The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Wed., June 17, 1998

First Session

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 17, 1998

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hants Co.: Georgefield Rd. - Pave,
Mr. John MacDonell 1407
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Anl. Rept. of the Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs,
Hon. W. Gaudet 1408
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Educ. - Roland's Flora of Nova Scotia, Hon. R. Harrison 1408
Agric. - ACA Co-op: Eden Valley Farms - Chicken Products,
Hon. E. Lorraine 1409
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 728, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - MADD: Geraldine Dedrick -
Applaud, Hon. C. Huskilson 1411
Vote - Affirmative 1411
Res. 729, Human Res. - Johnston Bdg.: OH&S Comm. -
Commitment Applaud, Hon. W. Gaudet 1411
Vote - Affirmative 1412
Res. 730, Agric. - Bill McCurdy (Bidalosy Farms):
Soil Conservation Award - Congrats., Hon. E. Lorraine 1413
Vote - Affirmative 1413
Res. 731, Educ. - Acadian Federation (N.S.): Prix Etoile (1998) -
Congrats., Hon. R. Harrison 1413
Vote - Affirmative 1414
Res. 732, Fish. - Aquaculture Dev.: Importance - Recognize,
Hon. K. Colwell 1414
Vote - Affirmative 1415
Res. 733, Agric. - Lifetime Leadership Prog. (Can.):
Ms. McLean-Wile (Oakdale Farms) - Congrats., Hon. E. Lorraine 1415
Vote - Affirmative 1416
Res. 734, Justice - Family Violence Victims: Cell Phones Provision -
Applaud, Hon. J. Smith 1416
Res. 735, Culture - Atlantic Theatre Festival: Best Wishes - Extend,
Hon. R. Harrison 1417
Vote - Affirmative 1417
Res. 736, Fin. - HST: C of C (Metro Hfx.) Support - Acknowledge,
Hon. D. Downe 1418
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 17, Video Lottery Terminals Moratorium Act, Dr. J. Hamm 1419
No. 18, Medicare Protection Act, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1419
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 737, Lbr. - Westray Employees (Former): Severance -
Attitude Condemn, Mr. R. Chisholm 1419
Res. 738, Fin. - Gaming Corp. (PAC [17/06/98]): Evidence -
Recommendations Implement, Mr. N. LeBlanc 1420
Res. 739, NDP (N.S.) Leader: Ineffective - Condemn,
Hon. R. MacKinnon 1420
Res. 740, Preston/Westphal Army Cadets: Star Level Awards -
Congrats., Ms. Y. Atwell 1421
Vote - Affirmative 1421
Res. 741, Nat. Res. - Wolfville Arbor Day Comm.: Internat. Award -
Congrats., Hon. R. Harrison 1422
Vote - Affirmative 1422
Res. 742, Culture - Multicultural Festival (Dart. [19/06/98]):
Best Wishes - Extend, Hon. J. Smith 1423
Vote - Affirmative 1423
Res. 743, Gov't. (N.S.) - Election Platform Repudiation:
Records Book (Guinness) - Alert, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1423
Res. 744, Commun. Serv. - Adoption Info.: Recommendations -
Revisit, Mr. J. Muir 1424
Res. 745, Educ. - Cameron Salisbury (Bedford Band):
Internat. Award (N.Y. City) - Congrats., Hon. F. Cosman 1425
Vote - Affirmative 1425
Res. 746, Environ. - McClure's Brook (Millbrook): Regeneration -
Congrats., Mr. John MacDonell 1425
Vote - Affirmative 1426
Res. 747, Commun. Serv. - Working Poor: All-Party Comm. -
Establish, Mr. G. Balser 1426
Res. 748, Fish. - Jelleau's Boat Shop (Guys. Co.): Vessel (Core Cell) -
Congrats., Mr. R. White 1427
Vote - Affirmative 1427
Res. 749, Educ. - Cumb. Co.: High School Grads - Support Continue,
Mr. M. Scott 1428
Vote - Affirmative 1428
Res. 750, NDP (N.S.): Steel/Coal Policy - Circulate Widely,
Mr. P. MacEwan 1429
Res. 751, Health - R.K. MacDonald Nursing & Guest House: Friends -
Acknowledge, Mr. H. Fraser 1429
Vote - Affirmative 1430
Res. 752, Musquodoboit Hbr. (Anglican Church of St. Thomas):
Anniv. 100th - Congrats., Hon. K. Colwell 1430
Vote - Affirmative 1431
Res. 753, Gov't. (N.S.) - Premier: Power Tenuous - Remind,
Mr. B. Taylor 1431
Res. 754, Environ. - Cornwallis Dev. Agency Park: Tire Recycling -
Congrats., Mr. L. Montgomery 1432
Res. 755, DND (Can.) - HMCS Toronto: Crew - Congrats.,
Mr. G. Fogarty 1432
Vote - Affirmative 1433
Res. 756, Sports - Special Olympics (N.S.): Sponsor (Michelin Tire) -
Congrats., Mr. H. Fraser 1433
Vote - Affirmative 1434
Res. 757, Health - Cheticamp Commun. Health Centre: Residents -
Compliment, Mr. Charles MacDonald 1434
Vote - Affirmative 1434
Res. 758, Educ. - Students/Educators: Summer Enjoyable - Wish,
Hon. D. Downe 1435
Vote - Affirmative 1435
Res. 759, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Eastern Shore:
Seaside Tourism Comm. - Success Wish, Hon. K. Colwell 1435
Vote - Affirmative 1436
Res. 760, Father Fred Morley - Iona (Vic. Co.) Parish Priest:
Ordination (50th Anniv.) - Dedication Thank, Hon. K. MacAskill 1436
Vote - Affirmative 1437
Res. 761, NDP (N.S.): Sydney Environ. Improvement - Negativity,
Mr. P. MacEwan 1437
Res. 762, Nat. Res. - Black Duck Cove Day Park (Guys. Co.): Opening -
Congrats., Mr. R. White 1438
Vote - Affirmative 1438
Res. 763, Educ. - Lantz Elem. School: Prioritization - Recognize,
Hon. K. MacAskill 1439
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 156, Fin. - Gaming Corp. (PAC [17/06/98]): Evidence -
Knowledge (Premier), Mr. R. Chisholm 1440
No. 157, Fin. - Gaming Corp. (PAC [17/06/98]): Evidence -
Deal Approval, Dr. J. Hamm 1441
No. 158, Fin. - Former Min. (B. Boudreau): Legal Counsel -
Conflict, Mr. H. Epstein 1443
No. 159, Fin.: Gaming Control Act - Amend, Mr. N. LeBlanc 1444
No. 160, Fin. - Gaming Corp. (PAC [17/06/98]): Evidence -
Mgt. Concerns, Ms. R. Godin 1445
No. 161, Fin. - Gaming Corp. (PAC [17/06/98]): Evidence -
Revenue Lost, Mr. E. Fage 1446
No. 162, Fin. - Gaming Corp. (PAC [17/06/98]): ITT Sheraton
Negotiations - Intervention (Premier), Mr. D. Dexter 1448
No. 163, Fin. - Gaming Corp.: Chairman Acting - Resignation Request,
Mr. R. Chisholm 1449
No. 164, Fin. - Gaming Corp. (PAC [17/06/98]): Evidence -
Interference, Mr. G. Archibald 1450
No. 165, Health: Summit (Can.) - Participate, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1452
No. 166, Fin. - Casino: ITT Sheraton Negotiations - Exco Interference,
Mr. G. Moody 1453
No. 167, Commun. Serv.: Small Options Home: Regs. - Release,
Mr. J. Pye 1455
No. 168, Fin. - Gaming Corp. (PAC [17/06/98]): Evidence -
Exco Authority, Mr. R. Chisholm 1456
No. 169, Fin. - Gaming Corp. (PAC [17/06/98]): Evidence -
Deal Approval, Mr. J. Leefe 1457
No. 170, Health: BTK Spraying (Tussock Moth) - Concerns,
Mr. C. Parker 1459
No. 171, Commun. Serv. - Secure Treatment Centre (Truro-Bible Hill):
Site - Confirm, Mr. J. Muir 1460
No. 172, Fin. - Gaming Corp.: Chairman (R. Fiske) Resignation -
Discussions (Premier), Mr. R. Chisholm 1461
No. 173, WCB: Appeals - Backlog, Mr. F. Corbett 1463
No. 174, Health - Research Foundation: Legislation - Introduction,
Dr. H. Bitter-Suermann 1464
No. 175, Lbr.: Minimum Wage - Increase, Mr. F. Corbett 1465
No. 176, Human Rts. Comm'n.: Exec. Dir. - Replacement,
Mr. B. Taylor 1466
No. 177, Bus. & Cons. Serv. - Gasoline Prices (Temp. Factor):
Consumers - Protect, Ms. Y. Atwell 1467
No. 178, Lbr. - Metro Transit: Strike - Negotiations, Mr. M. Baker 1469
No. 179, Econ. Dev. & Tourism: Sydport - Sale, Ms. Helen MacDonald 1470
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 11, Assessment Act 1471
Mr. G. Balser 1471
Hon. W. Gaudet 1473
Hon. K. Colwell 1475
Mr. P. Delefes 1476
Mr. G. Moody 1478
Vote - Affirmative 1479
No. 15, Workers' Compensation Regional Appeal Tribunals Act 1479
Mr. M. Baker 1479
Hon. R. MacKinnon 1481
Mr. F. Corbett 1484
Mr. J. DeWolfe 1486
Mr. P. MacEwan 1486
Mr. Charles MacDonald 1489
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 574, Health - Pharmacare Prog.: Initiatives (PC) - Adopt,
Dr. J. Hamm 1491
Mr. G. Moody 1491
Mr. H. Fraser 1493
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1495
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Culture: Stan Rogers Folk Festival (Canso) - Commend:
Mr. R. White 1497
Mr. John Deveau 1499
Ms. E. O'Connell 1500
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Thur., June 18th at 12:00 p.m. 1501

[Page 1407]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, JUNE 17, 1998

Fifty-seventh General Assembly

First Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Ronald Russell

DEPUTY SPEAKER

Mr. Donald Chard

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we commence with the daily routine, I would like to advise the members of the House that the notice of motion on the Adjournment debate tonight has been submitted by the honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury. It reads:

Therefore be it resolved that in recognition of Nova Scotia's excellent worldwide reputation in the field of music, this House commend the organizers, volunteers and participants in the Stan Rogers Folk Festival being held in Canso this July 4th, 5th and 6th, as well as all the music festivals which are taking place in our province during the coming summer.

That notice of motion will be debated at 6:00 p.m.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition which reads as follows, "We the people who travel and or reside on the Georgefield Road in the County of Hants request that this road be given top priority to be repaved due to its deplorable condition.". I have affixed my signature to the petition.

1407

[Page 1408]

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

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

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table the Annual Report of the Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs for the fiscal year ended March 31, 1997.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce to members of this House a book in which all Nova Scotians can take great personal pride, Roland's Flora of Nova Scotia written by Marian Zinck. Ms. Zinck's work stands on the shoulders of earlier works done by Dr. Albert E. Roland and Dr. E.C. Smith.

It is, Mr. Speaker, and to all members of this House, two volumes, and it is easily the most comprehensive book ever compiled on Nova Scotia's vascular plants. In fact, no other book in Canada contains its depth of information. It is all here, whether you are a professional botanist, a student, or someone who just loves the outdoors. As the members of this House can see, this book is beautifully designed, making it easy to use and accessible to everyone. Our province is home to an amazing variety of plant life, each with its own unique and fascinating natural history. Roland's Flora of Nova Scotia documents this natural history, enabling us to see the natural world with greater depth of understanding, finer appreciation and renewed wonder. It is a great gift to us all.

Mr. Speaker, a copy of this Flora of Nova Scotia will kept on record in the Legislative Library. I urge all members to take the opportunity to spend a few moments viewing its contents. Once again, my compliments to the many volunteers, the botanists of the universities of this province, to the people who have put this collection together, it is indeed an outstanding work of hand-crafted quality in the Province of Nova Scotia. (Applause)

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

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I, too, would like to echo the minister's compliments to the people who worked on what looks to be a fine collection of works. I guess as an individual, I would love to have the time or the opportunity to take some of the

[Page 1409]

expertise in those books and actually put it to practice, but we will see what the summer brings for us. I would like to suggest, though, to the minister that this would be an excellent reference for schools in Nova Scotia, and maybe the minister would consider recommending it that way. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland North.

MR. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I, also, would certainly like to recommend Roland's Flora of Nova Scotia. As an outdoors person, as an enthusiast, as a person certainly who takes great pleasure in viewing plants, watching their growth, and the diversity of this province and so many like people in the Province of Nova Scotia who enjoy that pursuit, this is a fine text. It obviously needs to be available throughout libraries in this province. I would also like to add, as a former student of Dr. Roland, it is indeed a privilege to see his name carried forward in the fine works that that doctor was responsible for through the years. He was truly one of the great educators and one of the great botanists this province has ever produced, and it was indeed my pleasure to be one of his students. So, I certainly would add my congratulations that that book is there.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Agriculture.

HON. EDWARD LORRAINE: Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to make an announcement that supports the expansion of one of the province's major poultry processors.

Through the Department of Economic Development and Tourism, ACA Co-operative in New Minas has been approved for a $2 million loan to help market its new brand of chicken products under the name, Eden Valley Farms. The loan will also be used to purchase equipment that will enable the company to provide its entire product line "counter ready" for customers in Atlantic Canada. This loan supports the tireless efforts of the 55-member co-operative. Atlantic Progress Magazine ranked ACA Co-operative 37th in its list of the top 101 companies in Atlantic Canada. It is a major employer in the Annapolis Valley with over 470 employees; 1997 figures show it had gross sales of $66.8 million.

Our poultry sector is second only to dairy in terms of farm sales. It is a sector that is has a key role to play in the future growth of agriculture in Nova Scotia. As a progressive poultry processor, ACA Co-op has a key role to play in that future. It supports the growth of our primary production sector and is a leader in value-added product production, a sector that is key to the future growth of the province's agriculture industry. Its products not only meet consumer demands, but maintain the quality standards set by our poultry processors. Through its success, the company has also been able to support other sectors of the economy, including the feed industry and the provincial hatcheries.

[Page 1410]

Today's announcement underscores the important role ACA Co-operative plays in the economy of Nova Scotia. I want to take this opportunity to thank my colleague, the Honourable Manning MacDonald for his support of agriculture through this loan. Thank you very much. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: The honourable members didn't need to applaud as I stood. I want to congratulate the honourable Minister of Agriculture and the honourable Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. I think there is no way to be critical of the announcement, and the ACA Co-op has proven over the years, its ability to compete in the market, and I think their ingenuity and foresight has kept them striving in a steadily more competitive market; even internationally, Canadian poultry products are known for their high quality, and it is nice to see the addition of more value-added products on the market, due to this increasing competition. In all ways, for the people of the Annapolis Valley, which this is a key component for employment for them. I congratulate the two ministers on the announcement. It is good for the Valley, and it is good for all Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: I want to thank the Minister of Agriculture for providing me with a copy of his announcement prior to the House sitting this afternoon. ACA Co-op has been one of the great businesses that has been operating in the Annapolis Valley for the last half-century. ACA Co-op is a co-op that is owned, managed and run by local farmers in our region. Over 400 employees, locally owned, locally operated, what more could you ask for in Nova Scotia? They have plants in both New Minas and in Kentville Industrial Park. Further processing is the wave of the future, where they have ready-to-bake and ready-to-cook prepared poultry products. ACA Co-op is one of the leaders in Atlantic Canada with their modern, efficient techniques.

Last week it was just as exciting when Maple Leaf Poultry Products, in Canard, just down the road from where I live, had a grand opening of their new, cool-chill cooling barn attached to their poultry facility, and they also spent several million dollars upgrading, so that the consumer would be able to have the products in the highest quality that they are demanding and that they want. In Nova Scotia, we have the highest percentage of further processed, added value of any other agricultural area in North America.

So our farmers, through their co-ops and through the companies they deal with are keeping abreast, and they are doing a fine job, and I would like to congratulate both ACA Co-op for this announcement today, and Maple Leaf for their great contribution of last week. Mr. Speaker, the poultry producers will all be well-served by the cooperative effort of both of these companies. Thank you.

[Page 1411]

[2:15 p.m.]

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 728

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

Whereas Mothers Against Drunk Drivers has decided to hold its national convention in Halifax from October 15 to October 17, 1998, the first time it has been held outside of Ontario; and

Whereas Geraldine Dedrick has provided effective, courageous leadership in her role as MADD's Halifax Chapter President, and has worked to create a positive working relationship with the Department of Transportation and Public Works; and

Whereas Ms. Dedrick was recently honoured with MADD Canada's John C. Bates Volunteer of the Year Award for her gift of time and talent in pursuit of MADD's mission;

Therefore be it resolved that all members applaud Ms. Dedrick for her courage and tireless efforts and support MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, in its continuing fight to eliminate drunk driving.

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

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs.

[Page 1412]

RESOLUTION NO. 729

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

Whereas during Occupational Health and Safety Week, the Nova Scotia Chapter of the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering awarded four Recognition of Achievement Awards, and three of these four awards went to government employees; and

Whereas Enid Stout, an Occupational Health and Safety Consultant with the Department of Human Resources, was presented with an award for her work in leading the development of the first government-wide Occupational Health and Safety Policy; and

Whereas Joyce Smith, a Community Services employee in Truro, was recognized for her work in organizing her office's Occupational Health and Safety Committee, and Community Services employees who serve on the Johnston Building Occupational Health and Safety Committee were equally recognized as the outstanding committee, especially for their work in training other Occupational Health and Safety Committees;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the commitment of Enid Stout, Joyce Smith, and employees of the Johnston Building Occupational Health and Safety Committee to making their workplaces healthy and safe, and congratulate them for the provincial awards they received during Occupational Health and Safety Week.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: There is a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East has an introduction.

MR. REEVES MATHESON: Mr. Speaker, I would like to refer the honourable members of the House to the gallery on an introduction of my biggest and oldest sister, Mrs. Dolores Young, and Mary Ruth MacLellan. Not only is she my big sister, and Mary Ruth my very dear friend, but they have been here today making a presentation to the Law

[Page 1413]

Amendments Committee on behalf of the constituents in Cape Breton East with respect to health care and health care reform.

I am sure the House does not need to be reminded that these two ladies together, in the past six years, almost single-handedly, spearheaded the cause of health care reform and preservation of health services in Glace Bay. It is a great pleasure to see them in the gallery today and I ask the honourable members to acknowledge them. (Applause)

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

RESOLUTION NO. 730

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

Whereas Bill McCurdy, of Bidalosy Farms, recently became the first producer honoured for environmental stewardship by the Nova Scotia Environmental Assessment Board; and

Whereas Mr. McCurdy has been a pioneer in the area of soil conservation and the use of minimum-till and no-till seeding practises in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Mr. McCurdy has been actively involved in the Nova Scotia Soils Institute since it began in 1985, and is on the board of directors of the Soil Conservation Council of Canada;

Therefore be it resolved this the House recognize Mr. McCurdy for receiving the award and for his commitment to soil conservation at the provincial and national levels.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

[Page 1414]

RESOLUTION NO. 731

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

Whereas the Province of Nova Scotia values the importance of preserving the cultural heritage and language of Acadians in our province; and

Whereas the Community Learning Initiative, in partnership with the Acadian community, is promoting French language literacy skills among adults, cultivating lifelong learning and benefiting workplaces, families and communities; and

Whereas the French Literacy Network, Équipe de travail de l'alphabétisation of the Acadian Federation of Nova Scotia recently won the 1998 Prix Étoile for the most innovative francophone literacy project in the country;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend congratulations to l'Équipe de travail and La Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse for their outstanding achievement in community-based literacy.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for 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 Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

RESOLUTION NO. 732

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

Whereas the aquaculture industry in Nova Scotia is in a very critical stage of its development; and

[Page 1415]

Whereas yesterday the interest rate for loans from the provincial Fisheries and Aquaculture Loan Board was lowered, making it easier for the aquaculture industry to purchase equipment and to set up aquaculture sites around the province; and

Whereas this will provide the aquaculture industry in Nova Scotia with the assistance it needs to reach its potential and to generate much-needed economic growth in our coastal communities;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the importance of the aquaculture development to the Province of Nova Scotia and support the decision to lower interest rates on loans made by the Fisheries and Aquaculture Loan Board.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Marketing.

