The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Thur., Oct. 15, 1998

First Session

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 15, 1998

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Housing and Mun. Affs. - Seniors Complexes: Elevators/Fire Escapes -
Provide, Mr. M. Scott 1965
Educ. - COGS (Lawrencetown): Name/Acronym/Crest - Retain,
Mr. E. Fage 1966
Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Thorburn: Streets - Upgrade, Mr. J. DeWolfe 1966
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Lbr. - Revenue Canada: Service Agreement - Signed, Hon. R. MacKinnon 1967
Lbr.: Volunteer Firefighters - Recognition, Hon. R. MacKinnon 1970
Health - Regionalization: Task Force - Formation, Hon. J. Smith 1972
Fish. - Lobster: Poaching - Measures Combative, Hon. K. Colwell 1976
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 991, Swissair Flight 111: Crash (Peggys Cove-02/09/98) -
Condolences-Extend/Dedication (N.S.)-Commend, The Premier 1978
Vote - Affirmative 1979
Res. 992, CFB Greenwood 413 Sq. - Crash (Gaspé-02/10/98):
Sympathy - Extend, The Premier 1981
Vote - Affirmative 1982
Res. 993, Bus. & Cons. Affs.: Credit Union Day (15/10/98) - Recognize,
Hon. K. Colwell 1983
Vote - Affirmative 1984
Res. 994, Agric. - Milk Producers Assoc. (N.S.): Dairy Excellence Awards -
Winners Recognize, Hon. E. Lorraine 1984
Vote - Affirmative 1984
Res. 995, Agric. - 4-H: Role - Importance Recognize, Hon. E. Lorraine 1985
Vote - Affirmative 1985
Res. 996, USN - USS Theodore Roosevelt: Global Peacekeeping -
Appreciation Show, Hon. C. Huskilson 1985
Vote - Affirmative 1986
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 27, Provincial Finance Act, Mr. H. Epstein 1986
No. 28, Forced Municipal Amalgamations Correction Act, Dr. J. Hamm 1986
Bill to Provide a Tax Credit for Certain Members of a Volunteer Fire
Department, Dr. John Hamm 1986
Speaker's Ruling, First Reading Not Permitted 1987
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 997, Health - Hepatitis C: Compensation - Equality Ensure,
Mr. R. Chisholm 1987
Res. 998, Agric. - Anna. Valley: Drought - Relief Provide,
Mr. G. Archibald 1988
Res. 999, Bus. & Cons. Affs. - Co-ops/Credit Unions:
Commun. Contribution - Congrats., Ms. Y. Atwell 1989
Vote - Affirmative 1989
Res. 1000, Health - Strait Area: Doctors Recruitment - Success Congrats.,
Mr. M. Samson 1989
Res. 1001, Educ. - Student Debt: Solution - Ottawa Visit, Mr. E. Fage 1990
Res. 1002, Lbr. - Construction (C.B.): Older Workers - Proposal Action,
Mr. F. Corbett 1991
Res. 1003, Mulgrave Vol. Fire Dept.: Anniv. (50th) - Congrats.,
Mr. R. White 1992
Vote - Affirmative 1992
Res. 1004, Lun. West. MLA - Obfuscation: "Downefeathers" - Refer,
Dr. H. Bitter-Suermann 1992
Res. 1005, Fish. - Lobster Fishery (Aboriginal): Cooperation -
Discussions Initiate, Mr. John Deveau 1993
Res. 1006, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - St. FX Univ.:
Commun. Dev. Initiative - Congrats., Mr. H. Fraser 1994
Vote - Affirmative 1994
Res. 1007, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Expenditure: Mgt. Plan - Table,
Mr. G. Balser 1995
Res. 1008, Nat. Res. - Sable Gas: Maine Connections - Explain,
Mr. J. Holm 1995
Res. 1009, NDP (N.S.) - Alberta Trip: Gas Knowledge - Acquire (N.S.),
Mr. L. Montgomery 1996
Res. 1010, Transport. - Roads Secondary: Maintenance - Prioritize,
Mr. B. Taylor 1997
Res. 1011, Health - Breast Cancer: Research - Run (18/10/98) Support,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1997
Vote - Affirmative 1998
Res. 1012, Nat. Res. - Nat. Gas: Commitment (Premier) -
NDP (N.S.) Acknowledge, Mr. G. Fogarty 1998
Res. 1013, Justice - Correctional Officers: Negotiations Fair - Commit,
Mr. M. Scott 1999
Vote - Affirmative 2000
Res. 1014, Educ. - Post-Secondary: Tuition Fees - Freeze,
Ms. E. O'Connell 2000
Res. 1015, Nat. Res. - Sable Gas: Benefits - Maine Contact,
Mr. G. Archibald 2000
Res. 1016, Health - New Waterford Hosp.: Retention - Appreciation,
Mr. P. MacEwan 2001
Res. 1017, Justice - Abuse Victims: Compensation Program - Action,
Mr. M. Scott 2002
Res. 1018, Lbr. - Westray Employees (Former): Severance - Pay,
Mr. C. Parker 2002
Res. 1019, NDP (N.S.) Leader: Social Policy - Not Exclusive,
Mr. Charles MacDonald 2003
Res. 1020, PAC (NDP Members) - Hearings (Gaming Corp.):
Performance - Condemn, Mr. M. Samson 2004
Res. 1021, Educ. - Pt. Hawkesbury Elem. School: Story
(Dogs of Sable Island) - Publication Congrats., Mr. R. White 2005
Vote - Affirmative 2006
Res. 1022, Radio CJLS: Owners New - Congrats., Mr. G. Fogarty 2006
Vote - Affirmative 2006
Res. 1023, Inv. Co./Pt. Hawkesbury - Fiscal Mgt.: Sound - Congrats.,
Mr. Charles MacDonald 2007
Vote - Affirmative 2007
MOTION FOR ADJOURNMENT RULE 43:
Devco: Workforce - Layoffs, Mr. R. Chisholm 2007
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 251, Fin. - Budget (1998-99): Deficit - Details, Mr. R. Chisholm 2009
No. 252, Fin. - Budget (1998-99): Balance - Position (Current),
Dr. J. Hamm 2010
No. 253, Fin. - Budget (1998-99): Stora Commitment - Date,
Mr. R. Chisholm 2011
No. 254, Fin. - Budget (1998-99): Commitments - Exclusion, Dr. J. Hamm 2013
No. 255, Fin. - Budget (1998-99): Assumptions - Accuracy,
Mr. H. Epstein 2014
No. 256, Fin. - Debt (Japan): Reduction - Cost, Mr. N. LeBlanc 2016
No. 257, Fin. - Budget (1998-99): Deficit - Reduction Plan,
Mr. H. Epstein 2017
No. 258, Fin. - Budget (1998-99): Michelin Write-Offs -
Info. Withheld, Mr. D. Dexter 2018
No. 259, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Expenditure: Containment - Plan,
Mr. G. Balser 2020
No. 260, Justice - Court Fees: Increase - Justification, Mr. Kevin Deveaux 2022
No. 261, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Golf Courses: Funding - Disclose,
Mr. B. Taylor 2023
No. 262, Educ. - Univ.: Tuition Fees Freeze - Promise Fulfil,
Ms. E. O'Connell 2024
No. 263, Agric.: Drought - Assistance, Mr. G. Archibald 2025
No. 264, Fin. - Casino (Hfx.): Concessions - Consequences,
Ms. Helen MacDonald 2027
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 13, Financial Measures (1998) Act 2028
Mr. N. LeBlanc 2028
Mr. D. Dexter 2037
Mr. J. Leefe 2042
Mr. Kevin Deveaux 2046
Adjourned debate ~ 2046 ~ ^^
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., Oct. 16th at 10:00 a.m. 2047
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 43:
Devco: Workforce - Layoffs:
Mr. R. Chisholm 2047
Mr. H. Epstein 2050
The Premier 2051
Hon. Manning MacDonald 2053
Mr. G. Archibald 2055
Ms. Helen MacDonald 2059
Mr. J. Holm 2061
Mr. P. MacEwan 2063
Dr. J. Hamm 2067
Mr. M. Scott 2070
Mr. F. Corbett 2070
Hon. R. MacKinnon 2074
Mr. J. DeWolfe 2078
Mr. E. Fage 2079
NOTICE OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 1024, NDP (N.S.) - Discovery (Rural [N.S.]): Recent - Congrats.,
Mr. P. MacEwan 2080

[Page 1965]

HALIFAX, THURSDAY, OCTOBER 15, 1998

Fifty-seventh General Assembly

First Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Ronald Russell

DEPUTY SPEAKER

Mr. Donald Chard

[The Legislature rose on Monday, June 29, 1998 to meet on Thursday, October 15, 1998 at 2:00 p.m.]

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

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland South.

MR. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce a petition on behalf of the senior citizens of Inverness County:

"Senior citizens in Inverness County are presently at a distinct disadvantage as most Seniors Complexes do not have elevators or fire escapes. (many of these complexes contain two or more stories)

Many seniors have physical disabilities that increase with age, therefore, climbing stairs increases the possibility of falls and further debilitating injuries that would add to our already staggering health care costs.

1965

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A serious fire in one of the complexes could have devastating results.

Therefore, as seniors, we request that all future construction of seniors complexes have provisions made for elevators and fire escapes, also that existing complexes be assessed as to the feasibility of installing elevators and fire escapes.".

I have affixed my name to this petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Cumberland North.

MR. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table this petition on behalf of citizens concerned about COGS in Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia:

"We, the undersigned, respectfully request that the name, acronym and crest of the College of Geographic Sciences be retained. It is an integral part of the school's identity.".

Mr. Speaker, I have affixed my name to the petition and will table it now.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the residents of the Village of Thorburn, Pictou County, I would like to table the following petition. It reads as follows:

"WHEREAS the roads and streets in and about the Village of Thorburn are in deplorable condition; and

WHEREAS the Minister of Transportation was witness to and is in agreement with the above;

BE IT RESOLVED that the minister take immediate action to bring our roads and streets back to a safe standard.".

It is signed by just about all the residents on three streets in Greenwood. I table that and I have signed my name to that petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

[Page 1967]

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Labour.

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, today I would like to announce that doing business in Nova Scotia has just gotten a little bit easier. (Laughter) (Interruptions) I appreciate the vote of support.

Building on last year's commitment to reduce red tape for businesses, on Monday past, this government signed a service agreement with Revenue Canada which will help streamline processes making it easier to do business in the province. We are leading the nation. We are the first Canadian province to sign such an agreement.

In short, what we are doing is taking advantage of economies of scale. Under the terms of this service contract, we will have the benefit of Revenue Canada's sophisticated national infrastructure in delivering some of the revenue collections for provincial departments, agencies and other related groups. That means more efficient and more effective service for Nova Scotia businesses. Savings to Nova Scotia business comes in the form of reduced paperwork and certainly frustration as well as, in some cases, a direct savings from reduced financial penalties.

Take the workers' compensation process, for example, this agreement will enable the Workers' Compensation Board to use Revenue Canada's business number as a single identifier for a registered business. As it now stands, Nova Scotia businesses frequently provide the same information such as number of employees or total gross payroll to both organizations. A single identifier will enable the agencies to share this information and reduce duplication of effort for Nova Scotia businesses.

Also, Mr. Speaker, with the workers' compensation, this agreement helps pave the way for periodic premium payments. Instead of estimating payroll and paying yearly premiums up front, businesses may now be able to pay their Revenue Canada bill and their workers' compensation bill at the same time on a monthly basis. These premiums will be based on actual, not estimated, payroll.

The Workers' Compensation Board will be able to improve service without having to build a new stand-alone payment system. We are exploring having the federal department provide this service for us under this agreement. This is in line with a pilot project that I announced earlier this year with regard to periodic payments. In 1999, Workers' Compensation Board and Revenue Canada, together with the business community, will start

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a trial project to identify the issues that both businesses and government need to prepare for in light of a periodic payment process.

Within government itself, Mr. Speaker, the opportunities presented by this agreement are numerous. The most obvious opportunity lies with the Nova Scotia business registry project. At this time, both the Department of Business and Consumer Services and the Worker's Compensation Board are co-funding a feasibility study for that business registry project.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate both stakeholders, in particular, my colleague, the Minister of Business and Consumer Services for his farsightedness in realizing the potential of using this means to reduce the cost of duplication of business.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, to the Workers' Compensation Board insurance, the Nova Scotia business registry project will link registrations for Revenue Canada's four major business programs with provincial registration for business names, provincially incorporated companies, and various business licenses and permits, corporate income tax, payroll deductions, and import-export tax. Those Revenue Canada business programs include: HST, GST, corporate income tax, payroll deductions, and import-export taxes.

In addition to the time-saving benefits to businesses, this agreement will also help us tackle the underground economy. Honest taxpayers, business people and consumers all benefit when everyone pays their fair share. A coordinated business registration with Revenue Canada's enforcement capability should enable us to reduce illegal activity and ensure a fair playing field for all.

It is important to note that Nova Scotia and Revenue Canada share a long history of cooperative efforts when it comes to the delivery of tax collection services, including provincial personal and corporate income taxes, as well as corporate capital taxes. Revenue Canada also administers a number of Nova Scotia tax credits and special measures related to the provincial income taxes. For example, our low income tax reduction program, the research and development tax credit and equity tax credit are all provincial programs delivered through the tax system administered by Revenue Canada.

This agreement, Mr. Speaker, builds on this strong cooperative relationship and provides the means for our relationship to evolve as a federal department making its transition to Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. By reducing the red tape, we are allowing Nova Scotian business owners, some 30,000, more time and resources to do what they do best, run their businesses. It also makes this province a more attractive place to invest.

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Mr. Speaker, the signing of this agreement is an excellent example of how federal-provincial cooperation makes life better for Nova Scotians. This government is committed to providing Nova Scotians with the tools they need to make the most of their lives. A healthy economy is one of those tools. Thank you. (Applause)

[2:15 p.m.]

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I would like to start off by thanking the minister for bringing this forward today. This statement is a very interesting one indeed. As I was fortunate enough this summer to be part of the Select Committee on the Workers' Compensation Act, one of the largest problems employers face in this province is the burdensome fact of paying their fair share ahead of time; indeed, it was not a fair share but was a very burdensome tax. I don't want to prolong my discussion on this, but what I wish to say is that these people were paying taxes in a period of the year when most businesses were suffering a downturn, which meant early January, in the early part of the new year, and it was truly a massive tax burden for them to shoulder.

We look forward to seeing how this deals out to the players, that their ability to pay will become somewhat less cumbersome and that this package has the ability, which the minister says it does, to help get out of our economy, if you will, the underground economy, to make it fair for everybody, and the fact that these people, in particular the employers that are paying WCB premiums, can pay at a fair and equitable rate across the year; we appreciate this. I am sure the employers of the province appreciate this, and it will make our employers and employees a more productive group. I thank the minister. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg.

