The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House adjourned:
June 16, 2017.

Hansard -- Tue., Nov. 3, 1998

First Session

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 3, 1998

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Educ. - Pictou Co.: School Closures - Oppose, Ms. E. O'Connell 3170
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. Manning MacDonald 3170
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. Manning MacDonald 3170
STATEMENTS BY MINISTER:
Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Iceland: Trade Mission - Delegation Welcome,
Hon. Manning MacDonald 3171
Transport. & Pub Wks. - Hwy. No. 103: Twinning - Phase I Open,
Hon. C. Huskilson 3172
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1538, Fish. - Mount Uniacke: Access Boardwalk - Congrats.,
Hon. K. Colwell 3174
Vote - Affirmative 3175
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 61, Hepatitis C Compensation Act, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 3175
No. 62, Maintenance Enforcement Act, Hon. J. Smith 3175
No. 63, Halifax, Regional Water Commission Act. Hon. J. Smith 3175
No. 64, Condominium Act, Hon. K. Colwell 3175
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1539, Health - Long-Term Care Workers: Decision - Pull Back,
Mr. R. Chisholm 3176
Res. 1540, Health - Long-Term Care: Solution - Outline, Dr. J. Hamm 3176
Res. 1541, Sysco - Pipeline (C.B.): Larger - Urgency Recognize,
Ms. Helen MacDonald 3177
Res. 1542, Health - Long-Term Care/Adult Day Progs.: Plan -
Identify, Mr. G. Moody 3177
Res. 1543, NDP (N.S.) - Policy Instable: Premier - Asset (N.S.),
Mr. P. MacEwan 3178
Res. 1544, Health - Long-Term Care Workers: Parity -
Undelivered Admit, Dr. H. Bitter-Suermann 3178
Res. 1545, Commun. Serv./Health - Nursing Homes: Strike -
Care Ensure, Dr. J. Hamm 3179
Res. 1546, Nat. Res. - Cabot Strait: Boundary (N.S./Nfld.) -
Mr. L.Y. Fortier-Best Wishes Extend, Mr. J. Holm 3179
Res. 1547, Educ. - Take Our Kids to Work Day (Grade 9): Efforts -
Recognize, Hon. R. Harrison 3180
Vote - Affirmative 3181
Res. 1548, Educ. - P3: Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea Deal -
Mun. Armoyan Remind, Mr. E. Fage 3181
Res. 1549, Culture - Happy Quilters (Cherry Brook):
Commun. Linkage - Congrats., Ms. Y. Atwell 3182
Vote - Affirmative 3182
Res. 1550, Fish. - Resource (SW[N.S.]) Protection: Public Hearings -
Convene, Mr. N. LeBlanc 3182
Vote - Affirmative 3183
Res. 1551, NDP - Job Creation: Strategy - Congrats., Hon. D. Downe 3183
Res. 1552, Nat. Res. - Coal (Strip-Mining): Royalties -
Review Undertake, Mr. C. Parker 3184
Res. 1553, Agric. - Pork Industry: Survival - Ensure, Mr. G. Archibald 3184
Res. 1554, NDP (N.S.): Policies (Adopted [B.C. & Ont.]) - Rethink,
Mr. L. Montgomery 3185
Res. 1555, Bras d'Or MP: Resignation - Request, Mr. M. Samson 3186
Res. 1556, Agric. - Drought: Compensation - Prioritize,
Mr. John MacDonell 3186
Res. 1557, Agric. - Drought: Farmers - Survival Ensure, Mr. B. Taylor 3187
Res. 1558, NDP (N.S.) - Policies (B.C.): Usage - Cease, Mr. H. Fraser 3187
Res. 1559, Sports - North Sydney Forum: Replacement - Support,
Ms. Helen MacDonald 3188
Res. 1560, Health - Hepatitis C: Fair Settlement - Action, Mr. G. Moody 3188
Res. 1561, Housing & Mun. Affs. - Second Lake Comm.:
Commitment (Premier) - Honour, Mr. J. Holm 3189
Res. 1562, Health - Dr. Len Denton (Bible Hill): C.M. Hinks Award -
Congrats., Mr. J. Muir 3190
Vote - Affirmative 3190
Res. 1563, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Dover Mills: ISO 9000/9002 -
Congrats., Hon. K. Colwell 3191
Vote - Affirmative 3191
Res. 1564, Educ. - Park View Educ. Centre: Kids for Kids Prog. -
Students Congrats., Mr. M. Baker 3191
Vote - Affirmative 3192
Res. 1565, NDP Leader - Chester-St. Margaret's MLA: Arrival -
Congrats., Mr. L. Montgomery 3192
Res. 1566, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hwy. No. 302 (Maccan):
Flooding - Investigate, Mr. E. Fage 3193
Res. 1567, Nat. Res. - Forest Mgt.: Sound - Support, Mr. B. Taylor 3193
Vote - Affirmative 3194
Res. 1568, Transport. & Pub. Wks.: Evan MacDonald Rd. (Pictou East) -
Repair, Mr. J. DeWolfe 3194
Res. 1569, Opposition Leader: Ideology (Power) - Reveal,
Mr. M. Samson 3195
Res. 1570, Educ. - Wentworth Elem. School: Nat. Child Day Breakfast -
Applaud, Mr. M. Scott 3195
Vote - Affirmative 3196
Res. 1571, Hfx. Port. Auth. Bd. - Board Members: Selection Veto
[Gov't. (N.S.)] - Ensure, Mr. G. Balser 3196
Res. 1572, Housing & Mun. Affs. - Seniors/Low Income:
Home Repair Progs. - Monies Ensure, Mr. J. Leefe 3197
Vote - Affirmative 3197
Res. 1573, Women, Status of - Cumb. Co. (Women-History):
Renee deGannes - Research Congrats., Mr. M. Scott 3197
Vote - Affirmative 3198
Res. 1574, Opposition Leader - Chisholm Trail: End - Pretext Abandon,
Mr. G. Balser 3198
Res. 1575, Community Food Bank (CBRM) - Myron Cohen &
Sgt. Barry Gordon: Fund-Raising - Congrats., Mr. J. Muir 3199
Vote - Affirmative 3199
Res. 1576, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Mahone Bay:
Public Comfort Stations - Congrats., Mr. M. Baker 3199
Vote - Affirmative 3200
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Lbr. - Northwood Manor: Dispute - Mediator Appoint,
Hon. R. MacKinnon 3200
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 381, Health - Northwood Manor: Workers - Wages,
Mr. R. Chisholm 3202
No. 382, Health - Nursing Homes: Strike - Contingency Plan,
Dr. J. Hamm 3203
No. 383, Lbr. - Long-Term Care Workers: Wages - Directive
(N.S.[Gov't.]), Mr. R. Chisholm 3204
No. 384, Health - Long-Term Care: Strike Negotiations - Fairness Ensure,
Mr. G. Moody 3206
No. 385, Health - Nursing Homes (The Cove/Victoria Haven): Strike -
Contingency Plan, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 3208
No. 386, Commun. Serv. - Seniors' Homes: Care - Standard,
Mr. J. Muir 3209
No. 387, Health - Long-Term Care Workers: Strike - Care Level,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 3210
No. 388, Fin. - Gaming Corp. (PAC): Disclosure - Full Ensure,
Ms. R. Godin 3211
No. 389, Educ. - P3 School: Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea -
Site Selection, Mr. E. Fage 3212
No. 390, Educ. - P3 School: Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea -
Site Selection, Mr. W. Estabrooks 3213
No. 391, Nat. Res. - Sable Gas: Pipeline - Size, Mr. G. Archibald 3214
No. 392, Nat. Res. - NEB: Socio-Economic Study (N.S.) - Consider,
Mr. J. Holm 3215
No. 393, Nat. Res. - Sable Gas: Pipeline - Study, Mr. G. Archibald 3216
No. 394, Lbr. - Occup. Health & Safety Regs.: Update - Priority,
Mr. F. Corbett 3217
No. 395, Justice - Youth Crime, Mr. M. Scott 3219
No. 396, Devco - Future, Mr. F. Corbett 3220
No. 397, Justice: Atlantic Police Academy - Commitment,
Mr. Kevin Deveaux 3221
No. 398, Transport. & Pub. Wks.: Hwy. Agreement (Can.-N.S.) -
Action, Mr. B. Taylor 3222
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 47 - Municipal Government Act 3223
Mr. G. Archibald 3223
Mr. J. Holm 3225
Dr. J. Hamm 3240
Mr. D. Dexter 3247
Adjourned debate 3251
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Health - Long-Term Care Workers: Commitment - Honour:
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 3252
Hon. J. Smith 3254
Mr. J. Leefe 3256
Mr. P. MacEwan 3258
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., Nov. 4th at 2:00 p.m. 3259
NOTICE OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 1577, Chester-St. Margaret's MLA: Leap (R-L) - Consequences,
Mr. P. MacEwan 3260

[Page 3169]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 3, 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 advise honourable members that the late show this evening will be debated by the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid. His resolution is:

Therefore be it resolved that the government honour its commitment of wage parity between long-term care and hospital workers.

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

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Fairview. (Interruption) Halifax Fairview. Well, we are all part of HRM, I guess. (Laughter)

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: As the member for Sackville-Cobequid would say, we have all been HRM-ed.

3169

[Page 3170]

Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition from some members of Pictou County. The operative clause reads, "We, the undersigned, are opposed to the closure of our seven high schools in Pictou County which are to be replaced by two megaschools.". There are 198 names on this petition and I have affixed my signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

Bill No. 13 - Financial Measures (1998) Act.

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

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

Bill No. 34 - Teachers' Pension Act.

and the committee recommends this bill to the favourable consideration of the House, without amendment.

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

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

[Page 3171]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Economic Development and Tourism.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I rise to welcome a special guest to Nova Scotia today, Finnur Ingolfsson, Iceland's Minister of Industry and Commerce. Minister Ingolfsson is leading an Icelandic trade mission delegation; 38 Icelanders representing 18 companies and organizations are looking to form joint ventures and partnerships with Nova Scotia companies.

Mr. Speaker, I had the privilege of leading a delegation of 23 Nova Scotia companies on a trade mission to Iceland last January. At that time, Minister Ingolfsson and I signed a Memorandum of Understanding to promote economic growth and trade opportunities between our two regions. This week's mission fulfils one element of the Memorandum of Understanding, a trade mission by Icelandic representatives to Nova Scotia.

Local interest in doing business with Iceland is very high. More than 80 Nova Scotia business representatives attended a seminar this morning to hear Icelandic officials describe their country's economy and the opportunities for doing business there.

I am pleased to report, Mr. Speaker, that a contract was signed between Landsbanki Islands, Iceland's largest commercial bank, and Sans Souci Fisheries of Yarmouth County. Sans Souci employs 125 people in total at its plants in Tusket and Shelburne. As a result of this contract, the local fish processing company will expand its operation with investment from Iceland's largest seafood company. It is an investment that will see more jobs at the southwestern Nova Scotia plant, more contracts, and a more stable business environment.

Icelanders will be meeting with Nova Scotia business owners, touring Nova Scotia companies and looking to do deals. The kinds of opportunities that the Icelanders are offering were on display today during a trade show at Hotel Halifax.

Nova Scotia Economic Development and Tourism has been actively promoting trade with Iceland over the last three years and our efforts are finally paying off. Since 1994, Nova Scotia exports to Iceland have doubled to more than $2 million.

Iceland is a beautiful country, Mr. Speaker, and like Nova Scotians, the Icelandic people are very hospitable. I now ask the House, Mr. Speaker, to afford a Nova Scotia welcome to Iceland's Minister of Industry and Commerce, Mr. Finnur Ingolfsson. (Standing Ovation)

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I just want to add my voice and those of my caucus colleagues to the welcome to Mr. Ingolfsson and to say that it is an important aspect of our economy that we continue to explore trade links and to encourage these relationships,

[Page 3172]

and to ensure that both our economies are developed jointly through these relationships. So, again, on behalf of our caucus, certainly welcome and hope they have a pleasant and productive stay. (Applause)

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

MR. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I, too, would like to rise and welcome the minister and extend congratulations on being able to forge new deals with Nova Scotian businesses. It is important in this day and age to ensure that we strengthen our economic ties with countries around the world and ensure that businesses locally can grow and prosper as a result of new economic unions with other countries, so welcome and congratulations. (Applause)

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

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, in 1997 this government announced a $22 million project to twin some 18 kilometres of Highway No. 103, from Beechville to Exit 5 at Upper Tantallon, and I am pleased to report to this House that I had the opportunity to officially open the first phase of this project today at noon.

The Highway No. 103 twinning project is significant because it represents this government's deep commitment to support economic growth and safer travel by investing in Nova Scotia's highway infrastructure. The construction of this highway is being funded almost exclusively by the province, some $22 million by the time the whole project is completed.

Tantallon and surrounding areas have experienced phenomenal growth in recent years, growth that has been the result of a strong provincial economy. A growing economy creates more traffic, and volumes on this section of Highway No. 103 increased by over 30 per cent in five years. About 13,000 vehicles now use this road every day. The need for twinning was obvious, so we took action.

This first phase of construction is about five kilometres and cost about $4.2 million. In the next few years, the rest of the highway as far as Upper Tantallon should be twinned. Highway infrastructure improvements such as this benefit all Nova Scotians. Better highways contribute to economic growth by providing better links to move goods and services across Nova Scotia, and by creating faster, more conventional transportation links between communities.

Mr. Speaker, let me make it perfectly clear that without the help of the federal government, through federal-provincial highway agreements, future highway twinning will proceed at a much slower pace. I therefore urge all my colleagues in this House to lend their

[Page 3173]

support as I continue to call upon the federal Minister of Transport to take immediate action and address Nova Scotia's urgent highway infrastructure needs. Thank you. (Applause)

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my compliments to the minister for the announcement today and, also, my compliments to the minister for distributing these comments to every member of the House. I think that is a good example for other ministers, when they make their comments, that everyone has an opportunity to see the comments and not just the critic across the way.

It was an interesting opening we had today and, aside from the fishing stories that the Mayor of the Halifax Regional Municipality told us, it certainly is true that 13,000 vehicles coming and going on that road testify to the fact that we are now in a very busy area. The unfortunate part is, of course, that soon those 13,000 vehicles will be joined by hundreds of garbage trucks each day. That matter aside, I know the residents of Haliburton Heights and Haliburton Hills, Westwood Hills, Lake of the Woods, Tantallon Woods, all of those other developing areas, Mr. Minister, are certainly appreciative of the fact that that section of the highway is completed.

I draw your attention to this particular comment, that the rest of the highway as far as Upper Tantallon should be twinned. I look forward to working with you on that, Mr. Minister and I look forward to further details and commitments on when it will be twinned.

Finally, I say to you that I understand the commitment that you are making, as minister, with regard to Ottawa. I understand also that all of us should step forward and make sure that our federal Members of Parliament speak, and speak with a firm voice in making sure that we get our fair chunk of the change when it comes to road improvements in this province. Thank you. (Applause)

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, the Progressive Conservatives welcome the announcement by the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. We commend the minister and his government for working hard to twin some of these highways because we have not had a federal-provincial strategic highway improvement program in this province since 1992.

It is extremely difficult for the Province of Nova Scotia to twin our highways without some federal dollars. Mr. Speaker, as you well know, each year the federal Chretien Liberals siphon off some $125 million to $130 million from the motorists in Nova Scotia by way of the fuel excise tax. That road tax should be coming back to the Province of Nova Scotia. When the Progressive Conservatives were in power, they went to Ottawa and demanded that

[Page 3174]

highway arrangements be made and programs put in place to guarantee that our highways are twinned. Wouldn't it be nice if all our 100-Series Highways could be twinned. They cannot be without help from Ottawa and tax dollars from this province are going to Ottawa. So I commend the minister and I commend his government, but I ask them to become more forceful.

[2:15 p.m.]

In the minister's release he talks about traffic volume and things of that nature and we have it on good source and authority that although there are perhaps 13,000 vehicles that use Highway No. 103 every day, there are several sections on Highway No. 101 that exceed 13,000 vehicles a day. As important as this project is, there are a number of projects, a number of 100-Series Highways across this province that must be twinned. Not only does it provide for safer highways, which is very important, it also enables us as a province to move commodities much more quickly, much more safely. I might conclude by asking that the Liberal Government support the legislation that was introduced last week by the Progressive Conservatives entitled an Act to Provide for the Construction and Maintenance of Highways and Other Transportation Links, Bill No. 48, because the Conservatives believe that our road tax dollars and Registry of Motor Vehicles receipts should be spent on our highways. Thank you.

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

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, to you and through you to all members of the House, I would like to introduce the Mayor of Lockeport, Sarah Huskilson, sitting in the east gallery. I certainly would ask all members to give her our usual warm welcome. (Applause)

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 1538

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

Whereas providing seniors and physically and mentally challenged persons with access to recreational fishing is an important goal of the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture; and

[Page 3175]

Whereas this past weekend a barrier-free access boardwalk was officially opened in Mount Uniacke, which will provide safe access for wheelchairs and seating for seniors to allow them to more easily fish Murphy Lake; and

Whereas this project will broaden the scope for active living opportunities for senior citizens and persons with disabilities, encourage family participation in recreational environmental enhancement activities and attract sports fishing and other outdoor recreational enthusiasts to the area;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the staff of the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, the Department of Economic Development and Tourism, the Municipality of East Hants, the Hants Regional Development Agency, the Uniacke and District Volunteer Fire Department, Mr. Ken Isles, and the Uniacke and District Appreciation Society for all their hard work and dedication to this very worthwhile project.

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.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 61- Entitled an Act to Guarantee Equality of Treatment for All Sufferers of Hepatitis C. (Ms. Maureen MacDonald)

Bill No. 62 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 6 of the Acts of 1994-95. The Maintenance Enforcement Act. (Hon. James Smith)

Bill No. 63 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 55 of the Acts of 1963. The Halifax Regional Water Commission Act. (Hon. James Smith as a private member.)

Bill No. 64 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 85 of the Revised Statutes, 1989. The Condominium Act. (Hon. Keith Colwell)

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

[Page 3176]

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 1539

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

Whereas this government knew that it would have to deal with the issue of wage parity between the hospital and long-term care sectors in 1998-99; and

Whereas nevertheless this Liberal Government chose to give Michelin $60 million in one year, and to make a Sable deal that provides only 19 per cent of the offshore jobs and virtually no royalties for Nova Scotians; and

Whereas the Liberal Government is now trying to impose the consequences of its bad choices on long-term care workers, residents and their families;

Therefore be it resolved that this government pull back from its decision to give long-term care workers and employers no choice except strike action to fight second-class treatment for those who provide first-class care.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 1540

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

Whereas the continuing care sector is becoming paralysed by the government's failure to support parity; and

Whereas the current approach can only be described as inflammatory and unfair to personal care workers, caregivers, kitchen staff and maintenance staff; and

Whereas despite protestation to the contrary, the government has responsibility for all those in the long-term care sector;

Therefore be it resolved that the government outline its plan and support to bring to the long-term care sector a responsible resolution to this problem created by this government.