RESOLUTION NO. 733

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

Whereas Elspeth McLean-Wile, co-owner of Oakdale Farms and past-president of the Nova Scotia Milk Producers Association, is the only Nova Scotia participant in the first Canadian Agricultural Lifetime Leadership Program; and

Whereas Ms. McLean-Wile, as part of the program, participated in a tour of Ontario, Quebec, Washington, DC and New York State to make presentations on agriculture in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Ms. McLean-Wile will continue to represent Nova Scotia in this national program until March 1999;

[Page 1416]

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize Ms. McLean-Wile for being chosen to represent our province in this national program and for her commitment to the future of agriculture in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 734

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

Whereas new partnerships with many organizations, both in the public and private sectors, have assisted our government in addressing family violence issues; and

Whereas the government's Framework for Action against Family Violence continues to reach into the community to form partnerships that will improve the response of the justice system to victims of family violence; and

Whereas earlier today, the Department of Justice, in partnership with Bryony House and MT&T Mobility launched the Victim's First Program which will provide victims of violence with free cellular phones and access to 911 in order to ensure access to emergency services even when away from home;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House commend Bryony House, MT&T Mobility and the government for their dedication to protecting those who are vulnerable and recognize the tremendous contributions made toward providing a new level of security and support to victims of violence.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

[Page 1417]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 735

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

Whereas the Atlantic Theatre Festival has become a significant cultural and economic factor in the summer life of the Annapolis Valley; and

Whereas the Atlantic Theatre Festival is entering its fourth season of providing audiences with internationally acclaimed classical theatre; and

Whereas the Festival season opens this weekend, June 19th and 20th, with two productions, Othello and The Matchmaker;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly extend best wishes to Artistic Director Michael Bawtree and the cast and crew of the Atlantic Theatre Festival for a most successful season.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Finance.

[Page 1418]

RESOLUTION NO. 736

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

Whereas the Metropolitan Halifax Chamber of Commerce has publicly acknowledged its concern about continuing calls for the elimination of the HST; and

Whereas these statements are being made without any discussion with the chamber regarding the benefits of the HST, the options for its replacement or the implication of such move; and

Whereas the chamber holds firm on its belief that the HST has reduced costs, increased efficiency and enhanced local businesses' opportunities to grow and invest;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House acknowledge and support the position the Metropolitan Halifax Chamber of Commerce has taken with regard to the harmonized sales tax.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

There was a notice of motion introduced by the Minister of Health and I thought I distinctly heard a No. I will, however, permit the minister to read the "Therefore be it resolved" portion of his notice of motion again.

The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. That was a concern.

[RESOLUTION NO. 734]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House commend Bryony House, MT&T Mobility and the government for their dedication to protecting those who are vulnerable and recognize the tremendous contributions made towards providing a new level of security and support to victims of violence.

[Page 1419]

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

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

Is it agreed?

I heard a No.

The notice is tabled.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 17 - Entitled an Act to Impose a Moratorium on Additional Video Lottery Terminals and to Provide for a Study of Video Lottery Terminals. (Dr. John Hamm)

Bill No. 18 - Entitled an Act Respecting the Protection of Medicare in Nova Scotia. (Ms. Maureen MacDonald)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 737

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

Whereas it was bad enough in January when the Premier announced that former Westray miners would have to wait for the sale of mine assets before receiving the severance pay that has been owing them for six years; and

Whereas it was worse when the Premier's original estimate of two months before the disposal of assets and payment of severance became nearly six months; and

Whereas those failures pale to insignificance beside the indifference the Premier and his colleagues showed yesterday to their failure to bring closure on this issue;

Therefore be it resolved that this House condemn the callous attitude towards former Westray employees that has been shown by the Premier, the Minister of Labour, and the Minister of Finance, responsible for Westray.

[Page 1420]

[2:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Argyle.

RESOLUTION NO. 738

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

Whereas Nova Scotians learned today, from testimony presented at the Public Accounts Committee by Ralph Fiske, former Chairman and CEO of the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation, that the integrity of the corporation had been compromised by political interference; and

Whereas it became readily apparent from the testimony that ITT Sheraton Casino did end-runs around the corporation, and held negotiations directly with Ministers of the Crown; and

Whereas these compromises by the Bernie Boudreau/John Savage/Russell MacLellan Government has led to the net effect of the province having a loss conservatively estimated to be $20 million;

Therefore be it resolved that the government immediately implement the recommendations put forward by Ralph Fiske in his presentation today to bring some credibility to the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 739

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

Whereas yesterday, Alexa McDonough, Leader of the socialist federal NDP said the member for Cape Breton East should resign his seat in the Legislature; and

Whereas the socialist provincial NDP Leader, the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic, was seated beside Ms. McDonough when she said that the member for Cape Breton East should resign; and

[Page 1421]

Whereas the Leader of the provincial NDP showed a dismal lack of leadership by failing to follow his federal Leader in demanding the resignation of the member from Cape Breton East;

Therefore be it resolved that in the opinion of this House all members condemn the inaction, lack of concern, and ineffective leadership displayed by the Leader of the socialist provincial NDP. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 740

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

Whereas the No. 117 Preston/Westphal Army Cadets was developed and organized last year by Lieutenant Commander Mark Johnson, of North Preston, on a voluntary basis, for youth between the ages of 12 and 15, held a Star Level awards program with 17 graduates on June 16, 1998, at the Royal Canadian Legion in Westphal; and

Whereas the Star Level awards recognize commitment, discipline and involvement; and

Whereas the communities of Preston and Westphal fully support this initiative, and parents and volunteers who participated in the program have encouraged these young people to persevere;

Therefore be it resolved that this House send congratulations and applaud the efforts of these young cadets.

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.

[Page 1422]

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 741

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

Whereas the Wolfville Arbor Day Committee, in concert with the Town of Wolfville has been digging up and planting trees in and around Wolfville for the past five years; and

Whereas this committee of volunteers, led by Wolfville's own Johnny Appleseed, Mr. John Stuart, had a vision to plant 3,000 trees, which would be enjoyed and appreciated by generations yet to come; and

Whereas the committee's work led to Wolfville's designation as a "Green Streets of Canada" community in 1996, and now their tree-planting efforts have won them (Interruptions) We have lots of Johnny Appleseeds in the House today. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. HARRISON: And whereas the committee's work (Interruptions) It is tempting not to follow some of these rabbit tracks, but I know.

Whereas the committee's work led to Wolfville's designation as a "Green Streets of Canada" community in 1996, and now their tree-planting efforts have won them the International Society of Arborists' Gold Leaf Award;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly congratulate the Wolfville Arbor Day Committee, and its leader, John Stuart, for the honour bestowed upon them, and commend the volunteers for their vision for the future of Wolfville and surrounding area.

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.

[Page 1423]

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 742

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

Whereas on June 19, 1998, Dartmouth will play host to the world when the 14th Annual Nova Scotia Multicultural Festival officially opens; and

Whereas entertainers, musicians and chefs will provide a unique cultural mosaic that will enable all visitors to see the world without leaving the province; and

Whereas on the occasion of India's 50th year of independence, visitors from the International Centre for Cultural Relations in Bombay will be present to perform traditional East Indian folk dances;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House of Assembly extend our best wishes to the organizing committee and the numerous volunteers of the 14th Annual Multicultural Festival and encourage their constituents to visit Dartmouth to see the world.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 743

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

Whereas the Premier and the Minister of Health say they limited their election campaign promise to health care because they didn't want to make promises they couldn't keep; and

[Page 1424]

Whereas since this House opened four weeks ago they have been busy breaking every one of their health care promises; and

Whereas the delay of the much-touted telemedicine project now joins the $80 million increase, the Medical Research Foundation and the 170 extended care beds on the fast- growing list of promises that haven't been kept;

Therefore be it resolved that this House alert the Guinness Book of Records to the possibility that here in Nova Scotia we are witnessing the quickest and most thorough repudiation of an election platform in political history.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill.

RESOLUTION NO. 744

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

Whereas in 1994 the Ministerial Committee on the Release of Adoption Information recommended that the government make it possible for adult adoptees and birth parents to obtain identifying information; and

Whereas more than four years later, this government has failed to act on or contravene the committee's recommendations despite the overwhelming view of Nova Scotians that supported the right to know; and

Whereas the failure of the government to act on the committee's recommendations has added to the frustration and emotional distress of adult adoptees and birth parents seeking identifying information;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Community Services immediately revisit the recommendations of the ministerial committee and reconcile its legislation, regulations and policies to comply with the recommendations of the committee and the will of the vast majority of Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

[Page 1425]

RESOLUTION NO. 745

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

Whereas a great deal of effort and time is expended by young musicians in school bands; and

Whereas Bedford has always been fortunate to have dedicated teachers to direct those bands and talented musicians in the bands; and

Whereas Cameron Salisbury is one of those talented, hard-working musicians;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend congratulations to Cameron for her award as Best Instrumental Soloist at the recent International Ovation Music Festival in New York City.

Mr. Speaker, I am requesting waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 746

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

Whereas in the past McClure's Brook in Millbrook was poisoned by industrial waste and run-off from the town dump; and

Whereas William Sylliboy and Andrew Johnson have been trying to breathe life back into this waterway since 1994; and

[Page 1426]

Whereas within the past few years these two gentlemen have witnessed the return of fish species such as Gaspereau and brook trout;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate and applaud these men for their efforts in bringing McClure's Brook back to life.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 747

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

Whereas government programs, however inadequate, currently exist which are aimed specifically at addressing the needs of providing subsidized child care for those living below the poverty line; and

Whereas an increasing number of working Nova Scotians find they have levels of income which are too high to allow them to qualify for government subsidized day care but too low to cover the unsubsidized cost of child care; and

Whereas an increasing number of these Nova Scotians are finding the soaring costs of day care have created a real disincentive to seeking regular full-time employment;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Community Services request the establishment of an all-Party committee with a mandate to develop policy aimed at providing support to the working poor.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.

[Page 1427]

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 Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

RESOLUTION NO. 748

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

Whereas Jelleau's Boat Shop in Whitehead, Guysborough County, has developed a vessel that is lighter, stronger and faster than many conventional boats; and

Whereas the 39 foot, 6 inch boat is made of a new material called Core Cell, which is a dense foam which will not absorb water or oil; and

Whereas this material, which was designed and constructed by Thomas Jelleau with research assistance from DalTech, has shaved more than 5,000 pounds off the hull alone;

Therefore be it resolved that the House congratulate Thomas Jelleau and the research team of DalTech on this significant achievement, and wish Jelleau's Boat Yard every success in marketing their new vessel.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cumberland South.

[Page 1428]

RESOLUTION NO. 749

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

Whereas the high schools of the communities of River Hebert, Springhill, Oxford, Parrsboro and Advocate will be graduating many of their high school students next week; and

Whereas these high schools play a vital role in the everyday activities of their communities and, basically, are the heart and soul of the community; and

Whereas a study initiated by the province and the Chignecto Central Regional School Board brings into question the future of these high schools and the roles they will play;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House continue to support the graduating high school students in Cumberland County and the schools, and encourage them to continue to contribute to their communities as they have done in the past.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

I am not too sure I heard anybody say Aye.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, before I read out a notice of motion, I would like to make an introduction to the House: a constituent of mine, seated in the west gallery, Mr. Kevin MacNamara, who lives at 426 Whitney Avenue in Sydney and is President of Local 94 of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, which represents the eastern regional

[Page 1429]

health care workers. I would like to ask Mr. MacNamara to stand up and take a bow. (Applause)

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

RESOLUTION NO. 750

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

Whereas the NDP line on Cape Breton is that the government should stop telling falsehoods, come clean, get on with it, and shut down the steel and coal industries immediately; and

Whereas this viewpoint was clearly enunciated by the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto in the Subcommittee of the Whole House on Supply when addressing the estimates of the Department of Economic Development and Tourism; and

Whereas the transcript of these remarks can be obtained from the Hansard Office, as all proceedings in the Subcommittee of the Whole House on Supply are recorded and transcribed;

Therefore be it resolved that the NDP line on steel and coal should be widely circulated to the United Mine Workers of America, the United Steel Workers of America, and the Cape Breton community generally, so that the people may know where Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition stands.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Antigonish.

RESOLUTION NO. 751

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

Whereas the Friends of the R.K. MacDonald Nursing Home and Guest House provide equipment, services and supplies to enhance the comfort and pleasure of the residents and visitors; and

[Page 1430]

Whereas it was announced at the recent annual meeting of the Friends of the R.K. MacDonald Nursing Home and Guest House that funds of over $12,000 went towards the purchase of such items as wheelchairs, supplies for the library, decorations, and a workshop and supplies to enable residents the enjoyment of woodworking and ceramics; and

Whereas during her report, President Barbara MacNeil also paid tribute to the tireless efforts of Pauline Liengme, who has served as a volunteer coordinator with a quiet, caring manner for the past two years;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Assembly acknowledge the outstanding work of all the Friends of the R.K. MacDonald Nursing Home and Guest House and also acknowledge the generous contributions of those who support the work of the Friends, including our local media, the Royal Canadian Legion and many local businesses.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

[2:45 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 752

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

Whereas St. Thomas Anglican Church in Musquodoboit Harbour is celebrating its 100th Anniversary this year; and

Whereas St. Thomas Church has been providing spiritual guidance and support for generations of Musquodoboit Harbour residents as well as other residents along the Eastern Shore; and

[Page 1431]

Whereas on July 5th the church will be holding its 100th Anniversary celebration with a service, followed by a reception for the community at a local yacht club;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate St. Thomas Anglican Church on reaching this important milestone and thank the parish for providing for the spiritual needs of the people of Musquodoboit Harbour and the Eastern Shore.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 753

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 Progressive Conservatives and, now apparently, the NDP are requesting that the Premier establish an all-Party committee to assist with the Halifax International Airport commercialization; and

Whereas the Halifax International Airport Authority and major stakeholders support and would appreciate the additional help of an all-Party committee; and

Whereas negotiations between the Halifax International Airport and Transport Canada have reached an impasse;

Therefore be it resolved that this Liberal Government remind its Premier that his hold on power is tenuous at best and further encourage the Premier to establish the all-Party committee as requested by the Tories and NDP.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

[Page 1432]

RESOLUTION NO. 754

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

Whereas the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, with other members opposite, has made extremely negative comments relative to the tire recycling plant at the Cornwallis Development Agency Park; and

Whereas the fire marshal toured the site on several occasions with only minor irregularities being corrected; and

Whereas the tire recycling program remains in full operation while looking forward to even importing tires for recycling and production;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Cornwallis Development Agency, the management and staff at TRACC, as well as the 30 other services and businesses now operating as the result of federal, provincial and municipal investment and organization in a true entrepreneurial spirit of cooperation.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Argyle.

MR. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I have an introduction to the House. In the west gallery we have three visitors from the County of Shelburne. We have our candidate in the previous election, Cecil O'Donnell; Leonard Stewart; and also Roy MacLeod. I would ask them to rise and receive the approbation of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 755

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

Whereas after more than five months away at sea, HMCS Toronto arrived at the Halifax dockyard at 10:00 a.m. yesterday; and

Whereas the Toronto was deployed originally to serve with NATO off Europe but was then sent to serve off Iraq; and

[Page 1433]

Whereas HMCS Toronto and its crew, without knowing how long they would be away from home, flew the Canadian flag proudly in the waters off Iraq;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend congratulations to the crew of HMCS Toronto on a job well done and wish them a well-deserved period of R and R.

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

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Antigonish.

RESOLUTION NO. 756

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Special Olympics took place this past weekend at Saint Mary's University in Halifax; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Special Olympics bring together mentally-challenged adults for sporting events, thus developing a bond of friendship among the participants; and

Whereas one of the major sponsors of the Nova Scotia Special Olympics is Michelin Tire;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate all participants, organizers, volunteers and sponsors, especially the major corporate sponsor, Michelin Tire.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 1434]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Inverness.

RESOLUTION NO. 757

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

Whereas on Monday, June 15th, it was my honour to participate in the sod-turning ceremonies at the site for a new community health centre in Cheticamp, Inverness County; and

Whereas the new 10-bed health centre will replace the existing Sacred Heart Hospital, being a modern facility, built to meet the special requirements identified by the residents through the community health board and the regional health board; and

Whereas the new 10-bed health centre will open in approximately one year to provide ambulatory clinics, 24-hour emergency service and a broad range of community health services;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Assembly compliment the many residents of the eastern health region who worked so hard to ensure that the new Cheticamp Community Health Centre will be equipped with the necessary services that will respond to meet their health care needs.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Finance.

[Page 1435]

RESOLUTION NO. 758

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

Whereas the school year for elementary, secondary and post-secondary students is concluding and the summer is a time of relaxation and enjoyment; and

Whereas I had the pleasure to attend the Nova Scotia Community College, Lunenburg Campus, graduation ceremonies last evening; and

Whereas the students and educators across this province have worked hard this past school year and look forward to, and deserve, their summer vacation;

Therefore be it resolved that this House wish all students and educators a happy and safe summer.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

RESOLUTION NO. 759

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

Whereas the Seaside Tourism Committee plays a key role in promoting tourism along the Eastern Shore; and

Whereas from July 10th to July 12th the Seaside Tourism Committee will be hosting the Marine Drive Festival of Oars in Salmon River Bridge, one of the many events this summer that will contribute to the Eastern Shore's growing tourism industry; and

[Page 1436]

Whereas the festival will include a gala opener, an orienteering adventure for families, celebrity dory races, pirate races and a 'tug of oars' event over the course of the three day celebration;

Therefore be it resolved that this House wish the Seaside Tourism Committee every success as it hosts this important event, and wish them well as they work towards the continued growth of tourism along the Eastern Shore.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 760

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

Whereas this past Sunday, June 14th, I along with many others had the opportunity to attend a celebration in honour of Father Fred Morley who serves as parish priest for Iona in Victoria County; and

Whereas this very special occasion which involved a mass, presentations and reception was organized to celebrate Father Morley's 50th Anniversary of ordination into the priesthood; and

Whereas over these many years Father Morley has faithfully served his congregations in several parishes across Nova Scotia, offering spiritual guidance and a strong sense of community goodwill;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join with me in thanking Father Morley for his many years of dedication to the priesthood and to the parishes he has served, but at the same time offer best wishes to him for the many good years he still plans to offer to his community.

[Page 1437]

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

MR. SPEAKER: There is a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 761

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

Whereas the NDP line on environmental remediation projects at Sydney has been consistently negative, critical, mocking, fault-finding or otherwise non-supportive; and

Whereas the NDP (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MACEWAN: Perhaps it bears repeating, Mr. Speaker.

Whereas the NDP line on environmental remediation projects at Sydney has been consistently negative, critical, mocking, fault-finding or otherwise non-supportive; and

Whereas the NDP has been so universally hostile to these environmental remediation projects, one is compelled to question that Party's commitment to see them continue in operation; and

Whereas if an NDP Government would cancel environmental remediation projects currently under way at Sydney, they have a duty to say so openly rather than continuing to cackle from the sidelines;

Therefore be it resolved that the want of enthusiasm of the NDP for environmental remediation at Sydney, combined with their open advocacy of a speedy shutdown for both steel and coal, demonstrate why every effort should be made to prevent any further political inroads by the socialistic New Democratic Party.

[Page 1438]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

RESOLUTION NO. 762

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

Whereas on Saturday, June 20th, residents of Little Dover, Guysborough County, will hold the official opening of the Black Duck Cove Day Use Park; and

Whereas this park, which is fully accessible for the disabled, has become a reality as a result of the cooperative efforts of the community of Little Dover, the Department of Natural Resources, and other provincial and federal funding agencies; and

Whereas the park, which has instilled within the community a sense of pride and accomplishment, is evidence of what can be achieved when community members get together to attain a well-defined goal;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend congratulations to all associated with the construction of this park and encourage all Nova Scotians to take a scenic trip to Little Dover, Guysborough County, and visit the Black Duck Cove Day Use Park.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party on an introduction.

