The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House dissolved:
April 30, 2017.

Hansard -- Thur., Nov. 5, 1998

First Session

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 1998

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Econ. Dev. & Tourism: Trade Mission (New England) - Success,
Hon. Manning MacDonald 3362
Fish. - Fisheries Officers: Fish Buyers Regs. - Enforce, Hon. K. Colwell 3363
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1619, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Black Ice Danger: Motorists -
Remind, Hon. C. Huskilson 3365
Vote - Affirmative 3366
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 65, Endangered Species Act, Hon. K. MacAskill 3366
No. 66, Education Act, Ms. E. O'Connell 3366
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1620, Health - Long-Term Care: Legitimate Concerns Trampled -
Apologize, Mr. R. Chisholm 3366
Res. 1621, Bus. & Cons. Serv. - Bank Mergers (Can.): Negativity -
Recognize, Mr. H. Fraser 3368
Vote - Affirmative 3368
Res. 1622, Devco - Action Plan: UMW - Congrats., Mr. F. Corbett 3368
Res. 1623, Transport (Can.) - Port Advisory Comm.: Stacking (Min.) -
Denounce, Mr. B. Taylor 3369
Res. 1624, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Dev. Rural: Approach - Applaud,
Mr. R. White 3370
Vote - Affirmative 3371
Res. 1625, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Toll Hwy. Prohibition
(Bill No. 46): Mins. (N.S.-Can.) - Contact, Mr. W. Estabrooks 3371
Res. 1626, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Toll Hwy. (N.B.): Impact -
Silence Explain, Mr. E. Fage 3371
Res. 1627, NDP (N.S.) Leader - Farmers: Welfare - Interest Lacking,
Mr. L. Montgomery 3372
Res. 1628, Health - Long-Term Care Strikes: Responsibility -
Accept, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 3373
Res. 1629, Fish. - Shrimp: Mulgrave Plant - Quota Reallocation Demand,
Mr. N. LeBlanc 3373
Res. 1630, World War II - HMCS Sackville: Stamp Issue -
Commemoration, Mr. G. Fogarty 3374
Vote - Affirmative 3375
Res. 1631, Fin. - Deficit: Fund-Raising (Guy Fawkes Day) - Plan,
Mr. H. Epstein 3375
Res. 1632, Women: Excellence Awards - Congrats., Mr. G. Balser 3375
Vote - Affirmative 3376
Res. 1633, Media - Government Coverage: Relatives Assignment -
Refrain, Mr. Charles MacDonald 3376
Res. 1634, Housing & Mun. Affs./Commun. Serv. - Housing Healthy:
Initiative - Support, Ms. R. Godin 3377
Vote - Affirmative 3377
Res. 1635, Fin. - Bus. Occup. Tax: Farmers - Maxine Bruce
(Sheffield Mills)-Congrats./Harassment-Stop, Mr. G. Archibald 3378
Res. 1636, Premier - Itinerary Weekly: Issuance - Reporters Congrats.,
Mr. P. Delefes 3378
Res. 1637, NDP (N.S.) - Financial Measures (1998) Act:
Short-Sightedness - Condemn, Mr. R. White 3379
Res. 1638, Health - Continuing Care: Hospital Beds -
Availability Identify, Mr. J. Leefe 3380
Vote - Affirmative 3380
Res. 1639, Aboriginal Affs. - Aboriginal Title: Positive Atmosphere -
Continuance Urge, Mr. R. Chisholm 3380
Res. 1640, Housing & Mun. Affs. - HRM: Amalgamation -
Negativity Admit, Mr. J. Muir 3381
Res. 1641, Bus. & Cons. Serv. - Serv. Delivery: Staff Efforts -
Recognize, Hon. K. Colwell 3382
Vote - Affirmative 3383
Res. 1642, Ken Butler (Hfx.), Death of: Sympathy - Extend,
Mr. G. Fogarty 3383
Vote - Affirmative 3383
Res. 1643, Educ. - Chignecto-Central RSB: Enquiries (Pictou East) -
Acknowledge, Mr. J. DeWolfe 3383
Res. 1644, Fish - Salmon Assoc. (N.S.): Gaelic Culture Promotion -
Congrats., Mr. H. Fraser 3384
Vote - Affirmative 3385
Res. 1645, Health - VON (Lun. Co.): Vol. Visiting Prog. - Congrats.,
Mr. M. Baker 3385
Vote - Affirmative 3385
Res. 1646, Culture - Music: Michelle Boudreau-Samson (Petit-de-Grat) -
Contribution Recognize, Mr. M. Samson 3385
Vote - Affirmative 3387
Res. 1647, Housing & Mun. Affs. - HRM: Future - Meetings
(Councillor Bill Dooks) Applaud, Mr. B. Taylor 3387
Res. 1648, Culture - Broadcasting: Bruce Graham (MITV) -
Contribution Thank, Hon. R. MacKinnon 3388
Vote - Affirmative 3388
Res. 1649, Environ. - Safety-Kleen Serv. Ctr. (Debert):
Regs. Compliance Record - Congrats., Mr. J. Muir 3389
Vote - Affirmative 3390
Res. 1650, Sports - Soccer (Women): Dal. Tigers -
At. Champs Congrats., Mr. E. Fage 3390
Vote - Affirmative 3390
Res. 1651, Hurricane Mitch - Honduras Disaster Fund: Fund-Raising -
Importance, Dr. J. Hamm 3390
Vote - Affirmative 3391
Res. 1652, Sports - Cross-Country (NSSAF-Lun. Co.):
Jeff Englehutt (HGS [Jr. Boys Champ.])/Participants - Congrats.,
Mr. M. Baker 3391
Vote - Affirmative 3392
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 426, Health - Long-Term Care: Crisis - Action, Mr. R. Chisholm 3393
No. 427, Nat. Res. - Nat. Gas: Base Price - Cost, Dr. J. Hamm 3394
No. 428, Health - Nursing Home Strikes: Initiators - Name,
Mr. R. Chisholm 3395
No. 429, Commun. Serv.: Soc. Serv. - Policy (Post-Takeover),
Mr. G. Moody 3396
No. 430, Health - Long-Term Care Facilities: Residents Relocation -
Destination, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 3397
No. 431, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Procurement: Contracts -
Invited Bids, Mr. B. Taylor 3399
No. 432, Lbr. - Continuing Care Sector: Strike - Prevention,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 3400
No. 433, Health - Long-Term Care: Workers - Wage Parity,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 3401
No. 434, Nat. Res. - Logging: Licensing - Ensure, Mr. J. Leefe 3402
No. 435, Fin. - Deficit: Reduction - Plan, Mr. H. Epstein 3403
No. 436, Health - QE II Health Sc. Ctr.: Debt - Meeting (15/10/98),
Dr. J. Hamm 3404
No. 437, Fin. - QE II Health Sc. Ctr.: Debt - Plan, Mr. R. Chisholm 3406
No. 438, Health: QE II Health Sc. Ctr. - Deloitte & Touche Study,
Mr. G. Moody 3408
No. 439, Fish. - TAGS: Early Retirement Prog. - Finalization,
Mr. John Deveau 3409
No. 440, Health - Long-Term Care: Beds - Moratorium, Mr. M. Baker 3410
No. 441, Health - Hepatitis C: Compensation - Status, Mr. D. Dexter 3411
No. 442, Devco - Future: UMW Plan - Meeting (N.S. [Gov't.]) Commit,
Mr. F. Corbett 3412
No. 443, Transport. & Pub. Wks.: Hwy. Agreement (Can.-N.S.) -
Commitment, Mr. E. Fage 3413
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 47, Municipal Government Act 3414
Mr. D. Dexter 3414
Hon. K. Colwell 3426
Mr. E. Fage 3428
Dr. H. Bitter-Suermann 3442
Mr. M. Baker 3444
Adjourned debate 3444
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Commun. Serv - Hungry Babies/Destitute Single Mothers:
Concerns - Investigate:
Mr. J. Muir 3446
Mr. G. Moody 3447
Ms. R. Godin 3448
Hon. F. Cosman 3450
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., Nov. 6th at 9:00 a.m. 3454
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., Nov. 6th at 9:00 a.m.

[Page 3361]

HALIFAX, THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 1998

Fifty-seventh General Assembly

First Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Ronald Russell

DEPUTY SPEAKER

Mr. Donald Chard

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We will commence the daily routine.

I would advise members that the motion for the Adjournment debate today was submitted by the honourable member for Kings West and it reads:

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Community Services immediately investigate concerns of hungry babies and destitute single mothers that are being ignored by her department across Nova Scotia.

That debate will take place at 6:00 p.m.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

3361

[Page 3362]

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

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to share some very positive news with members of the House about a recent trade mission to New England. Last week, my department led another mission to Boston. Eight companies, all of them from rural Nova Scotia, travelled to New England and every one of those companies came home with new export business. Those eight companies returned to their rural Nova Scotia homes with close to $4 million in contracts.

Fundy Fiberglass is an inspiring example. Fundy Fiberglass manufactures all sorts of fibreglass products at its facility in Cornwallis Park. This company returned from Boston with $2 million in sales. The director of marketing told us the two day mission cut two years out of their marketing and sales cycle - $2 million in sales and two years worth of progress in a two day trade mission. This is an accomplishment for which al members of this House can be proud.

Mr. Speaker, Fundy Fiberglass is just one story. There are seven more. The companies on this mission are bringing back export deals to places like Springhill, Walton, New Glasgow, Clementsport and Lunenburg.

Muskrat Lumber of Summerville came home with six new customers. Those customers represent $300,000 in potential sales for this company's modular systems and garden furniture. Better still, Muskrat Lumber expects to create 10 new jobs as a result of its success in Boston.

This is the sixth trade mission to New England that has been organized by my department since last December, Mr. Speaker. These missions have generated more than $24 million in contracts for Nova Scotia companies.

Mr. Speaker, we have to increase our exports to grow our economy in Nova Scotia. Every $100,000 in exports creates another job for another Nova Scotian. The results from these trade missions prove once again that New England is an excellent export market for this province. When we go to Boston, our companies come back with sales that are 200 to 300 times the cost of the mission itself. You will never find a better return on investment than that.

I would like to invite members of this House to join me in congratulating these eight rural Nova Scotia companies on their success in Boston, and their success is boosting Nova Scotia exports. (Applause)

[Page 3363]

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to say, on behalf of our caucus, that we welcome this news today. The importance of promoting local and rural Nova Scotia businesses is an important one. I want to say, further, that perhaps the minister can take a lesson from this because it is important that we continue to invest in the promotion of local, home-grown industries and not continue to throw money away at fly-by-night operations that come in from away. Thank you. (Applause)

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

MR. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to rise and speak to the ministerial announcement. Once again, I think the minister is becoming a good news minister particularly for the residents of Digby-Annapolis. It is the second time in the last two weeks in which the minister has made announcements about industries that have located in my riding, and I am grateful. (Interruptions) The other thing I am grateful for is . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. BALSER: . . . that the minister has begun to realize that our economic future lies on the New England Seaboard and not necessarily to western Canada. We must begin to forge links there and, as was mentioned earlier, continue to help nurture and develop home-grown industry. So, once again, thank you and congratulations to the minister.

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

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I wish to draw the attention of the members of the House to two guests in the Speaker's Gallery. We have with us today, Councillor Bill Morrell and Mr. David Hood from the Town of Stellarton. Mr. Morrell is on the Town Council and Mr. Hood is a permanent employee of the Department of Recreation in the Town of Stellarton, and they are in the city to attend a conference on recreation. I would ask our guests to rise and receive the welcome of the House. (Applause)

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

HON. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, as some members of this House will remember, several weeks ago I said this government would be vigilant in safeguarding our fishing industry. At that time, I talked about the threat unscrupulous buyers were having on our lobster industry. I said it is a serious problem and that these actions must be stopped. I have already stated where the province stands on this issue, but it bears repeating.

[Page 3364]

Mr. Speaker, for those who jeopardize our lucrative fisheries and engage in the illegal buying of fish, it will not be tolerated. The lives of Nova Scotians in our many coastal communities and fishing villages are being threatened. They are being put at risk. It is not fair that those breaking the rules are hurting those who are following them.

To help those who need it, today I am pleased to announce that on October 30th, 104 federal Fisheries officers were appointed as provincial inspectors under our department's Fisheries and Coastal Resources Act. They will be authorized to enforce the province's Fish Buyers Regulations. They will be able to charge violators who disregard the strict rules set forth in our legislation.

These officers, as members of the Conservation and Protection branch of DFO, are being provided this enforcement tool to bolster the provincial and federal government's protection efforts. Working with our department inspectors, we will be blanketing this province in search of offenders. These illegal actions will be stopped. We are committed to making this happen.

Mr. Speaker, this action reinforces the strong message I am delivering today to those who jeopardize our fishery. Again, I say, we simply will not tolerate offenders. I repeat, these illegal actions will be stopped. We will make this happen. The livelihood of people in this province's many coastal communities and fishing villages must be protected. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Yarmouth.

MR. JOHN DEVEAU: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the minister for taking the position that he has taken. I rise in support and endorsement for what the minister has said. Recognizing the need of safeguarding our fishing industry, which needs to be a priority of this House, and holding fish buyers accountable, will surely curtail the illegal activity in our coastal communities. Our coastal communities are the ones that stand to lose if things such as this are not taken on. Controlling the market of illegal activity by this statement will surely indeed eliminate the market. Again, I rise in support of the minister's statement. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.

MR. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for bringing his remarks to the floor, because I think they are very important. As Fisheries Critic for the Progressive Conservative Party, I have been very vocal on this issue, along with my colleagues, especially the member for Digby-Annapolis. I really believe that as much as I welcome the comments from the minister, it is in a sense reacting to the comments we made; although that is the reaction, I still welcome the fact that the minister is concerned. The only thing I would like to say is that the people and the fishermen of this province are looking for

[Page 3365]

leadership. They are crying for it. If he wants to take the leadership from our comments, then I welcome that.

There is a chain involved in illegal fishing, and there are people catching thousands of lobsters a day. You don't sell a thousand pounds or more on a street corner. You have to have a marketing scheme to do so. This is out there. The minister and his department have been aware of it, we have been asking them to become involved. This is the type of initiative that we need.

Mr. Speaker, I will say that this is only the start, it is not the end. For most of us who believe that this will remove this illegal fishery from happening, I disagree. It is only a step; the minister and his department will have a lot more to bring about if we want to be successful. I think all members of this House care for the resource and care for the coastal communities that depend, especially, on the lobster fishery. This is the first step, and our caucus will be basically ensuring that the minister follows through on it. I would like to thank him for his sincerity and bringing it forward to the House today. Thank you. (Applause)

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 1619

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

Whereas weather conditions at this time of year can change quickly and often unpredictably; and

Whereas black ice presents an invisible driving hazard for motorists at this time of year; and

Whereas Transportation and Public Works salt trucks were patrolling Highway No. 102 in the early hours this morning in response to black ice conditions;

Therefore be it resolved that this House remind each and every motorist in Nova Scotia about the dangers of black ice and that all drivers exercise caution during this time of year when the weather can create unpredictable and hazardous road conditions.

Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver of notice.

[Page 3366]

[2:15 p.m.]

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. 65 - Entitled an Act Respecting Endangered Species. (Hon. Kenneth MacAskill)

Bill No. 66 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 1 of the Acts of 1995-96. The Education Act, to Ensure Fiscal Responsibility Respecting School Construction. (Ms. Eileen O'Connell)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 1620

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's latest response to the serious situation facing long-term care was an unfounded and unattributed allegation by the Premier; and

Whereas the response of striking Cove workers to the threatened evacuation of that home demonstrates the dedication and hardship that are shared by residents, the remaining workers, striking workers and family members; and

Whereas it was this government that provided wage parity with hospital workers for some nursing home workers, then refused parity to the rest, thereby insulting the acknowledged heart and soul of long-term care;

[Page 3367]

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier and the members of the Liberal Government should apologize to the nursing home administrators, workers, residents and family members whose legitimate concerns have been trampled by the Liberal stampede to manufacture cheap political points.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled. (Applause)

The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

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

Whereas in response to a question put by South Shore Member of Parliament, Gerald Keddy, to federal Transport Minister, David Collenette, regarding a new management structure for the Port of Halifax, the Minister of Transport inappropriately lashed out at the member's lack of knowledge saying, "the honourable member has his facts wrong and the local interest groups have been consulted"; and

Whereas representatives of the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, the International Longshoremen's Association, and the Halifax Shipping Association have publicly and harshly criticized the federal minister for failing to ensure local business interests and port users had a strong voice in determining the future of the Port of Halifax; and

Whereas it is clear that Minister Collenette . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. This is a very long, long, long resolution.

DR. HAMM: It is, Mr. Speaker, but I am reading slowly.

MR. SPEAKER: Well, read fast.

DR. HAMM: Whereas it is clear that Minister Collenette has put aside local input and concerns by rejecting the nominees put forward by both port users and the local business community;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier immediately request that Minister Collenette come to Halifax, meet with the members of the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, the Halifax Shipping Association and the International Longshoremen's Association so that the minister can personally explain his reasons for rejecting their nominees to the Halifax Port Advisory Committee.

[Page 3368]

MR. SPEAKER: I am not going to table that resolution. It is too long.

The honourable member for Antigonish.

RESOLUTION NO. 1621

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

Whereas yesterday a task force of Liberal Members of Parliament released their report on the proposed merger of major Canadian banks; and

Whereas the report echoed the concerns of many Nova Scotians, and indeed many Canadians, in that the proposed bank mergers would be of little or no benefit to consumers; and

Whereas the proposed mergers along with plans by banks to sell insurance could possibly lead to job losses, branch closings, reduced competition, and poorer service to small business;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize that the proposed merger of major Canadian banks would have a negative effect on our province and especially rural Nova Scotia and that the members of this Legislature encourage the federal government to call for a halt to bank merger plans.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 1622

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

[Page 3369]

Whereas on November 4th, District 26 United Mine Workers publicly called for a coal industry action plan, suggesting a range of innovative options and urging that the Devco employees be heard in a discussion of the industry's future; and

Whereas the Devco Board of Directors is about to meet to discuss its widely discredited five year plan, in the absence of a federal government response to the current plans; and

Whereas District 26 has been told they cannot have a representative at the board of directors' meetings;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the United Mine Workers for their commitment and initiative demonstrated in the action plan they released November 4th, and urge Devco's Board of Directors to invite a UMW representative to join them for discussion of Devco's long-term plans.

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 member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 1623

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

Whereas yesterday, during Question Period, the Premier twice passed off questions concerning the current controversy over appointments to the Port of Halifax Advisory Committee and the Halifax Port Authority to his Minister of Transportation who, in turn, passed it off as a federal matter; and

Whereas despite a recent headline in The Chronicle-Herald, and an undated letter he supposedly signed to the Prime Minister, the Premier seemed totally indifferent or unaware of the concerns and frustrations being expressed by local business, labour and shipping interests; and

[Page 3370]

Whereas the Premier's and his Minister of Transportation's response to this critical issue demonstrates they are unwilling to challenge the pork-barrelling tactics of the federal Minister of Transport;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier either call the Prime Minister and denounce Minister Collenette's stacking of the Port Advisory Committee, or immediately issue a written apology to the members of the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, the International Longshoremen's Association and the Halifax Shipping Association for misleading them into believing he was going to intercede on their behalf.