MR. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to join with my colleague from the NDP in congratulating the government for introducing the initiative, but there is a but here and the but is that, first of all, with respect to the introduction of the workers' compensation pilot project, the only difficulty with that pilot project is that it remains a pilot project. I, for one, feel that there should be an absolute commitment that by January 1, 2000, that this province introduce payments with workers of the province to pay the workers' compensation premiums through periodic payments, because what has happened is that people in certain sectors of this province have been at a significant competitive disadvantage.

We have had business owners, particularly in the tourism sector and also in the natural resource sector, who have been required to look into a crystal ball and guess how much work, how much business they are going to have in the forthcoming year. This has put a terrible burden on them, forced them to either overpay premiums or pay prohibitive penalties. It is a

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long time coming. I am glad to see it is here, and I would like to see an absolute commitment that by no later than January 1, 2000, Nova Scotia have a system which guarantees that employers can make payments that are affordable and based upon their actual payroll and not some wild guesstimate.

The second issue, Mr. Speaker, is that clearly our Party has always stood for a reduction in bureaucracy and red tape. We fully support any effort on behalf of the government to eliminate duplication: duplication of forms, duplication of numbers, duplication of registrations. It appears that this proposal does just that. The only but attached to that is that if there are any jobs to be involved as far as the new system goes, we want to make sure that the jobs involved in the registration system are here in Nova Scotia, and that the federal government doesn't export these jobs to another part of this country. We must keep Nova Scotians working and we don't want a program that is a matter of just exporting jobs out of this province. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Labour.

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, today I would like to recognize volunteer firefighters as an important part of the social fabric of communities in this province. It gives me a great deal of pleasure today to rise in this House with a positive statement for these community-minded Nova Scotians. Today, the Department of Labour is announcing the formation of a committee that will set up consultations to review tax credits and other measures that will benefit volunteer firefighters. (Applause)

The government is asking the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, the Firefighters Association of Nova Scotia, as well as the Departments of Housing and Municipal Affairs and Finance, to develop legislation that would enable appropriate recognition of the contributions of these volunteers to make the quality of life here in Nova Scotia better. There are approximately 8,000 volunteer firefighters in Nova Scotia. Our goal is to promote and maintain the roster of these men and women who provide such a crucial service to Nova Scotians.

The government also supports changes to the Civil Service Act that will ensure a government worker who is an active volunteer firefighter suffers no loss of salary while fighting a fire or responding to an emergency. The committee will also be asked to look at a recognition program for corporations and individuals who will provide similar allowances to their employees who are volunteer firefighters.

In the 1998 budget, the federal government announced a change to its tax relief for volunteer firefighters; the province also shares in this tax break. However, that deduction is only applicable to volunteers who receive honorariums for their service. The concern is that not all volunteer firefighters receive honorariums and thus cannot access this tax benefit. The interplay between the federal and provincial tax credits, legislation of this sort must be

[Page 1971]

carefully worded so as to ensure our intent is achieved. The legislative measures resulting from this consultation effort will be effective for the 1999 tax year.

Safety, security and health for all Nova Scotians is one of the priorities of this government. All Nova Scotians have a fundamental right to enjoy all their province has to offer. That right includes peace of mind when it comes to fire-fighting services. Thank you. (Applause)

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, again I would like to thank the minister for bringing this forward. I think it goes almost without saying that there is not a riding in here where people do not see the benefits of the work of volunteer firefighters in this province. It is just so important to the fabric of this province, indeed, to the health and safety of the vast majority of people within this province that their services do not go unrecognized.

As with one of my colleagues before these things are usually couched in a "but". My but would be to the minister that all the workers that are given the protection, all workers, not just federal ones, all workers in this province be given this one. I would like to ask the minister if they could contemplate instead of just asking for coverage by those that are covered under the Civil Service Act, but look at the Labour Standards Act to include all employees within the province and that this be done. We are kind of asking a committee to look at it and certainly the government supports the changes in the Civil Service Act, but I think the government probably should look at positive changes to the Labour Standards Act.

It is with this in mind that it would give support to all volunteer firefighters in the province and, again, I would like thank the minister for bringing this forward. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg.

MR. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, it is with extreme pleasure that I respond to the minister's statement. I take great pleasure in reminding the House that this is an idea developed by the Progressive Conservative Party based on a resolution tabled by our Leader which recognizes the important contribution of volunteer firefighters in Nova Scotia. (Applause)

I would like to take just a moment to discuss that, as other speakers have mentioned, all of us have volunteer firefighters in our riding but we should never forget the contribution that these people make, not just at the time of a fire, but in contribution that they make in training. I have had occasion to be at volunteer firefighter banquets and listened to the number of hours that these men and women give to their community, countless hours of training, courses, travel, time away from work that they take in training, not just the cost of fighting

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a fire. They have a huge cost in being prepared for a fire which, God willing, will never come. These men and women truly have been forgotten by government in the past and we now have an opportunity collectively in this House to recognize the tremendous contribution that these people have made.

I recall that, I think in my riding there is a group of people, I finally was able to show my wife, that spend even less time at home than myself. That is quite a commitment on the part of these people and people with young families, Mr. Speaker, who are literally taking bread out of their children's mouths to contribute to the community.

Mr. Speaker, I have looked at the statement and the minister is suggesting that there be a task force to look at legislation. We are prepared and we are ready today to save the minister a lot of trouble. We have prepared today a bill which will be introduced under the Introduction of Bills which would implement the tax credit. We would be asking for the unanimous consent of the House to the introduction of the bill so that this matter can go straight to the Law Amendments Committee because in Law Amendments Committee there will be an opportunity for every group that the minister mentioned plus average Nova Scotians to come forward and to speak out and tell us what the bill should have.

Mr. Speaker, I know I am running out of time. I would like to encourage the minister and the members of the government opposite to support this idea, bring it forward, and that is what we are going to ask the government to do. We trust that we will receive their support. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health and Justice.

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to announce the formation of a Task Force on Regionalized Health Care in Nova Scotia. This announcement is in keeping with a resolution passed unanimously during the spring sitting of this House. In the weeks since the House rose, I have been diligent in my efforts to come up with the names of Nova Scotians willing to volunteer their time and effort to serve on two major health related bodies.

Last month I had the pleasure of announcing the appointment of 12 highly motivated Nova Scotians to serve on the Provincial Health Council. That council is now in place and will soon, I am informed, hold its first meeting. Today I am able to announce the names of the 14 other Nova Scotians who have voluntarily agreed to serve on the Task Force on Regionalized Health Care.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia is indeed fortunate that Halifax physician, Dr. Richard Goldbloom, has agreed to serve as the task force Chair. Many of you are familiar with Dr. Goldbloom and the contributions he has made not only to his profession but to public life generally in this province. Dr. Goldbloom is currently a professor of pediatrics, Dalhousie

[Page 1973]

University, and a member of the consulting staff at the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Center. He previously served as physician-in-chief at the IWK Hospital for Children and is a former president of the Canadian Pediatric Society. Dr. Goldbloom is a member of the Children's International Medical Service's Board of Directors and he is an officer of the Order of Canada.

We are also fortunate to have a group of highly motivated Nova Scotians to support Dr. Goldbloom on this task force. Those who have volunteered their efforts include Mr. Jim Perkin, currently Chair of the Western Regional Health Board; Mr. Doug Clarke, chief executive officer of the Nova Scotia Medical Society; Dr. Nuala Kenney, director of bioethics education and research at Dalhousie University. I would add that she was also a member of the National Forum on Health recently across this country; Mr. George Kyte, Chair of the Strait-Richmond Community Health Board; Ms. Cathy Randall, a member of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union; Ms. Sheila Scaravelli, Director of Patient Care Services at the Aberdeen Hospital, New Glasgow; Ms. Roxie Smith, representing the Hospital Foundations of Nova Scotia; Dr. Paul McGuire, a family physician in Kingston, Nova Scotia; Mr. John Henderson, former Chair of the Northern Regional Health Board; Mr. David Smith, from Dartmouth and representing health consumers-at-large; Ms. Kathleen McIntosh, from Sydney, also representing health consumers-at-large; and Mr. Keith Menzies, representing the long-term care sector.

[2:30 p.m.]

Reporting to me as Minister of Health, this task force will examine the current approach to delivering health care in Nova Scotia, recognizing that regionalization is still relatively new. The group will put forward recommendations, strategies and options for improving the health care delivery system.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia's current regionalized system has had many successes. We have been able to reduce the number of administrators in the system, develop common standards and promote cost-savings through measures such as bulk purchasing. However, there are concerns that communities are somewhat disconnected from decision making and that accountability in some way has been eroded. These concerns cannot be ignored.

We are particularly gratified that this task force includes both health care consumers and providers. Their work will start immediately and we anticipate a completion date sometime next spring.

Today's announcement, when linked with last month's appointments to the Nova Scotia Provincial Health Council, represents in a very positive manner this government's ongoing efforts to ensure an open and accountable health care system with patient care its primary concern. I thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)

[Page 1974]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, in responding to the minister's statement I would like to say that we in the Official Opposition have always in principle agreed that the process of regionalization required an honest and impartial assessment. So, with that in mind, in the spring we certainly were happy to endorse the idea of having a Task Force on Regionalized Health Care. However, I would have to say that our concern at today's announcement is that this may, in fact, be too little too late.

As the summer unfolded in this province, we have seen a continuation of doctor shortages. We have seen specialists, oncologists, leave the Province of Nova Scotia. We have seen cost overruns in the Department of Health. We have seen deficits in the non-designated facilities in this province and we have impending strikes in the long-term care sector, a very important sector in health care in Nova Scotia.

For us, these difficulties are difficulties that pose political problems. They suggest to us that the system is not a system where there is a plan in place at a political level. I think the minister, in making his statement, really demonstrates the problem. He talked about in the last weeks since we met, well, Mr. Speaker, it has been months since we have met, three months in fact to set up what, in fact, could be quite a bureaucratic committee of 14 people. What should have been a fairly simple process of one or two people to take a look at this issue in an expedient way has been drawn out and we now have what could, in fact, be quite an encumbering process.

So, I know the people who have been named to this task force are credible and in no way would we say that they are not credible and bring strong perspectives and the ability to look at this. I am concerned at the large number of people.

I also think we need to be very clear that the regional health boards are under some stress and some pressure today because the Leader of the Third Party has been calling for the elimination of regional health boards, which presupposes the outcome of this task force in advance. I think we need to be very clear that this task force has to be allowed to do its job in an impartial way, without undue pressure on them, so I would like to say on behalf of the Official Opposition that we will fully co-operate with this task force in any way that we can, because there can always be improvements in the delivery of health care in Nova Scotia. I want the minister to know very clearly that there is more than the delivery of health care that is problematic about the health care system, and this task force in no way lets the minister off the hook. (Applause)

[Page 1975]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the task force is finally up and running; disappointed that it was not up and running sooner. The Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party put the resolution to the House last spring and it was unanimously agreed that the system that we have needs to change; the health system is in a crisis. If you talk to anyone in your community, you know there are a great many difficulties in the health care system. Whether it is a shortage of doctors or people on waiting lists, I could go on and on, and we all could.

My disappointment with this task force is that now we have a larger task force than I though we were going to have, but we are not going to know anything until next spring. When next spring? What is going to happen in the meantime? What are those people going to do in the meantime?

We also know that deficits are being run up. I also thought that we have to find out the role of the Department of Health. There are so many misunderstandings out there of who is actually in charge of health care in this province. I do not know whether the task force can answer that but, I am telling you, somebody is going to have to answer because the public is becoming disenchanted.

We have the NDP saying the system is all right on the one hand, that there is not a problem with regional health boards and, on the other hand, they say the system is falling apart. You cannot have it both ways. This group has to undertake a full review, know who is in charge and make recommendations so that we do have better patient care, so that we do have a system we can be proud of and that people can access. I hope that the minister will urge this group to not only talk to those who are administrators in the system, but that they talk to all the workers in the system regardless of what level, that they talk to the public and that they make sure that when they bring back a report that that report is made public.

I can see the minister getting this report and not making it public and, again, who is going to have faith in the system and what happens? This government has to commit today that this documentation will be made public, so that we will all know - and it is not watered down so that we get a small report - everyone knows the kind of recommendations that this group will make to finally put to bed what is best for Nova Scotia in the area of health care.

I welcome the task force getting started. Let's get on with the job and let's do a better job of health care in this province. Yes, the minister is not off the hook. Something has to be done before next spring.

[Page 1976]

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

HON. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, as many of you may know here, there is a threat to our lobster industry that must be dealt with seriously. I am, of course, referring to the situation that many of the members are already aware is occurring across the province; the illegal lobster activity and, right now, I am going to make a statement that leaves no doubt where the province stands on this issue.

Mr. Speaker, today - this is a strong message for those who are jeopardizing one of the most lucrative fisheries - I am issuing this stern warning to illegal buyers of lobsters; it simply will not be tolerated. The livelihood of people in this province's many coastal communities and fishing villages is being threatened.

Poaching puts stress on families. It is not fair that those breaking the rules are hurting those who follow them. In the past several weeks, DFO has begun its clampdown on these people. Today, I am adding to those actions and I say if these people are convicted of illegal buying or selling of lobsters, my department will cancel or suspend their buyer's licence.

The lobster industry must be protected and the province will be doing everything in its power to make sure that that happens. My authority lies in several pieces of provincial legislation which allow me, as minister, to terminate a licence if there is evidence of unscrupulous behaviour. My department will take as many steps as necessary to address this situation. We are working cooperatively with DFO on this issue. My department has and will continue to take proactive interest in all illegal buying activities. We are working with the fisheries organizations in pursuing illegal buying.

Please let me repeat this message. With DFO focusing on harvesting, the province is prepared to wield its power whenever and wherever illegal buying is taking place. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Yarmouth.

MR. JOHN DEVEAU: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the minister for bringing this statement forward. I am extremely pleased that the minister and his department have taken such a strong position. The issue of buying and selling of illegal lobster has gone on far too long. The people living in coastal communities cannot afford to have their industry ignored anymore. If the lobster goes, so will their community. We cannot afford to have the lobster go the way of the cod.

Mr. Speaker, I would also encourage the minister, who has mentioned in his statement that his department will be working with DFO and the fisher groups to address this crisis - and it is a crisis - to also include representation from the Mi'kmaq community so that we will be having a united front to address this important issue. Thank you. (Applause)

[Page 1977]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.

MR. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable minister for making this statement in the House. I think someone who perhaps represents one of the most productive lobster fishing areas in Nova Scotia - Argyle, Yarmouth County, along with Shelburne and Digby Counties - we have, I guess you could say, the most to lose if the stocks were ever to collapse. I find it very strange that the minister is making this statement today and I tend to think that it is perhaps due to my comments and also my colleague, the member for Digby-Annapolis' comments, in that we have been speaking out on many occasions over the last two months in regard to the lobster industry.

