The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House adjourned:
October 26, 2017.

Hansard -- Tue., June 16, 1998

First Session

TUESDAY, JUNE 16, 1998

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Commun. Serv. - Children's Aid Societies: Care Continuum - Develop,
Hon. F. Cosman 1348
Fish. - Loan Board: Interest Rates - Decreased, Hon. K. Colwell 1350
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 699, Lbr. - Fire Prevention: Mins. Conf. (N.S.) - Approve,
Hon. R. MacKinnon 1352
Vote - Affirmative 1353
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 700, DFO - TAGS: Replacement Unacceptable - Inform (Premier),
Mr. R. Chisholm 1353
Res. 701, Fin. - Vol. Firefighters: Tax Credit - Legislation Introduce,
Dr. J. Hamm 1354
Vote - Affirmative 1355
Res. 702, Sports - St. Margaret's Arena: Anniv. 10th - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 1355
Vote - Affirmative 1355
Res. 703, Health: Min. - Replace, Dr. H. Bitter-Suermann 1355
Res. 704, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hwy. No. 101: Twinning -
Accelerate, Ms. R. Godin 1356
Res. 705, Health - Regional Bds.: Business - Public, Mr. J. Leefe 1357
Res. 706, Health - Nurses: Shortage - Strategy (Can.) Priority,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 1358
Res. 707, Educ. - Post-Secondary: Tuition - Promise Fulfil,
Ms. Helen MacDonald 1359
Res. 708, Health - Research Fdn.: Promise - Fulfil, Dr. J. Hamm 1359
Res. 709, Health - Care: Cuts - End, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1360
Res. 710, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Employees (Seasonal Works):
Layoffs - Statement Provide, Mr. B. Taylor 1361
Res. 711, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Timberlea-Prospect:
Rural Roads - ARAN Use, Mr. W. Estabrooks 1361
Res. 712, Health - IWK-Grace Health Centre: Cuts -
Impact Recognize, Mr. G. Moody 1362
Res. 713, Educ. - Lantz Elem. School: Construction Deadline
(19/06/98) - Ensure, Ms. E. O'Connell 1363
Res. 714, Health Diabetes Assoc. (Juvenile): Walkathon - Congrats.,
Mr. G. Archibald 1363
Vote - Affirmative 1364
Res. 715, Transport. & Pub. Wks - Hfx. Internat. Airport: Fair Deal -
Ensure, Mr. D. Dexter 1364
Res. 716, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hfx. Internat. Airport:
Comm. (Non-Partisan) - Convene, Mr. G. Balser 1365
Res. 717, Fish. - Northern Shrimp Quota: Action (Premier) -
Stronger Take, Mr. N. LeBlanc 1366
Res. 718, Culture - Carving: Imelda George (Arichat) -
Award (Can.) Congrats., Mr. M. Samson 1366
Vote - Affirmative 1367
Res. 719, Transport. &. Pub. Wks. - Hfx. Port: Post-Panamax -
Funding Ensure, Dr. H. Bitter-Suermann 1367
Res. 720, Justice - Technocrime Unit (RCMP [N.S.]): Role -
Recognize, Mr. M. Scott 1368
Res. 721, Commun. Serv. - Women's Centres: Significance -
Recognize, Mr. J. Muir 1368
Res. 722, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Lun. Co. (Conrad Rd.): Work -
Conduct, Mr. M. Baker 1369
Res. 723, Environ. - Sackville River: Clean-up - Volunteers Thank,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 1370
Vote - Affirmative 1370
Res. 724, Educ. - Schools: Construction - Priorities Inform,
Mr. B Taylor 1371
Res. 725, Transport. (Can.) - Aviation Tech.: Jerauld Wright
(Ex-L'pool [N.S.]) - Recognition Congrats., Mr. J. Leefe 1371
Vote - Affirmative 1372
Res. 726, Tech. & Sc. Sec't. - Aerospace Training Progs.: Experts -
Heed, Mr. G. Balser 1372
Res. 727, Health - VON (Lun. Co.): Christian Noblet (Mahone Bay) -
Serv. Congrats., Mr. M. Baker 1373
Vote - Affirmative 1373
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 142, Lbr. - Westray Employees (Former): Severance - Delay,
Mr. R. Chisholm 1374
No. 143, Health - Telemedicine: Prov.-Wide - Commitment,
Dr. J. Hamm 1375
No. 144, Gaming: VLTs - Moratorium, Ms. Helen MacDonald 1376
No. 145, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hfx. Port: Bill C-9 - Effect,
Dr. J. Hamm 1378
No. 146, Fish. - TAGS: Replacement - Oppose (N.S.-Nfld. Unite),
Mr. John Deveau 1380
No. 147, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hfx. Port: Post-Panamax - Bids,
Dr. H. Bitter-Suermann 1381
No. 148, Justice: Correctional Workers - Negotiations,
Mr. Kevin Deveaux 1382
No. 149, Human Rts. Comm'n.: Exec. Dir. - Retain, Mr. Kevin Deveaux 1383
No. 150, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hfx. Internat. Airport:
Privatization - Response (Gov't. [Can.]), Dr. J. Hamm 1385
No. 151, Health - Regional Bd. (E.): Commun. Health Centres -
Tenders, Mr. F. Corbett 1386
No. 152, Fish. - Northern Shrimp: Quota - Status, Mr. N. LeBlanc 1387
No. 153, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Signage (Off-Premises): Study -
Release, Mr. P. Delefes 1389
No. 154, Agric. - Middleton (Anna. Co.): Grain Centre - Retain,
Mr. G. Archibald 1391
No. 155, Fin. - Educ. (Post-Secondary): Funding Formula - Basis,
Mr. H. Epstein 1392
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
ON MOTION FOR SUPPLY:
Mr. W. Estabrooks 1394
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON SUPPLY AT 2:05 P.M. 1396
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 5:59 P.M. 1396
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Pictou Co.: Roads - Min. Sample:
Mr. J. DeWolfe 1397
Hon. C. Huskilson 1399
Mr. C. Parker 1401
Mr. B. Taylor 1403
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., June 17th at 2:00 p.m. 1405

[Page 1347]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, JUNE 16, 1998

Fifty-seventh General Assembly

First Session

12:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Ronald Russell

DEPUTY SPEAKER

Mr. Donald Chard

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we commence with the daily routine, I would advise members that the winner of the late debate for this evening at 6:00 p.m. is the honourable member for Digby-Annapolis. The resolution reads as follows:

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works schedule a trip over Pictou County roads in the very near future so he can experience the rough conditions of so many of the county's roads and personally recognize the urgent need for improvements.

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

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

1347

[Page 1348]

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Community Services.

HON. FRANCENE COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce today that the Department of Community Services is fulfilling a commitment made in the Speech from the Throne to provide regional treatment and placement options for children who require special residential care. We are proceeding with the implementation of the report known as Too Good to Lose. This report contains a series of recommended actions to improve services to children and youth in care of the Government of Nova Scotia. This represents the shared goals of hundreds of staff, volunteers and parents who are concerned about the welfare of our children.

The report was built upon a set of common principles. Paramount among these principles is the conviction that we must be committed to serving our children as close to home as possible. Today I want to outline the progress that has been made and the range of resources currently being built or being enhanced that will make that goal reachable.

I am pleased to announce that a number of initiatives are underway that will strengthen the current level of support to children and youth in the care of the minister and Children's Aid Societies. At the end of March 1998, a total of 1,859 children were in the care of the minister and Children's Aid Societies. These initiatives reflect the department's commitment to ensure that children and youth experience the highest possible quality of placement as well as increasing their opportunities to remain as close as possible to their families. Consequently, our first priority was to ensure that each region of the province engaged in the planning and development of placement resources.

The following represents the developments underway in each of the regions of the province which is the first step in the development of a comprehensive continuum of care and services for children and youth.

In the western region, a highly structured 10 bed residential treatment facility for troubled youth is being developed. This program will be operated by the Family and Children's Services of Lunenburg County for the region.

The eastern region is developing a parent-counsellor program with an outreach component to serve children and youth in care. The program will consist of 12 parent-counsellor homes and 3 respite beds.

In the central region, the Reigh Allen Centre is being developed by The Association for the Development of Children's Residential Facilities on behalf of the region. The Reigh Allen Centre will provide 20 new

[Page 1349]

residential beds to serve children and youth with behavioural and/or emotional disorders.

In the northern region, 11 additional long-term beds will be added to the region. The Children's Aid Society of Pictou County will operate the new residential program along with the current Pictou Adolescent Assessment Centre on behalf of the region.

In addition to those initiatives, we recognize the important role that foster parents play in providing a nurturing and supportive environment for the children and youth. We are currently engaged in the redesign of our foster care system. This redesign, which is being done in partnership with the Federation of Foster Family Associations of Nova Scotia, will strengthen the training and overall support that is essential for a strong foster care system.

Secure treatment is an essential component in the continuum of care and placement. The committees that have worked on secure treatment have repeatedly stated that secure treatment cannot and should not exist without an appropriate range of placement resources in the regions.

The department has been making sure that that advice has been followed. The department has done considerable work on developing the program model for secure treatment in Nova Scotia. Secure treatment continues to be a priority and will be implemented in a logical sequence. The first step in that sequence is the development of regional placement services as noted above.

I am confident that as we develop and implement this range of services, the children and families in the province will be better served. This goal, like any in life, cannot be achieved overnight. Our commitment remains firm to ensuring that our children be served within their communities and as close to home as possible. I thank you for the opportunity to share our progress on behalf of children with the colleagues in this House.

I just want to note in closing, I know both caucuses have received the statements, but the NDP caucus received it just before the House opened because we had problems with faxing it to them, and we delivered it by hand. I understand the honourable member opposite wasn't in receipt of it prior to getting into the Legislature. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for bringing the presentation forward today. I want to say that, as the minister has stated, this is a step in the right direction, that it is the first step in the right direction, and in development with respect to the comprehensive continued care for services of children and youth. I also want to say that I have not had time to develop an assessment of exactly the impact that this is going to have

[Page 1350]

in those particular regions. However, I will make a comment with respect to that at a later date. Once again, I thank the minister for at least providing the initiative step. Thank you.

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

MR. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I too am pleased that the minister has brought in what I see as some preliminary steps for needed improvements in the social services net here in the province. I note that the report upon which her announcement today was based was dated June 1996. This is a full two years after that report was given to the government and it has taken two years for some action to have taken place.

I certainly endorse the initiatives the minister has put in there. I am alarmed that there is no provision for the secure treatment centres, specific things, they are weasling on this. It appears to be a change in government policy since 1997. I would have preferred, too, to see some specific dates attached to the construction of these centres. Notwithstanding my reservations about this government's ability to deliver, I welcome the initiatives because if they are implemented they will certainly better serve the youth and children of this province.

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

HON. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a statement regarding a positive measure adopted by this government. Effective today, the interest rate charged by the Fisheries and Aquaculture Loan Board for fishing vessel construction in Nova Scotia and for aquaculture loans has been lowered. (Applause)

Today, the interest rate has been lowered for all new loans to 1.75 per cent above the provincial rate. Last week, for instance, this would have meant the loan board's lending rate would have been 7.7 per cent. This is a reduction from 11 per cent for loans over $200,000 and from 8 per cent for loans under that amount.

The aquaculture industry in this province is in a very critical development stage. Aquaculture holds tremendous promise for our coastal communities across the province. With this announcement, aquaculture growers will receive a helping hand at the most critical stage of their business development - the start-up stage.

Those who borrow to finance equipment purchases for items such as fish cages, nets and seed stock will see an improvement on their bottom line. Many aquaculturalists are poised for major expansion and better financing terms mean that they will get there sooner.

We are also expecting this move to trigger millions of dollars of activity in the boat-building sector. Many fleets are in desperate need of vessel replacement and this announcement will allow them to accomplish just that. Boat-building is an industry that employs 450 people directly and many others in spin-off industries. Businesses such as those

[Page 1351]

providing electronics, engines and other fishing equipment will benefit from this move. And finally, the adjustment in the rate brings it in line with rates provided in other resource industries and helps build a competitive industry for the future.