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I rise to make an introduction. I would draw the attention of all members of the House to guests in the east gallery, a number of members of the Pictou County Injured Workers Association. I would ask the members to rise and receive the greetings of the House. (Applause)

[Page 1439]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg.

MR. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I also rise by way of introduction. I would like to call the attention of the House to three visitors from Lunenburg County, in the west gallery of the House. They are Paul Taylor, Kim Langille and Janine Levy. They work in my office and are here to see the proceedings in the House today. I would like them to rise to receive the greetings of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 763

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

Whereas earlier this week all honourable members would have noticed the commencement of work towards building the new Lantz Elementary School; and

Whereas the residents to be served by this new school expressed their pleasure with the project moving ahead on schedule as a result of this Liberal Government's commitment to our youth; and

Whereas the New Democratic Party have once again used a good news occasion to criticize the building of a new school, when it is obvious that local residents support the decision to replace the current aging structure where air quality concerns have been found;

Therefore be it resolved that the decision to move ahead with this new school represents another clear example of how this Liberal Government continues to make education a top priority, recognizing the importance of building badly needed schools as soon as possible, without adding to the provincial debt.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

[Page 1440]

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to do an introduction. In the gallery opposite me is a student from Kingstec who has been working in our caucus office, Ross McCoubrey. He is a graduating student in his final year at Kingstec Community College and he has been getting work experience working on behalf of our caucus. It has been great having him, and I would like to welcome him to the House. If he would stand, we would give him our traditional welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We will now begin the Oral Question Period. The time is now 3:00 p.m and we will terminate at 4:30 p.m.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

FIN. - GAMING CORP. (PAC [17/06/98]):

EVIDENCE - KNOWLEDGE (PREMIER)

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you to the Premier. Earlier today we heard testimony from Mr. Ralph Fiske, former Chairman of the Gaming Corporation, about things that were done by the government and operators of the Sheraton Casino which clearly, to most Nova Scotians, were shocking. Mr. Fiske spoke of things like Sheraton's failure to disclose information, gag orders, purported accounting errors ranging up to $5 million and even attempts by the Sheraton general manager to have an employee of the corporation fired.

[3:00 p.m.]

Clearly, there have been some significant problems with the operation of Sheraton and the relationship between ITT Sheraton and this government. I want to ask the Premier what the Premier knew and when did he know what was going on?

HON. RUSSELL MACLELLAN, Q.C.(The Premier): Mr. Speaker, that is a very broad question. There are a lot of things affecting a lot of people. The question of the Gaming Corporation and Mr. Fiske is a broad tapestry and there are things of which I have become aware and things perhaps of which I have not become aware and things of which I may never become aware.

MR. CHISHOLM: We are talking here today about some very serious and significant allegations that have been made. It is not the first time and, clearly, the involvement of this Premier and his Cabinet is at question. I think it is important that we understand exactly what the Premier knew about these allegations.

[Page 1441]

I want to ask the Premier my first supplementary. Mr. Fiske said this morning that Gaming Corporation employee Sheila Butler has lists of government concessions and financial accounting chicanery attempted by Sheraton that might have cost the province more than $20 million. There is a list, in other words . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: I would like to ask the Premier if he would provide that list to this House so that Nova Scotians can find out just exactly what ITT Sheraton has been up to?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, that is quite an allegation; $20 million is certainly a considerable sum of money. I do not know what time-frame he is talking about. It certainly has not been since last July. If that is the case, then certainly the committee has every right to call whomsoever they want before it to pose questions.

MR. CHISHOLM: My final supplementary to the Premier. Clearly it was indicated today by Mr. Fiske that it was the government under this Premier who made the final decision in September to ratify what is clearly characterized as a huge cave-in to ITT Sheraton. I am tabling a letter of September 30, 1997, a resignation letter by Ralph Fiske that points out the involvement of Deputy Minister David Thompson in telling the corporation to agree to anything Sheraton had to say.

MR. SPEAKER: Please pose your question.

MR. CHISHOLM: I want to ask the Premier, in my final supplementary, if he would explain to this House why it is that his Cabinet agreed to cave in to all of those concessions to ITT Sheraton?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we did not cave in to anyone. What we did was follow an agreement that had been set forth and entered into long before last July. The casino, it seemed, had had its starting date moved back. It was our belief that we had to get on with the casino. We did. We now have a $100 million construction program going on in Halifax, $25 million paid to Nova Scotia every year and more when the casino is finished. I do not see that as caving in. I think that is following through on an agreement that was made between Sheraton and this province.

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

FIN. - GAMING CORP. (PAC [17/06/98]):

EVIDENCE - DEAL APPROVAL

DR. JOHN HAMM: I too have a question for the Premier. As of today it is a matter of public record that the Premier, shortly after winning the leadership of the Liberal Party,

[Page 1442]

indicated to the former chair of the Gaming Corporation that he was opposed to the Boudreau deal, the deal that would give some $20 million of concessions to ITT Sheraton. I believe it is also a matter of public record that the Premier congratulated Mr. Fiske for taking on the position that he held as the Gaming Corporation's Chairman. My question to the Premier, having made those statements, why in less than two months did you have a complete turnaround and order that the Boudreau deal be approved by the Gaming Corporation?

THE PREMIER: I did congratulate Mr. Fiske on taking the job, and I did appreciate the fact that he was diligent. But the fact of the matter is that we had an agreement with Sheraton. We had an agreement to build a casino. Now either you build a casino or leave it where it was in the Sheraton Hotel, which was not really helpful to the Province of Nova Scotia. Now we decided that we wanted to get on with the building of the casino, we had a commitment. That was the agreement, build a casino. That is what we are doing.

DR. HAMM: I will continue with the Premier. I believe that Mr. David Thompson is the Premier's deputy minister, and it is now a matter of public record that that deputy premier ordered the former chairman of the Gaming Corporation to agree with the Boudreau deal, and to quote the former chairman of the Gaming Corporation, ". . . give the Sheraton anything else that it required, if that is what it took to put the matter to rest.". My question to the Premier, under whose specific instruction did the Premier's deputy minister act when he ordered the corporation to give ITT Sheraton anything it wanted?

THE PREMIER: That is just ridiculous. No one who worked for me would ever say that to Sheraton, and the fact of the matter is that they followed through with an agreement that was entered into by the Province of Nova Scotia and ITT Sheraton to get a casino built in Nova Scotia. That is what has happened. The fact of the matter is that there was nothing given to Sheraton that they were not entitled to under the agreement that was entered into.

DR. HAMM: I would suggest very strongly that the Premier get briefed into what was happening, what was in the original agreement, what were the penalties that ITT Sheraton would pay to the people of Nova Scotia if they delayed building the casino down on the waterfront. Those penalties were not put in place, the contract was not adhered to, and this government gave ITT Sheraton the opportunity to escape those penalties, and resulted in a $20 million loss of revenue to the people of Nova Scotia.

My question to the Premier is, what are the specific reasons that this Premier ordered the corporation, and allowed ITT Sheraton off the hook, and approved the Boudreau deal, which gave these concessions to ITT Sheraton?

[Page 1443]

THE PREMIER: The penalties to which the honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party refers is not something new. This has been in the newspaper, they go back over a year, and they have gone back for quite a while. There has been no forgiveness of penalties since July 1997.

MR. SPEAKER: I will add an extra minute to Question Period to permit the honourable member for Pictou West to introduce a class that is in the gallery at the present time.

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Thank you for your indulgence, Mr. Speaker. I am pleased today, to introduce to the House, in the west gallery, 16 children from the Scotsburn Elementary School, in Pictou County, and their principal, Gerry Punky; teacher, Cece Hill; and parents, John Hardy and Paul Smith. I will ask them to rise, and ask the House to give them a warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

FIN. - FORMER MIN. (B. BOUDREAU):

LEGAL COUNSEL - CONFLICT

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, a question for the honourable Premier. Members of the House will be aware that I chair the Public Accounts Committee. This morning was a very unusual experience. I listened with great incredulity as I heard the evidence of Mr. Fiske. There is one particular point, on which I think some clarification is required, and that is the position of former senior Cabinet Minister, Mr. Bernie Boudreau. Members will be aware that within two months of resigning, he took up the position called counsel with the firm of McInnes, Cooper & Robertson. It is an extremely ambiguous designation to be called counsel, and I wonder if the Premier has asked either the Barristers' Society or the Conflict of Interest Commissioner their opinions of this alliance between a former Cabinet Minister and a law firm within two months of his resignation?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, that is a very serious allegation that is made by a member of the Legislature without any proof whatsoever and it is particularly astounding when it comes from the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.

MR. EPSTEIN: Well, Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that nothing has been done and even though the Premier may be satisfied with either the behaviour of the former minister or the existing standards, I have to say that it is obvious it offends public standards. The question is whether the Premier is prepared to bring forward legislation to strengthen the Members' Disclosure Act so that the provisions of that Act, even if the behaviour of the former Cabinet Minister are technically not a violation, will he bring forward legislation to strengthen the provisions of that Act so the public is protected?

[Page 1444]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, these allegations without any foundation do not serve the purpose, do not serve the real interest and the questions of the people of Nova Scotia.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, it is a well-known fact, it is on the public record, that the firm of McInnes Cooper & Robertson represents the Sheraton. It did so during the course of negotiations over their dealings with the corporation. My question is, will the Premier put in place particular rules that apply to close dealings between law firms where members have close ties to his Party and the government?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, why bring forward legislation that reflects on lawyers just in my Party? Why don't we bring it with respect to lawyers in all Parties if that is the concern of the honourable member?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.

FIN.: GAMING CONTROL ACT - AMEND

MR. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is to the Minister of Finance. From Ralph Fiske's testimony today, it became apparent that the Gaming Corporation which was set up to provide, ". . . a statutory regime . . . to protect Nova Scotians from the more obvious temptations that can accompany a Gaming Industry.", actually failed in many ways. Can the minister state today that based on the revelations made public that he is prepared to review the Act in its entirety and bring forward amendments that will prevent such an occurrence of political interference from ever happening again?

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, two points here. Number one is Mr. Fiske has made a number of suggestions in his presentation this morning which I will undertake to review. Secondly, the Act, as it is, states very clearly in here that under Section 25, the Gaming Corporation, it is a requirement within the Act that Cabinet give approval for decisions that are made. There is a fair amount of transparency in the process now.

MR. LEBLANC: Oh, I agree, Mr. Speaker, there is transparency but it only happened after the chairman came to the Public Accounts Committee. Based on the statements made today by Mr. Fiske, is the minister prepared to remove the Acting Chairman, Dara Gordon, from her position and appoint an interim chairman, supported by all three Parties in this Legislature? Is the minister prepared to do that today?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, the reality is that Ms. Gordon is not Acting Chairman, she is Vice-Chairman. That has been made very clear, publicly, for quite some time. We are not in a position at this point to ask for an all-Party committee to form a chairman. I am reviewing the process that a chairman requirement is required and we will be going through the normal process of appointing that individual through our process.

[Page 1445]

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, he can hide behind smokescreens all he wants. The fact of the matter is that Nova Scotians have been shaken to the core on how the Gaming Corporation in this province has been mishandled by this government. This minister was part of the Cabinet . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. LEBLANC: . . . when the decision was made, he was part of the Cabinet when Bernie Boudreau . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question.

MR. LEBLANC: . . . brought about these changes and he was aware of the facts.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Question.

MR. LEBLANC: I ask the question one more time to this minister whether he will show some leadership and suspend the acting chairman in her capacity and appoint someone in the interim and bring about some respectability to the Gaming Corporation? (Applause)

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I find it interesting. Here we are, we are the Party that brought in more regulatory reforms in gaming in the Province of Nova Scotia in the history of this province. (Interruptions)

[3:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. DOWNE: Furthermore, what we have before us is a $100 million construction program going on out there and all of it is in the forefront of Nova Scotians. Mr. Speaker, I don't know where the member is coming from. I understand Mr. Fiske's comments this morning and I have agreed to be prepared to look at it, but this member wants a knee-jerk reaction to a situation that is only allegation at this point.

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

FIN. - GAMING CORP. (PAC [17/06/98]):

EVIDENCE - MGT. CONCERNS

MS. ROSEMARY GODIN: Mr. Speaker, my question is through you to the Premier. This morning at the Public Accounts Committee, former Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation Chairman Ralph Fiske expressed grave concerns about the present management of the

[Page 1446]

corporation. My question is, does the Premier acknowledge that there are problems and what is he prepared to do about it?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, there have been some problems in the process. The process, as I understand it right now, is proceeding quite well. I think both sides know where they stand with respect to the agreement on the casino and I think business is being conducted as the people of Nova Scotia would expect it would be.

MS. GODIN: Mr. Premier, Mr. Fiske claims that social responsibility was a priority of the Gaming Corporation during his tenure but there have been changes since his resignation with longer casino hours, free drinks and other perks. Where, exactly, does this government put its priorities now, profits or people?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, ITT Sheraton have requested that there be free drinks for high rollers and that there be longer hours for the casino and we have not agreed to either one.

MS. GODIN: Through you again, Mr. Speaker, to the Premier. On October 22, 1997, the present Gaming Corporation chair or interim chair or vice-chair, or whatever you want to call her, admitted to involvement by government members in the agreement process. Now, this morning Mr. Fiske suggested that to increase the standards of independence and accountability a new chair should be appointed. How does the Premier feel about this recommendation and will he act upon it?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the present vice-chair, acting president or acting whatever, Dara Gordon, is doing an excellent job and I have no problem. I don't think we could get someone who would do a better job. Now, it seems that allegations have been made about a lot of people being co-opted, it seems that a lot of people have been co-opted, good people, but according to a witness they have been co-opted. That's an allegation that just doesn't sit well. Not everybody in a process can be co-opted.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland North.

FIN. - GAMING CORP. (PAC [17/06/98]):

EVIDENCE - REVENUE LOST

MR. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Minister of Finance. Mr. Minister, through the process of this morning's revelation that startled most Nova Scotians, it became very apparent that the Cabinet was controlling the negotiations with Sheraton, certainly not the Gaming Corporation. My question to you, Mr. Minister, this morning we were told $20 million of taxpayers' revenue was not collected, will you make sure that that $20 million is returned to the people of Nova Scotia?

[Page 1447]

HON. DONALD DOWNE: I think it is important that members of the House realize that in the Act that was presented, Bill No. 120, Section 25 clearly states that it is the government's responsibility to make sure that the activities going on are done through Cabinet. They get direction from Cabinet. It is not an at arm's length body separate out there doing its own thing. The responsibility is right back here where it belongs to make sure that it is done properly. I would like to table the Act, if you wish, Mr. Speaker, so members can refresh their memory.

In regard to the so-called lost money, Mr. Speaker, there is no lost money here. We are actually ahead. (Interruptions) We have a $100 million construction project going on for which the taxpayers of this province will benefit. The people that are working there will benefit.

Number two, Mr. Speaker, in regards to the extension, they asked the question and I think I have the right to answer it.

MR. SPEAKER: You have a right to answer, but keep it short.

MR. DOWNE: Number two, Mr. Speaker, with regards to the extension, the extension was agreed to. It was brought here. The members of the House, we debated this in detail. I mean the reality here is $10,000 a day, even if it is 365 days a year, is nowhere near the reality of a $100 million capital investment and the opportunity of collecting $20 million extra revenue.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Finance, who refuses to answer the question when are they going to return the $20 million in lost revenue. This is the same minister within NSRL that lost this province hundreds of millions of dollars, whether it is a back-in agreement, whether it is a negotiation, it is the same minister.

My question to you, Mr. Minister, is this. Why bother with a Gaming Corporation if lawyers on behalf of Cabinet and Cabinet approval, and you were a Cabinet Minister at that time, decided it was easy to give $20 million away, are you going to return the $20 million in a subsequent agreement?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I remember NSRL back in 1993 when there were some $430 million of losses portrayed by the previous members' Party that they are talking about. That is the reality.

Mr. Speaker, we have handled this in good faith. We have dealt with this matter up front. I believe the taxpayers of this province have been treated properly, not only by the professionalism of the board, the integrity of the vice-chairman, and also by the number of professionals within the Province of Nova Scotia and outside the Province of Nova Scotia in dealing with this very complex issue.

[Page 1448]

MR. FAGE: The minister refuses to answer the question. The minister and his fellow ministers are perfectly prepared to take a single mother, who has been forced to pay an ambulance bill and put it in the hands of a collection agency to collect $50 in this province. Here they are dealing with a Nevada-based gambling corporation, they give away $20 million.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Put your question.

MR. FAGE: My question, Mr. Minister, is the $20 million will provide a huge amount of health care relief, education relief in this province. This minister, his government, gave it away, when will it be returned?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I think I have answered the question. We have not given away any money and besides that, all revenues that come into this province basically go to Health, Education and Community Services.

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

FIN. - GAMING CORP. (PAC [17/06/98]):

ITT SHERATON NEGOTIATIONS - INTERVENTION (PREMIER)

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. As was noted this morning in Public Accounts, Mr. Fiske, a self-described Liberal, told that committee that he resigned from the Gaming Corporation because the bait and switch tactics of the Sheraton interest had won the day. Mr. Premier, did the Premier's Office intervene on behalf of the Sheraton interest to ensure that the penalties fairly negotiated by the Gaming Corporation were not enforced?

THE PREMIER: No, Mr. Speaker.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Fiske's testimony this morning was that the Sheraton interests avoided its commitments by dealing directly with the Premier's Office. What action is the Premier prepared to take today to investigate what role the Premier's Office had in allowing the Sheraton's interests to get away without living up to its commitments?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, no one in my office has ever dealt with ITT Sheraton.

MR. DEXTER: My last question, Mr. Speaker, is again to the Premier. Will the Premier tell the House why it was that the Premier's Office ordered the Gaming Corporation to enter into terms of settlement that were contrary to the interests of the people of Nova Scotia and which were objected to by the Gaming Corporation?

[Page 1449]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we have never asked the Gaming Corporation to enter into any arrangement that was contrary to the benefits of the people of Nova Scotia or in any way violated the agreement that had been entered into between ITT Sheraton and Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

FIN. - GAMING CORP. :

CHAIRMAN ACTING - RESIGNATION REQUEST

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you to the Premier. Earlier in Question Period the Premier indicated that his Cabinet had, in fact, ratified an agreement that had already been negotiated by the Cabinet under former Premier John Savage and yet during Public Accounts Committee on August 22, 1997, the now acting chairman of the Gaming Corporation when asked whether or not the Cabinet or a Cabinet Minister were directly involved in the decision to accept this settlement, she said no. I want to ask the Premier, will he immediately ask for the resignation of Dara Gordon?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, no, I will not ask for the resignation of Dara Gordon, and just in relation to one thing the Leader of the Opposition has said, the agreement that was agreed to by my government was negotiated under my government. It was not an agreement that came to me from the previous Savage Government. We negotiated it; it was negotiated while I was Premier.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the Premier, given the fact that the evidence before us is quite alarming and quite obvious that the Cabinet has been directly involved in the negotiations, they have been directly involved in the operations of the Gaming Corporation, will the Premier undertake today to investigate the allegations made by Mr. Fiske this morning at the Public Accounts Committee and report at the earliest to this House and to all Nova Scotians on the results of that investigation?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I certainly will be investigating the allegations of Mr. Fiske. To say that we will report back on findings, it seems in the statement of Mr. Fiske, there are so many allegations, it is difficult to report back on all of them, but we will certainly be prepared to share any information we have of any wrongdoing that occurred.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the issue at hand is whether Nova Scotians - who, by the way, overwhelmingly rejected the idea of casinos in the province - can have any confidence . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Any trust.