The biggest reason that we are speaking out is that the minister and his department haven't been. People have met with him before about the fact that there are thousands and thousands of lobsters being caught a day and the estimates go as high as 200 to 300 crates just in Yarmouth Harbour. That is just one area. That has been going on all year. When you talk to people about it and people are asking questions as to what is legal, what is illegal, most of the department seems to be in a state of paralysis.

The straight poaching of lobsters by people who are not involved, or pertain to be involved in the native fishery, is something outside of that; it is straightforward. DFO has been trying its best to catch people who are doing this poaching and I think part of the problem has been a lack of money. I honestly believe here today that the reason they have made these arrests in the last few weeks is because of people such as myself and the member for Digby-Annapolis' comments in the paper bringing it to light. If we aren't prepared to speak, people in Nova Scotia, in rural communities, will lose their livelihood because the lobster is not indestructible. It is like the way of the cod. If we don't have the responsibilities or the guts to stand up and say what our people want us to do, it will go by the way of the cod. (Applause)

When I say this is an emotional issue, it is because all my friends in my communities depend on lobster and we have been very fortunate and we have been blessed in this province that we have such a lucrative resource that many people have been able to benefit from. But I warn the minister, if we don't take the lead in determining who can fish and what their rights are, working in conjunction with the Mi'kmaq people of this province, it will continue to grow. The illegal activity is growing at an alarming rate. I will continue to speak and in the weeks ahead I will be making more comments and trying to present a well thought out process that this province can take forward to the federal government to deal with this issue. The reason I am doing it is that you have not. Thank you. (Applause)

[2:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: I think we will just take a pause for a moment here during the daily routine for any introductions that members have to make.

[Page 1978]

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce a group of women and men who were members of the Westray families. I met with the representatives of this group, Isabel Gillis, Genesta Halloran and Marie Doyle earlier today. They are here along with 14 of their friends to hopefully get an opportunity to speak to the Premier about the whole question of compassionate compensation. They have been trying to get a response to a proposal that they gave about seven months ago but have not been successful. I think all members would agree that this is an important issue and we certainly encourage the Premier to have some time for these people.

I would like to ask the members of these families if they would please rise and receive the warm welcome of the members of this Legislature. (Applause)

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

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I too would welcome the members of the Westray families to the Chamber today. I would also like to draw to the attention of the members that sitting today in the Speaker's Gallery opposite, is a former member of this place who sat as an MLA for 15 years who held a number of senior portfolios, a former representative of the people of Halifax Bedford Basin, Mr. Joel Matheson. Please welcome him to the House. (Applause)

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

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce to the House and to recognize the presence here of a constituent, Mr. John Hamilton, who served as office manager for me in my Ashby headquarters in the last provincial election and gained his political experience toiling in the headquarters of the Honourable Kenneth MacAskill. I am sure he is very pleased to be here with us today and we are pleased to have him here in our midst. Mr. John Hamilton. (Applause)

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 991

HON. RUSSELL MACLELLAN, Q.C. (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

[Page 1979]

Whereas on September 2, 1998, Swissair Flight 111 from New York to Geneva crashed into the dark ocean off Peggy's Cove, horrifically ending the lives of its 215 passengers and 14 crew members; and

Whereas fishermen along St. Margaret's Bay acted on instinct and without thought for their own safety, took to their boats in the hope of finding survivors; and

Whereas thousands of search and rescue, emergency, military, policing and medical staff immediately mobilized and in the days ahead hundreds of them would work tirelessly in truly heart-rending conditions to recover the remains of those who died; and

Whereas the people of this province unselfishly gave of their time, their generosity and their compassion during the sorrow-filled days following the crash and opened their doors and their hearts to those who has suffered such unbearable loss; and

Whereas even today pathology teams under the direction of the province's Chief Medical Examiner, Doctor John Butt, continue the daunting task of identification so that they may bring a measure of peace to those left to carry on;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly, on behalf of the citizens of Nova Scotia, extend its deepest condolences to the families and friends of those who died aboard Swissair Flight 111, and also express its immeasurable gratitude to the thousands of Nova Scotians whose dedication and humanity have made us all so very proud.

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

MR. SPEAKER: I will interrupt, I think, and we will deal with each motion in turn. There has been a request for waiver of notice.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to respond. We had discussed the fact that all Parties wanted an opportunity to raise this issue to add all of our thoughts to the families of the victims of that terrible disaster, and also take an opportunity to thank the people who participated in the recovery effort, because it is

[Page 1980]

something that we all, as Nova Scotians, feel very deeply about. The tragedy that occurred on that night and the kind of response that resulted from Nova Scotians, from Canadians was extremely important to all of us.

I certainly had an opportunity with my colleague, the MLA for that constituency, Mr. Estabrooks, to go out and to visit with some of the volunteers as they were continuing on in their 36 and 40 hours straight of work, as they valiantly tried to search for survivors, and ultimately ended up participating in the recovery. I know that I can say, without any question, that on behalf of my caucus colleagues, and on behalf of the New Democratic Party, Mr. Speaker, that we share the sentiments expressed by the Premier, that this was a terrible disaster.

Our condolences go out to the victims' families, and we also express our great pride in the efforts by the many Nova Scotians who responded so quickly, without any concern for their own life and limb, and who have continued to work tirelessly, representing many of the organizations that have been involved. Again, on behalf of the caucus that I represent, Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this acknowledgement and offer my condolences and gratitude. Thank you. (Applause)

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

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, when I first learned of this tragedy, I held out hope for survivors. I was enheartened by the rapid response of the community and the rapid response of search and rescue personnel. I could see the sense of urgency in the initial actions of these men and women. I, like all Nova Scotians, could not help but share their initial confidence. Today we share their sympathy for those who lost loved ones aboard Swissair Flight 111; 229 lives were snatched from among us in the waters off St. Margaret's Bay; 229 people who lived in 13 countries across three continents; 229 people who touched the lives of millions they never knew.

People, that is what this tragedy was ultimately all about. The 229 people who went down with Flight 111, the fishermen and the people of the St. Margaret's Bay area who leapt into the night seeking survivors, the people of the Canadian Armed Forces, the Coast Guard, the RCMP, and search and rescue teams from Yarmouth to Cheticamp, the people of the Red Cross and St. John Ambulance, our fire departments, paramedics, nurses and doctors, members of our clergy and professional counsellors, family and friends of the passengers and crew of Flight 111. Nova Scotians opened their hearts, opened their homes and provided from our kitchens, gave of services. We demonstrated the kind of people that Nova Scotians truly are.

[Page 1981]

In the words of Claire Mortimer who lost her father, John, and her stepmother, Hilda, "You have made us feel so cared for. Your grace and your generosity and your compassion means so much to us. Your sacrifices have not gone unnoticed. Your outpouring of help will never be forgotten.".

People, that is what this tragedy was ultimately all about. Our first thoughts as we begin the fall session of this year's Legislative Assembly are for the 229 people that were on board Swissair Flight 111, their families and friends, the communities of the St. Margaret's Bay area, and the thousands of volunteers and professionals who gave and continue to give the very most of themselves.

It is in this House, Mr. Speaker, that we attempt to make our province a better place to live. In honour of the thousands who leaped to the aid of strangers, perhaps we could bestow no greater honour than follow the example they have set for us all.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 992

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

Whereas on October 2, 1998, members of 413 Search and Rescue Squadron crashed in the Gaspé woods taking the lives of all six crewmen leaving families and fellow squadron members to grieve; and

Whereas in Greenwood, Nova Scotia, residents were shaken by the loss of six individuals who lived and worked in their community and who were part of a search and rescue service on which all of us depend; and

Whereas Captain Peter Musselman, Captain Darrin Vandenbilche, Sergeant Jean Roy, Master Corporal Darrell Cronin, Master Corporal David Gaetz and Master Corporal Glen Sinclair are in the thoughts and prayers of all Nova Scotians;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly, on behalf of the citizens of Nova Scotia, express its profound sympathies to the families and friends of those who gave their lives in the line of duty.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice and passage without debate and I would suggest that after the other two political Parties have had a chance to make statements that we have a minute of silence for the passengers of Swissair Flight 111 and the crew members of Squadron 413.

[Page 1982]

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed that we have waiver?

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.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of this motion. Let me say that we were all saddened by this tragic event, the crash of a chopper from 413 Search and Rescue Squadron. These men have made an incredible contribution to their community and to this province and to this country as they carry out search and rescue efforts on land and sea. They do so without any concern for their own safety.

Corporal David Gaetz is the brother of people who live in my constituency and people who are seriously shaken and affected by the results of this. I think what it does though is it maybe brings light to the current condition of those helicopters, of the Labrador helicopter, and the fact that we are sending these men and women, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, we are sending these people out to risk their lives just by the very nature of the work that they do. I do not know, Mr. Speaker - and I think there is some investigation into this - whether or not we are ensuring that the tools they have to work with are indeed sufficient to allow them to be able to carry out their jobs.

[3:00 p.m.]

I just want to express our condolences on behalf of my colleagues, and my commitment also on behalf of this caucus is that we will do our utmost to make sure that there is a replacement helicopter provided at the earliest opportunity for such important work as search and rescue. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this resolution. Squadron 413 at Greenwood is in my constituency and that community has been affected greatly by this tragedy. Six young men lost their lives and those men not only lost their lives but it has had a great deal of effect on the families and the community where they were living. These men have served in a rescue attempt many times. They, obviously, many times have shown great courage in dangerous life-threatening rescue missions that they have done many times. I think it is fitting today that we in this Legislature remember and pay tribute to those men. They never gave a thought to going off to rescue someone in need and forgetting about risking their lives while saving others.

[Page 1983]

Mr. Speaker, that community has been hit hard. I want to say to the families of those six men, that we will remember those men and the contribution they made, and that our thoughts are with them as they go on to day-to-day living without loved ones in their families.

Mr. Speaker, I pray to God that we don't see those kinds of tragedies again in that community. I will be supporting this resolution and again, pay tribute to those men and wish their families well. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Both resolutions are being carried unanimously by the House. I will ask all members to rise and we will observe one minute of silence.

[One minute of silence was observed.]

MR. SPEAKER: Please be seated.

We are on the order of business, Government Notices of Motion.

The honourable Minister of Business and Consumer Services.

RESOLUTION NO. 993

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

Whereas Nova Scotia's first credit union opened its doors in Reserve Mines in 1933, setting the stage for unprecedented cooperative, grass-roots, financial services delivery; and

Whereas today the credit union has grown to include 62 credit unions with significant representation in more than 100 communities, contributing billions to the province's economy; and

Whereas the province's credit union system employs over 750 Nova Scotians, serving 164,000 members, whose investments stay right here in Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly recognize today, October 15, 1998, as Credit Union Day, as proclaimed by Premier MacLellan, and applaud the thousands of staff and members whose commitment and contributions have made the credit union philosophy one of the province's most respected movements in the financial services market place.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

[Page 1984]

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 Agriculture.

RESOLUTION NO. 994

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

Whereas 131 dairy producers from Nova Scotia were recognized this past summer for quality and excellence by the Nova Scotia Milk Producers Association; and

Whereas two producers, Gerald Brower of Colchester County, Menkhorst Farms of Kings County, were honoured for receiving the Dairy Award of Excellence for 10 consecutive years; and

Whereas the eight producers from across the province were honoured for receiving the Dairy Award of Excellence for five consecutive years;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize those dairy producers who received awards as testament to the quality and strength of the Nova Scotia dairy industry in making a contribution to the people and economy of Nova Scotia.

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.

[Page 1985]

The honourable Minister of Agriculture.

RESOLUTION NO. 995

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

Whereas a very successful Nova Scotia Provincial 4-H Show was held October 2 to 4, 1998, in Truro; and

Whereas the event was an opportunity for the province's 4-H members to showcase their project achievements to the public and create awareness of the 4-H Program; and

Whereas approximately 2,800 youth and 1,000 leaders attended the show to celebrate the important role the program plays in the development of our youth;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the important role that 4-H plays in the lives of our youth, our communities and the future of the province.

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

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Transportation.

RESOLUTION NO. 996

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

Whereas the United States Navy aircraft carrier, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, is visiting Nova Scotia and the Port of Halifax; and

[Page 1986]

Whereas this vessel and her crew have participated in NATO operations in the Persian Gulf and Bosnia, in support of international efforts to restore peace to those regions, alongside Canadian military personnel; and

Whereas I have had the opportunity through the courtesy of the rear admiral and captain to tour this fine vessel and meet many of her crew;

Therefore be it resolved that this House show its appreciation for this vessel's contribution to global peacekeeping efforts and extend a warm welcome to Rear Admiral Winston Copeland, Jr., Captain David Bryant and the entire crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt to the Port of Halifax and that the House extend an invitation to return to our province at any time.

I request 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.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 27 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 365 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Provincial Finance Act. (Mr. Howard Epstein)

Bill No. 28 - Entitled an Act to Permit the Correction of the Inequitable Results of the Forced Amalgamation of the Municipal Units in the County of Cape Breton and the County of Halifax. (Dr. John Hamm)

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

The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table an Act to Provide a Tax Credit for Certain Members of a Volunteer Fire Department.

[Page 1987]

MR. SPEAKER: As members are probably aware it is part of the duties of the Legislative Counsel to advise the Speaker when a bill may be out of order. This bill, unfortunately or fortunately, as the case may be, entails an expenditure from the Consolidated Fund of the Province so therefore it is out of order.

MR. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Being that the House can agree to do anything if it is passed unanimously and being that the minister himself today made a statement in the House that he was prepared to move forward this initiative, I think that we have given the government the opportunity to move this at a much faster rate because they have dragged their feet now for four months since the House has closed and I think if all members were to stand here today and give unanimous consent that this can move forward. If their task forces move as fast as the other committees they set up the poor volunteer firefighters of this province will never get the tax rebate. So I am prepared to give the opportunity to the government and all members to agree to unanimously move this legislation forward.

MR. SPEAKER: I am aware of numerous Nays on the government side.

The bill is ruled out of order.

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 997

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

Whereas all members of this House recognize the human suffering endured by those infected with hepatitis C through the blood system; and

Whereas other provinces have moved to compensate all those infected with hepatitis C through the blood system; and

Whereas Nova Scotia has typically been a leader in the just treatment of its citizens;

Therefore be it resolved that the Government of Nova Scotia commit itself to ensuring that all those infected with hepatitis C, as the direct or indirect result of tainted blood, be afforded equal treatment in compensation.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1988]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 998

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

Whereas the Liberal Government has committed millions of dollars to companies who already have a solid business in place and are not threatened by bankruptcy; and

Whereas this Liberal Government has played with Nova Scotia's agricultural industry like a yo-yo, telling farmers in the Annapolis Valley on two separate occasions there was no money for drought relief while on two other occasions farmers were told there would be money available to assist them with drought relief; and

Whereas the agricultural industry is the backbone of this province's rural economy;

Therefore be it resolved that the government stop toying with the lives of those involved in agriculture in the Annapolis Valley and provide the industry with a financial relief package that will result in a vibrant and sustained agricultural industry.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Preston.