[Page 3177]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 1541

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

Whereas energy costs have been one of the most important factors in negotiations for the sale of Sysco, which is the third largest electrical power user in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the Premier - the minister responsible for offshore development - and the minister responsible for Sysco are Liberals elected by Cape Bretoners; and

Whereas Sysco has been denied intervener status in the National Energy Board hearings on the Premier's Cape Breton natural gas lateral, because its application to the NEB was 23 days late;

Therefore be it resolved that the asleep-at-the-wheel Liberals should wake up long enough to recognize the urgency of energy issues and, in particular, to use the provincial government's intervention to advance Sysco's concern that the too small pipeline proposed for Cape Breton Island would hinder Sysco's operation. (Applause)

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

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1542

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

Whereas Liberal health reforms have shifted more and more of the burden for the care of the elderly and infirm adults onto the shoulders of family members; and

Whereas these same families, which have reduced the cost to government, continue to be denied urgently needed respite care; and

[Page 3178]

Whereas despite evidence that shows that adult day programs are a cost-effective means of providing a stimulating environment for functionally impaired adults, this government continues to delay its long-promised commitment to expand adult day programs throughout the province;

Therefore be it resolved that this government immediately identify a plan to fund long-term care and community-based adult day programs that includes a firm timetable for province-wide implementation.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 1543

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 whole history of the Nova Scotia New Democratic Party is one of political instability and abrupt reverses of policy direction; and

Whereas the latest bitter sermon from the NDP is only one more item in a lengthy list of excesses from that quarter, the overall effect of which is mind-boggling; and

Whereas it is clear that the Leader of the NDP is so hungry for power he would next take Herbert Hoover into his ranks were he available;

Therefore be it resolved that these developments only show all the more how the greatest political asset Nova Scotia possesses is Premier Russell MacLellan and his Liberal Government, which is all that stands between this province and chaos.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's. (Applause)

RESOLUTION NO. 1544

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

Whereas more than 560 workers at Northwood Manor in Halifax, the Cove Guest Home in Sydney and Victoria Haven in Glace Bay, are currently on strike for parity with their counterparts in other sectors; and

[Page 3179]

Whereas this government's refusal to deal with the issue of parity across sectors has forced the crisis situation we see today; and

Whereas this crisis is deeply affecting not only the workers but the residents, as well as family members who are now forced to bear much of the burden of care;

Therefore be it resolved that this government admit that it chose not to provide parity across sectors for long-term care workers and that if it had, today's crisis would have been averted for the benefit of all involved. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 1545

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

Whereas the residents in the continuing care sector are facing jeopardy all across this province; and

Whereas three continuing care facilities are currently on strike, namely the Cove Guest Home, Victoria Haven and Northwood Manor; and

Whereas the families of the residents are deeply concerned about the effects this strike will have on their loved ones;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Community Services and the Minister of Health give their commitment that these residents are being properly cared for.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 1546

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

Whereas not so very long ago, there was an agreement between Nova Scotia and the federal government that clearly delineated the boundary line separating Nova Scotia's and Newfoundland's interests on the Laurentian Shelf; and

[Page 3180]

[2:30 p.m.]

Whereas the Premier of Nova Scotia's friend and former colleague, the Premier of Newfoundland, has persuaded another friend and colleague to both, the Prime Minister, to renege on the agreed-upon boundary line; and

Whereas by agreeing to go to mediation over the dispute, the Liberal Government has tacitly agreed with Newfoundland's position that the line was drawn with water colours and therefore moveable;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend best wishes to Mr. Fortier and his legal team and hope that they will be more successful in defending Nova Scotia's interests on the Laurentian Shelf than the Premier has been with his former seatmates.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 1547

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

Whereas on Wednesday, November 4th, thousands of Grade 9 students across Canada will step out of their classrooms and into the shoes of our workmates during Take Our Kids to Work Day; and

Whereas Take Our Kids to Work Day stimulates youth to raise questions about their career choices and to experience first-hand the working days of their adult models; and

Whereas this national program is sponsored in Nova Scotia by the Department of Education and Culture;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize and support efforts to provide an insightful glimpse of the working world and encourage Grade 9 students to go to work for the day with a parent, friend, relative or a volunteer host.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 3181]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cumberland North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1548

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

Whereas the Minister of Education and Culture will have the final say in which site is chosen for the P3 schools in his tendering bundles for the 31-plus schools to be built across this province; and

Whereas the minister had better use that power wisely when dealing with his government's partners, since one partner, Municipal Armoyan, is pushing to have its Beechville Estates site for the Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea school saying that their site is cleared and serviced thus primed for the fall 1999 deadline; and

Whereas Municipal Armoyan came into the partnership with the province on the basis of that same time-frame and a commitment to proceed with the project for next fall based on the site choice made in concert with the community, not on the basis of Armoyan land or a delayed project;

Therefore be it resolved that the minister quickly remind Municipal Armoyan, on behalf of a very confused board and parents education action committee group, that the deal was, a school by fall of 1999 and should not be forced onto Armoyan property with any sort of veiled threats of delays.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Preston.

[Page 3182]

RESOLUTION NO. 1549

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 Happy Quilters of Cherry Brook held their first meeting in February 1997, starting with a membership of five women; and

Whereas this group celebrated the Year of the Needle by sponsoring a quilt and needlework display at the Black Cultural Centre and attending a Comfort and Joy Quilt Show at the Victoria General Hospital site and by taking part in a Breast Cancer Awareness Quilt Display at MicMac Mall; and

Whereas this extraordinary group of women worked diligently to produce a quilt, The Connecting Vines, reflective of the historical connection between the community of Lake Loon/Cherry Brook and their families, which was unveiled and dedicated to the Black Cultural Centre on Saturday, October 31st, during a special ceremony;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Happy Quilters of Cherry Brook for their support and contribution in linking communities through the art of quilting.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Argyle.

RESOLUTION NO. 1550

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

Whereas Georges Bank is considered to be the world's most productive fishing ground; and

[Page 3183]

Whereas a moratorium currently in place on offshore drilling on Georges Bank until the year 2000 is now being challenged by the gas and oil industry; and

Whereas the concerns of fishermen in the late 1980's are still prevalent today as the consequences of an ecological mishap greatly outweigh the relatively short-term benefits of gas and oil development;

Therefore be it resolved that the province ensure that the fishery and particularly southwestern Nova Scotians are given every opportunity to put their case forward at the public hearings to ensure that this rich and renewable fishing resource is never threatened.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice and the question be put without debate.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Finance.

RESOLUTION NO. 1551

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 NDP has promised to abolish the HST which has resulted in the significant reduction in red tape for businesses in this province; and

Whereas most businesses in Nova Scotia approve of a system with one set of auditors, one set of forms, one tax rate and one tax base; and

Whereas any new sales tax will result in more red tape, more complication in tax administration and the hiring of more tax collectors;

Therefore be it resolved that the NDP be congratulated for a brilliant job creation strategy that results in dozens of new public sector jobs for the collection of tax but also drowns businesses in red tape, increased costs and results in a loss of 10 times as many jobs in the private sector.

[Page 3184]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1552

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

Whereas coal resources are a public resource that belong to the people of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the royalty paid presently on strip-mined coal is 27.5 cents per ton to the Province of Nova Scotia and nothing for the municipalities; and

Whereas the Province of Nova Scotia has a huge budget deficit and municipalities are asking for a fair share from this resource within their boundaries;

Therefore be it resolved that this government immediately undertake a review of royalties paid on strip-mined coal with a view to fairness for both the province and the municipalities.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1553

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

Whereas 1,500 people are employed as a result of the $110 million worth of economic activity in Nova Scotia's pork industry; and

[Page 3185]

Whereas Nova Scotia's Hog Industry Risk Management Program has been able to sustain the industry in recent months during the extremely low prices of pork world-wide; and

Where funding for the risk management program is expected to expire by the end of December and with it, Nova Scotia's pork industry will be on the verge of total collapse;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Agriculture and Marketing immediately set in motion a plan that will ensure the survival of the Nova Scotia pork industry and its 1,500 full-time jobs.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 1554

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 results of a nation-wide poll released on Saturday, October 31, 1998, showed the NDP Government of British Columbia the least popular sitting government in Canadian history; and

Whereas the NDP socialists on the other coast have only 11 per cent support, four points lower than Brian Mulroney's worst polling result in 1991; and

Whereas the same polling result has the socialist NDP of Ontario running dead last, at 12 per cent, 20 points behind the dreaded Mike Harris and 32 points back of the Liberals;

Therefore be it resolved that the socialist NDP of Nova Scotia rethink their policies they have adopted from Glen Clark and Bob Rae, policies that promote unlimited spending supported by raised taxes.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

[Page 3186]

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 1555

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

Whereas on June 2, 1997, the good people of Richmond County were left with absolutely no federal representation; and

Whereas the socialist advisers for the federal riding of Bras d'Or, Cape Breton, had the good sense to suggest to the socialist MP that it may actually be a good idea for her to spend some time in Ottawa, a trip in which she was accompanied by her seven week old son, Kenzie James; and

Whereas the crying heard from Kenzie James in the House of Commons has been scientifically interpreted to convey two distinct messages: number one that he was understandably very upset at being surrounded by socialists and, number two that unlike his mom he was actually aware that Richmond County was part of the Bras d'Or, Cape Breton riding and that it was undergoing great economic development;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House, on behalf of the good people of Richmond, request that the current socialist MP for Bras d'Or, Cape Breton resign her post and allow Kenzie James to serve out the rest of her short term as MP, for he has already proven to be a much more effective voice for Richmond County than the current MP can ever aspire to be.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1556

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture is asking government for immediate drought relief to compensate farmers whose crops were devastated by two summer droughts; and

Whereas this government has not yet responded to this issue, other than the Premier saying he is afraid to spend 10 cents, let alone $10 million, although the farm community has shown its commitment to Nova Scotia with its longevity and sustainability; and

[Page 3187]

Whereas the Premier and his government don't have the same fear when it comes to multimillion dollar handouts to profitable corporations which arguably don't need government money;

Therefore be it resolved that this government get its priorities straight in allocating financial resources, so that those who truly need compensation receive preference over those who don't.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 1557

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 constituency of Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley is home to the largest percentage of dairy farms in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas dairy farms were severely impacted by the drought in 1997 and some have been impacted by the dry weather this past summer; and

Whereas there simply is no margin in the normal costs of producing milk to pay for increased feed supplies, even if they are available elsewhere in Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that this Liberal Government stop playing cat and mouse with the agricultural community across Nova Scotia and provide dairy producers, and all farmers, with the necessary resources to ensure their long-term survival.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Antigonish.

RESOLUTION NO. 1558

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 National Post released the results of a nationwide poll on October 31, 1998, rating the effectiveness of a number of provincial governments in Canada; and

[Page 3188]

Whereas British Columbia's NDP Government finished dead last with an approval rating of 11 per cent, four points lower than Brian Mulroney's previous record of 15 per cent registered in 1991; and

Whereas more people living on the left coast now believe that Elvis lives than believe in socialist policies of the NDP, policies that the Leader of the Opposition wants to force on Nova Scotians;

Therefore be it resolved that the NDP in Nova Scotia cease and desist drawing on the policies of Glen Clark that have left a once prosperous province near ruin.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 1559

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

Whereas the North Sydney Forum board of directors, management and users have clawed and scratched for a good many years just to keep the arena open and out of financial debt; and

Whereas this forum has served the community well for over 50 years; and

Whereas the North Sydney Forum does not have the option to go out and purchase new equipment, as some municipally-owned arenas in the area do;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier recognize the contribution of the North Sydney Forum to the communities on the Northside, and support the forum and its board of directors in its endeavours to either replace the existing facility or upgrade it to present day standards.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1560

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

[Page 3189]

Whereas lawyers representing hepatitis C victims exposed to poison blood maintain that compensation negotiations have stalled; and

Whereas the Governments of Canada and Nova Scotia have repeatedly failed hepatitis C victims; and

Whereas many of the victims of Canada's tainted blood scandal will likely die before there is a fair and just compensation program that acknowledges that all who were exposed to poisonous blood are deserving of compassion and a just settlement;

Therefore be it resolved that this government immediately communicate to Health Minister Allan Rock the need to get on with negotiating a fair and just settlement that focuses on the victims and, further, that it finally acknowledge that all victims are deserving of the compassion of governments that accept they have a responsibility to protect and safeguard all of its citizens.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

[2:45 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 1561

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

Whereas the Department of Housing's Second Lake landholdings located in Sackville remains a jewel with its pristine lake and largely unspoiled natural hinterland; and

Whereas members of the Second Lake Committee, along with the MLA for Sackville-Cobequid, met with the Premier on July 2nd of this year to request these lands be transferred to the Department of Natural Resources and designated as a park preserve; and

Whereas the Premier promised to provide his response within three to four months to the Second Lake Committee and others interested in preserving this jewel for the enjoyment of future generations;

Therefore be it resolved that this House respectfully request the Premier honour his commitment made during the July 2nd meeting.

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

[Page 3190]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill.

RESOLUTION NO. 1562

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

Whereas Bible Hill psychologist Dr. Len Denton recently received the C.M. Hinks Award for his contribution to the advancement of mental health; and

Whereas Dr. Denton has contributed both as a professional and as a volunteer advocating for improved mental health services and prevention efforts, especially those related to environmental factors that may cause mental health problems; and

Whereas Dr. Denton is a Past-President of the Nova Scotia Branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association and a key player in the development of a mental health clinic in Truro;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Dr. Len Denton for his recent achievement and applaud his extensive service and contribution to the mental health profession.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Business and Consumer Services.

[Page 3191]

RESOLUTION NO. 1563

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

Whereas Dover Mills Limited of Halifax is a good corporate citizen and a valuable employer in the province; and

Whereas Dover Mills recently became the first flour miller in North America to earn the registration under the international ISO 9000 quality standard by earning the ISO 9002 registration which covers all aspects of company activities except design control; and

Whereas the company believes that this new registration will be invaluable in helping them compete in wheat product markets around the globe;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Dover Mills and their staff for achieving this important goal and wish them a long and prosperous future at the Port of Halifax.

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 Lunenburg.

RESOLUTION NO. 1564

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

Whereas the students of Park View Education Centre created the Kids for Kids Trust Fund in memory of a former teacher, the late Danny Caines; and

[Page 3192]

Whereas the students of Park View Education Centre have modelled their activities on Craig Kielburger, a student who founded Free the Children, a campaign aimed at eliminating child slavery and inhumane treatment of child workers; and

Whereas the students raised funds which were sent to the Unitarian Service Committee and are being used to sponsor a school in Bangladesh;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly congratulate the students of Park View Educational Centre involved in the Kids for Kids program for their outstanding effort on behalf of all Nova Scotians on this important subject.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 1565

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 Leader of the NDP called the desertion of the member for Chester-St. Margaret's from the Progressive Conservatives to the socialist ranks as a good news story; and

Whereas the fine people of Chester-St. Margaret's who voted against the perilous policies of the NDP will have trouble finding the good news in this story; and

Whereas perhaps the good news lies in the fact that the prodigal politician has finally found the promised land after wandering in the political wilderness;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the proud Leader of the NDP on his new arrival and recommend that to avoid any future family squabbles he should make sure his latest addition gets a window seat.

[Page 3193]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cumberland North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1566

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

Whereas Highway No. 302 near Maccan remains closed due to flooding, forcing some area residents to travel 10 kilometres out of their way in order to get to Amherst; and

Whereas the Department of Transportation's area manager agrees that the installation of a new culvert by Canadian National Railways could likely be the cause of the flooding; and

Whereas the Department of Transportation has held talks with CN concerning this culvert, yet has been unable to reach a reasonable solution;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works immediately investigate this flooding, and if the culvert is causing the problem, he immediately sit down with CN officials and rectify the problem, instead of having his officials say that talks have been held but they did not go anywhere.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 1567

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

Whereas young and middle-aged trees not only produce large quantities of wood, they also help combat global warming by using a lot of carbon dioxide; and

Whereas forests that are not properly managed facilitate trees that grow very little and decay a lot; and

Whereas the decaying process in our mature timber uses oxygen and creates carbon dioxide, the main cause of global warming;

[Page 3194]

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature support sound forest management principles on all Crown and private lands and recognize that old-growth forests contribute to global warming.

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

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1568

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

Whereas the Evan MacDonald Road in my own constituency of Pictou East is presently in atrocious condition; and

Whereas this road was closed for 11 weeks late last year because it simply became impassable; and

Whereas residents living on this road were forced to take their children by horseback in order to get them to reach the bus;

Therefore be it resolved that since the road is in such deplorable shape, the Minister of Transportation and Public Works immediately investigate and adopt corrective measures so children will not be forced to ride horseback in order to get to their school bus.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.

[Page 3195]

RESOLUTION NO. 1569

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

Whereas last night the member for Chester-St. Margaret's moved from the far right of the Speaker's Chair to the far left of the Speaker's Chair; and

Whereas this switch from one extreme ideological position to the other extreme is merely an indication of opportunism on the part of the member; and

Whereas the NDP has shown that their true agenda is for power at all costs by accepting the member for Chester-St. Margaret's in their caucus;

Therefore be it resolved that the Leader of the Opposition reveal to the people of Nova Scotia that the ideology of the NDP is to do whatever it takes to gain power.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cumberland South.

RESOLUTION NO. 1570

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

Whereas November 20th is National Child Day; and

Whereas a key objective of National Child Day is to increase understanding of the many factors impacting on children's health; and

Whereas the Wentworth Elementary School is hosting a nutritious breakfast to help promote National Child Day;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the significance of November 20th and applaud the Wentworth Elementary School, teachers, parents and community members for their efforts in enhancing this special day.

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

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 3196]

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. 1571

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

Whereas the Halifax Post-Panamax Port project has moved ahead without either financial or moral support from the federal government; and

Whereas the guiding principles of the restructured Port of Halifax is supposed to be good business practices, which should extend to the selection of the board of directors of the new Port Authority; and

Whereas the federal Transport Minister, in spite of having made no financial contribution to the project, has veto power over the four commercial user appointees to the Halifax Port Authority Board;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature give unanimous support to the Premier's efforts to ensure that veto power for board member selection rests with the provincial government and not with the federal Transport Minister.

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

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Queens.

[Page 3197]

RESOLUTION NO. 1572

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

Whereas affordable housing is essential to every citizen; and

Whereas the federal Liberals have significantly reduced the national government's presence in the provision of affordable housing; and

Whereas it is in the best interests of society to help low income earners and seniors to stay in their homes, an option far less costly than subsidized public housing;

Therefore be it resolved that the provincial Liberal Government ensure sufficient taxpayers' dollars are budgeted for home repair programs to maximize the opportunity for seniors and low income earners to maintain and stay in their own homes.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cumberland South.

RESOLUTION NO. 1573

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

Whereas Renee deGannes, a recent graduate of Mount Allison University was hired by the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women to research the history of Cumberland County women from all walks of life; and

Whereas women such as Alice Colburne of Shulie and Mary Crowley of Streets Ridge, Jeorgina LaRocque of Parrsboro and Raylene Nash of Cumberland County were among the 300 women researched; and

[Page 3198]

Whereas full-length profiles on 44 women from Cumberland County have been completed and this information made available through libraries, museums, at the Status of Women offices and on the Internet for all to see;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature congratulate Renee deGannes for her efforts and hard work in researching and recognizing these very important women in the history of Cumberland County.

