with Premier Tobin and others?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I called the minister responsible this morning. She was in a Cabinet meeting, but I was given the assurance that she would call me as soon as she possibly could and I am expecting to talk to her very shortly. I think that, as I said to the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid, that because of the benefit plan that has to be filed before the Benefits Review Committee, that I am prepared to make sure that unless the Benefits Plan has maximum employment benefits for Nova Scotia, that we not approve it as Nova Scotia representatives on that committee. To do otherwise would be a travesty and I could give the Leader of the Conservative Party my assurance that I am every bit as concerned about this as he is or the member for Sackville-Cobequid is.

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

[Page 845]


MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is to the Minister of Justice. The Minister of Justice, I hope, is aware that his staff in the Department of Justice is proposing a new police training centre. I believe it is for the Truro area. It is to rival the Atlantic Police Academy in P.E.I., which is currently being used by the Nova Scotia police departments. I also note that in the documents tabled by the Minister of Finance today, under the Business Plan for Government, Page 85, that the government is also talking about marketing police training to other jurisdictions.

My question is, can the Minister of Justice tell us why his department has moved forward with this plan and whether or not a study has been conducted to confirm the need for such a school?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the contract for the Atlantic Police Academy was kept as per the provinces involved. The emphasis has been, during a Phase I development of a program in the Halifax Regional Municipality, for the training of police for various reasons. The next phase of that is looking at a program development possibly within the community college system and, as the honourable member has said, within Truro. There have been studies and evaluations of that ongoing. I don't have them to table here with me, obviously, today but those types of information are being gathered. The numbers going to the Atlantic Police Academy had dropped dramatically and the initiative and also the types of program development in this area are more conducive to the type of person who is being recruited for training.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I understand where the Minister of Justice is coming from but that flies in the face of a lot of the concerns raised, first of all, by the Nova Scotia Police Chiefs Association. They have rejected this Nova Scotia training school not once but twice. Also, we have both the New Brunswick and the Prince Edward Island Governments continuing to endorse the Atlantic Police Academy. We have Newfoundland using it. We have the RCMP using it and we also have the OPP, the Ontario Provincial Police, using the college as a of source of cadets. So given the overwhelming rejection of the department's proposal of the Truro school and the endorsement of the Atlantic Police Academy, why does the minister continue to pursue this sort of fiefdom - building proposal?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, initially, the police academy was supported by all four provinces. Much of that support has been withdrawn and the numbers have dwindled dramatically that have gone from this particular area. Some of the statements made by the honourable member are not quite fully correct. While spokespersons for the police association or the police chiefs have been indicating full support of the policy academy, I think the options are open. I think we are looking at a type of program here within the province that would best suit the needs of the graduates of the province, the special needs of the urban community. There are also initiatives, groups coming, some of them are international. So they

[Page 846]

are looking for spots and it is the opinion of the department to have a program that is more local and better suited to the needs of Nova Scotians.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my concern with this whole answer to the question is twofold. First of all, we haven't seen any plan or any study from the Department of Justice to back up what the minister is saying here in the House with the dwindling number of cadets and the need for this kind of institution. Secondly, we have a place in P.E.I. that has been used by all the provinces in the Maritimes and has the infrastructure in place.

My question to the Minister of Justice is, when will the Minister of Justice seek advice from Justice experts who have the knowledge that will ensure that he is working with other police experts in the Maritimes?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, that is exactly what we are doing here. There was a contract made for three years of funding. The program at the Atlantic Police Academy was to be self-sustainable. It is not clear, in fact, whether it is or not. I know there are people speaking and talking as if they have these contracts in place. Neither is there a clear indication that, in fact, it is sustainable. The initiatives are being taken here locally. They are being developed. There are the co-op programs. There is less hardship on those people with families, cadets who are training who don't have to move out of province. There is an initiative and there are experts within the Department of Justice working on that in dialogue with many other groups.

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


MR. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. No, actually it could go to the Minister of Health. I can direct it to the Minister of Health.

Hants County Hospital in Windsor, they presently have 30 acute care beds at this point. They have a need for an additional 10 to 15 beds. That would only bring them up to the average for hospital beds per thousands of people.

[4:30 p.m.]

The Minister of Health must be aware of this and I am wondering what he is doing to address this problem.

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, that is a very valid and important question. I visited that hospital, which is dear to your heart and I know you have much commitment to that institution. We learned of the needs of the medical staff, other staff and others in that community. We have been dealing with the regional board. They have a particular group that

[Page 847]

is now specifically looking at that, including a physician. I am waiting for their report to come back and then we will address those particular needs.

There is a commitment to assist the hospital in any way we can and if that involves beds, we will try to make some provision and support the regional board. It is a regional board decision and they are moving on that particular issue.

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, some time ago the Premier requested an independent study to determine whether or not additional beds were needed. That independent study indicated very clearly that 10 beds were needed and there has been no action taken. In fact, saying that it is deferred to the regional health board is not acceptable when the Premier indicated, and I have a document here that I will table, that the beds would be provided. The question is, why has no action been taken by the Minister of Health or the Premier to address this problem when a commitment was made some time ago?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, as is customary in this province, there was much pressure put on prior to an election to announce those beds. That was resisted by this provincial government because that is not the role of the provincial government. We have a regionalized health care system. The Central Regional Health Board has the authority and the power to do that. We are working with them, they are taking that very seriously. I have had discussions with them as recently as a couple of days ago on that matter. There is action being taken. Things have to be planned. I think what has to be planned particularly and what they are looking at now, is what are the types of beds that would be most appropriate for that area. So it is not a question of just opening up a bunch of beds, those types of things - that is what really has gotten us into trouble in this province before. I think they are doing it methodically and they are doing it well and they are moving in the right direction.

MR. BALSER: It is not acceptable when the Premier said that he would not let process stand in the way of addressing a problem. He gave a commitment to the people of that community that the problem would be addressed. He recognized it as a problem and gave a commitment. That is not acceptable. Why hasn't he done anything about the lack of beds in that particular hospital?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, it is all I can say that we are doing something about it. There is action taking place, there is a commitment made. These things take some planning. It is not a question of just opening up 10 or - maybe they need 15 beds, maybe they need 18. I would tend to even favour maybe 15, but it is the type of beds, the staffing patterns and the ratios of many things. It is not just a question of turning a key and opening a few beds. They are doing it, they are doing it in a methodical way. That is all I want to say. There is a commitment and the commitment will be kept.

[Page 848]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: I am sorry, I thought the Premier had come back, Mr. Speaker. I will have to wait for my question.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland South.



MR. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, through you, my question is for the Minister of Justice. Truly the Minister of Justice demonstrates his inability in administering justice in the Province of Nova Scotia. Daily the Minister of Justice and Health shows that he fails to appreciate the importance of safety in our communities, whether it be the operation of the Public Prosecution Service, the training of police officers or dealing fairly with correctional officers. He has shown a total lack of understanding for this department. The Minister of Justice demonstrates he is struggling in Health and he is drowning in Justice.

My question to the minister is this, once this program is started in Nova Scotia, will you guarantee that the graduates of the Atlantic Police Academy who may choose to take that training rather than come back here to Nova Scotia, will you guarantee that training will be accredited and accepted here in this province to enable them to get jobs?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, there is quite a bit of interference. I think he said that those training at the Atlantic Police Academy would be able to return to Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: Perhaps I could ask the member to repeat the question.

MR. SCOTT: I am sorry about that.

MR. SPEAKER: No, it is not your fault. It is the noise.

The honourable member for Cumberland South, you have the floor.

MR. SCOTT: My question is, will the Province of Nova Scotia continue to accept graduates of the Atlantic Police Academy when they apply for jobs as police officers in this province?

DR. SMITH: I see no problem with that. I do not want to make any long-term commitments because things change. I know that there was an assessment of that particular Atlantic Police Academy that found the program wanting and that was the problem. Now, we have been guaranteed, or I have had conversations with people who have indicated that the program has in fact improved. They did admit that it was very deficient and there was not

[Page 849]

value for money there. The recruits going there were dropping off, quite simply because the program was not good. If the standards are maintained and they meet the qualifications as outlined by the particular municipal units, and those are the choices of the municipal units. It is a municipal responsibility in this province and we will honour that. It is our job as Department of Justice to ensure that our standards are maintained. If in fact the graduates are of that standard, then I am sure they will acceptable.

MR. SCOTT: Again to the Minister of Justice. This province has ruined the Nova Scotia Teachers College and we will not stand by and let this Atlantic Police Academy be ruined as that was. Can the Minister tell us today if this training program he is going to implement will be acceptable outside this province, anywhere else in this country.

DR. SMITH: Although we are not directly doing that, we are doing it in conjunction with the municipal units that there will be standards maintained and that would be the ideal of the program. I think it is just a simple, yes. There would be no sense setting up a program that would not meet standards. You need the flexibility within the programs and that is probably what is lacking right now.

MR. SCOTT: To the Minister of Justice, you stated today that you have done an analysis and study with regard to police training in this province. I would like to know what day and what date you will table that study.

DR. SMITH: I did not say there was a particular study that was a specific study. There is a Phase One of a program and they are moving into Phase Two. I can inform the member as much information as I have available and there is a whole policing White Paper out there. I imagine the honourable member had some input on that because it has been widely distributed and widely responded to. We are moving through a further consultation process on that. There are many issues surrounding this particular program that would impact on this particular program. I will make available in a summary of the steps that have been taken in a forthright manner that the person could probably understand.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth South.