[Page 1989]

RESOLUTION NO. 999

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

Whereas co-ops employ more than 3,000 Nova Scotians, represent 400 Nova Scotia businesses and have a provincial membership of over 230,000 members; and

Whereas co-ops and credit unions represent a long-standing tradition of community involvement, development and participation; and

[3:15 p.m.]

Whereas co-ops and credit unions embody the important principles of community loyalty, control and ownership;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate co-op and credit union workers and volunteers for the contribution of the cooperative movement to community life in Nova Scotia.

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 Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 1000

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

Whereas this morning I was proud to take part in the announcement at the Strait-Richmond Hospital of four new physicians for Richmond County, including a full-time, in-house doctor for the Strait-Richmond Hospital; and

[Page 1990]

Whereas this announcement followed an aggressive recruitment campaign conducted through partnerships between the Department of Health, the Eastern Regional Health Board, local community recruitment committees as well as my fellow Strait area MLAs, Charlie MacDonald, MLA for Inverness; and Ray White, MLA for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury; and

Whereas the Department of Health continues to positively demonstrate its commitment to quality, responsible health care for all Nova Scotians;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize and congratulate the Honourable James Smith, Minister of Health, for working with the community to find doctors for the Strait area and recognize the many volunteers involved in the physician recruitment effort.

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

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

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cumberland North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1001

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

Whereas university students from around the province and country are using their spare time this week to raise the very serious concern that government action or inaction is killing the guiding principle behind our post-secondary education system: accessibility; and

Whereas Nova Scotia, while home of some of the country's best facilities for post-secondary study, is losing students because, on average, the cost of tuition is the highest in Canada; and

Whereas the highly-touted federal Liberal initiative that was introduced to help alleviate the financial burden on students today, the Millennium Fund, is not only unavailable until the millennium even though the need for funding assistance is today, not the year 2000, but also does not address the need for a greater emphasis of distributing funds on the basis of need in addition to merit;

[Page 1991]

Therefore be it resolved that this Liberal Government make a useful trip to Ottawa for a change and seek concrete solutions to help our students with their debt loads now and make a real investment in this province's future.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 1002

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

Whereas workers between the ages of 55 and 64 in the Cape Breton construction trades helped to build the infrastructure of Cape Breton and Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the current economic stagnation has made it difficult or indeed impossible for many older workers to find employment in their respective trades; and

Whereas the workers have proposed an innovative plan which would allow their vast experience and skill to again be put to use for the benefit of all Cape Bretoners;

Therefore be it resolved that the Government of Nova Scotia commit itself to acting on the proposal as presented by the Older Workers Committee of the Cape Breton Island Building and Trades Council.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

[Page 1992]

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

RESOLUTION NO. 1003

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

Whereas the month of October has been proclaimed Fire Prevention Month; and

Whereas the Mulgrave Volunteer Fire Department is, this year, celebrating 50 years of service to the Town of Mulgrave and area; and

Whereas Walter Crant, Sr. and Lawrence Ryan have recently been honoured for 25 years of service with the Mulgrave Volunteer Fire Department;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend congratulations to the Mulgrave Volunteer Fire Department, Walter Crant, Sr. and Lawrence Ryan and all volunteer fire departments and firefighters for their ongoing commitment to the safety and well-being of all Nova Scotians.

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 Chester-St. Margaret's.

RESOLUTION NO. 1004

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

Whereas the former MLA for Cumberland North, Roger Bacon, was known for his cryptic, brief, witty and humorous statements referred to as "Bacon bits"; and

[Page 1993]

Whereas the MLA for Lunenburg West, Don Downe, has been excelling in producing lengthy, fluffy and incoherent pronouncements aimed at disguising the collapse of Liberal fiscal policies; and

Whereas some priceless metaphoric samples include "the budget deficit is an $81 million burp" or "we have to watch that with a fine-toothed comb" or "would you sell chicken that have teeth?";

Therefore be it resolved that members in this House may, in future, with impunity, refer to all this obfuscating Liberal hocus-pocus from Lunenburg West as "Downefeathers". (Applause)

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

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

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Yarmouth.

RESOLUTION NO. 1005

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

Whereas the lobster fishery is an important resource for the Mi'kmaq community; and

Whereas there is a need to balance economic needs with conservation and management; and

Whereas the current Mi'kmaq-Nova Scotia-Canada Tripartite Forum isn't moving quickly to resolve outstanding issues in this regard;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture immediately initiate discussions between the provincial Department of Fisheries, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Assembly of Nova Scotia Chiefs, and the Mi'kmaq Fish & Wildlife Commission to establish cooperation in resolving outstanding issues in the Aboriginal lobster fishery.

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

[Page 1994]

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

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Antigonish.

RESOLUTION NO. 1006

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

Whereas last week I was proud to represent the province at the opening of the new facility for St. Francis Xavier University Enterprise Development Centre, the Aquatic Resources Educational Marketing Centre and Media Forge, St. Francis Xavier's multimedia development team; and

Whereas the Enterprise Development Centre successfully enhance economic growth in Guysborough, Antigonish and Pictou Counties by supporting small business; and

Whereas the new facilities on campus will allow these groups to combine their expertise and explore new opportunities for the benefit of Northeastern Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate this initiative and thank St. Francis Xavier University, ACOA, and the Department of Economic Development and Tourism for their unique approach to community development.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

[Page 1995]

RESOLUTION NO. 1007

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 quarterly financial report, as released by the Minister of Finance, clearly shows the provincial budget has an $81 million shortfall; and

Whereas $18.5 million of this deficit is directly attributable to the overspending of the Department of Economic Development and Tourism; and

Whereas the minister responsible for that department has given no indication of how these expenditure overruns will be addressed;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier direct the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism to table a strategic management plan which will, by year end, bring the expenditures of this department in line with its available revenues.

Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver of notice.

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

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 1008

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

Whereas someone with clout, Senator Longley from Maine, has negotiated with Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline to provide free connections to Nova Scotia natural gas being piped through two counties in Maine; and

Whereas a main stipulation of the agreement is that the free connections bring gas to areas of Maine experiencing high unemployment and low incomes; and

Whereas someone with less clout, the Premier of Nova Scotia, was unable to obtain the same benefits for like areas of his home province, the owner of the gas;

[Page 1996]

Therefore be it resolved that this House demands the Premier explain to Nova Scotians how it is a Maine Senator representing areas of high unemployment and low incomes is able to negotiate free connections to our gas, but he cannot do the same for us, the owners of the resource.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 1009

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

Whereas Premier MacLellan made a commitment before the Canadian Offshore Resources Exposition that any company planning to distribute gas must be prepared to make it available to all rural areas of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the member for Sackville-Cobequid just returned from a trip out west armed with new knowledge about Nova Scotia's booming offshore natural gas industry; and

Whereas yesterday the member for Sackville-Cobequid was quoted in the provincial media as saying the province has no plans to make natural gas available to remote rural communities;

Therefore be it resolved that the next time the NDP go to Alberta to learn about Nova Scotia gas, they pick up a Halifax newspaper at the airport to find out what is really going on in this province.

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

MR. SPEAKER: I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

[Page 1997]

RESOLUTION NO. 1010

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

Whereas the state of rural secondary roads across Nova Scotia are presently in such deplorable shape, the safety of the travelling public is now at risk in many locations; and

Whereas not only is there immense rutting on paved roads, gravelled roads are not being ditched, gravelled or maintained, resulting at times in impassable conditions for the travelling public; and

Whereas this Liberal Government, while cutting $30 million from the Department of Transportation and Public Works' budget for this fiscal year, they were also, Mr. Speaker, purchasing a Cadillac supply of equipment including 19 new half-ton trucks and six brand new loaders at a cost of $165,000 each, six excavators at a cost of $115,000 each, four new backhoes at a cost of $90,000 each, 19 tandem trucks and 10 single-axle trucks and the list goes on;

Therefore be it resolved that this government put their priorities in order and tell Nova Scotians what is more important, brand new shiny equipment to look at or the maintenance of Nova Scotia's secondary roads which are so vital to this province's economy and simply cannot be ignored any longer.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition on an introduction.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure of introducing a former member of this House for a few years. Opposite in the gallery is the federal member for Halifax, the Leader of the federal New Democratic Party, Alexa McDonough. I would like to ask all members to give her the usual welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 1011

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

Whereas October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month; and

Whereas 19,000 Canadian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year; and

[Page 1998]

Whereas of the 400,000 women with breast cancer, 5,000 will die this year;

Therefore be it resolved that this House and all Nova Scotians support research for a cure for breast cancer including supporting this Sunday's Run for the Cure.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: 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 Labour on an introduction.

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: I would like to recognize in the east gallery a number of individuals representing jail guards from across Nova Scotia. They are here, obviously making their plea for a number of issues that they feel are worthwhile presenting and since they are before the House I feel we should recognize these individuals and offer them the warm courtesy of the House. (Applause)

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

RESOLUTION NO. 1012

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

Whereas Nova Scotia can boast of a long, proud tradition of shipbuilding; and

[3:30 p.m.]

Whereas the provincial government recently negotiated with the Irving company to make sure that four new offshore supply ships will be built here in Nova Scotia by Nova Scotian workers in Halifax, Liverpool and Shelburne; and

Whereas the NDP, who claim to promote growth and development in rural areas, have displayed their typical short-sightedness in criticizing this arrangement that it is clearly good news for Nova Scotia;

[Page 1999]

Therefore be it resolved that the NDP wake up and acknowledge that Premier MacLellan has once again demonstrated his commitment to find work for Nova Scotians and spread the opportunities of the offshore to every corner of this province.

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

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

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cumberland South.

RESOLUTION NO. 1013

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

Whereas on May 22, 1998, the PC Party alerted the House, by resolution, of the frustrated negotiations between the province and Nova Scotia's correctional officers, a situation which had been stalled since March; and

Whereas even though the resolution introduced five months ago, calling on the government to recognize the need for fair treatment of this province's correctional workers, was passed unanimously, negotiations are still unresolved; and

Whereas this Liberal Government is having a difficult time living up to any of its commitments;

Therefore be it resolved that this government commit to returning to the bargaining table and to negotiating fairly with Nova Scotia correctional officers.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 2000]

The motion is carried. (Applause)

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 1014

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

Whereas the cost of post-secondary education in Nova Scotia is among the highest in Canada; and

Whereas the high cost of tuition is interfering with the right of all Nova Scotians to access post-secondary education, as witnessed by students visiting at the House today; and

Whereas the Premier promised on numerous occasions during the election that he would freeze tuition fees in Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the government live up to the Premier's commitment and freeze post-secondary tuition fees immediately.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1015

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

Whereas Maine State Senator Susan Longley is negotiating with Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline Ltd. so that residents in her area will benefit from the distribution of natural gas; and

Whereas once this deal is finalized, free connections to the pipeline will be provided to businesses who are large consumers of gas, as an incentive to locate in areas needing employment; and

Whereas this resource belongs to Nova Scotians and yet residents living in the United States will be reaping more benefits due to this Liberal Government's lack of foresight and planning;

Therefore be it resolved that our Premier speak with Maine State Senator Susan Longley to learn of the potential benefits that natural gas can offer.

[Page 2001]

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, before I read my resolution, I would like to introduce to the House another constituent I see up in the gallery, Mr. Wally Peters from 15 Bennett Street. Stand up Mr. Peters and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

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

RESOLUTION NO. 1016

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

Whereas when the Liberal Government came to power in 1993, the situation they inherited in the Department of Health was that the outgoing administration had planned to close and bulldoze the New Waterford Consolidated Hospital; and

Whereas from this beginning point, the strong advocacy of elected Liberal members from the New Waterford area resulted in these plans being completely reversed and steps taken to guarantee the future of the hospital with full occupancy; and

Whereas thanks to this government and its budget, 21 Level 2 long-term care beds will shortly be commissioned at the New Waterford hospital, a measure the NDP voted against;

Therefore be it resolved that the efforts of this government to save the New Waterford hospital will be noted with approval and appreciation, as they demonstrate this government's real and genuine commitment to meeting the health care needs of the New Waterford community.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cumberland South.

[Page 2002]

RESOLUTION NO. 1017

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

Whereas the Province of Nova Scotia has failed to adequately address the plight of hundreds of survivors of physical and sexual abuse in Nova Scotia's reform schools; and

Whereas this government has flip-flopped on rules governing compensation for abuse victims making their situations even more difficult; and

Whereas this same government has, in its mishandling of the provincial abuse compensation issue, made a disturbing situation worse by making victims of the many innocent employees who have been falsely accused;

Therefore be it resolved that this government immediately take hold of a compensation program gone wild and ensure that abuse victims, as well as those wrongly accused of abuse, are fairly treated so that both sets of victims can get on with their lives.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1018

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

Whereas the Westray Mine disaster occurred at Plymouth, Pictou County on May 9, 1992; and

Whereas the Premier and others in government last year promised that the 123 unionized workers would be compensated as soon as possible; and

Whereas the Minister of Labour, in this House last spring, indicated that the non-unionized workers would also be compensated;

[Page 2003]

Therefore be it resolved that this government bring closure for the Westray workers and pay the compensation that is due immediately to both the unionized and the non-unionized workers.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

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 honourable member for Cape Breton East has chosen to sit in this House as an Independent member; and

Whereas as an Independent member, the member for Cape Breton East does not sit on any of the House committees; and

Whereas by not being a member of the House committees limits the member's effectiveness as a representative of the citizens of his constituency;

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Cape Breton East admit that he cannot do an effective job as an MLA, and do the honourable thing and resign from this House.

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

MR. SPEAKER: I would like to take a look at that particular notice of motion. I think it is possibly out of order in that the honourable member can indeed sit on a committee.

The honourable member for Inverness.

RESOLUTION NO. 1019

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

Whereas the NDP claim they are the only Party capable of defending universal health care because they subscribe to the illusion that they invented Medicare; and

[Page 2004]

Whereas former Saskatchewan Premier Allan Blakeney, the political idol of the NDP member for Halifax Atlantic, admits the idea of socialized medicine was actually in the 1919 platform of Liberal William Lyon Mackenzie King; and

Whereas Mackenzie King's political legacy also includes such social reforms as Old Age Pension, unemployment insurance and family allowance;

Therefore be it resolved that this House demand that NDP Leader Robert Chisholm finally be honest with the people of Nova Scotia and admit the NDP do not and never have cornered the market on social policy.

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

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The resolution that the honourable member for Annapolis submitted is out of order.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 1020

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

Whereas the Leader of the socialist NDP was quoted in the media as saying there has been a veritable witch-hunt against Ralph Fiske; and

Whereas the NDP members of the Public Accounts Committee have dragged the casino inquiry long past its best before date, searching in vain for imaginary villains to take the unsubstantiated blame; and

Whereas after five months of testimony from nearly a dozen witnesses the Public Accounts Committee has failed to unearth any shred of evidence for the claims made by the former head of the Gaming Corporation;

[Page 2005]

Therefore be it resolved that the NDP be condemned for performing a Ken Starr, American tabloid investigation that makes Senator Joseph McCarthy look like an amateur and insults the proud traditions of this House.