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 Digby-Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 1574

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

Whereas stories of the Chisholm Trail of western lore draw heavily of images which are, by and large, creations of the media; and

Whereas the rosy prospects of a modern Chisholm Trail as envisioned by the Leader of the Official Opposition are also largely the creation of the media; and

Whereas media analogies as descriptors of the policies of the New Democratic Party should lean more heavily on the works of Lewis Carroll or perhaps Frank L. Baum than Louis L'Amour;

Therefore be it resolved that the Leader of the Official Opposition abandon the pretext that the Chisholm Trail leads anywhere but through the looking-glass or to the land of Oz.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill.

[Page 3199]

RESOLUTION NO. 1575

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

Whereas food banks rely on community support to help meet the increasing demand for assistance; and

Whereas developing new ways to increase community involvement and support is important to the success of food banks; and

Whereas schoolteacher Myron Cohen and Sgt. Barry Gordon of the Cape Breton Regional Police developed the 1998 Skip Rope for Food, a jump-rope competition to teach children about caring for others by raising donations for the local food bank;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Mr. Cohen and Sgt. Gordon for their dedication and initiative to show children the importance of being a caregiver in life and helping raise donations for their community food bank.

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 Lunenburg.

RESOLUTION NO. 1576

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

Whereas the Town of Mahone Bay has identified the need for comfort stations to provide public amenities to the huge number of visitors who come to Mahone Bay to enjoy its beauty and its many attractions; and

[Page 3200]

Whereas the town has partnered with local businesses and community organizations to ensure the project has broad community support; and

Whereas the partners in the project include the Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 49, the Mahone Bay Business Association, Mahone Bay and Area Lions Club, the federal and provincial governments, as well as the town;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly congratulate the Town of Mahone Bay and the local businesses and community groups who have made public comfort stations in Mahone Bay a reality.

Mr. Speaker, I seek 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 Government House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please revert to the order of business, Statements by Ministers.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Labour.

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and announce to this House that I will be appointing a mediator to assist in the speedy resolution of the labour relations dispute at Northwood Manor. I am taking these steps to ensure that these matters are resolved quickly and to ensure that patient care, which is foremost in the minds of both parties, is not interrupted.

[Page 3201]

I can assure the House that I will be making an announcement later today as to the name of the mediator, after the parties have been formally advised. This announcement comes with the full support of the Department of Labour Conciliation Team, which has been involved with the negotiations to this point in time.

[3:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I apologize for the lateness of this announcement, but we just received it after the House commenced and I apologize for any inconvenience to my Opposition Critics.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, indeed, we have a very serious situation in the long-term care sector around the province and one in which we, in the Official Opposition, certainly hope that any attempt to diffuse the situation and arrive at a fair arrangement would be very welcome.

Mr. Speaker, it is extremely important that the manner in which this government proceeds with respect to this situation, which was preventable in the first place, it is extremely important that we proceed and the government proceed in a manner that will not jeopardize or worsen or place more stress on residents, on family members and on a very fine group of workers in the health-care sector who have consistently been underestimated and misjudged throughout this situation.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg.

MR. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the minister for appointing a mediator, unfortunately, the great shame is that we needed a mediator, and the reason we needed a mediator in this dispute is because the government has failed to deal fairly with the workers in this sector. If the government had dealt with these people fairly, they wouldn't have walked out early. It was because they were totally rejected by this government, because the government failed to address their concerns, they felt they had no other choice but to go out on strike.

Mr. Speaker, the other thing that is a shame is that this government has no plan in place to deal with the other people in other facilities who are on the verge also of walking out on strike. I hope the Minister of Labour has a plan for dealing with what may be a very serious situation for Nova Scotians and, in particular, for the families of the people and the people themselves who are in these facilities, because these people are very concerned at a very serious situation.

[Page 3202]

All I can hope, Mr. Speaker, is that this does assist in reaching a solution. Unfortunately, there is no better solution than getting the parties back to work and getting a fair deal now.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The time being 3:03 p.m., we will terminate at 4:03 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HEALTH - NORTHWOOD MANOR: WORKERS - WAGES

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to direct my question to the Premier. This morning I spoke to a man whose mother is a resident of Northwood. His mother is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's, and the family pays $46,000 a year for the care their mother receives at Northwood. This gentleman wanted me to pass on a message to the Premier. He said that his family values the care the workers at Northwood provide for their mother, and the people who care for his mother deserve a decent wage is what I was told this morning and I pass this on to the Premier.

My question to the Premier, Mr. Speaker. Why will he not fulfil his commitment made time and time again to the workers who care for this man's mother and pay them a decent wage?

HON. RUSSELL MACLELLAN, Q.C. (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, no one in this House disputes that the workers at Northwood, or any of our other facilities, deserve a fair wage, and that process is being worked on. As a matter of fact, the union did agree to an offer, but took it to the membership that turned it down. That is part of the collective bargaining process. We would like to see this corrected and that is why the Minister of Labour has appointed a mediator. No one wants this strike, but the fact is that this is the way we reach agreements and I would ask the workers to cooperate with government and with the owners of the long-term care facilities to reach an agreement.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, again to the Premier. This man I talked to this morning stated that last night he bathed his mother, he changed her diaper and then he put her to bed. He and the rest of his family including his 78 year old father already participate in their mother's care and this family cares dearly for their mother. But the government's so-called contingency plan involves putting more stress, more pressure on families. I say this is wrong, this is no plan at all. My question to the Premier is, will his government keep the promise of wage parity that was made during the election campaign, pay these workers a decent wage and let them go back to caring for this man's mother?

[Page 3203]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I think everyone who has relatives at these facilities cares for those relatives as much as that man cares for his mother. I do not think that man is unique, I think this is a situation that is unfolding across this province. There will be a fair wage arrived at and all we ask is that these workers who want, I am sure, to care for these people or else they would not be doing this work, to work with us to arrive at a fair wage.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the message that is being sent to these families is that this government does not value their mothers and fathers because they do not value the workers who are caring for their mothers and fathers. This is all about choices, Mr. Premier, you chose to throw money at Michelin and you are refusing to give a fair wage to these workers. My question to the Premier is, why will you not do the right thing, why will you not do the right thing, why will you not make the right choice, why will you not give these workers wage parity now?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the honourable Leader of the Opposition should realize that you do not negotiate contracts on the floor of the House of Assembly. You negotiate at the bargaining table and that is what I have always said when there was any disagreement between parties in the negotiating process. That is all we are asking the workers to do through the mediator that the Minister of Labour has arranged.

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

HEALTH - NURSING HOMES: STRIKE - CONTINENCY PLAN

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. On Thursday in the minister's absence we attempted to find out the responsibility of this government for the residents of those facilities that are on strike. The Minister of Community Services passed off to the Acting Minister of Health for the day and indicated that this government had no responsibility for the residents of Northwood, Victoria Haven or the Cove Guest Home. My question to this minister is, does he have a plan to look after the residents of those three facilities if care breaks down in those facilities during this legal strike?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I was not here on that particular day but I doubt if the minister gave that answer that there is no responsibility because we know that departments have responsibility for people and we take that very seriously. We are very concerned about the quality of care, particularly in the next few days, in this province.

The first plan is the responsibility of the homes themselves, they have taken this very seriously, they have plans. We have back-up plans ourselves. We will monitor and ensure that the care is adequate and fair. We have been dealing with the acute care section, the long-term sector and the emergency health services and they are up and functioning and will be available.

[Page 3204]

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, to continue with the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health still has not told us what the plan is. He indicated that he has concern and I welcome that. This morning a spokesperson for that minister's department indicated that the plan was that if care broke down the residents would be moved. My question to the minister is, how are you monitoring the situation to allow you to determine when residents will be moved and to where will those residents be moved?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we are actively monitoring. We have persons who are quite aware of the situation. We have reports from family members as well. We are monitoring. There are facilities available. Some people have already been moved out of the home and when they needed it under medical necessity. That is the way that it would normally be done. We would hope that we would be allowed to do that and that there would be no hindrance on the picket line that would interfere with that but we are very concerned about the residents of the homes. There is no question, strikes are very disruptive.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, there are 700 residents in those three homes. This minister is responsible. If he has a plan to move those residents, will he outline that plan today, where those residents will be moved, bearing in mind hospital beds in this province are filled. Long-term care facilities are filled. Where will these patients go, these residents go, if, in fact, a decision is made that they have to be moved? Give us some details, minister.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I have every faith in the collective bargaining system in this province. I believe that Nova Scotians are fair. The honourable Minister of Labour has announced an appointment of a mediator and I believe that those valued workers will go back to the table and they will listen to their union executive and they will not disrupt the service to those 700 people and that is my hope and that is the part of our plan.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

LBR. - LONG-TERM CARE WORKERS:

WAGES - DIRECTIVE (N.S.[GOV'T.])

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. It is important that everyone understands, the reason the long-term care workers are out on the street today is because of this Premier and this government. Workers are only demanding what the Premier promised them during the election campaign last spring, parity. My question to the Premier is, your government has issued a mandate to employers that won't allow them to offer their workers wage parity with hospital workers doing the same job. I want to ask the Premier, why has his government issued this directive to employers?

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

[Page 3205]

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that I, like all Nova Scotians who respect the bargaining process, believe that, in fact, a negotiated settlement will be reached. That is the purpose of the mediator. I think one also has to be aware of the heightened expectations that have been derived from certain administrators, including Northwood Manor, encouraging individuals to come and blame everything on the provincial government. Certainly, we are aware of all factors and we are going to make sure that all individuals, including the employees, are treated fairly.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to go back to the Premier. The Premier may remember this phrase during the campaign: a nurse is a nurse is a nurse. I want to table an article from The Daily News, March 24th. The Premier, during the election campaign, intervened in negotiations with the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union. I want to quote from this article where the Premier says, "What I said is I wanted fairness in the negotiations, and I didn't want two levels of hospital workers, . . .".

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

MR. CHISHOLM: I am going to table this to refresh the Premier's memory, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: The question is very clear. He was prepared to intervene during an election campaign . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Could we have the question, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: I want to ask the Premier, why does this government continue to treat the workers of nursing homes like second-class citizens? Why is parity not good enough for these workers?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am very glad the Leader of the Opposition read that quotation because it doesn't talk about parity. It talks about fairness and that is exactly what I wanted in the nurses negotiation in acute care and that is exactly what I want for nurses in long-term care. So when the honourable member talks about parity, he is misrepresenting the situation.

With respect to Northwood, we thought we had an agreement. The membership turned down their own union's recommendation. That is not to say that the talks have broken off. There is no cause to believe that this situation cannot be resolved and there is no reason the workers cannot go back and sit at the bargaining table.

[Page 3206]

[3:15 p.m.]

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, if the Premier's mother or father were in that home, maybe he wouldn't be quite so patient. (Interruptions) My final supplementary to the Premier, the Premier's government has told employers that if they want to offer parity to their workers, they will have to cut programs to residents. The result is that workers are on the street, and residents aren't getting the care that they need. My question to this Premier is, will he honour his commitment made to these workers and ensure that these residents and their families are not left hanging out there? (Applause)

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I have to honestly say that I have nothing but the lowest contempt for the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition. (Applause) I want to tell the NDP something that I think they should know.

MR. SPEAKER: Well, keep it short.

THE PREMIER: My mother and father are not in Northwood Manor, but my aunt is. That is a great cause of concern to my mother and my father, not to mention my aunt. For the honourable Leader of the Opposition to use personal cases like that, everybody is concerned about their relatives. We are dealing with it. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Next question.

The honourable member for Kings West.

HEALTH - LONG-TERM CARE:

STRIKE NEGOTIATIONS - FAIRNESS ENSURE

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. We have a crisis in continuing care homes or long-term care. This government talks about fairness. Well, that is what we are talking about today. When the government talks about collective bargaining and talks about fairness when the workers were offered 1.4 per cent to 1.9 per cent, no wonder they turned it down, that is not fairness. I want to ask this Minister of Health, since he is the one who put the budgets together, if he is going to ensure there is enough money in negotiations for fairness with the workers at continuing and long-term care when negotiations take place?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, as the government, we have addressed many issues with long-term care. This year alone, we put $21 million extra dollars that are available to the long-term care sector. We feel that the offers that were made by the homes to the union and had some agreement, or at least it appeared that there was agreement, that is was fair and it was just. We will continue to go to the bargaining table and respect the collective

[Page 3207]

bargaining system. That is the way to address the concerns of the residents and Nova Scotians, it is not on the picket line under these circumstances.

MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, this government has driven those workers to the picket line. They have driven them to the picket line. Why have they driven them there? Because they led them to believe that they were going to be fair, and that they were going to have some sort of wage parity. That is what they led them to believe. Nova Scotians believed that. I believed that, because I thought they were telling the truth.

Mr. Speaker, if this government is responsible, I will ask again to the Minister of Health, if he cares about the workers and he cares about those residents in the nursing homes all across this province, will he ensure that when negotiations take place, there is fairness in the amount of money being offered to those workers?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, that is a commitment that I make to this House and I make to the residents of those homes and to the people of Nova Scotia. We will be fair and reasonable. He mentions one point, something or other, some of the offers have been as high as 19 per cent. The long-term care sector has been long-term neglected by that honourable member when he was Minister of Health. That is what has driven the people to the picket lines.

MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I can get up in the morning and look in the mirror, but I am not sure this minister will be able to after the strike occurs across this province. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, we are at a crisis that is going to develop even greater because there are other homes ready to strike.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. MOODY: I would ask this minister, will he, today, ensure that fairness prevails and there are no further strikes in this province and that those residents and workers will be treated fairly and nobody will be put at risk during this strike?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, that is a good question or a good observation, and that is the commitment that I have made earlier and that is the commitment that I will make again. We will work with the mediator, as appointed by the Minister of Labour and, we will be at the table and we will be fair and just. We are concerned about those people in the homes and those people who are waiting to go into the homes as well; that is the commitment that I would make today to the people of Nova Scotia.

[Page 3208]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - NURSING HOMES (THE COVE/VICTORIA HAVEN):

STRIKE - CONTINGENCY PLAN

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Premier. Workers at Northwood are not the only workers who are out on strike in the long-term care sector. Workers at The Cove and Victoria Haven Nursing Home in Cape Breton are also now on legal strike. The Cove usually has a one-to-one staff/resident ratio, but today 12 management and non-unionized workers are trying to provide around-the-clock service to 105 residents. My question for the Premier. What is your government's contingency plan to ensure quality care for the residents of The Cove and Victoria Haven Nursing Homes?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I think the honourable member would know that under circumstances like this the residents are not getting quality care. They cannot get quality care as she very well said, because you do not have the same ratio of attention, but what we are doing is making sure they get care. What we are doing, too, is to make sure that this process is being worked on. We want to get this resolved. This is a collective bargaining process. There is no other way around it and, as difficult as this is, there has to be a solution at the bargaining table.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I am almost speechless. It is being worked on; there is no plan; it is being worked on. They had plenty of time to put a plan in place. We knew this was coming for months. Will the Premier commit to meeting with striking long-term care workers in Cape Breton, to finally listen to their concerns?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we know what the concerns are; they are not satisfied with the package that they have been offered, and the only way that is going to be resolved is through collective bargaining.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the workers at The Cove and the Victoria Haven Nursing Home would not be on strike today if the government had treated them with some respect, the respect they deserve and if, in fact, they had had some respect for the collective bargaining process. You tied the hands of the employers with the mandate you gave them.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: My question for the Premier. Will he please explain why that part of his contingency plan for Cape Breton involved showing more disrespect to striking workers by using replacement workers in striking homes?

[Page 3209]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, there are certainly no replacement workers, but I will turn this over to the Minister of Labour.

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that administration and administrators in the respective long-term care facilities have to ensure that the seniors in these facilities are provided food, the proper medical supplies and, obviously, that was a problem earlier today at the Northwood Manor, which required an injunction, but I cannot help but be somewhat confused at the paradoxical position of this honourable member.

Mr. Speaker, it is very important. This is the same member who went up and met with the workers and encouraged them in a manner . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Next question.

MR. MACKINNON: . . . to go out and strike.

MR. SPEAKER: Next question.

The honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill.

COMMUN. SERV. - SENIORS' HOMES: CARE - STANDARD

MR. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to continue on with the question of long-term care only, this time, I would like to direct my question to the Minister of Community Services.

AN HON. MEMBER: It is not her job.

MR. MUIR: The Minister of Community Services also has some responsibility for long-term care. Indeed, over the past number of years her department has funded a number of residents that are what we will call in seniors' homes, some of which do not have licenses. My question for the minister is this, is she suggesting that for all of the years that her department has funded residents in these small seniors' homes that the residents were not well cared for?

HON. FRANCENE COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, no.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to continue with the Minister of Community Services. There is some suggestion that her department may cause some of these people who were apparently, according to her own admission, being well cared for, to be moved. Is she prepared to assure the residents and their family members who have cared for them, loved them and respect them that wherever they might be moved they would be well cared for, taking into consideration that some of the major homes are closed right now or on strike?

[Page 3210]

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I want to assure all of the clients who access care through the Department of Community Services that, of course, we will continue to provide good care. We have seniors, we have disabled, we have handicapped people and, of course, we want to assure them that their care needs are our priority. The member's question is actually a hypothetical question, Mr. Speaker.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, my final question is also for the Minister of Community Services. In his response the Minister of Health said one of the parts of their contingency plan was that they may put people in hospitals. The reason I say that now is because if the Minister of Community Services is going to move people, that maybe hospitals may be the thing. Hospitals do not have staff so how can that be part of a contingency plan for you, minister, because if you cannot move them to long-term nursing homes because they are on strike and you have to put them in hospitals and they do not have the staff, what is going to happen to them?

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I am not quite certain that I am following this convoluted line of thinking. If the question is, does our sector have a contingency plan in the event of a strike, then yes, of course we have a contingency plan. It is a requirement that we would have a contingency plan in every facility in Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - LONG-TERM CARE WORKERS: STRIKE - CARE LEVEL

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Health. Since the Premier is not moved by the plight of long-term care workers perhaps the Minister of Health is interested in how strikes will affect the residents of these facilities. Many residents are far from home or they do not have anyone to help out. Without the special care provided by long-term care workers some residents will have to stay in bed all day because there is no one to help them get around. My question is this, what assurance can the minister offer to these residents that their level of care will not suffer during this strike?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I have said from the onset of when there was some indication that there would be a disruption in services that our main concern within the Department of Health, and myself as minister, is of the quality of care of those persons. I think it is very difficult to assure that but the issues relative to their health and well-being will be monitored, we will act accordingly, we have made arrangements with acute care facilities, other nursing homes and particularly the emergency services. I would just make a plea today that that honourable member would not visit the picket lines and disrupt any further the actions on those picket lines.

[Page 3211]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would sure like to refer the Minister of Health/Minister of Justice to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms of this country. My question is again for the Minister of Health. Volunteers, family members and even residents are struggling to keep long-term care facilities going during these strikes. The government should not be shifting the responsibility to provide special care onto those who can least afford to take on the burden. My question is, when will this government stop turning its back on workers and truly take responsibility for the care of seniors in this province?

[3:30 p.m.]