We are all aware of the difficulty the fishing industry in Nova Scotia has experienced in recent years. With this move, however, there will be no additional burden placed on taxpayers while the industry has an even greater incentive to innovate and expand. This is the right direction for this government and it is with this in mind that the Fisheries and Aquaculture Loan Board has taken a constructive step by supporting fishermen, aquaculturalists and the boat-building industry across this province. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Yarmouth.

MR. JOHN DEVEAU: Mr. Speaker, I believe this to be welcome news and shows, in part, a commitment to the industry. I have concerns, though, that the interest rates have been lower for months. What took so long to have the rates reflected? Also, my concern is that it is only applicable to new loans and my concern would be that when the old loans come up for renewal, will they be given the same courtesy? The other thing that bothers me here is that as welcome as this announcement is, I thought that it would have been more appropriate that such an announcement would have been raised prior to estimates.

[12:15 p.m.]

The other concern that I have with an announcement such as this is what kind of a reflection will this have on the budget? Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.

MR. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the minister, first of all, for making the announcement in the House. It gives us a chance, perhaps, to make a few comments in this regard.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say a few words regarding this, one of which is that I often look at the fact that in agriculture quotas are used as equity, or they are considered equity when they are making a loan. Many young who want to enter the fishery, whether it be the lobster fishery or other ones, are often precluded from doing so because of the fact that the quota is not considered an asset. I would like for the minister to review this decision to bring some consideration into taking a look at that. I think there are a lot of young fishermen who would like to enter the fishery, but unless they have parents who have considerable wealth or are taking over a family business for someone else, to enter the fishery is virtually impossible. This does not address that.

[Page 1352]

I would also make the comment that he has lowered the lending rate in loans over $200,000 from 11 per cent to 1.75 per cent above prime rate. That brings about some concerns in that there is only a certain number of funds. Many of the large companies or medium-sized companies that are relatively wealthy, I use the word wealthy, or well positioned, didn't go to the loan board for these loans because they could get the money probably at a lower rate from the bank and did so. So, I express some concerns that companies who didn't approach the loan board in the past, will come and they very well may take up most of this budget for their requests. I would caution the minister and the loan board that many of the smaller requests should also receive an equal consideration and not have a few people take up most of the budget for their request. I think that the minister should be very cognizant of that fact so that instead of having 200 loans approved that we don't suddenly have 30 or 40 because these bigger loans can now be considered.

The last thing I will mention, as you say here in your comments, "The aquaculture industry in this province, Mr. Speaker, is in a very crucial development stage.". Well, I met yesterday with the Aquaculture Association of Nova Scotia and they echo your comments because if we don't take a proactive approach in aquaculture within a few years we may not have much of an industry. I caution that we, as a province, are going to have to spend a lot more money in research for the fishermen of this province, a lot of them have made mistakes because of the fact that they couldn't get resources from this province who asked them to enter into these new fisheries and they made mistakes because of that and they are the ones who have paid.

So I say here today, for the minister and for the department, while we have $1.5 billion industry in this province when you have the estimates and you have $5.885 million being spent to promote it, there is something wrong.

In closing my comments, I will thank the minister for bringing this up in the House but I echo my previous comments that we are just basically, in a sense, paying lip service with the amount of funds that he has at his disposal to put forward the interest of the fishing industry in Nova Scotia. This government better listen because if we don't many things will be lost in the sense of economic stimulation to this important industry. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 699

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

[Page 1353]

Whereas fire prevention and fire safety is of prime importance to all Nova Scotians and all Canadians; and

Whereas there are a number of important issues facing fire services across Canada and, most importantly, here in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the Government of Nova Scotia recognizes a need for a national strategy for fire safety;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House give their approbation for this province to hold a national ministers' conference to find solutions to fire prevention and fire safety issues.

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

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 700

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 Premier of Newfoundland has told the federal Liberals that he will not be part of any plan to sell a watered-down and scaled-back TAGS replacement program to the fishing communities of his province; and

Whereas leaked details show that the proposed TAGS replacement would be just as devastating to many Nova Scotian communities as it would be to Newfoundland communities; and

[Page 1354]

Whereas the Premier of Nova Scotia has yet to make a strong statement against the TAGS Program;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge the Premier of Nova Scotia to join his Newfoundland colleague in telling the federal government that the proposed scaled-down $550 million TAGS Program is not acceptable to Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to seek waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 701

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

Whereas most communities in Nova Scotia rely on volunteers who give freely of their time to train and provide critical lifesaving services, such as firefighting; and

Whereas full-time salaried firefighters are able to claim a $1,000 tax free allowance; and

Whereas all firefighters, paid or volunteer, risk their lives, but over 6,000 of the 9,000 volunteer firefighters in Nova Scotia do not receive an honorarium and, therefore, cannot access a portion of the federal tax free allowance;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Finance introduce legislation that would provide our volunteer firefighters with a $500 tax credit in recognition of their invaluable service to their communities.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 1355]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 702

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

Whereas recreational facilities serve our growing communities; and

Whereas volunteers play a vital role in the success of these facilities; and

Whereas the St. Margaret's arena, which consists of an Olympic-size ice surface, an outdoor pool, community hall and meeting rooms will celebrate its 10th Anniversary with its annual general meeting this month;

Therefore be it resolved that this House offer its congratulations to the board of directors and the volunteers of the 30 communities served by the St. Margaret's arena on its 10th Anniversary.

Mr. Speaker, I ask waiver on that.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

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

RESOLUTION NO. 703

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

[Page 1356]

Whereas the Minister of Health, yesterday, downgraded Nova Scotia outside metro to the hinterland of health care; and

Whereas this is contrary to his assertion that "the myth of deterioration of Health Care is a myth"; and

Whereas the Premier desperately wants to shift my focus on health care success stories;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health has outlived his usefulness by creating angst in hinterland, and be replaced by Mr. Keating, which would be a boost to telemedicine and hopefully make the Premier happier.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank.

RESOLUTION NO. 704

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

Whereas another tragic auto accident this past weekend on Highway No. 101 served as a further reminder of the long-identified need to upgrade that highway link to the Annapolis Valley; and

Whereas a petition spearheaded by the medical staff of Valley Regional Hospital calls for work to begin on the twinning of Highway No. 101 from Mount Uniacke west through the Annapolis Valley; and

Whereas twinning of Highway No. 101 has advanced at a snail's pace since the project was first announced in 1991;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge the government to take seriously the safety concerns around Highway No. 101, ignore the Transportation Minister's plan for concrete dividers, and immediately accelerate the twinning of Highway No. 101.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Queens.

[Page 1357]

RESOLUTION NO. 705

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

Whereas the Western Regional Health Board will expend over $98 million in health care in western Nova Scotia in the fiscal year 1998-99; and

Whereas not one single decision made by the Western Regional Health Board was required to be made in public; and

Whereas decisions respecting health care in western Nova Scotia should be made in the light of public scrutiny, not in the darkness of closed meetings;

Therefore be it resolved that the Liberal Government immediately act to require the regional health boards to conduct the taxpayers' affairs in public, as is required for Nova Scotia's cities, towns, municipalities, and school boards.

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 a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

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

Whereas relations between management of the Public Prosecution Service and Crown Prosecutors continue to deteriorate; and

Whereas management tactics have included threats to fire its own employees, while it socializes with replacement Crowns; and

Whereas continuation of such bad employer-employee relations threatens the administration of justice in Nova Scotia;

[Page 1358]

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge the government to resolve these issues by recognizing the right of Crown Attorneys to bargain collectively.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

MR. GERALD FOGARTY: Mr. Speaker, I contend that that notice of motion is out of order. It conflicts directly with a bill, a Private Member's Bill, that this member introduced earlier in this session. It states very clearly in Beauchesne, when a bill has been introduced, a resolution on the same topic - and I don't think there's any doubt, we're talking about the same topic here - when he introduces a notice of motion, a resolution, it is unacceptable, it is out of order. It's very clear in Beauchesne.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I believe the member for Halifax Bedford Basin raised this same point of order about a week or two ago, and it was taken under consideration. So, it's the same point of order, and I don't know how you as Speaker want to deal with it, but I contend that this is not directly related to Bill No. 7 that I introduced.

MR. SPEAKER: I will take the matter under advisement, and I'll examine the resolution and the bill. So the resolution is not tabled at this time.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 706

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

Whereas a recent study commissioned by the Canadian Nurses' Association predicts a severe shortage of nurses in the coming years; and

Whereas estimates show that shortage of nurses in Canada could range anywhere between 59,000 and 113,000 by the year 2011; and

Whereas the Western Regional Health Board was recently forced to close beds because of a shortage of nurses;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier and the Minister of Health make it a priority to begin working closely with the Federal Minister of Health, who promised yesterday in a speech to the Canadian Nurses' Association that the federal government will help devise a national strategy to confront the growing nursing shortage in Canada.

[Page 1359]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 707

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

Whereas rising tuition fees and living costs are leaving many post-secondary students with unmanageable debt loads; and

Whereas during the election campaign, the Liberals promised a tuition freeze, but failed to deliver despite its Throne Speech rhetoric about the importance of education; and

Whereas in provinces like British Columbia, the provincial government has moved to freeze tuition fees and introduce innovative programs that enable students to earn tuition credits by doing community volunteer work;

Therefore be it resolved that this House demand that the Liberal Government live up to its election promises, and its Throne Speech, and bring in a tuition freeze and other necessary programs to deal with escalating student debt.

[12:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 708

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 Liberals first promised a health research foundation during the 1993 election campaign, promised it a second time in the summer of 1995, and promised it a third time in the dying weeks of the recent election campaign; and

Whereas on March 17th, the Premier and the Minister of Health promised $5 million will be committed this year as initial funding to launch the health research foundation; and

[Page 1360]

Whereas the Liberals are now using the excuse that the reason they are providing only one-tenth of the promised funding for the on again-off again, on again-off again, on again-off again health research foundation is that they have not had sufficient time since they first promised the health research foundation over five years ago to draft the necessary legislation;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier and the Minister of Health chastise their colleague, the Minister of Finance, who said this Liberal Government is prudent in making promises only when it knows it can deliver and further that they apologize to the medical community, to Dalhousie University, and to the thousands of Nova Scotians who they misled not once, not twice, but three times with their still unfulfilled promise of a health research foundation.

MR. SPEAKER: That notice of motion is rather long.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 709

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

Whereas according to news reports, the federal Minister of Health has finally awakened to the fact that a shortage of nurses poses a menace to the quality of health care in this country; and

Whereas Allan Rock also acknowledges that this shortage arises from the fact that nurses have borne the brunt of health care cuts and restructuring; and

Whereas health care cuts and restructuring have meant an increased workload and the loss of job security for nurses;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge Allan Rock to act on his new-found knowledge and reinvest federal dollars in the health care system so that cuts and harmful restructuring may come to an end.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

[Page 1361]

RESOLUTION NO. 710

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

Whereas the Minister of Transportation and Public Works is quoted on Page 5 of today's Halifax Daily News as saying, ". . . 126 is a very, very high figure,", when it comes to estimating the number of seasonal workers not being recalled; and

Whereas the Minister of Transportation and Public Works is seemingly unclear as to the exact number of employees who will lose their jobs with the Department of Transportation and Public Works this year; and

Whereas printed documentation from the Department of Transportation and Public Works clearly indicates a staff reduction of 165 for fiscal 1998-99;

Therefore be it resolved that since notices are already being given to seasonal workers indicating there will be no jobs for them this year, the Minister of Transportation and Public Works immediately provide all members of this Legislature with a detailed statement as to the number of people his department will be putting out of work this year.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 711

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

Whereas the Minister of Transportation stated in debate on Thursday, June 11th, "I know there are many roads out there in rural areas that need work"; and

Whereas the minister informed the House in the same debate that the ARAN is patrolling secondary highways and rural routes; and

Whereas this device will supposedly assist in establishing priorities for needed road work across the province;

Therefore be it resolved that the minister direct his staff to take the ARAN down the Prospect Road, with a left at Whites Lake, down over Porcupine Hill on the road to beautiful downtown Terence Bay, to determine if this dangerous stretch of road should be on the priority list.