MR. DONALD CHARD: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is to the Minister of the Environment. In light of the very considerable concern of residents of the area north of Cape Breton Highlands National Park at the intent of the province in proposing to set aside the Polletts Cove-Aspy Bay area as a protected area, will the minister assure the residents, among whom there still seems to be some confusion, that their traditional activities in this area will be respected and allowed to continue?

[Page 850]

HON. DONALD DOWNE: I want to thank my colleague opposite for a very important question with regard to the concerns of the people in that area. I can assure the House, and I would like to table to the House a letter that I had presented and sent to the people of northern Inverness and Victoria Counties that talked very clearly that under the proposed Wilderness Area Act that provisions for existing activities are in fact brought into the legislation.

For example, Mr. Speaker, number one, what we are doing is not making it a larger park. We are not talking about combining it with the national park, it is a separate operation altogether. Programs such as hunting and fishing and trapping are going to be a part of that process. We are going to develop management plans that allow for certain activities to continue. So I really appreciate the comment and, yes, I can give my commitment to continue to work with the community to make sure that they feel comfortable with the fact that this very important initiative and this Wilderness Act provision really is an important initiative for the province and that they will have rights to be able to go forward with.

MR. CHARD: The honourable minister must be a little bit psychic today because, indeed, he has, in part, anticipated my first supplementary. Perhaps he could reply very directly to this. My question was, indeed, could he reassure the residents that the proposal to set aside this area will not lead to the area being made part of Cape Breton Highlands National Park?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I can say, very clearly, to this House, there is absolutely no intention on behalf of this province to have that particular area roll into a provincial park. I can say, categorically, that in the conversations that have been made with the federal government, I don't understand that they are proposing to make any changes, as well. I think it is a very important question that the member opposite, my colleague opposite has brought forward, because that is at the heart of the issue of the concern of the people in that area.

In 1932, when that national park was brought in, it was brought in in a way that created a lot of frustration and a lot of anxiety for the people. So we want to make it very clear that we have absolutely no intention to have this wilderness area brought into a park or brought in or added to the national park and would not support that concept anyway.

MR. CHARD: Finally, Mr. Speaker, I would ask if the minister could make a commitment that in the preparation of a management plan for this area, that he will endeavour to see that the people who are conducting the planning process will be perceived as reasonably independent people and not reflect a particular bias or point of view on this matter, so that the residents will feel that they are working with people who are independent, to a large degree, of the department?

[Page 851]

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, if I interpret the question accurately, the team that will be developing the management plan in consultation with Nova Scotians, in fact, would be reflective of Nova Scotians and not reflective of the department staff in total. I would assume, that the make-up of that committee would be a make-up of committee and I would go as far as to suggest if the member opposite has some names to recommend to our department in developing those management plans - if they have an individual they feel would be a good reflection of that - I would be very open to that, both that of the New Democratic Party and that of the Conservative Party.

I might say that this initiative that was brought forward, in fact, started with my colleague in the Conservative Party, the honourable John Leefe. He started that process back, I believe, in 1992. So this issue goes beyond the political sphere. It goes on to providing an opportunity for Nova Scotia's future. I would concur with the member's suggestion and would want to work very closely with all Parties in making sure the make-up is reasonable and fair.

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



MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Transportation. As you know, the federal government, through the Marine Act, has abdicated its responsibility for the funding of port initiatives. We have seen that, recently, the president of the Port Corporation has said that it is beyond the capacity of that corporation to finance these initiatives.

Can the minister tell the House what portion of the $300 million super-port price tag the government will either provide directly or guarantee?

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: What we certainly plan to do on that, we want to support the port and, certainly, we want to try to get as much funds as we possibly can. We go through Economic Development and Tourism and we will work with them to try to supply the extra funds that we need for the port.

[4:45 p.m.]

MR. DEXTER: Can the minister tell the House whether or not he is considering a private partner for the port initiative?

MR. HUSKILSON: We would certainly look at a private partner also. We would like to develop this and certainly we think it is a good idea.

[Page 852]

MR. DEXTER: Can the minister tell the House whether or not, in fact, the request for proposals that was delivered to the Halifax Ports Corporation has been distributed to potential bidders so that they might make a proposal?

MR. HUSKILSON: I know there are several proposals but, I am sorry, I cannot tell you at this time just who they have been given to or what, but I can certainly take that under advisement and get back to you on that.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.


MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. In this morning's paper we all saw the headlines, and I know you have been on the telephone talking to your counterparts in Ottawa about the federal government slamming the offshore job door. We are all very concerned about that.

This morning we met with some representatives of the union workforce in Nova Scotia. . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Some of your brothers.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Some of my brothers. We met with the union workforce representatives and they were very concerned as well, even before this terrible headline and this awful news from Ottawa came down. They were very concerned because, up until now, they don't feel they have been getting their fair share of jobs. So the workers in Nova Scotia are feeling very abandoned during this offshore oil and gas exploration.

Another group I have met with on several occasions is the union of municipalities representatives. We met with about 19 different boards. They are currently conducting information meetings . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Will the honourable member put his question, please?

MR. ARCHIBALD: I will, quickly. I wonder, Mr. Premier, will the government take a leadership role and begin working with the municipalities in explaining the advantages and the routes of natural gas in Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we would be pleased to work with the municipalities and help where we can.

[Page 853]

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, the Premier isn't really in the driver's seat with his feds slamming the door on job opportunities for Nova Scotians, but the Premier is in the driver's seat when it comes to Nova Scotia. Up until this point, the Government of Nova Scotia has done nothing but throw hindrances in the way of municipal units taking advantage of natural gas; for instance, the $50,000 payment or the $250,000 payment to the URB for a request for a license to sell or transport natural gas.

Now, would the Premier agree that this is an exorbitant charge, and will the Premier agree to ask the URB to lower the fee and make it more reasonable, so that the small municipalities can take advantage of natural gas in Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I have given the honourable member and this House my assurance in the past that no municipality will be precluded from making a presentation to the Utilities and Review Board just because they can't afford to pay the application fee.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Well, Mr. Speaker, that is very kind of the Premier to say that. I am not sure if the URB knows that, because the municipalities have not learned that yet.

Will the Premier indicate that he will assign people from his department to help work with the municipalities so that they can get a leg-up, because the municipalities feel abandoned in the natural gas industry in Nova Scotia. They are searching for ideas at the present time. All of the things they are doing have been at their own expense. They have travelled out West; they have brought experts here. Would the Premier indicate now, that his government will begin to take a role and work with the municipalities?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we will not only begin, but we will continue to work with the municipalities. The vulnerability of the municipalities - like a lot of us - comes from the fact that this is new for Nova Scotia, and a lot of groups have to find out exactly how they are to proceed with what they want to do. What we are going to do and will continue to do is to give them the assistance we can.

One of the reasons that we are allowing some time before the hearings even begin is to allow the municipalities to get the information they can to decide themselves how it is they want to proceed. I think it is vital that they know the situation, the circumstances and procedures, before they are faced with the necessity of having to make an application. In that period of time we will help them any way we can. (Applause)

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


MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. I want to assure members opposite that I do

[Page 854]

not spend my hours reading old Speeches from the Throne, but I happened to peruse the November 20, 1997 Speech from the Throne of the previous government, of which you were a member, Mr. Minister. In that Speech from the Throne it says, ". . .new funds for secondary roads in this fiscal year and increased dollars yet again in the next . . .." year, that was in November 1997. Yet this Speech from the Throne doesn't even mention the word, roads. I was wondering if the minister could explain to the House that obvious dichotomy?

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question. I wish to advise the honourable member we will have a chance to debate the Budget Estimates and I am sure we can come up with some conclusion as we are doing that.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I have sat in this House many times and I have stood on many occasions to introduce petitions. I know that some of my other learned colleagues from all Parties introduce petitions requesting attention to various rural roads for upgrading, for paving, for various requests. I am wondering if the minister - and I know that he was paying attention to those petitions - could inform the House what steps he intends to take to make secondary roads a higher priority in future road construction in this province?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the honourable member that I am from a rural area also and I know that we certainly want to do more work on the rural roads. I will certainly do whatever I can, as minister, to do as much work in the rural areas all across Nova Scotia, not just in one area, but all across Nova Scotia. (Applause)

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the minister that we will be keeping a close eye on whether those road constructions are in particular constituencies. However, let's get on to my final supplementary. Many times I have heard that federal cousins and federal transfers aren't quite up to scratch, federal transfers that are basically not helping this province. I am aware of the fact when it came to the ports question and various other initiatives which the Minister of Transportation and Public Works must undertake, I am wondering what steps he is prepared to take to go to Ottawa, not lick another stamp and make sure that we get proper assistance when it comes to roads in this province?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, I want to assure the member across the way that we have the HIP agreement, the SHIP agreement and we have AFTA. Certainly, I am pushing very hard for those agreements to get as much money as possible from our federal cousins.

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



MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is also for the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. It again has to do with the super-port and with the post-

[Page 855]

Panamax proposals. I want to ask the minister can he tell the House, whether or not he has had an opportunity to review the request for proposals that has been forwarded, and whether or not an analysis of that document has led him to a conclusion about whether or not the most advantageous position for Halifax or for any port in this province would be through a private consortium, through a port authority, or through a public-private partnership?

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Thank you for that question. We're going to look at the most effective proposal, and right now we'll look at all proposals. We want to be fair and even across the board, whichever area might get this new Panamax line.