DR. SMITH: As Minister of Health, I accept the quality of care and standards that are in place and that they will be adhered to as much as possible. Mr. Speaker, it is not reasonable to expect that a nursing home that is on strike, such as Northwood, as she mentions, the quality of care would be the same, but we are monitoring and if there is a deterioration in the system, we will take action. We will return the best way that we can do. We will have a mediator in place.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that the government is spending more time monitoring my activities than what is going on in the nursing home. This government has downloaded the responsibility for care of the sick onto families. Will the minister commit today to making wage parity for long-term care workers possible so that Nova Scotians now, and in the future, will be assured the best care?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, this year in spite of fiscal restraint and difficulties within meeting financial budgets in many sectors, particularly in the care services, we have allocated over $20 million to this sector. The goal is to move to parity within the long-term sector. That is the commitment, but some of the increases offered at the table were up to 19 per cent and I think that is a pretty good offer.

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

FIN. - GAMING CORP. (PAC): DISCLOSURE - FULL ENSURE

MS. ROSEMARY GODIN: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Premier. The Premier has been preaching one thing when it comes to disclosure around the Public Accounts Committee's probe of the Gaming Corporation and practising another. He promised in this House that there would be full disclosure of related documents and we now know that this has not happened. My question to the Premier is, what specific steps have you taken to ensure full disclosure of documents?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am sure that if the honourable member reads the letter from Dara Gordon to the member for Halifax Chebucto, even she will understand that full disclosure has been made.

[Page 3212]

MS. GODIN: Mr. Speaker, in fact I have read that letter and at this time I would like to table a list of 347 documents disclosed as a result of Mr. Fiske's civil suit. Those documents include a briefing note and memos surrounding Ralph Fiske's meeting with this Premier in July 1997. My question to the Premier, why has your office and the Gaming Corporation withheld key documents related to the committee's investigation?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, no documents have been withheld. Ms. Gordon states the position of the Gaming Corporation. I am sure that Ms. Gordon would be pleased to meet with her to explain and take her through the letter word by word.

MS. GODIN: Mr. Speaker, I do not think my question was about Ms. Gordon at all. It actually was to the Premier. My final question is, the Premier goes before the Public Account Committee tomorrow, finally. Will he commit to this House that all documents will be released before his appearance?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we have had people looking through the files in my office for the last two or three days to see if there may be a document that was not disclosed. We could not find any such document.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland North.

EDUC. - P3 SCHOOL:

BEECHVILLE-LAKESIDE-TIMBERLEA - SITE SELECTION

MR. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Minister of Education. I rise today to inquire about one of the pillars of the P3 process. One of those pillars is community involvement. The minister has expounded that the community will help design, pick locations, that that is an integral part of the site selection and design of a new school under P3. Can the minister answer today, is this process being strictly adhered to in the selection of a site for the Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea area school?

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, there was a committee struck some time ago by the regional school board that worked through a number of site selections. The SST or school steering team that is meeting now, as we speak, and will meet tonight in a public meeting is, in fact, carrying out the wishes of the board, that they select the site that serves their children well within their community.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, again to the Minister of Education. The Minister of Education was quoted today in the newspaper when it was referred to if there was any pressure or undue influence coming from the private partner and he states, ". . .he's confident the committee will make the right decision 'irrespective' of any such influences.".

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

[Page 3213]

MR. FAGE: I would wish to table this as well, Mr. Speaker. The question, is the community going to pick that site or is the site going to be picked by the private developer?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, the process involves the community at the local level, those people who know best what is a site that is preferred for their children. They are charged with the board to recommend to the board the preferred sites within the community. The board then makes those recommendations to the minister. That's the process and we have full confidence that this community will be able to make those kinds of recommendations to their board.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the minister has stated the process but that isn't what is happening out there in Timberlea right now and the minister knows that and his remarks of yesterday in the paper prove that. Will the minister assure this House and the residents of Timberlea-Beechville that where they decide the school should be built is where the school will be built and that true community involvement and site selection will happen there?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member opposite that the citizens of this area of the province are actively engaged in the selection of the site of their school. There is a meeting this evening of that committee. That committee meeting will be open to the public and they will render a decision that the board has asked them to make, select a site that is in the best interest of their children and they will do that to the board.

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

EDUC. - P3 SCHOOL:

BEECHVILLE-LAKESIDE-TIMBERLEA - SITE SELECTION

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, through you again to the Minister of Education. Let's talk about Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea, BLT, the site selection committee for the new P3 school recommended three sites to the board in late spring. The procedure was conducted as per the regulations under the Education Act and now, at the last minute, the private partner, Municipal Armoyan, put forth a fourth site that they own and from which they will make a tremendous profit. Mr. Minister, is this fair?

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, the members opposite have a great deal of criticism of the process of the school construction process but they want schools in their communities. It is right that the community is involved in the decision. There must be a commitment by the board and that community that there be an absence of a perception of, or a real conflict of interest. I have faith that this community and the board will work with the citizens of this particular area to select the best site and recommend to us a site that will serve their children for years to come.

[Page 3214]

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, the site selection committee, renamed the SST, has now been chaired by the Municipal Armoyan representative, Mr. Darrell Dixon. The chair is clearly in a conflict of interest. Mr. Minister, is that fair?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, it is not uncommon in this province to have SST committees chaired by members of the private sector. The process must proceed forward in the absence of a perception of a conflict of interest and a real conflict of interest and I have confidence that the board and its committee will work through this process so that the right decision is rendered to the department.

MR. ESTABROOKS: I understand what you said, my seatmate said, be patient. Mr. Speaker, last Thursday night, the community voted 82 to 18 against the Armoyan site and that same day the minister has said, he had confidence in the community, in the board, in the process. My question is why won't this minister now show his confidence in the community by acknowledging that the site selection process is badly flawed?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I hope the member opposite is expressing, in his own way, confidence in his own community. They have been charged with the task of selecting the best site for their children. The issue of conflict of interest arises in this province a lot. The member opposite sat in the Law Amendments Committee yesterday, in perceived conflict of interest, I am sure, discussing his own pension fund. There is a way to address issues in this province, and I have confidence that those communities will solve this problem.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

NAT. RES. - SABLE GAS: PIPELINE - SIZE

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Premier, the minister in charge of offshore. In response to a question on October 21st regarding the size of the pipeline going from Goldboro across the Canso Causeway, across the Strait, the Premier indicated he is very pleased that the question was asked, ". . . because the province is undertaking a study right now to determine what the usage and uptake on natural gas is expected to be in Nova Scotia so that we can be sure that we are supporting the proper sized laterals in this province.". Can the Premier indicate what size pipe he feels should be used by the pipeline company in developing this?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the size of the pipe will be recommended by the study. I am prepared to abide by their decision. I would assume the honourable member would be as well.

MR. ARCHIBALD: That is what I thought too, Mr. Speaker, but the Sable Offshore Energy Inc. expression of interest, Pipeline Construction, Reference: BBA and then a bunch of dashes, anyway, the closing date was October 19, 1998, which was a few days before the

[Page 3215]

Premier indicated he needed a study. The purpose of this expression of interest was to decide . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ARCHIBALD: . . . ". . . a joint venture . . . wishes to identify Pipeline Contractors, . . .", who are able to carry out . . .

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

MR. ARCHIBALD: . . . "the . . . installation of . . . Gatherling Line . . . offshore to the Goldboro Gas Plant . . .". . .

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member please put his question.

MR. ARCHIBALD: . . of an eight inch (Interruptions) liquid natural gas . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I will have to ask the honourable member to take his seat.

MR. ARCHIBALD: . . . and an eight inch pipeline. Why did . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Take your seat.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

NAT. RES. - NEB: SOCIO-ECONOMIC STUDY (N.S.) - CONSIDER

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would also like to direct a question through you, sir, to the Premier. The proponents of the natural gas lateral to Cape Breton have arrogantly refused to answer any questions about the socio-economic impact their proposal will have on industrial Cape Breton. Of course, the Premier will know very well that in 1983, the National Energy Board ordered as a first step . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. HOLM: . . .to offshore development, that such a one be done. So my question to the Premier is simply this, given the fact that the government is finally doing its study, will the Premier insist that the National Energy Board take into full consideration the socio-economic study being conducted by the government and include that as an integral part in the decision that they make? (Applause)

[Page 3216]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable member that we are anxious as well to find out the results of that socio-economic impact study, so that we can push the results in our submission to the National Energy Board, to adhere to the needs of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

MR. HOLM: I am not sure the socio-economic study will be done by the time the government makes its study. Maritimes & Northeast are out there cherry-picking away at the major customers of Nova Scotia Power, like Stora, yet they say that their proposal will have no negative impact.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. HOLM: My question to the Premier is simply this, does the Premier share the views of Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline that their application, their proposal will have no negative socio-economic impact upon industrial Cape Breton?

[3:45 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member talks about the socio economic impact study. If it is not finished before the hearings, then we will certainly be asking the committee for their recommendations and where they think this is going in accordance with the information they have to date.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, in written evidence provided to the NEB, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality states that the approval of their proposed Point Tupper lateral application will result in precipitous economic and social decline. My question to the Premier is, since the Premier is supporting the application of Maritimes & Northeast, can he lay on the table the information, the evidence that disputes the claim and the concerns brought forward by the Cape Breton Regional Municipality?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, that is what we are hoping the socio-economic impact study will give in the words of the people involved in the study. But I would be very surprised if the honourable member really believes that allegation from the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

NAT. RES.- SABLE GAS: PIPELINE - STUDY

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Premier, could the Premier indicate why he is doing a study to decide the size of the pipeline going from Goldboro to the natural gas plant at Point Tupper when there is already an expression of interest that closed October 19th indicating that the natural gas liquids line will be eight

[Page 3217]

inches, the natural gas line will be eight inches? Could the Premier tell us why they have already sent out the expression of interest, decided the size of the pipe, but the Premier is now doing a study?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, regardless of what has been set out, the size of the line will be determined by the National Energy Board.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, the Premier must be able to tell us something better than that. The pipeline company is not just whistling in the wind. They have decided it is an eight inch pipeline. Why is the Premier wasting taxpayers' money doing a study when it is already been decided there are two twin eight inch lines?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, that may be very well the opinion of Maritimes & Northeast and they may actually lay two eight inch lines under the Strait of Canso before the hearings are held but that is not the final word on the size of the pipeline. If they did that, then they will be taking their own chances.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, is the Premier telling us today that he is going to be telling the pipeline company they are going to have to rip up the pipe that they have already laid if it is not the size he wants or did the Premier even realize that this expression of interest was out there?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, that is the reason for the hearings. The hearings will determine the size of the pipeline.

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

LBR. - OCCUP. HEALTH & SAFETY REGS.: UPDATE - PRIORITY

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Labour. Last Wednesday in this House, the Minister of Labour promised to explain why new health and safety regulations are no longer a priority with him. His quote from the Hansard, "I will give the honourable member an undertaking that I will get an answer for him within the next 24 hours and clarify the position as to where this issue stands.".

Mr. Speaker, my question is, we have not received any information. Will the minister explain why regulations that have been repaired since 1995 are no longer a senior priority with his department.

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. It is a very legitimate question. I gave the honourable member who raised the question at that time that undertaking and I believe we discussed it just briefly outside but to further explain and clarify, there was an ongoing . . .

[Page 3218]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Keep it short.

MR. MACKINNON: Well, Mr. Speaker, they asked for a question. If they want the answer, I will give it to them. If not, I cannot answer it.

MR. SPEAKER: You have the floor. Please proceed.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, there was an ongoing consultation process on a number of occasions back and forth between the advisory panel, which involved both labour and management, to the Department of Labour. That consultation process continued until, I am advised by the Director of Occupational Health & Safety, as late as yesterday, that that process continued as late as January 1998 whereby a final draft is now before Legislative Counsel being drafted and it is not . . .

MR. SPEAKER: First supplementary.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, both co-chairs of the advisory committee, which brought forward these regs, support their implementation. I want to ask the minister why he said last week that it was the co-chairs who lowered their priority, in fact told my colleague, outside this House during a brief conversation, that one of the co-chairs was stalling the regulations. Is this fact?

MR. MACKINNON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, again it gives me an opportunity to clarify. Simply, that is not what I said. The fact of the matter is that in the spring - I can correct the exact date, but I believe it was sometime in June - I met with the advisory council. I asked the advisory council to lay out their series of priorities, because I believe at that time there were approximately 11 sets of regulations that still had to be dealt with under the new Act. There were some completed. There was one that we were dealing with, I believe violence in the workplace regulations, which I advised were now before P & P. I asked them to advise which were next on their list of priorities. It was not to diminish in any way, shape or form the value of any. I was advised that the mining regulations were next in priority.

MR. CORBETT: You know, there are people in this province every day who are forced to work on steamrollers, tractors and the like that do not have roll-over protective equipment. At least two people have died in the last year because of this. My question, quite simply, is, how many people will have to die before you bring forward the roll-over protective structures regulations which are in place in every other province in this county?

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that the record of this government and, indeed, with participation of industry and labour cooperatively, will show that the total number of accidents in this province have been reduced by excess of 20 per cent from previous years. The total number of deaths has been reduced, and the total number of

[Page 3219]

compensable, time-loss accidents has been reduced by more than 20 per cent over the past year.

The fact is, Mr. Speaker, the evidence shows that the new Act and the participation by labour and management and government is working. We are increasing staff . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland South.

JUSTICE - YOUTH CRIME

MR. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is for the Minister of Justice. Last week we saw yet another young Nova Scotian, 17 years old, sentenced on a charge of second degree murder to life imprisonment, with eligibility for parole in seven years. In this case, there was torture involved. The judge himself is quoted as saying it was a remorseless murder, and he sent him to prison for life. Questions are being asked by people in this province regarding violent crime and they feel it is not being properly addressed.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. SCOTT: My question to the minister. What is the minister doing about youth crime in the Province of Nova Scotia today?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member would know, the federal government is reviewing the Young Offenders Act; that is under active deliberation. There are some representations made but, more specifically I would address basically the prevention issue which is before our department, the various diversion programs, the Youth Alternatives Program, and restorative justice, where victims have a voice in the sentencing. There are many preventive programs. There is less than 5 per cent of young offenders that are violent. They have behavioural disorders and they have interacted with the education, the health and community services system. This is well-documented. There are those with special needs who are identified early whom we must work with and we have programs to do that.

MR. SCOTT: Last week, justice ministers from all across Canada convened for their annual meeting and a priority for that meeting was Canada's youth justice system and the Young Offenders Act. My question to the minister. What did the minister offer as a position, on behalf of Nova Scotians, regarding reforms to the Young Offenders Act?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, there were many priorities within that meeting. Probably the part of the meeting that I participated in most, and a letter that I had written to the federal minister was quoted extensively by the Province of Quebec on this particular issue; it is an issue that I feel very strongly about from my experience as a family doctor as well as now the Minister of Justice. These are major issues but it is not, as some people would suggest, to

[Page 3220]

lock these children up for long periods of time and throw away the key. I will not be a part of that type of system; we can do better.

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, we are not talking about locking children up here, we are talking about murderers and people feeling safe in their homes. Is the minister committed today to Nova Scotians to ensure that tougher measures are implemented in the Young Offenders Act, such as those put forward by Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and Prince Edward Island?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, on the matter of which the member speaks, certainly at the federal Justice meeting with provincial and territorial ministers, there was much discussion, and how the media lined up the positions might be very difficult to say. There was active participation and we do agree that there have been several amendments made already to the Young Offenders Act; there are others in the works. I think it is striking a balance between fairness for the victims . . .

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

DEVCO - FUTURE

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Premier. On Saturday, October 31st the Premier talked in the Cape Breton Post about the dire condition of the Cape Breton Development Corporation. He said the situation is getting very serious. However, the article indicates the Premier's only plan of action is to do nothing until Ottawa decides what they are going to do. I would like to ask the Premier if it is true that he plans to continue to do nothing and if not, will he explain what specific steps he plans to take to shore up the future of the Cape Breton Development Corporation?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am sure that if the member reread the article he would see a little something different but then again, that is too much to ask to read it twice in a row and get the same message. I want to say that we are concerned and the honourable member knows that because he was here listening when I spoke during the emergency debate on the Cape Breton Development Corporation. But whatever has to be done has to be in conjunction with the federal government and we are working with them on this question.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, these guys are amazing. The Premier talks about having a 20 per cent stake in Devco and having two members on that board and yet they fiddle-faddle and do absolutely nothing. (Interruptions) Let's appoint them. They say what will we do? Let's appoint them. The next day in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald . . .

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

[Page 3221]

MR. CORBETT: My question is, he is going to go to bat for natural gas, why doesn't he go to bat for coal in Cape Breton?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, at least on this side of the House we are working on what we consider to be a very serious situation when in the NDP, they do not even think enough of the miners to think they are fit to sit on a board.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, they want one miner on the board and lay 2,000 of them off. You do the math. That is why your budget is screwed. My question to you is when you go to Ottawa and you talk to them about gas, why not talk to them about coal? Be a man!

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I think that if the problem of coal is as critical as he says it is, then what we have got to do is either do something for the coal industry or something for the miners. This is an extremely important question and it is not going to be served by off the top of the head babbling.

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

JUSTICE: ATLANTIC POLICE ACADEMY - COMMITMENT

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Premier. Currently, the Atlantic Provinces has a regional relationship with respect to the funding of the Atlantic Police Academy. This agreement expires on March 15, 1999. The government's silence with respect to whether or not this agreement will be renewed has been deafening. My question to the Premier is, will your government be renewing their commitment to the Atlantic Police Academy?

[4:00 p.m.]

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

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we have made a commitment to the Atlantic Police Academy, and we will be keeping that commitment, that is a financial commitment that will end in the end of March 1999. We have had ongoing discussions with them. It is currently a matter before the courts, to which I am reasonably limited to discuss, other than to say that we are awaiting further information from that particular group.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, as a result of the government's talk of building a police academy here in Nova Scotia, and I am sure the Minister of Justice is aware of that discussion, several of the regional arrangements our province is a party to are in jeopardy. My question to the Minister of Justice is, why is his government willing to place long-standing mutual arrangements at risk?

[Page 3222]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I hope that any arrangements between both levels of government would be proper and they would stand on their own merits. As the Department of Justice, we have worked with the Halifax Regional Municipality police force, and we have looked at alternatives, particularly in the area of in-servicing, particularly training programs. They are training programs that must be done on the job.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, in the past, the Minister of Justice has not only spoken of in-service or training, he has also spoke of recruit training. The start-up costs of such an academy would be millions of dollars, his government has an $82 million deficit. My question is, how can his government entertain spending millions of dollars on a police academy and also balance the budget at the end of this year?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, any program that we would enter into would be fee for service. Any arrangements that we have entered into so far to date, policing in Nova Scotia is a municipal unit, and any arrangement that we have entered into have been a fee for service. We have not squandered money on this particular initiative at all. But if putting a program in the Town of Truro, in the community college, is wrong, then Mr. Speaker, I really apologize for looking at that as an alternative.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

There are 20 seconds left. Do you have a quick question?

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS.:

HWY. AGREEMENT (CAN.-N.S.) - ACTION

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: To the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, could he tell the House what he is doing to get a federal-provincial highway arrangement with his cousins in Ottawa?

MR. SPEAKER: The time has expired.

Before I recognize the honourable Government House Leader, I would like to recognize the honourable member for Argyle for an introduction.