[Page 1362]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 712

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

Whereas the IWK-Grace Health Centre is one of Canada's leading tertiary care centres, providing family-centered care to women and children in Nova Scotia, in the Maritimes and beyond; and

Whereas the IWK-Grace Health Centre recently developed a long-term plan that would bring high quality programs and services closer to women and children throughout Nova Scotia and establish this centre as an international model of excellence; and

Whereas as a result of $4.7 million in funding cuts, the IWK-Grace must not only abandon its long-term business plan but run a larger deficit and/or cut the programs and services that have made this institution a proud symbol of quality health care in Atlantic Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health and the Premier recognize the devastating impact these cuts will have on the children and women and families that rely on the health centre and that they immediately commit to working with the board and the CEO in order to ensure, at the very least, that none of the vital programs and services offered by the IWK-Grace are gutted or cut.

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.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

[Page 1363]

RESOLUTION NO. 713

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 the Liberal Government met its much postponed June 15th deadline for the construction of the Lantz school by clearing land it doesn't even own; and

Whereas the land-clearing exercise is meaningless unless the government proceeds to acquire the land and sign firm contracts for construction of the much-needed school; and

Whereas the department has set another deadline of June 19th for the completion of these necessary steps;

Therefore be it resolved that based on the long history of delays affecting the Lantz school, members of this House will remain vigilant to ensure that this latest deadline is adhered to.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 714

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

Whereas there are over 1.5 million people in Canada who live with diabetes; and

Whereas the Juvenile Diabetes Association held a walk-a-thon on Sunday at Point Pleasant Park to raise money for biomedical research; and

Whereas over 1,500 people from the general public as well as various corporate business teams raised more than $90,000 toward the national goal of $4.4 million;

Therefore be it resolved that all the members of the House of Assembly congratulate the Juvenile Diabetes Association on a very successful walk-a-thon raising $90,000 for research and thank the many volunteers, corporations, and sponsors for their gifts of time and money in the fight against diabetes.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

[Page 1364]

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.

Before I recognize the honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, I have examined the resolution brought forward by the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage and Bill No. 7, which calls for collective bargaining and indeed the notice of motion is simply a repeat of what is contained in the bill.

The notice of motion is out of order.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 715

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

Whereas the future of the Halifax International Airport is vitally important to metropolitan Halifax and to the economy of all of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the federal government is denying fair treatment for Halifax International Airport by refusing to provide the necessary funds to upgrade airport infrastructure; and

Whereas it is urgent that this funding is forthcoming before the federal government transfers responsibility for the operating of the airport to local authorities;

Therefore be it resolved that this House joins with the airport authority, the chamber of commerce, MPs and MLAs from the New Democratic Party and other stakeholders in calling on the Prime Minister and the Minister of Transport to give a fair deal to the Halifax International Airport.

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

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 1365]

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 716

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 Halifax International Airport contributes more than 9,500 direct and indirect . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is much too much chatter going on in the House. The honourable member has the floor. You may start again.

MR. BALSER: . . . jobs in a yearly annual payroll of $246 million to the local economy; and

Whereas the federal government appears to have no regard for Nova Scotia's need to have a timely resolution to the issue of upgrading the Halifax International Airport; and

Whereas it would also appear the federal government is more intent on justifying its lack of commitment to the Halifax International Airport project than in defining resolutions for this critical problem;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier convene a non-partisan committee of business and government leaders with a mandate to meet with the federal Minister of Transport to resolve the Halifax International Airport upgrading issue.

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 a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Argyle.

[Page 1366]

RESOLUTION NO. 717

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

Whereas Friday past the Canso Trawlermen's Cooperative Limited held a press conference outlining in detail the facts surrounding the recent DFO decision to allocate all of the quota of northern shrimp to Newfoundland; and

Whereas the Premier suggested they were baiting him and using strong-arm tactics and rhetoric; and

Whereas the Premier is obviously unaware that his counterpart, the Premier of Newfoundland, Brian Tobin, is using strong-arm tactics and getting his fishermen an advantage;

Therefore be it resolved that this Premier forget about keeping up with his Tai kwon do and instead take strong-arm tactics 101 offered at universities in Newfoundland.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 718

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

Whereas Imelda George, a resident and native of Arichat, Nova Scotia enjoys her hobby of carving wooden Santas; and

Whereas 24 of Imelda George's wooden Santas each with its own unique identity, were featured in the book, The House of Wooden Santas, a Christmas story written by Kevin Major; and

Whereas Imelda George, Kevin Major and photographer Ned Pratt were flown to Toronto to receive an award for their work in the book, The House of Wooden Santas, which placed first in the 8 to 12 year old category in the Mr. Christie's Book Awards at a ceremony held at Chapters, a major bookstore in Toronto;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislative Assembly extend their congratulations to the recipients of this award and wish Imelda George continued success in her most interesting hobby.

[Page 1367]

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

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 Chester-St. Margaret's.

RESOLUTION NO. 719

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 Port of Halifax is looking through a window of opportunity, unheard of in the province's history; and

Whereas this could create 7,000 jobs in metropolitan Halifax; and

Whereas this opportunity has been given to only one Canadian port, the Port of Halifax, to put in a proposal that would include a new terminal with 12 post-Panamax cranes, along with 1,800 metres of new berthing space;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier demand the Prime Minister provides the necessary federal share of infrastructure funding to ensure the Port of Halifax is able to take advantage of the post-Panamax era, while employing an additional 7,000 people in this province.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

[Page 1368]

The honourable member for Cumberland South.

RESOLUTION NO. 720

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

Whereas law enforcement officials are faced with a growing wave of new and challenging criminal activities; and

Whereas whether it is money laundering or computer crime such as criminal activities on the Internet, Canadian law enforcement officials are being called upon to meet the demand of this criminal activity; and

Whereas RCMP here in Nova Scotia are expecting techno crime to become more prominent, saying the computer industry is moving very fast and that we need changes in the laws to move equally as fast;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature recognize the active role being played by the RCMP in Nova Scotia in establishing a Techno Crime Unit and that the Minister of Justice appreciate and understand the work being done by Sgt. Al Langille and Cpl. Ian Black in encouraging his federal counterparts to move toward assisting these officers and others across Canada in combating this latest criminal technology.

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.

The honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill.

RESOLUTION NO. 721

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

[Page 1369]

Whereas Nova Scotia's six women's centres operate on a shoestring budget with minimal staff to help thousands of women deal with a wide range of social, health, economic and justice issues; and

Whereas women's centres provide a non-threatening environment for women and their families, particularly in rural Nova Scotia, to seek urgently needed help no longer provided by government; and

Whereas women's centres provide quality, cost-effective, front line, primary health services to thousands of women and their children referred by numerous government departments, including Health, Community Services, Justice, Education, Economic Development, Housing, and Consumers Affairs;

[12:45 p.m.]

Therefore be it resolved that the government recognize the significant difference women's centres have made in the lives of thousands of Nova Scotian families, and that it immediately move to increase the funding to women's centres so that they can reasonably serve the needs of women in their catchment areas.

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.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Lunenburg.

RESOLUTION NO. 722

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 people living on the Conrad Road in Stanburne, Lunenburg County, live on a road where clouds of dust choke the air during the summer; and

Whereas the road bed on the Conrad Road has severely deteriorated and requires attention to make it passable; and

[Page 1370]

Where the Conrad Road immediately requires work to make it barely acceptable to the residents living along that road;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly request that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works immediately conduct work to answer the concerns of the residents living on the Conrad Road in Lunenburg County.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 723

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 Sackville River was the focus point of a clean-up this past Saturday, which saw 175 volunteers removing debris and doing maintenance on fish habitats and structures; and

Whereas the clean-up and maintenance work was focused near the Bedford Rifle Range and the interchange of Highways No. 101 and No. 102; and

Whereas the project was a joint venture of the Sackville Rivers Association and Black and McDonald, the Dartmouth-based electrical and mechanical firm;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House of Assembly extend thanks and appreciation to the men and women who volunteered their time and energy to the Sackville River clean-up project, and encourage everyone to help keep Nova Scotia's waters sparkling.

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 Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

[Page 1371]

RESOLUTION NO. 724

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

Whereas the Department of Education and Culture and the Department of Transportation and Public Works tabled a provincial report on June 10, 1998, that recommends 18 schools close, and that they be replaced with five new schools within Pictou, Colchester and Cumberland Counties; and

Whereas this Liberal Government commissioned this need assessment without any public consultation; and

Whereas communities that want to keep their schools will only have a short time to come up with alternatives, because in the words of one board member, the report appears to be cut and dry;

Therefore be it resolved that this minority Liberal Government inform all Nova Scotians whether or not they have abandoned the present school capital construction priority list.

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.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 725

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

Whereas Jerauld Wright, formerly of Liverpool and now of Ottawa, is a pioneer in aviation-applied research; and

Whereas among other inventions, Mr. Wright created navigation and control systems for aircraft which served for a generation; and

[Page 1372]

Whereas Mr. Wright was recently honoured for his technical contribution to aviation by the Ottawa-based High Technology sector;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly recognizes the significant contribution of Jerauld Wright to aviation technology, and congratulates him on recognition bestowed upon him by his peers in aviation technology.

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

MR. SPEAKER: There has been request for a 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.

RESOLUTION NO. 726

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 information technology sector is worth approximately $0.5 billion annually to the economy of Atlantic Canada; and

Whereas presently the country's aerospace industry provides direct and indirect employment for nearly 90,000 Canadians with a forecast expansion of an additional 12,000 jobs in the next five years; and

Whereas concern has been expressed by the Chairman and CEO of Pratt and Whitney Canada about the growing shortage of skilled workers for aerospace jobs both here in Nova Scotia and across Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister responsible for the Technology and Science Secretariat listen intently when aerospace experts are warning the Nova Scotia Government to focus on the development of training programs to meet the future needs for highly trained employees.

[Page 1373]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Lunenburg.

RESOLUTION NO. 727

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

Whereas Christian Noblet of Mahone Bay in the County of Lunenburg is one of the founding members of the Board of Directors of the Victorian Order of Nurses, Lunenburg County Chapter; and

Whereas Christian Noblet has donated funds to the Victorian Order of Nurses, Lunenburg County Chapter, in memory of his late wife, Kathleen Noblet, to allow the purchase of a much needed administration building; and

Whereas the Victorian Order of Nurses, Lunenburg County Chapter, is celebrating the 10th Anniversary of its founding and 10 years of exemplary service to the people of Lunenburg County;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly congratulate Christian Noblet of Mahone Bay in the County of Lunenburg on his exceptional career of volunteer service to the Province of Nova Scotia and, in particular, for his service to the Victorian Order of Nurses, Lunenburg County Chapter.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The time now being 12:52 p.m., we will terminate at 1:52 p.m.

[Page 1374]

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

LBR. - WESTRAY EMPLOYEES (FORMER): SEVERANCE - DELAY

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question, through you, to the Premier. At the end of last year the Nova Scotia Labour Standards Tribunal ruled that the workers who had lost their jobs in the tragic explosion of May 1992 in the Westray Mine were legally due to receive severance payments. Almost six months ago, back in December 1997, the Premier admitted that this whole situation had dragged on too long and it was time that the government moved on that whole question of severance. I would like to ask the Premier if he could explain why it is that these former Westray employees have not yet received the money that is owing to them?

HON. RUSSELL MACLELLAN, Q.C. (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I would like to refer that question to the honourable Minister of Labour.

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable Leader of the Opposition for his question. I understand that the Workers' Compensation Board has dealt with one aspect in terms of the families who are affected by the tragedy. Also the other group, as the honourable member refers to, there is the issue of compensation. We are still awaiting the sale of the assets from the Westray site which, obviously, will be a major contributing factor to what the settlement will be for both the unionized and the non-unionized employees.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I think I need to ask the Premier why it is when the labour tribunal said that these workers deserve this money, they are legally entitled to this money, when the Justice Richards report indicated that the government clearly shares responsibility for this diaster, I want to ask the Premier to explain to members of this House and to these workers why it is that the government is delaying material acknowledgement of that fact and when are these workers going to receive the wages that are clearly their legal right?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable Leader of the Opposition that we are as concerned as he is about the welfare of the workers and what is owing to them. We are working on this as hard as we can and we hope to be able to come forward with a solution as soon as possible.