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

MR. SPEAKER: I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, further to the notice that I sent you at noon under Rule 43, is that what you are referring to?

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, I received that and I would like to deal with that in time but there may be other notices of motion.

MR. CHISHOLM: Oh, I thought you were recognizing me for that purpose.

MR. SPEAKER: No.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

RESOLUTION NO. 1021

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

Whereas Erin Hughes, Sarah MacDonald and Erika Worthylake are students at Port Hawkesbury Elementary School; and

Whereas these students collaborated to write a story entitled, The Dogs of Sable Island; and

Whereas this story has been published in the reading primer for students of English as a second language in Quebec;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend congratulations to Erin Hughes, Sarah MacDonald and Erika Worthylake and their teacher, Carson Dingwall, on this outstanding achievement and wish them future success with their literacy endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

[Page 2006]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 1022

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

Whereas the citizens of Yarmouth, Shelburne and Digby Counties depend on Radio CJLS for news, entertainment and information on community events; and

Whereas CJLS, which began broadcasting in 1934, making it one of the oldest private radio stations in Canada, has recently been purchased by three Yarmouth-area entrepreneurs; and

Whereas under this new ownership, CJLS is reversing the trend toward satellite shows from Toronto, and returning to its roots of community-based programming, highlighting local talent and extensive coverage of local events;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the new owners of Radio CJLS Ray Zinck, Gerry Boudreau and Chris Perry, and their staff, for promoting Nova Scotia music and culture and wish them luck as CJLS embarks in an exciting new direction.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 2007]

The honourable member for Inverness.

RESOLUTION NO. 1023

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

Whereas Inverness County announced Tuesday night that it has a surplus of $250,000; and

Whereas the neighbouring Town of Port Hawkesbury is also running in the black; and

Whereas in a time of tough financial measures these two municipalities are setting an example of economic responsibility;

Therefore be it resolved that this House offer congratulations to the municipal leaders of Inverness County and Port Hawkesbury, and the citizens of these communities for demonstrating sound fiscal management.

Mr. Speaker, I request 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 Leader of the Opposition.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, again, further to the notice that I sent to you at noon under Rule 43, I wish to move that the business of the House be set aside for the purpose of discussing a matter of urgent public importance, that being the layoffs and reduced coal production at Devco.

Mr. Speaker, 235 employees of the Prince Mine were sent home yesterday, more than one-half of the total workforce; 175 employees of the Phalen Mine were laid off already, also representing more than one-half of the miners in that colliery. Devco is the primary supplier of Nova Scotia Power. The inventory of coal for the peak winter period, which should be at

[Page 2008]

least 400,000 tons, right now is only about 20,000 tons. As a result Nova Scotia Power has been forced to import coal thereby exporting jobs due to the very low inventory levels.

Devco operates, Mr. Speaker, under provincial mining leases. Coal policy is a matter of major importance to the provincial and federal governments and to federal-provincial relations for our province. The lack of any decision, direction or investment from the federal government has pushed Devco into the situation where new coalfaces for ongoing production are not being developed, further threatening the domestic energy supply for Nova Scotians. The need to maximize jobs here and to enjoy significant levels of energy self-sufficiency are long-standing provincial priorities; both are being undermined, Mr. Speaker, by the mismanagement and deteriorating conditions at Devco.

[3:45 p.m.]

Workplace health and safety, another provincial responsibility, is endangered as Devco miners are pushed by the financial and production pressures created by mismanagement. Every Nova Scotian relies on power generated by Cape Breton coal, and many thousands of families depend on the jobs that Devco has provided in the Cape Breton coal industry. Mr. Speaker, this is an urgent matter deserving the immediate attention of this House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I have reviewed the submission by the honourable Leader of the Opposition and it does fall within the parameters of our present rules, and it is a proper subject to be discussed, however, I still must put the question to the members.

Does the member have leave for an emergency debate?

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The matter will be discussed at the moment of interruption, at 6:00 p.m., which means that the original winner of the debate for 6:00 p.m., which was the honourable member for Pictou West whose topic is: Therefore be it resolved that the Government of Nova Scotia commit itself to acting on the proposal as presented by The Older Workers Committee on the Cape Breton Island Building and Trades Council, and I would order that this late debate take place on Tuesday of next week.

We are ready for Question Period. The time is 3:47 p.m., Question Period will run until 4:47 p.m.

[Page 2009]

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

FIN. - BUDGET (1998-99): DEFICIT - DETAILS

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you to the Premier. My caucus colleagues and I had the opportunity this summer to travel throughout the province and speak with Nova Scotians about matters of concern to them. We met with numerous groups, unemployed fishery workers in Louisbourg, long-term care workers in Halifax, and farmers in the Valley, in Cape Breton and elsewhere, and we also had the opportunity to talk to numerous Nova Scotians on their doorsteps about the concerns facing them. I want to be clear, one of the most common themes coming back from those Nova Scotians is the fact that they don't trust this government, and they don't trust this government particularly in matters relative to the whole question of the balanced budget.

I want to ask the Premier, Mr. Speaker - it is imperative that Nova Scotians hear his answer - will you tell us today what the true state of the province's finances are; in other words, how big is the deficit?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the true state of the province's finances are as stated in the first quarter report and, as a matter of fact, we projected the deficit for the whole of the fiscal year without, at that time, assuming that there were going to be any additional revenues, so, in fact, we made it look worse than most people would expect us to do.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I don't know if you recall, but I certainly heard this Premier campaign from one end of the province to the other in the spring on the basis of a balanced budget. I participated in a Leaders' Debate where this Premier said 37 times that the budget was balanced. Clearly, Nova Scotians don't believe this Premier, but I want to ask him a question here. He has had time to deal with the strategy on how he is now going to resolve this $81 million deficit. In an effort to try to regain some . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question.

MR. CHISHOLM: . . . credibility, will the Premier table here, today, his plan for coming up with the balanced budget he talked about so fondly in the spring?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable Leader of the Opposition that we fully intend to have a balanced budget by the end of the fiscal year. We have honoured the commitment to provide quarterly reports. There will be another one at the end of

[Page 2010]

December and the honourable Leader of the Opposition will be able to see for himself the progress we are making at that particular time.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I think we just heard what we heard throughout the campaign and that was, trust me. Well, I tell you what. Nova Scotians have had enough of this Premier.

I want to ask the Premier, my final supplementary, Mr. Speaker, people suggest that the Premier knew and his government, in fact, knew that that budget was not balanced back on June 29th when his government when the Third Party voted in favour of it.

MR. SPEAKER: Question.

MR. CHISHOLM: I want to ask the Premier, Mr. Speaker, did he know the budget was not balanced on June 29th?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable Leader of the Opposition that at no time did I know that we would have to project a deficit until the first of September when we started to do our analyses in preparation for the first quarter report. That is without any hesitation at all.

I would also like to say to the honourable Leader of the Official Opposition that if there does happen to be a deficit at the end of this fiscal year, which I am hoping there will not be, we are looking for a balanced budget and that is what we are working towards, but if there is, even $1.25 at the end of the year, then that money will be taken from the top of next year's financial statement and put towards this financial year. We cannot afford to increase the debt of this province. We cannot do it. Regardless of what happens, we cannot afford to do that. (Applause)

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

FIN. - BUDGET (1998-99): BALANCE - POSITION (CURRENT)

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I, too, have a question for the Premier. The Premier indicated before the election, many times, the budget is balanced. Lately, he said that he is not fixated on a balanced budget. It is 3:52 p.m. on Thursday afternoon. What is the Premier's position at 3:52 p.m. on a balanced budget?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is absolutely essential that we not have a deficit in this province. We cannot add to the debt. We have an $8.3 billion debt in this province right now with an economic crisis all around us as a result of the Asian difficulties, which have now spread to Latin America, British Columbia and parts of the United States. We don't know what effect that is going to have on Nova Scotia. Our economy is very strong. Our

[Page 2011]

projections are that it will gain strength throughout this fiscal year, but we are going to lose on equalization because of the problems in British Columbia and Ontario. For that reason, we cannot have a deficit.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, again, I continue with the Premier. Early yesterday, the Premier made a comment that the $30 million that he hoped to recapture from his Minister of Finance's projected deficit was not possible. Later in the day, he said not only can we recapture $30 million, we can, perhaps, recapture more of the $81 million deficit that we have run up in six months.

Mr. Speaker, it is now 3:54 p.m. Would the Premier tell us what is his position at 3:54 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, October 15th? Can we recapture $30 million, more than $30 million or under $30 million? What is your current position?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am truly heartened that the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party can tell time. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

THE PREMIER: I have somewhat of an anxiety though about the fact of what he hears and what he remembers. At no time did I say that we would not be able to recover the $30 million. We fully intend to recover the $30 million and more to deal with this projected deficit. (Applause)

DR. HAMM: By way of final supplementary, the Premier has had the legs pulled out from under him by his Minister of Finance. He promised a balanced budget. His minister did not deliver. My question to the Premier is do you still have confidence in the Minister of Finance who clearly pulled the rug out from under you when you promised a balanced budget?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I have tremendous confidence in the Minister of Finance. I think he is doing an outstanding job. That is why they refer to it as a fiscal year and not a fiscal quarter, so that we have 12 months to deal with the finances of the province. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

FIN. - BUDGET (1998-99): STORA COMMITMENT - DATE

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, it is 3:56 p.m. I am sorry, I could not resist. My question is to the Premier. Members of this caucus believe, as do many Nova Scotians, that on June 29th, when the budget was passed in this House, that the Premier knew that it

[Page 2012]

would not be balanced and I tell you what, the one reason, there are a number of reasons, but here is one and that is the example of Stora Port Hawkesbury.

Your Finance Minister, I say to the Premier, said when he released the quarterly report that one of the unforeseen expenditures was extra money to Stora. Now, Stora Forest Products is an extremely successful corporation that makes a significant contribution to our province in terms of jobs and in terms of economic development. They have made a considerable investment in Port Hawkesbury. I want to ask the Premier, Mr. Speaker, when did he know that the province would be contributing $9.9 million to Stora?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I want to amend my comment. I want to give proper deference to the Leader of the Opposition and say that he, too, can tell time. Between the two of them, it sounds like Cape Canaveral and I just hope that they both do not go up in flames.

I want to say that not only do we have to pay $9.9 million to Stora for this fiscal year, we will have to pay $10 million next year in all probability because it is $19 million that was committed to them for training. I realize that in September this was going to be drawn down this year. The Department of Economic Development and Tourism thought they would have another means of financing that. It turned out they did not. So we put it on our quarterly report to be upfront and straightforward with the people of Nova Scotia.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that the Premier did not find out until September but let's take a look at the fact that the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism was trying to defend the overrun in his budgets, said publicly that the overrun in his ministry was due to commitments by previous ministers, otherwise his ministry's budget would have been intact. He also said that at budget time they had hoped for federal funding which would in fact offset this longstanding expenditure. In other words, the government knew darn well that they were on the hook to Stora for that $9.9 million.

My question to the Premier, Mr. Speaker, is why did he deceive Nova Scotians into believing that they had a balanced budget when they knew all along that they owed Stora $9.9 million?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism is right, that that commitment for training to Stora was made before he became minister. Also, too, it was perfectly within their rights to ask that because they contributed $700 million to a new plant in the Strait of Canso which employed thousands of people and now has a workforce of about 800 permanent employees. I hate to think of what we would do in Nova Scotia had that not been built. I want to say, too, to the honourable Leader of the Opposition, that this funding is within the parameters of Stora.They have the say on when they draw it down, after they have met certain criteria. I can understand perfectly why it was not known until recently that that money would have to be paid this year. That is the arrangement, that is what was set forward, those are the terms.

[Page 2013]

[4:00 p.m.]

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the issue of course is not Stora. In fact, Stora knew in the spring, in April, that they had met their commitments and that they would be receiving this $9.9 million. I want to ask the Premier why he tabled in this House a budget that he knew to be false, in order to deceive the people of Nova Scotia?

MR. SPEAKER: I am not too sure about that question; however, I recognize the honourable Premier.

THE PREMIER: That may be the best he can do so I think we have to try to work with it. That, Mr. Speaker, is the budget. It is straightforward, it is as we tabled it, it is as we believed it to be and we will have at the end of the year an accounting and a balanced budget by all expectations that we can put together right now.

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

FIN. - BUDGET (1998-99): COMMITMENTS - EXCLUSION

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Finance. My question is very simple; when did this minister indicate to his Premier that there was no veracity in the budget that he presented to this House in the spring, that he had failed to include commitments that were well known by others in government in his budget? When did this minister inform his Premier that there was no truth to his budget process and, in fact, expenditures that have accrued to the province were not included in his budget?

HON. DONALD DOWNE: The reality is we presented a balanced budget and I stand by the fact that we presented a balanced budget and all the information we have was honest and straightforward to the Province of Nova Scotia and to the people of this House. It was voted on in here and it was a legitimate budget that was presented, Mr. Speaker.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Economic Development, clearly the information must have been in the minister's department long before the budget process. My question to the Minister of Economic Development is, did you know at budget time that there was a $9.9 million debt owing to Stora Forest Industries? If you did not know, why did you not know?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the whole question of assistance to Stora was one that was debated at much length in our department, about how we were going to pay out the monies committed to that particular plant in Port Hawkesbury. We had expected, as late as September of this year, that we could perhaps rely on HRDC funding to take care of some of the training that was necessary there. Our people thought they could negotiate a deal with the federal government; it turned out that they could not negotiate a deal

[Page 2014]

with the federal government. As a result of that and as a result of the fact that the manufacturer's tax credit, which staff had informed me would also apply in this case, did not apply, when we found that out we immediately booked that particular expenditure for this year.

Mr. Speaker, we are not trying to hide anything here, we booked the expenditure on our books this year. I will stand here and tell you that I fully support that request from Stora.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, it has now been two weeks since the Minister of Finance indicated that his budget was all awry, that he was now aware of expenditures that he didn't seem to know about at the time his budget was introduced.

My question to the Premier is, two weeks after his Minister of Finance indicated an $81 million deficit in the budget - now it is 4:04 p.m. on Thursday, October 15th, what information has come to the Premier's attention in the last two weeks that further undermines the veracity of the budget introduced by his minister this spring?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we have been very upfront, we have said in our quarterly report that these are areas that we could - if not address - see leading to a deficit by the end of the fiscal year. We said that we had to address these matters and we are going to address these matters. That is the reason for quarterly reports, to allow the people to have an idea of where we stand and what we have to do to meet our desired objectives.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

FIN. - BUDGET (1998-99): ASSUMPTIONS - ACCURACY

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Finance. A very considerable element of the projected deficit that came out in the first quarterly statement had to do with additional debt payments based on erroneous projections for the exchange rate. The sum was $34 million, an extra cost to the province.