MR. DEXTER: The minister repeats his position that he wants to be fair and even with all bidders. I wonder if he could tell the House if, in fact, he has ensured that all of the bidders are being dealt with on an even footing by actually receiving documentation, such as the request for proposals that have not yet been circulated or made available to some of the private companies, as we have seen in some of the news reports.

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, as I said, we certainly want to be very fair right across the board. We want to see that all the players here and all the different areas have a chance to be treated on an even playing field and that they're all treated equally.

MR. DEXTER: Perhaps I will be a little bit more specific about this because on June 2nd, when I rose in this House to ask a question of the Minister of Transportation, I asked him whether or not he had met with the Halifax Port Authority. He indicated at that time he had. I wonder if he can tell us whether or not he has also had an opportunity to meet with and review the proposal of the Strait of Canso Superport?

MR. HUSKILSON: No, at this time, I have not.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou East.



MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, my question is also directed to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. It's your day today. Complaints about our roads are nothing new to this minister. I am sure, the present Liberal Government is allowing the highway infrastructure of this province to go the way of the dinosaur. In Pictou East, I can take you to them. The roads are a mess and a number of them are simply too dangerous to navigate. Shoulders have to be rebuilt, crater-size potholes have yet to be filled, and sections of the roads have to be repaved. Emergency repairs have to be made immediately.

[Page 856]

Will the minister provide for me today, assurances that Pictou East will be treated fairly and equitably as capital budgets are firmed up for each constituency in coming days so that some essential and critical highway work can begin in Pictou East?

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: To the honourable member across the way, I certainly want to assure him, as I said before, that we are going to treat all areas of the Province of Nova Scotia fairly. We have a formula, as I explained it last night in the House in late debate, on just how these roads do get the work done. It's done on a priority basis, a volume basis and the engineers' reports. I assure the member across the way that we will certainly look at his roads as well as everyone else's in Nova Scotia.

MR. DEWOLFE: To the Minister of Transportation again, the residents, as well as businesses in Pictou East are totally dependent on our highway infrastructure as their only means of transportation and getting their goods to market. Yet despite this, many find themselves land-locked and isolated because roads are impassable. Will the minister table for me, prior to the House closing this afternoon, a secondary road maintenance plan that outlines the details of work to be undertaken in Pictou East during this road construction season?

MR. HUSKILSON: I can say to the honourable member across the way that I will certainly get in touch with staff immediately and if that is prepared, I will table that. If not, I will see that you get it at the earliest convenience.

[5:00 p.m.]

MR. DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, again to the Minister of Transportation, having reviewed the budget that was tabled today, I see that $36 million has been cut from the Department of Transportation and Public Works capital budget estimates. This is a grave concern of mine. This tells me that the roads will further deteriorate in my district and in other constituencies.

Will the minister confirm, today, that Nova Scotians, including my constituents in Pictou East, will get the necessary road work this summer that is required for safe passage of traffic on roads and highways that are now in an absolute state of despair?

MR. HUSKILSON: To the honourable member, safety is always our utmost concern in the Department of Public Works and Transportation. I would like to advise the honourable member across that the public and the people of Nova Scotia have said that health care and education are our priorities but I will tell the honourable member that I will keep speaking with our federal cousins, as they say, to work for more monies through the HIP Agreement, the SHIP Agreement and the AFTA so that there will be money to be spent on the roads of Nova Scotia.

[Page 857]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.



MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education and Culture. Members who have been in this House for some time can attest to the continuing interest of the member for Sackville-Cobequid and other New Democrats in the situation with private trade school regulation and legislation.

Mr. Speaker, the minister made a commitment last year during Budget Estimates to get on with the job of cleaning up and tightening up the Private Trade School Act for Nova Scotia and only last week, or the week before, a senior government official told me that they were in the process of doing that. My question to the Minister of Education is, when can Nova Scotians expect this new Act? Can we expect it soon? Can we expect it in this sitting?

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, it is our intention to bring forth legislation this fall that will, in fact, bring us up to the full commitment that was made by this government to respect the wishes of the Auditor General in terms of the Private Trade School Act and we are in the process of meeting with those stakeholders at this point in time through consultation to build the right Act for Nova Scotia.

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I hope, although I doubt, that the fall would be soon enough for the students at the Career Academy of Aviation. That is a school that has been under ownership by one person since 1995. There is a current class of 128 students. In three years only six students have succeeded in graduating and only two of those on time. So these students pay over $40,000 . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MS. O'CONNELL: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I am coming right to it. They pay over $40,000 in tuition. They have grave concerns. So my question to the minister is, when this Act comes out, will the minister assure the House that when it comes out, the concerns that have been raised over and over again, including enough staff, monitoring that is not simply complaint- driven, acceptable standards and all those things will be included in that new Act to save students in these schools problems and difficulties?

MR. HARRISON: Without any doubt, Mr. Speaker, all of those things will be included.

[Page 858]

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, well, I wait to be assured until I see it. Recently- released student loan delinquency rates show some private trade schools are saddling Nova Scotia youth with unmanageable debt loads. How will the new Act address the fact that student loan delinquency rates are substantially higher for private schools than for public institutions?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite rises in this House, maligns a school, a private trade school, is not in touch with the consultation that is going on. I would like to table in this House the Report of Private Trade School Consultations, May 1998. I would like to table in response to her questions, the response to the Auditor General's Report in terms of the business plan of the department.

I want to assure her that we are working with the industry to make sure that we have a vibrant private education industry in this province and that we do so with a regulatory responsibility for those who consume those services, Mr. Speaker. Before she maligns any other private trade schools, she should now know that there are 23 instructors, 19 flyable aircraft and that the school is meeting all of the Department of Transportation federal standards, CASA.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.



MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Premier. I want to ask, is the Premier aware of the Meadowview Homeowners Association's request for compensation from the Government of Nova Scotia because of the fact that the landfill site has been in their neighbourhood for the past 100 years or so?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I don't have the absolute details. I am aware that there is a concern, but I have not had an opportunity to speak with them.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Is the Premier aware that there has been notification that a lawsuit will be filed by the homeowners association against the province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, if this matter is before the courts, it is very difficult for me to comment on it.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, there was just a notice that it would be filed; it hasn't been done as yet.

[Page 859]

In the interest of good neighbourliness and humanity, is the Premier willing to go and visit the homeowners association in Meadowview to discuss with them, so he can learn first-hand the difficulties of living in such close proximity to the Kings County municipal landfill site?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would certainly be pleased to discuss this matter with the Minister of the Environment and to get back to the honourable member at a later time.

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


MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct a question through you to the Premier. This, of course, being Budget Day, the government is always interested in trying to find ways to save money and, certainly, reasonable ways we would support. Now the Premier, I am sure, would know that some astute and some just casual political observers might suggest that there is a reasonable possibility that another provincial election could happen within the next couple of years. We just spent approximately $1 million on enumerations when there is a permanent voters' list that is being maintained by the federal government. This money could have been better spent.

My question to the Premier is, are you, or is your government, prepared to introduce, or plan to introduce amendments to the Elections Act so that we will be able to use the permanent voters' list and thereby save taxpayers of Nova Scotia some badly needed money?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I agree with the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid on the desirability of a permanent voters' list. Certainly it is something that I think that we have to get to in this province, sooner rather than later.

MR. HOLM: Sooner rather than later; in the fullness of time. These phrases have a familiar ring to them which means, unfortunately, very often, that we will get to it maybe in the next or after the next election or whatever. Now traditionally, of course, the appointing of enumerators has been a way the political Parties have found, with public taxpayers' dollars, to pay their political workers.

Mr. Speaker, I am asking the Premier. If the Premier agrees that this is a good idea, then we should get to it; it is not all that complicated. Will the Premier make a commitment that a request for that legislation, to have it drafted, will be sent to the Legislative Counsel so that it can, in fact, be introduced in this House this spring?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can say to the honourable member that he makes a very good point. While I can't comment on when legislation will come forward, I can say that he makes a good point. I am in agreement with the point he makes and we will be letting him

[Page 860]

know before too long. Believe me, this is not in a way of trying to put off an answer, but I don't know where matters stand as far as the availability of legislation is concerned, so I can't give him an answer, but I will take his point and hopefully will have something before too long.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, the Premier's colleagues will know that last spring, just before we were going to adjourn, we had a request from the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities asking if we would amend the municipal legislation that would enable them to be able to use that federal voters' list and save property taxpayers some money.

Mr. Speaker, my question is simply this. Why is it that saving provincial taxpayers' dollars is not as important for the Liberal Government as it was for the municipalities to save their taxpayers' tax dollars?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member makes a good point that the proposal he suggests would save money. We are as interested as he is in saving the taxpayers of Nova Scotia money and we will be proceeding and getting back to him before too long.

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


MR. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, my constituency, as well as that of the two neighbouring ones, suffered from severe flooding this winter. There was tremendous damage to commercial and residential property and communication links were also severed. At one time during the campaign, the Premier and the Liberal candidate did tour the area to show their concern. Assuming that their concern was indeed genuine, I would like to put the question to the Premier, what action has he directed the Department of the Environment to take to remedy this situation?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I did look at the area. I think that the Minister of the Environment is not here. Perhaps we could bring that question up again or somebody else could do it. The people who were deemed to have suffered as a result of this were compensated in conjunction with the Municipality of Truro.