MR. CHISHOLM: As soon as possible - Mr. Speaker, we are talking about workers who have been waiting now for six years since that disaster occurred. Clearly there is no question about the fact that the government is responsible for making these payments to the workers. I want to ask the Premier why he will not, on behalf of his government, end the delay that is being experienced by these workers, both the unionized and the non-unionized workers, why he will not acknowledge the responsibility of the government and honour the commitment that this government has, to pay those severances for those workers?

[Page 1375]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we had a committee looking, at the end of last year, led by the now Minister of Finance, where we stated our position on this. For further explanation, I would like to go to the Minister of Labour.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member may or may not know, I think the lawsuit, as I understand it, the total claim was somewhere in the vicinity of $1.2 million. I am given to understand that if the sale of the assets is to be concluded - and, in fact, this morning I had a meeting with senior staff, in particular with the deputy minister, to try to bring a conclusion to the sale of those assets - there is hope that the total sale of those assets could realize somewhere in the vicinity of $1.8 million. Some would say that is like a fire sale. It is a poor Freudian slip, but some are saying that the assets are worth much more but the fact of the matter is, to find somebody in the industry who would be willing to buy these particular assets. Negotiations are taking place with Devco to see if Devco would secure those assets and anyone else that would be interested to secure the funding to be able to provide the settlement that the honourable member refers to.

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

HEALTH - TELEMEDICINE: PROV.-WIDE - COMMITMENT

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health and his government have made one of their centrepieces of health reform the telemedicine project, which is now completed in the eastern region of Nova Scotia. I believe, and the government has indicated, that this would improve the practice situation in rural Nova Scotia, that it would save money for patients and the health care system. Is the minister still totally committed to the telemedicine system in Nova Scotia?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Yes, Mr. Speaker, we are totally committed to that province-wide project of telemedicine. It started in the eastern region of the province. It is still running. It is running very well in the eastern region of the province and we are looking at moving next into the western region. There were some infrastructure issues that were not in place in the northern communities, but I think by the time we move through that they will be all ready and we are totally committed, province-wide, one of the only jurisdictions probably throughout the world that will enjoy that.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, to continue with the minister. The government and the minister, as the Minister of Health for this government, knows full well that in the Speech from the Throne it spoke in glowing terms of telemedicine. The budget, as well, indicated that the project was complete in the eastern region and would be completed in the rest of the province. Would the minister indicate why it is that on the eve of the announcement of the next phase of introducing telemedicine to Nova Scotia, and that is the setting up of the infrastructure in western Nova Scotia, that the regional health board was notified that rather than the project going in western Nova Scotia, in fact, it is now being stopped, delayed and

[Page 1376]

we are being told that the money is not in the budget to complete the project? Would the minister comment as to why the project has been put on hold?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, there has been a plan, we have the eastern region up and running. This has given us great information on how to work with the telephone companies, the other groups that are involved. We have committed in this budget, there is $6 million going into telemedicine. It is proceeding. There are some issues relative to some federal funding matters. Those are in hand. They are being dealt with and the project is moving. We will see this throughout the province.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, the minister is clearly wrong. The physician who was put in place to set up has been told that the project is not going on, it is on hold. He was prepared to go to the western region and announce the beginning of the setting up of the infrastructure in the western region and he was told it was put on hold. He was given no reason other than it seemed that there was some financial difficulty. This is like the commitment this government made to the health research foundation and all of the other commitments that this government has made. Will the minister commit today whether or not this project is going ahead and going ahead today or is it, as the western region have been told, on hold?

[1:00 p.m.]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, there is a process in place that we are going through. We are totally and absolutely committed to telemedicine. If we can get 70-cent dollars from the federal government to put this program forward, we will do that. That is good fiscal management and that is what we are talking about. It is a go and it will be done in this province and that is our commitment.

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

GAMING: VLTs - MORATORIUM

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for the administration of Part I of the Gaming Control Act, the Honourable Donald Downe. Recently, as we are aware, the CHC report on the problem gambling help line clearly indicates that there is an increase in gambling in this province and that it certainly is growing in popularity, the help line receiving nearly 4,000 calls last year. The report indicates that about 67 per cent of those were from people using VLTs. Since the Liberal Government has come to . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question. Question, please.

[Page 1377]

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: . . . power, the number of VLTs in the province has skyrocketed. My question, Mr. Speaker, why won't this government place a moratorium on the number of VLTs?

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, to the member opposite. In fact, if they were to count the number of machines in 1993 when we came to power, in regard to VLTs, we are actually less today than we were in 1993. The issue that she is referring to, we concur. It is a very serious issue that we, as an administration and as a government, are not taking lightly. In fact, we are now working with the foundation in regard to research and prevention and education, which we consider very important, as well as the whole issue of the moratorium and others. It is one that we are contemplating and working very closely, internally, to deal with.

Now I am not at liberty at this point, Mr. Speaker, to go any further on that issue. Suffice to say that the member's concerns, and those of the Leader of the Opposition, are not unlike the concerns that we have on this side of the House and we are dealing with it and I believe over the next few months we will be able to report the outcome of our specific findings and our direction.

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I am not certain, I would like to see the honourable member's statistics because the ones I have show that the number of VLTs in this province has almost tripled since 1993, so I don't think there has been a decline in the number of VLTs. I think this has been an issue for a long time and it has been brought up many times. I guess I am wondering, in the spirit of cooperation, will this government then agree at least to some kind of a public review as called for by both Opposition Parties during the campaign?

MR. DOWNE: What was the question? I am sorry, I had a couple of colleagues talking to me just at the last minute when she was getting to the actual question. I would ask her to repeat the last sentence.

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Yes. In the spirit of cooperation, I am wondering if this government would agree to a public consultation, a public review of gaming in Nova Scotia?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate where the member is coming from. What I indicated to the House here earlier is that we are reviewing very seriously the whole issue of gambling and the concern of problem gambling. That is why we are doing a study with Dalhousie University. By the way, that study is the only study in the world that is undertaking to find ways (Interruptions) It is the first study and the only study in the world that is covering the areas of addiction of VLT use. The other aspect is the (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

[Page 1378]

MR. DOWNE: It just blows me away how they don't like to listen. The other issue is, Mr. Speaker, we are also working with the Compulsive Gaming Society in dealing with the concerns that are related there. What I have indicated to the House is that this minister, this administration, over the next few months will be laying out a program that I think will be reflective of the concerns of this House.

In closing, I would like to say the gaming machines before 1993, were in corner stores. We took them out of the reach of children in corner stores and put them into regulated places.

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I don't think anybody disagrees in this House that the number of VLTs has increased; the problem we have is increasing. The only way anybody is recommending in this province, that has any information or knowledge or experience, is to limit the number of VLTs. I guess what I am asking is, why will this government not put a moratorium on, at least until the study is done and until they have the information?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated before, this minister, in conjunction with this government, is taking a very serious look at how we are going to deal with this issue. Over the next two months, I believe, the House will be aware of the outcome of that. I read with interest the concern of the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party and I note with interest the concern of the member opposite, and I believe they are very reflective of the concerns on this side of the House and we will be dealing with it accordingly. I appreciate very much the leadership that is shown.

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - HFX. PORT: BILL C-9 - EFFECT

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I remind the Minister of Finance that it was the Progressive Conservative Government that took VLTs out of the corner stores and it was the right thing to do.

My question is to the Premier. Bill C-9, the Canada Marine Act received Royal Assent in Ottawa on June 11th. That bill eliminates the ability of the Port of Halifax to pledge assets for loans, prohibits federal investment in the port, and it allows Ottawa to take an annual charge based on gross revenues. My question to the Premier is simply this, does the Premier think that Bill C-9 is good for Nova Scotia and the Port of Halifax, yes or no?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I have had, for some time, a problem with one of the aspects of Bill C-9 and that is the fact that the federal government would not be putting further money into the Port of Halifax, or any of the ports, but at the same time would be charging a fee. I thought that was extremely unfair, and I have expressed that to the Minister of Transport and to the Prime Minister.

[Page 1379]

The Minister of Transport is now saying that they are categorically not going to put funding into ports, particularly marginal ports which are important to the economy of a particular area. They are not just going to get rid of these ports if no one comes forward to take them over; they will continue to finance these ports and not leave the communities in the lurch. I think that is a major step forward in the positioning of the federal government.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I will continue with the Premier. The Premier seems to be realizing now that Bill C-9 was a mistake, although it took him a while to say so. It certainly took him a while, I think, to understand it, because the Premier himself did not make the kind of presentation that I felt that the seriousness of the matter would require, and that was his personal intervention and he took a very soft and quiet approach. My question. What interventions has the Premier made on behalf of Nova Scotians and the Port of Halifax to allow Nova Scotians to feel a comfort level that the Port of Halifax will, in fact, develop the way we would like it to do in the post-Panamax era?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I have spoken about that very thing to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Transport Canada and said that we are in the position in Atlantic Canada of having our ports come forward, particularly with respect to oil and gas in the offshore as very important aspects of our economy. I have said that we needed to be able to develop our ports at this critical time and under no circumstances could we have this development suppressed by a new positioning of the federal government, particularly when ports in the Great Lakes system weren't under the same conditions. This is the reason, I hope, that the Minister of Transport is now saying that he was going to relax this position somewhat.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I wish to continue with the Premier. The Premier is indicating that he has had some conversations. I would presume that conversation was as a result of the resolution passed unanimously in this House on May 22nd, a resolution from the member for Chester-St. Margaret's. It received unanimous consent and it instructed the Premier to immediately contact the Prime Minister on the issue of the Port of Halifax.

I presume that the call the Premier indicated he made was as a result of that resolution. Will the Premier indicate when the call was made and what firm commitment he had from the Prime Minister of Canada that addresses the concern that we all have about the development of the Port of Halifax and the failure of the federal government to realize that it has a very important role to play in that development?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, quite actually the comments from the Minister of Transport came not as a result of a phone call ultimately, it came as a result of a statement of the Senate Committee on Transportation and the concerns voiced by that committee to the Minister of Transport, upon which the Minister of Transport issued a letter stating his perspective and perhaps, I think, a very strong softening of the position of the federal government.

[Page 1380]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Yarmouth.

FISH. - TAGS: REPLACEMENT - OPPOSE (N.S.-NFLD. UNITE)

MR. JOHN DEVEAU: Mr. Speaker, my question through you, sir, is for the Premier. I was reading the local newspaper this morning and Premier Tobin is in Ottawa and he is fighting mad over this proposed TAGS 2. He is lobbying aggressively on behalf of groundfishers and TAGS recipients in Newfoundland. He is maintaining that he will not endorse such a watered-down program. My question, through you to the Premier is, what discussions have you had, if any, with Mr. Tobin in order to establish a united front to address the issue of the proposed TAGS 2?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I have had occasion at the East Coast Premiers-New England Governors meeting in Fredericton within the last week to speak to Premier Tobin on this question. He has concerns and I have concerns and I related my concerns to the Prime Minister when I spoke to him this weekend.

MR. JOHN DEVEAU: Mr. Speaker, my question through you to the Premier is, as important as this issue of the proposed TAGS 2 is, what efforts have you taken to rally the fishers of this province to send the united message to Ottawa that the proposed TAGS 2 is woefully inadequate?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this government is not going to allow the people of Nova Scotia to suffer. The concern of this government right now is that if the TAGS program is not satisfactory, then that cost of helping these people then goes on to the financial burden of the Province of Nova Scotia and I think the federal government has to be aware of that. They have to have adequate knowledge of our position as a province, and this is what we have been doing.

MR. JOHN DEVEAU: Mr. Speaker, once again through you, my question is for the Premier. I am of the opinion that what is happening here, in the Province of Nova Scotia, is that we are positioning ourselves to be reactive. We have to take the position of being proactive when it comes to the issue of TAGS 2. Will the Premier speak out publicly and denounce the proposed TAGS 2 as being woefully inadequate?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Community Services and the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, and their departments, worked together on a submission to Ottawa which is very comprehensive on the TAGS program. I have spoken with the Prime Minister. The fact of the matter is that Ottawa knows the position of Nova Scotia, we want more in the way of relief for those who will be losing their incomes and we want a more diversified program for being able to help these people to get on with their lives in other capacities.