The minister will recall that during meetings of the Committee of the Whole House on Supply I put to him in no uncertain terms my view that economists did not in any way at that point, the end of June, support the underlying assumption of the Canadian dollar value at 71.4 cents. His answer to me, I think our numbers are reasonable. My question for the minister is, does he still believe that his numbers were reasonable?

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite, Dr. Epstein, who has the crystal ball of what is happening on the global basis, I find it interesting, because in fact we had the information provided to us from world traders, from leaders in the banking industry, from the Globe and other organizations around North America who provided the detail.

[Page 2015]

Not only that, Mr. Speaker, it was British Columbia, it was Alberta, it was Saskatchewan, it was Manitoba, it was Quebec, it was Ontario, New Brunswick and virtually all provinces of Canada that forecast the dollar value to be very close to the same as the Province of Nova Scotia. Now, the member opposite pointed out that he knew exactly what it was going to be. If he knows so much, maybe he would like to forecast where the dollar is going to be tomorrow morning.

MR. EPSTEIN: In the quarterly statement that was issued on September 30th, the minister gave us a list of these world traders that the department relied upon. Two of them were ScotiaBank, their Economic Reports, and the Conference Board of Canada. The ScotiaBank economic forecast was from February and the Conference Board of Canada was equally from February, however, the budget was tabled in June and was debated throughout the month of June and both of those traders, ScotiaBank and the Conference Board of Canada, issued revised statements during the month of June. In the case of ScotiaBank their forecast was back down to 69.5 cents, not 71.4 cents. In the Conference Board, down to 69 cents. My question is, was the minister aware of these revised forecasts from these traders during the time of the Committee of the Whole House on Supply?

MR. DOWNE: The other reality is in the discussions that we had in the House and in the Red Chamber pointed out that in a budget you take your analysis of the income stream and part of it was on the basis of the value of the dollar. Part of that benefit of when the dollar was moving back down was the fact that exports were going up, the fact that tourism was going up in the Province of Nova Scotia. So it covers a basket of issues, Mr. Speaker.

In reality, what we are saying is that when we brought that budget in, based on the professional information I had obtained from the professional staff in the Department of Finance - I am not professing to be a financier like the member opposite, but from the professional staff that we had the information we brought in - was to the best ability that we bring forward a budget in fact was a legitimate budget for Nova Scotia.

MR. EPSTEIN: This is a matter of $34 million consequence to the province. The Department of Finance is a subscriber to the ScotiaBank Economic Reports and the Conference Board of Canada Reports. Can the minister tell us, therefore, whether it was anything except wilful blindness that led the minister to issue the budget that he did?

MR. DOWNE: I wonder if the member opposite would also like to point out that we had already seen that exports were up in the Province of Nova Scotia. We projected a 4 per cent growth in exports. We are running somewhere around 7 per cent. I wonder if the member opposite also wants to point out that tourism, Mr. Speaker, was up over the projected number we had in our numbers. I wonder if the member opposite also wants to point out the fact that the actual spending of what is going on in the Province of Nova Scotia in relationship to the Gross Domestic Product was above what we had projected. All those factors indicate, very clearly, that the economy was doing extremely well and it could very

[Page 2016]

well be an offset. When we brought those numbers in they were the best numbers that our staff were providing for me to give a legitimate, honest budget to the people of this province. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.

FIN. - DEBT (JAPAN): REDUCTION - COST

MR. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is for the Minister of Finance. During the same budget deliberations that took place in the Red Room, I asked the honourable minister as to something that I noted in the budget. The Province of Nova Scotia had made a conscious decision to reduce the amount of foreign debt that was owed from Japan. This spring, this province converted approximately 7 per cent of its net debt into U.S. funds. Can the minister stand here today and indicate to the House what this cost the Province of Nova Scotia?

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, in fact, over the years, when we took over in 1993, we had probably a 70 per cent exposure with regard to the $8 billion debt in other currencies. In fact, during 1993-94-95, I remember the comments from the opposite side of the House with regard to the Asian exposure saying, get out. What we have done is managed that portfolio extremely well to the extent that 51 per cent of the debt is now Canadian and not European, not American and not Asian. In fact, the Asian currency exposure right now is around 7 per cent.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member that this government said to this House that they were going to repatriate the debt and bring it to Canadian funds. I want to bring to the minister's attention that by the 7 per cent fiasco that his department did, supposedly with his blessing, he moved 7 per cent of the debt from Japanese yen to U.S. The minister is well aware that the Japanese yen has fallen tremendously since that time and the U.S. dollar has risen considerably since that time and per conservative estimates, this one decision could have cost the Province of Nova Scotia over $100 million.

I don't have the figures here, but I want to know from the minister what this one transaction cost the Province of Nova Scotia and we as taxpayers want to know, because if you are playing casinogate with our foreign debt and think that you can make money on it, we deserve the answers.

MR. DOWNE: Obviously, he is getting mixed up in the questions, but I would be happy to provide the information, Mr. Speaker, and I will be able to provide the information to show that, in fact, the decisions we have made are in the right direction. I suppose the member opposite would have preferred the fact that the province maybe go out and hedge the American exposure to the Province of Nova Scotia. Maybe that is the suggestion he is talking about, or maybe the fact that we, in fact, have a hedge based on the Asian money and it is to

[Page 2017]

our advantage, the current situation we have. They also are the ones that said to us to get out when the market was really bad a couple of years ago. That would have cost Nova Scotian taxpayers millions of dollars if we had listened to their direction.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is to the Premier because, obviously, the Minister of Finance refuses to answer the question. I go back to this one transaction that has occurred, to my understanding of it, has meant that the Province of Nova Scotia has lost on both ends of this foreign exchange fiasco and the fact of the matter is that if they wanted to convert the foreign debt, they should not have converted it from Japanese yen to U.S. dollars. They should have tried to convert it to Canadian.

I am asking you today to look into this matter because it is obvious that the Minister of Finance refuses to do so and we as members of the House deserve an answer.

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

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I would be happy to provide the member opposite with the information that he is referring to. In fact, if you go look at the history of what we have been able to do with regard to managing the exposure to the Province of Nova Scotia, I think the member opposite would probably want to stand in the House and apologize to these members for misleading this House in that regard.

[4:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

FIN. - BUDGET (1998-99): DEFICIT - REDUCTION PLAN

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Premier. What Nova Scotians would like to know is where the cuts are going to have to come from. First we heard about cutting administrative spending, then we talked about going to Ottawa to look for money. We hear about the possibility of hiking user fees, which are already high, then we hear that maybe user fees will not be put up, that is not an option. What Nova Scotians need to know is, is there actually a plan for dealing with the deficit that has been projected in the first quarterly statement and is it a plan that is not just scrawled on the back of an envelope?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we are going to be taking some measures and we feel that they will be extremely helpful but we are going to be accounting to the Opposition, to the Legislature and to all of the people of Nova Scotia in our report at the end of December. I want to know of the honourable member, and I am not asking him a question, but with his ability to be able to predict the money markets would he, after the House is over, come down with me to Beacon Securities and give me the benefit of his (Interruptions)

[Page 2018]

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, the Premier seems to need some hints as to where to look. What we need to know is, is the government saying to us that the debt payment situation is going to change? Is that what we are being told or are they saying they are going to get these administrative cuts under control or are they saying it is the Department of Economic Development that is going to bring us into balance or is it revenues? We have not been told a thing and the question is, where is the plan and will it be tabled in this House?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is number two.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, number two was the administrative cuts and that is only $30 million. Since it is obvious that a $30 million administrative cut plan will not approach the $82 million that is needed just to bring the budget into balance and since by implication the Premier has just suggested to us that there is no projected change in revenues, I wonder if the Premier will now admit that he and his government have no idea what they are doing about this problem and admit to the sad state of the province's finances?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, first of all I did not say there was not going to be any projected change in the revenues. All I have said was that in our first quarter report we did not register any change in the revenues because we had not realized at that time the increase in revenues and we did not feel it was fair to project them if we did not have a basis for doing so.

The other feature is that when we administer the finances of the province, we are going to be doing so to get a maximum saving, not just the $30 million but more than $30 million, and that is our commitment that we are going to do that. We are not going to do it so that we put pain on the backs of the people of Nova Scotia so that we have got health care, but we are going to do it.

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

FIN. - BUDGET (1998-99): MICHELIN WRITE-OFFS - INFO. WITHHELD

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Minister of Finance. On October 10th the Minister of Economic Development stated publicly that the write-offs to Michelin were anticipated during the budget deliberations and that there was hope that there might be federal government help to help offset these write-offs. Can the minister tell the House why this information was withheld and why it was not part of the budget presentation for consideration by this House?

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, it is interesting hearing that crowd over there talk about a company that is a cornerstone of rural Nova Scotia, for which they are now born-again to support a rural Nova Scotia venture, when for all the time I have been in this House

[Page 2019]

all they have done is criticize Michelin from day one, criticized rural Nova Scotia and that is exactly what their view is. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, again for the Minister of Finance. During the estimates the Minister of Economic Development stated that there was a new philosophy in the Department of Economic Development, that they were not going to give any more grants to big corporations. I would like to know from the Minister of Finance why it is the Department of Finance chose to override that good-sense decision and proceed with tens of millions of dollars in write-offs to Michelin?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I think the Minister of Economic Development is just anxious to answer that question. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I am amazed again at the line that the NDP is taking on this particular corporate citizen of Nova Scotia that employs over 4,000 Nova Scotians with well-paying jobs in this province . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: . . . yes, 4,000 in this province, and the NDP obviously don't care about those jobs. But to answer the question, some time ago, successive governments in this province agreed that to support Michelin over a period of time with some assistance to grow their company here in Nova Scotia was a good deal for Nova Scotians. It was a good deal then, it was a good deal when that government was in office over there, the Third Party, and it is still a good deal. (Applause)

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians want to know why the Minister of Finance would approve tens of millions of dollars of taxpayers' dollars to a company that last year made billions, and they want to know why they would do it at a time when they would drive the books of the province into the red? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

AN HON. MEMBER: Jobs. Do you care about jobs? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The Minister of Finance has the floor.

[Page 2020]

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, as the Leader of the Third Party had indicated, when companies get to a certain means level and is exercising their right, which in the Michelin situation was what happened, whenever that was brought to our attention, we automatically said that this could be a potential problem for us, we booked that, and we haven't paid anything out, but we booked that in the event that we can't find a solution to that situation. So, we are being honest with Nova Scotians.

But I want to make one statement, Mr. Speaker, while that Party over there is condemning a company that besides the 4,000 employees that they have working there, they have put into the economy of this province since they have been here, $2.5 billion in capital - $2.5 billion in capital and $2 billion in salary - they, in the last 30 years they have been here, have put enough money in to cover the whole budget for a whole year of the Province of Nova Scotia. They are condemning a cornerstone industry in rural Nova Scotia, and I think they should be shocked and appalled.

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

ECON. DEV. & TOURISM - EXPENDITURE: CONTAINMENT - PLAN

MR. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, my question would be to the Minister of Economic Development, but first I would welcome you back to the House, and ask whether or not your trips were productive and pleasant and, hopefully, the trip to Atlanta that is pending will be equally as productive and pleasant.

Mr. Minister, I trust that since your return you have had a chance to look at your department's current financial situation, and the $18.5 million overruns that it presently faces and the question I have, Mr. Minister is, do you have a plan to address this problem and, if you do, would you share it with us now?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: I want to thank the honourable member opposite for the question. We do have a deficit situation at the present time. We were projected to have the situation in the Department of Economic Development and Tourism, but I might remind the House that we are only five and a half months into this fiscal year. Our department is examining (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Our department is examining ways to cut back on expenditures over the next few months. Internally we are doing that, and we will cut as much as we possibly can without affecting the work of this department prior to the end of this fiscal year.

[Page 2021]

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, my next question is also to the minister. That was little reassurance. The taxpayers of Nova Scotia are genuinely concerned about the direction that your department has taken in recent months. You have got a $70 million loan guarantee to one of the wealthiest privately-owned family businesses in the world. You have got a $10 million grant to Michelin; $4.5 million loans to Oxford Frozen Foods; $5.4 million to Mentor before it was placed in receivership, an additional $2.5 million to the company that has made arrangements to purchase Mentor. For the taxpayers of Nova Scotia it is not a question of show us where the money is but tell us how you determine who gets the money?

MR. SPEAKER: Question.

MR. BALSER: What is the selection process by which some companies get money and others don't?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, again to the honourable member opposite through you, the Department of Economic Development is constantly looking for ways to grow the economy here in Nova Scotia. In reference to Halifax Shipyard, certainly we are at no risk with that loan guarantee. All that did was give that company the chance to obtain their financing at better interest rates because the government was guaranteeing and build the particular ships necessary here in Nova Scotia, to provide work for Nova Scotians, and the union at the Halifax Shipyard supports us in that and so does the workforce and so do the people of Nova Scotia. So I am not apologizing for that initiative on our government at all.

In regards to what we do, the member for Digby-Annapolis forgets to talk about what we have done in rural Nova Scotia. As a matter of fact, I was down at his constituency very recently. I made two or three announcements down there, Mr. Speaker, allowing some funding for very good business opportunities down in Digby County in rural Nova Scotia and that member was with me for those announcements down there and praised me for doing them in that particular county.

MR. BALSER: I would like to remind the minister that I was present in the audience and I was grateful to see something positive happening in a riding that has been neglected for so many years. So, yes, it was nice to see you come.

My third question is to the Premier and that is, you have a Department of Economic Development and Tourism that has contributed almost one-quarter of this province's current deficit. The department has already overspent its entire operating budget by one-third in the first six months. They have no money left. This department is out of control. You are the man in charge. What are you going to do about it?

[Page 2022]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we in this province have an $8.3 billion debt. If we do not invest in the economy, if we do not put money in that will give us even greater revenues, we are not going to be able to pay off that debt. We are going to break the backs of the taxpayers of Nova Scotia.

With the Michelin announcement, the $10 million is over 10 years. The forgiveness of the $10 million is a debt that was owing beginning in the year 2004. We know that in the next 10 years we will get revenues of over $20 million. That is a good investment for the people of Nova Scotia. (Applause)

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

JUSTICE - COURT FEES: INCREASE - JUSTIFICATION

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Justice. I think it was back in late September that this Liberal Government announced that it would be ordering court fees to be increased and new court fees that were not there prior to the announcement. From our reading, the lawyers and the various lay people in Nova Scotia unanimously have been saying that this is reprehensible. For example, there is a $500 extra fee if you have to take an extra day in court. There is a $200 fee for adjournments and there are fees where there have never been fees before. This will drive a wedge between average working families and the Nova Scotia justice system.