MR. SPEAKER: These resolutions are getting much too long.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

RESOLUTION NO. 1624

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

Whereas a recent survey of Cumberland County businesses reported that 20 per cent planned to expand within the next two years; and

Whereas a similar survey is planned for the business community in Guysborough County, through an economic development initiative by Nova Scotia Power and the Guysborough County Regional Development Authority; and

Whereas the goal of this initiative is to identify ways to support existing businesses while attracting new investment to Guysborough County;

Therefore be it resolved that this approach to rural economic development be applauded by members of the House, with the expectation that survey results of Guysborough County businesses will mirror the positive results found in other parts of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 3371]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 1625

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

Whereas yesterday the federal Minister of Transport, David Collenette, announced his opposition to additional tolls on any highways in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick involving any kind of federal funding; and

Whereas yesterday in this House the members of the government predictably popped up from their places to talk out proposed Bill No. 46, when this bill had the unqualified support of the NDP and the members of the Third Party, prohibiting any more tolls on our roads since, as the minister said, it would tie the hands of future governments; and

Whereas this government is always saying that they have been talking to their federal cousins in Ottawa;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation contact Mr. Collenette, provide him with a copy of Bill No. 46, and show some leadership by prohibiting new tolls on any roads in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cumberland North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1626

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

[Page 3372]

Whereas yesterday, during Question Period, the Premier twice passed off questions concerning the implications for Nova Scotian consumers, businesses and truckers as a result of the New Brunswick toll highway to his less than helpful Minister of Transportation; and

Whereas the Minister of Transportation's answers suggest he has not uttered a single word of protest to his federal counterpart about the effects this new toll highway will have on the people of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas despite the fact that the Premier acknowledges that Premiers Binn and Tobin are absolutely correct in taking a stand against the New Brunswick toll highway, he has refused to join their chorus of protest coming and instead maintained his usual stone-cold silence;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier explain why he has chosen to play silent lapdog to his former colleagues in Ottawa instead of standing up for the interests of all Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 1627

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 NDP has claimed in the House that they support rural Nova Scotia; and

Whereas this government through the Financial Measures (1998) Act is providing tax relief for farmers who are the backbone of rural Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the NDP member for Halifax Chebucto, the NDP Finance Critic has stated that, no matter what, his caucus will vote against the Financial Measures (1998) Act;

Therefore be it resolved that the Leader of the NDP declare to the farmers of Nova Scotia his Party's total lack of interest in their welfare and that the NDP is merely interested in power at all costs.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

[Page 3373]

RESOLUTION NO. 1628

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

Whereas the governing Liberal Party is trying to deflect responsibility for the long-term health care strikes by blaming the workers, the Progressive Conservatives, the administration and most recently, our Party; and

Whereas these strikes are the result of neglect of those workers for the past seven years; and

Whereas this government cannot provide proof that these strikes are anyone's responsibilities other than their own;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier accept full responsibility for this crisis and work to resolve it rather than casting aspersions on others.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Argyle.

RESOLUTION NO. 1629

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

Whereas yesterday during Question Period the Premier twice passed off questions concerning ACS Trading Incorporated to his less than helpful Minister of Fisheries, who suggested the lack of a Liberal Member of Parliament was the reason the future of over 100 employers is in jeopardy; and

Whereas the Minister of Fisheries has obviously dismissed the claims of his own Premier who has frequently boasted of his close ties with Ottawa and his ability to influence his federal Liberal cousins; and

Whereas the failure of the Premier to take this issue to his old friends on Parliament Hill is one of a long list of examples of the Premier's indifference to the plant, its workers and to the Town of Mulgrave;

[Page 3374]

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier, who has so far struck out on every single issue he brought to Ottawa's attention, begin showing some of the still unproven influence he has with Ottawa and immediately demand a reallocation of the shrimp quota so that ASC Trading Incorporated can have some hope of survival.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 1630

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

Whereas a fixture on the Halifax waterfront was recently immortalized in the form of a postage stamp; and

Whereas the corvette, HMCS Sackville, now serving as a floating museum, is one of two World War II ships being honoured with a stamp this week; and

Whereas the HMCS Sackville acted as a submarine hunter and guardian for merchant ship convoys crossing the Atlantic in World War II from Halifax Harbour;

Therefore be it resolved that as we approach Remembrance Day, this House recognize the contribution of ships like the Sackville and their crews and congratulate the latest commemoration of their sacrifices.

Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 3375]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 1631

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

Whereas today is Guy Fawkes Day when we are asked, "Please to remember the 5th November, Gunpowder Treason and Plot, We know no reason why Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot."; and

Whereas children in England parade about with Guy Fawkes dolls in their little wagons crying, "penny for the Guy, penny for the Guy!", so they can pay for their candy; and

Whereas it is obvious that this government, not by "treason or plot" but by sheer plodding reason, or lack thereof, has no plans to deliver the balanced budget it so crowed about;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Finance and his Cabinet colleagues grab their little wagons and parade about the streets calling, "penny for Don, penny for Don!", for lack of having any other viable plan to deal with the deficit.

[2:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 1632

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 9th Annual Progress Club Women of Excellence Awards were held last evening at the World Trade and Convention Centre; and

Whereas all 19 nominees were richly deserving of the public accolades which accompanied the nomination of potential recipients of these awards of excellence; and

[Page 3376]

Whereas the 1998 Awards of Excellence included: Patricia Pollett McClelland, Dr. Daurene Lewis, Dr. Jacquelyn Thayer Scott, Dr. Cynthia Mathieson, Marjorie Fougere and Anna Svendsen;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly extend their congratulations and best wishes to all nominees and winners of the 9th Annual Women of Excellence Awards.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Inverness.

RESOLUTION NO. 1633

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

Whereas on Monday, November 2, 1998, CBC's First Edition aired an item on the site selection process for a school in the Timberlea-Lakeside-Beechville area; and

Whereas the socialist member for Timberlea-Prospect was interviewed along with upset parents and representatives of the site selection committee; and

Whereas no member of government was interviewed in this one-sided interview by Dan O'Connell, brother of the socialist member for Halifax Fairview;

Therefore be it resolved that in the interest of fairness, the CBC and all other media outlets refrain from assigning relatives to cover the day-to-day workings of governments.

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

[Page 3377]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank.

RESOLUTION NO. 1634

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

Whereas safe, healthy housing is a basic right of every individual in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas too many people are living in sub-standard, shameful conditions; and

Whereas the Metro Non-Profit Housing Association is working in partnership with the Creighton/Gerrish Development Association to build safe alternative housing for low-income individuals;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge the Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs and the Department of Community Services to support this initiative and other similar projects in this province in any way it can.

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 Kings North.

[Page 3378]

RESOLUTION NO. 1635

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

Whereas Maxine Bruce of Sheffield Mills is a goat farmer; and

Whereas the business occupancy tax was wrongfully applied to her goat cheese farming operation; and

Whereas the provincial tax collector is using Maxine Bruce as a scapegoat to expand the business occupancy tax so it will include farm operations;

Therefore be it resolved that the Legislature congratulate Maxine Bruce and request the tax department stop harassing farmers who are trying to expand their business.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

RESOLUTION NO. 1636

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

Whereas the Premier's Office today issued a Premier's itinerary and a statement that henceforth these itineraries will be issued each Friday; and

Whereas this is the first Premier's itinerary to be issued in 1998, according to the government's own website; and

Whereas Canadian Press in particular, and press gallery members in general, have long sought one or more sweet clues as to the current Premier's whereabouts;

[Page 3379]

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the news reporters whose months of effort have finally been rewarded by this first step in revealing where the Premier can be found.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

RESOLUTION NO. 1637

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

Whereas true to form, the NDP member for Halifax Chebucto announced his Party will try to seize power by voting down the Financial Measures (1998) Act; and

Whereas the NDP Finance-Minister-in-waiting is once again ignoring the process of this House by disregarding any amendments to this Act; and

Whereas their power-at-all-cost position will only alienate the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union who fully support this Act;

Therefore be it resolved that this House condemn the NDP for their short-sighted "vote first, ask questions never" stand on an issue as important as the Financial Measures (1998) Act.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

[Page 3380]

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 1638

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

Whereas the Minister of Health claims to have a plan to deal with the escalating unrest at Nova Scotia's continuing care facilities; and

Whereas the spokesman for the minister, David Harrigan, has stated this includes moving residents to empty hospital beds; and

Whereas since 1993 the Liberals have closed 30 per cent of the province's hospital beds and terminated over 2,000 nurses plus other health care workers;

Therefore be it resolved that the minister identify hospital by hospital across Nova Scotia how many beds are immediately available to house residents in continuing care.

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 Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 1639

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

Whereas the eyes of the Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq community are today turning to the Supreme Court of Canada's hearing on the Donald Marshall, Jr. case; and

Whereas it has been one month since the provincial government recognized that the Delgamuukw case confirming the legitimacy of aboriginal title requires a response; and

[Page 3381]

Whereas oil, gas, forest, fish and other resource industries have an interest in resolving the aboriginal title issue without disruption and undue conflict;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge the government to carry forward the positive atmosphere created by its agreement to discuss a framework for recognition of aboriginal title and to bring that same positive, respectful approach to other questions of aboriginal title and rights.

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

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill.

RESOLUTION NO. 1640

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

Whereas on October 28th, the Minister of Community Services . . .

HON. FRANCENE COSMAN: Nay.

MR. MUIR: You knew I was going to be referring to you, didn't you? (Laughter)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MUIR: . . . introduced a resolution spotlighting the water-skiing achievements of Lyndsey Horton as an example of the national competitiveness of Nova Scotia athletes; and

Whereas this resolution was accepted by all members of the House; and

Whereas the Centennial Pool in Halifax, the facility needed to train our swimmers to national and international competitions, will have its operating hours reduced because of the budget deficit of the Halifax Regional Municipality;

[Page 3382]

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Community Services and her Cabinet colleagues admit that the forced amalgamation which resulted in the HRM has had negative consequences in virtually every aspect of HRM's cultural fabric.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

RESOLUTION NO. 1641

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

Whereas the Department of Business and Consumer Services' Vital Statistics operation is currently in the process of converting more than 400,000 handwritten birth records to electronic format; and

Whereas the staff at Vital Statistics has already converted in excess of 225,000 records to electronic format; and

Whereas this project will be completed in the year 2000, the department can begin a process that will eventually lead to customers being able to obtain birth certificates from Access Nova Scotia Centres in local communities throughout the province;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the efforts of staff to continue to improve the delivery of government services to Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 3383]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 1642

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

Whereas Halifax lost one of its strongest community-minded citizens with the passing of Ken Butler on Tuesday; and

Whereas Mr. Butler managed and developed Bayers Road Shopping Centre and was the prime leader in the development of Fairmount Subdivision in Halifax; and

Whereas Mr. Butler served his fellow citizens in many volunteer capacities, giving all his time for the betterment of his city, province and country;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend to Mr. Butler's wife, Catherine, and all members of his family sincere condolences and sympathy on the passing of this devoted family and community man.

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

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1643

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

[Page 3384]

Whereas the Minister of Education has received input from various community groups in the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board; and

Whereas the minister has indicated to me that any decisions on school construction are made only after careful deliberations of all pertinent information from both education and community members; and

Whereas the minister is of the belief that if further consultation with the community is required, will do so;

Therefore be it resolved that the minister and his office set a more positive example to the residents of Pictou East by returning their calls and answering their letters.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Antigonish.

RESOLUTION NO. 1644

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Salmon Association, along with Habitat Unlimited, has produced a map of fishing pools in the Antigonish area to aid visiting anglers; and

Whereas this map is unique in that it lists pool names in Gaelic, including Ciad Mile Failte Glumag and Ceilidh Glumag; and

Whereas this project has prompted calls from interested fishermen from as far away as Montreal and Holland;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Salmon Association be congratulated for their novel approach to promoting Gaelic culture while, at the same time, luring new visitors to the Antigonish area.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 3385]

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. 1645

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 Victorian Order of Nurses, Lunenburg County Branch, is a leader in innovative health care in Lunenburg County; and

Whereas the Victorian Order of Nurses has implemented a new volunteer visiting program which offers friendship and support for seniors, the chronically ill, and disabled persons who are cut off from their community; and

Whereas the program offers volunteer training, support and orientation, so that individuals can receive visits from warm, caring, dependable and patient volunteers;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly extend its congratulations and best wishes to the Lunenburg County Branch of the Victorian Order of Nurses for this important initiative.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 1646

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Monsieur le président, par la présente, j'avise que je proposerai à une date ultérieure, l'adoption de la résolution suivante:

[Page 3386]

Attendu que l'auteur-compositeur-interprète, Michelle Boudreau-Samson, s'est méritée le prix Tic Butler Award à l'occasion du festival Celtic Colours, cette année; et

Attendu que Michelle Boudreau-Samson, résidente de Petit-de-Grat (depuis toujours), s'est méritée plusieurs prix de mérite pour ses oeuvres, entre autres gagnante du prix pour l'album francophone de l'année aux East Coast Music Awards (ECMAs) en 1998 et nomination d'une de ses compositions comme chanson de l'année par la Société Radio-Canada;

Attendu que la musique de Michelle Boudreau-Samson rend hommage à son patrimoine acadien et en même temps, célèbre le mode de vie et l'identité qui est spécifique aux communautés de la côte est, tel la pêche;

Qu'il soit résolu que cette Chambre félicite Michelle Boudreau-Samson pour le prix qu'elle s'est méritée et reconnaisse sa contribution importante comme ambassadrice de la culture néo-écossaise et de l'identité acadienne.

Monsieur le président, je propose l'adoption de cette résolution.

MR. SPEAKER: This is very long, I hope it is shorter in English. (Laughter)

Order, please. The honourable member for Richmond has the floor.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I could easily take offence to that, but I won't.

MR. SPEAKER: It wasn't meant to be offensive.

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

Whereas singer-songwriter Michelle Boudreau-Samson was awarded the Tic Butler Award during this year's Celtic Colours Festival; and

Whereas Ms. Boudreau-Samson, a lifetime resident of Petit-de-Grat, has gained numerous honours for her work, including the Francophone Album of the Year at the East Coast Music Awards and nominated for Song of the Year for the Société Radio-Canada; and

Whereas Ms. Boudreau-Samson's music celebrates her Acadian roots, as well as touches on such unique Maritime themes as the fishery and life on the East Coast;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Michelle Boudreau-Samson on her most recent award, and recognize her outstanding contribution as an ambassador for Nova Scotia culture and the Acadian identity.

[Page 3387]

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

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 1647

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

Whereas numerous residents, both urban and rural, have expressed their dissatisfaction with amalgamation, largely because they say it was imposed by the government without public consultation; and

Whereas Municipal Councillor Bill Dooks, of Eastern Shore-Musquodoboit Valley, is trying to rectify government's lack of consideration and regard for the residents in his area; and

[2:45 p.m.]

Whereas Councillor Dooks is holding 13 meetings this month to ask for resident input in determining the future of their municipality and whether or not they want to remain in the Halifax Regional Municipality;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House applaud the efforts of Mr. Dooks in trying to do something this Liberal Government wouldn't - giving the public due process to let their voices be heard.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Labour.

[Page 3388]

RESOLUTION NO. 1648

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

Whereas well-known Canadian broadcaster Bruce Graham will sign off a 37 year career tomorrow evening; and

Whereas the Parrsboro native carved out a reputation as a tough yet fair-minded journalist, recognized by his peers as one of the best in the industry; and

Whereas he will continue to contribute to MITV with his much viewed final word of special productions;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Bruce Graham and thank him for his contribution towards making Nova Scotia a better place to live and wish him well in his new endeavours.

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

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

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

Whereas the recent Minnesota State Governor's electoral results are a clear indication that the electorate view politics as little more than a gladiator sport; and

Whereas the new governor-elect of Minnesota, Jesse "the Body" Ventura will bring to the Legislature a wealth of body-slamming, arm-twisting, and browbeating experience from his life as a World Wrestling Federation superstar; and

[Page 3389]

Whereas Jesse "the Body" Ventura will be joining such provincial luminaries as John "the Hammer" Hamm, Robert "Pretty Boy" Chisholm and Russell "the Abdicator" MacLellan;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend a hearty welcome to the Colosseum to Jesse "the Body" Ventura as he enters the political fray.

Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: I want to have a look at that resolution before it is tabled.

The honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill.

RESOLUTION NO. 1649

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

Whereas Safety-Kleen's Service Centre, located in Debert, has been recognized for its outstanding regulatory compliance record during the past year; and

Whereas this is the fifth consecutive year that employees at the Debert site have received the award which honours those select commercial hazardous waste facilities that have operated for a complete calendar year in full compliance with environmental regulations; and

Whereas the award, the North-America wide EI Environmental Compliance Award confirms that safe operations and quality service go hand in hand for Safety Kleen's Debert operation;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize and congratulate the owners, operators and employees of Safety-Kleen's Debert site for their outstanding record as a leader in their field.

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.

[Page 3390]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cumberland North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1650

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 Dalhousie Tigers won the women's Atlantic University Soccer Championship title this last Sunday afternoon; and

Whereas their most recent win marks the fifth title in six years for the Dal women's soccer team; and

Whereas the team will go on to play for the Canadian title in Victoria, B.C. on November 12th to 15th;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Dalhousie Tigers and Coach, Dara Moore, and wish them success at the Canadian conference in Victoria.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 1651

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

Whereas across Central America, Hurricane Mitch has claimed approximately 7,000 lives with another 11,000 people still reported missing; and

[Page 3391]

Whereas Veronica Dorey, an employee in the Finance Department of the Halifax Regional Municipality, has received word that in the wake of Mitch a brother and a sister are safe, but another brother and members of his family remain unaccounted for; and

Whereas Veronica, through the generous support of Metro Transit, the Halifax Fire Department and community groups, including those in Annapolis Royal, have provided hundreds of pounds of clothing for her to take to assist in the international relief effort but, before this clothing can be shipped, $1,000 is required for shipping fees;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature recognize the extreme importance of getting this $1,000 raised as soon as possible by informing constituents that funds can be donated to the Honduras Disaster Fund at any Scotiabank.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

With reference to the notice of motion brought forward by the honourable member for Digby-Annapolis, I will not table that resolution.

The honourable member for Lunenburg.

RESOLUTION NO. 1652

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 Nova Scotia Athletic Federation's Cross-country Provincial Championships were held yesterday in Dayspring, Lunenburg County; and

Whereas Jeff Engelhutt of Halifax Grammar School won the junior boys' race, 28 years after his father won the identical provincial junior boys' race; and

[Page 3392]

Whereas the track conditions were far from perfect, with one coach describing never having seen mud like it before, because strips of plastic had to be shown to runners, signifying they had actually completed the course;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House of Assembly congratulate Jeff Engelhutt and all athletes and local organizers for their endurance and effort in participating in the 1998 Nova Scotia Athletic Federation's Cross-country Provincial Championships in Dayspring, Lunenburg County.

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 Health on an introduction.

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the time of the House. I would like to introduce in the east gallery this afternoon 11 students from the paralegal course at the Nova Scotia Community College Akerley Campus and they are visiting this afternoon with their leader, Kevin MacLean. I do not know if Kevin has arrived yet but, if he has, I would ask him to rise and join the students in standing and receiving the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg on an introduction.

MR. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce in the west gallery Reverend George Wawin from St. John's Lutheran Church in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, who is visiting with us today. I would ask the House to extend their greetings to Pastor Wawin. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The time is 2:54 p.m. approximately. The Oral Question Period will be completed at 3:54 p.m.

[Page 3393]

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HEALTH - LONG-TERM CARE: CRISIS - ACTION

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. Yesterday the Premier had no evidence to back up his wild allegations that the cause of one of the three nursing home strikes was the NDP. The Premier must know that 72 nursing homes are in labour dispute situations. Workers at three nursing homes are out on strike, including the largest in the province. There is a major crisis in the long-term-care sector in this province. I want to ask the Premier, why is he engaging in cheap political allegations instead of dealing with the serious crisis in long-term care?