MR. MUIR: I am not so sure, Mr. Speaker, what that compensation was. The Red Cross gave a little bit of money back, but I don't think the province, nor the municipality, did anything, Mr. Premier. Let me ask a more direct question. Would you be prepared to instruct the Minister of the Environment to, within 30 days, call a meeting of municipal officials and let's get to work on that problem, develop a plan of action to address that extremely serious problem which affects my constituency, Mr. Taylor's constituency and the honourable member for Colchester North's constituency?

[Page 861]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can't give that undertaking because the matter may very well have been looked after. I will take it upon myself to find out and to let the honourable member know.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, will the Premier, as part of his investigation, ask the Minister of the Environment, or whoever does the negotiations with the federal government, to ascertain what federal funding may be available to help the residents of my constituency and that of the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley and that of the beautiful constituency of Colchester North to get over this horrendous problem with occurs annually? If they can build the Confederation Bridge across Northumberland Strait, surely to goodness they can make a bridge that can be open 365 days that joins Truro and Bible Hill.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we inquired at the time about federal assistance, but the total of damage did not reach $1 million, which I think is the limit at which the federal government locks in with assistance. So they would not be a participant in any solution, unfortunately.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Yarmouth.



MR. JOHN DEVEAU: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is for the Minister of Fisheries. In 1989, the EA Agreement, the Enterprise Allocation, was signed in good faith between the Scallop Fishers Company and the people of Canada. Since the signing and finalizing of this agreement to date, over 700 scallop fishers have lost their jobs and over 50 scallop draggers have been decommissioned. The intent of this agreement was to secure the future of the scallop fishery and scallop fishers.

My question to the minister is, will the Minister of Fisheries recognize that, as a result of such great job loss in the scallop fishery since the signing of this EA Agreement, that, indeed, there has been a violation of this agreement?

HON. KEITH COLWELL: I would like to thank the honourable member for his question. There has been a tremendous downturn in the scallop fishery. It went from about 67 vessels to less than 25 under the EA Program. That is one of the dangers of the EA program where large companies could take advantage of the smaller companies and buy up the enterprise allocation. As a result of that there is usually a loss of jobs. I think it was a poorly thought-out plan at the time. It was in the mid-1980's when that happened. Our department now is opposed to the EA program unless it is tied to a community.

[Page 862]

[5:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Yarmouth.

Your first supplementary. Make it short.You only have a few seconds remaining.

MR. JOHN DEVEAU: My question then. Will the Minister of Fisheries demand that the federal government establish an independent inquiry to review whether the EA document was being applied within the terms of the program?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Fisheries, a quick response.

MR. COLWELL: Again, thank you for the question. We have already requested an independent review to DFO and their response to the request was an internal review which we are totally not satisfied with. Thank you.

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

We did 16 questions, incidentally, today.

The honourable Premier.

THE PREMIER: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

I would ask if we may revert to the order of business, ministerial statements for a few minutes.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is in relation to questions that the Leader of the Conservative Party and the member for Sackville-Cobequid asked at the beginning of Question Period concerning working on the seismic vessels. I had an opportunity to speak to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration who is the person seized with this problem right now because it relates to an immigration question.

[Page 863]

Under the Immigration Act which deals with authorizations for work within the 12-mile limit and the Oceans Act which relates to work authorized outside the 12-mile limit but up to the 200-mile limit, vessels that are neither installed nor anchored have to get authorization for the workers on those particular vessels. However, vessels that are installed or anchored do not, according to those two Acts.

Newfoundland has been interpreting that that way. Seismic vessels which are continually in motion have not had to get approval of the people that are working on those vessels. Nova Scotia, on the other hand, always required seismic vessels to get authorization, so we have been stricter than Newfoundland in that regard.

One of the companies that was doing seismic work off Newfoundland then came to Nova Scotia to do similar work and was faced with this additional requirement, appealed to the Department of Citizenship and Immigration. The department ruled against us and said that Newfoundland's practices were right, that seismic vessels because they are neither installed, anchored nor an island do not have to get approval on who they employ on those vessels.

We have already been in contact with the minister's office. She acknowledged that, saying that we will continuously and hereforth still require that authorization, that our request requirements under the Offshore Development Board, our business and the plan, will require that authorization. She is now in contact with Natural Resources and External Affairs and she said that she will have something further for us next week on that.

I will tell you, in the meantime we will continue to require on our plan that we have the assurance that Nova Scotians are getting the work on those seismic vessels.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to respond to the Premier's ministerial statement. The information that I received actually just before I rose to ask the question suggested to me that in fact that may have been what happened. We do have, under the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board some considerable powers to ensure that we do protect Nova Scotian workers.

On the offshore development so far, we haven't been overly complimentary of the government on what we have gotten for royalties and we haven't been overly complimentary of the government in terms of what we got in the way of gas commitments. The one thing that we are holding out for and are extremely optimistic or counting on are Nova Scotians getting jobs. So I say with the greatest respect, through you to the Premier, it is not only going to be a matter of what the federal minister decides they are going to do or not do, or what Newfoundland is prepared to do. We control, in effect, the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board. The way it is set up, we have domination through the chairman and so on. We can set final determinations in these matters.

[Page 864]

Mr. Speaker, I say through you to the Premier, it is crucially important that we send a clear message to the federal government and to those who want to exploit our resources. The jobs that go with those resources belong to the people of the Province of Nova Scotia. If we are simply going to let them come in to toy around in the offshore to look for the resources to make them money to ship elsewhere, along with the jobs, thank you, no thank you, leave it in the ground, that is not good enough. So I say to the Premier, don't ask, don't just wait, tell your federal colleagues. Tell those companies that want to exploit our gas, our resource, that the jobs are Nova Scotians, they stay here, end of question, we are not backing off. That is the message that they have to receive. (Applause)

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

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I believe that the House Leader for the New Democratic Party was demonstrating the kind of tone that the Premier is going to have to use when addressing the federal minister. I too share the amazement that this kind of a situation can occur. It is true, through the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board and the issuing of permits, that we will have some control over what is going on out there. Or, simply, we can make the determination that those permits will not be issued.

I don't think I have to spend a lot of time impressing upon the Premier the need to get 50,000 unemployed Nova Scotians back to work. The fact is that these are good paying jobs, jobs that I believe we will be able to direct to Nova Scotians. I compliment the Premier on his rapid response to this. I again criticize the federal government for making these kinds of determinations without any consultation with our government. I believe that the Premier must take the hard line on this one and obviously, he will be backed up by the two Opposition Parties.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate the support of all Parties on this. It makes it much easier to send the correct message to Ottawa. Thank you.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, we will continue with the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne. I believe the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley has the floor.

[Page 865]

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, on Tuesday during my initial Reply to the Speech from the Throne, I indicated that over the last five years that Liberal Government has absolutely been a dismal failure. They have failed Nova Scotia and they have certainly failed the constituency of Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

One-third of my constituency is in the Halifax Regional Municipality and on every doorstep during the recent provincial election campaign, right to the person, the people were complaining about how their property taxes had increased and how the service had decreased as a consequence of that government's forced amalgamation. It is very important that this 19 member MacLellan Government today, it was the Savage Government and then the Savage-MacLellan Government and now we have the MacLellan Government, recognize that a lot of people, especially in the rural areas of the Halifax Regional Municipality, are extremely disappointed in amalgamation that was shoved down the throats of the municipal units in the old Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford and Halifax County units, without any consultation. I hope this new government will commit to Nova Scotians that there will never again be such an act, such a deplorable thing thrust down their throat.

Mr. Speaker, the tire recycling initiative that the previous administration gave to Tire Recycling Atlantic Canada Corp., has also been a dismal failure. It has been a bad deal for Nova Scotia. I believe it was yesterday, the Minister of the Environment stood in his place and said he was introducing some environmental initiatives and those projects would be funded through the receipts that had been accrued from the tire tax.

Well, I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, as my colleague from Pictou East indicated during his reply to the ministerial statement, that the tire recycling initiative has been a dismal failure also, another bad deal. I would encourage the government to conduct some type of internal audit. Perhaps it should be an external audit. An independent body should go and look at the tire recycling facility because a sound company with an impeccable financial statement requested the opportunity to take their management team down to the big red bunker and were turned away.

The present Minister of Education was at that time the Minister of Economic Development, and members in his department supported the Nova Scotia company. But nonetheless, against the will and the wishes of Nova Scotians, that government made a political decision and gave it to Mr. Doug Vickers, who was supposed to have the foremost knowledge on recycling tires. Our interim leader at that time, Terry Donahoe, indicated that there were some problems with Mr. Vickers, as did other members of caucus. Where is Mr. Vickers today? Nobody knows. He was fired.

[Page 866]

Somebody had better look into the tire recycling fiasco taking place in this province. There are hundreds of thousands of tires still illegally stored in the Cornwallis area. The provincial fire marshal's office was brought in. There are regulations, guidelines that were supposed to be adhered to. It is written into the contract that this province has with Tire Recycling Atlantic, penalty fees, because there was no plant established by such and such a deadline. The deadlines were continually extended by that government and no penalties were imposed. It is a shame and a dismal failure.

Today the government brought in its budget. We are pleased to see some money go into the Departments of Health and of Education. Restoration of funds in those areas is very important. However, perhaps it is because I am a rural MLA, more so than anything else I am extremely disappointed to see that the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Transportation and Public Works' budgets have been further gutted and cut back by this government.