[Page 1450]

MR. CHISHOLM: . . . or any trust whatsoever in this government or in their supposed arm's length Gaming Corporation, given the evidence that has been brought forward today. I want to ask the Premier again, even though he seems to think the allegations are such a long list that nobody would be able to get a hold of them . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question.

MR. CHISHOLM: . . . I want to ask the Premier, in order to try to restore some sense of integrity to the Gaming Corporation, will he move to find some answers to the questions, to the allegations that have been made and report back to this House before it rises?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this matter will, in all probability, according to Mr. Fiske, be going before the courts. I think that to come back and make this an open process and carry it on indefinitely would not serve the course of justice. I think if Mr. Fiske is determined to go to court, then that is what he will do and that is what we should await.

I want to say, too, we can't confuse two things. The fact that this casino, and the building of this casino since July has proceeded in accordance with the agreement, has been straightforward and businesslike . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: You sold the province out.

THE PREMIER: The fact of the matter is that the Leader of the Opposition may be correct . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: You sold the province out. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

THE PREMIER: . . . the people of Nova Scotia may not be interested in casinos, but that is another question; that is not to be confused with the way this business has been discussed since July.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

FIN. - GAMING CORP. (PAC [17/06/98]):

EVIDENCE - INTERFERENCE

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is to the Minister of Finance. Inappropriate allocation of revenues and expenses not authorized by the operating agreement, mistakes ranging from $4.00 to $450,000 to $5 million are a few examples that the corporation found during their audit of the casino. Now despite the mandatory provisions of the Criminal Code and the Gaming Control Act, the casino froze out

[Page 1451]

and refused to provide any accountability without going to real battle with the Gaming Corporation. Will the Minister of Finance indicate that he will instruct the officers of the Gaming Corporation and the Sheraton to do the business according to the Gaming Control Act and not through political interference?

[3:30 p.m.]

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I don't believe there has been political interference. For what I know of the activities, it has been handled in a very professional way and for that, I am very appreciative of the vice-chair and the board of directors for the integrity with which they have handled the running of that organization.

MR. ARCHIBALD: If that minister does not realize that there was political interference, he should perhaps read the minutes from this morning's meetings because from day one, there was political interference. One of the ways that we could perhaps get rid of . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ARCHIBALD: It's on the way, Mr. Speaker. One of the ways we could get rid of political interference is with some openness. Will the minister agree that the minutes of the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation will become open and transparent, so that people can know what is going on in the gambling industry?

MR. DOWNE: In regard to the openness and going forward with this, I want to say that we as a government have worked very hard at creating a better environment for integrity, openness and controls on the whole issue of gambling, that was worth $1 billion in the underground market in the Province of Nova Scotia not that long ago. It was through our determination to put some controls in place that have brought in some common sense and some reality to the issue of gaming in the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I will be very quick. This, again, is to the Minister of Finance. The Minister of Finance indicates there is no problem with political interference. If not, then how does he account for this, regarding the May 20th settlement that required and I will quote, the parties will agree to a joint press release concerning settlement of all outstanding issues. There will be no discussion with the media which will contradict the press release, and every effort will be made to avoid discussions in the media concerning the settlement. And the minister says that there is openness and not political interference. Will the minister, again open to public scrutiny the minutes of the business of gambling in Nova Scotia?

[Page 1452]

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, the preamble, I think, is as important in many ways, because they try to throw in two or three little rabbit track processes, and then they get to a question. The reality is, we run this organization in a very professional way; it is not at an arm's length process. In fact, right in the Act, it talks about the responsibility to Cabinet, and it is a government decision-making process in here of making sure that decisions are made for the best interests of the taxpayers of this province, not some little group that is hidden away in a corner.

In fact, it is an open process, and I think the members opposite should realize it. I want to say that we have run this in a very business and professional way. For example, . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH: SUMMIT (CAN.) - PARTICIPATE

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Earlier in the week, when we were talking about the budget estimates, the minister indicated that the Province of Nova Scotia had suffered a loss of approximately $75 million over three years as a result of federal cutbacks to health care. We know that severe financial cuts to Medicare have precipitated a deep crisis in health care delivery in Nova Scotia.

Today, the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party joined with Citizens to Save Health Care in calling for a national summit on health care, which has also been called for by the Canadian Health Care Coalition. My question is, will you publicly and immediately join with the Leader of the Official Opposition and the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party in calling for a national summit on health care?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, there is no question that during our estimates we brought in, we highlighted many areas that our health care system here in Nova Scotia has gone forward into new programs without support from the federal government. In answer to that honourable member, I did respond that that was one of our main concerns. I don't believe however, with the honourable member, that there is a deep crisis in health care in Nova Scotia.

So you start from that. As far as the options open to me as minister, I have access to the Minister of Health, the national minister; I have the forum of the ministers' forum and there is a conference call taking place as we speak; I have various options open to me. If there is to be a summit on health care, I certainly would want to be there and be part of it.

[Page 1453]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: It is a shame that the minister is not prepared to publicly call on and support a national summit on health care. There are some very outstanding Canadians who have joined in this call, including Tom Kent, a very well-known Liberal and proponent of social policy in the Medicare field.

My supplementary question to the minister is, will you declare a moratorium on health care partnerships with for-profit organizations?

DR. SMITH: We have many partnerships. This morning at the Department of Justice, the government announced a partnership with Bryony House and MT&T about which we all heard a single no on the other side. Those relationships, I think, are very productive. Generally speaking, we look at the VON and some of the non-profit groups, partnerships in home care. If there is an overflow and we do need to give service that is needed and is required by Nova Scotians, then I would be committed to get that service anywhere at all.

We want to deal with agencies, of course, that are non-profit. That is our initiative, but I could not categorically stand here today and say that I would deny needed health care to a Nova Scotian just because there may be a private agency that would be available to deliver that particular service at that particular time.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Well, cell phones fall far short of what battered women require in this province and so do little phone calls between the Minister of Health and his federal counterpart.

My supplementary question is, are you prepared to enforce the five principles of the Canada Health Act?

DR. SMITH: I always have and this time, until there are changes in that Act, I would categorically say that we support the Canada Health Act and all the other initiatives that are coming, that we can work with the federal government and across this country with all the provinces. I think it is commendable. It is the hallmark. It is what Canadians and particularly Nova Scotians value.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

FIN. - CASINO:

ITT SHERATON NEGOTIATIONS - EXCO INTERFERENCE

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Finance. I sat here in this House and watched the Gaming Commission legislation go through. I had faith and I was assured by the government of the day and the minister of the day that the government would not interfere and would take the recommendations of the at arm's length Gaming Corporation and they would do the negotiations with ITT Sheraton, with no

[Page 1454]

political interference. The minister was a member of the Cabinet that on April 23, 1997, unbeknownst to the Gaming Corporation, hired their lawyer to deal directly with ITT Sheraton, shutting out the Gaming Corporation from doing the dealing. I would ask the minister why the Cabinet approved and hired a lawyer to do the dealing, back door, and avoid the Gaming Corporation as it was set up?

HON. DONALD DOWNE: In Chapter 25 of the Act it repeatedly goes through the approval processes with the approval of the Governor in Council. It goes through a page or two of establishing the fact that the Governor in Council and the government of the day have the responsibility of making sure that activities are handled in a forthright and straightforward manner. Back in 1993 or 1995, which the member opposite alluded to I, obviously, was not the minister responsible at that time. I have been minister responsible for about two months. I can indicate to the House that we have worked under the Act and in concurrence with the Act, as long as I have known since we brought the Act forward.

MR. MOODY: The Act clearly states that the final approval be given by Cabinet, but there would be no interference prior to that. There was interference. Is the minister telling me that the government had no faith in the two lawyers, John Merrick and Carl Holm, working for the Gaming Corporation that was doing the negotiations or why did the government interfere and hire, on the taxpayers' expense, another lawyer to do the negotiations directly for government, bypassing the Gaming Corporation? I know what the Act says. The Act says it must approve the recommendation of the Gaming Corporation. Why did the government appoint its own lawyer to do the negotiations and not the corporation's lawyers? Why?

MR. DOWNE: Well, Mr. Speaker, I don't have the answer to that question but I would like to take that question under advisement. I don't know if it is totally accurate but I will investigate that particular allegation the member opposite is making. I think what the House should be aware of is at this morning's presentation there were a lot of allegations made. Everybody seems to be jumping on the bandwagon over here of whatever allegations were made, that they are absolutely without question.

I think what we have to do here is take a very serious look at the comments, in fact, that were really truly made.

MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask this minister, if he is sincere in what he just said and he wants to bring confidence back to this Gaming Corporation and to this government, will he today, along with the Premier, ask the Auditor General to look into the deal to make sure that we got the best deal possible and ask the RCMP to do an investigation and make sure there was no back door so all Nova Scotians can be assured that actually Nova Scotia got the best deal possible and was not taken by this crowd?

[Page 1455]

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I think the member opposite is getting fairly well exercised here today. I am being sincere but there may be a little theatrics here today. I have confidence in the activities (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Is the honourable Minister of Finance finished his answer?

MR. DOWNE: I think the member opposite has no confidence in any conversation in answering a question. If he wants to go talk to the Auditor General, let him go talk to the Auditor General.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

COMMUN. SERV. - SMALL OPTIONS HOMES: REGS. - RELEASE

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I would just like to inform the Minister of Finance that I am not jumping on the bandwagon today. My question will be to the Minister of Community Services. On March 13, 1996, Warren Edward Sheppard Junior was murdered in a small options home that lacked the regulations needed to protect its residents. Regulations which still have not been implemented. The Liberal Government has been promising these regulations since last April 1996. Less than one month after the Eddie Sheppard murder, Dr. James Smith, in his role as Minister of Community Service, promised on April 4, 1996 that the government will be looking at that this fall. That was in 1996. He also said on April 4th that prior to the death of Eddie Sheppard that we were well on the road to bringing in new regulations and working toward and through a consultative process. More than two years later no regulations have been released. My question is when is the government going to release the implementation that was long promised on the new regulations for small options homes?

HON. FRANCENE COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, that was quite a lengthy discourse and I have been trying to pay attention to it despite some inability to hear the question well over here because of the chatter that is going on in the room.

The crux of this issue is the whole case management process that we have done and put in place which means that we have in the interim enacted a case management procedure which is in the best interests of our clients.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, the consequences of this kind of deliberate bureaucratic delay is shocking. We understand that a Crown Attorney wrote a letter warning that the resident, who later killed Warren Edward Sheppard Junior, was violent and posed a serious threat to the safety of the residents and fellow residents. Why was this information overlooked, particularly once it was available within the system?

[Page 1456]

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I am not really certain where this question is trying to come to or go. In one breath he is talking about an inquiry and in another breath he is talking about the small options review. I want to reiterate to the House and to people in Nova Scotia, we have a process in place. We have interim standards. We have a case management system. It does work well to protect the best interests of our clients in small options homes.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to say that Raymond Sheppard stated this morning that a New Glasgow Crown Attorney by the name of Robert T. Parker wrote such a letter to the Director of the Nova Scotia Hospital, copied to the head of Psychological Services. This letter was probably written in 1998 and the Sheppard family does not have a copy.

[3:45 p.m.]

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

MR. PYE: Okay, Mr. Speaker. My question to the minister, and I hope the minister is in clarity this time with respect to the question. My question to the minister is when will this government institute an inquiry under the Fatal Injuries Act into the death of Warren Eddy Sheppard?

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, this time the question was clear. It has been answered many times. The key question in this case around an inquiry has been answered. There was an extensive investigation by the police, by the court process and through a program audit by the Department of Community Services.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

FIN. - GAMING CORP. (PAC [17/06/98]):

EVIDENCE - EXCO AUTONOMY

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question, through you, to the Minister of Finance. The whole issue of the relationship between the Gaming Corporation and the Executive Council has certainly been put in question as a result of the discussions here today. I want to ask the Minister of Finance, who is responsible for the Gaming Corporation, will he advise this House whether in fact the Gaming Corporation has operating autonomy?

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to present to the House a copy of Bill No. 120 which outlines the procedures and responsibilities of the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation and the Nova Scotia Gaming Control Commission. It clearly outlines in there the responsibilities for the members opposite.

[Page 1457]

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, we have had it confirmed by a former Minister responsible for the Gaming Corporation and as recently as this fall by the Acting Director of the Gaming Corporation that the corporation is, in fact, autonomous from government and its policy direction is administered by a board of five people.

I want to ask the Minister of Finance, responsible for the Gaming Corporation, if he would, in fact, explain to Nova Scotians why it is, given the fact that there is operating autonomy in the Gaming Corporation, why his government, during the spring of 1997 involved itself directly in negotiations with ITT Sheraton?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated to the House earlier, I have been minister for two months. The member opposite asked me if I was sincere I would look into that. I indicated I would. I indicated to the Leader of the Opposition that I will endeavour to look into that particular allegation and comment that is made. I am not familiar with the details and I will review it.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, let me just say that there is no question that this minister was a Minister of the Crown at the time that we are talking about, during the spring and the fall of 1997. I want to ask the Premier, once again, given the allegations, given the questions that have been raised today in this House, will the Premier agree to call in a justice of the court to do an independent inquiry with a limited timetable to do an investigation under oath to get to the bottom of the controversy around the relationship of the Gaming Corporation, the Government of Nova Scotia and ITT Sheraton?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, as I have said earlier, it seems that maybe Mr. Fiske's intention to take his concerns before the courts, which will have a legal hearing of this matter, and I think to bring forward any investigation at this point would only interfere with his right to have due process before the courts of Nova Scotia.

AN HON. MEMBER: What about Nova Scotians' rights?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

FIN. - GAMING CORP. (PAC [17/06/98]):

EVIDENCE - DEAL APPROVAL

MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. This morning, Mr. Fiske stated that prior to September 1997 the Boudreau deal was opposed by the Premier's deputy minister, by the powerful Cabinet Committee of Priorities and Planning, on which the Premier sits, ex officio, and by the Premier's own Minister of Finance. Is that correct?

[Page 1458]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, when I became Premier, the agreement for the building of the new casino was renegotiated. The agreement we entered into for the building of the casino was negotiated and signed while I was Premier. It was not negotiated by a previous administration.

MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, it is very clear that the Premier avoids answering the question and it is very clear why. In September, the Cabinet made an about face with respect to the Boudreau deal and approved it holus bolus. My question to the Premier is this. What independent authority made an analysis of the Boudreau deal which caused him and his Cabinet to decide that it was now worthy of support, that in face of the fact that, prior to this time, it was deemed not to be in the best interests of Nova Scotians?

THE PREMIER: The arrangement entered into between the Province of Nova Scotia and ITT Sheraton was for casino operations in Halifax and Sydney. The arrangement was that there would be a casino built in Halifax. The question as to when it should start is back and forth and that was an ongoing arrangement. There was no way that that was going to be changed. When I became Premier, the instructions were that this was to be a business-like arrangement. ITT Sheraton was to be given no favours. We were to abide by the arrangement that was entered into initially. The agreement for the actual construction of the casino was negotiated and then signed.

MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Fiske's allegations include unauthorized expenditures. They include creative bookkeeping. They include waiving $15,000 a day in penalties to ITT Sheraton. They include a loss of $20 million or more to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia and they certainly include the meddling of certain Cabinet Ministers. The air on this matter must be cleared. It must be cleared in the public interest. The Leader of the Opposition has asked for an independent inquiry. A civil suit will not do the trick, and that is what Mr. Fiske is involved in now - a civil suit. It will not clear the air in this matter.

So I ask the question that was posed a moment ago by the Leader of the Opposition, the same question. Will the Premier, today, appoint an independent authority which can completely review the entire relationship between ITT Sheraton and the former government and this government, and report it back to this House?

THE PREMIER: The arrangement that we entered into with ITT Sheraton was with complete understanding of the difficulties that had occurred in the past, not with knowledge of all of the difficulties, but there had been difficulties in agreements. We have negotiated the agreement for the construction of the casino. Mr. Fiske will be, I think, taking this matter before the courts. The courts have the right to look into this question and we will cooperate in this wherever we can.

[Page 1459]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

HEALTH: BTK SPRAYING (TUSSOCK MOTH) - CONCERNS

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, I want to address my question, through you, to the Minister of Health. Mr. Minister, next week, the spray planes are scheduled to be in the air battling the tussock moth over Antigonish, Pictou, Guysborough and Halifax Counties. It is a $6 million program. Some health concerns have been raised about the BTK spray from New Zealand; from Victoria, British Columbia; and from here in Nova Scotia. Does the minister have any health concerns himself about the BTK spray?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, this is a matter that came before Cabinet. It has been discussed. There has been input to me from the health officer, Dr. Jeff Scott. He has been quoted in the media. There is always a balance, but it is certainly not extensive for this kind of spraying and that is the information that I have. If the honourable member needs more information, I can access the department. I will make the resources of Dr. Scott's office available to him. There is quite a bit of literature on this. I have read as much as I can and am also aware of the matters of which he speaks.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, again, to the Minister of Health, there have been warnings, it is correct, from our Provincial Medical Officer, Dr. Jeff Scott. He has warned anyone with asthma or allergies, environmental sensitivities and pregnant women to avoid the spray area or to stay indoors during the spray time. There has been a few newspaper notices about the spray program, but, unfortunately, not everybody reads the newspapers.

My question to the minister is, is he prepared to send notices out by mail to residents of the affected areas so that they can take the necessary precautions?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I do not want to defer to another minister. I will try to answer this question as well as I can, but our town hall meetings, there are local awareness meetings on this issue and if he wishes to address a question to the Minister of Natural Resources, I think he might get a more comprehensive answer. We have certainly had our input, as you already have noted, from Dr. Jeff Scott and other members of our department, but the initiative will come from the other ministry. Thank you.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, again I will ask the Minister of Health, some people certainly value their health and when they are aware of the program, they are going to have to move out of the area where the spray program is taking place within the next week or so. My question simply is, will this government provide assistance, financial or otherwise, to people who feel that they have to move out of the area while the spray program is taking place?

[Page 1460]

DR. SMITH: I would like to add also for the information of the honourable member that there is a 1-800 number available too if there are specific questions. I understand that there are some arrangements made in that manner of support services. I think it has been very comprehensive; I think the information, the media have dealt with this very well. There are programs in place. There is a 1-800 number. There are town hall meetings and all, not only the print media but the other media have dealt with this issue.

I think it is sad in a way that we have to deal with these particular issues, but I think the alternative is to let massive destruction take place throughout our communities. I am pleased to say that there are support services and I want to congratulate the Minister of Natural Resources for the thoughtfulness and the direction and the leadership that he has shown on this issue.

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

COMMUN. SERV. - SECURE TREATMENT CENTRE

(TRURO-BIBLE-HILL): SITE - CONFIRM

MR. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Community Services, and this involves this elusive secure treatment centre which she refuses to give direct answers about. My questions to the minister will be very straightforward. There have been some conflicting reports about the secure treatment centre proposed for Truro. Is it the intention of the Department of Community Services, and I ask the minister, that the secure treatment centre which has been mentioned time and time again for the past, I guess this would be the third year really, calendar year, and again mentioned in her news release yesterday morning, will be built on the campus of the former Nova Scotia Residential Centre in Truro?

HON. FRANCENE COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, my answer today is no different than it has been on this subject each time I have been asked this question. I have only one site that I am looking at and it is the Truro site at this time.

MR. MUIR: Thank you, and I am delighted to hear that. Mr. Speaker, would you just forgive me for a minute while I read something from the Halifax Herald.

MR. SPEAKER: As long as it is short.

MR. MUIR: Yes, it is short. "Community Services had planned to renovate the former Nova Scotia Residential Centre by this spring and transform the building into a secure treatment facility. But department spokesman Tom Peck said Friday other options, including one that would see the treatment centre built elsewhere, are being considered. 'It's not a done deal that the facility is going to Truro,', he said. `We spent a lot of time assessing the residential centre as a secure treatment facility . . .'", and we have come, "'. . . to the

[Page 1461]

conclusion that we should consider other options.'". Will you comment on Mr. Peck's statement, please?