HON. RUSSELL MACLELLAN, Q.C. (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition is getting sensitive. Unfortunately, I only know of one strike where the NDP has meddled; there are probably others. But if the NDP feels so strongly about its unsolicited advice and the public service they are giving, you would think they would want to own up to the advice here in the House.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the Premier seems more interested in scoring points against the NDP as a way of deflecting from the real issue, which is the crisis in long-term care. In the past week this Premier has blamed past governments, nursing home administrators, the nursing home workers and my caucus. My question to the Premier is, why is this government not prepared to show the flexibility required to settle these strikes and avoid further strikes in nursing homes in this province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we would love to settle these strikes but unfortunately, the people have to go back to the bargaining table before we can settle. Now if the NDP would only give that advice, that the workers go back to the bargaining table, we want them to get a fair settlement, we want that very badly, we have to negotiate.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the government heard last night from workers of 48 more nursing homes in this province and they are telling him that they faced the exact same problem that nursing homes that are out on strike are facing, that this government will not fund their commitment on parity. My question to the Premier is, these workers have asked the Premier of the province to include them in the mediation process. Will the Premier show leadership and agree to include these workers in the mediation process now?

[Page 3394]

THE PREMIER: The mediation meeting that was held this morning included the other two homes for special care in the meeting. I would hope that all of the homes for special care would be included in the mediation process, that is what we want to see.

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

NAT. RES. - NAT GAS: BASE PRICE - COST

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier, the Minister responsible for Petroleum Directorate. It seems that it was only yesterday that Nova Scotians were being told that the tolling for gas in this province would be 60 cents per billion Btu. Press clipping after press clipping, the report to the joint review panel, 60 cents would be the cost per billion Btu of delivering gas to Nova Scotians. That is disappointing because had we gone not to a postage stamp but to a point to point, in my community it would have been 11 cents not 60 cents. Will the minister responsible confirm that Maritimes & Northeast are now saying that the base price of transporting gas to Nova Scotians will not be 60 cents, it will be 73 cents?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I don't know what Maritimes & Northeast are saying but I can say that there is a 20 per cent preferential price in tolling for Nova Scotians and that there will be a fair price for the delivery of natural gas to all parts of Nova Scotia.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, it has come to my attention this morning by a group that is very involved in this process, indicating that it is common knowledge now among those participating in the offshore distribution in this province, that the price will be 73 cents and not 60 cents. Will this Premier responsible for defending Nova Scotia in this particular issue find out if, in fact, Maritimes & Northeast has increased its toll to Nova Scotians?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I certainly will find out what Maritimes & Northeast has been saying. I want to reiterate that there is a 20 per cent preferential price for Nova Scotia.

DR. HAMM: Well, the Premier should know that 20 per cent off 60 cents looks a lot better than 20 per cent off 73 cents. My final question is, it looks like gas is going up, the price to Nova Scotians. The Premier announced an industrial bypass that means the rest of Nova Scotia will pay more for gas. Will this Premier commit that he will make no more surprise announcements, like an additional industrial bypass, until the Utility and Review Board has had its hearing and the gas will be delivered in Nova Scotia, to Nova Scotians, at the most economic price from one end of this province to the other?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, there will be a direct delivery to some industries in Nova Scotia. Two have been announced, Stora and Canadian Gypsum. This safeguards those industries in those communities. There will be others. They will be approved by government

[Page 3395]

depending on the public value that such a process would give to the particular areas of Nova Scotia.

[3:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HEALTH - NURSING HOME STRIKES: INITIATORS - NAME

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. The Premier continues today with his wild allegations in this House that one of the many nursing home strikes in this province is being initiated as a result of actions of a member of this House. It is time that this Premier put up or shut up. I want to ask the Premier, if he has information, name names, put it on the table right here, now.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it seems it is the Liberal Party that is defending the right of collective bargaining in Nova Scotia. This so-called supporter of organized labour has fallen down at this critical test. The Liberal Party has settled thousands of salaries in this province, we want to do it again if we can get collective bargaining in the process.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the people of this province deserve a Premier that will not make a mockery of serious situations facing hundreds of workers and hundreds of families in desperate need in this province. They deserve better than a Premier . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: . . . who will make shameless allegations that he is not prepared to back up.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: My question is, will the Premier, once and for all, substantiate his scurrilous allegations or will he withdraw them here today?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what Nova Scotians want is a Premier who puts the welfare of the elderly citizens of this province first and foremost. (Interruptions) We realize the importance of giving a fair contract to the workers in the homes for special care. We want to be able to do that but we can't do it unless there is collective bargaining.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, what is really at stake in this whole issue irrespective of the scurrilous allegations made by this Premier, is the thousands of nursing home workers . . .

[Page 3396]

MR. SPEAKER: This is your final supplementary, question, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: . . . who are in a position to go on strike. They feel neglected and abused by this government. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: My question to the Premier is, when is he going to live up to his responsibility and face this issue head-on?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I have been living up to my responsibilities. When is the Leader of the Opposition going to live up to his?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

COMMUN. SERV.: SOC. SERV. - POLICY (POST-TAKEOVER)

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is for the Minister of Community Services. For 20 years I have been taking calls regarding social services and I always felt that when we went to a one-tiered system from a two-tiered system it would be better. I think we all spoke about that for many years. I would ask the Minister of Community Services, since the takeover of social services by the provincial government in the spring of this year to a one-tiered system, has there been any change in policy?

HON. FRANCENE COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I think it is fair to say that having put $10 million more into social assistance this spring, yes, there were some changes in policy that accompanied that positive move.

MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I will tell you and ask the minister about one such policy. A single mom with a newborn baby before, could apply for assistance and get on family benefits. Now that mom has to go in every month to find out whether they actually get $50, $60 or $80 or whatever. I asked the worker why this person can't . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. MOODY: . . . apply for family benefits so they can be on some long-term planning with a newborn baby. I ask the minister why those people are being denied family benefits and have to apply on a monthly basis?

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I think that the member opposite asks a very good question and he knows, from his former association with these issues, that family benefits is a process that takes a certain amount of time to get on, to move onto it from social assistance.

[Page 3397]

MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, these young ladies are calling, in stress, and crying. They can't understand it takes so long to change the policy. I would ask the minister about another policy change and that is a single mom with four children under seven, husband left, needed help immediately, was told by the worker that the policy was she had to take three days . . .

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

MR. MOODY: . . . to get 24 names to apply for a job and she has no car.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. MOODY: I would ask the minister why her $10 million is now denying people access to the system on an emergency basis?

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member opposite knows that I will not discuss any individual case on the floor of this House. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MRS. COSMAN: But certainly if there is an issue around this, we will look into it and try to get an answer for it.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - LONG-TERM CARE FACILITIES:

RESIDENTS RELOCATION - DESTINATION

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. The pressure of caring for residents with just a handful of volunteers and staff in long-term care facilities is beginning to take its toll. Last night, a worker at the Cove Guest Home became sick from the strain of working there during this strike and had to be taken from the home by ambulance. This is not a good omen for the thousands of family members, residents and workers who expect strikes in other communities. The government has said it will shut down homes and move residents if volunteers and non-unionized workers can't continue.

MR. SPEAKER: Question.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question for the Minister of Health is, considering how many hospital beds this government has closed and how few health care professionals we have, where does the minister plan to put these nursing home residents?

[Page 3398]

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the member has made several points and some of them are very important points. The issue of essential services is one that is very important to us because our primary concern is that of the residents. The answer, specifically, to her question, where would someone who became ill from a nursing home go, they would go to the hospital, the same as they would if there was no strike on. Now that is provided that people are allowed to cross the picket lines that are currently set up.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, if beds can be found at all, hospital patients may be discharged early to make room for nursing home residents. Once again, it will be up to families and the communities to pick up the government slack. Will the minister explain why this government's only contingency plan involves downloading the responsibility of providing health care to families?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we are in day four now of a strike that is very disruptive, there is no question. You cannot maintain quality of care at the high standards that Nova Scotians have enjoyed but they are coping. They are coping with friends and relatives and volunteers who are coming in. The cooperation has been very positive. We are monitoring daily. Our senior staff is in the homes monitoring and we are also getting advice from the medical advisers in those homes.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, this government has to stop downloading its responsibility. It has to stop making people suffer. My question for the minister is, can the minister assure all Nova Scotians that this government's failure to address the needs of long-term care workers will not increase the strain on our health care system?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the point is that yes, long-term care is a very important part of the continuum of care within our health care system. I would just like to mention that in Nova Scotia, we are fourth highest, per capita, for hospital beds. That is a concern the member has brought to the House today. I think that is a fact that Nova Scotians should know. We are well off, better off than other provinces and territories.

I would like to say also, specifically, of the Cove today, we have an arrangement with the union that essential services will be maintained. We have two cooks, we have five dietary aides - these are all unionized staff - two housekeepers, LPNs, PCWs and two overnight PCWs. We have an agreement. The mediation process is working, collective bargaining is working. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

[Page 3399]

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - PROCUREMENT:

CONTRACTS - INVITED BIDS

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works. Between April and August of this year, the Department of Transportation and Public Works went on quite a spending spree. In fact, they spent millions and millions of the taxpayers' dollars on equipment. Will the minister confirm that instead of publicly advertising in a true, open competition, numerous contracts were awarded as a consequence of his department receiving invited bids only?

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, first of all, I would say that the new equipment that was purchased, saves the Province of Nova Scotia some $6 million, because that new equipment allows for less maintenance on the older equipment.

MR. TAYLOR: The minister didn't answer the question, but in fact he did. I guess I will ask the minister - and I can't be any more explicit than this - will the minister confirm that Huskilsons - and I believe the key word is Huskilson - Chrysler Plymouth Jeep Eagle of Shelburne have received a number of contracts to supply the Department of Transportation and Public Works with new equipment . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. You are on your first supplementary.

MR. TAYLOR: Yes, Mr. Speaker. The question is, will the minister confirm that Huskilsons Chrysler Plymouth Jeep Eagle of Shelburne received a number of contracts to supply equipment to the Department of Transportation and Public Works?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, if they did receive that, I am sure that they were the lowest bidder. They would be the lowest bidder in order to get that contract.

MR. TAYLOR: Well, in an effort to remove any doubt about political patronage, will the minister guarantee all Nova Scotians today that he will table all contracts that have been awarded to his first cousin's car dealership in Shelburne, Huskilsons Chrysler Plymouth Jeep Eagle, since he became Minister of Transportation and Public Works? Will he table all those contracts to remove any doubt of political patronage?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, this is what I would like to do. We have a procurement policy here in the Province of Nova Scotia, which we follow to the letter of the law, but I don't mind, I have nothing to hide. We will table whatever the member wants. I have nothing to hide.

[Page 3400]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax-Needham.

LBR. - CONTINUING CARE SECTOR: STRIKE - PREVENTION

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. Northwood isn't the only facility affected by strikes. Workers at two homes in Cape Breton are also on strike. Shoreham Village in Chester is headed for a strike and, today, Glenview Lodge in Truro is in a legal strike position. So half the homes in this province are moving into a legal strike position. This is a province-wide problem, it is much bigger than one MLA's constituency.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Question.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: My question. How does this government intend to prevent province-wide strikes in the continuing care sector?

[3:15 p.m.]

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

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. As the honourable member well knows, we received a request from CUPE representatives yesterday asking that they be included, province-wide, in the mediation process and that is under active consideration by the director of conciliation services within the department, senior staff, the deputy minister and, possibly, Judge MacLellan.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my supplementary question is for the Premier. We have already been seeing the effects of these strikes. Workers at the Cove in Glace Bay are becoming ill from the pressure of keeping the home open and family members don't know how long they can keep these facilities running. My question for the Premier. How much longer will the government allow workers, families and residents to suffer and struggle? When will the Premier show leadership in this issue?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we are putting the welfare of the residents of these homes first and foremost. As the honourable Minister of Health has said, this is day four. We want the mediation process to work, but we are not going to wait forever. We have to put the welfare of these residents first and foremost, but let's give the mediation process a chance, and if the NDP would support that it would be very helpful indeed.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, on Tuesday the Premier told the NDP to show concern for the plight of the workers and yesterday he told us to focus on the residents. The Premier should not be pitting workers against residents, both deserve concern,

[Page 3401]

both are waiting for this government to help. Will the Premier live up to his own rhetoric, will he show his concern for workers, residents and families by helping administrators make wage parity possible?

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

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, it is very unfortunate this honourable member did not follow through with her real commitment to the residents at Northwood Manor, her genuine concern. When she asked for a tour of the manor back in October and she could not get the media to accommodate her going from one unit to the next, she cancelled the tour. She was supposed to bring six of her colleagues, but when she couldn't get the cameras, they did not show up. Do you know why? Because it was a photo-op, so a week after her final question with management, she goes to the curbside to try to get a photo-op.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham on a new question.

HEALTH - LONG-TERM CARE: WORKERS - WAGE PARITY

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: My question is for the Premier. Administrators of nursing homes around this province are paying close attention to what the Premier is saying about long-term care strikes. Some of them do not like what they are hearing, they do not like the implication that the strike is their fault or that they have the power to end it; in fact, they think the only one to blame for this situation is this Premier. Will the Premier admit today that this labour unrest cannot be resolved unless he lives up to this promise to make wage parity available to all long-term care workers?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we have never even an itsy-bitsy little bit ever blamed the administrators of the extended care facilities; never. It is the NDP we have blamed. If she really wants to know whom we blame, that is the NDP.

We want this resolved. We want this mediation process to work.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, an administrator told me that this government often boasts that its business investments create jobs for Nova Scotia, but he notices it does not brag much about investing in people. Long-term care will provide more jobs across this province than most businesses ever will.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: My question is, will the Premier continue to create secure jobs, will he commit to create secure jobs and improving health care by investing money in wage parity for all long-term care workers?

[Page 3402]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, to take a page from the NDP, and I do that hesitantly, would the honourable member for Halifax Needham tell us what administrator said that? Would she tell us which one said that, because we know the NDP have very selective memories and have very liberal interpretations of the truth.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Well, administrators of nursing homes that are out on strike have said that they have offered everything they have and workers have said they will not settle for anything less than wage parity. So the power to end this stalemate ends with this government. Will the Premier end this stalemate by helping administrators offer workers what they need to get back to work?

THE PREMIER: I don't have to say it. The honourable member has said it, you offer them what it takes to get back to work. Bypass the collective bargaining process, that is what they want. They do not want collective bargaining, they do not want unions, they do not want responsibility. They want anarchy.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

NAT. RES. - LOGGING: LICENSING - ENSURE

MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. Today the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear the appeal of Thomas Peter Paul respecting the argument that natives have a treaty right to cut on Crown land. My question to the minister is this. What is the minister going to do today to ensure that all Nova Scotians abide by the law and not cut on Crown land without a licence from the government?

HON. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for bringing this to the attention of the House. As the honourable member probably knows, we have been in discussions with the native community for almost a year now and I think we will continue that for a period of time at least so we can have a clear understanding and try to reach an agreement between the government and the native community. What has happened in other jurisdictions had no bearing on our negotiations. We were doing that with the native community and with the government to try to reach a resolve that will help these native communities.

MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, as I am sure the minister knows and as many members in this House will know, there is unlicensed logging occurring, by persons who claim to be doing so as natives, very frequently with non-native employees. My question to the minister is this. Is there a single logging operation occurring today on Crown land, initiatives taken by persons who are doing so as natives, who have filed a plan for cutting and harvesting on those Crown lands? Are there any plans for cutting filed with the minister?

[Page 3403]

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, again, I want to thank the member. There probably are natives cutting on Crown lands who have an arrangement with Stora and that is probably happening in one of the seven counties in the eastern region. They have an agreement with Stora to harvest on Crown leases by Stora.

MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, probably is not good enough. This minister and this government have a responsibility to ensure that our forests are conserved and the only way they can do that is if they ensure that those who are cutting in our forests have registered proper plans that observe conservation.

MR. SPEAKER: Your final supplementary question, please.

MR. LEEFE: I ask this minister, again, what plans are in place in his department by persons who are natives who are cutting without licence on Crown land, to ensure that every logging operation that is underway in Nova Scotia today is solely based on conservation and is a legal operation?

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, again, I want to inform the honourable member that I am very proud of the way our staff has handled the issue with the native communities and we will continue to deal with them. We will continue to protect our forests as we have done over the years. I can stand here and be very proud of the way it is handled.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

FIN. - DEFICIT: REDUCTION - PLAN

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I have available and want to table, today, a response to a freedom of information request which asked for the government's plan to reduce its deficit. It is clear from this they do not have one. Not only has it been shameful that this government has put the province into a serious deficit position, it is even more shameful that they have not bothered to produce a plan that might reduce the deficit.

My question to the Minister of Finance, why have you not bothered to bring forward a comprehensive plan that will begin clearing up the mess that you and especially your colleague, the Minister of Economic Development, have made of the province's finances?

HON. DONALD DOWNE: It is obvious the NDP would simply say, well, just increase taxes because that is the way they want to do it anyway. The reality is, is that we indicated to this House before, Mr. Speaker, that in fact what we are doing is dealing with all the deputy ministers in the Province of Nova Scotia developing plans with regard to the $30 million requirement that we are working toward.

[Page 3404]

Secondly, Mr. Speaker, we, as a Liberal Government, have had plans for a number of years. There is a plan of economic development that we see numbers of growth in the economy we have never seen before. I do not want to be cut off on this. Secondly, the issue that we have done with, Mr. Speaker, is the Government By Design. It talks about a four year plan, something that that individual group over there would not know what it is all about.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I will table in addition a response to a freedom of information request that shows the Premier, as early as September 1st, telling all departments but Health that it is "imperative that they live within their budgets". My question for the Premier is, what disciplinary action have you taken or do you plan to take addressed particularly to your wayward Minister of Economic Development for failing to meet your directive?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I know this may absolutely shatter the NDP but there may not be a deficit. This was the first quarter report. They want the plan. They will get it in the second quarter report. I know the salivating will go on until then but they will just have to wait.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I guess it is my turn to tell a joke. All government departments received on October 13th a memo saying procurement would be handled by a new central agency. That directive was rescinded nine days later. My question to the Minister of Finance, does all this floundering around just not indicate the lack of a concrete plan and, therefore, that you have no idea what to do about your deficit?

MR. DOWNE: It is interesting. I agree with the member opposite in the fact that he is a joke. They are a joke. The joke is they want to increase taxes in the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Next question.

The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

HEALTH - QE II HEALTH SC. CTR.: DEBT - MEETING (15/10/98)

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Last week I asked the Minister of Health, I said, did he have any knowledge of an October 15th meeting at which time the management forum of the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre were informed that they are facing a potential debt of $152 million at the end of the fiscal year. Will the minister now confirm, while he didn't know last week, does he now know of that meeting and of the potential debt of $152 million at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre?

[Page 3405]

[3:30 p.m.]

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member brought a couple of names before the House and some meeting that was held. Yes, I am aware of many meetings that have been held. We have had good relationships, our senior staff from the Department of Health have been meeting with the QE II and discussing many matters as they face the challenges of transitioning four institutions into one. There have been identified pressure points on the budget. There is no question on that. But since my checking, that number that is quoted, $152 million, is absolutely in error. There is no such projection . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, your first supplementary. Thank you.