Mr. Speaker, I know this government is going to engage in a spray program to combat the white tussock moth. I understand that the majority of funding for that program is going to come out of the silviculture budget, the resource enhancement fund. I have also been told by the Department of Natural Resources officials that there will be no silviculture programs this year on Crown land. Of course silviculture programs on private lands will also be impacted by the budget that came in today. That is absolutely unacceptable and I am telling that government it is unacceptable. I don't need to give the minister, I hope, the statistics relative to the number of jobs that the forestry sector indirectly and, of course, directly promotes and creates.

[5:30 p.m.]

HON. KENNETH MACASKILL: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Has the honourable member noticed that there was $3 million in the budget, new money for silviculture? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: I'm sorry, excuse me, I don't think, in fact, that that is a point of order, the honourable member may be incorrect but that is not an issue of order. (Interruptions)

MR. MACASKILL: A point of information then. (Interruptions)

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I hope the five minutes that the Minister of Natural Resources took from my time will be added on to the other end, Mr. Speaker. (Interruptions)

[Page 867]

The minister just confirmed then that they have slashed the silviculture budget by some $3 million, when you look at last year's budget; $3 million won't, go very far. I understand that some of that funding will go into the spray program, and perhaps when we get into the budget estimates, the minister and I can have a little discussion, a few questions and answers relative to the spray program and silviculture, selective cutting and things of that nature.

Now in the budget, this government is being a little bit deceptive because this province, when it climbed into bed with its federal cousins in Ottawa, it decided to increase the blended sales tax relative to the transitional tax on motor vehicles and heavy equipment from 15 per cent to 17 per cent. Then today, their heads swell up, they say, oh we're reducing that 1 per cent, but they have to remember, they must remember that they, only the Province of Nova Scotia - New Brunswick didn't do it, Newfoundland didn't do it - Nova Scotia, just for good measure, they added 2 per cent on top of the hated BST. So today, it is in the budget that they're decreasing that, same as they are reinstating the farm tax exemption.

Don't you remember? You were Grinch in the first place, now you're playing Santa Clause. It just doesn't work that way. Nova Scotians are too smart, they're too smart for that. So, inasmuch as we are pleased to see Health and Education budgets increase, we are very pleased, because we know that it is important. Although, I don't believe on first blush, that there is any mention of the regional health boards or certainly not enough mention regarding the future of the regional health boards. So for that, we will have another opportunity, we hope, to ask the Minister of Health, Minister of Justice - whatever he might be on any given day - we will have some questions for the Minister of Health and the Premier regarding that very important matter.

Now, Transportation's gross capital expenditure for 1997-1998 is forecast to be $138 million. For this fiscal year, it has been reduced to $102 million, the capital expenditure budget has been decreased some $36 million. So, inasmuch as Health and Education budgets are going to be increased, and we all know that's probably a good plan provided that things are properly prioritized, we are extremely disappointed to see our Transportation and Public Works budget decreased and compromised out in the rural areas.

Most members of this caucus are rural MLAs. We see and we are going to have some concerns about the reduction of that budget. All in all, I have to tell the government that we are extremely disappointed in how they've governed the province over the previous five years. Let's hope for better. Let's hope for better in whatever time we have from now until whenever. Thank you very much. (Applause)

[Page 868]

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I stand before you today as the first person from Eastern Passage to ever be elected to this House of Assembly, and I say that with some pride. Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage is a fairly new riding, it was created back in 1993 when the redistribution occurred. I just want to talk a little bit about the actual riding so that people have an idea as to what exactly is involved when they hear about Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

Basically, three communities make up the riding, Cole Harbour, at least half of Cole Harbour, Colby Village area, Eastern Passage, Cow Bay being another community and the third community being the South Woodside area of the old City of Dartmouth. These are three very distinct communities, having both demographically and geographically different settings.

It is a riding that is both a suburb of the Halifax Regional Municipality and it is also an industrial base for the regional municipality. Noting some of the particular areas of industry that are important to the regional municipality that are in my riding, there is the Imperial Oil Refinery, which is celebrating its 80th Anniversary this year.

MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER: To quote the Speaker, there is a considerable buzz or chatter in this Chamber. I would ask that if members need to chatter to this extent, that they might take it outside and show some respect to the member who is delivering his speech. (Applause)

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, just around some of the industries that are located in my particular riding, I was noting the Imperial Oil Refinery, which is celebrating its 80th Anniversary this year and I wanted to take this opportunity to congratulate Imperial Oil for being a long-standing and dedicated employer to the riding in the South Woodside area. I have had an opportunity to meet with the manager of that company and I feel that they will, for a fairly long time in the future, be a good employer and a steady employer for the people of my riding.

Some of the other industrial aspects, one of the largest employers in the metro area is the Canadian Forces Base Shearwater, which is also located in my riding and which, last year, celebrated its 80th Anniversary. It was created back in 1917 by then Lieutenant Byrd, later to become Admiral Byrd of the American Navy. It is one of the larger employers in the metro area, as well. I think it is important that we recognize the vital role that it does play, as a military base, but also as an employer in the Halifax Regional Municipality.

The riding is changing, Mr. Speaker, in particular, as these kinds of manufacturing based industries begin to decline in importance and we move to, as people like to say, in the millennium and in the global economy, the service-based industries, there is a need for the

[Page 869]

riding and I think, as part of it, indicative of the entire regional municipality, a need to change the way in which we are able to create jobs. You can see within the riding some of those particular potentials. One of the things that was created in the past five years is Fisherman's Cove, an area that recognizes the long history in Eastern Passage, anyway, of fishing as a vital industry in the community. Going back to 1752, only three years after the creation of the actual City of Halifax or the colony, Eastern Passage was settled and used as a fishing village, though I must note that fishing in the community goes as far back as 1500's, historically, on McNab's Island, which is also part of the riding, it was used by the French in the summer as a place to actually dry their fish. So there is a very long history of fishing in the community and basically using the fishing industry now as a form of tourism, to bring people into the community, to be able to have them spend tourism dollars in order to help create jobs and I commend the Fisherman's Cove for the work they are doing in that area.

Getting away from some of the demographics and geography, I just wanted to take a few moments before I get into the Throne Speech to talk a bit about some of the people I would like to thank for my election. The member for Cape Breton Nova might have a particular interest in this in that all the people who worked in my campaign are from the Halifax regional area. Evelyn Riggs, who was my campaign manager. I owe a debt of gratitude to her for her hard work involved in the actual campaign. Some of the other people that were actively involved, both through the riding association and through the work on the campaign, Denise McMeeken, Wayne Coady, Lorna MacLeod, Anne-Marie Foote, Debbie Clayton, who was a full-time worker on the campaign, Brian Crawford, Brenda Anderson; Chris Windeyer; Debbie and Wilber Williams; Dorothy Boudreau; Judy Blandari; and Mariam Dares. I know the list is a little long, but I think it is important to recognize those who actually do put the time and effort into a campaign, not only the six weeks of a campaign, but over the time involved in actually getting us to the point of when the writ is dropped.

I think it is also important to note, particularly in a riding like Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage that for the first time voted for an NDP candidate, to recognize those who historically have always been there on behalf of the NDP and the CCF in a way, I guess through the dark days and the light days and, in particular, there are two people I would like to recognize for their historic contribution to the CCF in my area, Pat Naugle and Cynthia MacLeod. They are long-time citizens of Eastern Passage, who have provided support for the CCF and then the NDP in that area. I am sure they were very happy, as I know, to see us finally able to win that seat.

There are some family and friends I would like to thank as well, Mr. Speaker. My mother, obviously; my brother, who was my official agent, Robert Deveaux and his wife, Cheryl; my sister, Cheryl, who in her own way was able to provide a commitment to the campaign; her daughter, Elise, who was one of my most active workers; my sisters, Laurie and Janine, who were there for moral support and I appreciated that.

[Page 870]

Most importantly, is also to remember my father, Eugene "Jeep" Deveaux, who was a long-time county councillor in the Eastern Passage area. (Applause) Thank you. Twenty-five years he spent as a county councillor in the Eastern Passage/Cow Bay/Shearwater area. (Interruption) That is right, originally from Cape Breton. New Waterford actually. He was very proud of his roots and so am I.

AN HON. MEMBER: Is he home watching . . .

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: I do not know actually. Anyway thanking - as we all like to call him - Jeep for his advice, for his active role in the campaign, and for being able to, in his own way, as he calls it, politicking, being able to convince many people in Eastern Passage to make that historic switch to the NDP.

I would also like to thank John Ley, Kim Davidson, Marilyn McKay, Chris Clegg, Jill Arthur and David Miller for their contribution and support to the campaign and, most importantly, I would like to thank Megan McKay, who, 48 hours from now, will be my wife (Applause) Thank you. She is also my closest advisor and my best friend, and that is the most important thing I think in building a relationship.

But enough with the thank yous, let us talk about the Speech from the Throne. I spent the last eight years working in governments, both in Ontario and here in Nova Scotia. I have carried out many roles in those positions, from policy adviser to the Minister of Labour, including one who is now the Government House Leader, to providing legal advice as a Crown Attorney, both in Ontario and here, and as a representative of injured workers. One thing that I have always found, and the reason why I was prompted to run in politics, was that I truly believe that government needs a vision, that any government that hopes to be able to provide hope to the people of a province or of a nation must be able to show it has a vision of where that nation is going to go.