So my question to the Minister of Justice, Mr. Speaker, is, why has this Liberal regime seen fit to deny access to the justice system by pricing it out of reach?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the court fees that the honourable member is alluding to and mentioning some of them, across this country are adjusted from time to time. Nova Scotia was particularly low in some of those and we are still, with the new adjustments that are recommended, in the middle of the pack. Justice will not be denied in this province, that is a guarantee and a commitment that we made to the people of Nova Scotia. The honourable member well knows that there are mechanisms within that system that will provide for waiver of any fee before the courts.

[4:30 p.m.]

We are not looking at the Family Court system, Mr. Speaker. We are moving into an area of modernizing the court. We are behind in that across the country and we are allocating the monies from these court fees to information technology to allow a smoother process within the court system to allow a fairer system of justice.

[Page 2023]

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, again to the Minister of Justice, I applaud the need for technical changes and the use of information technology to make our court system more efficient. However, why weren't lawyers and citizens particularly consulted with regard to this before the government made this decision. These totalitarian measures will lead to the denial of justice, not to the improvement of it.

My question to the minister is, what is the point of an efficient justice system if the people who need it most can't access it?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, there are a variety of corporations and citizens who access the system. It is our job, being responsible for administration of that system, to see that it is fair. To be fair and open we need information technology that is modern and changeable and able to follow the procedure through the court. There is no question that some of the costs have been very minimal for corporations. We are providing this. There has been a committee. We have accepted the report of the committee. We will evaluate this whole process within six months. If we do find there is unfairness in the system, we will adjust and respond to that.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I find it too much of a coincidence that at the same time this government announced an $81 million deficit, they are also imposing severe user fees on the justice system. These court fees are a new form of user fee that this government has imposed, much like the Premier suggested back on October 8th that he was actually going to be imposing user fees on this province.

My final question to the Minister of Justice is, why is he trying to destroy the justice system of this province to make up for the incompetence of its own government?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we are making a more modern, more open and fairer more responsive justice system. There is no question that some of these fees are to overcome costs, so in that way they are, rightly so, user fees, and so be it. Is he suggesting that the corporations should have access to our courts without paying at least part of that fee? So this will be monitored. We have set a time of six months to look at this, we will review it. If there are hardships that we can identify, or if the honourable member is aware of hardships, please bring them either to this House or to myself, as the Minister of Justice. It will be a fair system, a modern system and will work better for justice in this province.

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

ECON. DEV. & TOURISM - GOLF COURSES: FUNDING - DISCLOSE

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question to the honourable Minister of Economic Development. The unfair competitive advantage which may be created when private sector companies are able to access preferential financial arrangements through government agencies has far-reaching implications, i.e. the use of

[Page 2024]

taxpayers' dollars to fund golf courses that may be in competition and at the expense of the private sector, stand-alone golf courses. Why did that minister refuse to comply with the Progress Conservative caucus' request by way of a freedom of information and protection of privacy Act application requesting the information and the disclosure of those applicants who have received funding to establish golf courses in the Province of Nova Scotia through the economic diversification agreement that he has with his federal counterpart in Ottawa?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I have no idea what the member is talking about in regard to the request. It sounds to me to be a legitimate request. If he wants that information, I will get it for him, but I have no idea what he is talking about.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I guess if you gallivant around Cuba and Quebec you don't even know what is going on in your own department. Your department is out of control and you are out of control. We will table the FOI information we received back from his Executive Director of Strategic Services and we were refused that information.

Mr. Speaker, the roads in this province are in deplorable condition. Classrooms are bursting at the seams. There is no money for small business and that minister will not disclose. When will the minister come clean and disclose the names of the companies in this province that received funding for stand-alone golf courses at the expense of the private sector?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, as usual, the member opposite there is getting exercised over nothing. By the way, he should call me. He is used to making phone calls. Tell him to give me a call and then I will see what I can do for him. (Interruption)

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, that minister is making a mockery out of the taxpayers' dollars in his department, so I will go to the Premier. I would like to ask the Premier, do you accept your Minister of Economic Development's position that he would rather spend money on funding golf courses, hard-earned taxpayers dollars, than have the money spent on the deplorable state of the highways?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the honourable Minister of Economic Development and Tourism can't spend money on the highways because that is not in his portfolio.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

EDUC. - UNIV.: TUITION FEES FREEZE - PROMISE FULFIL

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. University students came here today as part of their week of action to highlight their enormous financial difficulties, tuitions sky-high and rising and debt loads double what they were two years ago. My question for the Premier is a simple one. During the election campaign, he promised a tuition freeze and we never saw it.

[Page 2025]

I would like to ask the Premier today, what comfort will he give students today with their rising debt loads and their rising tuitions?

THE PREMIER: The honourable member has used this statement quite often to say that I promised that I would freeze tuition fees. That is not the case. I never said I would freeze tuition fees. I cannot freeze tuition fees because only universities can freeze tuition fees. It is their responsibility. We did say that we would give more money to universities and ask them to keep their tuition fees down. We did say that and we have. Over the next three years, we will be giving $24 million to universities in Nova Scotia to improve their universities, to improve their technology and keep their tuition fees down. That is a commitment we have made. We have given $82 million to the school system in this province so that we can hire new teachers instead of laying them off, reduce class sizes. We have done everything that we possibly can for education in this budget. (Applause)

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I was very interested to hear the Premier say $24 million over three years because that is what students need to hear. Now that the government has blown its budget, I think we need to hear that commitment. I would like to ask the Premier today to commit himself to the next phase of that $24 million in the upcoming year?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, there will be the same amount of money given next year as was given this year to the universities in Nova Scotia and over three years it will amount to not less than $24 million.

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I am really glad to hear that so that, clearly, we have got something we can work with here. So my question to the Premier, now, given what he said over and over again during the election campaign, is, will he now commit to tying that $8 million to a tuition freeze?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we cannot tie the hands of our universities. We cannot. We are giving them funding. They have to be able to control their own management. We cannot, nor would we want to. These universities have done extremely well. They have made us very proud in Nova Scotia. They are examples of institutions of higher learning that could be taken as examples right across this country and into the United States. We are going to work with them as long as they work with us and cooperate and are reasonable with us, we will continue to trust them.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

AGRIC.: DROUGHT - ASSISTANCE

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: My question is to the Minister of Agriculture. Mr. Speaker, as you and all members of this House know, agriculture is one of the great industries

[Page 2026]

in Nova Scotia, worth well over $1 billion a year, employing over 16,000 people - 16,000 jobs depend on a strong agriculture industry.

Western Nova Scotia this year suffered a unique and troublesome drought. The rainfall didn't come in July, it didn't come in August and June was marginal. The farmers in our province are in dire need of assistance from this government. I would like to know what the Minister of Agriculture intends to do about helping the farmers who have suffered, many for the third or fourth year in a row, from the most unusual weather conditions?

HON. EDWARD LORRAINE: Mr. Speaker, we have the committee in place. In fact this week the President, Vice-President and Executive Director of the Federation of Agriculture did meet with us. We now have that committee going to bring us in a report, hopefully by the end of this month. In fact they were meeting just today in Guysborough County with our deputy minister and department staff, as well as the Federation of Agriculture. So we have the committee working on it. In due course, when we get that report, we will take a look at it.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Now, Mr. Speaker, the minister knows as well as I do that the committee can't make it rain in the summer and the committee can't produce money. I wonder if the minister has received a commitment from the Premier of Nova Scotia to help, in a financial way, the farmers in Nova Scotia who have suffered in dire straits this summer due to the drought?

MR. LORRAINE: Nor can I make it rain nor do I try to control the rain. There is a person up above who controls that and I am not communicating on a daily basis. But not to make light of it, Mr. Speaker, because there is a serious problem. Yes, we have never once said that we would not support the agricultural community in this province. When that committee brings in their report and we require more information, we will certainly support the agricultural community in the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I know the minister indicated, and I appreciate that, he said he would support the farmers. Well, there is support and then there is support. Farmers on an individual basis are suffering financially. Many farmers have told me that they need the financial assistance today. They are in great trouble of waiting any longer.

Can the minister indicate that he will support the agricultural industry with dollars - not just his support and his wishes for wellness and all that sort of thing - will he make a financial commitment so that the farmers in Nova Scotia will know that this government is willing to help them?

MR. LORRAINE: What I have said, and I am sure the member for Kings North would not want us to just say yes, we are going to throw money at a problem because that is not the way this government deals with things. I will make a commitment that this government is

[Page 2027]

sympathetic, will support financially and otherwise, the agriculture industry when we get that report and we know what we are supporting.

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

FIN. - CASINO (HFX.): CONCESSIONS - CONSEQUENCES

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. When construction of the permanent casino halted on July 21st, Nova Scotians were assured by the Premier and by the Minister of Finance that this stoppage was not a strong-arm tactic by Sheraton to squeeze some regulatory concessions out of this government. Yesterday, only nine days after the government buckled under the Sheraton's pressure, the contractors were contacted and asked to be at the worksite on Monday. Will the Premier now admit to Nova Scotians what he knew all along Sheraton was doing, which was asking for concessions and that that was the real reason for the stoppage?

[4:45 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I was never in a conversation with Sheraton or Starwood or any of the affiliates. What we decided we would do is that these proposed changes to the regulations were brought forward by the Gaming Corporation and they said it was important that these be passed, not so much for ITT Sheraton but anyone who would even take over from Sheraton would require these changes, that they were standard procedure in North America in casinos. If we did not make these changes it would be difficult to get a company to take over from Sheraton.

We did what we thought was in the best advantage of seeing this process proceed. Sheraton has started but they have started without any change to the agreement. There is no amendment to the agreement whatsoever. The casino is going to proceed as originally planned, there is not even a potted plant moved from one part of the facility to the other. That is what we wanted.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes, you only have about 14 or 15 seconds.

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the Premier can dress this up any way he wishes but when all is said and done, the power play by the Sheraton has got what it wanted and this government caved in. (Applause)

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

[Page 2028]

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. 13.

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

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle adjourned the debate back in the spring. I think you have about 59 minutes and 30 seconds left of your time.

The honourable member for Argyle.

MR. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I guess I have quite a bit of time. Bill No. 13 is a very important bill that involves literally hundreds of millions of dollars. Because of the different clauses that it has in it, it affects many different bills. As such, I find myself, in looking through it, very much interested in trying to debate this bill and bringing up suggestions that I think are perhaps lacking in it and pointing out the obvious things that we do agree with.

One of the first clauses of this bill brings about amending the Assessment Act. The obvious question is, why are we amending the Assessment Act? One thing that happened is that this government, I guess in a sense, forgot about rural Nova Scotia some years ago and they brought about a change as to how farmers are going to be treated in this province. They took away the farm tax rebate that was put in place by our government in 1979, I believe is the year that it was done. I look at the honourable member for Kings West and I am sure he is very proud to have been part of a government that brought that in. The fact of the matter is that rural Nova Scotia is important and our farmers are facing difficult times.

I come from a predominantly fishing area and farming is not prevalent in my area. But if you go through the Annapolis Valley and through many of the other farming areas in this province, you realize that we have a vibrant, though sometimes fragile, farm industry. It has its ups and downs and if anything that we, as a province, should be doing is trying to promote farming. I look at the fact that this government made a change in this Act which I felt had far-reaching consequences for the farming community.

[Page 2029]

Part of our platform, if we were elected, is that we would reinstate the tax rebate. We find ourselves now in a minority government situation and perhaps because of that and the cooperation of all three Parties, when you looked at this at second thought, we were pleased to see that the government listened to our concerns and to the concerns that the farmers had brought forward.

Now, look at the member for Kings North, today, what he brought up, the fact of the matter that there is a drought in this province. It has been going on for over three to four years and farmers are having a hard time. They did not need this added hardship. So I was very pleased that our Party's platform was in part put into place by the government listening to our concerns and putting it in this Act. So I am very pleased on that one.

Those are the good things. I look at this one clause and I suddenly see the NDP saying that they are happy with it also. Now they are listening to rural Nova Scotia. While I was a member of this House, not that long ago - I had a five year adjournment - the NDP were talking about metro issues. Now, suddenly, they have 18 seats and now they are looking to rural Nova Scotia. (Interruption) I have seen the light, hallelujah, and we are listening to the farmers and we will listen to the fishermen. Well, they will be judged as to whether or not they are sincere. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, I see that I have their attention and that is good because I want them to listen to what I have to say. I want to thank you very much for being observant when I am on my feet. I look at the fact of the matter, Mr. Speaker, that rural Nova Scotia is diverse but it has difficulties to survive in many different industries. Farming is a very difficult profession. The people who do it do it because they have a love that comes from the heart for farming. There are times that they do it for nothing and there are the other segments of farming industry which are very profitable but overall it is a very tough industry, a lot of hours, and you do it because you want to do it.

I think we, as a government, should do whatever we can to ensure that the farming industry stays vibrant in our province because I think if you look long term, we will all agree that if we do that, we will make the right decision.

There are many clauses in this Act but there are some specifically that I would like to speak about, one of which specifically relates to the Public Service Superannuation Fund. I look at what this government has done in conjunction with the NSGEU especially is in trying to drain money from this fund to give it back to the employees and also to the province as revenues. I have some serious concerns about that, Mr. Speaker, and the reason I say that is that we find ourselves in a very fragile world economy. I think I have heard some of the members make mention of that themselves, the world market, they were referring to the Asian market and on and on, how difficult things are.

[Page 2030]

I will read from a letter that I received from a retired civil servant, Al Manuel, who happens to be a former Deputy Minister of Finance for this province. He makes this statement and I will read it for the attention of the members present. He said, ". . . it is a bad pension plan management. Pension plans should be managed on a long term basis using best estimates of long term liabilities and long term investment returns. The plan should obviously be adjusted to deal with any long term over funding situation, if that does in fact exist. However, the refunds to the government and employees of two years contributions is a short term measure that I doubt would be recommended by many actuaries. The Minister of Finance cites recent favourable investment returns to justify the refunds. However, it would not be reasonable to assume these returns will continue indefinitely, and a relatively minor adjustment in the equity markets could wipe out the amount to be refunded.".

I think that is very pertinent. I know some of you may have money in mutual funds and I am sure on the weekends you look at where your mutual funds stand and a lot of you are perhaps disillusioned that the fact of the matter that your retirement funds have perhaps gone down by anywhere by 10 per cent to 15 per cent to 20 per cent. But overall I think all of us in this House agree that the situation that took place a few months ago is no longer the status quo. The world market is up in turmoil, especially the Asian market is relatively in a recession, almost to the point of collapse in certain countries and even the European market is not that strong, especially with the Russian economy in tatters.

I think that the comments that he brought forward in this letter bear some thought. We could see here, where the Minister of Finance made the comment that the fund is overfunded and I don't know if he used the percentage. I do not know if it was 113 per cent or perhaps you could speak across (Interruption) 110 per cent funded but the fact of the matter is I would like to know what it is today. Right now.

AN HON. MEMBER: At 4:55 p.m.