DR. SMITH: . . . as of this time. If there was discussion it was a worst case scenario at that time.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, the minister just said that there was no $152 million possibility. I am going to table a document prepared by Marianne Hood, Director of Financial Services of the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre, and it projects, in black and white, a deficit at the end of the current fiscal year of somewhere between $123 million and $152 million. This minister doesn't know what is going on at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

DR. HAMM: . . . with 19 per cent of his budget . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

DR. HAMM: I will table that, Mr. Speaker. My question to the minister is, do you have any idea how the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre is going to make up the deficit? Do you have any idea whatsoever?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I just want to keep things quiet because I don't want the honourable member to have to go up there to get his blood pressure checked this afternoon, although I am sure, he would receive good care as all of our people do across this (Interruptions)

I think what we are seeing here today, Mr. Speaker, is quite characteristic of why the people across this province are really concerned about their health care, and they are. I admit that, there is no question. Except those people who are in the system, and when they go to the system and they go to the QE II, they receive good care and a large majority, over 80 per cent of the people, are very satisfied.

[Page 3406]

I have some understanding of what is going on. I don't understand all the intricacies. We don't micro-manage the QE II. They have a board of directors and administrators that are responsible. The figures that are being quoted are out of order and we have a business plan, they have a business plan. We are working on a three year deficit . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, your final supplementary.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, by way of final supplementary, I would encourage the minister to read the information from the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre. Will the minister confirm that the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre has paid a consultant firm millions of dollars, $15 million, to do an operational study . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Your final supplementary question, please.

DR. HAMM: . . . to reduce the amount of operational costs to the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre? Will the minister confirm that that money is spent and, obviously, the $15 million was thrown out the window as we now are facing a $152 million debt?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we have been working with the QE II on a business plan. We have a long-term plan for their debt. There is no question that the health care system across this country is underfunded. We are making representations to the federal government. We have encouraging words from Ministers Rock and Martin that there will be monies coming in health care. We will put it back into the hospitals and the QE II will benefit as well.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. Next question, please.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

FIN. - QE II HEALTH SC. CTR.: DEBT - PLAN

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to go to the Minister of Finance on this issue about the debt at the QE II. Quite staggering information has been released as a result of the memo that the Leader of the Third Party has just (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Question.

MR. CHISHOLM: I want to ask the Minister of Finance, it is clear that we are looking at a $123 million debt at the QE II. I want to ask the Minister of Finance what his plan is to help the QE II deal with this financial crisis?

[Page 3407]

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, if my honoured colleague, the Leader of the Opposition would recall back in June when we presented the budget to the Province of Nova Scotia, the balanced budget of June of this year indicated very clearly that what we have instructed and worked with the Department of Health for all of the health boards to come forward with a three year fiscal plan of putting their fiscal house in order. That particular process is underway, notwithstanding the fact that there is some $50 million used to backstop the shortfalls that they might incur.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, we talked about the deficit at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre during the election campaign and we were told by this Minister of Health that we were crazy, that there was no problem with a deficit at the QE II. This document confirms exactly what we said. I want to ask the Minister of Finance, when is he going to finally come clean with the people of Nova Scotia and explain to them how this government and eventually the taxpayer is going to pay for this $123 million debt?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, obviously the member opposite has already got the number exactly what is going to happen with regard to the QE II's financial situation. Maybe he should give it to his Minister of Finance to make sure that that is accurate because he is the one that seems to have the crystal ball and all of the answers. The reality is we addressed that in the budget. We indicated that there were some legitimate concerns and issues that we need to have addressed. We have said clearly to the Nova Scotia public that we have asked the Department of Health and the health boards to put together a three year fiscal plan to make sure they put their fiscal house in order and that was what we did back in June.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to make sure that this document gets tabled and then it is clear on the record that this is not a leaked document, as suggested by the Minister of Health. It is a document that was presented as a result of an inquiry of the QE II . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The document is tabled. Question, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: . . . and we received it from public affairs. My question to the Minister of Finance in this document they talk about a $20 million grant that they are expecting to receive from the Province of Nova Scotia to help them deal with their Y2K expenses. Has the Minister of Finance given a commitment to the QE II that he, in fact, will provide them with $20 million to defray those expenses for 1998-99?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, every department has their own budget dealing with the Y2K issue. In fact, every department in this government is reviewing the activities of the Y2K, the implications and the serious issues that could come out of that. So every department has money in their budget of this fiscal year, dealing with Y2K and next year they will obviously be looking at other allocations with regard to this specific experience.

[Page 3408]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

HEALTH: QE II HEALTH SC. CTR. - DELOITTE & TOUCHE STUDY

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health is not aware of the workings of the QE II or the deficit. He was asked a question by the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party was he aware of the Deloitte & Touche $15 million study to save money. I would ask the minister if he is aware of that study?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I am aware of studies that have been done at the QEII. I am not aware that the $15 million figure is accurate but they have probably jacked it up a significant amount. There are studies going on. There have been recommendations made, some have been accepted and enforced and are working well while others have been rejected. It has all been done within the context of a business plan for the QE II.

MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I think anybody would remember a $15 million study because that is pretty significant in my books, it is probably the largest study in the world. I would ask the minister, is he aware that over 75 per cent of that money in the study was given to Americans who came up here, drove in limousines, did the study to reduce costs at the QE II? Is he aware that over 75 per cent of that money went to Americans?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the QE II is a hospital with a board of governors. I will say that there are times that we have made representations to them and they have complied, albeit sometimes not as quickly as we may like. This study was controversial and it involved layoffs. Both parties were waving numbers of 200 layoffs that really have never taken place. So that is the type of fear-mongering here. I will confirm the last audited deficit at the QE II, the operating and the capital for 1997-98, was $87 million.

MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, will the minister confirm that the $15 million actually came out of patient care to pay that consulting firm, that the patients were the ones who lost on the $15 million, and will the minister, if he is so supportive of that study, table that study in this Legislature so all Nova Scotians can see if we got $15 million worth of advice from the Americans?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, our concern and our responsibility within the government and within the Health Department is the quality of care the patients receive. How that does in the infrastructure that is put in place is significant, but there is no question that the information technology and all the other processes have to be in place. We have the QE II on a sound basis. It is not like the old VG Hospital when that gentleman was Minister of Health. He had about six departments putting money into the VG Hospital.

[Page 3409]

MR. SPEAKER: The honorable member for Yarmouth.

FISH. - TAGS: EARLY RETIREMENT PROG. - FINALIZATION

MR. JOHN DEVEAU: Mr. Speaker, my questions through you will be to the Premier. On July 27th, the early retirement option under TAGS was announced. Potential beneficiaries received information indicating the option would be shared with the provinces that wished to participate. The package was to kick in at the end of September. My question is, can the Premier explain why the program details have not yet been finalized?

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

HON. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, that is a very important question and it is a very big concern to us, the early retirement program for fishers in the province. The fact is that we have been working with the federal government to come up with a structure to put this in place and we hope to have it in place shortly.

MR. JOHN DEVEAU: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is for the Premier. The agreement will require that the Nova Scotia Government contribute 30 per cent of the cost of the program. Does the Premier have an estimate for the approximate cost of this program and does he know where the money is coming from?

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

MR. COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, this is another part of the ongoing negotiations with the program. We are not sure exactly how many people will participate in the program and we are presently looking at the estimates right now.

MR. JOHN DEVEAU: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is for the Premier. Many fishermen and their families have been waiting for months to receive their cheques. My question is, can the Premier tell the House today when these fishermen and their families can expect the money promised to them?

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

MR. COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, to correct the honourable member, cheques have already been sent out to the TAGS recipients on the first part of the TAGS program. The early retirement process is in the process of being worked out and when it is completed, we will advise the House.

[Page 3410]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg.

HEALTH - LONG-TERM CARE: BEDS - MORATORIUM

MR. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the part-time Minister of Health. There is no department in the Government of Nova Scotia in more chaos than the Department of Health, but in the Department of Health there is no sector in more chaos than long-term care. No issue has caused more concern for so many people than the issue of the alleged moratorium on long-term care beds. Some people in Nova Scotia are being told that there is a moratorium; other people are being told that there is not a moratorium.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. BAKER: My question for the minister is, is there or is there not a moratorium on licenses for long-term care beds in Nova Scotia?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, yes, I am very pleased. I thought every member of the House was aware that 170 long-term care beds had been announced. In New Waterford and in Colchester County, there have been announcement of new beds. In other communities such as the Pictou community, there have been replacements. There is another area in northern Nova Scotia where there are replacements of beds. The answer is simply no. We are working our way along. We are trying to do it as the need arises, and the proposals come forward.

[3:45 p.m.]

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, that is very interesting. How does he explain that his officials in his department have been telling people in Nova Scotia that there is no point to applying for beds, because they won't give them a licence? Is it now telling these people that they have been misled by his department? Should they now submit their applications?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, if the member would bring more information before the House, I may be able to give a more comprehensive answer to that. (Interruptions) The honourable member for Kings West says (Interruptions) the misinformation that he brings and the half-truths that he brought to this House.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable minister will ignore the remarks from across the floor.

The honourable member for Lunenburg, your final supplementary.

[Page 3411]

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I find it incredible that the minister would talk that way. In my own riding, the minister has been unwilling to meet with the Rosedale Nursing Home, that require beds. My question again to the minister is, should people who want those long-term bed licences granted apply to the minister now? Will he consider applications from all over the province, no matter where people live?

DR. SMITH: I thank the honourable member for his question. It is very important that this is cleared up. The answer to his questions is yes. The proposals will be received, considerations will be given to areas of greatest need. For his information, I have personally visited and walked through and met the residents and the staff of the Rosedale Nursing Home.

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

HEALTH - HEPATITIS C: COMPENSATION - STATUS

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians infected with hepatitis C are waiting for compensation from the government. One man I recently heard from hasn't worked in three years, because he is too ill. He has lost his house and is trying to get by on $557 a month. The province won't help to pay for expensive drugs like the Interferon treatments. He has been counting on compensation to help make his final days easier, so on top of everything else he won't die in poverty and leave a legacy of debt.

Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Can the minister offer some assurance to people infected with hepatitis C by telling them when and in what form they can expect to receive compensation money?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, this is a very important issue that is facing this country as we have provincial and territorial along with federal meetings and negotiations. There is a process in place. There are several class actions taking place. To be released from those there is the process between lawyers that is taking place at this juncture. There is progress being made, particularly in the area of the window, as they say, between 1986 and 1990, and other considerations of services and medications for people outside of that. It is actively being pursued. It is a bit lengthy.

MR. DEXTER: At the Health Ministers' meeting in September, this government refused to show leadership by compensating all victims of hepatitis C, instead the minister preferred care, not cash. He said he would put money into programs to enhance the services to persons infected with hepatitis C.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. DEXTER: Will the minister tell us what these programs will be and when they will be implemented?

[Page 3412]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member has mentioned, the federal minister had talked about the types of programs that would evolve. All Ministers of Health in all governments, of all political Parties, have grappled with this issue, this tragedy that has happened to our blood system. There is a real initiative within the resources available to act in a fair and compassionate manner. I would say that whether there is Progressive Conservative, NDP, or Liberal Governments in place. There is a process in place.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the government kept the problems with the blood system a secret. Thousands of people became terminally ill because of it. Now, those who are infected feel this government is keeping plans for compensation a secret too. Will the minister put an end to the secrets? Will he tell victims exactly how and when Nova Scotians will compensate people infected with hepatitis C?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, this provincial Liberal Government has been much more proactive on trace back, look back and identifying people and doing programs that other provincial governments have not done but, in all fairness, there is no secrecy. We are working together with the federal government, the provincial governments and the territorial governments and there is no secrecy. This is a very complicated issue. It is a very sensitive issue but it is very important.

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

DEVCO - FUTURE: UMW PLAN - MEETING (N.S.[GOV'T.]) COMMIT

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Premier. Yesterday, the United Mine Workers put forward a well-thought-out plan designed for the stabilization of the coal mining industry in Cape Breton. A question to you, Mr. Premier, through you, Mr. Speaker. Will he commit today that his government will sit down with the Cape Breton Members of Parliament, the mine workers and everyone else, to join in a united effort to save that coal mining industry?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, speaking for myself, I would be pleased to meet with the United Mine Workers. If they would like a meeting, I would be pleased to meet with them.

MR. CORBETT: I am sure they will, Mr. Premier, I am sure they will. There is a key factor here, Mr. Speaker, and the issue to be settled is the effect of natural gas on coal. The socio-economic study on the effects of gas on Cape Breton coal must be considered at the NEB hearings into the Point Tupper lateral. Will the Premier call off his Calgary lawyers, who keep trying to keep the socio-economic study from reaching the NEB hearings into the Point Tupper lateral?

[Page 3413]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would like the honourable member to know that I completely support the socio-economic impact study. I want to know what it says and we will certainly be utilizing that.

AN HON. MEMBER: I don't think he answered the question.

MR. CORBETT: I heard somebody say, I do not think he answered the question. I do not think he did but, you know, you and I have engaged in debate, Mr. Premier, in this House about representation of people on the Board of Directors of Devco . . .

MR. SPEAKER: You are on your final supplementary question.

MR. CORBETT: My question to you, Mr. Premier. Will you support the involvement of someone from the United Mine Workers sitting on that board of directors?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the immediate concern right now is the future of Devco and what is going to be the position of the federal government and how they are going to work with the province in finding long-term solutions to the problems of Devco; that is the first priority. Also, too, as I said yesterday, if the socio-economic impact study is not ready before the NEB hearings begin, we will get an initial version, so that we will have the thinking, to date, of that commission.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland North.

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS.:

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

MR. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. On August 6th, Mr. Minister, you met with Minister Collenette in Ottawa. How much did you get for the highway agreement for Nova Scotia; how many federal dollars were committed at that meeting?

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, that is correct, on August 6th I did meet with the federal Minister of Transportation. I also had opportunity to go to Regina and meet there with the Transportation Ministers from all across Canada. We are working on a national highway program that we need federal dollars here in the Province of Nova Scotia to fix our 100-Series Highways, and that will give us more money to fix our rural roads once we do that.

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

[Page 3414]

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 honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, you have approximately 46 minutes remaining.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, 46 minutes remaining. Well, I was just starting. It was not the end, or the beginning of the end, but it was the end of the beginning.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, the honourable member asked me to table a document. It has just come into my hands. It has to do with the procurement policy and also with the buying of vehicles. I would like to table that at this point in time.

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

MR. DEXTER: As I say, I was just beginning. Mr. Speaker, the reason we are dealing with this Municipal Government Act today is as a result of an amalgamation that took place and this bill is an attempt to clean up what was left over after those amalgamations. I will tell you what is interesting about this; to put it in context, we received today from the Nova Scotia Legislative Library, their current issues, and in that there is a study done in the Canadian Public Administration Quarterly, that shows the amalgamation costs in the Halifax Regional Municipality were some of the highest of those surveyed.

They say in the Canadian Public Administration Quarterly, provinces that force municipalities to consolidate prevent them from selecting the most appropriate municipal reform option among the numerous restructuring possibilities that exist. The municipalities would be unable to seriously explore alternatives to consolidation that would improve the

[Page 3415]

effectiveness of local government and produce greater efficiency and equity in service delivery. That is, in fact, what happened through that whole process.

This bill is an attempt to smooth out some of those things that happened before. In particular, when we left off, I was noting that they have a number of clauses that deal with the whole question of animal control but, more specifically, with respect to dog control. This is an important issue in many places. I wanted to point out that as we move along into the 21st Century, the reality is that more and more animals are coming into common usage in our municipalities. Some of those have escaped and become nuisances. I was pointing out that recently there was a report in the newspaper that a boa constrictor had gotten lose in an apartment building, in the south end I am told.

I think it would be a much more efficient use of the legislation if the definition of owner included the owner of all animals and not just dogs and that it dealt with it much more broadly, so that municipalities would have the ability to deal with animal control generally, instead of just dogs. I know from my time on municipal council that this came up time and time again so it is something that I would certainly recommend to the minister.

I wanted to talk for a second, and I am really raising questions for the minister to consider, as opposed to indicating whether or not a particular clause is helpful or not helpful because in many cases these things are dependent upon circumstances in a particular municipality. I notice that in Clause 57(1)(c) the legislation provides that, "A municipality may pay grants to a body corporate for the purpose of promoting the municipality or any part of the municipality and the surrounding areas as a location for institutions, industries and businesses;". Further down in that same clause, in Clause 51(2), it says the municipalities, ". . . shall not grant a tax concession or other form of direct financial assistance to a business or industry.".

At first blush these appear to be contradictory in nature. I think it is clear that what they want to do is to get away from the idea that tax concessions to businesses will be granted by local municipalities. I think that is clear. The question is, is there a difference between paying grants to a body corporate and some other form of direct financial assistance?

I suppose another interpretation is that what they are saying is that money can only be paid for the purposes of promotion. That would be a different case altogether, but it is not clear from this legislation what it is they are attempting to do. Any time that a piece of legislation is unclear then we ought to deal with in a way that makes sure that the people who have to deal with it understand it. Certainly that is something I would recommend in this case.

Unfortunately, over the years we have seen a battle of tax concessions break out among municipalities, where what happens is the industries are able to wage a kind of negotiation between one municipality and another by saying, well, we are getting x tax concession from, in those days, Bedford and if we want to go to Dartmouth, then we should have something

[Page 3416]

more. We don't want to see that kind of thing perpetuated within the municipalities within the province. Certainly, it would be helpful to municipalities if this was set out clearly.

[4:00 p.m.]

I would like to talk for a second on Part IV, which is the finance part of this bill. I found it interesting, in light of one of the things that is happening in the Regional Municipality of Halifax at this time, because Clause 65 says that, "The council may expend money required by the municipality for (n) lighting any part of the municipality;". This works in connection with directions that may be made by an engineer, because, of course, an engineer may deem a particular part of a municipality to be so dangerous as to require that lighting be provided.

This is not just a subject of theory. The reality is, and I know that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works is over there, in the regional municipality right now, there is a very dangerous section, the approaches to the MacKay Bridge, that does not have lighting. I think it is now reduced to something like 70 per cent or 80 per cent of the lights are off. I am wondering if this piece of legislation would, for example, allow the Halifax Regional Municipality to go ahead and to fix that lighting and to send the bill to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. That is something that I wonder about. I am not saying that it is a bad thing. The lighting on the approaches to the bridge, and especially with what is being done on the bridge these days, the partial closure of the Macdonald Bridge, means that the traffic counts on the MacKay Bridge are ever higher. The opportunity for something really disastrous to happen there is mounting, as the traffic counts continue to grow.

Here in this legislation, there may be an answer, but the minister should be warned that it is there and they could find themselves with a bill from the regional municipality to do something, to fix something that really they ought to take the time and the responsibility to face now and to ensure that there isn't a disaster, there isn't a serious car accident at the approaches to the MacKay Bridge, for which the minister, having been warned, over and over again, will have to take responsibility. That is of great concern to me and it is certainly a great concern to everyone who lives on that side of the bridge and must daily face that trip. Now that we are into Daylight Savings Time, it is much darker there in the mornings. It is not at all unusual to have traffic backed-up well past those approaches. Without having proper lighting, that becomes a very dangerous place in the morning.

It has already been mentioned in this House, but it bears repeating, Clause 77(1), which is essentially a repeat of the clause that was set out in the Financial Measures (1998) Bill. Now this is something that we have dealt with before and something that recommendations, I understand, amendments have already been made in that committee to deal with the whole question of whether or not the Governor in Council can, by regulation, change the grant per acre.

[Page 3417]

MR. SPEAKER: I wonder if the honourable member would permit an introduction?

MR. DEXTER: Of course, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. RAYMOND WHITE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for yielding the floor for an introduction. As all members know, many of us spend a lot of time away from our family and, without support of family, it would be very difficult for us to carry out our duties as MLAs. I am very pleased to introduce to the members of the House, three special guests that are very important in my life, my wife, Judy, daughters, Tammy Maybe and Jacqueline MacCallum. I would ask them to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, Clause 77 is essentially a repeat of the clause that exists in the Financial Measures (1998) Bill. I understand that has been dealt with in part through amendment in the Law Amendments Committee. But it raises a question for me, in this kind of an omnibus bill, why it is that it would again be included. It gives the impression of trying to sneak through the legislation; if they don't get it in the Financial Measures (1998) Bill, then perhaps they will get it in the Municipal Government Bill.