In particular, in my mind, there are three aspects of vision that are required - leadership, being able to provide leadership when it is required; guidance, being able to provide a clear direction and being able to show the way to the light, I guess; and choices, being able to make the proper choices and being able to provide those choices through leadership and guidance. Some of the other members from across the way are saying they have those particular components. I must say that I cannot agree with them on that particular point, and I am going to go through a few areas of particular concern of mine that I think shows a lack of leadership and a lack of vision on the part of this government.

Firstly, dealing with my particular riding, Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage. There has been a lack of leadership in this government with regard to community economic development. As I discussed, Mr. Speaker, a little earlier, community economic development and moving towards service sector industries is the key in the new millennium to ensuring ongoing job growth and ongoing long-term employment. This government before the election

[Page 871]

and since, is not showing the leadership to create the community economic development that is required in my riding.

[5:45 p.m.]

I can start with Ultramar, a refinery that was for a long time, about 30 or 34 years, located in my riding and was dismantled, shipped off and nary a word from the Liberal Government that was in power at that time. There was a lack of leadership in being able to ensure that it stayed or in trying to ensure that a buyer that was available would be able to actually take over the refinery before it was dismantled.

However, beyond Ultramar there are other things as well that I think are important in building a local, stable economy. Again, dealing with community economic development, in my riding there are two major areas of natural resource and urban wilderness that could potentially be very good tourism attractions and parks. The most prominent ones are McNab's Island and Lawlor's Island, islands that have for a long time been a part of the Halifax Regional Municipality and the greater Halifax area, but have been left, I guess, at this point without any clear direction as to how we can develop them in a way that both preserves them environmentally and in a natural resource way but also ensures that they are viable as tourism, be it ecotourism or a broader type of tourism, that enables them to be able to create long-lasting solid employment in the Halifax area and in particular in my riding.

The other area is the Cole Harbour Dykes parkland. I know that the Minister of Natural Resources, about a month ago, I think, did attend at Rainbow Haven Beach, which is in my riding, and did receive a donation of dykeland, underwater dykeland, that is basically what we would now call Cole Harbour. There is a large tract of land adjacent to that dykeland that the province took over in 1984 for $1.00 but has not in any way moved to make it park and in any way to make it a viable urban wilderness that can be used by the people of Cole Harbour. I think there is another example of a lack of leadership with regard to community economic development.

The last two areas would be Phase 2 for Fisherman's Cove, a proposal that could and was developed early on but has never been acted upon. The amount of money involved would be, in terms of the whole budget, nominal but would in itself, I think, create a more lasting community economic development and tourism project for the Eastern Passage area.

Most importantly, and the Minister of Transportation may want to take note, port development. As we all know, one of the main areas that is being discussed for potential of a superport, post-Panamax ship container pier port is the Shearwater area. I know we must tread lightly, given the jobs that are there and ensuring that we actually build a port facility that is viable and can be used but at the same time protecting the jobs that are there. The lack of leadership that has been shown in actually delivering and creating and pushing forward that idea is unfortunate.

[Page 872]

The other thing that is most important in my riding, as people have probably noted in the past few weeks, particularly through the news, is education. I live in a riding that is filled with new families, being a subdivision and being a suburban riding. It particularly deals with there being a lot of overcrowding in the Cole Harbour area but most prominently in the Eastern Passage area as well. It is imperative again through leadership and guidance and making choices that this government address the overcrowding issue. That particularly means new schools based on need, not on political choice. It also means allowing sufficient resources to ensure that parents are not pitted against parents and that the sort of problems that have been created in Eastern Passage as to short-term solutions of overcrowding do not exist. That is a problem that this government has to bear.

I want to talk about a couple of issues that are near and dear to my heart, Mr. Speaker, the first being occupational health and safety. As I noted a little bit earlier, I spent three years working on the Occupational Health and Safety Act that this government passed and I commend them for passing the Occupational Health and Safety Act. However, this government again has failed the leadership test by not providing the protection that workers truly need. There are two forms of protection that can be provided through occupational health and safety that this government has failed to provide. First, there is a lack of decent regulations in this province to ensure that the details of safety and health in the workplace are being provided. Secondly, there is a lack of staff in the Department of Labour, as the Plummer report acknowledged only recently.

With regard to the regulations, and most people probably don't know this, the most important regulations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act are the construction and industrial safety regulations. They have not been updated in 50 years. Fifty years - 50 year old regulations do not cut the mustard, so to speak. In this day and age, there is a need for flexible regulations, one that allow workplaces, employers and employees to work together to ensure a healthy and safe workplace. Those regulations are inflexible. They are old and they need to be replaced.

Here is the crux of the lack of leadership on this issue, Mr. Speaker, as I know full well. I worked with a group of hard-working lawyers and engineers and union and management people to devise a full set of new health and safety regulations three years ago. They were put in the bag. They were delivered to the Minister of Labour, at that time, and they have been ready for three years. Unfortunately, this government, based on I don't know what reason, has decided not to pass those regulations and they still sit. I notice, actually, in the budget business plan, the Department of Labour still claims that it is actually going to pass these regulations. Well, I hope that is the case but, unfortunately, given the lack of determination to pass these completed regulations for the past three years, I really have doubts as to whether that will actually happen.

[Page 873]

The Department of Labour, as well, lacks the staff to ensure that its regulations and legislation can be enforced. I want to start by commending those who actually are there at the Department of Labour. I have worked hand in hand with the inspectors and industrial hygienists in that department for several years and, I must say, they are one of the most dedicated group of workers in this province. They provide an excellent level of service but, unfortunately, there are not enough of them. As the Plummer report noted, as well, there is a lack of training to ensure that they are able to do their job effectively. Now that the Minister of Labour is here, I can only encourage him to please implement the Plummer report and provide the staff and the training required to ensure and, again, the leadership to ensure that it is done.

I want to talk a bit about workers' compensation, Mr. Speaker, before we adjourn for the day. The last two years I have spent as a member of the Workers' Advisors Program, which the Minister of Labour, I am sure, is very familiar with, a program, as well, that this government created around the same time that it also passed the Workers' Compensation Act amendment in 1996. With regard to Workers' Compensation, leadership means fairness. It means ensuring that employers and employees have a system in place that is both cost-effective for the employer, comprehensive for the employer and the employees and, most importantly, in my mind, when a worker is injured at work, they will be compensated. That was the historic compromise back in the early 1900's, when workers gave up the right to sue their employers and, in return, a no-fault system was created.

The difficulty though now, Mr. Speaker, is that with the new Workers' Compensation Act passed by this government back in 1996, it broke that compromise. Currently, with the new Act, there are certain types of illnesses and injuries that will not be compensated, even if they do occur at work. In particular, I am talking about legitimate chronic pain syndrome cases, environmental illness, which is not being compensated and repetitive strain injury. Having seen the devastation on the workers who have to fight the appeal process to try and get some compensation, I can tell you that the system is not working.

Furthermore, with regard to Workers' Compensation and this government, leadership means effective, unbiased staff at the Workers' Compensation Board. It is my honest belief, having worked in the system for the last two years, that there is an institutional bias within the Workers' Compensation Board that must be addressed now. We must provide the training and we must provide the support to the board and the leadership, again that word, to ensure that the board is able to have caseworkers that will look at each case in an unbiased manner. That is not there now and it hasn't been for awhile, Mr. Speaker.

Also, there is the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal, Mr. Speaker, which was created by this government. It is, in my opinion, an utter failure. The Minister of Labour only earlier this week announced three new staff would be provided to this particular tribunal. Some might say that that is leadership, but, I will tell you, leadership comes when decisions are actually made. The backlog in the workers' compensation system has been created by this

[Page 874]

tribunal; it must be removed by this tribunal. There are 16 full-time staff there now and they have made the equivalent of 47 actual decisions in the past two and one-half years. By those numbers you would have to hire 1,000 new tribunal commissioners in order to actually get the backlog done in the next 20 years. That is unfortunate and it is a farce. That is the lack of leadership being shown by this government as well. Mr. Speaker, given the time I probably might have five minutes left but would you prefer that I adjourn at this time?

MR. SPEAKER: If it is more convenient for you to adjourn at this time you can or you can go for another two or three minutes if you wish.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: I think I will continue. Finally, as the critic for the justice and human rights areas I would like to take the opportunity to address some of those particular issues where leadership is not being shown by this government as well.

First of all as we have seen this week, fair wages and representation by Crown Attorneys is a key issue in ensuring that the justice system does work fairly and in an efficient manner. That is not being provided by this government. It is a simple and immediate change to the system that will ensure a higher morale amongst very vital workers, the Crown Attorneys and also ensure that the system is working in a more effective manner.

Another aspect of the justice system where a lack of leadership has been shown to date is in regard to corrections. It is vital that we have safe communities in Nova Scotia and that, in my mind, means we don't privatize jails. It means we help those who need help while they are still incarcerated, not after the fact. It also means that alternative measures for non-violent offenders is addressed as a means of addressing non-violent criminals.

With regard to human rights, effective leadership means enforcing the human rights code. I will commend this government on moving forward with same-sex benefits with regard to employees of the education, teachers and the Civil Service. I think it is also vital that we move forward to enforce that same provision on that same interpretation of the law in the private sector as well and I encourage them to do that.

In conclusion, the most important thing to remember in all of this is that we judge a democracy by how we treat our minorities. As a graduate of Cole Harbour District High School, which has always had a lot of those issues crop up in the media, one important thing I did learn from going there is that if you provide equal opportunities to people, people will succeed. The problems we have today and the lack of leadership being shown by this government is because they are not allowing people to have those equal opportunities.