[Page 1381]

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - HFX. PORT: POST-PANAMAX - BIDS

DR. HINRICH BITTER-SUERMANN: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Premier. Mr. Premier, the Port of Halifax is nature's gift to Nova Scotia. It is ice-free, deep and close to the international shipping lanes. Maersk, and Sealand have issued a call for proposals to develop that port into a post-Panamax superport. The Halifax Port Authority has been asked to table a position paper, a bid in New Jersey, not later than July 1st to outline what Halifax can deliver and in what competitive position it can be to outflank Norfolk, Virginia or New York, et cetera.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

DR. BITTER-SUERMANN: A bid like that, Mr. Premier, is like tabling an Olympic bid. What type of Olympic bid have you proposed in Ottawa or with the Halifax Port Authority, in order to get a project of this magnitude on its way?

[1:15 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the province does not make those kinds of submissions. We will work with the port authority to help them wherever we can, but I want to say to the honourable member that he is not far wrong. There are going to be, perhaps, on the east coast of North America two major post-Panamax harbours, and I know that New Jersey and New York are busy with a dredging proposal. We still have probably, well, not only Halifax but the Strait area, the best natural harbours in North America, and what we have to do is to alert the federal government to the importance of these ports, not only to Nova Scotia but to Canada.

DR. BITTER-SUERMANN: Mr. Speaker, $50 million to $100 million is what the port feels it will need from the three levels of government; 7,000 direct and indirect jobs, another 7,000 will be created. Is the province prepared to be one of the three levels of government participating in the financing of this very important once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can say, and I want to say quite categorically, the Province of Nova Scotia is prepared to be part of the future of the Port of Halifax. We are not prepared to have the federal government or the Halifax Port Authority come forward with figures, throw them around, and then lay them at our feet and say, here, it is your responsibility to go out and do this. This port is for the future of Nova Scotia and Nova Scotians. We want to be a part of this but we want to also be a part of planning the future of this port along with the people of Nova Scotia.

[Page 1382]

DR. BITTER-SUERMANN: Mr. Speaker, my final question, again to the Premier, in Olympic bidding the reception of a bid is not contingent upon whether the players that form a consortium and bring forward the bid have made up their mind about who will present that bid. There is $700 million, or so, on the line . . .

MR SPEAKER: Question, please.

DR. BITTER-SUERMANN: . . . in GDP spin-off. Mr. Premier, this is too important a question to forego your leadership . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

DR. BITTER-SUERMANN: . . . that this province needs. Will you please come forward and say you will be the lead bidder in this process?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we are quite prepared to and we are doing our own analysis on the future of the Port of Halifax. We would like to have the federal government work with us. We would like to have the port authority work with us, but we are not going to sit idly by and wait for time to pass. We are doing our own analysis.

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

JUSTICE: CORRECTIONAL WORKERS - NEGOTIATIONS

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, through you my question is to the Minister of Justice. As most of us, if not all of us know, last Friday the Correctional Officers Union of Nova Scotia attended here at the House to speak with the Premier and with the government about their so-called final offer with regard to negotiations. The Premier met with the union officials outside these very doors and stated that if the union went back to the bargaining table, he would ensure no final offer and that they would begin to negotiate.

My question to the Minister of Justice is quite straightforward. Can the Minister of Justice tell this House whether or not the government is going back to the table to negotiate, and that it will not be making any more final offers or threats?

HON. JAMES SMITH: There is a process in place, an offer has been made, and it is now open to the union to come back and to respond to that offer. That is the process of negotiation as I understand it. It is in place, and it's working, and we are encouraging the workers to come back to the table.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: The Minister of Justice has just said that they are extending the hand, so to speak, to the union to come back to the table, and that is what the Premier said last week. My particular concern is with the government playing good cop-bad cop.

[Page 1383]

What we have - and I'll table it for the Minister of Justice here - is a memo dated June 15, 1998, from an F. W. Honsberger, Executive Director of the Correctional Services, and he's particularly making threats about what will happen if they do go on a strike. So my question to the Minister of Justice is, why is the government making strong threats against the union with one hand, while on the other hand, they're trying to offer conciliation and bring them back to the table to negotiate?

DR. SMITH: There is a process in place, an offer has been made, and there has not been an answer from the workers as to the acceptance or not of that particular offer. Both the Premier and I have encouraged them to return to the table. On the other issue of an illegal strike, a strike of any kind is disruptive and, therefore, there is a need for the employer to advise those particular persons, who are contemplating such an action, of the consequences of those actions. I think this is perfectly normal, and it's a fair and it's a right thing to do. (Applause)

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: My last question is also for the Minister of Justice. How many dedicated justice employees, first the Crown Attorneys and now the correctional officers, have to threaten job action before this Minister of Justice will take this job seriously and on a full-time basis?

DR. SMITH: With the Crown Attorneys, there's two areas there. I will try, very briefly, to address them. We have made a great deal of progress on the issue of Crown Attorneys. For years, this has been an issue. It has come to a focus. There are two main issues that we are working at: a financial package and a process to put in place that could or could not include collective bargaining.

The correctional officers are also moving into a new era. There is a transition period. They are moving into a stabilized situation within the service, and they will have benefits, and the offer has been, an increase in pay, that's fairly substantive for most of those people. There's progress being made in all areas, it's a transition time, and we are supportive of the work being done by the team that's working with those workers.

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

HUMAN RTS. COMM'N.: EXEC. DIR. - RETAIN

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my next question is also for the Minister of Justice, acting as the Minister responsible for the administration of the Human Rights Act. As was disclosed last Thursday here in the House, Wayne MacKay, the Executive Director of the Human Rights Commission will not be renewed as the Executive Director of the Human Rights Commission as of August 31, 1998. When Wayne MacKay was hired, there was an

[Page 1384]

extensive process and a pretty costly one, with regard to the search to find the appropriate non-partisan candidate for the Human Rights Commission.

Mr. Speaker, through you to the Minister responsible for the administration of the Human Rights Act. Can we afford to squander both Mr. MacKay's expertise and experience, when the Human Rights Commissioners have even demanded that he stay, and will the minister make efforts to keep Mr. MacKay?

HON. JAMES SMITH: The initial appointment of the gentleman named by the honourable member was for two years. There was a renewal in that term of office; there's been three years now. This is not a permanent position, the Human Rights Commission is not part of a governed, bureaucratic system; it's an arm's length commission. It may well be time to look at someone else, some other person from another perspective, perhaps from a minority group, perhaps a female, perhaps an Aboriginal person. So I think those are the options. We should be always looking for change, and to bring the most appropriate person who reflects our community, issues that are addressed within that commission and it would be very appropriate there. Mr. MacKay has done a good job, he has brought order and function to the commission and we are very appreciative of the work that he has done.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, given the sensitive cases that are currently before the Human Rights Commission, and all the cases obviously are sensitive, but in particular there is a complaint, I understand, from former Department of Tourism employees against the Nova Scotia Government. It is of concern to our caucus that these kind of cases proceed in a non-partisan and fair manner. So, my question to the Minister responsible for the administration of the Human Rights Act is, the House wants to know if the minister will commit to an all-Party committee to do the appropriate search for the executive director of the Human Rights Commission?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the search for a new executive director of the Human Rights Commission will be open, transparent and it will be fair and it will be done appropriately.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, it would be a lot more acceptable if the answer I got last Thursday was as transparent as maybe this process is going to be.

My question is, why did the Minister responsible for the administration of the Human Rights Act refuse to be clear with the people of Nova Scotia in this House last Thursday and can we expect this form of obfuscation with every other issue that comes up with the Human Rights Commission?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I am not quite clear what the honourable member is referring to, which one of my answers he didn't like. Last week, I believe he is referring to the re-appointment of Mr. MacKay because that is the context his other questions were in. I, at that juncture, had informed Mr. MacKay that I was not able to meet the request. The

[Page 1385]

appointment of a new person will be due on August 31st or September 1st and it will be dealt with then. I am very sorry but I will in no way apologize to that honourable member; he doesn't quite like what he is fishing for.

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - HFX. INTERNAT. AIRPORT:

PRIVATIZATION - RESPONSE (GOV'T.[CAN.])

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Premier. I was absolutely astounded when the Premier said to me, in Question Period a few minutes ago, that they are analyzing what is going on in terms of the efforts of the Halifax Port Corporation to attract a post-Panamax facility here to Halifax. What the Premier is saying is that when we lose the bid, he will know why.

AN HON. MEMBER: Absolutely.

DR. HAMM: Absolutely. He is going to know why we lost the bid. My question to the Premier and it revolves around his activities in terms of the Halifax International Airport Authority to get the funding to bring our airport up to scratch and make it comparative to other Canadian airports of similar size before it is transferred totally into local hands.

Now, the airport authority made a submission to the Premier's former federal colleagues. That proposal was supposed to have been responded to by June 9th. Can the Premier tell us why the response did not come out of Ottawa to the proposal put forward by the Halifax International Airport Authority that was supposed to have been in our hands by June 9th?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is obvious because the federal government is giving proper weight to the concerns of the people of Nova Scotia. (Interruptions) If we come out with a report that wasn't satisfactory, then we would be even further behind. The important thing is that the federal government considers what needs to be done for the Halifax International Airport and the needs of this province, not to come forward with reports that don't make any sense.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, to continue with the Premier. The Premier is prepared to let the fate of the Port of Halifax be handled by others other than himself and his government. The Premier is prepared to let the fate of the Halifax International Airport be handled by others. Why has the Premier, and I ask this directly through you, to the Premier, why is the Premier allowing other agencies, like the chamber of commerce and the airport authority to take the lead roles in what should be primarily a responsibility of this Premier and this government?

[Page 1386]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, with due respect to the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, the airport is a federal jurisdiction. The chamber of commerce has made an application. We are supporting them and we are working with them. We have to be asked to be a partner in these negotiations. We have been asked by the chamber of commerce with respect to the airport. We are now working with them. We have stated our position to Ottawa. We have said that under no circumstances are we going to accept in this province a settlement for the future of that airport that is not up to the standard that we expect in Nova Scotia. We have said it. We are going to stick to it and that is going to be the benchmark for the future of this province.

[1:30 p.m.]

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, the Hotel Association of Nova Scotia, the Tourism Association of Nova Scotia and the Greater Halifax Chamber of Commerce have resorted to putting up billboards to get the message out about the terrible situation that is being allowed to develop by this government at the Halifax International Airport. My question to the Premier is, has the Premier seen the billboards, has he read the message, did he get the message and is he prepared to take that message to Ottawa, meet with his former colleague, the Minister of Transportation, and resolve this issue in Ottawa once and for all?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is obvious the Leader of the Conservative Party is trying to take a fight with the federal government and blame the provincial government for it. He knows, as does everybody because it has been said publicly, that the Greater Halifax Chamber of Commerce is very pleased with the support that they have gotten from the provincial Government of Nova Scotia; very pleased.

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

HEALTH - REGIONAL BD. (E.):

COMMUN. HEALTH CENTRES - TENDERS

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health through you. Yesterday the Premier lent his very strong and able body to the turning of the sod in Neil's Harbour for the health centre. The Eastern Regional Health Board had remarked the high quality proposals they had received through the tendering of this and the Cheticamp Community Health Centres. My question to the minister is, can the Minister of Health explain why his department did not recommend the contract for these centres go to the lowest bidder, given that the ERHB had said everything else about these bids was virtually equal?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, there was a process in place that was fair and open and it is open for scrutiny for anyone to see. The decisions to be made would be made on many factors, the ability to manage, the expertise in the field, all those various issues. It

[Page 1387]

is not a process that I would interfere with. If the honourable member has some information of wrongdoing, would he please lay it before the House and I would certainly respond.