It has been noted here and I expect that the appropriate amendment will take place with respect to this bill so that it will either be eliminated completely and dealt with in the Financial Measures (1998) Bill or, at the very least, that the Municipal Government Bill will then accord with the provisions that are set out in the Financial Measures (1998) Bill. Of course, this is an important aspect because after all, when you are talking about grants, taxation and those matters, they ought to be dealt with via legislation.

That point brings me to Clause 78 which deals with the whole question of taxation and the forest property tax. Again, Clause 78(2) allows that, "The Governor in Council may, by regulation, change the rates of tax set out in subsection (1).". Whenever you are dealing with taxation, taxation is like a bruise on the body politic, and every time you touch a tax you make people scream.

If you are going to deal with a tax measure the place to do it is not by Governor in Council, the place to deal with it is on the floor of the Legislature. I would say, much as we have objected to the same clause in Clause 77, we object to it in Clause 78 and I expect that an appropriate amendment will be made so that if tax changes are going to come forward, if they are going to be made by the government and proposed, that they be introduced and done in a way that is consistent with the tradition of the House and consistent with the expectations of the people of Nova Scotia.

[Page 3418]

Tax measures, like no other, require transparency. People should see them, they should be brought forward, they should be debated on the floor of the House so that people, the public out there, can make up their own minds about the common sense or the logic to any kind of a tax change. As we know already, many people objected greatly to tax changes that were made by the members opposite during the last sitting of the House and they are still struggling and dealing with the changes made with the HST. So, we do not want to put the government in the position to be doing this in the dead of night, down in the bunker, making these kinds of tax changes. If they are going to do it, they should be bringing that legislation forward and doing it in a way that is commensurate with the expectations of the public.

It was interesting today to note that in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald there was a section of the front page of the newspaper that was devoted to the question of what was happening with the special purpose funds for the Halifax Harbour clean-up. This is an interesting matter because, in fact, prior to amalgamation both in Dartmouth and in Halifax and perhaps in the other municipalities, there were funds that were set aside so that this important issue could be dealt with.

Certainly, within the City of Dartmouth, we had a terrible problem for which we set up a special purpose fund. We had Dartmouth Cove, which was the sewer shed for something like 80 per cent of that municipality's waste. That became a problem not only for the people of Dartmouth generally, but more specifically for the people who lived on Hazlehurst and Newcastle, of which, of course, the Deputy Speaker is one so he is well aware of what happened in that case.

What the City of Dartmouth did with that special purpose fund is they took the money out and dedicated it to the purpose for which that fund was set up. That was the right thing to do and how did they do it? They did it by a special resolution of the council that was debated and passed prior to the amalgamation. As a result today, the Dartmouth Cove has been, at least to a large extent, cleaned up, and we have a much better system. Having been very actively involved at that time in that special purpose fund, this was a section of the municipality and of the ward that I represented, so I had a special interest in that.

I will say that it was just a start, because what we saw was the failure of the provincial and federal governments to come to a conclusion about how the Halifax Harbour clean-up was going to take place. I wasn't even happy with all of the things that we did in the end, because I felt that it didn't go far enough, but at least, as they say, a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, and I think that that is what we did. We took that single step forward in Dartmouth, and we were proud of it at that time.

The problem is, it appears, that these special purpose funds are not being used for the purpose for which they were intended. This legislation deals with that. That is a good thing. The reality is that municipalities, when they make a commitment to their communities to set up a special purpose fund, they are going to bring in revenue from their residents, from their

[Page 3419]

property owners and they say, we are going to use this money for a specific purpose. If they are going to do that, then in order to change that there ought to be a mechanism in place that very clearly sets out to the residents and the property owners there how that is going to happen. I am certainly pleased to see that that is what this legislation intends to do.

One of the things that I would say about it is that there is a question about whether or not this deals with interest that is earned on the account, because really, this shouldn't become an income generator for the municipality. If there is interest earned on that account, then it ought to be paid into the fund and be used also for the purposes that are set out in the fund. That is only fair, because if not, it would be in the best interests of the municipality to continue to sit on the fund so that it can - sometimes these are very large funds - accrue millions of dollars in interest yearly. What happens is that it becomes more advantageous to the municipality to just sit on the fund and allow it to accrue interest and to use that fund for whatever purpose, and perhaps not for the purpose that was intended by the municipality in setting up the fund originally. That is the one thing that I would bring to the attention of the minister with respect to the fund itself.

I had a significant question about another clause in this bill, and that was Clause 101. I was trying to figure out - and perhaps the minister at some point in time will explain this - why it was that this clause existed. Essentially, what it says, and I want to read just part of this, "Except as provided in this Act, every person who votes in favour of a motion to (a) divert money in a sinking fund or a capital reserve fund;", and it lists a number of other things, "is guilty of an offence and is liable, on summary conviction, to a penalty of not less than one thousand dollars nor more than ten thousand dollars and, in default of payment, to imprisonment for a term of not less than three months nor more than twelve months.".

Mr. Speaker, this is a trap. This is a trap for municipal councillors, and it is not fair. What they can do by legislation is to set out and restrict what can be done with those funds. It is simply the law. You can't deal with it, other than in the prescribed manner. There are different staffing levels and different places and different understandings and different kinds of expertise and somebody who proposes a motion, perhaps innocently, and votes in favour of it, not understanding perhaps what the import of it is, could find themselves in a very untenable position of being found guilty of an offence.

[4:15 p.m.]

In this legislation there is a good question as to whether they even have to know about it, they may not even have to know about it; indeed, this could be either an absolute liability offence or a strict liability offence, which would mean that the individual might not even know about the provision, innocently propose it and vote in favour of it and find themselves in substantial legal difficulty as a result of having taken that action. I don't think that is fair.

[Page 3420]

Now Part V of this, I think earlier I said that Finance was Part VI and, if I did, I may have been incorrect on that because it may, in fact, be Part IV, not that it makes that much difference, but just as a matter of clarification.

Part V deals with the whole question of deed transfers. Now this is an important aspect of the bill because deed transfer is one of the ways in which the municipality makes a fair amount of income that it uses for a variety of purposes. Deed transfers have changed over the years. There was a time when if you wanted to buy a piece of property, what you would do is perhaps have a deed made out and go to the local municipality and, before the Registrar of Deeds would accept that deed, you had to go to the municipality, show them the deed, perhaps fill out an affidavit or perhaps just show the purchase and sale agreement, depending on how the custom developed in the individual municipality. The purchase price of that property would then give rise to an amount of tax that had to be paid.

The Registrar would affix a seal to the front of the deed - I don't know if this may still be the practice in some parts of Nova Scotia - that said that the deed transfer tax had been paid. Then you would take that deed down to the Registry of Deeds and produce it, and they would look at the front of the deed and could tell that the deed transfer tax had been paid and then they would go ahead and register the deed in accordance with the provisions of the Registry Act.

That has now changed somewhat. What happens in this legislation is you can send your deed just to the Registrar and that fee for deed transfer tax can be collected there. This is a good thing, this is a simpler way, it streamlines the process. I know certainly the custom here in the city was you had to hire a courier and they would run first out to the municipality and get the deed stamped and then they would have to bring it to the Registrar of Deeds and submit it there, so this is a good thing.

The problem is that there is also a provision in here - again this is the submission of the minister and the members opposite - Clause 112, and this is particularly troubling because it says, "A person who makes a false statement in an affidavit is liable, on summary conviction, to a penalty not exceeding five thousand dollars and, in default of payment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months and is also liable to pay the amount of any deed transfer tax, together with interest and penalty, that was required to have been paid.".

The reality is that we don't want people making false affidavits. If that was all that this was aimed at, perhaps it would not be a problem, and I say perhaps because I have another problem with it. The reality is that section is, by and large, aimed at lawyers because they complete deed transfer tax affidavits on behalf of their clients, and they do so on the basis of information provided to them. So they may not even know, they carry out investigations but it is not possible to know all things and the information supplied to them may be incorrect for some reason. This puts them in the position of not only being subject to a criminal penalty - and that is a problem and I am going to get to it - it not only makes them subject to that

[Page 3421]

penalty, but it also means they would then have to shell out the additional deed transfer tax. I don't think that is an appropriate provision.

Even if the minister won't accept that, even if he wanted to go and heap yet another requirement on lawyers, they may think that that is fair, there is one flaw here, an important one. That is that I don't believe that this provision is constitutional. This seeks to impose a criminal penalty, which is constitutionally under the purview of the federal government. It is not just that it is constitutionally under the purview of the federal government, the reality is that this field has already been filled by the federal government. The Criminal Code of Canada, a piece of federal legislation, under its Section 131, I am going to table this, Mr. Speaker, under its perjury provisions, provides for the swearing of a false oath. I was just going to read this for you, Mr. Speaker, and, as I said, I am going to table it.

It says, "Subject to subsection (3), every one commits perjury who with intent to mislead, makes before a person who is authorized by law to permit it to be made before him, a false statement under oath or solemn affirmation, by affidavit, solemn declaration or deposition or orally, knowing that the statement is false.". That is exactly what this covers. It goes on to say, just so there won't be any ambiguity, that "Subsection (1) applies whether or not a statement referred to in that subsection is made in a judicial proceeding.". So they are saying that this just isn't meant to cover matters of oaths being taken in court, but it covers, broadly, all affidavits, including, I would suggest to the minister, deed transfer tax affidavits.

So it is not just that this is a matter that trenches on the federal jurisdiction pursuant to the Constitution, it is also a field that has been filled by federal legislation. So I would say to the minister that he should check this, but I think, clearly, he has a constitutional problem with that section. I want to suggest that he get some advice on it because I think he will find that not only is it unfair in its application, but it simply would not stand a legal test, a challenge, if one was mounted. I will tell you that when you are dealing with a piece of legislation which primarily affects lawyers that the opportunity for that piece of legislation to be challenged, I think, grows considerably, just by virtue of its intended audience. Well, that was a good point and some things do bear repeating, but I think the minister gets the point well and I am sure that he will take that under advisement.

While we are on the subject of what is constitutional and what is potentially in violation of the constitution and/or the interpretation of the Supreme Court of Canada decisions, I would like to bring the minister's attention to Clause 134(2) and 134(3). This section of the bill deals with the question of a fee for tax certificates. It says that, "The fee for a tax certificate shall be set by the council, by resolution.". It seems like a simple enough process. It says, "A tax certificate binds the municipality.". Well, the problem with this is, and I will remind the minister, if he hasn't already had a chance to look at the Supreme Court Decision in re Eurig, it is a recent decision in the Supreme Court of Canada with respect to probate

[Page 3422]

fees. Essentially, the core of that decision, the ratio of it, was simply that if a fee does not bear a relationship to the service that is provided, it is a tax, it is not a fee.

There is some question as to whether or not the issuance of a tax certificate would, in all circumstances, meet that test. So this is a provision that must be treated with some caution because, I would think, the minister, and this House, is not in the business of promulgating legislation which is simply going to be tossed out at the first opportunity by the court. I am sure that the minister would not want that to happen. Taxation in the municipalities is always something that we are all concerned about and certainly the residents of each municipality have their own reasons for being concerned with it. I am just going to table this now, Mr. Speaker, so you will have an opportunity to see it or members of the House have an opportunity to see it if they so desire.

One part of this legislation deals with another aspect, and it is always a curiosity in municipalities, and that is tax sales. I do not know if the Speaker has had an opportunity to attend a tax sale before. I have had, on behalf of clients, on many occasions attended these tax sales. They often generate a great deal of interest in the community because there is a lot of property going up for sale and people are there trying to get a deal and to maybe get a piece of property that they have always wanted that they see on the auction block. Tax sales are a legitimate mechanism by a municipality to realize the tax liability owed to them by members of the community who, for whatever reason, fail to meet their obligations under the appropriate legislation. No problem with that.

If you decide that the municipality has the right to set a tax rate and that it is for the good of the entire community and there are people in the community who do not pay their taxes, then some action has to be taken and there has to be some mechanism for the municipality to be able to collect that tax. If they could not do that, then they would not be able to fulfil their responsibilities to the rest of the community. They would not be able to undertake those municipal works that fall to them as a result of their position as a responsible order of government.

I am just referring to the preamble because the preamble of this bill, of course, says, "WHEREAS the Province recognizes that municipalities have legislative authority and responsibility with respect to the matters dealt with in this Act; AND WHEREAS municipalities are a responsible order of government accountable to the people;". So recognizing that they are responsible order of government and that they have to look out for the best interests of the members, the people who live in those municipalities; they do that by collecting these fees and taxes and using them in a way that is commensurate with the wishes of those people whom they govern and, I might add, govern well.

There are a few problems, though, with the tax sale legislation. Perhaps as a result of the experience that I have had in relation to these things, I can offer some advice to the minister about the way in which tax sales not only operate and their application, but the way

[Page 3423]

in which this piece of legislation needs to be fixed in order to make it operate in a more efficient manner.

Just for example, there is a clause which allows that property can be sold. It says, Clause 136(1), "Property may be sold for taxes if the taxes with respect to the property are not paid in full for the taxation year immediately preceding the year in which the tax sale proceedings are commenced.". That would seem to be a reasonable provision.

Then it goes on to talk about the way in which the tax sale takes place and it says that, Clause 136(4)(c), "A municipality is not required to put a property up for tax sale if the property has been put up for sale three times in the preceding three years and no satisfactory offer has been made with respect to it;". There is a problem with that because the reality is that no piece of property in a tax sale, at least any tax sale I have ever been to, goes up for sale three times.

The reason for that, and we see later on the bill deals with it, is that there is a bid. There is always a bid on a tax sale because if they do not meet the minimum amount to pay for taxes and costs, the municipality bids that amount and takes the property itself. That is what happens, so you are never going to be into a situation where a property is going to come up for sale time after time.

[4:30 p.m.]

Now, the sale of a piece of property at a tax sale can be a traumatic event for the owners of that property. Usually if they are not paying their tax there is a reason for it. It may be that they have recently lost their job or they have become impecuniary for some reason. In many cases, and we see this happen in Nova Scotia especially in rural areas, this property has been in the family perhaps for generations and it is unfortunately lost as a result of a tax sale proceeding.

This property is not always scrub land, it is not always undesirable property. In some cases, very desirable properties will go up for tax sale. In fact, that is part of the problem because perhaps they have held this property for a long time, it has continued to rise in value, which means that the cost of the tax burden has continued to rise. Perhaps the person is retired or is on a fixed income and they simply can't afford to pay the tax burden allocated to that piece of property. So, even though they may not want this to happen, they decide to allow it to go to tax sale.

When it goes to tax sale, there is an advertisement that takes place around the community for a period of time. This legislation provides for the way in which that advertisement should take place. It is clear that in any community where a piece of property goes up for tax sale, there is a great amount of interest and word gets around, people know.

[Page 3424]

Some of these tax sales will generate a great deal of interest. People in the community will come out and there will be an active auction of the piece of property.

It will go up for sale, the municipal clerk or the person who is charged with that responsibility, will hold the auction on an assigned date, at an assigned time. Oftentimes there are neighbours who perhaps want to get a piece of property that joins theirs, there are speculators, there are business people who hold an inventory of property. There are a lot of people who show up on that day to bid. Often there is an active bidding process. Sometimes the amount of money realized as a result of the tax sale far exceeds that which would otherwise have been required to pay or to satisfy the tax liability.

Of course, the sad thing about these sales is that when they take place the burden of the costs of the sale also falls to the individual who has defaulted on their taxes. They not only pay the cost of the tax sale itself and the taxes, they also have to pay for things like a search of the history of the property in order to provide title information and there are other costs that are ascribed to the perhaps unwilling vendor who is selling his property in order to satisfy the tax liability.

Well, if there is an active bidding process, there can be a large amount of money realized through that process. So there can be a surplus in the tax account that can be a large amount of money. Some of these properties sold are very valuable. What happens to that money? Well, this legislation deals with that, as have other pieces of legislation in the past. It says in Clause 149(2) that, "An application pursuant to subsection (1) may be made at any time after the period of redemption has expired and before the expiry of five years from the date of the sale.".

Now the problem with that provision is that it caps the ability of an individual to recover the surplus in the tax account at five years. In every other aspect of debt in this province, you can recover that debt - and that is essentially what it is, it is a surplus in the tax account - but it is money that is owed to another individual. The municipality does not own it. In fact, they are holding it in a kind of escrow account for the rightful individual to come forward and claim. If it was held by anyone else, if it was a debt obligation for which a judgement was rendered, you would be able to collect that for 20 years under the Registry Act. You would be able to record that and you would be able to issue an execution order and go and get that money back.

But here, under this legislation, if you don't make an application to the Supreme Court within five years, then that surplus is gone. I can tell you, again, from my experience and I know that just recently there was an application made to the Supreme Court for a surplus that had been sitting in a tax acccount for some 17 or 18 years, so it is not that it does not happen. It does happen and what you are doing here through this legislation is you are essentially removing the right of an individual to go back to the municipality and to say to them, you sold

[Page 3425]

my property legitimately for the purposes of recovering the taxes that were owed and I want the surplus of that money. This creates disharmony.

One of the things about the law is that one likes to know what one's rights, responsibilities and obligations are and they like to have certainty. So the legislation should accord with other provisions in other Statutes so that people can see that there is a sense of consistency to the legislation.

It says, interestingly enough, Mr. Speaker, that where a balance remains in the tax sale surplus account five years after the sale, the municipality shall transfer it to its capital reserve fund. So, of course, who benefits from having this reduction? Who benefits from having this cap placed on the amount of time that you can apply to receive that surplus back? Well, the municipality does. I am not sure that that is fair to individual residents.

We certainly have circumstances and we have seen them in this province before where many years will go by because it may be a piece of property that is not on the main road, it may be in the backwoods and people do not even know that it has been sold because they have been away and they come back. They do not know and after a few years they have not received a tax bill and they go down to the municipality and say, well, why is it that we have not received a tax bill or have not seen a tax bill and they will find out that their property, in fact, was sold at a tax sale some years ago.

I am not excusing those people because, of course, as a landowner in the municipality you have a responsibility to ensure that the municipality has your proper address so that you can get notices just like that. You ought to know that tax will accrue on these pieces of property but, nonetheless, I think it is harsh to cap that at five years and to then transfer it to the capital reserve fund of the municipality.

The next clause, Clause 150(1) says that, "Payment at a tax sale shall be by cash, certified cheque, money order, bank draft, or lawyer's trust cheque and not otherwise.". This is an improvement because I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that it used to be by cash or legal tender. This created tremendous difficulties because people who were coming to a tax sale, first of all, you could not bring a certified cheque because you would not know the amount that the certified cheque was supposed to be for prior to the auction. If there was an active bidding process, the amount of taxes owing might be $1,000 but the piece of property might be sold for $5,000, or $10,000, or even some odd number like $5,001. I have certainly seen that happen numerous times. So an individual was not in a position before they went to the tax sale to get a certified cheque.

Being able to get a lawyer's trust cheque - am I running out of time?

MR. SPEAKER: Yes. You are running out of time. You have about one and one-half minutes left.

[Page 3426]

MR. DEXTER: My goodness, and I have all kinds of flags here yet to go. I was just getting started. Anyway, the question of a lawyer's trust cheque is certainly one which is a good idea.