One thing I heard a couple of days ago from the member for Cape Breton Nova was that hope is what is required and that this government is providing hope. Well, I can't agree with him because leadership means hope. People have hope when they see leadership. Those less fortunate, that I met on the campaign trail, don't have hope anymore. That is the test we

[Page 875]

must meet, that everyone has the opportunity to succeed and that they have education, health care and the other things that government provides, to ensure they are able to get ahead. This government is failing to do that and is not providing the leadership necessary and that is why I am going to vote in favour of the motion against the Speech from the Throne. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I would move a motion to adjourn the debate of the Speech from the Throne.

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 Government House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow we will sit from the hours of 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. and we will continue with the adjourned debate at that time.

I now move that we recess until tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

We are now at the moment of interruption. The late debate this evening is as follows:

"Therefore be it resolved that this government take the time now to look at the various issues which must be addressed so that the damage caused by the annual flooding in the Truro area, which was especially devastating this year, be averted so that it does not continue to aggravate the lives of the citizens of the area.".

[Page 876]



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


MR. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the flooding issue is not a new one in my constituency nor in the neighbouring constituencies of Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley or Colchester North. The fact is that this year it was particularly bad and hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage were done to not only residential properties but to businesses as well.

[6:00 p.m.]

In addition, not only was one of the vital communication links cut off, it happens - that one between Truro and Bible Hill is cut off on a regular basis - but this time the communication between the Town of Truro and Highway No. 102, specifically Exit 14, was severed as well. Indeed, a large commercial section of the town, which happens to fall largely in the constituency of Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, was inoperable, most of the stores there, for about five or six days. So in addition to the properly damage done to residences and commercial businesses, it was a fair loss of business as well. So the economic problems associated with this year's flood were greater than ever.

I can say, Mr. Speaker, that if a person has not experienced a flood and been through a flood, then you really don't know what it is like. For example, if you have a residence that has never had water in it before and you get three inches of water in a furnished rec room, it makes a big difference. I can relate to that personally, Mr. Speaker, because when I first moved back to the Town of Truro, I had never lived in a home where water entered. The honourable member for Colchester North will probably remember the flood back in 1978, when I ended up with about three inches of water in my basement, having just the day before had the carpet laid in it. I had a problem.

When we start comparing the flooding problems to some of those that we see on television, they may not be major. But if you have water in your home and you have to tear up carpet and tear out wallboard and you have a business that can't operate for five or six days because you have flood damage, then there is a problem. This problem has been ongoing for years.

Let me give you a couple of examples of how bad the flooding was in Truro. Now the Premier did come up for a photo op but that is about all we got from him. On telephone poles or power poles right by Exit 14, there would be circles of ice around the power poles probably six and seven feet off the ground. This is not a passing problem. This year it was

[Page 877]

major. A place where I do business from time to time it floods there every once in a while. Usually what they do is open the door and let the water run out. This year, because they have had a little bit of water in the past, they didn't bother, all they did was move the things up off the floor and put them on desks. They didn't empty the bottom drawers of the desks. But that particular business this year got four feet of water in it. Fortunately, that particular business did have flood insurance and it was okay. That was what happened to many businesses but it also happened to many residences. It was a severe problem this year. If we don't take action, it is going to happen.

The other thing which happens when we get this flooding is that roads are closed. If roads are closed it creates communication problems. For example, coming in from the constituency of the honourable member for Colchester North, if an ambulance had to come in or to go out there to get somebody who was ill and it came back when that Park Street, the link between Truro and Bible Hill, is severed - there is only one real link between the hospital and that constituency - and the traffic, it is like coming down, you get the flooded situation in Truro and the traffic can back up on the streets which would be used by the ambulances, it would be like coming into Halifax now that the transit strike is on at 8:00 a.m., which I do. It is a tremendous problem. Indeed, it can be worse.

Now it has been around for too long, this problem. It has been a major problem. The number of homeowners who didn't have insurance and had their properties damaged was great, including a lot of people in the section of town where I happen to live and some of them had never had water before. The problem is not new and I understand there have been three or four major studies that have been undertaken by the Department of the Environment, or whatever its predecessor departments would have been, in conjunction with municipalities, they have been ongoing, but nothing happens. Somebody has to take the lead so that the people of Truro-Bible Hill, Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley and Colchester North can get some help to solve this very bad problem which goes on.

One of the things that the Department of the Environment has not been particularly good at is being consistent in the issuing of its building permits. The Town of Truro refused one particularly large retailer the right to put a major expansion on his property because it was going to go on a flood plain. The same business shut downs their particular operation and moves out across the county line out into the riding of the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. It is a beautiful constituency, by the way. Anyway, they allowed the building to go out there and it is okay. So you can't build in the flood plain if you are in the Town of Truro, but you can if you are in the constituency of Colchester-Musquodoboit Val.ey. Now I know that it isn't building on the flood plain that is causing floods. If you build on a flood plain, you get wet. That is what happens when you build on a flood plain. The amount of water displaced if you take it all, it might have raised the water an inch or something like that in the total scheme of things.

[Page 878]

The water comes. There has been a lot of development up on the south side of Truro so that the water runs down that hill and it gets trapped in behind the dykes. So we don't have any appropriate way, Mr. Speaker, to get the water out once it gets in there. That is what happened, as I understand, this year. The water got trapped on this side of the dykes and backed up in places it had never come before and we had no way to get the water out. Although I am told that the level of the water in the river wasn't all that great. We didn't get flooded, necessarily, this time by river water, we got flooded by rainwater.

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier this afternoon, when one of the major communication links between Truro and Bible Hill is probably shut down for close to between seven and 10 days a year, it is a problem. I also said, earlier this afternoon, if they could build a bridge across the Northumberland Strait, surely there is enough engineering knowledge in the Department of the Environment and the Department of Transportation and Public Works that somebody could come up with a design that we could keep that road open and maybe it would only be shut down for one or two days a year rather than nine or 10.

One of the things with these studies that have gone on is that they may be too technical, but there are a lot of citizens in and around the Town of Truro who have some common-sense suggestions for remediating this flooding. I would like to see, Mr. Speaker, the Department of the Environment immediately put together a committee which would consist of members of that department and relevant municipal officials or their representatives to put together an action plan. The thing has been studied to death. We don't need any more real studies. What we need now is the production of a plan of action to solve that problem for the residents of my constituency of Truro-Bible Hill, the residents of Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley and the residents of Colchester North. Somebody has to take the leadership and the leadership should be the Department of the Environment if they are responsible for flooding. If they are responsible for flooding, then let's get on with it.

The department has been dragging its heels. You have these studies. They must probably be that thick, but nobody does anything with them. It is time now, Mr. Speaker, for the government, they have talked the talk, now to walk the walk. Let's get that flooding problem that affects my constituency, the constituency of Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley and the constituency of Colchester North, it affects them on just about an annual basis, let's get to work and solve that. Let's work together to solve it. It may not be done in one year, it may not be done in two years. It may be a five year or a six year or, for that matter, a 10 year plan, but we have to get a plan of action that is going to solve that flooding. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs.

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I rise on the issue of the flooding in the Truro area. No one who saw the pictures in the press last year, or heard the stories of the families who had been flooded out, could have failed to have sympathy for those who saw

[Page 879]

their homes, possessions and family heirlooms washed away in the devastating waters. They were truly powerless.

Mr. Speaker, this resolution requests government to take the time to do the proper planning so that these events to not occur again. Let me caution at the outset that no one can ever guarantee that events such as these will not happen in the future. Our grandparents remember the Saxby gale and the dreadful tides which followed in its wake. No amount of planning and no flood control structures could have ever withstood that awesome force of nature. However, despite these uncertainties, the member opposite is quite right. Due diligence must be carried out, so that everything humanly possible is done to give Nova Scotia citizens as full a measure of security as is possible; they can expect no less from their government.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to tell this House, through you, that this government, in fact, has undertaken precisely those measures advocated by the honourable member opposite. The Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs, in conjunction with the Town of Truro and the Municipality of the County of Colchester, has recently completed a year-long engineering and planning study, at a cost of $150,000, which had as its objective to look at alternatives which might be used to regulate development in the affected area, so as to significantly reduce the potential of damage caused by flooding. The steering committee for this project included not only municipal officials and staff from our department, but also representatives from both the federal and provincial Departments of the Environment. This work, which was just recently completed in March of this year, is now in the hands of the municipal units who will be responsible for the development of the implementation plan.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to relate that half of the resources required for the study were furnished by our department and that our planning staff at the Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs will continue to provide ongoing support, advice and assistance wherever necessary. We take our responsibilities to our municipal partners very seriously and we are anxious to work with our colleagues on this issue.

At this stage the draft report is being reviewed by the respective councils and their staff to determine how best to begin implementation. As required, amendments to the Municipal Planning Strategies and Land use By-laws will be made by the two municipal councils. Here again, Mr. Speaker, our department will be providing advice and assistance. This initiative is a splendid example of how the senior levels of government can operate with municipalities to bring about the resolution of serious issues such as this.