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I think my first answer is the answer. That is the only option I am looking at at this time.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased again to hear that. You have commented on at least two occasions, including in answer to my question from last week, that there are four subcommittees, or something, studying this proposed secure treatment centre. The planning for that was to have been completed . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. MUIR: . . . certainly last year. When do you expect a report or is there a scheduled date for that report concerning the secure treatment centre to be presented to you?

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I think you are referring, honourable member, to the work of the four subcommittees and their work has concluded. We are aware of some structural problems at this site, and I have asked for an assessment on the structural difficulties that we have become aware of, so that is where we are at this present time.

[4:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

FIN. - GAMING CORP.: CHAIRMAN (R. FISKE)

RESIGNATION - DISCUSSIONS (PREMIER)

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you to the Premier. It has to do, of course, with a question that we have talked about today, the testimony of an old friend of the Premier's, Mr. Ralph Fiske. I tabled earlier today a letter of resignation, by Mr. Fiske, from the chair of the Gaming Corporation dated September 30, 1997. I wanted to ask the Premier - the letter contains some very serious allegations by Mr. Fiske about a deputy minister of the Premier - given the fact that he has admitted here today that Mr. Fiske is an old buddy, an acquaintance, a friend from way back and so on, they have had contact since he was elected Premier, will he advise this House whether or not he sat down with Mr. Fiske after he became advised of Mr. Fiske's resignation, and did he discuss with him the contents of the letter of resignation?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I haven't said that Mr. Fiske is an old buddy, but I certainly will. I have known Mr. Fiske for a long time, since he was a Cabinet Minister in Gerald Regan's Government, and this doesn't give me a great deal of pleasure to be on the opposite side of Mr. Fiske; I can tell you that quite frankly. The fact of the matter is that he

[Page 1462]

has made allegations, the letter to which the honourable Leader of the Opposition refers is not something that I have discussed with Mr. Fiske. I had occasion to meet with Mr. Fiske once since I became Premier. He was still in his capacity of employment at that time, and I have not had an opportunity to meet with Mr. Fiske since he resigned.

MR. CHISHOLM: I must say, Mr. Speaker, that I find that quite incredible. A person of Mr. Fiske's standing in the community, a former Cabinet Minister of this House, a long-standing member of the Liberal Party, an admitted former acquaintance at least and, if not, old buddy of the Premier's, he resigned and made allegations contained in this letter and the Premier didn't even attempt to meet with him.

To the Premier, Mr. Speaker, in my first supplementary. In this letter, Mr. Fiske talks about the role of David Thompson, Deputy Minister to the Premier in this respect, if the Premier didn't take the time to speak to his old buddy, Ralph, why would he not have tried to get to the bottom of these allegations by talking with his deputy minister about the content of these allegations and his role in them?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I didn't talk to Mr. Fiske for the specific reason that I have tremendous respect for Mr. Fiske's right to take any matter he wants before the courts of this province, without having in any way any allegation upon this government of trying to interfere with his right, or in any way trying to talk him out of his right to go before the courts.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the Premier appears to want Nova Scotians to believe that he didn't know, he didn't suspect, he didn't think he had any responsibility to respond to an issue, to allegations that were made by someone of Mr. Fiske's standing.

I want to ask the Premier again - let's be clear that Mr. Fiske and this letter did not threaten legal action, there was nothing preventing his former buddy from talking to him - because he didn't avoid the question, I want to ask him to explain to Nova Scotians, when these allegations were made by someone with the connections of Mr. Fiske to the Premier about the role of his Deputy Minister, Mr. Thompson, why it was that he didn't try to get to the bottom of this, that he waited eight months until this matter came before the House before he let on to Nova Scotians that he knows anything about it?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Fiske in his letter resigns; he resigned from his position. Mr. Fiske was a Liberal. He said he was a Liberal. The fact of the matter is that Mr. Fiske, in his employment, before his resignation, has to be treated as any Nova Scotian would, regardless of political stripe or regardless of political affiliation, above-board. As far as the people of Nova Scotia were concerned, there were to be no side deals for Mr. Fiske, no innuendos to come out of anything that I would say to him. He wants to make allegations. He has the right to go to court and those things will be brought out if Mr. Fiske wants. It is entirely up to him.

[Page 1463]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou Centre

WCB: APPEALS - BACKLOG

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Labour. As the minister is well aware, there is a huge backlog of over 2,500 cases of injured workers now at WCAT. In its full two years of operation, WCAT has issued a grand total of just over 200 decisions, just less than 10 per month. WCAT has not issued a single decision dealing with workers injured after February 1, 1996, when the Liberals' new Act came into force. In 16 of WCAT's decisions previous to that that have gone to court, 13 of them appealed.

We have come down to the fact that it is not only a slow process, but the process is wrong. My question to the minister is, when will he take off his rose-coloured glasses and admit WCAT is in shambles?

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I don't wear glasses, not yet, anyway. The fact of the matter is, the figures that the honourable member has just provided are totally incorrect. The records will show that WCAT has, since January 1996, made a total of 1,069 decisions. It is broken down as follows: 339 final decisions, which includes final decisions on appeals and decisions where no leave was denied; 209 leave decisions where leave was granted, and these will go forth for final determination; 440 decisions which have been issued by the tribunal as a result of the ADR process.

MR. CORBETT: The minister didn't hear or didn't want to hear. The caveat I put on it was simply that these are post-February 1, 1996 decisions. Not one of the people that were injured post-1996, February 1. These are irrefutable figures, Mr. Speaker.

My next question to the minister is, is he prepared today then to help these injured workers get a more speedy access to justice in this province?

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, in the preamble to his second question, he did clarify the point that it was the backlog cases. If you check Hansard, that is not the preamble to the first question. Given the reality of situation, it is a very serious issue and many people's lives are on hold. That is why we have taken some very positive initiatives. We have activated the Medical Review Commission, which is prescribed by law, which received the approbation of all members of the House at that particular time. It wasn't a hare-brained scheme, as some would suggest. We have also increased full-time staff at WCAT, which was the recommendation of the Progressive Conservative Party. Job postings have been advertised for that and, indeed, we will deal with them as they come. The Alternative Dispute Resolution is a very vital component to help resolve that. Yes, there are problems and we are dealing with them.

[Page 1464]

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, that is probably about the only part that the minister and I agree on, that there are problems. Part of those problems are the part-time workers that are there; the part-time workers are there because of who they know, not what they know.

My question, very simply, is will the minister commit today to getting rid of the do-nothing WCAT members and give the job to people who know what they can do and clean up the mess today? (Applause)

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I believe in doing things just and fair. I believe in making sure that we help people that need to be helped. We are making every effort possible. I believe all members of the House will see, certainly, lots of evidence of that, the people of Nova Scotia, injured workers from all across Nova Scotia. One thing I don't believe is that they are interfering with justice. I will certainly table a letter from a member of his own caucus when he was a workers' adviser, asking a Minister of the Crown to interfere with a quasi-judicial process. Now, is that the type of justice that this honourable member wants? I think not. I will do everything I can to help people the legal and the right way.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Chester-St. Margarets.

HEALTH - RESEARCH FOUNDATION:

LEGISLATION - INTRODUCTION

DR. HINRICH BITTER-SUERMANN: Mr. Speaker, my question through you will be to the Premier of Nova Scotia. On March 17th you went on important business to the Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building at Dalhousie. I read from your own press release, you announced, "The Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation will start with $5 million in funding from the province. Legislation to create the foundation will be passed as soon as possible . . . Today's announcement is a significant step forward in this government's continuing initiative to recruit and retain physicians for the men, women and children of this province.".

Mr. Premier, we were all impressed and we have been waiting now for exactly 90 days - today is the three month anniversary. My question to you today is, where are we? Where is the money? Where is the legislation?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the honourable Minister of Health has said that he has already committed $500,000 to this. I want to say to the honourable member that what he quoted is absolutely correct. I have a very strong feeling for this Medical Research Foundation because I felt for many years in Nova Scotia we have lost a great deal. I think a Medical Research Foundation for Nova Scotia will mean twice that amount of money coming from the federal government and the private sector. We have lost millions by not having this and I feel very strongly about it.

[Page 1465]

I have said that when the foundation is formed we will put the $5 million there and that is still the case, Mr. Speaker.

DR. BITTER-SUERMANN: Mr. Speaker, on the day of his announcement the Premier said, and I quote from the Halifax Chronicle-Herald: "Mr. MacLellan said he will create . . . legislation as soon as the House is called after the election. It's criminal that this has not been done already.".

Mr. Premier, by your own definition you may have acted criminally. My question is, will you plead a Canadian version of the Fifth Amendment?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, with due respect to the honourable member, I know his point and I appreciate his concern in having this foundation set up because his concern on this is my concern as well but we need the enabling legislation. No legislation has passed in this House since that statement was made and it still is a priority of this government. The first order of business has had to have been the Speech from the Throne and the Budget. I want the honourable member to know and the whole Legislature to know of my commitment to getting this foundation set up as soon as possible.

DR. BITTER-SUERMANN: Mr. Premier, the other papers quoted you as saying you would bring in legislation immediately after the election. Seriously, Mr. Premier, we are agonizing, as Tories, about the credibility of the budget that has been brought down, which means we are agonizing over your own credibility. When is your word the word and when is it not?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, my word is always my word and that is going to be the situation with respect to this foundation. (Applause)

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

LBR.: MINIMUM WAGE - INCREASE

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, again my question is to the Minister of Labour. I am asking today about the most basic protection for workers in Nova Scotia and that is the minimum wage. The minimum wage is now $5.50 an hour and has not been increased for over two years. Two years ago the Liberal Government quoted studies that show how a modest increase in the minimum wage has minimal impact on businesses.

Two years ago the minimum wage changes brought Nova Scotia within 25 per cent of the national average. Over the past two years, however, we have slipped back. Nova Scotia's minimum wage now sits a full 35 cents below the average of other provinces. When will this government increase the minimum wage?

[Page 1466]

[4:15 p.m.]

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, presently my staff has been reviewing that. We have had one full discussion, as the honourable member knows, that is up for review on an annual basis. Some of the issues that I looked at and reviewed with senior staff, I felt that I needed more questions answered so I sent it back for a further review. I am hoping to have an answer in the very near future.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the minister for his answer. In that same vein, I would like to know when the government would provide a timeline so that businesses can prepare their work and let the employees know about the increase in wages and ensure the security of Nova Scotia workers and to boost our economy by spreading spending power more equally?

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I think that is a fair and honest question. I think, as I understand from senior staff again and from all the stakeholders that I have communicated with, the standard process of communicating and consulting with all parties before any decision is made will remain intact and ensure that everybody is given fair notice for planning in business and in labour.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, not to sound like a mutual admiration society but again, I thank the minister for his answer. I appreciate the consultation of his process but I guess the nub of the problem here is, can the minister inform the House today of a timeline for this? When can we expect to have a definitive report back or some legislation concerning minimum wage in this House?

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, first of all it is not a question of legislation, it is a question of Governor in Council. It is a regulatory issue as the member may or may not know. Quite frankly, I would hope probably within a month I should be able to provide something substantive. Again, I will emphasize that staff brought an initial recommendation to me, I had a series of questions with regard to a number of stakeholders and I didn't feel comfortable with the answers that I received. I sent it back for further review - and hopefully, ultimately - approbation and I know within the next week or so I believe we have a meeting scheduled to review that with Labour Standards.

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

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question to the honourable Premier. Wayne MacKay has proven to be a very responsible individual as the Executive Director of the Human Rights Commission. He has operated in a very fair and excellent manner, nonetheless this government has advised him that his services will be no

[Page 1467]

longer required. Could the Premier tell me if his government has picked someone to replace Mr. MacKay?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I agree with the honourable member, Mr. MacKay has done an outstanding job. He is going to be a very difficult person to replace but up to this point we have not as yet picked somebody to succeed him.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, could the Premier tell me if his government has approached or will be approaching the former member for Preston and the former Minister of the Environment to become the new Executive Director of the Human Rights Commission?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to say to the honourable member that I have not approached the former Minister of the Environment but I will refer the question to the Minister of Health to see if he has.

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I feel guilty that I have forgotten about my friend so quickly. (Laughter) But it hadn't crossed my mind, but I think we might have to. I think he will see some notices in time and he may well apply and he would be given consideration. There has been absolutely no approach to Mr. Adams at this juncture.

MR. TAYLOR: I thank the Premier and his Minister of Health for that response. Would the Minister of Health perhaps then assure all Nova Scotians that, relative to the executive director position of the Human Rights Commission, the process will be open and transparent?

DR. SMITH: I thank the honourable member for this question. I think this is very important. This is a very important position. The process that will be in place will be open and transparent and fair and well advertised. Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

BUS. & CONS. SERV. - GASOLINE PRICES

(TEMP. FACTOR): CONSUMERS - PROTECT

MS. YVONNE ATWELL: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is directed at the Minister of Business and Consumer Services. Prices that are set at the pumps in Canada, in Nova Scotia, are based on gasoline temperature controlled at 15 degrees Celsius within the machines. The volume of gas, as we know, contracts when the weather is colder and expands when the weather is hot. Now in Canada and in Nova Scotia, the mean temperature is six degrees Celsius, so I ask the honourable Minister of Business and Consumer Services, what is he doing to protect the consumer of Nova Scotia?

[Page 1468]

HON. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, the question the honourable member asks is very valid. We have been looking at the problem of temperature-compensated gas in the province, and it has raised many issues, and I have had discussions with many people in this regard. Some of the service stations have temperature-compensated gas at the pumps and some do not. We have been talking to and we will continue to talk to the Retail Gas Dealers Association about this, the oil companies and consumer groups, to discuss the total implication on it, and will take action after we have done the review.

MS. ATWELL: Mr. Speaker, recently there was a federal task force that looked at gas compensation, or temperature conversion, and this report was released in June. One of the recommendations in that report said that the report recommended that this practice be banned in Canada. So I am wondering, in light of this report, does the honourable minister feel that with this recommendation, that maybe the minister should be acting on this a little bit sooner?

MR. COLWELL: I didn't hear the question.

MR. SPEAKER: I wonder if the honourable member would just repeat what the actual question was.

MS. ATWELL: Mr. Speaker, my question was that in view of the report, the task force, where there were several recommendations, I think there was a 68-page document, but one of the recommendations from this report recommended that this practice be banned in Canada. So in light of the recommendation, I am asking the minister, what is he going to do to act on this report? Shouldn't he be acting on this, in light of this report, a little bit sooner?

MR. COLWELL: As I said in my previous answer, what we intend to do in the province is review the whole situation from all aspects, from the consumers' aspect, the retail gas dealers' aspect, and see what direction we should go in Nova Scotia. Until that review is finalized, we will not be moving forward.

MS. ATWELL: There is valid information out there already. There is a great deal of information that you can get off the Internet and other places regarding some of the concerns with citizens. Of course, in this 68-page document there were more than 1,000 individuals who have been reviewed, and over a period of time, the gas stations, et cetera, have been on this issue for a very long time.

I guess my question is that, with the temperature conversion, where the consumer is getting less at the pumps, that there is also the issue of the tax. So therefore, I would like to ask the minister, what will they do in terms of looking at this issue around the fact that the consumer is not only getting less at the pumps, but they are also paying taxes on gas they are not getting?

[Page 1469]

MR. COLWELL: Maybe I should put this whole issue in perspective for the House and the people of Nova Scotia. On a $30 fill-up on gas in your car, at the worst situation it is half a cent for a $30 fill up. Half a cent. Now that is not always the case, because sometimes with compensation you actually get a better deal on the gas than without the compensation. The whole issue has to be addressed. In dealing with people in the communities on this issue, we are getting very different perspectives in the local areas of Nova Scotia. Until we have those all under review and ensure that the retailers and the consumers in Nova Scotia are getting the best deal they possibly can, we are not going to move forward until we get all the information.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg.

LBR. - METRO TRANSIT: STRIKE - NEGOTIATIONS

MR. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Labour. The Metro Transit workers' strike is now into its third week; we still have no deal. We still have people in this municipality who are not able to get out to doctors' appointments, who are not able to get out for groceries, who cannot afford the ordinary transportation that people need. The difficulty is we appear to have an impasse. We have a deal, except that four months separate the parties. My question to the minister, what is he going to do to get the parties together and get the people back on transit?

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: That is an excellent question. The facts will show that presently the department's conciliator is encouraging both parties to reconvene the meeting, either today or tomorrow, to discuss certain matters which I think may help to deal with some of the impasse to which the honourable member is referring.

MR. BAKER: Again to the Minister of Labour. The difficulty is that the parties have appeared to be very close together on a number of occasions. I guess my question for the minister is at what point is he prepared to intervene personally, to make sure the parties resolve their differences? It is the public interest that is being sacrificed here, over what amounts to very little difference to either party in the dispute.

MR. MACKINNON: When the rank and file is allowed to conduct a vote.

MR. BAKER: My last question, again to the Minister of Labour. I will not belabour the point - no pun intended, Mr. Speaker - but my question to the minister, is he prepared to personally intervene in the strike if, by the end of the week, we have not reached a settlement?

MR. MACKINNON: As I have indicated what steps are being taken and what I would hope would certainly occur on the labour side of the issue - as I have just answered in the previous question - I have discussed this issue with my senior staff and my understanding is that the process, I am very confident the process will work. The consideration of a mediator

[Page 1470]

at this point has been discussed, but certainly not required. I think the honourable member can understand the sensitivities when you are dealing with both parties, but I will certainly take his point on notice and give it very strong consideration.

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

ECON. DEV. & TOURISM: SYDPORT - SALE

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. In Cape Breton we have a variety of industrial-park lands and Sydport is one such park. It is strategically located, it is not far from the Newfoundland ferry; it has access by rail and by water; and, also, it is within 20 minutes of the airport.

The port, I guess, is viewed by many people as being key to any future development of the Laurentian Shelf offshore gas. My question is, with the impending sale of Sydport, has the province or the minister had any involvement, or what are they doing about the sell-off of this valuable piece of property for the economic development of Cape Breton?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: I would like to thank the member opposite for the question. It is a good question. We are concerned about the future of Sydport as we are about the other industrial parks in the Cape Breton area. She is absolutely right. Sydport will play a very important role in the future development of the Laurentian Shelf and, indeed, has the potential to play a role in the Sable gas fields as well.

[4:30 p.m.]

We are very concerned that the Sydport facility be developed properly in the future and we seem to agree on this much, that the proponents of taking over Sydport have had discussions with Enterprise Cape Breton. They are interested in seeing the park developed as we are. The alternative is to leave it in federal government hands, who do not seem to be interested in wanting to operate it in the future. So we have to try to get the best possible deal we can in order to make Sydport even a more valuable piece of resource for us than it is already.

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

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Progressive Conservative House Leader.

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

[Page 1471]

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Progressive Conservative House Leader.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 11.

Bill No. 11 - Assessment Act.

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

MR. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to rise today to speak in support of Bill No. 11, An Act to Amend Chapter 23 of the Revised Statutes of 1989, The Assessment Act.

There are currently in excess of 430 bed and breakfast establishments operating in this province. The legislation that we bring forward today is designed to address a concern that has been expressed. It has been brought forward after carefully weighing the direct financial benefit of the application of the commercial tax rate, also against the lost revenue from bed and breakfast closures, and the overall impact in terms of tourism expenditures. In addition, the legislation was developed after consultation with the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia, the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, and the Bed and Breakfast Association.

The unique thing about bed and breakfast establishments is that they cater to a specific group of tourists. They offer a special local experience which cannot be duplicated by other establishments. They are typically one or two bedroom operations, family owned, and they really represent an opening of the family home to visitors. In many instances the owner-operators are not looking for profit. They are motivated by a desire to have company. Usually these operations are only open for a short period of time, six months or less, and as I said earlier, they accommodate a unique sector of the tourist accommodation industry. They are located throughout the province, but typically they are located in areas that do not have alternative forms of accommodations available.