MR. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring to the attention of the members of the Assembly, two gentlemen in the gallery that live in my riding, from West Pubnico. One of them is the owner of Vernon D'Eon Lobster Plugs, which has many outlets in fishing supplies across this province. Along with him is one of his employees, Mark D'Eon. So Vernon and Mark D'Eon, welcome. Please rise and receive the approbation of the House. (Applause)

[Page 3223]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would just like to acknowledge the presence in the east gallery of a former member of the Legislature, the former member for Truro-Bible Hill, and Minister of the Crown, the honourable Eleanor Norrie. (Applause)

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 47.

Bill No. 47 - Municipal Government Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The debate was adjourned by the honourable member for Kings North, and he has approximately 36 minutes remaining.

The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I am sure I won't take that long. I think where I left off last night with this bill was with regard to the Cabinet being able to decide when and if they wanted to carry on with the subsidy or with the grant in lieu of taxation on agricultural farmland, as the government now pays the municipality $2.10 per acre in respect to the land tax. The Governor in Council, according to Clause 77(3), indicates that, "The Governor in Council may, by regulation, change the grant per acre.". Well, Mr. Speaker, when you are doing taxation you should do it on the floor of the Legislature, you should not be doing it in the Cabinet Room, so that should be taken out.

Mr. Speaker, there are an awful lot of things in this bill. One of the things that will be most helpful to many people who live in rural Nova Scotia is the settling of a bit of a dispute between levels of government. Under Clause 177(1)(a) to (j), it is regulating the running of large dogs, the registration of dogs, requiring tags, defining fierce and dangerous dogs. Those are very serious things. Over the years, I have had so many phone calls from people complaining about their neighbour's dog who won't stop barking. When I call the municipality, the municipality says, well, we want to bring in a by-law that says dogs can't bark like that all night and if they do, the dog catcher will go catch them.

[Page 3224]

Now, Mr. Speaker, if this thing passes and this clause remains intact, the municipal government will be allowed to and will be encouraged and will have the responsibility to do something about these blessed dogs that bark, so that when people call their MLA and say the dog's barking and keeping me awake, I can then call the municipality and say, listen, there is a dog barking and it is keeping those people awake at night and they are calling me on the phone and they are keeping me awake, so how about fixing that up? So, after all these years and a lot of interest, we have finally been able to find a way to solve this problem of dogs. It is a problem. I don't want to make light of it.

The municipalities are going to maintain the right for planning. Most of the time my constituents like that, except when the municipal government does something they don't like and then they say, cripes, you guys in Halifax ought to do it. However, clearly the planning for buildings, construction, non-confirming land use and so on, that is all clearly with the municipal government and that is where it belongs. At the present time it is very interesting, Mr. Speaker.

Last weekend I had two calls from constituents who are very concerned about the development of a, well, the developer said it is going to be senior citizens' housing, the people in the neighbourhood say it is going to be low rental housing and everybody is upset. There is not a development plan as yet but the person who owns the land is trying to change the use from agriculture to multiple dwellings. This may be fine and dandy but the people in the neighbourhood are not too happy about it. They have lived in an agricultural area.

So clearly the municipality has the responsibility to set forth and make the plans. Now the municipality will support the development if the developer comes in with a development agreement outlining the size of the buildings, the size of the lots, the location and placement of the streets. Well, so far the developer has indicated he is not willing to do that; he just wants a blanket change so he can bring in and put in as many houses of any size, shape and description that he would like.

Mr. Speaker, you can see that you need legislation and by-laws and somebody to be in charge. In this case it is the municipality. The only difficulty with having municipalities in complete and utter control of planning is the discrepancy in the changes from one constituency to the next. You are allowed to build properties in some areas of Nova Scotia that you cannot in Kings. For instance, if you don't have 200 feet of road frontage in Kings County, you cannot build anything. If you go to the lake and buy a piece of lake frontage and you have a little driveway off the main road, well if that driveway is not 200 feet on the government road, it does not matter how many acres of land you have behind. You still cannot build and you cannot build on a private laneway in Kings County and there are other counties in the province where I know and you know, Mr. Speaker, that in fact you can build a road in through the bush and then build a cottage or, in fact, build your home on it. So there are a lot of changes.

[Page 3225]

We have coverage here for fire and emergency services and I am glad to see that we can continue because there is no volunteer organization - I cannot think of any - that deserves more credit, more applause and more thank you's than the volunteer fire service. That is covered and it is going to be maintained much the way that it is now.

You know, this bill gets right into the nitty-gritty insofar as under Clause 312 (1)(a) which says that, " . . . the owner, occupier or person in charge of a property to clear snow and ice from the sidewalks adjoining the property;". That is fairly simple and straightforward and that is something you and I would expect.

The boundaries are something else when we get into that area of this legislation. The boundaries are of great interest to people in the Halifax Regional Municipality and there are a lot of people who are saying, look, the boundaries are just too untenable for us. People in Ecum Secum, people in Hubbards and all points in between are saying, even many of the people in Bedford are saying, look, we got hijacked into this thing, we do not like it, so we do see the problem of this amalgamation. This indicates that if there is going to be further amalgamation, the municipalities may be amalgamated only because they have a desire to do that on their own.

Mr. Speaker, are you counting to see if the government has enough members to keep the House open?

MR. JOHN HOLM: Well, with the Opposition's help they do, yes.

MR. ARCHIBALD: They do, okay. Well, as long as the NDP stays in their seats then we will continue. They have an extra seat now. There is a great deal in this legislation regarding villages and all manner of municipal life is covered. This is probably one of the longest bills that I have had the interest and the pleasure of or lack thereof of seeing and dealing with.

We covered a lot of ground last night, the points that I was most concerned with. There will be some amendments to make this bill so that it can pass through this House. I am very much in favour of seeing it go to the Law Amendments Committee so all of us can have a turn and we can fix some of the problems that are involved. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to rise and say a few words this afternoon on this legislation and I am pleased to see that there are so many government members in their seats this afternoon to hear my remarks and that is a pleasure.

[Page 3226]

As I begin my remarks on this, I want to say upfront and at the very beginning so that there can be no misunderstanding and that is that we in our caucus consider this to be an extremely important piece of legislation. It is a very complex piece of legislation and it is a piece of legislation that is going to have very long-lasting ramifications for people from one end of this province to the other. It is our intention to be voting to support this bill to go on to the Law Amendments Committee for some considerations in that process.

I also want to say, because we consider this bill to be extremely important, it is too important to allow this bill to die on the order paper. I do not know what the government's intentions are. I know that they are certainly intent on getting their top priority, the Financial Measures (1998) bill, through this House and through third reading. I also hope that their intention is that this House not rise this fall until this bill has been fully addressed and it is able to proceed through. (Interruption)

[4:15 p.m.]

The member for Cape Breton Nova over there, the master of comments from the side, says it is up to us. Well, Mr. Speaker, it is partly up to us in the sense that if the government moves to adjourn the House, or if the House rises, we can vote against it but we are not the ones who set the business for this House. That is done by the government.

I want to assure the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs of our cooperation. We believe that the municipalities, from one end of the province to the other, deserve the respect of having this legislation that deals with their form of government and their ability to provide programs and services that citizens in your community and my community, the member for Cape Breton Nova's community, and every other community across this province, that they are able in the most effective and efficient manner to deliver those services. I want to make that perfectly clear, whether that takes two weeks or two months and I ask you to convey that message to the Government House Leader.

We believe that after four years of consultation it would be inexcusable and highly irresponsible to allow this crucial piece of legislation to die on the order paper before it could be completed. The member for Cape Breton Nova says it is up to me. Well, if it was up to me, I am telling you that it would not but, unfortunately, it is not up to our caucus. It is up to the decision of the government and that includes members like the member for Cape Breton Nova, even though they might like to shirk responsibility and pass it off and say it belongs to somebody else as he is prone to do. However, it is going to be, at the end of the day, a government decision and we believe that this bill should be advanced through all stages of this House.

Mr. Speaker, this may come as a surprise to a few people, but I am not always complimentary of the government or government processes. (Interruption) I see that the astute member for Bedford-Fall River says that she has noticed that before. I am not saying

[Page 3227]

that this bill is perfect and the minister, if he has talked to his staff, will know that I have pointed out a couple of recommended changes; one, a very minor typo and another, a very important one where you have to insert the word, or, so that you will not have all kinds of things, but I may get into that later on.

Mr. Speaker, there may be some need for some modifications and changes. There are some things that I would like to see done to this bill, some changes I would like to see. This bill, in a number of significant ways, differs from the draft legislation that had been introduced, and I appreciate the fact that the minister gave to the critics in the Opposition Parties a copy of the bill the day before it was introduced. My understanding is that is about the same day it came off the press in this final form. I could be wrong on that but I am not off by much if it was not the same day. I appreciate the fact that the minister did at the very quickest, at the very first opportunity, provide us with copies of the bill. I thank him for that and we did not have to wait until the next day.

The bill is, as many speakers have said, a very complicated bill. It has long-lasting impacts. It does away with countless pieces of legislation. It melds other pieces together. It incorporates parts of former pieces of legislation. I believe that municipalities across this province - and I suggest this to the minister in as cooperative a manner as I possibly can - should have - and I know they would all have it - an opportunity to revisit and look at any changes that have been made in this legislation and look at what kinds of impacts that that will have, and that they be given a proper amount of time to have their presentation made so that they could appear at the Law Amendments Committee.

So what I am saying there is that the day after this bill goes through, and I am sure it will go through on the second reading vote, I am urging the minister to ensure that municipalities from Yarmouth to Sydney have enough notification and enough time that, should they wish - they don't have to do it - to make a representation at the Law Amendments Committee and that they will have time to make those arrangements and come before the House. I think, after a four year process, and I don't hesitate going back and the minister who is sitting there is being complimented by a number of people for having brought this forward and for the consultation process, I don't hesitate in saying that it has been a succession of ministers over the years who have been involved in this process, I believe, starting with Sandra Jolly, who was the minister, at the time, when the whole process got started.

It has gone on through a successive number of ministers and, Mr. Speaker, it has involved tremendous efforts, cooperation and, I might say, initiative and drive on behalf of the municipalities through the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities and individual units across this province. Those individuals, those councils, deserve to be congratulated and, I might add, thanked profusely for all of the contributions made. I say that at the outset and I think that it would be extremely disrespectful to all of those efforts if we don't ensure that this

[Page 3228]

legislation is during this particular sessions get the kind of full and open consideration that the bill warrants.

I know, Mr. Speaker, the minister was at the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities conference that was held one week ago in Yarmouth. I know that the member for Queens, who is a representative of the Third Party, was at those meetings, as I was on behalf of the New Democratic Party caucus and as critic for the Official Opposition. I spoke to and I took the opportunity to try to gather the wisdom, tap into the wisdom a lot of the municipal councillors from across the province on this and many other items while I intended that. I certainly was encouraged by the comments made by the municipal leaders at the UNSM conference and their support for this bill.

When I say that, however, Mr. Speaker, I also must point out that even the leadership of the UNSM said that they had not been able to read it when the bill was introduced, the bill in its entirety. They had read many parts of it. They liked parts that they had read, but they had not necessarily read the entire bill which is approximately 250 pages in length of a lot of legalese. There is an awful lot of implications in terms of how it is written. I just say, and I can't underscore enough, the need to have a look at that.

One of the things that I do like very much in this legislation, and it is a statement of the obvious. It doesn't go as far as the Liberals promised when they were in Opposition, prior to the 1993 election, but it goes some significant difference. Back in 1993, of course, the Liberals had been campaigning, trying to win the support of municipalities and they had been promising that there would be a bill of rights that would be laying out, quite clearly, the rights of municipalities.

That, of course, did not come about, but it is important in the preamble the precedes this bill, because in the preamble it says that, ". . . the Province recognizes that municipalities have legislative authority and responsibility with respect to the matters dealt with in this Act;", and goes on to say that the, ". . . municipalities are a responsible order of government accountable to the people.". That preamble may just be stating the obvious, what everybody knows, but it is important because, in a court of law, if there is ever any dispute as to what something may or may not mean, the preamble in the legislation provides a framework in which that legislation is to be interpreted. It is very important in the interpretive clause, very much like the kind of thing we talk about when we talk about constitutions and constitutional changes. Those kinds of preambles are, indeed, extremely important, so that, I salute, Mr. Speaker, because it is extremely important.

There are a number of things - and I am going to try to go through a few of the positive things - some parts of them are positive and some parts I would like, personally, to go further than the legislation does. I would like to have members of the Law Amendments Committee and this House consider possible changes in some areas, and I will try to go through principle by principle with regard to that.

[Page 3229]

Certainly, I believe it is long overdue that municipalities be given more authority with regard to the by-laws that they actually write and produce for their municipalities. By-laws are prepared by the municipal councils after consultation with the people within that municipality. Those who make the by-laws, just like people in this House who make laws that govern the province, are accountable to their constituents. It has always galled me, and I am sure that it has galled - in fact, I know it has - many councillors across this province that in the past, whenever they developed a by-law they had to ask for Big Brother's permission to put into force the by-laws that they had enacted or passed for the municipality.

I am pleased to see that on most matters now there is no longer the requirement that municipalities are going to have to submit all their proposed by-laws to the minister for his stamp of approval before they go forward. I can understand - and I am not questioning the fact - that there still does need to be ministerial approval for borrowings that are going to be done. If the government is going to be guaranteeing that borrowing, that certainly seems to be reasonable, because that would be committing the province to assuming the liability if, for some reason or other, the municipality or the department that they are borrowing it on behalf of was unable to meet it. That is reasonable.

The one thing that does concern me a little bit has to do with planning matters, and certainly if there is anything that is involving a piece of property that may belong to the province and the municipality passes a municipal planning strategy that they want to see adopted and it could affect the Department of Housing or some other government department's land, the province is saying, of course, no, you do have to get our approval on that. You do not have to for anybody else, but if it is going to affect something of ours, you are going to have to get our approval for any planning strategies that could impact upon what we consider to be in our own personal best interests.

They do not have to do that for, as I say, private individuals or business or industry, but they do have to get the province's approval on that. Also, the province has the ability to designate virtually anything it wants to be in the provincial interests, so the province has still maintained for itself the ability to stick its hand into any area that it wishes to by simply designating it to be of provincial interest and to move on in that regard.

Another ongoing problem that municipalities face each and every year, particularly at budget time, is that the federal government decides that they are going to offload some costs to a provincial government one year so the province tries to figure out ways that it can offload costs to somebody else when it is trying to prepare its budget. We have seen that done over and over again. We saw in the service exchange that was done by the provincial government with the municipalities.

I would love to see an independent audit done of that, Mr. Speaker, because I know that an independent audit is going to demonstrate that, in fact, municipalities were required or forced to pick up more of the costs of that service exchange than the province did, and that

[Page 3230]

is a way of downloading costs from the provincial Treasury on to the backs of the residential and business operators across this province, making the Liberals' bottom line look a little rosier than in reality it is. Their bottom line is going to look rosy only because they have managed to shift a lot of the costs to the bottom line of the municipalities.

[4:30 p.m.]

Municipalities have been quite correctly complaining about that for a lot years, Mr. Speaker, and it is a practice that the province has said that they will no longer do without consultation. They have not said that they would not off-load or download costs. What the government has committed to do is to consult with or to give the municipalities one year's notice before any such downloading is to occur.

However, having said that, there are a couple of provisions in this bill and I may look at them again in a little bit more detail later on, but when it comes to the farmland tax or the grant in lieu of, when it takes a look at the issues dealing with the capital grants tax or when we are looking at the forestry lands tax grant, Mr. Speaker, lo and behold, in this legislation, the government has slipped in a little clause that says that they can amend these tax measures by an Order in Council.

That was an issue that we raised and we talked about during the Financial Measures (1998) Bill that is yet to come back, but I understand will come back to this House for the Committee of the Whole House on Bills stage before too long. It was something that I spoke against on that bill, that giving the Cabinet the authority, down in their bunker, behind the veil of secrecy where nobody is allowed to have any input, that they can make decisions that would impact upon municipalities without any consultation. In this legislation, the government has mirrored those same provisions that are in the Financial Measures (1998) Bill.

I say, with the greatest respect, Mr. Speaker, and that is that I am sure that the minister did not intend to have those clauses in this bill. I am sure that he will support our moves to have those provisions removed from this bill, just as we have been fighting and we will continue to try to make sure that those kinds of provisions are not in the Financial Measures (1998) Bill. I certainly would not want to see them slip in bad habits of before slipping into this new, what is hopefully being more progressive legislation through the back door.

I want the minister to know how I feel about that and it would be very helpful for the discussions, I am sure, in the Law Amendments Committee, and it would give greater insurances to the municipalities across this province if the minister were to say, when he wraps up the bill, that that was in error and that he has consulted with the Minister of Finance and that the Minister of Finance agrees that there is no way he wants to have this provision in in the bill the way it is because the Minister of Finance, the right-hand man of the Premier as the Deputy Premier, wants to ensure that we have an open and accountable government in this province. He would want to ensure that any taxation measures that would be brought

[Page 3231]

into effect or changed would be done in the full, open debate on the floor of the House. He wouldn't want to have the abilities, I am sure, Mr. Speaker, to be able, in secret, behind the red veil of secrecy down in the bunker, to effect these kind of changes that would affect your constituents, my constituents and those right across the province.

The temptation would be there in future years to do as they did before, and that was to cancel the farm tax credit that they used to have. But when they did that, they had to do it before, in the light of day, on the floor of the House, in full public view. This provision, of course, in the bill, would enable them to fall into - I am sure they wouldn't want this, so I am trying to be helpful to them - a pattern of secrecy.

There is one of the provisions in this bill that is quite a nice breath of fresh air, as far as it goes. That has to do with more openness, in terms of how municipal councils operate. Maybe we can turn to that for a second.

Mr. Speaker, just as a reinforcement as to why I am sure the provisions I was talking about must have been in error because certainly the government, the Liberal Government, would not be introducing legislation that is going to require municipal councils to be more open and to be making decisions in a public forum, at the same time that it is giving itself permission to make some decisions in camera, down in the bunker without any public input. So I am sure that contradiction is not lost upon the members opposite.

The Minister of Agriculture, who has a long, distinguished history as a municipal politician, as a warden for - and I can't remember for how many years but a lengthy time - would certainly, I am sure, now that he is occupying the Cabinet benches, the front benches, would not want to see any kind of double standards between what is being proposed for municipalities versus that which is being proposed for the province itself or the provincial government.

Now, Mr. Speaker, dealing with that aspect of doing away with the number of municipal councils or councils holding very vital, important decisions and discussions in camera, I am not going to single out any councils. I know that one or two councils have been singled out and that is very easy to do but, quite honestly, I don't know the record of all councils across this province. So, in fairness, I cannot say that one council has performed less well than another council, in terms of being open and accountable. So I am not going to try to get into that aspect.

I think it is very important that if the elected officials are doing the public business, that the business, other than those kinds of things that are spelled out - and I have no difficulty with what is being spelled out in the bill, if we are dealing with personnel matters or if we are talking about contract negotiations or if we are talking about purchase price or negotiations on purchases and so on, something that could give somebody an unfair economic advantage or something that could reveal confidential information about an individual or an employee,

[Page 3232]

those kinds of things are appropriate to be dealt with in camera - what I do have a problem with is there seems to be a bit too much leeway that can enable councils to actually meet in private, without officially calling it an in camera session.