MR. CORBETT: I do not know if the minister is just a little bit overexcited about a supposed budget surplus, but, Mr. Speaker, through you, the bid was $250,000 in the difference. Now, does he see that as being just inconsequential when the board itself said the bids were virtually the same? I ask you, are we looking after friends here or are we worried about our health dollars?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, if that honourable member has some information of wrongdoing that he wants to bring before the House, he had better lay it before the House. Okay? Helping our friends? This is a great announcement for Nova Scotia. In very difficult times of making choices, we have made choices to bring health facilities into rural Nova Scotia. The people in the community are pleased. They are happy. The work will be done largely by local people. There are Sydney firms that will be doing this. That honourable member does that and I think if he has information of wrongdoing, he had better bring it before the House or be quiet in his seat.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I have asked him. I have laid it out for him and he is telling us this is open and transparent. Well, I tell you it is not. There are 250,000 reasons why that bid should be looked at again.

Mr. Speaker, is it a matter of giving these scarce dollars we have in our health care budget in this province to Liberal friends? That is what I asked the minister.

DR. SMITH: Health care is a matter of choices. Choices have been made. The people in the area are pleased. The companies involved are competent. The work will be done. If there is evidence that the system is wrong and there are some errors in that particular area, if there is evidence of wrongdoing, let the honourable member bring it forward. There is a process that is open and fair and the businesses involved know that it has been fair and open. The best people will be doing the work and it is a good-news story. Perhaps it is the good news that they can't handle so well.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.

FISH. - NORTHERN SHRIMP: QUOTA - STATUS

MR. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. On Friday past I attended a press conference which took place at Citadel Inn which was with the Canso Trawlermen's Cooperative Limited, whereby they outlined the current situation with all of the offshore shrimp allocations going to Newfoundland. I would like to say that the biggest point they had is that the province has not given any leadership in trying to resolve this issue. I would like to call on the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture

[Page 1388]

to update the House as to what has transpired since then, or since the last time I have asked the question in this House?

HON. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable member for his question, it is an important one. We have been working very closely with the people in Canso through the Trawlermen's Association, the council in the area and fish plant owners. We are diligently working to try to change the federal government's decision in this regard. It has been a long-standing position that the federal government has taken and it is a difficult one to change. We continue to work with the groups in the area to ensure that that happens.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I am listening to the minister make his response and it really hasn't changed very much since the last time I asked this question. This is not a Canso issue, this is a Nova Scotia issue. It involves Canso, it involves Mulgrave, it involves Petit-de-Grat and it also includes Arisaig down in Pictou County. I have notification from our Member of Parliament, Peter MacKay that mentions that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is saying that all the shrimp can be processed in Newfoundland.

To the minister, and I asked this question before, the processing of that shrimp can't be done in the time-frame in Newfoundland and it seems almost as though the federal government is punishing the Province of Nova Scotia by withholding quota from this province. I ask again, what will the minister do, other than make presentations, and somehow meet with groups to put forward this position in a much more forceful way? If that means going to Ottawa and making that presentation personally, that is what he should do. What will the minister do today to reassure this House as to what Nova Scotia will do to answer the questions of these people?

MR. COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, we have been working very diligently to try to get a shrimp quota for Nova Scotia. I personally met with Minister Anderson, I have spoken with him several times and our department has been very diligent in that regard. We have also supported the Canso Trawlermen's Association in the amount of $100,000 toward their efforts to ensure that they have a sustainable income in the future and we are going to continue to work with all of the communities in Nova Scotia for shrimp quota and any other quotas we can get in the fishery.

I would also like to state that this is a fight that should have been taken on 20 years ago and it is easy to stand up and criticize what we are doing today but we are making significant progress in getting communities to work together for the first time in the history of Nova Scotia.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I find it amazing that the minister is standing up in the House today saying that he is working to bring communities together. The inactivity of this government is tearing communities apart rather than bringing them together. I will ask the Premier, if the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture can't answer the question. The Premier

[Page 1389]

has indicated before that he had spoken personally to the minister and is awaiting some response. Can the Premier please enlighten the House as to what your federal cousins have put forward to you? Maybe you can share that with us so we can reassure these people that their communities can stay together and they can have a livelihood in rural Nova Scotia.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, both the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture and myself have spoken with the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans in Ottawa on behalf of the people of Canso. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has granted the 1,900 ton enterprise allocation for turbot off the coast of Labrador to Seafreez, with the benefit to go to the Port of Canso. That has been done since our meetings with the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans in Ottawa. There are further draws for shrimp allocations for five parties at the end of June. Hopefully, Canso will be one of those five.

With respect to the allocation off Newfoundland, we have said, and are continuing to say, it is not satisfactory that Nova Scotia was shut out of this allocation - and I spoke with the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans on the Friday - comparing that with New Brunswick's 25 per cent involvement in a draw in Nova Scotia, and he is supposed to get back to me on that.

But I want to say that this is a federal decision. We have made overtures. We are continuing to do so. The federal government makes the final decision. Talk to the Member of Parliament for that area. What is he doing? I do not know. I have not heard.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

ECON. DEV. & TOURISM - SIGNAGE (OFF-PREMISES):

STUDY - RELEASE

MR. PETER DELEFES: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. In 1996 a study of off-premises advertising signage was initiated and sponsored by various government departments for the purpose of obtaining information for the formulation of a provincial signage policy. Just to highlight the problem, one stretch of Highway No. 333, leading from Peggy's Cove, one of Nova Scotia's most travelled tourist routes, has between 250 and 300 off-premises signs, many poorly constructed, stuck to trees and hydro poles. Why has the study on off-premises signage not been made public?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. The question of signage in Nova Scotia, particularly as it has to do with tourism in the province, is a very serious matter. We take it very seriously. There has been a number of problems highlighted with the particular signage program in the province. I suppose you might say that there is a different problem for every stakeholder in the province. It is a very difficult situation to solve. All I can tell you is that we are working on it. We have had a pilot

[Page 1390]

project going on signage in Nova Scotia. In the very near future we will be coming out with a permanent policy.

Mr. Speaker, we have to get all the stakeholders on side here. There is a great difference of opinion as to what constitutes proper signage and what does not in this province.

MR. DELEFES: Again my question is to the Minister of Economic Development. The tourists of this province have cited, of course, our roads and signage as areas requiring improvement in Nova Scotia. Members of local development agencies were informed that the study on off-premises signage was being conducted and once it was completed it would be released to the public for consultation.

So my question to the minister is, when will the signage study be made public and a date set and public consultation be underway for the formulation of a new signage policy?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, there are three provincial government departments interested in this particular policy. As a matter of fact, there are three government departments formulating new policies to be put together in regards to signage. I guess the problem with signage in the province is what is deemed to be ugly by some people is money to other people in this province. There has to be a balance. There are a number of people in this province who would like to see all signs disappear along the highways in this province. There is yet another group in this province who depend on the signage for their very livelihoods. So it is a very serious and difficult situation for us as a government to come to grips with. All I can tell the honourable member opposite is that when we have the policy completed, a policy that we think all the stakeholders in the province will appreciate and will be able to support, then that policy will be presented as a public document.

MR. DELEFES: Mr. Speaker, again to the Minister of Economic Development, representatives of the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia have indicated that this moratorium on signage is impeding business. Business people in the Highway No. 333 area, which I have already alluded to, as well as in several other areas of the province, are already engaging in a variety of local signage projects. My question is, how will signs such as those now being developed along Highway No. 333 fit into a provincial signage policy when and if one is ever developed?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member opposite knows that there is a pilot project underway and ongoing in the province regarding signage. All I can tell the honourable member at this point is that the results of that pilot project will be put forth in the form of a policy statement which will be released in the fall of this year.

[Page 1391]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

AGRIC. - MIDDLETON (ANNA. CO.): GRAIN CENTRE - RETAIN

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Agriculture, and it is with regard to (Applause) There you go, Ed, a very popular guy to ask questions to, I can see that.

My question is regarding the Middleton grain centre. Farmers in Nova Scotia generally have lost the feed freight assistance federal policy; there's been a reduction in many of the provincial programs. Annapolis County farmers have been very upset in recent weeks and months because of the closure by the East Coast Commodities Organization, funded by the Government of Nova Scotia, to operate the grain facilities. They have indicated their interest in closing the Middleton facility. I'm wondering, what does the minister plan to do to help try to keep that facility open?

[1:45 p.m.]

HON. EDWARD LORRAINE: Mr. Speaker, I know the member from Kings North has been in the office, we've discussed this. We're still working on the problem. As you're aware, the East Coast Commodities Organization assumed, when we privatized, the operation of the three grain centres throughout the province, that being Middleton, Steam Mill and Bayhead. We're working on the process; in fact I had a meeting on Saturday with our department staff that's in charge. I met again, talked on that issue with the deputy minister this morning. So, we're working on that project.

MR. ARCHIBALD: As the minister knows, if the East Coast Commodities Organization does not operate the grain centre, and they decide to close it, the ownership reverts to the Government of Nova Scotia. I'm wondering if, with that in mind, the minister will indicate today that he will not allow the removal of any of the equipment - that is equipment and machinery, the scales, and that sort of thing - that's attached to the Middleton grain centre?

MR. LORRAINE: That was another issue that we discussed this morning. That's been said to me before, and it may be true. We've asked our legal people within the department to search it out, whether we do have the authority, and under that contract, I'm not absolutely certain until we get a legal opinion. But, there's another plan taking place. They have asked to set up a study, - now "they" are the farmers, the producers that are using the centre - they want to do a small assessment. They will bring back a recommendation and we'll deal with it when the recommendation comes in.

[Page 1392]

MR. ARCHIBALD: Again to the Minister of Agriculture. There is a group of about 200 people, farmers in the Annapolis County, western Kings County area, that are interested. There are 50 of the farmers from west of Berwick to Annapolis County who have indicated an interest in taking over the facility on a long-term basis. I'm wondering, is the Minister of Agriculture and his department willing to work with that group to try to see that there's a permanent grain centre facility for Annapolis County?

MR. LORRAINE: During a number of meetings - and just last week I met with a group of those producers, and quite a few of them that I have a lot of respect for - that was suggested, that's part of the assessment that they want to do, and that assessment will cost about $5,000. I said to the producers, I want your recommendation back, you people are the people using the centre. Bring your recommendation back, let us take a look at it and see what we can do, because I'm willing to work with you people to assist you.

Now whatever the recommendations that come back, and that may be to take over the centre at Middleton, that may be part of the recommendation, I don't know, but, when that comes in, our department is certainly willing to work with those producers. You mentioned earlier about a letter, and I asked our department on Saturday, that we would send a letter to East Coast Commodities asking them not to remove any equipment up to Steam Mill from Middleton until we're able to work this program through, and see what we can do to assist the producers.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

FIN. - EDUC. (POST-SECONDARY): FUNDING FORMULA - BASIS

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, a question for the honourable Minister of Finance. The minister and his colleagues will know that for decades every government in Nova Scotia has taken a position with the federal government, with respect to transfers for the funding of post-secondary education, that the funding formula is inadequate because of the way it is based on provincial populations. It does not take into account the student population which in Nova Scotia in PSE is very significant. Yesterday, however, at a meeting of the First Ministers and the Ministers of Finance, there was agreement on a so-called common position to tie the Canada health and social transfer monies to a population base purely on the existing populations, not to expand it to include students.

My question to the minister is, how dare they agree after decades of objections, to that kind of a funding formula?

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I think the member opposite has his facts not quite accurate. To begin with, I had brought forward a number of issues of concern to Nova Scotia, one of which is the student enrolment process. In fact, the reality is that we are at a disadvantage of some $25 million a year by the way the census is actually being taken. We

[Page 1393]

consider that unacceptable. In fact, I have met personally with Mr. Martin on the issue. We brought it up again yesterday and I did have some support from some of the other provinces in Canada with regard to moving forward to try to find a resolve to that.

Secondly, in regard to any additional funding and programs, we in the Province of Nova Scotia have made it very clear at the table yesterday that we do not agree with the concept of going by the population base because that is not to the advantage and long-term benefit of the Province of Nova Scotia. In fact, we made that abundantly clear at the ministers' level and at the Minister of Finance's level. That is why there has not been a consensus to go forward on that initiative. I am happy to report to the members of this House that we have brought the concerns of Nova Scotia forward in a very effective way.