I would point out that there is a contradiction in the tax sale provisions that you might want to take special note of in Clauses 150 to 154 and Clause 157. Clause 152 says that you can get a deed after three months and Clause 154 says that a person whose property is sold at a tax sale can redeem up to six months. Now, those two clauses are clearly in contradiction and what you need to do is just adjust, I suspect. I raised this point earlier, Mr. Minister, with Legislative Counsel because I felt that it was, clearly, just an item that had been overlooked. I suspect that the attention is to bring the amount of time for the issuance of a proper tax deed down to three months and, if that is the intention, then, Mr. Minister, what has to happen is the various pieces of this legislation have to be brought into sync. I am sure that you will see that is done.

I did note, with some interest, that in Clause 174, while the council can make bylaws with respect to automatic machines, they do not include VLTs. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for the time this evening. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Fisheries.

HON. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, I would like to rise and speak for a few minutes on Bill No. 47, an Act Respecting Municipal Government. In particular, I have a concern over Clause 73. The clause indicates, "The council may set separate commercial and residential tax rates for the area of the municipality determined by council to be (a) a rural area receiving a rural level of services; (b) a suburban area receiving a suburban level of services; and (c) an urban area receiving an urban level of services.".

Being a taxpayer in the regional municipality, this raises some very serious concerns for me. At the present time - and these numbers are approximate but quite accurate, if that makes any sense - in the rural area where I live people, as many do in HRM, are paying, giving an example of the Porters Lake-Chezzetcook area, approximately $1.31 tax rate per $100 of assessment. On the surface, that doesn't sound too bad, but it is quite an increase over what it was before. That is made up of a base rate and an area rate for bus service, which runs around 11 cents per $100. If you get street lights in your area and they are spotty, based on what the councillor decides, at his whim, where he wants to put them. The fire departments, that averages around 11 cents to 14 cents on the area rates for that, depending on what small community you are in. That is a good investment. Also, an area rate can be levied by the council at a small community meeting for recreational purposes and, at his will, he can spend it anywhere he wants. So I have some concerns about that.

[Page 3427]

When you look at the limited service that you get in the rural areas, we have no sewer; we have no fire hydrants or dry hydrants, which are a lot different than a pressurized water system; we have no curbs, no sidewalks. The municipality doesn't plow our roads and the list goes on and on for the standard services that are provided in the urban areas. When you look at the urban tax rate, it is $1.34, 3 cents more and all the services that go with it.

That gives rise to very serious concern, as it does to my constituents and constituents in all rural HRM. Basically, the services we get and our base tax rate are broken down into about four or five things. There is police service, which is the RCMP, which is an excellent service; building inspection, which is uniform all over the whole municipality, which, by the way, a building inspection now goes from $300 up to $2,000 in our area; garbage collection, which we have been receiving anyway and that is a good service and very well conducted; and bylaw enforcement. That is what we receive that the urban area receives.

Many of the other things we don't get, but it appears like we are paying for some of these things. I will give you an example. We have an area rate on for a bus of approximately 11 cents per $100 and that is an area rate. The calculated rate in the urban area is .003 cents per $100, if I can remember right, for the bus service and it is in their overall rate. The trouble with the bus service is, it is a good service for people that use it, but, from where I live and for many people who live in the rural areas, we have approximately, just from my home to the bus stop is five kilometres. So it is not really practical to use the bus every day. Many people are much further away from the bus than that, so it raises many concerns even though it is on our tax rate.

[4:45 p.m.]

We have seen the honourable member for Halifax Chebuto, in the Opposition, indicate that tax increases are inevitable and evidently that has happened in the HRM. I don't mind paying taxes nor does anybody in the rural area, taxes for services you receive. We don't like to pay taxes for services received by somebody else. That is an ongoing, serious concern in the HRM. I think part of it goes to the off balance because we have more representation from the urban and suburban areas that typically get these services and don't understand what it is like to live in a rural area where a store may be 10 or 15 or 20 kilometres away and the police may be 25 minutes or one-half hour away, just because of the rural nature where you live. That is fine and that is service we are very pleased with but we should be paying a lower rate.

I am really going to talk to the department and to the minister about this and see if we can't get Clause 73 changed so that in areas of the province where you have really urban and suburban and rural areas, there will be separate tax rates for the three of them; not may be but will be. I am hopeful the department will consider that request. I know anyone who lives in a rural area is very sympathetic to this. I know over the last few years, the HRM in particular has been trying to get the rules changed so they can justify the tax rate they have now, which

[Page 3428]

I believe is illegal under the present Act. I am surprised that somebody in the municipality under a class action lawsuit or something has not sued them, but they have avoided that to this point. That is up to them to do, of course.

It is a serious concern. Again, it goes right back to the point of paying for services we receive; if we receive the services, we don't mind paying, but if you are not receiving the services and paying for them for someone else, I have a serious problem with it and so do all of my constituents, not just a few but all of them. I know that the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley has put forward the same argument and I agree with him, as I am sure do all the other rural members who are hearing from their constituents.

I am going to encourage the department to see if we can change this to make it mandatory to have three levels of taxes in these areas, reflecting truly the service you are getting and only pay for those services you are getting. I think it would be an excellent amendment to the bill, if it can be done. I look forward to comments from other members in the area and in the Legislature, to see if they support this approach. I think it is important we only pay for the services we get. That is what I would like to say on the bill, Mr. Speaker. Thank you for your time.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland North.

MR. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I rise tonight to speak on Bill No. 47, an Act Respecting Municipal Government. The bill is, as many comments have been made in this House during debate, it is wordy, that would be a proper term. There is an amazing amount of material encompassed within this bill and there are a number of areas I would like to comment on.

What I think I will do is go through the bill, not clause by clause, but areas where I feel it is important that a few comments are made. The first area would be under Clause 12(8), "The council of a county or district municipality may, at any time not less than nine months prior to a regular municipal election, decide that the chair of the council be elected at large, . . .".

Mr. Speaker, I am certain this possibly offers standardization within the Province of Nova Scotia on how mayors and wardens, those types of people, are elected to those particular offices. Certainly, in some areas the council will elect their mayor or their warden; in other areas currently the jurisdiction allows for that as an independent vote and everybody in the municipality will vote on it.

Under the new bill I think that is probably a very good thing that is happening here. It will allow for the standardization of that official office and I think most people would prefer that a warden or a mayor be elected by all members of that council, and not by just their peers

[Page 3429]

or their other members, and will prove to be making that office and that person a true representative of the jurisdiction that person wishes to represent.

The next area I would like to touch upon briefly would be under Clause 22, and it deals with the council's ability to what they may discuss in public or behind closed doors.

MR. SPEAKER: I would, if I could, interrupt the honourable member just for a moment, for one introduction?

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member opposite. In the west gallery today, we have a distinguished municipal councillor from the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and a long-time councillor from the former County of Cape Breton municipal government, a tireless worker for many years on behalf of his constituents. I would ask Mr. Ivan Doncaster to rise and receive the applause of the House. (Applause) I don't know who the unidentified gentleman is with him. (Laughter)

MR. FAGE: To the honourable minister, I think that honourable gentleman with Ivan was named in a resolution today that was disallowed, the "hammer" Hamm.

MR. SPEAKER: Before the honourable member gets under way, I wonder could we have one more introduction?

MR. FAGE: One more, it would be my pleasure, sir.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

HON. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for giving me the opportunity to introduce somebody in the Speaker's Gallery. I want to introduce Kathleen Poirier and her husband, James. For most of you who don't know that Kathleen has worked with Mr. MacArthur for a number of years as his constituency assistant. I want the House to give a warm welcome to Kathleen today. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Are there any further introductions before we give the floor back to the honorable member for Cumberland North?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to resume my response to the bill on the Municipal Government Act. As you know, it is a wordy bill and a break every now and then is a wonderful thing to happen when you are trying to extol the virtues and describe what may or may not be the consequences of instituting such a wordy piece of legislation.

[Page 3430]

Going back to the matter of council, under what conditions they may meet privately or openly, the list there describes the sale, lease, minimum prices, personal matters, labour relations, contract negotiations, litigations or potential litigations, legal advice and public scrutiny. These are all matters that I think are justly and properly put that do require in-camera sessions, or that the council can sit down and discuss those types of matters candidly on the best interests of their constituents and of the community that they represent as a whole. It is a proper thing that we would see legislation in place that would allow or an Act that would allow those types of situations to be properly discussed in private before going to the public with decisions.

The next section that I would like to briefly touch on is the section dealing with powers, and this section is an extensive section. It deals with the power either being enacted by by-law, by resolution or policy of that particular council. One particular clause is that the council may adopt different policies for different areas of the municipality. At first glance, that seems to be a clause that would be beneficial but, obviously, I think that one is open to a broad range of interpretations and, certainly, some citizens have justification in some areas to be treated in a different manner in a given municipality or jurisdiction. Also, it has the potential where one resident or group of residents may feel that they are discriminated against, because of that very same rule. I think that one in particular requires proper regulation that will delineate what circumstances those variations may occur under.

The situation, as we go along in this bill, deals with many other circumstances, and the next one I would like to comment on would be Clause 52(3), "The Expropriation Act applies to expropriation proceedings by a municipality or a village.". Obviously, a municipality, a village or other municipal units would from time to time want to be able to use a piece of property for the common good of their residents and therefore would require that the Expropriation Act, under the proper circumstances, apply to them as well.

Clause 54 (1), deals with the proviso for, " . . . police services in the municipality by a combination of methods authorized pursuant to the Police Act and the board of police commissioners of a municipality has jurisdiction over the provision of the police services, notwithstanding that they are provided by a combination of methods.". It goes on to state that we are talking about a situation where the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which has a fine Canadian tradition of providing exemplary services in rural areas of this province, as well as criminal investigations in most areas and as well, it applies to the jurisdiction of individual police units who provide outstanding protection and service to the residents of those areas that now take place.

Clause 55 (2) deals with the Public Utilities Act. It says, "The Public Utilities Act does not apply to a public transportation service within a municipality that provides the service.". So clearly what it is stating here is that the Utility and Review Board of the province has the jurisdiction over services that will be supplied in any jurisdiction in this province and justly

[Page 3431]

so. We have seen, at times, in areas of Nova Scotia where different transportation companies have applied to discontinue a route or make modifications.

I think of one last winter or early spring in the Wentworth Valley of the Cumberland County area where Acadian Lines wished to discontinue service through the Valley after a toll highway was constructed. All truck traffic, which caused the majority of the freight to be moved down the toll highway - which disrupted business, most of them have closed in the Valley - made it extremely difficult for residents at that point in the Valley to make use of public transportation. The bus service then wanted to bypass the Valley in their application and proceed down the toll highway and abandon another community in rural Nova Scotia. Policies like toll highways that have been popular with governments, especially here in Nova Scotia the last few years, caused those things to happen.

The Utility and Review Board on proper representation by community members and interested people ensured that the URB considered what would happen if that service was discontinued and ruled properly that people shouldn't have to wait on the side of the toll highway if they wish to use Acadian Lines services and use mass transportation in this province and that it was the responsibility of that motor carrier company to provide and continue to provide service to the Wentworth Valley people.

The next section I would like to touch upon would be Clause 56(2) dealing with, "The municipality may levy an area rate applicable only to the commercial property and business occupancy assessments in the area benefited by the expenditures in order to recover them.". Obviously, business occupancy is a contentious issue. I know in the community I represent, business occupancy is levied in parts of the Town of Amherst, through the downtown development area, BIDC, and in other areas of that same municipal unit it is not levied. Many petitions, many requests are brought forward by the businesses in that particular section that do pay a large occupancy tax, a commercial business tax, to have that discontinued. They do not feel that they are being treated on a fair basis with businesses that are outside that cordoned off area.

[5:00 p.m.]

Business occupancy tax, those surcharge taxes are important for the use and promotion of a community, but they are the type of tax, Mr. Speaker, that should be administered uniformly and with a given purpose and goal. Those taxes and the amounts raised have to be clearly defined as to their use, the appropriation of that use and the exact money per $100 assessment that use would be put forward to, to satisfy the concerns of businesses who are paying it, rather than the local development corporation who wish to expend the funds.

Another clause I would like to comment on would be Clause 68. "A municipality may agree with another municipality to share taxes or grants in lieu of taxes paid or payable to the municipality.". At first glance, that particular clause allows for, and justly so, the sharing of

[Page 3432]

properties or the sharing of revenues between two different municipal structures or two different jurisdictions. Although it may not be a widespread precedent and, more commonly an amalgamated area where there are two different levels and two different jurisdictions and you have that playing field trying to be levelled up, in some cases, it is proper to have that in there to make sure that that allows for that to happen.

Under Clause 69(2), "The council may, by policy, (a) grant an exemption from taxation, in the amount set out in the policy, for a person whose income is below the amount set out in the policy; and (b) prescribe a scale of exemptions related to income.". It is very important to have those type of regulations and policy in place that there can be the exception to the rule, that there can be exemptions granted for varying reasons for individuals or businesses, depending on what that community goal is to achieve, as long as it does not detract or undermine other communities in Nova Scotia.

Certainly, the one scale of exemptions related to income is extremely important. When you look at that particular one there, we know of many communities in this province that offer property tax breaks, sometimes outright exemptions, to help seniors stay in their homes longer because of their income level. Families that are having a rough time finding income to support themselves and to pay their property taxes, that type of means test allows them to pay a lesser amount of taxation on their property and they can maintain their homes and afford to occupy those premises.

I think the uniformity though, when you look at this bill and you extrapolate it to the provincial jurisdiction, raises some strong points that governments provincially here must look at very strongly. In 1995, an Act by the present government in this very House caused a situation where people earning the same amount of income, in the same amount of need, being side-by-side neighbours, because their birthdays may have occurred on different dates, do not receive the seniors' property rebate tax in this province. It is a very unfair situation when government would feel it is a fair and proper thing that one senior deserves a rebate on their property tax and another senior, in the identical situation, does not receive a property rebate tax under a grandfather clause.

It is not a huge amount of money involved, Mr. Speaker, to level the playing field in these situations, but it is an extremely discriminatory situation, especially when we are dealing with our seniors, because as we near Remembrance Day, which is a special day in this Legislature in this province when we take the time to make that special effort to remember those who sacrificed so much for those of us who are enjoying one of the best provinces in Canada and, indeed, Canada, the best country in the world. They made the supreme sacrifice. They and their families supported that and this is the reward we consider just to give to those people who are in that age group and class. I find it extremely crass that, in talking out of both sides of your mouth, any government would support a situation where you would treat identical neighbours, identical citizens in two different ways and especially the people who have made it possible for us to enjoy the quality of life we do in this province. The people

[Page 3433]

least able to protect themselves are the most vulnerable and appear to be the ones most easily preyed upon by situations of government restraint in this province over the last number of years.

Moving on to another area of exemption from taxation, that is the Canadian registered charities and property used for charitable organizations' purposes, very important that that is included there. Obviously, every organization in Canada has to be registered and every one needs to prove that they are indeed a charitable organization and that they do qualify and meet the needs of those regulations. Once they do, then certainly those organizations and groups then meet the exemption, which is very proper in our community.

Also, when we look at non-profit community groups, we start looking at religious organizations, cultural, sports and, I believe, also fire departments. Many of those organizations certainly have strong questions and whether it is a fire department or church group where you have a meeting hall or a recreation hall associated will receive in some cases a large commercial tax bill. Those bills are extremely burdensome to an organization that is totally volunteer.

If we take fire departments, for example, rural fire departments in Nova Scotia, and since we are a largely rural population, are one of the strongest volunteer organizations we have. Those members donate their time and their efforts to protect the citizens in our community, the well-being. They are there with the jaws of life on the highways, they are there to fight fire, they are there to help in life-threatening situations, but this government does not see fit, Mr. Speaker, to help them out really in any tangible way.

They have many members in those organizations who spend hundreds of hours raising the money to help pay for the equipment and the services that they provide free of charge. I think it is extremely important to look at situations of first responders, where volunteer fire departments are asked and in many cases pressured in this province to take over a 24 hour service that they do not have the resources for and do not have the training for. There is not the membership there that can make that commitment.

It makes it extremely hard to ensure that volunteers do not spend 100 per cent of their time fund-raising and become discouraged and disillusioned at providing a service to their community where government obviously has an obligation; if they are mandating the service, they should at least pay some of the cost. I think those concerns come out loud and clear when you go through this province and visit fire departments, as many members of this House and indeed myself visit those fire departments, work with those fire departments in our constituency as well as around the province.

They are becoming increasingly agitated and increasingly discouraged at this government's commitment. If you live in a jurisdiction where I do, you look across the border to New Brunswick. New Brunswick will mandate the same thing but New Brunswick will pay

[Page 3434]

for it. They will pay a fee for those services to those rural volunteer fire departments that they are mandating under first responders, or requiring. This province will put in a regulation and then turn a blind eye to the voluntary organizations and force them to pay for a regulation or a situation that the government is responsible for.

There are a number of other emergency services, building pumping stations, wells, commercial or municipal type property situations here that allow for exemption in taxes. Those are all proper things and, indeed, that is how it should happen.

The next clause I would like to spend a little time on is Clause 73. "The council may set separate commercial and residential tax rates for the area of the municipality determined by the council to be . . .". I really feel that this situation applies strongly to some of the amalgamated areas, whether it be the Cape Breton amalgamation, whether it be Queens County, which is one that was voluntary. It works very well and has not had the strife, the cost overrun, no savings, and people frustrated and scratching their heads, such as the one here in Halifax.

When we look at the forced amalgamation here in Halifax, Mr. Speaker, we are looking at that regulation there and it causes, whether you live in the old Dartmouth area or the old Halifax area of the HRM, or indeed the rural parts of Halifax County, it has to cause some great concern because under the Amalgamation Act, at least there was some protection for residents in areas of the HRM. Under that Act it was clearly stated and required to set separate rates for each area and what services would be listed.

Certainly that protected the residents, at least to a certain extent, that their tax rate would not be the same as everybody else's without the services being the same because there is huge disparity in services, whether it is fire, whether it is sidewalks, whether it is sewer, whether it is the degree of police protection, whether it is the availability of civic buildings and use, Mr. Speaker, all those type of things vary greatly in an area as large as the HRM. The availability of service to the individual household, or business, or citizen, is going to vary in that area.

Presently, all services must be listed under that amalgamation Act. That also offered some protection for those residents. Now, under this bill, it says that they can establish those, "may set separate" rates. It does not say that it is required, I think that is a key point, they "may". Well, obviously, when you look at the amount of cost overrun, the amount of money that the HRM is showing in deficit right now, as well as even your elected school board areas in the HRM, the deficiencies are shown, the amount of pressure required to lever that money is going to be intense.

One of the easy ways to increase the coffers so that you decrease your deficit, or are not forced to look at expenditures as hard, Mr. Speaker, is raise taxes in areas that are lower now and you do not have to provide the services. So there will be a great temptation for that

[Page 3435]

to happen over the next number of years as we see the financial situation tighten in the HRM, and those citizens, regardless of where they live, deserve that protection of fairness on the services that they actually get. Those are the ones that they properly feel they should pay for.

Mr. Speaker, that is the way it should be. If you do not receive a service, why should you be paying for somebody else's service and not get it? I am sure people who are receiving more services in a strong urban area are not out there looking to require citizens who do not receive as many services as they do to pay their tax bill. They are looking for that fairness quotient, but the temptation on the elected official, or maybe I should say more properly the pressure to meet budgetary considerations, makes it very intense and very hard to resist.

The next clause I would like to briefly touch on is Clause 77. "The Minister shall in each year pay to the municipality in which farm property exempt from taxation is situate a grant equal to $2.10 per acre in respect of the land.". Obviously, this refers to the re-establishment of the grant in lieu of taxes for municipalities on farmland and establishes the route or the precedent for this.

[5:15 p.m.]