They do not even generate a great deal of revenue for the owner-operators. Typically many of them run at a loss or at minimum break-even levels. They are also integral to the overall fabric of rural Nova Scotia and rural economic development. These economies are turning more and more to tourism-related industries for economic growth. I know there has been some debate about the legal interpretation of the application of the commercial tax rate on these businesses and that definition has been under some question. A joint committee of representatives of government, of TIANS, and of bed and breakfast owner-operators were not able to really reach any consensus as to a resolution for the problem.

[Page 1472]

In fact, that lack of resolution and the impact of the commercial tax has forced somewhere in the neighbourhood of 30 of those bed and breakfasts to cease operations as a direct result of the prohibitive costs of commercial taxation. The closure of these accommodations in remote areas has created a void in those communities in terms of the availability of accommodation. With no place to stay, tourists are forced to move on and the resulting movement means that any economic benefit of their remaining in the area is lost. The commercial tax also had not been applied consistently across the province. In some areas it was applied and in some areas it was not. In point of fact, a number of assessment appeals were launched on behalf of bed and breakfast owner-operators who protested the application of commercial tax assessments. In fact, some of them were won on behalf of the appellants.

The definition of B & Bs under the Tourist Association Act is that it is a private home where the owner resides which offers accommodation to the travelling public. Clearly B & Bs do not fall under the definition of a commercial property. The intention of this bill is to clarify this issue once and for all. In point of fact, Nova Scotia is the only province that currently taxes bed and breakfasts at the commercial rate.

The argument that there will be lost revenue in terms of tax dollars to municipalities really is minimal at best. It is estimated, at this point, that the commercial revenue from the taxation of bed and breakfasts represents about $140,000 across the province. The other side of that is that it has to be balanced against the loss of tourism expenditures as a result of those people not staying in an area. It is a very weighty issue, but I do believe, in the long run, the retention of bed and breakfasts will be of more economic benefit.

One of the major thrusts of economic renewal in Nova Scotia has been attempting to keep tourists in an area for an extended period of time, the best way to do that is to ensure that they remain there. When the commercial tax was applied in 1997, it was the first time that this had occurred. So, in reality, the municipalities are not losing a long-standing source of tax revenue. It is really something that is new. The implication of what it means in terms of lost tourism dollars is more of a concern than the loss of some $140,000 spread across the province.

Legislation is specific also. There is an argument being mounted that it opens the door to preferential tax treatment to other businesses. In fact, the legislation is very specific. It comes as the result of the lack of clarity about the interpretation of the Act around commercial enterprises and around residential enterprises. Really, the bed and breakfast Act that is proposed deals specifically with bed and breakfasts of four or less rooms.

The other issue is around whether or not it allows preferential competition prices to businesses that are competing directly against motels and hotels and that is not the case. Generally speaking, bed and breakfasts cater to a different clientele. In fact, there is some evidence to indicate that, because of their small capacity, they are, in fact, referring extra customers in the direction of hotels and motels.

[Page 1473]

The other thing, too, is that, generally speaking, when a bed and breakfast accommodates tourists, they stay and they are served meals in a corresponding restaurant or sometimes even a local motel. As I said earlier, the clientele who stay at bed and breakfasts are different from those who actively seek out motel-hotel accommodations. Because of their small capacity, their voice was not being heard. They have consistently been voicing the genuine fear that the oppressive tax would cause many of them to close doors and that is what we are attempting to address at this point.

I would also say that because of the nature of the business, while I mentioned there are somewhere in the neighbourhood of 450, that number is subject to fluctuation. In fact, I think, without the tax, it would be an incentive for more people to open doors and become involved in this business. There is no doubt that the tourism industry is one of the strongest sectors of the economy and anything that we can do which would encourage and enhance the development of that particular sector would be a positive thing. That is why I think it is critically important that this legislation move forward. As I said, it is not being implemented to give preferential treatment, but to address a genuine problem that we see existing in the tourism sector.

I am requesting unanimous consent of this particular piece of legislation. I would move that this bill be read a second time and that it be referred to the Law Amendments Committee.

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

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I wish to bring to your attention that I will be sharing my speaking time with my colleague, the honourable Minister of Business and Consumer Services.

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the amendments to the Assessment Act put forward by the honourable member for Digby-Annapolis. I would agree that the 376 bed and breakfasts assessed in Nova Scotia last year, similar to the other 5,000 home-based businesses in the province, provide immeasurable benefits to the communities and the respect of the economy of those areas.

The support of small business and its continued development will go a long way in fostering the total economic recovery we all seek. This certainly includes bed and breakfasts, which are becoming an important part of our tourist industry. For many bed and breakfast operators, they have just two or three months in the summer to make a year's wages, as my honourable friend indicated. We are nearing the beginning of the peak period for this industry and it is very important that we resolve this issue now, Mr. Speaker.

In small towns throughout Nova Scotia, bed and breakfasts play a major role in fueling the local economies. We understand that they do, indeed, help to attract and hold visitors to these communities. This creates spin-offs for all the businesses in the area. In short, we fully

[Page 1474]

appreciate the role they play. That is why the Minister and former Ministers of Housing and Municipal Affairs have continually supported TIANS and the bed and breakfast operators in their quest for a fair and equitable tax for this special group of businesses.

Our staff has spent considerable time working with TIANS and the Joint Working Committee to ensure that there is a fair and equitable allocation of commercial assessment for all such operators. Mr. Speaker, TIANS and the industry know and recognize that the Assessment Act requires the commercial assessment for that portion of these premises. The Joint Working Committee also knows and acknowledges that the development of the Tourist and Accommodation Act, which intended to improve the quality and standard of rooms being sold to the travelling and vacationing public by requiring licensing of all rooms, inadvertently failed to recognize or anticipate the implication of the Assessment Act.

All home-based businesses in Nova Scotia are subject to a commercial assessment clarification. This, sir, is not new. Similar to the requirements of the Income Tax Act, assessors apportion the realty portion of the property on the basis of the area occupied versus the total square footage of the premises. So it is important to clear up a popular misconception shared by some members of the public and, indeed, some members of this House. The Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs administers the Assessment Act and we do not collect the tax. The collecting of this particular tax is the responsibility of the individual municipality.

For example, Mr. Speaker, in the case of the honourable member for Digby-Annapolis who raises this issue, any monies realized from taxing a bed and breakfast located in his constituency would go to the municipal unit there. Conversely, the loss of this revenue would be made up by the ratepayers in his area. So with that, Mr. Speaker, that is the short version of a very long and sometimes vigorous debate.

All players, not just the province and not just TIANS, have to be at the table to resolve this particular issue. That, under our terms of agreement, includes the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities. Mr. Speaker, since this dialogue with TIANS and the bed and breakfast operators began, we have entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities on a wide range of subjects. This provides us with a new forum, a place where many issues pertaining to municipalities can be discussed and resolve attained.

We have jointly committed to work cooperatively. As a result of that initiative, we have been able to involve the UNSM in some preliminary discussions on the matter at hand. So it is of paramount importance for all members to realize this, since it will not be the Government of Nova Scotia which would lose revenue from this change, but rather the 55 municipalities across this province. Our role in this instance is not about money, it is about administering and applying the law as it is written.

[Page 1475]

Mr. Speaker, when we have a matter of importance to the municipalities, the memorandum of understanding provides the forum where we can work with the UNSM in applying the spirit and the letter of the law. Therefore, I do not wish to prolong the debate. It is the position of the government that this bill go forward to the Law Amendments Committee.

I am proud of our progress in working with the municipalities and other community stakeholders over the past five years but I am even prouder of the way we have made that progress, by cooperation and consultation. I know that spirit will carry us forward into the next phase of this process.

Mr. Speaker, before I take my seat, as I pointed out earlier to you, I will share the rest of my time with my honourable colleague.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Consumer Services.

HON. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, it is with a great deal of pleasure that I stand to speak on this bill. This is a serious concern in my area. In 1993 when I was first elected, we enjoyed the unenvious position of having the worst record in tourism in the Province of Nova Scotia. I can tell you, I have risen in this House may times since, and we have grown dramatically. That dramatic growth I attribute greatly to bed and breakfasts, and the excellent job the people in our community have been doing with bed and breakfasts.

[4:45 p.m.]

The issue that has been brought forward by the honourable member, the taxation of bed and breakfasts is a critical issue to the development and growth of tourism in my area. Not only is it viewed as a tax break for those potential businesses. I feel only through this type of a tax break and initiative put forward are we going to further develop tourism. Tourism development in my area has been very slow and meticulous. Unfortunately, we can't afford to put big hotels up, or big motels up, or items like that until we attract the people. So we are sort of caught in a catch-22.

So as we develop and work through the tourism development sector, bed and breakfasts are a critical part of that function, a part that is so critical that it goes beyond description. Not only that, but bed and breakfasts are unique and very special places. They allow for people to come into our province and view first-hand the hospitality of the fine people in our communities. I believe that is one reason that tourism is growing so well in my area. They go in and they have a chance to speak with and visit with the owners of the establishment, discuss with them different things about our community and their communities, wherever they come from.

[Page 1476]

I think we have to do everything we possibly can to encourage the growth of bed and breakfasts, which ultimately result in the growth of new restaurants, of new motels, hotels, and other activities that will employ a tremendous number of people. The economic impact in my area by bed and breakfasts has been very significant. It is estimated somewhere in the range of $5 million increase in the last few years. Now that is a tremendous increase in an area my size. It is real increase. It means in the summertime we have students who can work, who wouldn't otherwise find employment in the local area and would have to travel away from their families, and make that work almost impossible because they would have to pay lodging and food someplace else, whereas this way they can stay at home, and really add to their community and also, show the pride they have in their community.

It is a slow process developing tourism. It is a hard process. Again, the value that the bed and breakfasts have goes beyond description. It really adds to the texture of our community, and the other thing is, when you have a bed and breakfast next to your home, it adds to the value of your home. Because, typically these properties are very well looked after, inside and out. They provide excellent service to people. I think anytime we can provide this type of establishment with the proper incentives, and when I say incentives, I mean the ability to start a business and grow a business in the community, we all win, we all win as Nova Scotians. I think that is critical.

I have seen the number of bed and breakfasts in my area grow from three or four very fine establishments, I think we are up to around 20 now, in just five years. The beautiful thing of it is, the quality is getting better and better, not that we ever had a quality problem, but they are just getting better. I think they are really starting to set the standard for the rest of the industry. I know they have participated in tourism development in many ways. They have allowed for events. I announced one event today in the reading of resolutions, the Festival of Oars, and again, that was established by an operator of a bed and breakfast in my area. I feel that shows you how important this is. So anything I feel that we can do to assist this important business to proceed, I think is very positive. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

MR. PETER DELEFES: Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak in support of Bill No. 11 with regard to the commercial taxation of bed and breakfasts in Nova Scotia. The bill would have the effect, if passed, of exempting bed and breakfasts with four rooms or less from the commercial tax rate. We know there are already several properties that are exempted from the commercial tax rate, buildings and properties such as churches, educational institutions, and various charitable properties. Until 1997, provincial assessors assessed bed and breakfasts as homes, which they are. They are the homes of course, where the owner/operators dwell. The rooms are not exclusively used for business, in fact the rooms are used for guests during the tourist season and for family during the off-tourist season.

[Page 1477]

When provincial assessors started assessing them as businesses since 1997, the municipalities started sending them bills as commercial properties. The bill before us today, if passed, would redress the situation so that bed and breakfasts of four rooms or less, with a common living room and serving breakfast to be included in the cost, would not be assessed at the commercial tax rate.

Many people have expressed concern about the unfairness of taxing businesses at the business rate. The Liberal Government has pledged, in its Speech from the Throne, to remove impediments, obstacles and barriers to small business. Bed and breakfasts certainly qualify as small businesses. Some, in fact, are only two rooms or less, very modest operations. I should also point out that the homes which are being utilized as bed and breakfasts will be of necessity fairly large, since they accommodate several rooms. My point is that they will be paying substantially higher residential rates of taxation, due to the size and quality of the buildings. Since they are used to accommodate guests they must be maintained at a high standard of quality. They are inspected annually by the Department of Tourism and this, of course, does increase their assessment and the amount of residential taxes they pay.

Bed and breakfasts provide a valuable service to the tourism industry and to the economy of Nova Scotia. And of course, they provide an option for many travellers, an option to the large industrial hotels, motels and inns which are certainly much more formal and offer a much less friendly and hospitable environment. As had already been stated, our bed and breakfasts provide a unique experience for the traveller. Because the guest is housed in the home of the owner, the bed and breakfast establishment provides a home-like environment. The traveller has an opportunity to enjoy hospitality at first hand.

Having frequently stayed at bed and breakfasts myself in my travels, I can personally attest to the friendly, helpful environment of these establishments. They provide an opportunity to meet people in an informal setting, to receive travel tips and highlights from the proprietor, who is usually well-versed in local history, folklore and of course, knowledgable in other community events and activities. Bed and breakfasts also provide the traveller with excellent home cooking. These establishments do provide a service which is unique and not available in larger hotels and motels, as indicated.

Our bed and breakfasts do complement the growing influx of tourists to Nova Scotia. In 1997, as we know, there were over $1 billion in revenues accumulated from the tourist industry and over 1 million person visits to the province. There is a need for bed and breakfast inns in our province. We must encourage their growth and certainly not put obstacles in their way. I was very encouraged by the comments of the two ministers who spoke on this issue regarding providing incentives and encouragements for bed and breakfasts.

Taxing bed and breakfasts at the commercial rate, of course, is proving ruinous for many which do operate marginally, financially. I was talking with the owner of one bed and breakfast in North River, Truro, the Sun Catcher Bed and Breakfast, and he informed me that

[Page 1478]

for his two bedroom operation he grossed $3,000 last year on which he paid a commercial tax rate of $230. So as you can see, it is a very marginal operation and indeed commercial taxes can prove ruinous.

Bed and breakfasts rely on revenues from basically four months of occupancy, June to October and there is little if any traffic during the winter months. Certainly, one bad month can prove disastrous to a small bed and breakfast operation. As indicated, the additional burden of commercial taxation is often the final straw which pushes bed and breakfasts into insolvency.

There are 402 bed and breakfasts in the Province of Nova Scotia. Last year, I believe between 60 and 70 of those closed for various reasons, through the process of natural attrition, the owners retired or there was some similar reason. However, 32 of these we know went under due to commercial taxation and this was reported to the Department of Tourism. We do urge the members of this House to pass the bill on for second reading. It is my hope that the bill will go forward to the Law Amendments Committee.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of Bill No. 11. I want to congratulate the member for Digby-Annapolis for bringing this bill forward. I know he has spent a great deal of time talking to bed and breakfast operators in the province. There is no question that when some of these small bed and breakfast operations were taxed on the commercial tax rate, that some of them did decide that because of such a small income, they really would get out of business.

Mr. Speaker, bed and breakfasts are very important to our tourist industry. There are a number of travellers who do like to stay at bed and breakfasts. In some small communities, I know in my area, even on the North Mountain, the only place to stay would be a small bed and breakfast; otherwise you have to stay in a large centre. So this gives visitors an opportunity to find a place to stay and to enjoy some of our country setting and, actually, get to know the owners. I understand many people come back year after year. It is not a year-round operation. It is a seasonal operation and it is one that, I think, has caught on in this province. It is one that brings many people to this province because they like to stay at a bed and breakfast.

I was pleased, Mr. Speaker, that the government and the Official Opposition both spoke in favour of this bill. They see it as being a fair bill. I would ask for unanimous consent of the House that we proceed with second reading of this bill and that it be referred to the Law Amendments Committee.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. May I have unanimous consent that this bill be called for second reading?

[Page 1479]

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 11. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Progressive Conservative House Leader.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 15.

Bill No. 15 - Workers' Compensation Regional Appeal Tribunals Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg.

MR. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to rise and speak to Bill No. 15, An Act to Provide Expedited Procedure to Deal with the Current Backlog of Appeals Under the Former Workers' Compensation Act.

On April 21, 1998, the honourable John Hamm, Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, suggested an all-Party committee be formed to define a mutually agreeable process to hear the unresolved workers' compensation cases and to achieve a successful resolution to the issues facing the injured workers associations in Nova Scotia.

As chair of that committee, I am doing everything within my power to make the committee work and I am very optimistic that we will be able to address the issues regarding workers' compensation, in conjunction with the Minister of Labour and other members of the House. However, time is continuing to pass and over 2,400 cases remain to be heard by the Workers' Compensation Appeal Board. In fact, Mr. Speaker, these cases are languishing there with no sign of resolution in sight.

My discussions with injured workers in this province have led me to conclude that they are extremely frustrated and unhappy with the progress, or lack of progress more accurately, of their cases. Some of these people have been waiting four, five or six years for a resolution to the matter and nothing has happened. Mr. Speaker, that is what has led us to bring in this bill. This legislation is just part of a multifaceted attack on the problem. It is not the complete solution, nor do we advocate it as a complete solution. What we do advocate it as is a part of the solution to the problem that will deal with the concerns of injured workers.

[Page 1480]

Injured workers in this province cannot be allowed to wait until the system is completely fixed. In point of fact, injured workers have been waiting with no sign of their end in sight. The bill requires that the backlog of appeals, under the Workers' Compensation Act, be dealt with by providing for the establishment of temporary appeal tribunals. I underline the word, temporary, because the purpose of this bill is not to permanently change the system for dealing with appeals, Mr. Speaker. The purpose of the bill is to go ahead and deal with our backlog.

[5:00 p.m.]

AN HON. MEMBER: In a compassionate way.

MR. BAKER: In a very compassionate way I might suggest and a very expeditious way. As every member of this House will realize, justice delayed is justice denied, and this is a case of justice delayed. If any litigant in this province had been waiting six or seven years for the hearing of the appeal, members of this House would justifiably be outraged at that delay. Well, that is exactly what we are dealing with in the case of injured workers. It is not acceptable.

Now, Mr. Speaker, all Parties on the committee have been working towards resolution. We have had the great pleasure of finally sitting down with the Auditor General and defining terms of reference for the Auditor General to assess the workers' compensation system. This I think is a remarkably good idea and will in the fullness of time I am sure lead to both administrative changes and legislative changes to the Act, both of which I think are long overdue.

However, Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, we have the problem of injured workers with claims on file. This bill would change a number of provisions. Temporary tribunals would be set up throughout the province. The purpose of this is twofold. First of all, it is to make sure that injured workers can get justice where they live. I am not suggesting that every hamlet in the province is going to have a Workers' Compensation Appeal Tribunal sitting, but I am suggesting that there be tribunals set up throughout the province that would allow workers to get the justice they deserve near where they live.

MR. JOHN HOLM: In a timely fashion.

MR. BAKER: And in a timely fashion as my honourable friend, the Opposition House Leader indicated.

I should also indicate that the purpose of the bill is to eliminate on a temporary basis the need for leave to appeal. The minister himself, and I give the minister great credit for this, has identified that the leave to appeal process has been part of the problem, not part of the solution. In point of fact, Mr. Speaker, the leave to appeal process has helped to create the

[Page 1481]

backlog which is causing injured workers in this province to suffer. On a temporary basis it appears expedient to eliminate that process to have the cases dealt with.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the bill in question would also mandate timelines within which injured workers could expect justice. There is no magic to these timelines. The timelines could be shorter or longer. Obviously, the shorter the timelines, the more difficult it is to meet in the sense that they have to appoint more (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member will ignore that question.

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to indicate that the purpose of these changes is so that you can get the justice you need without having to have the matter dealt with by leave to appeal, that you can have decisions quickly, and that the timelines can be dealt with.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I look with some amusement at the part of some members who appear to be in favour of injured workers, but in point of fact in the reality of that, are not. Now, I would suggest, and I am not going to get to the name-calling department, that the reality of this is that we need a resolution.

I am calling on all members of the House, today, in the spirit of cooperation in which the committee was established, to allow the bill to proceed to Law Amendments. The bill is not perfect. It is a creation of humanity and humanity is not perfect. However, it is better than the alternatives. In that vein, Mr. Speaker, I am calling on members of the House opposite and members of the House of the Official Opposition to consent to this bill continuing to Law Amendments. If the members have concerns about timelines in the bill, or other matters that they feel need to be changed, Law Amendments is the place to do that.