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

HON. DONALD DOWNE: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Earlier in Question Period today I mistakenly suggested it was this administration that removed the VLTs from the corner stores in the Province of Nova Scotia. I want to acknowledge that it was the previous administration that removed the machines in February 1993. I believe it is important from my point of view to give credit where credit is due and to point out that I want to set the record straight for the members of this House. I think it is also important to inform the members of the House that it was our administration that introduced very tough regulations that have been brought in to virtually remove the illegal VLT or grey machines in the Province of Nova Scotia. I believe it is important to bring that to the forefront as well.

MR SPEAKER: That is not in reality a point of order.

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Government Motions.

GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

[Page 1394]

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: I would like to take a few moments of the House if I could, Mr. Speaker, on a topic that is of real concern in my riding and I am sure it is a concern in various areas throughout the province. That, of course, is that important issue of land.

I know that all members will agree they ain't making any more of it, if you will excuse my grammar, and that land control and access and proper use of land, whether it is in the suburban area or whether it is in the more rural coastal areas is of some consequence to all of us as Nova Scotians. It is an issue that has been brought up on various occasions by constituents of mine. They have questioned who has access to coastal communities, who does lease and own various islands on our coastal communities and, of course, there is also that issue in the fast developing subdivision areas of our province of who is actually in control when it comes to the development of these important pieces of land.

I am aware of the fact that the past Minister of Municipal Affairs - who was succeeded in the last election by my colleague for Dartmouth North due to the fact that she did not offer - Ms. Jolly introduced or was in the process of introducing some important legislation in which the Planning Act for developers was to be looked at. I would like to point out to members present that developers are not all robber barons. There are developers in various communities in this province and in the riding of Timberlea-Prospect who have a conscience, who are concerned about the ramifications of their developments, and these developers are basically being left high and dry. Questions are now being asked of these developers, where do they stand with regards to municipal development?

I have a letter here, and I will table it if necessary, that was sent out by the current minister at the time, the Minister of Municipal Affairs, in which she goes out of her way to congratulate her department on the initiative they've shown. She talks about the strategy ahead, the purposefulness of this committee, and the various good works that this particular Planning Act on land is going to enact. However this plan, members opposite and on this side of the House, went absolutely nowhere. Meanwhile developers are left asking many questions of where do they turn when it comes to some kind of long-term planning for the fast-developing communities, of which many of us are members.

But we go from that particular part of the issue of land to the other issue of the coastal communities. I have made reference to this, and I have introduced resolutions in this House, and I have pointed to the neighbouring Province of Prince Edward Island when it comes to control of coastal communities, coastal islands, and various other of the more rural areas of our community.

[Page 1395]

I am now today going to introduce the Prince Edward Island Lands Protection Act as introduced in 1988, with its regulations and amendments that were introduced in 1991. I would ask that the Department of Natural Resources, in combination with the Department of Municipal Affairs, please peruse these laws of Prince Edward Island as enacted at that time because, without doubt, we are losing control of this valuable natural resource. There are many islands and many coastal communities that are now under the control of non-residents. I bring this issue up because I believe it is of real concern to not just the residents of Timberlea-Prospect but to the residents of coastal communities throughout this province.

We are not making any more land, to put it grammatically correct, now. Our land is our future. What will our children eventually have? Will they run into, Private, Please Keep Off, whether it is in a rural community, or whether it's in one of our prized developments? There have been enough excuses and enough stalling. The concern that I have is a matter of leadership, that the Minister of Municipal Affairs, in combination with the correct stakeholders - and there's a term we hear so often - must take the initiative and address this issue of land; land development, land use and land control.

It seems to me, as we continue to move into the future, our land is our greatest resource, yet we are losing control of it. We are losing control of it to people who do not have a vested interest in this province. It's of some consequence to me as I see the minister, the naysayer of all naysayers shaking his head, I am so concerned about the number of non-residents, the number of non-residents. (Interruption) Yes, Mr. Speaker?

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: A question for the honourable member, Mr. Speaker. Perhaps the honourable member would be kind enough to apprise the House as to what percentage of land in Nova Scotia is now under non-Nova Scotian ownership?

MR. ESTABROOKS: I thank the member for the question. In fact, I can't give the answer because it's one of my questions. To answer the minister's question, I am not aware of that and it is one of my concluding comments.

[2:00 p.m.]

The concern that I have is the control of coastal communities, and the control of those particular sections of land. Perhaps I should, in my concluding remarks, not ask what percentage of land is controlled by non-residents but what percentage of the islands that surround our coast are controlled by non-residents? I am sure that the member for Cape Breton Nova was not giving me the victory sign when he put up his two fingers for two per cent, but I am very sure that that figure is much larger than that particular per cent.

I am looking forward to hearing back from the Minister of Natural Resources or the Minister of Municipal Affairs on both of these issues. However, it seems the Minister of Labour has the answers. I look forward to a reply in one form or another but, more

[Page 1396]

importantly, as I have said before, there are people in our communities who are asking us, as MLAs, questions about land development. They are asking about developers and what actual controls are over them. They are asking about control of our coastline and I believe it is time that we should take the initiative, respond to these concerns, and take the next step forward. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

[2:05 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Supply with Deputy Speaker Mr. Donald Chard in the Chair.]

[5:59 p.m. CWH on Supply rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Ronald Russell, resumed the Chair.]

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

THE CLERK: That the committee has met and made some progress in considering Supply and begs leave to sit again.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed?

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. RAYMOND WHITE: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow is Opposition Day so we will call on the Opposition House Leader to indicate the business for tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Progressive Conservative House Leader.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, the House will sit tomorrow from 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. and after Question Period we will be calling Bill No. 11 and Bill No. 15, and hopefully time will permit to call Resolution No. 574.

I move, Mr. Speaker, that we adjourn until tomorrow at 2:00 p.m.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 1397]

I will ask members when they are vacating the Chamber to please do so as quietly as possible.

[6:00 p.m.]

The time being 6:00 p.m. we will now start the late show. The resolution for the Adjournment debate this evening was submitted by the honourable member for Digby-Annapolis:

"Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works schedule a trip over Pictou County roads in the very near future so he can experience the rough condition of so many of the county's roads and personally recognize the urgent need for improvements.".

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou East.

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - PICTOU CO.: ROADS - MIN. SAMPLE

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, the constituency of Pictou East is bounded on the north by the Northumberland Strait and extends from Pictou Landing to Sunnybrae and from Lismore to East River St. Marys and from Westville down to Marshy Hope at the Antigonish County line. The constituency is geographically dispersed with a large collection of villages. The secondary roads are, indeed, the lifelines to our community and the only means of transporting our goods and services and our children to and from school. The Trans Canada Highway runs through the constituency but the problem is getting to it. Our secondary roads are a mess in Pictou East and they are a public embarrassment, indeed.

One morning about 9:00 a.m. I received a call in my constituency office indicating a truck was stuck in the middle of a road and had been blocking traffic since 7:00 a.m. The caller indicated that he had contacted the Department of Transportation and Public Works so I suggested that if he didn't receive any results to get back to me because I didn't want to disturb them. As it turned out, he called me back about 11:00 a.m. and said that the truck was still stuck there. When I immediately called the Department of Transportation and Public Works they said they would resolve the situation by sending a towing vehicle and putting up the proper signage.

Mr. Speaker, towing the vehicle out does not solve the problem. The problem is there is a bad section of road that had, in fact, been bad other years and needed to be repaired.

[Page 1398]

About four days later I received a call from the same gentleman to indicate that the signs were, in fact, there but they were still lying on the side of the road in the drain. They had not yet been installed and there was still another vehicle stuck.

Another bad section on another road isolated a small community of about a dozen homes located several miles inland from the Merigomish highway. They had no mail delivery for five days. I had the lady who drives the mail for that area take me in there and she showed me just what the situation was. She indicated that it was only one section that is not as long as this room that was bad, but that it had been like that for the last four years and the same thing happened in previous years. All it needed was some heavy rock put in there.

There was an elderly lady on a farm we walked to, because we could not drive through, and we talked to her and she felt rather stranded because she had only a small car and there was no way that she could get through. So it could be a serious situation if emergency vehicles were required to get in.

Mr. Speaker, we are in a new budget year and hopes for proper maintenance have been dashed by this government. This transportation capital budget has been cut some $28 million. This is the budget that the monies for all road maintenance comes from. We do have so-called road taxes, that's the 13.5 cents that we pay on every litre for provincial tax, the 10 cents a litre that we pay is a federal excise tax, and also the 8 per cent HST portion of that tax. In all, some $370 million was paid by Nova Scotians last year and only $287 million dribbled down to our Transportation budget.

This year only $250 million, approximately, is in the budget indicating a further reduction of $37 million in total. The bottom line is that taxes collected far exceed the monies budgeted to be spent on our roads by many millions of dollars. What is wrong with this picture, I ask. Well, I'll tell you what's wrong with this picture, the government is what's wrong.

I'd like to quote from the Speech from the Throne, "The economic heart of Nova Scotia lies in her cities."; a tragic commentary indeed for a government to relay. Further, it indicates the mindset of this government towards rural Nova Scotia and rural Nova Scotians. (Interruption) That was in the Throne Speech, and it's hard to believe. It concerns me a great deal because I live in rural Nova Scotia, and I represent rural Nova Scotians. It concerns me because we rural Nova Scotians do not feel comfortable being treated as second-class citizens in this great province that we helped to build.

Now don't get me wrong, I have a great deal of respect for our local supervisors, highway foremen and their crews. They do a marvellous job. They're short-staffed, with what little money they have to work with. I don't know how they put up with the calls. I guess it is a good job there are fresh MLAs in the area because they take some of the pressure off but somehow we wade through it.

[Page 1399]

There was a big hole in the pavement in front of my home and I had a knock on the door by a stranger who said that he hit the hole and that if I didn't get it fixed he was going to come after me for fixing his car because he said he broke a tire on it. I had to call up the Department of Transportation and I said, for Heaven's sakes help me out here. We have to get this fixed. Anyway, I wasn't home when it was repaired. My wife said it was the funniest thing, she happened to look out the window and this truck roared up, stopped, two fellows got out and they shovelled some cold patch in the hole, they backed over it twice and away they went and that was the resolve there. It is a good job they are doing that much because it is saving our vehicles a lot. When big trucks go over it though, unfortunately, the patches eventually come out. It is a short-term fix.

On the Transportation budget cuts alone, I would have no trouble convincing my constituents why I might have to move this government into Opposition status. Now what would I do if I had the opportunity? Where would I get the money? By the year 2003 there will be an estimated $43 billion surplus in our Employment Insurance Fund. That would be a good place to start looking for some extra money.

Mr. Minister, it is your responsibility and your duty to fight for and acquire federal agreement for the restoration of our secondary roads. I would like to invite the Minister of Transportation and Public Works to come with me to Pictou East so that he will have a better feel and a better appreciation of our road system. Mr. Minister, do you think that would be a possibility in the weeks ahead?

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Yes.

MR. DEWOLFE: I would appreciate that very much, thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, I understood the notice of motion came from the MLA for Digby-Annapolis, is that correct?

MR. SPEAKER: That was who submitted it but, however, any member can debate it.

MR. HUSKILSON: Well, it is certainly a pleasure to speak to the motion. As I originally said, the member for Digby-Annapolis had asked me to schedule a trip on the roads of Pictou County in the near future and I just said a short while ago that I would be delighted to do that at the earliest convenient time, whenever we can arrange that. I would certainly like to go there to see. I want to go to all of the roads in Nova Scotia.

I want to understand first-hand what people expect from my department and how we can better deliver a level of service that meets those expectations. I have already toured roads in Antigonish and Musquodoboit at the invitation of the local officials and local MLAs.

[Page 1400]

Today, I have travelled the roads of Cumberland County; as a matter of fact I just got back about one-half hour ago. (Interruption)

Yes. At the request of my colleague in Cumberland North and the local municipal officials, I learned for myself the concerns of the people who travel those roads each day.