I feel, certainly, for the farming community, some strong justification or verification for their stance over the last three or four years since the government did away with that grant, ignoring the long-term use and viability of farmland for a number of years and losing perspective on how large an industry and how vulnerable an industry and how important an industry it was to protect. In the scheme of things, it was $1.2 million, approximately, in this province and the cost was minor.

What it protected and said about this province was huge, because it said, this province had a plan. This province knew what was important. It knew that the farming industry in the Department of Agriculture's budget, which is now one-third of one per cent, is the largest employer and contributor to the economy, second only to the forestry industry in this province, with the least amount of government support. It is a vulnerable industry. We see drought conditions, we see market conditions world-wide. We see an industry that is competing, not only in North America or Canada, but world-wide and under those type of price pressures, deserves a little tiny bit of support from the Province of Nova Scotia. That commitment hasn't been here for a number of years.

Thank goodness the minority situation of this House has been able to get the attention of the government and reinstate this bill. If it wasn't for many rural members of Nova Scotia, in particular, many of them from the Progressive Conservative Party, we wouldn't have the pressure to bring that forward. We are happy to support the Minister of Agriculture in his efforts, as well, to make sure that comes forward. I know the minister is a rural member of Nova Scotia, and a good member, too. There is no question about that, sir.

[Page 3436]

Without the support of the Progressive Conservative caucus, I also know that minister knows that it didn't happen in the last three years, it was important to have the support of this side of the House to enable that to happen. I think that is an important statement from all members of this House, that we are taking note of a resource industry that is having some severe problems, that is going to be, in the future, a large employer in this province and we have set the compass straight again, Mr. Speaker. It is an important thing to have accomplished.

The farm property tax, though, to a value of $2.10 per acre, certainly in HRM, we have had a few instances where maybe that may not be enough and some adjustment by an individual municipality may require more action because, obviously, the pressure to increase taxes to cover debt load is greater here in this one, probably than in any other. We are seeing municipal by-laws, in the case I know one was before us of sprinklers being required in any structure over a given size. That was a municipal by-law, Mr. Speaker, in the HRM here. I know a number of members of this House, from all Parties, were affected by that situation and trying their best to accommodate it and convince the HRM that, really, there should be an exemption to those type of Draconian regulations where there is no exception to the rule and no appeal process on a situation like that and it is not required in any other jurisdiction within Nova Scotia.

There is a problem, though, with certainly that clause. I strongly feel that that regulation, with the past history of how it was taken out, why it wasn't there, that Clause 77(3), "The Governor in Council may, by regulation, change the grant per acre.". I, certainly, have a problem with that particular one because that allows it not to come before this House. Obviously, any change as momentous as this should be coming before all elected members of this House, rather than a decision of Governor in Council.

We have duly noted in Clause 77(4), in lieu of rates and taxes of the municipality, a resident who owns forestry land is prescribed a certain rate of percentage in here, a certain rate per acre which here is Clause 78(1)(a), "twenty-five cents . . . if the forestry property is classified as resource property; and (b) forty cents per acre, if the forest property is classified as commercial.".

This allows for a reasonable fee to be charged on resource land as well because the forest land in Nova Scotia, as you well know, is 70 per cent owned by private landholders. A reasonable fee on those land holdings continues to ensure that they stay in the hands of Nova Scotians, not only for commercial use, as lumber and fibre, but for the recreational use of Nova Scotians and tourism, for hunting, trapping, camping and hiking. Those are all very important parts of our heritage and culture in this province. It is important that that is reasonable rate because the commercial return on property, if it is a forest, even with modern silviculture techniques, is usually an absolute minimum of 40 years, Mr. Speaker, and in many cases will be 50 or 60 years. So it is an important aspect that a reasonable, sensible rate sets the course for that industry and those types of forestry holdings, whether it is a family that has

[Page 3437]

10 acres, whether it is somebody who has five acres of recreational property or it is a full-time, commercial operation, family owned or a company, it sets reasonable rates.

In Clause 78(3) beyond that we see the Assessment Act coming into play and in terms of, ". . . equal to twenty per cent of the value of land . . .", for a change of use. I think, Mr. Speaker, we have to be prudent when we deal with change of use and how much the fee will be. It is a temptation because people do want to build homes, do want to purchase a piece of property and do want to change the use of it from time to time, for governments to want to have their share and their share of that money into services as the use changes, into planning, is extremely important.

Also, we do not want to put a prohibition on the change of use or the right of Nova Scotians to build a business, to build a home for their families or a recreational cottage. When we see rates getting above 20 per cent for a change of use, what its assessed commercial value is, we are talking about situations that offer discouragement for the use of those properties. So a bit of common sense has to prevail, too, because we want to achieve the purpose of the common good but we also want to encourage the development in given areas of this province and the growth of our communities so that we have enough tax base that, hopefully, at some point the tax rate may go down rather than increase on a limited number of property bases, Mr. Speaker.

The next section I would like to comment on deals with by-laws and the type of permits required for the erection and enlargement - those types of situations - of buildings or structures. Those things are extremely essential in my view because when you look at an area or a section that has sensible, reasonably controlled development, you end up with structures that are safe, sound and not unsightly. They contribute to communities and they afford the opportunity of an orderly progression in a community with structures that do conform and you don't have citizens upset about unsightly premises, citizens upset about a haphazard mix of commercial operations, of industries, of residential, where inherent problems are built in because of noise, pollution, quality of life, all those types of things. That is why it is important those regulations are there and that is why by-laws for the approval of enlargements and alterations to buildings and structures are extremely important.

I have one more comment, on Clause 183, that one was dealing with structures, the next one is dealing with property itself, and the planning of property. It is very important that we use sensible progressive legislation, certainly where there are small pieces of property over a number of years that may be in urban settings. You run into them very often when planning in the early days was not employed in coastal communities and recreational shore frontage properties, where a property has been subdivided or sold much too small, and there is no centralized sewage or water system that conforms to modern planning methods.

[Page 3438]

I have seen some progressive things happening there. One of them that I note, I come from an area where there are thousands of cottages along the Northumberland Strait, and that is a big problem in that area. We have seen a situation where county council there have adopted a policy whereby there are dumping stations that would hold wash water, would hold effluent from washrooms, those types of situations. It allows the enjoyment and use of that property, it allows a structure to be built there which helps the commercial base of the business world there; it helps the municipality, and it helps the local entrepreneur that would have the truck and service of pumping sewage. That large holding tank would be underground, properly maintained and emptied on a timely basis. It works out extremely well, and that is what sensible planning can allow to happen.

The next clause [Clause 177(1)(a) regulating the running at large of dogs] I would like to spend a couple of moments on is Clause 177, dealing with the regulating of the running of large dogs. It is interesting that the only dogs that you would regulate would be the large ones, rather than any dog. I question the interpretation of why a bill would be put together that would have a definition of large dogs and why not any dogs. Who will determine a large dog? Is a large dog one like the old English system of a stone or a yard, the one that comes to your ankle and may bite you there, or the one that comes to your knee and may bite your thigh, or is a large dog one that comes under your elbow?

For a bill this large and encompassing, with this much detail, that type of situation seems to be a loose end that definitely could use some delineation and some tightening up. This whole section also only deals with dogs. What about cats? What about ferrets? What about llamas? What about all the types of pets that can cause the same problems? (Interruptions) Yes, as the member opposite says, emus, they can be a huge threat. Many people will go to a park and be nipped and prodded by emus over the fence.

Every now and then in commercial operations with ostriches, people will be kicked. As we well know, in New Zealand and Australia, the southern hemisphere, there is a large ostrich racing contingent. Jockeys are advised not to stand behind their mounts. Seriously, many cats are feral in this province, and unregulated cats, other types of pets, certainly should be coming under those types of guidelines. If we are going to regulate dogs, we should be looking at a number of pets.

The bill goes on to try to define a howling dog.

AN HON. MEMBER: Give us an example.

MR. FAGE: The member opposite is asking for an example. The only example I can think of is the glow in the dark type. Sometimes when they are persistently close to dangerous substances, they will glow in the dark and then persistent noises will come out of them, I am told. Certain types of dogs and dogma will have a persistent ring of a given tone and a given

[Page 3439]

inflection that will denote probably in some cases a leaning to the political left or to the centre or variations on that.

[5:30 p.m.]

Also in the bill it deals with the training and assistance of a dog for the disabled. Those dogs and their exemption from registration fees and their allowance in public places is extremely important. They are a wonderful friend, an unbelievable companion when you talk to and meet people who suffer from blindness; it is unbelievable what those particular dogs have been taught and how they improve the quality of life of someone who has that infliction. It is extremely important that this bill would take the time to define that particular type of trained canine to be a proper one for exemption, and properly it should.

That particular section I think, obviously, needs some work because the only problem is a howling dog and a barking dog with no definition - and a large dog - it does not deal with other nuisances and other pets and situations. Obviously, a dog can be a great companion, but a dog that is improperly trained or a dog that may be uncontrollable is a very dangerous thing and can be a nuisance; so can a feline that is uncontrollable as well.

I would like to move on to the planning and development portion of the bill. That part enables municipalities in this section to assume the primary authority of planning. Municipalities rightly should be involved in planning, zoning and the proper arrangement of when, where, and how, and under what conditions construction or land use can take place and happen within a county. This bill is proposing guidelines under those particular circumstances so those guidelines can be used properly. It is very important that that power is conveyed to the municipality.

Mr. Speaker, if you wouldn't mind, could you tell me how many minutes I have remaining?

MR. SPEAKER: You have 15 minutes remaining.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I am moving into the section that certainly I think, under the planning, we talked about change of use, and we talked about smaller pieces of properties. I think it is really important we spend a little bit of time under this bill where it takes parallel use of Department of the Environment regulations, the use, the proper enforcement of them. It becomes very apparent when you get into planning that regulations under the Provincial Environment Act, planning is required to conform to them.

In this province we seem to have many regulations dealing with the environment and planning for small situations, but we seem unable to tackle the larger situations and do something about them. We have many regulations dealing with the individual homeowner in the use of what products, their home, their land, what they may do, but when we move into

[Page 3440]

a collective situation, whether it is the Halifax Harbour Clean-up that was on a few years ago and then we have seen government reappropriate the money, the big situations such as that appear to be beyond the scope of planning and of government. They can regulate the individual, but they can't regulate what they should be looking after and that is themselves and society as a whole.

Those larger situations of environmental concerns, we have hot spots across the Province of Nova Scotia that need to be properly addressed. Hopefully, planning in the future can prevent them, but planning has to force the larger unit, the larger company, the larger corporation to conform as well as what we seem to do very well now, and that is the citizen and the small business.

As you move into the bill a little more, we run into some definitions. Some of the definitions are proper, but they get into almost the absurd when you get into non-conforming structures, conforming structures, non-conforming use of land. Maybe the bill should just say thou shalt not do this and thou shalt not be responsible for doing that.

Another section that this bill deals with, on land use is there can be the exception to the rule on hours of operation, maintenance, appearance, type of development, and all those types of things. Those types of agreements have to be very rigidly scrutinized when they are entered into and very strongly enforced once they are in place. Once we move into situations in residential areas where we have a commercial development close at hand, and I know there are many situations here in the HRM where we do receive calls where people are upset with hours of operation, with noise levels, with how somebody else is using their property. We have them in our constituencies, too, where you would have the issue of whether it was burning, whether it was noise level from the plant that was located in a residential area, dust levels, in some cases, that type of pollution, as well as water run-off, pollution control, those type of things. They have to be very closely regulated and this bill does provide for those type of situations, Mr. Speaker. They do provide elevations, contour of the land, water courses, ditches, land draining, storm drain systems, all very important aspects once you get into planning for urban areas.

Mr. Speaker, also, in that clause of the bill, we get into appeal periods. We get into abandonment, the development agreements filed by a municipality. Actually, what we are talking about there is how long a time is a proper amount of time for given circumstances for an action not to have occurred or the amount of time to elapse before, under regulation, the municipality would take action. Those type of situations, again, have to be very clearly spelled out. There have to be firm sets of guidelines and rules so that situations don't grow into a situation that becomes a stagnation, becomes an eyesore or an environmental hazard because the municipality does not have the means to act appropriately and timely.

[Page 3441]

Also in the bill, Mr. Speaker, and this, my goodness, is a wordy bill. I might have said that before. We have Part X dealing with fire and emergency services. One particular Clause 296(4) says, "A registered fire department shall provide the municipality with a list of specific emergency services it will endeavour to provide and the area in which the services will be provided.". We see those type of regulations, when they are developed, have to be also very definitive and clear because we have seen a situation here in the HRM, the metro area, in the last week as a matter of fact. We read in the newspaper about fire stations being limited on services, possibly closures, response times going from three and four minutes - moving a local fire safety garage out of a local area - to 12 or 14 minutes responses to communities. Those type of things have to be regulated because the provincial government under this bill has responsibility to ensure the safety of those citizens.

If we see situations under safety, whether it is snowplowing priority of roads in the HRM, or any community in Nova Scotia, or emergency response by fire departments, there has to be the minimum acceptable level provided and those response times have to be one of those minimum requirement levels. If those are not strongly adhered to and provincially enacted for given situations of density of population, then this bill would be abdicating its responsibility to the citizens of Nova Scotia, the HRM, or any jurisdiction in this province.

Also, Mr. Speaker, another clause, Clause 312(1), that I would like to touch on, "The council may, by by-law (a) require the owner, occupier or person in charge of a property to clear snow and ice from the sidewalks adjoining the property,". This prescribes what a municipality may do if there are sidewalks in that situation and the responsibility of that individual business, or citizen, to ensure the safety of other citizens in that area. It is good to make sure that those are clearly delineated and those types of regulations and the ability to make those regulations, it is extremely important they are there because we all, if we own property, we have an obligation. If we own capital equipment, we have the right to own it and the pleasure and enjoyment of owning it, but we also have an obligation to maintain and repair it and maintaining and repairing it in a safe manner to other citizens that reside in that area, or who may come in contact in that area.

Mr. Speaker, there is also an area that provides regulation for dangerous and unsightly premises. Every property in a municipality shall be maintained so it is not to be dangerous and unsightly. I know most municipal councillors, I am sure most MLAs in this House, by now the newly elected ones, have obviously been contacted by what one citizen contends may be a dangerous situation or another citizen will contend is unsightly. There have to be a proper committee in place. There has to be proper guidelines and definition of both of those situations and the teeth to enforce them and the will to enforce them in municipal by-laws because we are all proud of our communities. Any property may get old but just because it has gotten older does not mean it cannot be maintained in a safe, eye-pleasing manner.

[Page 3442]

It is very important that everybody take their communities and the pride of their community in a very strong manner because what you see when you enter a neighbourhood, determines what the people feel in that neighbourhood. If that neighbourhood is clean, if that neighbourhood is safe, those people are proud of that neighbourhood, that community is ready to prosper and that community will prosper because they have civic pride and they take pride in not only what the public owns but in their individual ownership. We all have a responsibility to ensure that happens, Mr. Speaker, in each and every community and municipality in the Province of Nova Scotia. It is proper that municipalities regulate that when someone, business or individual, is delinquent in ensuring that the premises are in proper repair and sightly and that they are safe.

[5:45 p.m.]

The boundaries part of this bill, Mr. Speaker, has several clauses that are very specific and I would like to just note them. Specifically Clause 356(2) that says, "The boundaries of the Halifax Regional Municipality are the boundaries of the County of Halifax, unless altered by the Board pursuant to this Act.". We all know that there are many people in this forced union who are still not happy, who feel that they or their community have been unjustly done to, that they pay for taxes that they feel are too high for services that they do not receive or are non-existent. You also run into the same situation with supplementary funding, which makes it difficult to maintain the same level in a situation over the next 10 years in those boundaries as well.

The union of the HRM, Mr. Speaker, still has a rocky ride to go and there has to be an appeal process for those communities if they cannot be stabilized, if services cannot be provided in a cost-effective manner and representation is in the view of the citizens, that theirs is overlooked or that theirs does not count. That is extremely discouraging when you talk to citizens throughout the County of Halifax, the old City of Halifax, Sackville, Dartmouth, Eastern Shore, those people feel their interests are not heard. That is a terrible situation because democracy is only as good as the people who stand up for it. If those people are the people who feel they are being forced aside, their view has not been taken into account, then it is a very hard job to move communities ahead and have a common goal and move this province ahead, to the destiny it properly should have.

I want to thank you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me the opportunity to say a few words on this bill. I do want to say that it is wordy and I have great concern for how many trees in Nova Scotia and how much wood fibre will be left if this bill continues on without passage.

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

DR. HINRICH BITTER-SUERMANN: Mr. Speaker, I would like to use the remaining 10 minutes or so to speak to the same Bill No. 47. I would like to focus on Clause 174(1((j), the subclause that regulates or attempts to regulate the use of pesticides, and I would think

[Page 3443]

even herbicides, in the municipalities. The reason I would like to speak to it is that as a doctor, I am deeply concerned about how porous and ill-designed this piece of legislation appears to me. The cheapest way to treat our increasing number of patients in this province who have immune deficiencies would be to prevent them ever getting sick. This piece of legislation puts the shoe on the wrong foot. In essence, it would force people to prove that they would be affected by the use of pesticides or herbicides in their neighbourhood. What it would not do is address the problem of chronic exposure of potentially lethal chemicals over time, it would simply just be a way of pointing to a few of the unfortunate of our neighbours, forcing them to abandon their homes. If they were to be notified that there was some spraying attempted in the neighbourhood, they would have to move somewhere else, into some hotel or whatever.

That, of course, is totally inappropriate when it comes to regulatory processes that should look at the future of our children, the health of our children over decades, over generations. The Department of the Environment has for many years had the opportunity to put teeth to already existing laws, and the Department of the Environment has failed to put proper regulations in place. Now, because there is a vacuum, a legislative vacuum, it has downloaded onto the municipalities, however, with a totally flawed piece of regulation.

In order to exemplify what I am talking about, pesticides and herbicides, most of them are derivatives of aromatic hydrocarbons, of cyclic benzenes, of PCBs, et cetera, that we have seen are not good for our health. The most dramatic example was the tragedy in a small community subdivision in upstate New York, the Love Canal tragedy, where a company that produces chemicals, that produces pesticides and herbicides, dumped callously over decades their chemical waste into a region that was then developed a few decades later by people that didn't even know where they were building their houses. As we know, those people had children, and those children were born with malformations, with cleft palates, they have leukemia, they have autoimmune diseases.

That was the first time, Mr. Speaker, in the western world that we were made aware of the dangers of uncontrolled dumping of chemicals. The poor people in the Love Canal subdivision in upstate New York paid the price. The reason why I mention that is although nobody in this Legislature at this moment has in mind to create a second Love Canal, but it is those compounds, those chemicals that can cause cancer. Now if you don't get them into your water table, you may develop environmental illness just because those chemicals, once on your lawn or in your shrubs, once those little critters have died that should die, once the dandelions are gone that should go, those chemicals stay.

No company can assure me that those chemicals are totally innocuous. To the contrary, over decades of abuse in a particular neighbourhood, aerosols will form when the sun bakes on your lawn. Those chemicals can seep down into the water table in rural Nova Scotia, where we have dug wells. So a community that thinks it is immune to the ill effects of chronic exposure to herbicides and pesticides is to be pitied.

[Page 3444]

We, as legislators, have to make sure that this flawed regulatory process that is proposed is wiped out. A total ban of the use of pesticides and herbicides in densely populated areas is the most preferable solution. Nothing else would do. But to force people that have developed environmental illnesses, Mr. Speaker, to come with a doctor's certificate, and then move out to some motel whilst their neighbourhood is poisoned, that is totally unacceptable. We have more asthma in children in Nova Scotia than we had 10 years ago. We have more immune diseases, we have more cases of malignancy, of bone marrow driven malignancies like leukemia or myeloma. We have children that are born in this province that are not any longer born into a healthy environment.