The principle of the bill, Mr. Speaker, is the point. The principle of the bill is very simple. The principle is to get timely justice to injured workers. The question is, are we in favour of that in principle or not? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Labour.

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and offer my comments on Bill No. 15, An Act to Provide an Expedited Procedure to Deal with the Current Backlog of Appeals under the Former Workers' Compensation Act.

First of all, I would like to thank the honourable member for bringing this piece of legislation forward. I know that the honourable member has the interests of injured workers in mind as he brings forward this proposed legislation. He has certainly demonstrated this commitment not only in the proposal, but through his involvement at the all-Party committee

[Page 1482]

level. I am sure I would be safe in saying that all of us gathered here in the Legislature do have a genuine concern for injured workers and their families. We are all committed to a system that works for them, a system that is fair and equitable and efficient.

I am the first to admit that there are problems with the workers' compensation process. One of the key indicators is indeed the backlog at the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal, often referred to as WCAT. We appreciate that the honourable member has proposed these amendments as a means of clearing up that backlog, but what we really have to ask is, will this proposed legislation actually help the injured workers or will it not help them? Can it be effective in clearing up the backlog as it is intended to do?

Certainly there is no doubt that some of the provisions in the legislation, such as hiring additional staff, do have some merit. That is certainly an issue that we have addressed as a result of concerns that have been raised by the honourable member and, indeed, members of his caucus. Overall, we do not believe that Bill No. 15 can work and especially not within the time-frame that it sets out.

Before I go any further, I think I would certainly like to counter the arguments or the comments that were made by the honourable member for Eastern Passage and set the record straight with regard to an accurate standpoint . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Eastern Passage?

MR. MACKINNON: Yes, on a previous day the honourable member for Eastern Passage blamed WCAT for the entire backlog, which simply is not correct.

The first problem is with the way the legislation is written. In the first place, there are certain mechanics which need to be clear in order for any court-type or quasi-judicial decisions to be made. Some of these mechanics are procedural and some of them are jurisdictional. The honourable member, being a member of the legal profession, would certainly appreciate what I am saying. This legislation does not give direction on these jurisdictional issues; to the contrary, this bill raises several questions on jurisdiction. For example, is a temporary regional appeal tribunal a different legal entity than WCAT itself?

I would like to point out at this time, Mr. Speaker, that WCAT currently holds regional hearings and alternate dispute resolution sessions across the province. It has provided this regional service since it was created. If the regional appeals tribunals are the same as WCAT, this bill does not reflect that.

This bill creates an entirely separate system for appointments, unlike current appointments to WCAT, which are made by the Governor in Council. In other words, this bill would totally avoid the Governor in Council process when it comes to appointing members

[Page 1483]

to the tribunals. Certainly the involvement of the Human Resources Committee at the Legislature has been a part of that process as well, and this would bypass that.

If the regional appeals tribunals and WCAT are different legal entities, do appeals to the courts from this regional tribunal get treated like WCAT appeals; that is, the Court of Appeal, if the courts grant leave? Or, as in the case with most quasi-judicial boards, does the appellant have to go to the Supreme Court? Also, if these regional tribunals are different than WCAT, what is the standard of review which tells the court how much authority it has to interfere with the regional body's decision? This review standard is not indicated in the proposed legislation.

The timelines set out in this bill, Mr. Speaker, create a potential conflict for the Workers' Compensation Act, again raising the question of status of a regional body's decision, which is not in this bill, said to be final and binding. Section 10(1) of this bill requires that cases must be decided within 120 days of a period described in somewhat confusing terms. I think starting with 120 days of the hearing being set, or possibly some other point, depending on what is meant in Section 9(1) of this bill, whichever. If the 120 day deadline is not met, the appeal will be deemed to be decided in the favour of the appellant. That may seem like a reasonable amount of time in which to render a decision but there are cases in which adjournments are necessary. I would go even further than that, there are cases for which adjournments are required, for the benefit of both parties.

Under the Workers' Compensation Act, if WCAT's appeal commissioner finds that the case raises an issue of law of general policy, which would be reviewed by the Workers' Compensation Board's directors, he or she is required to postpone or adjourn the appeal. If the policy changes are required, they are developed with input by interested groups, such as injured workers and industry. In these cases an adjournment can benefit not only the appellant but also the system as a whole, by allowing more opportunities for affected parties to be heard on the issue.

Mr. Speaker, in other words, rushing a decision to meet the imposed deadline could hamper the effectiveness of the Workers' Compensation Act and certainly I refer to (Interruptions)

AN HON. MEMBER: Excuses for doing nothing.

MR. MACKINNON: Well, certainly I would submit that the honourable member should check to see what the honourable member for Eastern Passage has done in terms of interfering with (Interruption) At least we won't interfere with justice.

If the 120 day deadline is not met, Mr. Speaker, Section 10(2) of this Bill No. 15 stipulates that the appeal will be deemed to be decided in favour of the appellant. The decision would typically be an automatic cost to the employer, impacting on employer's experience

[Page 1484]

rating, regardless of whether the claim by the employee was legitimately and legally supportable.

The bill does not say whether this requirement would override the adjournment requirement in the current Workers' Compensation Act, which I just discussed a moment ago. The worker and WCB would have no idea whether the matter was adjourned or whether it was deemed to be decided under the new bill. Uncertainty is the plague we certainly want to eliminate for all injured workers.

More important, Mr. Speaker, this provision fails to recognize that depending upon certain technical aspects of the appeal, as set out in the regulations, some appeals may have been filed by employers and not workers. Deciding such an appeal in favour of the appellant, if, indeed, it was unjustified, would do nothing to advance the cause of workers. In fact, it could cause a whole host of new problems and confusion. I certainly do not feel this would be an effective way to deal with appeals.

One of the most blatant flaws in this bill, Mr. Speaker, calls for the repeal of Section 243 of the Workers' Compensation Act. For those of you who don't know, Section 243 of the current legislation provides the vital instructions on who is supposed to do what. Wiping this section out will mean that absolutely no one will know who has the right to appeal and who does not.

I said earlier that time is our strongest argument against the bill. The timeline of 90 days for recruitment, selection, appointment and training and file preparation by regional appeal tribunal members and Workers' Advisers could create a serious problem and a series of questions of competency and preparedness.

[5:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Honourable minister, your time has expired.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to speak on this bill. There is a bit of merit to both sides of this bill. I think when it is all said and done, I will falling on the side of the person who moved this bill and introduced it. The bill itself, as admitted by the honourable member, is not perfect and the process we do here is certainly not perfect. But we have a real problem here and, certainly, one of the largest problems is that of time. We have to be cognizant of all the injured workers out there who are waiting and waiting.

The honourable minister certainly stays his ground and says, there are flaws here and if we go forward, we can make some mistakes. But I say to that minister that these are of such a nature that we certainly can correct them in Law Amendments. I don't think those

[Page 1485]

problems are impassable. I think we can look at these in the cold light of day and, certainly, get around them. Just because the honourable member put forward a bill with some language that needs to be tightened up, I readily agree with that. But I think the other side of it is there is another place where we can tighten that language up and I think it may be there.

Another, probably, disagreement I may have with the member's proposal is the reliance on WCAT itself and some of the people within that system that I perceive as being part of the problem. It is maybe that we are talking about competence levels there. People just don't understand the needs and desires of people that are injured workers and their appeals.

We talked today in a question to the minister and since they introduced their new bill on February 1, 1996, WCAT have not decided on one case involving an injured worker from that time to now. That tells me that there certainly is a problem there. The problem, as I said earlier, is not only that it is slow, but it is wrong and it is wrong in the effect that we have seen 16 decisions made by that body go to the Court of Appeals and 13 of them were overturned by that body.

There are people within that system who will tell you right now, Mr. Speaker, that the legislation reflected back in February 1996 is a slow and onerous system and burdensome on the injured worker. I am standing here supporting this bill and asking the minister if he would think about it in a more clear way and stand here with myself and the member who introduced it to look to support it. The mere fact is, let's get this thing running.

I could say, look, the member introduced it and we are part of the all-Party committee and he didn't consult me. I could go home and take my bat and ball and sook about it. But, you know what? The member and I will deal with that on a one-on-one basis. I may not like that and he may not like what I have to say to him, but we will certainly get through that system. One could say that he was grandstanding. Well, I don't think he was, Mr. Speaker. (Interruption)

No, he is just acting expeditiously, I think. Far be it for me to congratulate some of my friends on my left.

AN HON. MEMBER: It is rarely that I would be on your left.

MR. CORBETT: That is right, Mr. Speaker, rarely he will be to my left and most times when I meet with him, he is certainly on my right. (Interruption)

I will tell you, we have a bit of levity here, Mr. Speaker, and I am going to wrap very shortly here, but I would like to get extremely serious about it and say that I stand in support of the bill. I appreciate that it has a few nuances, if you will, that cause some consideration, but I think we can deal with them at another level. I think what is paramount here is that we

[Page 1486]

have too many injured workers in this province that are going too long without due recourse, without due process.

I think we have to go and act in a manner that befits these hard workers, in a manner that shows that we support them. All three Parties support them. It is a time that we take off our cloak of partisanship and say, no, these people need our support. Again, this may not be perfect, but I certainly stand here and support it. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou East.

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, I am particularly delighted to rise and speak to Bill No. 15, An Act to Provide an Expedited Procedure to Deal With the Current Backlog of Appeals under the Former Workers' Compensation Act. Action must be taken on this matter, and it is morally and ethically the right thing to do. The Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, John Hamm; the Labour Critic, Michael Baker, MLA for Lunenburg; and I have met with individual injured workers, as well as groups representing injured workers.

I have in fact, a very active Injured Workers Group from Pictou County. Many are my friends, and I support their cause. (Interruptions) This Pictou County Injured Workers Group is bringing the plight of injured workers to the attention of all Nova Scotians. We have also consulted with representatives from the Cape Breton and Halifax injured workers. Those groups would, in fact, prefer that action occur on all fronts, that is having the appeal issue dealt with together with other changes to the Act.

In April, Peter O'Brien, of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business wrote to our office expressing concerns about the backlog of appeals, and he recommended addressing this issue separately. Mr. O'Brien urged us to focus on a one-time solution to the current problems, which will resolve the outstanding appeals, once and for all. I am in full agreement with this. I believe this legislation will accomplish that. With due respect to the honourable Minister of Labour, the temporary tribunals created are in addition to the WCAT and not a new tribunal. As well, the other technical agreements can be dealt with at Law Amendments Committee so that all alleged flaws are remedied.

I am requesting unanimous consent on this bill, and move this bill for second reading and be referred to the Law Amendments Committee. Thank you.

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

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I want to rise to speak on the bill, because of the importance of this subject to the people of Nova Scotia. I want to say this, that I am a member of the Cape Breton Injured Workers Organization, I have my membership card right here, certifying that I am a member in good standing of the Cape Breton Injured Workers Organization (Interruptions) I am prepared to table a true copy, an enlarged copy of the

[Page 1487]

original so that honourable members can see where my sympathies and loyalties lie. It is signed by Mr. Jim Neville, the president of that organization. I have supported that organization financially and, by attendance at their functions, and will continue to do so. So I just wanted to explain that, by way of indicating where I am coming from in this matter.

I want to say that the concept, that the title of the bill refers to providing for an expedited procedure for dealing with the current backlog of appeals with the Workers' Compensation Act, there couldn't be a more admirable or worthy or supportable cause that one could identify. But the question that this Legislature has to face is, does this bill, do the contents of this particular bill do what the title says it will do? And the answer to that question is, no, it would not. We have three separate legal opinions unanimously to that effect. Why not? Because the bill is very flawed in its basic fundamental reasoning. It doesn't recognize that an appellant under the Workers' Compensation Act is not necessarily an injured worker. An appellant can be an employer, an employer who could object to the payment of compensation of an injured worker, or to a survivor of an injured worker who was killed on the job.

I have fought such cases, repeatedly, in my years in politics, where representations had to be made by way of an appeal, where an employer was objecting to the payment of workers' compensation. I have even had cases where men were found dead in a coal mine, well not perhaps in a coal mine, but on the way into the coal mine due to a heart attack or something of this type and the employer would object to the payment of workers' compensation to the widow, even though a portion of the Workers' Compensation Act requires a presumption in the case of a person found dead in the coal mine that they died out of the course of their employment but nonetheless, an employer can file an objection.

Now this bill says that if the employer files an objection to the payment of workers' compensation and a certain timeline is past, well that application is automatically decided in favour of the appellant. This means that employers across Nova Scotia could use this legislation, if it were to be passed, in a mass campaign to deny benefits to injured workers. I am not going to support that kind of legislation when it is brought in here by the right-wingers over here to the extreme right. I am not prepared to support that kind of legislation at all.

This legislation is fundamentally flawed in that it would deny injured workers the rights to obtain workers' compensation. It is an anti-worker bill, it is anti-labour legislation. Such being the case, one is not surprised to see the new version of the New Democratic Party supporting it and calling for votes for it. However, I don't think that people should be taken in by that kind of submission.

Mr. Speaker, the point is this, when honourable members bring legislation into this Chamber for examination and potential passage adoption, they are responsible for the contents of what they bring in. You cannot bring in a bill saying, the title of this bill is we are

[Page 1488]

going to help the injured worker and then the fine print in the contract is such that you are going to tear the guts out of the Workers' Compensation Program in Nova Scotia by denying people the right to have benefits that they have always taken for granted in the past.

Any employer in this province that wanted to, if this legislation was passed, could simply file an objection to the payment of workers' compensation for any injury at all and as an appellant and if a certain time deadline passed, automatically entitlement to workers' compensation benefits would be cancelled. That principle is reprehensible. Debate on second reading on the bill in this Chamber deals with the principle involved in the bill, that is what second reading debate is about. The principle of this bill is to deny injured workers benefits. Now I cannot support that.

I do support the efforts of this government to try to see that the problems that this bill purports to address but actually would exacerbate and make far worse, I do support the efforts of this government to trying to improve the Workers' Compensation Program. This government cares about injured workers and wants to make the system work for all involved parties, both workers and employers. This government is walking the walk. If you consider the steps that this government has taken within the last six weeks, you will know that this government is walking the walk.

This government has taken steps to establish a Medical Review Commission to look at Workers' Compensation Board decisions. This government is in the process of hiring three new appeal commissioners to clear up the backlog at the Workers' Compensation Appeal Tribunal. And you can see that they are against that, they are against efforts to help the injured worker. I can tell you that this government is for efforts to help the injured worker, this government supports efforts to improve the workers' compensation system and will continue in its efforts to that end.

I want to say this, sir, that there are a great number of problems in the Workers' Compensation Program right now, Lord knows that I am acutely aware of that. I just don't want to see those problems made any greater, as the passage of this bill would do. It would be like throwing an axe into the gears. Now if you want to see a machine work you certainly don't throw an axe into the gears. I think for that reason that this bill, certainly, in my view, does not merit the support of members of this House.

I would say that this bill has many flaws in it but I think that the most noteworthy are those that I have covered in these few remarks. There is a great deal more that I could say about this subject because I think that it is a very important one. I did have an understanding that all workers' compensation legislation to be brought before this session was going to be vetted by an all-Party committee first and this bill did not pass such a process. This bill was brought in unilaterally without forethought, without consideration, without research and then they want us to vote for it blindly without any examination of its contents? Surely, they have a higher view of the sense of responsibility of members, at least on this side of the House, than

[Page 1489]

to expect some sort of a rubber stamp to be applied to ill-thought through, ill-conceived and ill-drafted pieces of legislation that are submitted into this Chamber for consideration.

[5:30 p.m.]

Now, Mr. Speaker, I don't know how much time is left.

MR. SPEAKER: The time doesn't expire on this particular resolution until 5:40 p.m.

MR. MACEWAN: Well, there could be a couple of other members, Mr. Speaker, who want to participate in this debate. I don't, by any means, want to hog the show, I just want to indicate my point of view. Having done that, sir, I think I will take my seat and allow other honourable members to participate in the debate.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Inverness.

MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure today to rise on the issue of workers' compensation claims. I spent a great part of my life working with labour and unions and the issues that affected them. I think workers' compensation has been one of the ones that has been there from the earliest time.

When I came here to the Legislature I was asked to sit in on some of the meetings with the all-Party committee, between Mr. Baker and the honourable member for Cape Breton. I was very happy to sit in to look at a joint effort at resolving some of the issues that faced the workers' compensation group.

I am a bit disappointed today that that group didn't continue. They seemed to be making headway. I think it was very important that we had the three groups in the House working on the legislation.

We dealt with the earlier issues and I believe our next meetings were to be set on the amendments to the Workers' Compensation Act. It is unfortunate that as a group of three, the three Parties did not continue their meetings but chose to take a different course in representing workers' compensation.

In 1996 there were over 30,000 claims recorded before the Workers' Compensation Board. There were only 735 that went to the first level of appeal, which would seem to indicate that all things can't be wrong with the Workers' Compensation Act. Of the 735, 0.45 per cent, or 139 of the original cases reached the Hearing Officer's level. In 1997 there were 32,092 claims filed. The Review Officer, or reconsideration level, there were only 458 of those initial claims, 1.43 per cent of the total. Beyond that, at the Hearing Officer's level, there were 161 cases, or 0.50 per cent of the original claims which went to the appeal.

[Page 1490]

The Workers' Compensation Act is not perfect. I understood that was the purpose of the Joint Committee when we started on the process, to look at the initial problems that we could improve and, in fact, we sat with the Auditor General not a week ago and asked him to take the Act and all its entitlements and its problems and report back to us. Mr. Salmon indicated that, in fact, he would do that over the summer months and would have a report ready for, I believe he said in early September. I felt that was a good start on the process.

Following that process, we were to sit down and look at the amendments that were needed to the Act, as a three-Party committee. I entered into that committee with a great deal of enthusiasm. I thought we had good consideration from the two Parties opposite and I looked forward to working on issues that dealt with our injured workers in Nova Scotia. It becomes disappointing when you understand that you truly are not there to do the job that was initially raised, that the course gets set in a different direction. I still believe that the best choice of action today is to continue with that process that was initiated by both Parties on the opposite side of the House.

I am dealing today, as well, Mr. Speaker, with a young man who has gone through this process for the last six or seven years. He fully represents the problems that are associated with this Act today. He was one of the workers injured at Westray in 1992. He has spent the last six years trying to work his way through workers' compensation, health insurance, and insurance and, still today, is no further ahead than he was in 1992.

My reaction to his feelings is why I wanted to bring this to Workers' Compensation, because it is very hard to go home and look at your people on the weekend and to understand that they have been six years in trying to deal with the problem and still haven't a solution to it. His life and the life of his wife and family have been on hold for the last six years. He has spent his time between hospitals in Halifax and Sydney.

It doesn't give me pleasure today to understand that we are taking different courses. We have asked the Auditor General to do his job and we felt we had the understanding of the three Parties in the House that we sit down and prepare the amendments to the Act, but, in fact, we haven't done that. We have decided that the three groups will not be the ones that present the amendments to the Act, so, my vote I guess, today, will be opposed to the motion. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: I have told my workers back home, I indicated to them on a weekly basis where we were trying to go with this Act, and I was very happy to do that, because I thought we were on the right course at the time. I can't go home this weekend and indicate the same; I will have to tell him that we are off on a different chart.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member has one minute remaining.

[Page 1491]

MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: One minute remaining. You want me to speak longer, do you?

Mr. Speaker, I think it is very much in favour of this House that the three Parties - that committee that was initially formed - would sit down and seriously consider the amendments that have to be made to the Act, so that we can prepare them and introduce them and when it does come before the House, they are passed and put into legislation in a very timely fashion, so that we can get on with the problem of dealing with the injured workers who are out there.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted for the debate on Bill No. 15 has expired.

The honourable Progressive Conservative Party House Leader .

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Motions Other Than Government Motions.

MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

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

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 574.