In conclusion, I want to thank the honourable member for raising this important matter and I would be pleased to share with the House the completed study once it has been formally adopted by the municipalities. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 880]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have an opportunity to speak to this resolution. I am disappointed that the honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill did not think of Hants East, but I know when it comes to laying that carpet, it perhaps should have been delayed. Last year when the flooding was occurring in Truro, a small section of Shubenacadie was flooded as well. There are a few things in this world that we do know for sure and two of them are death and taxes and the third one is that water runs downhill. The thing that has been occurring in Shubenacadie and not at a terrible frequency - but certainly the times that it does occur, the damage is great - 20-year intervals perhaps and you can't really count on the fact that the weather patterns are going to maintain their uniformity. One of the reasons for the flooding in the Shubenacadie area certainly was the increased rainfall. The reasons for that rainfall all accumulating at one time can perhaps be related to the fact that we have more severe cutting of the forests in the area, we don't have as much material holding back the rainfall, slowing it down. Therefore it accumulates in low pockets much more rapidly than it ever did before. It's not a question of the fact that we have more water than we used to, we're just getting it to the lowest point much more quickly.

[6:15 p.m.]

Also, in the case of the Shubenacadie River which is affected by the tides, and if the tide is right, the volume of water in the river at any particular time is going to be higher. So, with these things in mind, it would seem that it wouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that you either have to move those people from the area or you have to elevate the buildings so that they stay above the highest water level.

I was disappointed when I heard the Premier speak today, regarding the fact that relief from the federal government does not kick in unless the damage reaches the level of $1 million. Well, if we look at the possessions that people lose in their homes, it might take quite a bit of scratching to come up with $1 million in damage, but if we were to take the whole project at its greatest value, in other words, if you were to set some type of standard for what you want to do to cure the situation, then you probably could hit the $1 million mark quite easily. So, I think on that basis, the federal government probably could look at this, and actually if the Premier can mention $1 million figure, then he should take the responsibility that if it's less than $1 million, then the provincial government would step in and try to cure the problem.

We all can realize that those floods will occur again and again, and the question of, are we willing to stand by and allow that damage to occur again and again. Then, I think there's some responsibility on the part of government to see that this doesn't happen. And I guess, with this government, that's not a concern for them, because they are not willing to step in to see that nothing happens.

[Page 881]

Whether it's with the Department of the Environment or municipal officials, we certainly can spend money on reports and investigation, but in the case of the people in the area that I'm talking about, it would seem to me that if it's a small area that you're going to have less financial requirement to fix it than if it's in a large area. If you are in the Saugenay in Quebec, or if you are in the area of the ice storm, then those disasters have big price tags. So, if somebody can step in to try to fix a disaster with a big price tag, then it would seem to me, you can step in to fix a disaster with a little price tag.

Now, why nobody would want to do that is beyond me. But, as the member for Truro-Bible Hill stated, it might be 5 years, it might be 10 years, but if nothing is done then this will forever be a problem. I think the basis on which the minister had mentioned the fact that by disallowing more development in those areas you reduce the damage. Well, unless you are going to move the people who are already in those areas, you're not going to reduce the damage for them. Stopping more development there will decrease the price tag for sure, but it won't help the people who are already planning to stay there.

I would think and hope that the government will look at this situation as one that is going to come back and haunt them. The people there are not really asking so much. Everybody is caught in a particularly bad situation and they do need help and a mechanism that can look at the long-range plan would be one that would be best for all, and I don't think terribly expensive as we look at the long-range cost. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Agriculture.

HON. EDWARD LORRAINE: Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have an opportunity for the next 20 minutes to speak on flooding. Flooding is getting to be old hat to me, as I live in the central part of Colchester. I remember when I was warden of the county, we did what the member was talking about, we moved houses in the Salmon River area. That was cost-shared between the province and the County of Colchester. I think we moved six homes out of that flood plain area.

For the past 30 or more years there has been a great deal done to relieve flooding. I am going to say now that more can be done but it doesn't matter how much you do, if you get the right weather conditions, you are never going to stop flooding in the central part of Colchester. If you get that ice buildup in the river and you get that mild weather with heavy rains, as we had in the latter part of January of this year, you are going to get flooding.

Three years ago in my own community the dyke broke in three different places. You have to understand the lay of the land, the railroads there and the high land behind. Only two little culverts under the railway. The whole river flowed in. I was down in the constituency office when my wife called me and I started for home right then. When I came onto the bridge to go to my place, it was just a sea of water, it was that quick. I had to drive around by Stewart's Bridge. There are always routes that you can get around. I drove around by

[Page 882]

Stewart's Bridge to get from the corner, the west North River Road down to our house, I had to get one of our own tractors and drive through maybe three feet of water. The cellar had filled up until the carpets were wet. It was the first time I ever saw water in the basement of our house in - well, I won't say how many years I have lived there, it might tell my age, but we had a serious flood.

That was three years ago last February. I know we had to put in a complete new electrical panel because that was in the basement and we had to do a lot of things. The bill was over $12,000. There was no assistance, we paid it ourselves. I felt sorry for a couple of neighbours across the road who were less fortunate than I am, who were living on fixed incomes. They had massive damage but there was no relief for anybody at that time.

The member for Truro-Bible Hill talked about the Park Street bridge, and you would remember me talking about it in the House of Assembly at that time, that was around 1982, they were going to put a new bridge in. The Minister of Transportation happened to be the member for Truro-Bible Hill, Ron Giffin. I asked Ron to meet me there on a Saturday, and he did. I wanted him to locate that bridge a little closer to Truro and start at Stanfield's and straighten that river out down there. If he had moved the bridge 350 feet towards Truro, I think we could have solved a lot of the problems in that area - I am talking about Avon Street and those areas that flood.

I also wanted to put a viaduct, if that is what you call it, down on Highway No. 102, or a number of bridges wide enough - 100 foot span - wide enough to allow the ice and the drift ice to flow underneath. That could have solved that area. But when he came back to me on Monday afternoon in the House, he told me he had talked to engineers and the plans were all made and they could not be changed. Well that was the time we could have cured that.

About that time we had Mr. Doane do a study of the flood plain area. I am sick of studies, there are actions that can be taken. That study cost us over $1 million. The taxpayers paid over $1 million for that study that time. Really about all it said was to discourage anybody from building on the flood plain. Anybody who knows the area is not going to build there anywhere. Most of these houses have been there for years, my own house 250 or more years and you are not likely to move that.

The point I want to make is that you can't stop flooding but you can do things that can relieve flooding. To the member for Truro-Bible Hill, you might remember that the Valentine's Day flood in that Lower Truro area - I had a brother who lived there and I went in a boat and got him and Cyril Kennedy and their wives out of their houses. At that time, the water inside the dyke was filled to dyke level; outside the bay was empty in between tides. The water could have been led away, it could have been kept down three to four feet.

[Page 883]

I suggested we put a flood control gate there and what did they do? They graded some ground and allowed the water to get down to that little brook in Lower Truro that wasn't nearly big enough to handle the flood, the aboiteaux couldn't handle the flood water that was there, so all they did was put more there. That is the way to solve that for that area. If you could ever make an engineer or a planner use a little bit of common sense, put in a flood control gate just above Highway No. 102 and you could have stopped all of that damage that was done last winter. Is my time running out?

MR. SPEAKER: May I interrupt the honourable member for a moment? Are there any other members that wish to speak? You have the floor until 6:30 p.m., sir.

MR. LORRAINE: Good. (Laughter) There are a whole bunch of things that could have been done. You talk about damage, I have lived through this all of my life. Our farm every year, I would suggest, I know some years it cost me $8,000 to $10,000 just to replace fences. That is not every year but it is a pretty common occurrence and I don't mind that. But those residents who live across the road from me, I would like to see us do something now.

Over a period of years, I remember in 1972 or 1973, we dredged the Salmon River and the North River until the federal Fisheries and Oceans Department biologists got involved and didn't allow us to go in to take a gravel bar out but in those days we did it. They were afraid of affecting the fish. Well, you can't tell me in July and August there was a fish in that river because there is not six inches of water there anyway, so you are not going to affect the fish. That is the only way.

Years ago, I remember my father and my grandfather used to sell gravel and they hauled gravel bars out of the river and that is the way they kept the gravel bars down. You are not allowed to do that but we should be allowed to do it. If we could maintain those two rivers you could help a lot in the flooding problem down in the area you were talking about on lower Robie Street and the upper area where the rest of us live on both of those rivers. There are means that we can do it.

Again, you can't stop all flooding. We talked one time and there was some planning done about putting some flood control gates up on the upper reaches of the north end of the Salmon River. I think you could control it some but that is a pretty expensive proposition. I think if we can dredge rivers and we have done a lot of rocking on the rivers in the past 25 or 30 years, protecting the banks so they don't erode too much but that is not going to solve the problem when you get those certain weather conditions.

I am glad the member for Truro-Bible Hill brought this up because it is something that I have worked on I guess maybe for 50 years. We have gotten a fair amount of things done that has relieved it but you will never solve it. If we can continue to do maintenance and the honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill, if you keep pressuring, I took the Premier there that day and in fact, we were in Priorities and Planning and he said he was going to Truro, come

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on up. I said, what do I want to go up for; my God, I have lived through that for 50 years, it is no secret to me. I knew exactly as I was going there what was happening.

I took him down and showed him that area that I think there should be a flood control gate go in. I think that could resolve that area. I think had that bridge been shipped out on to Park Street before it was built, you can't do it now, but you could put a series of two or three bridges along where that treatment plant is and allow the ice, trees and everything to flow underneath. We could do a great deal to relieve flooding in that particular area and I hope that everybody keeps the pressure on and that we get it done. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We have reached the end of the period on the Adjournment motion.

We stand adjourned.

[The House rose at 6:30 p.m.]