What I am referring to here is the fact that the councils are not required to necessarily give notice of their meetings or to say if they have changed the location of their meeting. I know that the Premer, trying to be inclusive - never anything to do with politics - but if the Premier wants, he is quite able to, and I would suggest that it is quite proper to do as well, he will hold Cabinet meetings not only here in this building but the Premier will also call and have Cabinet meetings held in different parts around this province, in different communities. That is right and proper because that gives the Cabinet, when it isn't meeting, opportunities for persons in those communities to actually have better access to the leaders - I say loosely - and the government of this province.

However, if a council is going to move from its regular council date and its regular Council Chambers and hold a meeting in a place they don't announce, at a time that is not made public, you don't have to call that an in camera session to have it, in effect, be an in camera session because nobody would be there to hear what is going on. So I really question whether those kinds of provisions, with that kind of latitude, should remain in the bill.

Also, Mr. Speaker, I question whether or not briefing sessions with staff should be entitled to be in camera or closed, unless they are dealing with those same kinds of issues for which there is legitimate reason for having closed sessions - as I talked about before, personnel matters, negotiations, whether that be about a land purchase, negotiating price, the minister knows all of the items that are in the paper, because you can through those kinds of staff consultations, in effect, have all of your discussions and all of your arguments and all the pros and cons of the various debates or issues worked out there, so that when you finally do come to a full council meeting, there is nothing left to discuss, you simply place your motion, and you are in effect doing it in the public forum, making your motion. But all of the arguments and the debates that had gone leading up to that, which would help the citizens understand how decisions were arrived at, have been excluded because of that process.

I have some difficulties with those kinds of latitudes. I am, and the minister will know if he checks the record, delighted that something we have advocated for a long time is going to come about, and that is that there will be disclosures of political contributions or campaign contributions. I think that the figure of $50 is reasonable and fair, so we don't need to get down to $5.00 or $2.00, but, Mr. Speaker, anybody who is going to be making a donation of $50 or more, that is going to be public. That is good. We supported that before. We had called for that kind of an amendment to old Municipal Act and pieces of legislation. I believed it was a good idea then, and I believe it is a good idea today. (Interruption)

[Page 3233]

The honourable Government House Leader, I thought he said that he can't win with me. I thought he couldn't understand that maybe I was complimenting the government on finally following through with a good initiative, something that I am pleased to see that they are following up on, something that the NDP caucus has been suggesting for probably 10 or more years. I am sorry if that might cause some discomfort to the government members, to know that we think you have finally adopted a good idea, but in this area, we do.

Now, Mr. Speaker, when one is talking about that, we have a limit too in terms of the audits. That is that anybody who is going to have a campaign for municipal council, that if the campaign expenditures are going to be over $10,000, that that account needs to be audited. $10,000 is a pretty high figure. I am personally not convinced that the figure of $10,000 is really an appropriate level. I think it should be lower than that. I am not prepared to say, and I can't necessarily say, exactly what it should be, but I would say any account or any campaign of at least half the amount, $5,000 at least, or more should be required to be audited because $5,000 for a municipal campaign is a fairly significant amount of money.

It may be peanuts when you are about running for the Mayor of the Halifax Regional Municipality, it may be small when you are talking about running for the Mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, but if you are running as a mayor or councillor in many other municipalities across this province, even if you are running as a councillor in HRM, then that is still a very significant chunk of change for an awful lot of the councillors. I really wonder whether that figure of $10,000 should not be maybe lowered to a little bit more closer to $5,000.

[4:45 p.m.]

I also question why it is that there is not some limit on the amount that a candidate seeking election is permitted to spend. There are limits, as the minister will know, on how much you could spend in your own constituency when you were seeking elected office. There are amounts, there are limits on how much an individual can spend, or individuals can spend, when they are seeking federal office but there are to be none for those who are seeking municipal office. The reality is for most municipal councillors across this province, being elected is almost like being a part-time paid volunteer because the remuneration that many municipal councillors receive is extremely small.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: $30,000.

MR. HOLM: Well, the member for Cape Breton South, the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism, says $30,000 and, yes, there are for some councillors. (Interruption) He is giving me a lesson but he has not heard all of my statement yet to know what he is teaching me about, Mr. Speaker. The point that I want to say to the ever-helpful former Mayor of Sydney, who as former Mayor of Sydney would know how much he was getting paid. He would know what perks came along with the job. He would know

[Page 3234]

presumably what perks and what the wages are for the Mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

However, we had today the Mayor of the Town of Lockeport introduced. I want to say to the Government House Leader that I am sure that Her Honour, Her Worship I should say, the Mayor of Lockeport, Mayor Huskilson receives nothing close to the remuneration that the Government House Leader received when he was Mayor of Sydney. So the point is, Mr. Speaker, when you are saying, as he was trying to be helpful across the floor, implying how much money municipal councillors make, I want to say that we have many councillors from one end of this province who are earning very low remuneration for the time and for the work that they are doing. I do not think there is anybody in this House that would disagree with that.

Mr. Speaker, surely to Heavens, there is a way to ensure that we have some kind of a level playing field and give people opportunities to be seeking elected office. That is one of the rationales behind having maximum limits upon what you and I and other members of this House, or what the members who are representing Canadians from one end of this county to the other can spend in election campaigns. They have so much per voter within their area.

It is not, they were suggesting that each and every account in some councillors might have a total budget, a total amount that they spend, of $500, or $1,000, on their entire election campaign but we have some who seek office where it has been guesstimated, what, $150,000 to $200,000 and more?

AN HON. MEMBER: More and would not disclose it.

MR. HOLM: Would not disclose it, maybe it was $300,000, who knows, and who knows who is going to be running for elected office next time around in the Halifax Regional Municipality? Who knows how much money they may spend? You will not, Mr. Speaker, enable people to have shots at running in a fair kind of manner if it is totally unlimited.

Now, you could say, well, it is too difficult to control. You cannot go around and audit each and every one. I am not suggesting that. However, if you were to state on a progressive sliding scale, and I am sure some discussions with the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities could come up with some kind of figure, that you are permitted, particularly in smaller areas, to spend, let's say just for the sake of figures, and these are not intended to represent the actual figures in any shape or form, but you are permitted, say if you have 500 voters, you are permitted to spend $1.00 or $2.00 per voter. But, if you have, within your constituency or the area that you are running, 5,000 voters, maybe that figure would drop down to 75 cents. You might say, well, why couldn't you have the same amount? Well, you could have a lower amount because your advertising costs, Mr. Speaker, would drop and that 75 cents would have the coverage of more than the dollar would for a small one and on it goes.

[Page 3235]

You could also say, Mr. Speaker, that everybody who is seeking elected office would have to, not audit it, but have to table with the Clerk, an itemized list of expenditures they made to show, it is not an audited one, so it is not something that it is enforced, it is not something you have to go out and pay to get audited, but you have to keep your records and you have to file a statement as to what was spent. If there is a challenge, if somebody is suggesting that you have spent far more than that, then there could be an audit done.

Now, you could say, what is the advantage of doing that? Well, the point that I am trying to get at is that if the penalty is that you violated the provisions and you exceeded the limits and that is proven, you had to resign your seat, that would give the motivation to adhere to that. So there are measures that could be put in place that would not create any kind of undue hardship for those who are seeking elected office, but would ensure that there is some kind of stability in that and some greater sense of fairness.

I don't know if the minister or his staff have had any discussions along that line with representatives of the municipality through the UNSM or not. I can understand why some might like it. It is a lot easier if you don't have any limits and no rules. But I don't know if the minister would like to have it laid out here in Nova Scotia to be said that the sky is the limit and whoever wants to run against to him, if they want to spend $100,000, they can spend $100,000 against him. There are reasonable reasons why there have been caps placed on things. The reality is, at the provincial level, most probably don't spend what they are entitled to as a maximum level, but there is nothing to prevent it. I say that to the minister as an area that I think should be given some consideration in the process.

Another area that I am pleased there has been some movement about, but I don't necessarily like the way it has gone and this is in addition to a change to the original draft legislation that came out, and that is the inclusion of freedom of information provisions within this bill. When I say that, Mr. Speaker, I support, totally, the notion that municipalities should have to adhere to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy legislation that exists in the province. We have said that for years. So, too, should school boards and other particular boards. But what I don't understand is why there was a need to basically take the Freedom of Information Act and to write that over and then to include that into the current bill before us called An Act Respecting Municipal Government. We have, in the province, a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Now maybe the municipalities would say, yes, but we want our own. So we don't want yours, we want our own. So just take what you have got, put it in our bill and it makes it ours.

I would contend, Mr. Speaker, that the net effect would have been exactly the same if the legislation had stated that the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act shall apply to, then you could have the notwithstanding clause such-and-such, that being the one that said the Act would apply, that the Clerk or whatever, the provisions that are going to be necessary to essentially have the person responding to the request for information be identified in here.

[Page 3236]

Mr. Speaker, my concern has come from not that I begrudge the municipalities having their own provision in their own bill, my concern is that I don't think this government has gone far enough with its own Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. The government has been sitting for over two years now, two and a half years, on an excellent report that is often called the Jobb Report that was done at the request of a former Minister of Justice in this House, the former member for Antigonish, I believe he is the one who asked for it to be done. That study was done. There were major recommendations that came forward in that report on ways that our own provincial Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act can be improved upon, to make it more open, to help with the free flow of information, to protect privacy where it is required but, indeed, to make government more accountable.

Now, what we have is the government, of course, in that two and a half years has never seen fit to respond to that yet. We have had nothing coming forward from the government in terms of proposed changes, which is why our caucus has introduced, as a Private Member's Bill, an Act to Amend the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. I would hope that the government members, who have been negligent in responding to the important report they have had for two and a half years, will look favourably upon that piece of legislation and move to adopt that, so that our own provincial legislation will be enhanced.

However, if we do that, that does not amend the freedom of information and protection of privacy parts that are contained in this legislation. Citizens, whether they live in HRM - the Halifax Regional Municipality - whether they live in Clare or whether they live in Kentville or in Digby or in Richmond County or in Sydney, no matter where they live, they all should have a right to have access to important information that governments may have on them or about them or their properties, those issues dealing with the expending of public monies.

So if we are able to persuade this government to actually amend our own provincial legislation before we have the opportunity to go to the polls and hopefully replace you all - no offence personally on that matter - but until we get that opportunity, surely to Heavens, if the Act, our provincial legislation is strengthened and improved, would you not want those same improvements to apply to municipalities? Should they also not apply to school boards? I would suggest that those are, indeed, important.

There is one provision in this bill that lays out and defines who has the ability to vote. Of course it does state that somebody must be a Canadian citizen to be eligible to vote in municipal elections. Maybe that is signalling what the government is planning to do itself because right now you do not have to be a Canadian citizen to vote provincially. You have to be a British subject but you don't necessarily have to be a Canadian citizen. What this provision here does is amend the Municipal Act to bring it in line with the federal requirement for voting. That will make it easier for municipalities to use the common voter list that has been prepared and is being maintained by the federal government, this ongoing registry of voters in the country. So municipalities can use that federal list.

[Page 3237]

We in the province cannot do that because the kind of legislation that we adopted and passed in this House before giving municipalities permission to do that so they do not have to do enumerations every year, we have not, even though the Premier has said that he was interested in studying that matter when I asked him that in Question Period quite some time ago, we have not introduced similar kinds of amendments in here to our own Elections Act. Our definitions of who has the right to vote are also different so we cannot do that.

[5:00 p.m.]

There are a number of other things that I will just touch on. One that I could be talking on for countless hours on this bill. Could you tell me how much time I have left approximately?

MR. SPEAKER: By all means. You can go until 5:13 p.m., you have another 12 minutes remaining.

MR. HOLM: That is not enough time to say what I want to but I have got to say this, even though some of his comments were misguided, I was encouraged to see that the Minister of Labour did get on the floor of the House the other day to take part in the debate. I encourage that and a few minutes ago I heard the member for Cape Breton Nova commenting about the amount of time that I had left and I took it from his comments that he was pining away, he is just so anxious to get to his feet rather than heckling from the lofts as he is used to doing to actually participating and providing some intelligent contribution to this debate. So I look forward to that.

One of the areas that I want to touch on, one of many, but I want to turn briefly to the clause dealing with future amalgamations. Part XVII beginning on Page 156, MUNICIPAL INCORPORATION. I want to say to the minister that surely to Heavens this government has learned something from having followed the advice of the former Tory Government when they were in power, dealing with amalgamation. The former Progressive Conservative Government had talked about ways to do amalgamations and they had brought forward the proposal for the amalgamation of metro with the use of a commissioner process.

That same process, of course, was followed in Cape Breton and we have seen the consequences of that. We have seen how the cost overruns have left both new municipalities bearing many millions of dollars in debt. You have also seen the anger of the citizens in those municipalities that they were not afforded an opportunity to be part of the process. In truth, in fairness, the amalgamation that took place in Queens County between Queens and Liverpool came from those communities, they recommended it. Here in metro in Halifax Regional Municipality and in Cape Breton Regional Municipality the residents did not.

[Page 3238]

This proposal under Municipal Incorporation, Clause 373 (1), "The Minister may, if requested by a majority of the councils of the municipalities in a county, undertake a study of the form of municipal government in the county to determine whether a regional municipality would be in the interests of the people of the county. (2) Where . . .," and so on. So the minister has the ability to see that a study is being done and then the minister can, by order, establish that a regional municipality is going to be created and really appoint a commissioner.

This is slightly different, I acknowledge that from what was done with Halifax Regional Municipal and Cape Breton Regional Municipality in that the powers of the commissioner will end earlier than they did here. Where are the citizens involved in any of this? Where do the citizens have a say, yes or no they do or they do not want to have an incorporation take place? Where are they involved and being respected, saying, now look, here is the request, here is the information, here are the financial details, here are the pluses, here are the minuses, you decide. Where is that respect? It is not here.

I have trouble, I have major difficulties with a provision which gives the minister, even if he is asked by a majority - that is, not all of councils - to say that they want to have this reviewed. The citizens surely should have a right to have a say in what form of government they are going to have representing them. Surely the citizens should have a right to have access to the financial and other bits of information that are going to be so crucial for that. Under this, they can say what the municipality is going to be called, they can say the county for which the regional municipality is established, they can set the incorporation date, they can hire the chief administrator and officers, who will then hire the others, who will be the people who are in place after a council has been elected.

Mr. Speaker, to me, in order for something - and maybe I am all wet . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear.

MR. HOLM: It wouldn't be the first time. I know that the member for Cape Breton Nova doesn't try to butter me up, because he knows he has to butter up the Premier, because the Premier is the only one who can put him in Cabinet, and he is trying awfully hard to get there.

What is more important is to respect the citizenry of this province and respect their intelligence and give them a say in those issues that are of vital importance to them, where they live. That is common courtesy; it is common sense. You do that. You treat the citizens with respect, you provide them the information, and you would be amazed at how wise the decisions they make will be. It means being open, it means being inclusive, it means letting go of your control or your authority, share with the people who it is supposed to serve.

[Page 3239]

Mr. Speaker, the Governor in Council shall appoint a person to be the coordinator of the regional municipality. The Governor in Council. Where are the elected representatives in all of this? Who is to say who the Governor in Council is going to pick? It is going to be somebody who is going to be following whatever it is the Governor in Council, in other words, Cabinet, the bunker crew, want them to do. They are setting the directions, they are setting the guidelines, they are setting the parameters, not the people who are living in those municipalities that could end up being incorporated.

I think that the citizenry, through their representatives, should be actively involved in that whole process. I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that the Minister of Municipal Affairs, being the wise gentleman that he is, will have learned from the mistakes that were made by his predecessors who, mistakenly, followed the advice that was given by the former Progressive Conservative Government. As a defence for having done what your government did, you said, well, it was your study, when the Progressive Conservatives had brought forward that, so I am sure you wouldn't want to repeat that mistake again.

The coordinator is responsible for designing and implementing the administrative structure for the regional municipality, and the administrative structure is something that is going to be there for years to come, that the elected representatives who are going to come after the handpicked coordinator appointed by Cabinet is long gone. If the coordinator fouls up, he doesn't live with the problems - or she doesn't live with the problems - it is going to be the elected council and the citizens of that area who have no say in setting that up.

AN HON. MEMBER: Where's Bill Hayward, John?

MR. HOLM: I don't know where Mr. Hayward is. I have no idea. He is not running city council now. He is not the one who is faced with, what is the deficit here?

AN HON. MEMBER: It's $24 million.

MR. HOLM: It's $24 million and growing, and how much of that is as a result of the shotgun marriage that had taken place, that was done so hastily without proper planning? (Interruption) The Minister of Community Services, the member for Bedford-Fall River says I am not on the bill, well, this may be a sensitive area to discuss for somebody from Bedford. The reality is, it is on the bill because one has to draw from experience when one is talking about these kinds of things.

The coordinator shall have all of the powers of the council and the board of the police commissioners and so on, unelected representative. The principles of what are being included in those clauses are something which I have a great deal of difficulty with and I am sure that the members from around this province would not want to have the same kind of autocratic top-down decisions being imposed upon them, as was imposed. Why is it that the councils, those who may wish to be involved, have amalgamations after consultation and support from

[Page 3240]

the citizens, why would they not be involved in helping to pick a coordinator? Why would they not be involved, not only in picking the coordinator to do studies, but laying out the parameters and terms of reference of whatever studies are going to be done? Why would you not have an election being conducted and those newly-elected representatives be involved in helping to set up that administrative structure, maybe with the assistance of a coordinator, but also involved in the hiring process of those who are going to be the ongoing senior administrators?

I think that I hear members opposite saying that they wish me to have more time. I want to say, Mr. Speaker, that the time has gone very quickly. I want to say to the members opposite that you have a responsibility and it is one that you are going to be held accountable for. It is to ensure that this bill gets a full consideration and that it is going to have the opportunity to be concluded before this whole episode this fall is going to come to an end.

The minister, I know, listened very carefully to my comments in that regard, in saying what I was going to do at the start of the debate, Mr. Speaker, and those who were absent at that particular time I would invite them to read Hansard so that they too can be edified and know what I told the House about at the beginning of my remarks. Thank you.

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

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I rise to make a few comments on the Municipal Government Bill that is before us, and following on the rather succinct comments of the member for Sackville-Cobequid. I, too, like the Premier and the Leader of the Official Opposition and others from this House, had an opportunity to visit Yarmouth at the annual meeting of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, and had an opportunity to get some of the flavour of municipal government in this province. My father was a municipal councillor in this province in the Town of New Glasgow for some 12 years and my mother and father made the annual trek to the UNSM and always totally enjoyed themselves.

I believe that the bill is a reflection of what we all understand, that the grass-roots representation in this province is at the municipal level. I think we must reflect back that the earliest democracies were the city democracies in Greece, not state democracies, not country democracies, but city democracies. Democracy itself, I believe, comes from a Greek word. The member for Cape Breton Nova, I am sure, could rise to the occasion and give us the word.

It is important that we reflect as we bring this bill through the House that what we are attempting to do is strengthen municipal government, not to hobble it, not to weaken it, not to any way impair its ability to represent at the very grass-roots level the people of this province.

[Page 3241]

[5:15 p.m.]

It is a comprehensive overhaul of existing legislation and is the result of some four years of work and consultation, beginning in 1994, and does cover a wide range of issues. Therein lies the difficulty in giving a blanket approval to the bill, because, obviously, like any complex bill before it comes before third reading and passes third reading, making the assumption that that will be its ultimate fate, there will be some changes, changes by, I am sure, the minister from the government side, changes as the result of the Law Amendments Committee and, I presume, changes as a result of amendments that are brought forward by ourselves and by the members of the Official Opposition.