If we as legislators here let this piece of legislation, this simple single subclause go through without proper broad amendments from across the floor, then we are not worth our income, because this is totally irresponsible legislation. I will give you an example of what is on my mind. A few years ago on the Windsor Road in Chester, the former Minister of Fisheries and the former Minister of the Environment had a scam. They wanted to dump toxic soil into an abandoned quarry and we, as citizens, had to protest. We had to organize ourselves to protest the Ministers of the Crown to dump toxic, oil-laden, chemical-laden soil into the abandoned quarry, which would have immediately spread into the water table and would have made all our drinking water in our dug wells, poison and undrinkable. That is basically what is on my mind. We must not allow any government to ever have the possibility to abuse something that is so important to the health of our children.

Mr. Speaker, I realize that my time is up. I will make you aware that the Law Amendments Committee will be inundated with petitions from citizens from across Nova Scotia to make sure that, in densely populated areas, the abuse, not the use, but the abuse of pesticides and herbicides is prohibited. Period. Thank you for your time. (Applause).

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize . . .

The honourable member for Lunenburg.

MR. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the gesture in trying to close debate, but I don't think the honourable member has the right to close debate. In light of the hour of the day and the fact that there is two minutes of debate allowed, I would move that we have debate adjourned on this bill until the next day in this House.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn 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.

[Page 3445]

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow the hours will be from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. and we will continue with Bill No. 47, the Municipal Government Act. Just to serve notice to the House, if we do get through Bill No. 47 tomorrow, then we will be calling Committee of the Whole House on Bills and the bill will be Bill No. 13, Financial Measures (1998) Act. Just for the information of the House, the hours will be changing Monday from 4:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. I move that we do now adjourn.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Through you, Mr. Speaker, to the minister, because we have had some discussions on the hours right up through until next Thursday, I was wondering if you would just like to put it on the record so it is clarified and all members would know.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for bringing that to my attention. Tuesday, being the day before Remembrance Day, the hours of the House will be from 12:00 noon until the completion of Question Period. At that time, it is not the government's intention to call any other business that day to enable members to go back to their constituencies. Thursday, the hours will be from 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. Friday is yet to be decided.

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

The motion is carried.

We are at the hour of adjournment and the half hour of adjournment. The motion that we are debating this evening was introduced by the honourable member for Kings West and it reads:

"Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Community Services immediately investigate concerns of hungry babies and destitute single mothers that are being ignored by her Department across Nova Scotia.".

[6:00 p.m.]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

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

[Page 3446]

COMMUN. SERV. - HUNGRY BABIES/DESTITUTE SINGLE MOTHERS: CONCERNS - INVESTIGATE

MR. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for Kings West. I would like to say that I am a member of the Community Services Committee and travelling around the province at about eight or nine locations, up to this point, numerous instances have been presented to the committee where the feeling is, by those presenting, that usually young, single mothers and their children are being ignored by the Community Services Department.

There are a number of things which I will begin to deal with, and my colleague, Mr. Moody, the member for Kings West, will expand on, but a number of rules and regulations or situations in the Department of Community Services which would indicate that there is considerable substance to this resolution and, indeed, unfortunately it is, in many cases, true.

A lot of these young people, these young, single mothers with children have to apply for benefits on a monthly basis; in other words, they cannot just get into a program which would enable them to look down the road and say, well, I have security or I can try to organize my life for three or four months. The lack of orderliness is a real problem for some of these young people and it not only affects the physical, but also the emotional. What it does is when you have to get there on a monthly basis to re-apply, for example, it is saying to you as a person that you are not really very important and we don't believe you.

If you are a young mom, perhaps with your first child and inexperienced as a mother - and quite often if you are dealing with the Community Services Department, then you are on your own - it is essential these young moms are able to cope and cope well with motherhood, which means coping well and rearing their children well, and there has to be some consistency or orderliness or some security in their life. When they are required to trot down to the Community Services office on a monthly basis to establish that, indeed, they are appropriately qualified to remain on benefits, if the benefits are on a month-to-month thing, this is very difficult, and this does happen.

Coupled with that is not only having to report to the Community Services office, but one of the questions for these young people, quite often is, how do I get there? In other words, if they have a very limited monthly allowance, which we have been told that many do, this added transportation burden is something which takes away from resources that could be better applied, or could be applied to their lifestyle, and I am talking about lifestyle in terms of parenthood, raising their baby a little bit more appropriately. In addition - not only the problem of the issue of transportation, which has been raised time and time again as we have travelled around this province - is what really do I do with the child or who will look after my child and give it care while I do make this journey?

[Page 3447]

As you know, babysitting is pretty expensive, quite often very expensive. For them, in addition to the sort of emotional challenge, you are saying that sometimes you are not really a very good person, and we do not believe you. We are going to take a lot of your resources to get you down to the office so you can establish that you are a good person, and we have the added problem of child care and the burden of that. For many of these young people, having a young baby and feeling secure with whom the child is going to be left while they do these types of things, is an added burden.

Another thing which is coupled with that, in some of the regulations that are going through Community Services, is like where my colleague, I believe it was the member for Kings West today, did mention that a young person with four children who had recently separated from her husband, she went to get family benefits and was told that in a three day period they had to have 24 job applications filled out before they could apply for family benefits. This just does not really make good common sense, if indeed it is true.

Another thing that would go along with this, Mr. Speaker, and I am about to turn this over to my colleague, is if this is the case, the practicality of trying to do that and raise four children, you know, 24 visits, or whatever it is, or it would not be 24 visits, but do this, get these applications out and all around, somebody has to do that and that would be very difficult. When we talk about this resolution, hungry babies and destitute single mothers, this is perhaps just one example of it. Thank you very much. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I rise to talk about the changes that are occurring in Community Services. I have been a member for many years and I am sure there is not a member of this House who has not had calls from people who were in circumstances that it is just unfortunate in their lives. There is nothing that one can do about it.

When they would go to Community Services in the past, they would get some initial help and they knew what the rules were. Well, I have had single mothers and grandmothers who have been very upset of the fact that these young moms now, and I was told by a worker they no longer need to apply for long-term family benefits and that the policy is changing in the department. I was not aware of that until I made a call just a few weeks ago.

What is happening, these new moms have to go in each month to present themselves, present their case, and go home with some small cheque. Mr. Speaker, as one grandmother put it, this new child, I do not want anyone ever saying this new child is a mistake, it is a human being. It deserves a chance. The stress that that family is going through and the stress that the family is trying to cope with, with a newborn and to have to go into Community Services and no longer can they apply and get the family benefits for the long term. Yes, she said, Mr. Moody, they can apply but the department is not going to approve it. So what is the point, even though I encouraged the person to apply.

[Page 3448]

Mr. Speaker, a lot of people get themselves into difficulty and the other rule that is really bothering me that the Liberals brought in, someone who no longer, say the worker is the male and the worker happens to get disabled and cannot work for whatever reason, and it is no fault of theirs, physically they have to, obviously, apply for Canada Pension and in many cases for many of these workers the Canada Pension is $300 or $400 a month. It is really not enough to live on. You and I or no one else could live on it.

What happens, the department says to the wife, who has not worked for 30 years or 40 years, because you are able-bodied, you do not qualify any more for disability pension on the provincial scene. You have got to go out and find a job because you are able to work. Well, the person has not been trained, has not worked out in the workforce, and do you know the kind of stress that is put on those kind of families? Well, this has changed under this government. They may be putting in $10 million more but do they realize the stress they are causing these people and the hardship they are creating? I know that, Mr. Speaker, from the calls and the visits I have had from constituents.

Around the caucus table today I asked other members if they were getting the same calls and the same kind of things, of the changes that were occurring, that I got, and all of them said yes. I feel for these people. They cannot defend themselves. When I called the worker, the worker says, those are the rules. I can't ask the worker to break the rules that this minister and government have laid down, they would probably lose their jobs; even though common sense and compassion would tell you that these people are in need and that those rules, for whoever made them up here, should not apply.

So there is no flexibility unless you call the minister or deputy and nobody should have to do that, they should not have to call me. There should be enough discretion out there that these people's needs can be met in a compassionate way and not because of these rules that deprive them from actually having enough food on the table and enough fuel to keep them warm. That is all they ask for, Mr. Speaker, and yet we can't provide that. How much time do I have left?

MR. SPEAKER: I think your time is actually up. With your eloquence, I was distracted and I was not watching the clock.

MR. MOODY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I know that other members will take up the plight of these people who are unable to fend for themselves and who need our help. (Applause)

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

MS. ROSEMARY GODIN: Mr. Speaker, ordinarily I would be happy to rise in this House and speak about any subject but tonight this is really sad. There should not be such a thing as child poverty in this province or anywhere in this country. Every one of us here

[Page 3449]

tonight or anyone who was here earlier today agrees with that, I know that. If any issue ever called for, if any issue ever demanded non-partisanship in this Legislature, it is the issue of hungry kids.

The system we have now is not working and the government of today in this province has to admit that the programs and services are woefully inadequate to support people who, for whatever reason, have to look towards their government for help. I can't think of a more important, long-term investment in the future of this province than our young people; feed them, house them, educate them and they will blossom into productive, employed and employable people who will raise families right here in Nova Scotia and contribute to the economy of this province.

That is a 20 year plan, a vision. I guess it is a vision that the government just cannot see. For some reason, this government chooses to invest millions of dollars in healthy, thriving corporations who really do not need our public money. The big corporations come to this government for handouts and they get the royal treatment. Single parents and their kids come to this government looking for a hand up and they get far too little. The problem is societal, our attitudes towards the disadvantaged stink. I don't know if that is unparliamentary language or not but you didn't stop me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, so I will say it again; attitudes stink. It is an attitude that does not want to formulate policies that will help the disadvantaged.

For years, there has been an attitude that people without jobs are unmotivated, they are malingerers. In fact, there was and maybe there still is, a pervasive thought in society that if you starve people, if you keep them homeless, they will all of a sudden become motivated to work and make money. Well, where is the work? Those without the education and the learned, marketable skills in this province, cannot find work.

Education, the very key to getting off social assistance, is getting less and less accessible to that rapidly growing segment of our society who find themselves going under financially. For those who have never been there, let me tell you, poverty feels exactly like that; you know what your bottom line is financially and slowly, painfully, as your circumstances just get worse, you start to slip under that line. You feel like you are drowning.

What is more important in this life than nurturing and raising children? But we have government policies that act to punish single parents more than to support them. Those policies probably flow from those societal attitudes that undervalue the whole process of parenting.

[Page 3450]

[6:15 p.m.]

What is a single parent? Well, a single parent is a true super-mom or a super-dad. They are the parent who are the ones who get up alone at 3:00 a.m. They worry alone about how they can come up with the money for the white-soled running shoes - that are more expensive than the black-soled running shoes - that the school insists on so that the floors do not get scuffed. They are the one person that the kids come home to. Support them, do not scorn them.

Every single basic expense for most poor families is a set amount. The only flexibility comes in the food budget or what is left of it. People and kids in our society do not look like they are starving, we all know that, there are no swollen bellies here. We are doing okay but in fact, we do have a lot of overweight people in this country, studies will show and what better indication of a well-fed population is there than that. Well, nothing could be more wrong. Those fruits and vegetables, the lean meat, even the fish in this Maritime Province, all of the good stuff, is too expensive for any family, not just most families, but any family that is on social assistance. We do have hungry kids whose main meal of the day might have consisted of a peanut butter sandwich or a couple of hot dogs. Babies are hungry when parents cannot afford the formula or the baby food; and make no mistake about it, moms and dads are going hungry too.

There is not enough support for single parents in this province and we as legislators have to change our attitudes toward this segment of the population that is doing a most important job, raising their children and trying to feed their children. This government has a responsibility to provide them with the skills and the services needed to do a good job of parenting. These parents want jobs, they do. They want education and they want to feel like they are valued contributing members of their communities. Help them find the way to get off this inadequate social assistance but I ask the government not to starve them while they are doing that.

I also want to ask this provincial government not to be so petty as to take money off provincial cheques because the federal government has made a move to try to help the disadvantaged. It is wrong and maybe it is immoral. I implore this government to show more compassion for all of the people of this province. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Community Services.

HON. FRANCENE COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable members opposite for entering this debate this evening and in particular, the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank because I think she just gave a sterling recitation of her viewpoints on this issue of child poverty and she did it with passion and conviction.

[Page 3451]

I have to tell you that nobody would disagree that child poverty is shameful. It is shameful in Canada, it is shameful in Nova Scotia and it is shameful in any part of the globe. I can't help but say to the honourable member for Kings West who introduced the resolution that it is good to see that there is some compassion late in the game from his Party because for 15 years he sat in Cabinet rooms and for 15 years he was part of the decision process that drove the debt right off the charts in this province. For 15 years, he and his Cabinet, absolutely ignored the calls from all sorts of groups around Nova Scotia for a single-tiered social assistance system. I was one of those people in one of the many groups calling for single-tiered social assistance. Had we done some of these things 15 years ago we wouldn't be behind the eight ball to the degree we are today, and yes, we have been behind the eight ball. I would be the first one to say that this is not an easy process. You don't punch a button and make it happen, and they know it because they were there for 15 years doing nothing.

It is a very complex issue to move the province into single-tier social assistance. One of the reasons we are engaged now in the process of social assistance restructuring with a discussion paper out there is that we are moving through the process of getting to that single tier that is so badly needed. When you look at the economy here in this province, and it is finally starting to grow, you realize that having a job that isn't just minimum wage is strategically important around the issues of poverty, and you realize that putting in place transitional supports when people leave social assistance and go into the workforce, those things are absolutely critical. Quite often, it is a non-winner to go to work, if you have to suddenly pick up the cost of child care and transportation and some new clothes and some new shoes. I know that, the honourable members opposite know that.

Obviously, our current policies don't address all these strategic issues. We have to put in place the mechanics of getting that transition gap bridged somehow. That is part of this process of why we are engaged. We have sent 3,000-plus papers out. We have talked to Nova Scotians all across the province. There is a committee talking to Nova Scotians as well. The Advisory Council on the Status of Women is out there as well, talking. There is a lot of dialogue going on right now on this topic.

We recognize the absolute must do process of asking the strategic questions around social assistance restructuring, listening to the answers and putting ourselves in a position to go forward in new directions around social assistance in this province. It is long overdue. I would be the first one to admit it. The honourable member opposite who served many portfolios in the Tory Government knows that it is long overdue, and knows that he did nothing when he was there on these issues. And, shame.

I can hear lots of laughter over there, but this isn't a particularly funny topic. We have looked at the supports for people moving from social assistance into the workforce. We have looked at flexibility and policies and, over the past five years in this government, when we had to climb out of a staggering debt load - and let's not forget, we are paying $700 million a year in interest payments alone, not touching the capital - by holy Hannah, if I had 10 per cent of

[Page 3452]

that money, $70 million, wouldn't I go to a lot of places and spend it in a hurry on our clients. But I don't have that.

We are putting $700-plus million a year in debt retirement, but I would love to have the ability to put that money into more subsidized child care spaces, and we are doing more. We have 2,300 spaces right now; this year we are bringing in programs for an additional 80. We have been plodding along at some magic number of 50 for the past century in this province and getting nowhere. The need is enormous.

I would like to stand here and remind honourable members that through all the tough times, through all the trying to get to balance our books and get rid of the deficit, that the Department of Community Services not once cut its budgets. We actually increased them. This spring we put $10 million more into rates in the 52 municipal units that we harmonized the rates in. That money is about supporting families, and it is about supporting children. It isn't enough. Nobody can say what is enough. But we obviously know that when our department keeps growing its budget every year, we are trying to do the right thing by these families who are suffering this poverty.

Every one of us agrees that there are solutions to be arrived at. We are trying to engage in a process of determining where do we go to bring this antiquated two-tier system into the next century, into the next millennium. That is where we are engaged right now, in terms of the consultation process. It goes beyond adding dollars. It goes into some very strategic rethinking about the role of the family.

If the honourable member, and I really challenge him on this, he has read a couple of examples into the record today. Give me the details, I will be happy to investigate them. I would be the last person to say to some young mother coming in with three or four children, go out and do 24 job interviews. That is inhuman. If that is happening, give me the details. I will definitely look into it.

This is no fooling around, because I would not expect somebody whose important role of parenting, to go out and search for 24 jobs. All you have to do, honourable member, is give me the information. I trust you will do that.

We are looking at all sorts of different programs to put in place over the next year as we go down this road of social assistance restructuring. Some of those are targeted directly at early intervention and healthy start models and nutrition studies. I hear all sorts of criticisms around, you can't feed a family on this kind of budget. I am sure I couldn't do it. Yet, that is the money people are given to try to do this and that is a horrendous challenge. We have got to find more innovative ways to put more money into nutrition programs and more knowledge about what to buy with that amount of money for your family, so they meet the healthy requirements for nutrition that a growing family, obviously, must have.

[Page 3453]

We are putting money this year, a little extra amount of dollars, into the budgets for mothers who are expecting another child. That carries over after the baby is born, for a certain period of time. That is very strategic because formula costs more money, preparation for a birth costs more money, nutritional needs are different. You require more calcium and milk and a healthier diet and, obviously, the normal budget on those issues is not going to quite cut it.

When we are looking at the support issues for single parents and for families who are living below a certain level of income, we put in place the Nova Scotia Child Benefit Program. As of this month, the first cheques are going in the mail. That money is targeting working families below a net income of $16,000 and social assistance recipients. We did not cut it off from the social assistance being able to get that money in the mail. Some people will say it is not enough and I have to ask again, whenever will it be enough. But, nevertheless, there is some additional money going into the pockets of those homes who are living below that income band of $16,000. I think that has to be useful to those families because it gives them a little extra bit of money to put wherever they see fit.

It is not us saying you must spend it here or you must spend it there. But any little bit that is extra is going to help toward elimination of some of the problems we are talking about here tonight. The whole question around the National Child Benefit, and I want to remind members that this is the first year of a brand new federal program. We get more dollars from the federal government again next year and the year after that. That opens up more possibilities to put in place programs and things that will help these children in families where there is poverty. How we shape that up is a decision of the future, but, obviously, what I hear from so many people across Canada is, give us programs. Put programs in for children's nutrition. Put programs in that help world families with child care needs. Put programs in that do healthy start initiatives and identify children at risk.

Yes, I couldn't agree more with the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank when she described, if you do these things, these children have much better outcomes. Anybody who has looked at these issues of young children in poverty families knows that when you put in place certain things, the outcome starts to improve. I don't think there is anybody in this House who would disagree with that.

Mr. Speaker, we have looked at child development centres in this province and we know that many of these are rurally based and we are targeting some of the National Child Benefit dollars into these programs. If you are in a rural community, you obviously live in areas where the homes are far apart, where there isn't mass transportation, where there isn't access to resources and programs and so we have to shape our policies and programs in the future to answer those particular needs of the rural communities.

[Page 3454]

One of the major preventative areas we are looking at is the family support program to help high-risk families. There are all sorts of parent education programs that are out there currently existing, and some that are currently evolving. They are filling a need that is very strategic as to how we develop healthy outcomes for small families and small children. We have committed $2.25 million this year toward healthy child development initiatives. Again, the target is those low income families, those children living in poverty. It comes back to, is it enough? Well, I don't think we can ever do enough to answer these questions. That is the challenge. The whole idea is to give children a better start in life and to build a better future for children and our society.

Mr. Speaker, are you signalling me that time is starting to run out?

MR. SPEAKER: It has run out.

MRS. COSMAN: Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The time allocated for the late debate having now expired, this House is adjourned until 9:00 a.m. tomorrow.

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