Quite frankly, I was not happy with the condition of some of the roads which we drove over today, and I have to admit that I was not completely surprised by what I saw today. Do not forget I was raised, and still, live in rural Nova Scotia. I know well, not only from my trip to Cumberland County but also from my own experience, that there are roads all over Nova Scotia that frankly are not in good shape. Roads, places and people that rightly deserve better.

Mr. Speaker, there is no question there are deficiencies in Nova Scotia's infrastructure, but I am more than a rural Nova Scotian, I am more than a Minister of Transportation and Public Works, I am also a citizen of Nova Scotia elected to a government that is dedicated to managing the finances and priorities of this province responsibly, and that means tough choices.

As managers of the public purse and as managers of the provincial infrastructure, the job of government is to make the choices that provide the most benefit to all Nova Scotians. It also means the job of government is to make choices that provide the most benefit to our children. Our future starts with our children. Nova Scotians have made it clear they do not want their government to mortgage the future of our children. There were some tough choices made in the last budget. I accept the responsibility of dealing with these choices, and I certainly do not apologize for them. Education and health care are this year's targeted priorities in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, over the last two weeks it has been my pleasure to present to this House a detailed account of how my department makes the best and most equitable use of limited dollars. I will not repeat the process my department uses to make those priorities. I am confident that after hearing, twice, the rigorous steps we take to make sure the worst roads get the best attention, the members of this House feel that they know it well enough; however, I will repeat my complete and wholehearted endorsement of this fair and detailed process. I will also repeat that I am proud of the hard-working and dedicated men and women working in our districts, whose job it is to rate the roads and highways in the areas where they work, live and drive. I would also consider these people to be true professionals. Their recommendations are sound ones, based on solid data. I trust the decisions they make to manage the priorities in these respective areas.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, I would like more money and, trust me, every dollar that I can find goes in bettering the infrastructure of Nova Scotia. We continue to lobby the federal government to structure a fair and equitable funding program for Nova Scotia's highways. This message was taken to Ottawa by our Finance Minister yesterday. What we know,

[Page 1401]

through discussions with our provincial counterparts, is that deteriorating roads are an issue right across Canada.

Mr. Speaker, rural Nova Scotians need better roads, and I will be the first one to say that. Our priorities are clear. The movement of people, goods and services throughout this province in a safe and efficient manner is our priority. A fair and equitable system is our priority. Serving all Nova Scotians, those living in our largest centres and those living in rural communities, is our priority.

I look forward to my upcoming trip to Pictou County and look forward to continuing my commitment to the fair and equitable system for roadwork at my department. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Interruption) So that is yes.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

MR. CHARLES PARKER: I, too, Mr. Minister, am looking forward to your trip to Pictou County. We would certainly like to invite you to enjoy some of our Pictou County folks and hospitality when you are there. I am sure the member for Pictou East and I can arrange a day that is suitable for you to come up and visit us and travel over our roads. I am sure you should have your seatbelt on, the day you come, maybe your crash helmet, because there are some bad, there are some poor, and there are some difficult roads out there. I am glad to see you made it back today from Cumberland County, where there are some difficult roads I am sure.

Pictou County probably has more roads per capita than any other county in this province. There are a tremendous number of secondary and back roads that need a lot of repair. Certainly during the winter campaign I was over a lot of them; I travelled on many of them. I went down that road, some of them I could not get through, so I had to back up and turn around and travel down an alternate road. I want to mention a few of them that were difficult, that are in need of repair. I am sure you are going to see some of them when we give you our tour throughout our county. In Pictou West, in my riding, some of the more difficult roads, I think, are the road leading out to Caribou Island. It is a dirt road. It is tremendously potholed, washboard. It needs a lot of work. It is nice and wide but it is just in very poor shape.

[6:15 p.m.]

Probably the worst road in all of Pictou West would have to be the road that travels between River John and West Branch. It is a road that was so poor this past spring that people could not travel on it. It is very pulverized. A lot of people were avoiding it because they just could not travel down that road. They were taking the Gunn Road which is an alternate road around the West Branch-River John Road. It is one you will see when you come to visit us. Certainly I think it is one of the worst.

[Page 1402]

The Sunrise Trail you are probably familiar with through our county from the Pictou Rotary out through to River John. It was paved three years ago, part of it, up as far as Toney River, but the rest of it, for a very publicly-travelled road, needs a lot of work yet. That is one that I think should be a priority in Pictou County. (Interruption) This is correct. It was the summer home of a former Minister of Transportation. It was paved out as far as his cottage but it did not get any further. We are hoping that it will be continued along.

Other roads I want to mention are the Greenhill Road, up over Greenhill Lookoff, an historic lookoff area of our county that needs a lot of repair work. The White Hill Road. Last week I introduced a petition in the House and there were 57 residents of that road that signed it. It is in deplorable shape. It needs a lot of repair work. Our former member for Pictou West, Mr. McInnes, lives on the Scotch Hill Road. It, too, is in very poor shape and perhaps if you have the opportunity to visit, we will show you that particular road. The River John Road, we used to call the Old Post Road, between the rotary and River John, is in very poor condition. The Granton Road that leads past the Michelin Plant is broken up, very ridgy and needs repair. Highway No. 289 that leads out to the beautiful Musquodoboit Valley is travelled year-round. It never gets a day of rest because it is open every hour of the day, every week of the year, every month of the year. It is never closed to heavy trucks that go to Mactara and the lime plant and so on. The Westville Highway between the Town of Westville and the Town of New Glasgow is probably the busiest secondary road in the county and it definitely is in need of repair.

There are a lot of roads out there that have been neglected and there has not been any long-term maintenance plan for them. In fact, it has just been emergency repairs as required, but no vision or no long-term plan.

I just want to mention a few of the words, a few of the adjectives that people in our county use to describe some of the roads, words like: deplorable, desperate, terrible, awful, poor, deteriorating, rough, impassable, dangerous, neglected. I could go on and on. There are all kinds of adjectives. In fact, perhaps I will go on: forgotten, bumpy, washboardy, treacherous, and on and on. There are a lot of them. Overall, I hope you are getting the picture that there are a lot of poor roads in Pictou County.

Recently our Transportation Critic wrote you a letter asking what work was going to be proposed for roads in various ridings in the province and Pictou West was included. The other day I was all excited. I got your reply and I quickly turned over to the riding of Pictou West and there it was. I could hardly believe my eyes. Just a wee little mention of roads that are proposed. On it, a total of .34 kilometres is all that is proposed in Pictou West. That is one third of a kilometre. It is about 300 metres and that is it. I got thinking about that song, Is That All There Is? Unfortunately, that is all there is. I hope the minister, after his tour, will look and reassess Pictou West and see if we can determine more roads that need secondary repair in our county.

[Page 1403]

I know other ridings are getting more work. Just looking at this list, some are getting considerably more, so I would ask you to reconsider Pictou West and see if there are some other of these terrible roads that need repair. People in the county are paying more than their share of taxes at this time. When you live in a rural area and you work in a town, you go into town and you are gassing up quite often because, with the high gasoline tax, people expect that some of that gas tax will go back into repairing the roads over which they travel. I don't think we are getting our fair share when I see such a small list that is here on your reply letter.

I guess, overall, Mr. Speaker, I think we need more money, not less money, put into roads. I know you agree with that, but we just need to make sure it is equitable throughout all the ridings in Nova Scotia. It is not only used by local residents, it is used by tourists who come to picturesque Pictou County to enjoy the scenery and to enjoy what we have to offer. We want to make sure that their stay there is a good one and that they don't lose time or they don't lose money from car repairs. There is another old song that goes, I left my heart in Pictou County. Perhaps you have heard that one. They are also leaving more than just their heart, they are now leaving their axle, they are leaving their muffler and they are leaving their tires behind in Pictou County because of the poor roads.

I guess I am probably just about near the end of my time, Mr. Speaker. I would ask the minister, certainly, to be open-minded when he comes, to look at the roads and look at the shape of them and to ask for his help in getting some repairs and long-term maintenance for our roads. I am looking forward to him coming up to visit. Thank you. (Applause)

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I want to commend my colleague for Digby-Annapolis for bringing this resolution forward. I know all Opposition politicians, especially Opposition politicians, are very concerned because we have seen this Liberal Government, over the past five years, completely eliminate and completely omit different ridings relative to highway improvements.

My riding, for example, and I take a little bit of issue with the previous speaker who felt that Pictou County has the most kilometres of roads when, in fact, without question, on a constituency by constituency basis, the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley does have documented information supporting that it has the largest kilometres of both paved and gravel roads.

Mr. Speaker, I really appreciate the fact that this Transportation Minister has taken the time out of his very busy schedule, and I know the minister has a large workload and I really appreciate him going out to the various ridings. In fact, today, I know the minister spent a lot of time in Cumberland County. My colleagues from Cumberland County and this caucus are really appreciative of the fact that the minister will at least get out and, if you will, experience for himself just what the people in Cumberland, Colchester, Pictou and all these counties have

[Page 1404]

to endure. We know that our constituents are very concerned. Some of them are young. Some of them are old and everybody in between is very concerned, but I think it is more than that. Our rural roads, our secondary highway system in many of our constituencies is, in fact, the key to economic development and it is very difficult to encourage individuals or companies to come and locate or perhaps relocate to an area of the province that really doesn't have a public highway infrastructure that is up to speed, so to speak. No pun intended.

We were speaking a little earlier during Budget Estimates with the Premier regarding the fact that the federal government siphons off around $130 million per year from the taxpayers in this province by way of the excise fuel tax. I know the previous Minister of Transportation went to Ottawa, cap in hand, and by golly, when he left here, he was going to come back with some money. Unfortunately, his federal cousins in Ottawa, the John Chretien Liberals turned him down. He came back empty-handed. I am hoping that this Minister of Transportation and Public Works will be more successful. I know when you are dealing with Ottawa, and the Premier in fact gave us some information this afternoon, good advice I think, and he fully recognized that since 1993, especially, Nova Scotia has been treated very poorly by this Liberal Government's federal cousins in Ottawa. The Premier suggested that we lobby all politicians, irrespective of level to get Ottawa's ear, and make them understand, yes, we're a have-not province, but we need support, we need some of those tax dollars to be redirected, redirected perhaps into the budget of Transportation and Public Works.

I can table a document that I just came across today and when you look closely at the document, you will understand that the reason why 165 employees of the Department of Transportation and Public Works are, either through attrition or job termination or firings or whatever, are going to be let go. The government's own documents indicate that. I can give the minister the page where that can be found, but I'm not going to get into that now.

I realize that when you take $28 million out of a department's budget negative impacts are going to be felt. Jobs are going to be terminated. I mean, the minister and his staff probably have no other choice. So that's a major concern for, I suppose, not only us in Opposition, I imagine it is a concern for the Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

I had a call this afternoon from an elderly lady down in Cape Breton. She was very concerned that her son, who is 50 years old, has worked for the Department of Transportation for 18 years, was advised just yesterday that probably within a week and a half, he and nine of his colleagues will be let go by the Department of Transportation and Public Works. Why? Why will they be let go? They will be let go because there is no work. There is no work, there is no money in their budget. I communicated to the MLA for that area, who the family was, and he is going to give them a call.

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Somewhere along the line, this government has to recognize that the motor fuel tax and the Registry of Motor Vehicles receipts, or the equivalent thereof, as my colleague from Pictou indicated, must be spent on our roads. Then at least we can say as MLAs in Nova Scotia that, monies that are accrued through those ordinary revenue sources are going back into our highways.

Now health and education are extremely important. Everybody recognizes that. You don't have to be a politician to stand up and say that. The fact of the matter is that the longer this government neglects our roads, the more it is going to cost in the long run. The minister knows that a lot of roads now, because his government has neglected them for the past five or six years, not only will they have to be repaved, previous to the repaving, they are going to have to be pulverized, and that costs money. I am not sure if it is $70,000 or $80,000 more per kilometre, or maybe it is more than that. It is an expensive figure.

So, the roads need attention, and they need attention now. So, I just hope the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, when he is down in the Cabinet Room will do everything he can to get as many dollars as he can, and spend the money where it is needed, on rural roads.

MR. SPEAKER: The time for the Adjournment debate has now expired.

We stand adjourned.

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