I believe, in municipal circles, there is an appreciation that this bill is finally winding its way through the halls of this Assembly and is well on its way to taking its place with other Statutes that we have in this province. There are some good changes. I believe that the changes are a reflection of the consultation process that has gone on and I believe that highlights the importance of consultation, something for which this government has not received a lot of stellar comment over the last five and one-half years. But on this particular issue, I believe that they have done their homework. There will be some changes that will be necessary.

I like the part that says there is going to be a limit on in camera meetings. The cynicism that is out there in terms of secret decisions, the backroom dealing and the inability of people to understand what it is that is going on in terms of decision-making by those that they have elected to make those decisions for them; the people's right to know is overwhelming and must be served. I believe that having public debate to deal with decisions, the voting and the expenditure of public funds is what the public in Nova Scotia are asking for and I believe it is right.

We are looking at the exclusions and I think that is very important because if we are not careful, if we are not specific, then, in fact, the exclusion list will get longer and longer. So specificity, I think, is strength; specificity about land deals, specificity about the minimum price on a tax sale or personnel issues or labour relations or contract negotiations and legal matters and issues of public security. I believe that this, along with not allowing elected officials to hide their vote - voting in public, so that the public official stands up and proclaims to all that have been responsible for that person achieving that office knowing the decision that that person has made on their behalf - therein lies strengthening the democracy that exists in the grass roots of this province at the municipal level.

So that is a part of the legislation that I believe will have a great deal of support, support by voters, by taxpayers, by those who are interested not in merely turning over the business of government and then forgetting about it, but wanting to understand what happens each and every step along the way and determining that, in fact, fairness is part of the process.

[Page 3242]

Elections every four years. Well, I am not sure we are going to be able to achieve that in the province in the near future. When I look at what there is to learn when you are elected for the first time into public office, and that was the experience that I had in 1993, not having a personal municipal background, it does take a little bit of time to become effective and one would say maybe more time than I have been around yet. But, on the other hand, looking at extending the length of time between municipal elections, I believe, is a positive step. It allows the rookies the opportunity to participate in their first session, particularly towards the end of it, very effectively in their mandate. So I believe that as well as being a cost-saving measure, it will provide a little more stability into the municipal scene.

Now this bill does do something that has been long overdue. It starts to bring a little more accountability into the municipal election scene. We are talking about disclosure of contributions over $50, and that is long overdue. All of us were dismayed at the reported numbers that were being rumoured to have been spent by those who were seeking the number one job here in the Halifax Regional Municipality and the mere fact that never ever will we know how much was spent by the various mayoralty contestants in getting their jobs.

Disclosure is very important because I think the public has a right to know who has contributed to a campaign because over the next four years that person will be making decisions on behalf of the residents and it must be clear and very distinctly shown that those decisions are made without any particular partiality.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid brought up an important point, that is limits on spending in municipal elections. For some reason that got missed. There is a limit to spending in provincial elections that each of us must adhere to. I believe it is the right thing to do. If it is the right thing for us to do, is it not the right thing for those seeking election to municipal offices, is it not right for them as well? It certainly is. I would look to strengthening this bill by establishing a formula which determines the amount of spending that anyone running in this province for municipal office must adhere to.

There is an issue that I call the 12 months' notice before downloading. Now we went through quite an exercise here in 1994 called service exchange. Service exchange was going to be the panacea, it was to be the solution of all the problems we have here between the provincial government and the municipal government. After service exchange there was going to be peace declared between municipal governments and the provincial government, a peace that, in fact, proved to be as unstable as some of the other peace efforts presently going on around the world today.

No sooner had service exchange finished when, by way of letter, the downloading continued, more and more downloading on the municipal governments, as the provincial government sought to solve its problems by simply passing them along to a municipal government and suggesting to the people of Nova Scotia that they have done them a great favour when, in fact, it was no favour at all. All it did was raise the hackles of those in

[Page 3243]

municipal government, making it almost impossible for them to do effective municipal planning, making it impossible for them to do controlled budgeting, making it impossible for them to do the job which we expect them to do.

Twelve months' notice before downloading has to be an improvement over what we have now but it does not come anywhere close, not within a country mile, of solving the problem that exists in this province between the provincial government and municipal governments.

Service exchange was an abysmal failure. As a matter of fact, in this fiscal year we are in the final stage of the transition period when municipal governments are making the final adjustments that were begun with service exchange back in 1994.

It has been a hard road for many of those municipal governments, a hard road for one of the municipal governments in my area, one of those municipal governments that has struggled each and every year as it dealt with an adjustment that was negative to their budgeting and made it extremely difficult for them to do what is required of them and that is to balance the books.

We have to stabilize the situation between provincial and municipal governments in this province. We have to come up with some kind of a formula and whether we call it a municipal charter, or a similar piece of legislation that more completely enshrines the concept of municipal government in this province, then we are leaving ourselves open for warfare in the years to come.

In this country - unlike in Greece, which established the state democracies - by way of the British North America Act, the Canada Act, the Constitution Act and our Charter of Rights, we have enshrined two levels of government, the central federal government and our provincial government. That is very important because this province was an entity onto itself before Confederation. In fact, it was an entity onto itself for, I have forgotten how many years - from 1848 to 1867 we were in this province an entity onto ourselves with responsible government as a result of the election of 1847. My memory is starting to come back.

But to join this country and to become a full participant in the Canadian federation, we gave up some of our autonomy. That was a correct decision, not a popular decision at the time but in the long term it has proven to be the correct decision. Through the British North America Act and the agreements that were signed between the participating provinces, all rights were enshrined and those rights we will protect forever and a day. That agreement did not make any provision for municipal governments. Those provisions had to come from this particular place of doing business and we have a responsibility to strengthen the framework under which municipal governments operate in this province, not to relinquish power but to allow them an opportunity to better do what we expect of them and that is to provide that close, grass-roots kind of representation that those of us who are provincial representatives

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cannot give. Unfortunately, this particular piece of legislation does not address this particular concept in any way, shape or form.

One of the things that it does address is the flexibility in electing the senior elected official, whether it be a warden or a mayor, whether it is a warden elected in council or a mayor elected at large. This is a decision that can be made at the local level and I believe it is the right way to go. You will gradually see, I believe, a change in approach across the province by those municipalities who do not to this point have the opportunity to elect their senior official at large.

The bill makes requirements of fire departments to register their services and be registered themselves. That opens an opportunity to say something about fire departments. I have said before and I will say it again today, the single best value we get for the money as citizens of this province is fire service. Because of the sacrifice and the volunteerism of fire departments we have a fire service in this province that allows us to sleep nights. It is a fire service that in a relative sense costs us very little.

[5:30 p.m.]

Can you imagine what it would cost this province if, in fact, we had across this province fully paid non-volunteer, full-time fire departments? What a load that would be on the shoulders of the taxpayers. Thanks to fire departments across this province raising money for their equipment, volunteering their time, keeping up with the expertise that is developing in terms of fire prevention and fire control, we are getting a service that is costing us, in a relative sense, very little. We must continue to be supportive of all of those things that allow and encourage our fire departments to keep up that good work and to enhance the spirit of volunteerism that allows these fire departments to be such a valuable part of so many communities right across this province.

Would it not be great if there was a clause in this legislation that did indicate that municipalities would come under the jurisdiction of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act? It's something that I believe has got to happen, the same way as regional health boards should come under that particular piece of legislation. I would hope that before we wind down here, the government will bring forward some strengthening legislation for the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act that will, in fact, broaden the application of the Act and improve the ability of the freedom of information officer to, in fact, get information out to the public that is in the public's interest.

There is another very interesting clause in this legislation. What it says is that municipalities can control the use of pesticides but they cannot eliminate the use of pesticides. I think as legislators we have to give this long and serious thought. We are not talking about the use of pesticides in rural areas and agricultural areas and we are not talking about it in the forests. It is interesting because I always call a pesticide something that is used to kill insects.

[Page 3245]

But in this regard, pesticide also covers herbicides which I will leave it to others that are stronger in the meaning of words than I am. I understand when we talk about pesticides we talk about herbicides as well. I have always used the terms distinctly and, really, I do not consider a herbicide a pesticide but on the other hand for the purposes of this discussion, I will fall into line and we will be including both.

I think we have to ask ourselves, what would be wrong with saying to a municipality, if they wish to have a by-law about controlling this why should they not have it. Why is this bill so specific on this issue? It raises a question that I cannot answer and I would hope some day the minister would answer it when he is discussing the bill with us. This is a health issue and there are so many health issues in this province that we fail to address. We fail to address tobacco issues. We fail to address gambling issues. We fail to address alcohol and hard drug issues. We fail to address healthy lifestyles in any meaningful way. But this is a health issue for some. For most of us it is not a health issue, at least we hope not.

I look at the endorsements of doing something about the issue of pesticides. We have a statement from the then president of the Medical Society of Nova Scotia; The Medical Society of Nova Scotia encourages the development and use of alternatives to chemical landscape pesticides. We are pleased to support efforts to reduce the use of pesticides in the Halifax Regional Municipality. That is a statement from organized medicine.

A statement from the IWK-Grace Health Centre was that the scientific literature is sufficiently clear to warrant a prudent and cautious approach to the use of pesticides in urban centres. The warning signs are out there, the flags are out there. There is a letter here from a physician who has been practising in this province a great number of years, a physician for whom I have the utmost respect, Dr. Paul Landrigan, a consultant in internal medicine and chest diseases. He said he would like to add his support to the efforts to reduce the widespread use of pesticides, and would encourage the search and use of ecological alternatives to these pesticides. There is a man who over the course of a career of many decades saw so many Nova Scotians with respiratory disease.

We have the Canadian Cancer Society saying that ultimately a restriction in the use of residential pesticides may help prevent illness in the Halifax Regional Municipality. Well, I think it is not a long leap to suggest that if it will help in Halifax, maybe some other municipality would make that same kind of determination. I think we should treat these statements with some degree of seriousness.

The Lung Association of Nova Scotia, in a letter to His Worship, the Mayor of Halifax, asked him to consider lending his support of municipal legislation which would severely restrict or ban the use of specific chemical entities used as landscape pesticides in our densely populated metropolitan area. Well, this particular legislation as it is now written would prevent the mayor from doing exactly what the Lung Association would have him do. It

[Page 3246]

would look as if the bill needs some further examination. It does need some further examination.

There is another issue besides pesticides that it really doesn't effectively address. I am talking about the forced amalgamations in Cape Breton and here in metro. Now these are amalgamations with warts. I have spoken in favour of amalgamation, and I don't back away, but the process was terrible. The process was terrible, and it was initiated by a Premier that, I am afraid to say, should have known better. He had a long involvement in municipal politics. Yet, when it came time, we had amalgamation by a hammer.

Look how much better it was down in Lunenburg and Queens, and I certainly compliment the sitting member for Queens who was part and parcel of that process. That rural municipality and the Town of Liverpool got together over a period of 18 months and they made a determination that together we are stronger, and they worked on it and they came together. Lo and behold, when they came together, they were stronger, and it was cheaper for the taxpayer. There were savings. What a difference in the approach of that kind of amalgamation. What a difference in the outcome of that kind of amalgamation, than we have here in HRM or CBRM.

The idea of looking at amalgamation, something that this bill doesn't really do, is not to destroy what is good, it is to strengthen what is good. It is to revisit and redesign the model, to make it better, to give those who had no voice an opportunity to voice what they think would make this a better municipality. It will allow those within this municipality to better express individual municipal identity within the umbrella of a municipal government, to allow those who are on the periphery an opportunity to have a choice. Do we want to be a city or do we want to be part of a more rural kind of municipality? A choice that was not given to them by either commissioner, either in Cape Breton or in Halifax.

I believe that until we do that, we are going to have municipal government racked with indecision, racked with parochialism, and racked with increased cost. Let's make it better and let's make it better because it is our responsibility to make it better. It was the provincial government that created the municipalities with warts. Can we not apply a little wart remover?

A lot has been said about the Municipal Government Bill and most of it has been complimentary and I believe we can pay a little tribute to the minister and his predecessors who participated in this. But like so many things in life, it is a long way from perfect and it can stand some improvement. I would hope that the government would be an agent in improvement and not fight improvements as we take this bill to the various processes of the House. The bill is the right idea. I believe the municipal elected officials in this province largely support the bill, but I would expect that they will come forward with some significant amendments, that I would hope that the government would view with some degree of neutrality and we, ourselves, will be bringing forward amendments, as well.

[Page 3247]

With those brief remarks, Mr. Speaker, I wish to take my place and allow others, if they so wish, to make some remarks on the same piece of legislation.

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity this evening to stand and speak on the Municipal Government Bill. This is an important piece of legislation and as a former member of the former City of Dartmouth council, the crown jewel of the East, that is what I used to like to call it. A beautiful municipality which was, of course, taken away, in some respects, by the amalgamation.

I remember only too well that I had been elected in October and before I was sworn in, the amalgamation Act came in. So my job was short-lived as a result of the hard work of many of the members opposite. They were able to put me out of that job and, certainly, I was pleased with the opportunity to at least return the favour, in part.

There is much in this bill that I want to touch on. I want to begin, I guess, first with a look at one particular part, which is not crucial to all of the other material in this bill, but it is a little something that was placed in the original amalgamation Act, which was of interest to me because what it did - I am referring to Section 14(3) - was provide for the members of the council, while in office, to have the ability to administer oaths and take and receive affidavits. This was a simple enough piece of legislation that was incorporated in the Act at the time and I thought, this is a good idea. This is a good idea because in many rural parts of communities, especially in a large community like the Halifax Regional Municipality many times it is the councilor who is called upon to go out and to swear affidavits or to help with the construction of deeds and to carry out a function in a community where people may not have access to a lawyer or access to a notary public. So this was a good idea.

[5:45 p.m.]

Now the problem with it was when it came to actually exercising this, there was no mechanism whereby the individual who was elected to council could actually get a commission. In fact, when members of the regional municipality asked for a commission, they were told they could not have one. It is in the Act, but there is no mechanism for actually making it happen.

Now the Notaries and Commissioners Act has a section in it which is almost identical to Clause 14(3). I am sure the intention of this bill is to do what the Notaries and Commissioners Act does. It would be simpler if they would put a clause in the bill that would allow for the municipal councillor to receive a commission under the Notaries and Commissioners Act that would last for as long as they were a member of council.

[Page 3248]

This makes good sense. I would recommend this to the members opposite. It allows them to get on with doing their job and, not only that, it allows them to get the necessary paraphernalia that goes along with doing that job. They get a seal or a stamp and they can use that whenever they are preparing these documents, and people who receive the document will know, they will look at it and say this person is a Commissioner of Oaths, they are entitled, under the legislation in Nova Scotia, to carry out this function. The way this operates now, that does not happen; that is an unfortunate thing.

Now the municipal amalgamation was really an attempt to even out the playing field. This bill is an attempt to take what happened in amalgamation and to try and make some sense out of it and, Lord knows, we had a hard enough time that time to try to make some sense out of what was happening. We were told, in good time, in the fullness of time the benefits of amalgamation will be known to everyone. There will be cost savings, people will be better off, the municipality will be better off, it will be more cost-effective, and that will happen in the fullness of time.

Well, Mr. Speaker, it has been said that time is the isthmus between two eternities, and that is thus and so today. It is, in fact, the isthmus between two eternities and I don't believe that this is going to go to any measure to fix the systemic problems that exist within the regional municipality. It has turned out to be more expensive, it has turned out to not be as efficient, and certainly not as close to the people as the smaller municipalities were previously.

I want to turn briefly to Clause 22. I listened very carefully when the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party talked about this particular clause. He said that specificity is good, you should talk specifically about what is going to be allowed to be discussed in an in camera setting. I believe he said this is about the public's right to know. I want to say that I agree with that, I agree that the public has a right to know what their elected officials are doing.

The real issue here is not so much about the list of things that can be discussed in camera, because I could say that I would add another thing to this list. I would add intergovernmental affairs, which is not contained in that list and may not be covered by the existing list. Oftentimes these are negotiations, much like labour negotiations. So I think everybody may have their own list.

The real point - and I am sure the minister understands this - is transparency. What people want to be assured of is that their municipal officials, like their provincial and federal officials, are operating in a way they can understand, and they can see the reasoning. They may not agree with it but at least they know there is a debate taking place.

So one of the things that could happen with these kinds of meetings is there could be a provision which would allow, after the issue is resolved - after the matter is no longer the subject of a labour negotiation or after a piece of land has been sold - that those minutes from

[Page 3249]

that meeting could be released. They are no longer subject to the other ills. At that point they won't affect the price that would be gotten for the land or the ultimate agreement that will be negotiated collectively.

If you really want to achieve transparency, one of the ways to do that is to insist that the municipality, after the issue has been resolved, releases the minutes. This takes away the temptation of individuals to use the forum of in camera meetings to be able to discuss things that they will find some tie to one of these specific things, but really what they are doing, and I would not say this is done often in the House, but people get off the track when they are supposed to be talking about municipal governance and the next thing you know, they are talking about the amalgamation bill that passed four years ago.

This can happen. They can use this forum to really discuss things or to make points with their colleagues which are not relevant to what they are supposed to be discussing or what is on the list of specific items. This is a question of transparency. I would recommend to the minister that he take the opportunity to think about that for a while and to understand that what people want to do, is they want to know what it was that was discussed. Even if they find out about it after the matter has become moot, they can at least take some consolation in the fact that they can go back and review the submissions that were made by the individuals at the time that the issue was discussed. It is an easy thing to do. It is certainly consistent with the notion of the full release of information to the public. I think that is one of the things that we could do to help make this bill a better bill.

There is a provision here which allows the chief administrative officer of a municipality governed by this bill, where council provides by policy to settle a legal action, proceeding in accordance with the policy. Now, in reality this can only happen one way. This can only happen where it is below the deductible limit of the policy of the municipality, because other than that what happens is that the municipality's insurer takes ownership of the defence and they decide when and if that action will be concluded.

AN HON. MEMBER: Some are self-insurers.

MR. DEXTER: In some cases, I suppose, they are self-insurers.

I want to talk just briefly about the engineer of the municipality as is set out in this bill and not so much about the specifics of having a city engineer. Of course, that is a necessary part of every municipal government. In fact, in Dartmouth, over many years we had a very competent city engineer who took a great interest in his job and it was part of one of the features of that municipality that people could call the city engineer and he would actually come out to their house. How many municipalities could, on a Friday afternoon, call the city engineer and have them come up and look at part of the municipal works? But that happened. That happened often in Dartmouth and it was something that people appreciated.

[Page 3250]

In this case, the engineer has the right to make certain directions. They can direct that an action be taken. Specifically, I want to come back to an issue that has a certain amount of concern for me because I have seen this happen in the past and I am not sure it is necessarily a good thing. The engineer will come in and they will decide, for example, to put in a sewer, which everybody wants. Do people want sewers? No question, sanitary sewers. But they put them in and then the cost of the laterals is then the cost to the homeowner.