Res. No. 574, re Health - Pharmacare Prog.: Initiatives (PC) - Adopt - notice given June 10/98 - (Dr. J. Hamm)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: I will be speaking on Resolution No. 574 which is the Pharmacare Program. I expect maybe somebody from the government will speak, I understand. I do not know if it will be the member for Cape Breton Nova, who is an expert in health care and arsenic and now an expert lawyer on legislation, whether it will be him or not, I am not sure. (Interruption) You mean he is charging for legal advice now? Is that what he said, Mr. Speaker?

Anyway I have got to get back to the resolution. The resolution put forward by our Leader is one that asks the government to have a look at the program that we campaigned on. Mr. Speaker, you campaigned and many members of this House campaigned and found in talking to seniors that there were a lot of seniors not happy with the Pharmacare Program the way that it presently is.

[Page 1492]

When the government came out with the announcement that they were going to save the Pharmacare Program and they were going to make it 50/50, with the seniors paying 50 per cent and the government paying 50 per cent, and that there would be a premium plus a co-pay. Mr. Speaker, they assured us that that program would be safe and fine forever and a day.

I acknowledge it is a fine program, but many seniors complained to me that they had to pay $215 and sometimes it was two seniors together, living on an income of $20,000, some of them individually living on below $15,000, and it was scaled down so some people did get a rebate of $85 whether they used the plan or not. Others had to pay $215. If you did not join initially, there was a penalty. I am still getting calls from seniors who think that this is unfair.

Now, there is a co-pay and we said to the government of the day, if you had not gone with the premium, then other plans that people had would have been the first payer. It ended up that we became the first payer for every plan that anybody had in the province. So all those other plans stopped paying. Plus, we sent money back to individuals. The minister has said, look, we will have a look at the program because we feel that it is not addressing, like we thought it would address, the problems in the Pharmacare Program.

There was a working group, Mr. Speaker, that looked at a number of prescriptions that are out there, the prescribing habits, all of those things were being looked at, and all of a sudden all of that was dropped and we decided to solve the Pharmacare Program by a premium. The problem I am getting from many seniors, that is another issue, is that some medication that they have to be on is not covered by the Pharmacare Program in itself. Therefore, some seniors in this province are having to pay the full shot for drugs that have to do with their quality of life and they have no other way of getting those drugs. Some of those people have a very limited income.

What we are trying to do, Mr. Speaker, is to ask the government for a fairer system that would be predicated on the principle of pay as you go as to pay upfront. We agree there has to still be the co-pay. Seniors say, look, if I do not use any drugs, why do I have to pay the $215; but if I have to use it, then I do not mind the co-pay up to - it is a sliding scale up to - $200, and then if they are below a certain income, the government picks it up.

I am sort of saying to the government let us revisit the issue. The government has spent millions of dollars paying off the debt of the Pharmacare Program over the last two years. So it has not worked in the way that we were told by the Minister of Health of the day, that it was going to be a 50/50 program, that it would stabilize the Pharmacare Program for seniors in this province, and it was a fair system.

Well, Mr. Speaker, that is not what has happened. I acknowledge that the Minister of Health has said that he will look at it - and I appreciate that - and will try to address the concerns of seniors so that when the changes are made that we address those concerns and

[Page 1493]

that we have a fair program. I acknowledge that we have one of the best and we should be proud as Nova Scotians that we as legislators recognize the importance of our seniors and we want them to have the best program. So, I appreciate the Minister of Health saying that he is willing to look at this. I think it is a win-win situation. It will be a more fair program, it is one that I think seniors will support. It will make sure that our seniors are treated fairly, but yet will get adequate medication as needed forever and a day and one that I think we can all support.

[5:45 p.m.]

MR SPEAKER: The honourable member for Antigonish.

MR. HYLAND FRASER: Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise in my place on behalf of the Minister of Health to begin debate on Resolution No. 574, concerning the Nova Scotia Seniors' Pharmacare Program. I think we should be proud in this province that we have Pharmacare Programs such as we do have.

First and foremost, this government continues to be solidly committed to the Pharmacare Program. We are making every possible effort to ensure that the seniors of this province have a provincial drug insurance program that they can depend on when they need it. The Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party was right when he said that this government announced the new Pharmacare Program in 1995 with great fanfare. The new plan we introduced was and continues to be one of the most generous in our country.

We have heard in this House on previous days about some of the programs that are being offered to citizens of other provinces in this country. I specifically refer to Saskatchewan with a much higher annual premium and no cap.

I would like to point out a significant error in this resolution when it says, ". . . the Minister of Health is finally admitting a fee increase is in store for seniors.". This statement is unequivocally wrong. The minister said no such thing. I am sure that it was no coincidence that that resolution we are debating today was read on the very same day that the Chronicle-Herald inaccurately reported that Pharmacare fees were to rise. I do not want to jump to any conclusion that this resolution was directly related to that story, but it seems likely.

As you remember, the Minister of Health was quick to respond to the inaccuracies to avoid any further confusion for seniors. The minister never said the premiums were going to rise. In fact, he did not mention raising premiums at all. His comments of the previous day were interpreted incorrectly. This unfortunately created a scare among some of the seniors who may not yet have heard of the retraction. What he did say was that there were some options available which include eliminating the premium, not increasing it.

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The member opposite is interested in learning the truth. I will proceed. Yes, we are proud of our Pharmacare Program. Yes, we are committed to ensuring that it will be sustained well into the next century. This is a long-term commitment we have made and continue to make. This is the comfort we want seniors in Nova Scotia to have. As a result, what this government is doing is taking a close look at Pharmacare to ensure that it will be there for our seniors. Many options are being explored, including those mentioned in the resolution. An increase in premiums is not one of the options our government is looking at.

However, we only wish it were as easy, as some people believe, to make any changes to the Pharmacare Program. While the present plan has been in place since 1995, maybe we can improve it or make it even better. There is a great deal of work to be done before any decision is made. We want to be sure it is being made in the best interests of all seniors, based on solid evidence. We are open to changes, Mr. Speaker, but one thing we will not do is pass on extra costs to seniors. That is the path we have followed in the past. That is the path we will continue to follow in the future.

This government is solidly committed to providing a drug insurance program available to all seniors. The program is open to all seniors, regardless of their previous health condition, which many insurers take into consideration. No one is questioned as to their health condition or their drug usage, as private carriers will do and private carriers will decline those applicants, based on risk. The Pharmacare Program asks no such questions.

Mr. Speaker, more than 107,000 seniors are currently benefiting from the Pharmacare Program with more people joining each day. Where would these men and women be without the program? Who would help them cover their prescription drug costs? I want to mention the valuable input of the Seniors' Pharmacare Board of Directors. They continue to work and make decisions in the best interests of seniors. As all changes are being examined, we must look into the long term of the Pharmacare Program. Our government will ensure that the program will always be there for those who need it. Pharmacare covered more than 2 million prescriptions last year for seniors of this province. These drugs not only help cure illness, but prevent them as well. This is the key - keeping people healthy, prevention gives them a lot more quality of life.

On a financial note the department covered more than 70 per cent of the program costs last year. We exceeded our 50/50 cost-share with seniors to cover the extra program costs. We did not want to pass any extra costs to seniors. Again, we are continuing to work in their best interests. The Department of Health Budget for Pharmacare is $54 million this year. Our government, through the Department of Finance, provides a credit for low-income married and single seniors, which is benefiting thousands of Nova Scotia.

Pharmaceuticals are playing an important role in our society. Drug therapies, such as Betaseron, which the government is now covering, is helping to enhance the quality of life for our people. Individuals are able to leave hospital earlier to return to their family and friends,

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thanks to the advancements made in the pharmaceutical industry. This government is working to help Nova Scotians get the medications they need. We want to ensure that they are enjoying the best quality of life possible.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, this resolution is a resolution about fairness. It is a resolution about respect and responding to the very real concerns that senior citizens, individually and in their organizations, have and concerns that they have expressed in the most recent election campaign and in other forms. It is about making what we all accept as a very important program and an important initiative and one that we all value, but making a program that currently has some weaknesses, better.

The concerns that have been expressed are concerns that there are many seniors who feel that the program as it currently exists, doesn't make sense. There are seniors who are paying into private programs and, yet, they have to pay the premium and it is the Pharmacare Program that pays first for their drug needs. So this has been a question that many senior citizens have raised, about whether or not the system, as it currently exists, is efficient. What is it that we can do to make this system work better in the interests of senior citizens?

In the recent debates on the estimates, the Minister of Health raised concerns about the long-term sustainability of the program and indicated that the department had undertaken studies looking at this issue of long-term sustainability. He indicated that he would table whatever reports were available so that the information could be widely shared among members of this House and the public, more generally. I certainly will be looking forward to getting that information.

I think that the points the honourable member for Kings West made with respect to improving on the Pharmacare Program, through examining alternative ways of funding the program that would take some of the burden off seniors in our communities, makes a lot of sense. We have an increasing demographic shift in our society where a greater proportion of our population are persons in their senior years. The situation has been that drug costs for this group have been on the rise.

Prior to the Pharmacare Program in Nova Scotia the cost of drugs for senior citizens were going up by 15 per cent to 18 per cent a year. So we really do have to take into account the changing demographics and what this is going to mean for drug costs in our community.

There was a very good Pharmacare reform work group who had been together and had been looking at various ways of implementing a Pharmacare Program in Nova Scotia. They made many excellent recommendations and some of these still have not been implemented. This is something that we need to go back to and work into a reinvigorated Pharmacare Program. We need to spend some time looking at information technologies and their ability

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to track prescription drug use. We need to look at building incentives into our Pharmacare system so that people will be encouraged to practice good nutrition and exercise and break the isolation of senior citizens so that we can avoid over-prescription use and the use of prescriptions for conditions that can be dealt with in other ways.

I think that ultimately we need to take the advice of the National Forum on Health which stated that drugs are as much a part of the medically necessary care as are the services of physicians and hospitals. With that in mind, we really need to work toward a national Pharmacare Program. Earlier today we asked the Minister of Health to support the idea of a national summit on health care. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member's time has expired.

The honourable Progressive Conservative House Leader.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, that concludes the Progressive Conservative Opposition Day business.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow we will sit from the hours of 12:00 noon to 6:00 p.m. and following the daily routine and Question Period, we will continue with Supply unto Her Majesty. I move that we do now adjourn until 12:00 noon tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

We have reached the moment of interruption, and as I indicated earlier there was a draw for a debate on the Adjournment motion. The draw was won by the honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury who is going to talk about the Stan Rogers Folk Festival.

[Therefore be it resolved that in recognition of Nova Scotia's excellent worldwide reputation in the field of music, this House commend the organizers, volunteers and participants in the Stan Rogers Folk Festival being held in Canso this July 4th, 5th and 6th,

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as well as all the music festivals which are taking place in our province during the coming summer.]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

CULTURE: STAN ROGERS FOLK FESTIVAL (CANSO) - COMMEND

MR. RAYMOND WHITE: Mr. Speaker, the resolution also gives any member the latitude to talk about other festivals throughout Nova Scotia and I think it is important to note that this summer alone, Nova Scotia will host over 700 festivals from one end of this province to the other. What I would like to do is to talk about three festivals and to focus on the Stan Rogers Festival as an example of how volunteers make a difference in our communities and also highlight our culture and our music.

I am going to start first by talking about a series of concerts that are held on the waterfront in Port Hawkesbury called, Granville Green, located on the waterfront which was developed by volunteers of the Port Hawkesbury Waterfront Development Corporation. There will be a series of concerts highlighting the music of Cape Breton. I think anyone from around the province knows about the reputation that Cape Breton music, be it fiddle music or vocal music, has and its impact not only on Nova Scotia, but on the world of music.

[6:00 p.m.]

The first concert in Port Hawkesbury actually will be held on July 5th and that will feature Ashley MacIsaac and Rawlins Cross. What is unique about the Granville Green Concerts is they are free. They are free; there is no admission charge. I can remember attending a concert with the Rankin Family, and it was estimated that there were over 5,000 people in the crowd. These are sponsored by corporate citizens of the Port Hawkesbury and Strait area and, again, coordinated by the Parks and Recreation and Tourism, but the idea to develop the waterfront in Port Hawkesbury, the idea to establish an open-air concert venue is, again, the work of volunteers, and I think we should give credit where credit is due.

I have spoken several times about historic Sherbrooke Village and I will be tabling, at the end of my comments, the programs for the respective activities that I do mention. The Sherbrooke Village staff, working with the community and, again, this is an idea of how Sherbrooke Village acts as an economic catalyst for the community but, at the same time, highlights the culture and heritage of Nova Scotia. They have a series of concerts called The Court House Concerts, which are held at the historic courthouse site in Sherbrooke Village, which will begin on July 2nd with Valdy, a well-known Canadian performer, and they will

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continue throughout the summer. They will feature such things as the Village of Voices and Song, which will enable people to come and experience voices and song from the areas of the District of Saint Mary's, and will feature local vocal music, gospel music and, again, encouraging people to go to that particular setting and enjoy the activities.

Another one I wanted to talk about that will take place this summer is the Guysborough Come Home Week activities; that will run from July 19th to July 25th. On Tuesday, July 25th, in what has to be one of the most beautiful settings for a concert, it will be on a highly elevated area overlooking the Boylston area and Guysborough Harbour, and Upper Boylston Park, and it is called the Hoedown on the Hill. Now this is a concert that begins at 6:00 o'clock in the evening and runs until dusk, followed by fireworks. It features entertainers from all over Guysborough County, from the various communities, again, run by volunteers, all the performers are volunteers, but what they are doing is highlighting the culture and the heritage of Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

I want to take a few minutes to talk to you about the Stan Rogers Folk Festival, which I think is an example of what happens in many of our communities when someone has an idea, looks at tourism promotion as one piece of a puzzle to highlight economic development, to focus on a community, so people will know where that community is and what it has to offer.

Nova Scotians know the role that Stan Rogers played as a pioneer in developing folk music in our province. Many of his influences in folk music are felt throughout Canada and eastern United States. It began with an idea. A gentleman by the name of Troy Greencorn, who knew of Stan Rogers, had an idea that maybe this is a way to promote our community, maybe this is a way to bring people in who will spend some money and at the same time focus on the cultural heritage of the Canso area. He went and met with the family and received their support. So that idea began with no resources. Working with the community, the RDA and various agencies, they were able to obtain funding for the first-ever Stan Rogers Folk Festival, which was held last year.

Then came the daunting task of identifying performers. That was done in one of the broadest spectrums of performers gathered in Canso last year to participate in the Stan Rogers Folk Festival. We are pleased to indicate that, in the first year alone, over 7,000 people visited the Town of Canso, which only has a population of 1,000 people. They were provided with accommodations, provided with all the necessities for such a conference. The performers were accommodated in local schools. This year, the Stan Rogers Folk Festival is constructing permanent facilities which, during the summer, will be used as a camp for needy children to get out and experience the wilderness areas. Campgrounds were constructed either by the private individuals, and the Stan Rogers Folk Festival constructed two camps. One adjacent to the site itself, called the Acoustic Park. That park never stopped for three days, the activities. When the performance ended then the park took over itself.

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There was a family campsite constructed which enabled families to come and enjoy the Stan Rogers Folk Festival, removed from the main site, so that children and families could have a quiet location. Parking, can you imagine in a town of 1,000 people accommodating another 6,000 people coming into your community, that was done without any problems or congestion.

Transportation was provided, first of all, to all the performers from the school to the site. Transportation was provided from the family campsite to the main grounds. This year the Stan Rogers Folk Festival is well under way and they have advanced to the point now where they are doing computerized booking for tickets and campground facilities.

Let's go back and reflect on last year. The first ever Stan Rogers Folk Festival. On Friday evening around 10:00 p.m. the skies opened with thunder and lightening and everything had to be cancelled. What happened the next day I think is an example of what Nova Scotians do best, they helped visitors and strangers who were in need. People were surprised when people from the Town of Canso and surrounding area came up and said we understand there was a storm last night, did your sleeping bags get wet? Can we take them home and dry them for you in our dryers? Visitors from the United States couldn't believe this was happening. Where they came from maybe someone would take the sleeping bag but they might never come back. That is an example of how the community responded indirectly.

The publicity for the Stan Rogers Folk Festival has been carried in Maclean's Magazine, trade unions and public awareness magazines. I want to salute the 400 volunteers. Can you imagine in a community of 1,000 they were able to get 400 volunteers to work on the Stan Rogers Festival to make it happen. Volunteers from all over Guysborough County and the Strait area.

The problem for anyone attending the Stan Rogers Festival, Mr. Speaker, is a great problem, which of the 105 performances do I attend? This is an idea that has happened, an idea that has put Canso on the map. The other festivals have focused on those communities and in rising here tonight, I think all of the members want to pay tribute to the various people throughout Nova Scotia who highlight our culture, highlight our music and so freely volunteer their time. To all those festivals, whether it be Stan Rogers, Granville Green, Guysborough Come Home Week or whatever, we extend to them our appreciation and best wishes for a successful summer season. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Yarmouth. I understand you wish to split your time.

MR. JOHN DEVEAU: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I would like to talk briefly on the concert that is planned for Chebogue in Yarmouth County. I am talking about the Fish Aid Concert. There are two things that excite me about the Fish Aid Concert. The first one, of course,

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being the message of the Fish Aid Concert which, in essence, is promoting understanding and educating concert-goers on the issue of the marine ecosystem.

The other thing that excites me, Mr. Speaker, is the talent that will be playing at the concert. It is strictly Canadian, with national and Nova Scotian artists. It is three days of good fun, August 14th, 15th and 16th in Chebogue, Yarmouth County, and I would encourage all members to attend and bring their families.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, it gives me a lot of pleasure to rise as the Party's Culture Critic to just say a word or two about the festivals going on this summer and are so aptly described by the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, and in particular the Stan Rogers Festival and the one mentioned by the honourable member for Yarmouth.

Mr. Speaker, I think the really interesting thing about culture in this province is that it has become our own. Over my lifetime and your lifetime, as we were growing up, I can remember as a child belonging to book clubs that sent us old English classics and listening to American music on the radio, and all those things that came to us from elsewhere.

Mr. Speaker, it seems so clear to me now after one-half a century of living, that we have in my lifetime developed an indigenous culture, a culture that is our own, and reflects us to ourselves. A recent example of that was the book of short stories I read by Leo McKay, Junior, who portrayed life in the area of the province where I came from and I was deeply moved by reading about this particular place and the people, the recognizable people in it. So I think when we talk about the Stan Rogers Festival, Stan Rogers was a Canadian, although he was more of an adopted Nova Scotian, and Stan Rogers brought pictures of Nova Scotia to us through his music. The line-up of stars for the Fish Aid Festival, people like Bruce Cockburn, who has been singing to us about ourselves for many years now, probably more than 30 years, people like Jann Arden, people like the Rankins from Nova Scotia. Over and over again what we are seeing in these festivals, whether it is in theatre, in Festival Antigonish, whether it is in music, or whether it is in traditional crafts, or traditional skills as in Scottish athletics at the Antigonish Highland Games, whatever it may be, we are seeing ourselves more and more reflected to ourselves.

I think the power of this for all of us is an increased understanding of ourselves as well as a richness in our culture that has been growing and developing over a long period of time. I cannot think of more of a misnomer at a time like this than the phrase called Culture Critic because I do not think that anybody in this House would for a minute be critical, could possibly be critical of the diversity and the richness and the interest created in our very short summer season by the activities from one end of the province to the other.

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I think these two festivals do reflect it, Mr. Speaker. We have down almost to Cape Breton. We have the Stan Rogers Festival and on the other end of the province, as another kind of bookend, an example, we have the Fish Aid Festival, which is not only going to be an astonishing festival of music, but all in the aid of a good cause.

So, Mr. Speaker, I stand here to support what the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury said, what the member for Yarmouth said, and what every other member of this House would be able to share with us if they had a turn tonight to talk about the activities going on in their region for the summer. I think we celebrate ourselves when the sun comes out and the weather gets good. We celebrate our culture. We revel in it and this is as it should be. I am delighted to add my voice to this praise of ourselves that we engage in every summer in Nova Scotia. Thank you very much. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We stand adjourned.

[The House rose at 6:13 p.m.]