Now, I know that this happened, and I know that my colleague, the member for Queens, knows that this happened in the Municipality of the County of Queens where a sewer was put in in a community where the majority of the individuals living along that way were seniors. The cost of the installation of the sewer laterals was extremely expensive. I know that in one instance there was a public meeting where this was being discussed and many of the seniors were very upset. I was not there, but I was given to understand that several of them broke down and were actually crying, not knowing where they were going to be able to come up with the money to be able to pay this. Some of those houses are extremely difficult to get access to. So what happens is that these people do not have the financial wherewithal to respond to an order that is made by the engineer. Well, that is the kind of thing that we have to deal with carefully. The absolute power for the engineer to make a direction and in some cases that I know of, as the dateline drew closer for the installation of these sewer laterals letters came out to these seniors that said, if you do not have your sewer lateral installed by December 31st legal action will be taken, it is an offence.

These people were genuinely upset by what they saw as an imposition. Some of them, by way of example, had installed new septic fields, these were going to be useless, there was not going to be any compensation for the work that they had done, in some cases, just a few years earlier. So the work of the engineer is an important part of what the municipality does. I just raise this so that the minister understands that any absolute power prevents the engineer or perhaps the public from having a recourse and that is not necessarily a good thing.

I wanted to move onto Clause 49 (1)(c)(iv) and I wanted to talk about this a little bit because I noticed in here that, "The council may make policies (c) setting and amending the fees to be paid (iv) for and expenses charged for the impoundment of animals;", and there is a whole number of sections in here around the impoundment of animals. There is a definition of a dog, a definition of an owner that says, anybody who owns a dog or has a dog or harbours a dog (Interruptions) They do describe the dog.

AN HON. MEMBER: He is a hound for punishment.

MR. DEXTER: Well, you will have to look it up but it is a detailed explanation of what a dog is. This is good, we have to have an encompassing Act but what I want to say about this is it is important that we not just be narrow in this because regulations with respect to animals, we see more and more animals coming into urban areas. We see reports in the papers where boa constrictors get left out to wander through apartment buildings.

[Page 3251]

MR. SPEAKER: Can I interrupt the honourable member. The time is 5:58 p.m., perhaps you would like to adjourn the debate at this time so that we can get on with finding out what the Opposition has in store for the House tomorrow?

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, thank you and on your advice I will ask for an adjournment of this debate this evening.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn the debate on Bill No. 47.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow is Opposition Day and I will defer to the Opposition House Leader.

MR. SPEAKER: The Opposition House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow we will be dealing with a number of pieces of legislation. We will be calling Bill No. 39, Bill No. 42 and if time permits, Bill No. 46. The hours will be from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Mr. Speaker, I would move that the House do now rise to meet again tomorrow at the hour of 2:00 p.m.

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

The motion is carried.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I must draw to the attention of the honourable members the fact that we have now reached the moment of interruption. I will ask members when they are leaving the House to please do so as quietly as possible. The draw was won by the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid and the member for Halifax Needham will be leading the debate and wishes to debate the matter:

"Therefore be it resolved that the Government honour its commitment of wage parity between long-term care and hospital workers.".

[Page 3252]

[6:00 p.m.]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - LONG-TERM CARE WORKERS: COMMITMENT - HONOUR

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, we have an increasingly serious situation this evening in nursing homes around Nova Scotia. It gives me absolutely no pleasure whatsoever to have to stand here this evening and speak to this situation, one that I know has upset, and has shaken to the absolute core of their very being, nursing home workers who are out on the sidewalks in my constituency in the north end of Halifax, workers who are on the sidewalks in Cape Breton where two nursing homes are on strike, family members who are in the process of arranging to care for family members who are inside nursing homes, as well as operators and non-unionized workers and volunteers who, as we speak, no doubt are doing their absolute best to hold things together, to be reassuring and caring in the face of what is a serious situation and one that we should not be in tonight because this government was fully aware of what was developing and was absolutely negligent in their responsibilities in terms of preventing the situation that people in this province find themselves in tonight.

Mr. Speaker, we heard the Premier say today in this Legislature that his government never made a commitment for wage parity between long-term care workers and hospital workers. They never made that commitment around nurses. The only commitment he ever made, he said, was he made a commitment to be fair. Well, I would like to explore this idea of fairness and I would like to explore, particularly, this government's idea of fairness and the Premier's idea of fairness. I would like to go back to a transcript I have here, which I would be happy to table, on March 19, 1998, just a few days before the election that changed the political face of this province, and I would like to read from this transcript.

Interview on CBC radio, the Morning Program, this transcript indicates that Premier Russell MacLellan phoned CBC News this morning to say that he had personally intervened in the negotiation with nurses. To quote the Premier, "Yes I did. I asked the provincial people to go back to the bargaining table and through the provincial people, the Regional Health Boards and I said I wanted a fair deal for the nurses and I wanted all nurses in Nova Scotia treated the same.".

The timing of this particular intervention by the Premier would have to make one somewhat cynical, I would suggest, because the nurses in this province would have been in

[Page 3253]

a legal strike position on the very day of the election. Yet the Premier claimed his intervention had nothing to do with the election. Can you believe that, Mr. Speaker? (Interruptions)

Moreover in the Daily News later on, the Premier is quoted as saying he always wanted all nurses in the province to receive equal pay and he was glad they achieved that goal. He said, "We've got it covered; we've been able to put some funds aside in anticipation of this. So, it won't affect us as far as a balanced budget is concerned - we're going to be able to do it,". He said, ". . . that all along . . .", all he ever wanted was, ". . . nurses in the province to be treated with 'fairness, equity and parity.'". He said, "'We came forward with our best offer, right off the bat - we didn't try to work up to it.'". No, we said, this is what we are going to offer you.

Mr. Speaker, I don't understand, if that is the Premier's perception, his definition of fairness and how you deal with the nurses, what has changed. This isn't the approach that is being used with the women and men in the long-term care sector whatsoever. This is not the process that is being used at all.

I also have a letter here from a nursing home to the Premier, written in July of this year. In it, the administrators of this nursing home, the chairman of the board, make some excellent points, and I would be happy to table this as well. He says, "If it was fair to freeze the wages of all our employees, then is it not right and fair, when that freeze ends, to give all employees the same rate of increase across Nova Scotia.". The Minister of Labour should stay and maybe we could get into a discussion about (Interruption) I am sorry. I couldn't resist it. I was just thinking about what happened to the (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Inappropriate.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: I apologize Mr. Speaker. I was simply thinking about what happened to the last Minister of Labour I had an opportunity to talk to.

So, "If it was fair to freeze the wages of all our employees, then is it not right and fair when the freeze ends, to give all employees the same rate of increase across Nova Scotia.". We must remember that they too are Nova Scotians being paid partly by the taxpayers of Nova Scotia. They wonder why they are being singled out and treated differently.". That is my question, why is it that this group of workers in the health care system, in an extremely important part of our health care system, is being singled out and treated differently, and treated in a way that has put them out on the sidewalks, that has put stress on families and residents in long-term care facilities?

AN HON. MEMBER: There is no election.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Well, there is no election. Well, perhaps that is the problem here. This morning, I had an opportunity to go and spend some time speaking to the

[Page 3254]

many workers who were out on the picket line at Northwood Manor. Many of these workers were absolutely heartbroken to be out there on the sidewalk. To a person, as I spoke to these workers, they talked about the people inside, and how they wondered what was happening.

Did they know how difficult it was for them to make the choice to not go to work yesterday? Did they know how hard it was for them to walk away from what they have been doing with great dedication? Did they understand that this was one of the hardest choices that they have had to make as health care workers, probably ever? It was absolutely heart-wrenching to talk to many of these workers and realize that they had been confronted with their own interests (Interruption) Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I rise in my place to enter tonight's adjournment debate on long-term care. I would like to point out first, in my remarks, that this long-term care sector is different than we think of as our hospitals, with the long-term care being a mixture of private, non-profit and all the other types of homes that we have. It is very complex and it has been a system that has grown over the years through various support from municipal governments, provincial and federal governments. (Interruption)

Private partnering, some member says. This government is very much committed to addressing the issues and concerns of this province's long-term care sector. We are very concerned about the impact of lengthy strike will have on nursing home residents. Mr. Speaker, as was made evident by the questions put to me and the Premier during this afternoon's Question Period, the honourable members opposite are taking full advantage of this strike situation to further their political agenda. They are clearly being irresponsible by using the difficult labour situation to satisfy their own agenda, not that of the workers.

Mr. Speaker, the honourable members opposite accuse this government of not being fair to workers. I put this question to them. Are you, in fact, being fair to the dedicated workers of this province's nursing homes? You are in the House and accuse us of not being fair. Let's talk about fairness. Workers in the long-term sector have been offered a fair wage package. Their union executive accepted that. The unions have been offered increases of up to 19 per cent for some of their employees. For others, wage increases would at least equal those given to other public sector employees.

Mr. Speaker, on the issue of parity. Achieving parity within the long-term care sector itself appears to be a fair and a reasonable objective. However, it is not without a price. Using the Northwood contract that was rejected, as a model, parity within the long-term care sector would cost $84 million over four years. It is a lot of money. Still, it might be affordable. I hope it is. However, achieving parity with the acute-care sector looks to be out of the question at this juncture. It would cost taxpayers $140 million over four years. That is money that we just don't have.

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The honourable members opposite want a balanced budget and they turned around and accused us of not paying workers fairly. What do they want? Where in the health budget is the money going to come from? Do they want us to reduce hospital budgets, close beds, eliminate programs? Which other sector of the health care system do they want us to reduce funding to? I have said, time and time again in the House, that long-term care in Nova Scotia has been long-time neglected. We are in the position to make up for a lot of mistakes made by others. They did not leave us with an easy task, Mr. Speaker. Yet, it is a task that we are committed to face head-on.

Mr. Speaker, this government has already significantly increased spending in the long-term care sector. The budget for long-term care this year is $133.2 million. That is an increase of $21 million from last year and a 27 per cent increase in funding over the past two years. In the three fiscal years ending March 31, 1998, the equivalent of 400 new full-time jobs were approved for the 70 long-term care homes in this province. We will build on this progress in this fiscal year. These numbers alone demonstrate our commitment to long-term care in Nova Scotia.

We are also bringing more beds to long-term care. Planning has started for the addition of 170 new long-term care beds announced by the Premier. We have identified a bed shortage in long-term care and are taking the necessary steps to rectify the problem. This government wants to ensure services, quality services are in place to provide the care that seniors in Nova Scotia need and that they deserve. Our focus on the long-term care sector is increasing. We are making every effort to address sector issues. We are working to ensure seniors have easy access to quality services, regardless of where they live in this province. Their families must know that they are not alone.

[6:15 p.m.]

In closing, I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the men and women of this province working in the long-term-care field. Negotiations are not easy for anyone. It is a challenging time for the employer, the employees and their families, and the residents and their families and, yes, for the government. Nursing home operators have contingency plans to operate their facilities in a strike. As a responsible government department, we are closely monitoring the nursing homes on strike and are responding when health care problems involving residents are reported.

I appreciate the workers' position, and I also understand the stress felt by the residents of those homes and their families. These are issues that have to be settled at the bargaining table. The Minister of Labour announced today that he is appointing a mediator to help bring about a settlement, and I would urge both sides in this dispute to work together in a constructive and conscientious manner in order to find a solution that is satisfactory to all. I thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 3256]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, the minister opened his remarks by saying there is a substantial difference between long-term care in Nova Scotia and acute-term care in Nova Scotia. He is absolutely right, and nowhere is that difference more evident than in the different pay scales that are applied to those two sectors of health care. On that one fact alone the minister and I are agreed, but that is where the agreement ends.

Mr. Speaker, I have two long-term care homes in my constituency: the North Queens Nursing Home and Queens Manor. Through the 20 years I have been a member for that constituency, I have had the opportunity not only to come to know past residents and current residents in those wonderful facilities, but also to get to know the workers, many of whom were people that I taught as young students at the Liverpool Regional High School, so I have known them for a very long time.

These are people who are deeply dedicated to ensuring the best quality of life possible to those who now are resident in and making their homes in these homes for special care. These are men and women who, every day, not only give of their labour and of their skill to ensure that that quality of life is maintained, but they also give of their emotions and their hearts. These people who live in our homes for special care, who are the residents in them, in fact become part of the extended families of these workers, just as the workers, in fact, become part of the extended families of the residents themselves. It is more than a symbiotic relationship; there is more than a relationship of accident. It is a relationship that develops out of a sense of family, and most particularly, I think in our rural communities, the sense of family and community relationships that are developed there.

I have watched over the years the efforts of those who work in these homes for special care, whether they are LPNs or PCWs or registered nurses, whether they are in management or not, whether they are working as kitchen staff or in housekeeping, whether it is the dietitian or recreation director and so on, all of these people work very, very hard and are very, very dedicated.

I have also had the opportunity to measure up the kind of work they do and the stresses under which they work, as a lay person of course, with the very same kinds of jobs that are being done at Queens General Hospital, a very fine hospital we have to serve the people in our community. As in all small communities, people talk to each other. The workers in our nursing homes live in the communities and share the friendships of the people who work in our hospital. They share information about what they do at work and, of course, they share the information about what they get paid for their work. It has become abundantly clear to those who work in the long-term care sector that they are being left far behind their colleagues in the acute care sector.

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It is no stretch of the imagination to say that those on the lowest paid end in the long-term care sector are working often at or very near the poverty level, if one looks at the Statistics Canada statistic. That is not only unfair, it is absolutely unacceptable, Mr. Speaker. It is unacceptable that these men and women who strive so hard, so diligently, to work on behalf of the people to whom and for whom they are so gladly responsible, have to work for such meagre economic return. They, too, have families to support and they, too, very frequently find that the worry that they have in their personal lives as a consequence of insufficient remuneration causes them even greater difficulty as they approach some of the more difficult aspects of their day-to-day work in our nursing homes.

This is a matter of fairness to be sure. It is a matter of the workers in the nursing homes, no matter where they work in those nursing homes, wanting to have the opportunity to be paid the dollar value for the work that they give to their employers and, through their employers, to the residents of the homes. They are frustrated and they know that now only by taking the most extreme measures can they get this government to pay any attention to them.

What we are seeing today in Northwood is simply an example of what is yet to come if this government does not move and move quickly to ensure that those who are charged with the responsibility of negotiating contracts with the workers are given the opportunity to negotiate with those workers a plan over a reasonable period of time to develop a fair pay package, which will at least be comparable to that which is made available to workers in the same positions in the acute care sector of health care delivery. All they want is fairness and if that fairness is not forthcoming from this government, this government will have pushed those workers to the point where, province-wide, they will have no choice other than to walk out, as the workers in Northwood have done, to go on the picket line, either through rotating strikes or through a province-wide general strike.

There is not one person who knows anything about this sector who does not understand that if we face a province-wide strike as a consequence of the failure of this government to deal with this problem before it became urgent, there is no way that this province can cope with a strike of that nature and this province will suffer. The residents in the homes will suffer. Their families will suffer. The workers will suffer. The people in management will suffer. Our communities will suffer. Nova Scotia will by far be the worse for it and it will take us a very long time to overcome that.

The burden of proof does not lie with the workers. The burden of proof does not lie with management whose hands are tied by this government. The burden of proof does not lie with the Opposition, in spite of the fact that the minister has accused the Opposition of political grandstanding on this, an issue for which no political grandstanding would ever be acceptable to Nova Scotians. I say, on behalf of our Party and I think I can say on behalf of my friends in the NDP, that we do not, either Party, grandstand on this issue.

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The burden of proof lies with the government. It lies with the government to prove to the people of Nova Scotia that it is not sleepwalking towards a huge crisis, but rather that it is prepared to listen to the arguments, not put by us in here but put by the men and the women across this province who have a vital concern that this matter be resolved. Listen to them and give those who are at the negotiating table the tools to be able to negotiate an agreement which is acceptable to the general public, which is acceptable to the men and the women who work in the long-term care sector and which will demonstrate very clearly that we place real value on the work of those men and women, that we understand the value of their labour and that we understand that they are partners with us in caring for our mothers, our fathers, our aunts and our uncles, who are in their care 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and, thank goodness for it, in their gentle care, their caring care, in such a way that they are part of our family and we must never abandon those people who, in fact, are parts of our family because of the way they have given their love and their care to the members of our families who are resident in those homes.

I say to the government, the burden of proof is on you. Move, move now before we move into an absolute crisis in this province and demonstrate that we do care and that we can resolve this problem before it becomes a crisis which will spin out of control and create harm for many years to Nova Scotians and particularly to the residents in our homes and those who care for them through their diligent efforts as they work in those homes. Thank you.

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

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, there have been calls made for fairness in this matter and I support a call for fairness. I think one of the most fundamental and critical aspects of fairness is honesty. We have, in the area that I come from, a nursing home. I had a telephone call perhaps a year or so ago from a good friend of mine, asking if I would care to make a financial contribution to that particular nursing home, and I did. That experience illustrated to me that we are not dealing here with government-run institutions, as would be the case with hospitals. I think it is very important to strike this fairness that is called for, that we are honest about this situation and we admit that the long-term-care sector that we are dealing with is privately managed, privately owned, privately operated and that the facilities that are in question are funded by a mix of funding sources, not exclusively by government at all. One would have to examine the budgets of the individual facilities to identify to what extent government is a financial partner. I admit that it might be a significant financial partner, but there are none of them, in my view, that are totally funded by government. They are licensed by government. They have an obligation therefore to provide a certain level of coverage to those who are their clients.

I think that it is most important that we recognize the realities that are involved here, that we are dealing with private sector institutions. There has been no action by government of any type to prevent the management of those institutions from collectively dealing with the employees. I do not for one moment subscribe to the notion. There has been no interference

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whatsoever, Mr. Speaker. The onus lies on those making those accusations to prove their case. Were collective bargaining not the case, then the process would not be under way. If there was a legislated wage ceiling of 2 per cent, as is the case in the Province of Saskatchewan under the NDP, then there would be no strike because there would be nothing to strike for. The very existence of the strike in itself demonstrates the existence of true collective bargaining and the flexibility that will enable a negotiated settlement to be sought.

Having said that, and because of the lateness of the hour, I simply want to say this, also appealing to the spirit of fairness. This matter is not going to be solved by legislative debate. It is not going to be solved on the floor of this House. It will be solved by collective bargaining. We in the Liberal Party support the collective bargaining process. We do not seek to exploit it by attempting to stir this matter up in an irresponsible, partisan manner through grandstanding, rather, sir, we call for calm, for reason, for collective bargaining, for continuation of the process and, hopefully, a very just settlement will be obtained in the near future.

I believe my time has expired. I would like to say much more, but I thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The time allocated for late debate having expired, this House is now adjourned until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow afternoon.

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

[Page 3260]

NOTICE OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 1577

By: Mr. Paul MacEwan (Cape Breton Nova)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the latest transplant to fasten itself barnacle-like onto the NDP is in need of a good deal more than a new liver to take on new political life; and

Whereas to be properly in step he will require foot transplant surgery to replace two right feet with two left feet; and

Whereas as he was quoted only a few weeks ago calling the NDP "pinkos" and Communists, it appears corrective brainwashing may not do the job adequately and that brain transplant surgery may also be needed;

Therefore be it resolved that the sudden leap from the extreme right to the extreme left is a feat of transplanting that even the esteemed surgeon may not likely pull off successfully and that the victim, himself, may well expire on the political operating table come election time.