MR. LEBLANC: At 4:55 p.m. Now that is being a little bit presumptuous, but I would like to bring to the member's attention that the government has made a conscious decision in conjunction with the NSGEU to take money out of that fund and give a contribution holiday to the members and also a contribution holiday to the province. I look at that and say was that the right decision. When I look at Mr. Manuel's comments that things can change and we should be very cautious. What he predicted in this letter has in fact to a great extent come true.

What I would like to know and since we are debating this in the House, I would like to know from the minister if he could try to give us some information. I have contacted the department to try to get a feel for when the Public Service Superannuation Fund stands. I would like for us to get an update because I think that most of us here as members would like to know where it stands.

[Page 2031]

There are other things in this bill which cause me quite a bit of concern. One of which is that there are provisions in here that make mention of the fact that if there is a surplus the minister will be permitted to remove it in conjunction with the contributors, with the employees. I have a problem with that because of the fact of the matter that that clause is in there and there is another clause that says they can be removed by an Order in Council.

I will state here today that my position is that we will not permit this legislation to go through with a clause that would permit future contributions to be deducted from the fund by Order in Council. I think that all members of this House deserve to be consulted with this. It should come to this Legislature. This is a major issue, a multimillion dollar fund, and we deserve no less than to be consulted. The employees who are there deserve no less than to be informed rather than just through their union management or their executive. Thirdly, the retired civil servants of this province deserve to also be consulted in this whole process.

I will make reference to them because in this instance they were not consulted to a great extent before this decision was made. I have some concerns with that. I know there is no deal that is perfectly fair to everybody that you touch, but I will bring up a point that the people who are now working for the Province of Nova Scotia or who worked last year will get a tax holiday. That means that they will be reimbursed for the contributions that they have made, whether it was the first year that they ever worked with the Province of Nova Scotia.

Now, you can say, what is wrong with that. You have to look at the fact of the matter that retired civil servants and current employees there are the ones who put the money in that plan. They are the ones who put the bucks in there that enabled the fund to grow. So when they are giving a rebate to people and the fact of the matter they do not get a rebate, they are concerned. I go back to the point that they feel they were not consulted. They met with our caucus and I am sure they met with all the other caucuses to denote their concern about who was driving these decisions and how they would be represented. I have been told by the members that there is an investment committee. The investment committee is under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Finance and as such I have been told that they will have the opportunity to attend meetings or to get to be informed.

I go back to the point that I think that a good amendment to this legislation which should be considered which I would like for the entire retired civil servants to come forward and make their representation at the Law Amendments Committee is to perhaps have one of their members nominated and serve as a full partner on that investment committee. I think that would perhaps be a good suggestion. I would like to hear from that group as to whether they feel that would be a good suggestion. I think it is their money as much as the province's and as much as the current employees who are there today. I think they are capable of adding to the process and as such I think that would be a good amendment.

I am looking forward to this legislation, if it goes to Law Amendments Committee, for what their position would be on that.

[Page 2032]

There is one specific clause in this bill that I have a problem with, that is a very innocuous clause. It does not seem to be very important. I will make mention of it. It is in Clause 12 of this bill. Basically it provides that a person designated by the Minister of Finance may authorize advances out of the Consolidated Fund for travelling or other contingency expenses incurred.

[5:00 p.m.]

What that basically does, for members who don't understand the legalese, it means that the minister can delegate his authority to his deputy minister to authorize out-of-province travel.

Now you say that is not that important. I will say one thing, when I was minister in the past and we had difficult times and we tried to cut back, I think that one thing I did was insist that every out-of-province travel came to my desk. I assure the members here today that I sent a hell of a lot of them back to where they came from. On two or three occasions the deputy minister sent it one more time to me and I will tell you one thing, after a while he got the message. I don't care if the deputy minister feels that poor Joe has not had a trip in four years and this is a reasonable trip, he has to go. We are facing difficult times. If a trip to Los Angeles or New Orleans is not required then it is not required.

Your ministers, whether it is the Minister of Transportation or the Minister of Education or the Minister of Finance, and on and on, if you are going to cut your budgets because we are facing a deficit then you are going to have to make a lot of decisions. There are some of your departments that travel a lot more than others. The Department of Transportation and Public Works, that is one department in which a lot of people travel. There are a lot of conferences. I am not trying to point out your department but I know it because I have been in government and I know you are going to have to make tough decisions and your departments are not going to be pleased with you when you say, Joe, you can't go and that is all there is to it. You are where the buck stops. I don't think that we, as ministers, should delegate that responsibility to our deputies. When it says "may" it means that the minister can, so take it out and then you won't have to worry about it.

When it comes to second reading, if you have concerns about it and you want to put your points forward, perhaps you can convince me that there are reasons why we should do that. If you are absent from the province, by fax machine and so forth, there is always an opportunity to give authorization no matter if you are in your riding.

Now, Mr. Speaker, it is an interesting day to be debating the Financial Measures Act because when we started debating this bill the situation was different. We supposedly had a balanced budget. We had the assurances of the Minister of Finance that the figures as they were presented were, indeed, going to stand up to public scrutiny and when we reached the

[Page 2033]

end of our fiscal year we would be in a situation of saying that we have achieved a balanced budget.

I will say here today that I want one. There may be some people in this House who, due to political reasons, might want you to fail. They might want the Liberal Government to not have a balanced budget. I will tell you one thing, I have three kids who are coming up and I know one thing, we have to start getting our finances under control in this province. Sometimes it means that we have to say no to certain people, we have to do that because if we don't plan for the future someone is going to pay for it and undoubtedly it would be more my children than anybody else. When I say that it concerns me that some of the practices that have happened, especially since the House has closed, and I am going to use a few of them if I could. I will use an example of our Party's attempt to try to control out-of-control health costs. When I say that, we came up with a resolution that was supported by all members of this House. That resolution said that we would strike a committee to review the regional health boards and come up with solutions as to how we could better deliver health care. Obviously by doing that we feel there were cost savings to be made.

When I make that comment that there are cost savings that can be achieved, it is not just myself saying that. I remember speaking to different senior deputies of this province talking about the fact that they were concerned that the Department of Health's budget doesn't seem to be controllable. They were saying that somehow, some way we have to come up with solutions to put forward positions that change what we are doing now. Right now you always have that adage, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Well I don't know how to tell you guys, but it is broke. If we keep doing it this way, the province will also be broke. If we can't control health costs and deliver quality care at the same time then we, as politicians, all of us, deserve to be out of here to let somebody else come in to do it.

When I bring up that point I say that we formed a committee. We suggested a committee and we, in good faith, brought forward the resolution, I think it was our Leader, whereby in good faith we agreed with all members of this House to strike a committee. That was in the middle of June, I remember. We are now at October 15th and the Minister of Health stands up today to say who the committee it. We have a $1.6 billion health budget and, four months later, he appoints the committee.

What the hell is this department doing? (Interruptions) I will stand by that comment any time, because if that minister can't appoint a committee in four months, there is obviously no one in his department that can do it. What is Dan Reid doing; what is he doing over there? You are paying him big bucks. If he is doing something up there, he should be getting members to sit on this committee a hell of a lot faster than he is now. (Interruptions)

HON. DONALD DOWNE: I appreciate the member opposite being a little exercised here, and sometimes things slip out unintentionally, but I think the fact that we are using somewhat vulgar language in the House repetitively, really is uncalled for and it lacks a little

[Page 2034]

decorum in the House, and I would just ask the member to please refrain from swearing while addressing the members of the House.

MR. SPEAKER: I would just thank the Minister of Finance for his observation and I would suggest that honourable members do watch their language. I appreciate that in the heat of the moment, words will slip out.

MR. LEBLANC: Well, Mr. Speaker, I guess I don't look at hell as being profanity because it is used in my church, used as an example of where you are going to go to if you follow up the lead of certain people. So, if I have offended the honourable member for Lunenburg West by using that word - obviously he seems to be very well versed in it, so he has probably had it directed towards him on numerous occasions - I will try to control myself.

When I look at the members opposite laughing about the fact of the matter that it has taken four months to establish a committee to try to control some costs and bring some order to the Department of Health, that has almost a $1.6 billion budget, does that show sincerity? Does that show that when they accepted that motion that they were serious about it? If it takes four months to do it, my God, no wonder we are not getting anything addressed here.

The fact of the matter is we are trying to cooperate, and I look at the Minister of Health taking almost four months to put it forward, and it begs the question that if he can't deal with it because he is a part-time minister, why can't the Premier appoint somebody new? I look at the member for Richmond, if he is not bucking for Cabinet, I don't know who is. So, jeez, I am sure he wouldn't mind getting appointed. Jeez. Let's get somebody else appointed there who says that we have time to address these problems.

I made mention today, during Question Period, of a matter that I think is important - and we are talking about a financial bill here and I will mention it again. I talked to the Minister of Finance during the estimates, and I made mention of the fact that I thought it strange that we had reduced our Japanese debt and moved it into U.S. debt. The minister didn't explain why at that time. I made mention of the fact that even when we were holding those deliberations that the Japanese yen had dropped dramatically from the time that they had done it. Now the minister talked in circles, he never came to an answer, which is common, and I think we are all aware of that, but the fact of the matter is that, even since that time, the U.S. dollar has gotten considerably stronger against the Canadian dollar.

So the consequences of what his department has done has been further magnified because you are talking 7 per cent of the net debt which, in rough calculations, is somewhere around $500 million that he moved out of the Japanese yen into U.S. dollars. Since that time the Japanese yen has dropped dramatically and the U.S. dollar has risen dramatically, and it doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out that that one transaction has cost this Province of Nova Scotia literally hundreds of millions of dollars. I wait with interest to see the minister

[Page 2035]

get back to me with details. I only hope I am wrong. I only hope I am wrong, but I don't think I am.

The member for Canso makes mention of what is was at that time. Well, I beg to bring to the member's attention that this government had a policy that they were going to repatriate the debt. So when they moved out of the Japanese market, why wouldn't they have moved it into Canadian? Why did they further put it into the United States market? I beg leave to bring that to your attention.

I am just going to take a moment of the members time to make an introduction. Mr. Heiner Mangels is in the gallery. He is from my Village of Wedgeport and he is President of the Federation of Senior Citizens and Pensioners of Nova Scotia. I would like to bring him to the attention of all the members to give him a warm applause. (Applause) I am sure Heiner that you will know that in our village, if I use the word H-E-L-L it usually is not that much of a problem.

I was saying that the minister will have to explain to me and also to members of our caucus what that one transaction cost. To go back to the point of matter which is the province had indicated that they were going to repatriate the debt, they did not do it and I ask myself why they made the decision? Were they trying to create a gain? Did they sell it off because at the end it was lower and they were trying to create a gain so they could balance the budget this year? Those are all kinds of questions and insinuations that I could ask. Until I have the answers I can only guess, but I know one thing, it cost the Province of Nova Scotia literally millions and millions of dollars.

I look at other things that go on and I mentioned the fact of the matter that in the agricultural section the tax rebate for the farmland there was one other area that I forgot to mention that I am very much concerned with. The Governor in Council have included a clause in here that says that the Governor in Council may, by regulation, change the amount of grant per acre set out in sections. I find that for our caucus that is another change we will not support. We will be looking to have that brought in by legislation and that would be debated in the House and not done in the secrecy of Cabinet. We are supporting the reinstatement of the farm tax rebate but we do not support the ability of the government to change it in the future only by Order in Council and that is one clause that we will not be supporting.

I have discussed most of the provisions of the Act which really concern me but I still go back to the fact of the matter that the department to a great extent has lost control of its spending. I guess that goes back to whether the Minister of Finance can portray to his ministers that they have to live within their budget. I have done that in the past and I succeeded. There will be times that a department may have to make an extenuating expenditure, whether that be in agriculture because of the fact that they have drought and you have to make that decision, then you as a government have to figure out where you are going to take the money from. Up to now that has not been answered.

[Page 2036]

All of us in this House are demanding answers and I was sorry to hear that the Premier had no more updates on where the budget stood. It has been two weeks and we are looking for some answers. We have had analysis on the expenditure side and we are looking for answers on the revenue side. The Minister of Finance would have an update on the revenues that are controlled entirely by the province, which would be liquor revenues and gaming revenues. He would have had those numbers and should have updated the members of the Public Accounts Committee as to where those two figures stand. I know that the numbers have come from the federal government, that will come a little later, but as much as possible we would like to have information so that the House can make a logical decision when the time comes to support different bills.

I have had some concerns with regard to Economic Development. I appreciate that the minister brought forward today that there are different agreements that he signed before he came. I do have some concerns with different ones and there is one that predominantly goes within my riding. I have not had a chance to discuss it personally with the minister and that is with regard to the Blades deal which is in Shelburne. I do not like to point out any one specific company but I do know that speaking to people within the fishing industry that there is a definite shortage of product within the herring industry right now. We have a business which is owned by people who have been well established over many years and have been successful. They have a plant which is, to a great extent, people can say it is an older plant, it has too much capacity and it is inefficient because of the way that it has been built. It has been built to do huge volumes of fish through that plant.

[5:15 p.m.]

I have a question and people are questioning me, so that is why I am bringing it up here. If I didn't do this, I wouldn't be honest to you as Minister of Economic Development or the members of your Cabinet. People are questioning how we rationalize a grant to a company like that when we have other plants looking for product, unable to get it, and are having difficulties trying to make ends meet? When you make a grant or a loan to a company of $4 million for something that may very well never be to the point of being able to make a profit and holding other plants back because they don't have the product, then I have to ask myself whether this was well thought out. I bring up the point of the criteria of this loan and we haven't had the details of all what exactly the money was for. I would like to have that information.

I look at the Minister of Transportation, and I am not trying to pick on you because it happens to be on your riding, but I would like you to know how many people who own fish plants in that community have contacted me trying to understand what the rationale was. I am sure you have had a few of your own. It is never easy to try to help somebody and everybody else wants the same thing. Just within your own community, there have been numerous people who have called trying to understand how we could support a company

[Page 2037]

which they feel should have the financial resources to support themselves. When they say we are paying our own way, why is this loan being granted?

That is an example. That one loan only put $0.5 million this year onto the deficit. So that is a long-term deal. Those are the types of things that I think, as an Opposition member, and as a member who represents fishing ridings, are going to have to ask the government for more answers. I am putting you on notice today that I will ask you for these answers later on in Question Period because I can do no less than try to put forward the questions that people have put forward to me and they want the government to explain what rationale they are using and whether or not they are going to be giving the same types of deals to other people in the fishing industry who are experiencing problems.

Mr. Speaker, I am coming to the close of my comments. I would like to thank the members for all their cooperation and I will close my comments.

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on the Financial Measures Act. You know whenever a bill comes to the House, we have to look at it in its entirety, clause by clause, to determine its import. I know that, having taken the opportunity to re-read the comments of my colleague made earlier on this, there are many very fine points made with respect to this legislation and, certainly, if the members of the House have forgotten what he had to say, having had many months pass, I was going to take the opportunity to re-read it to the House. Then I thought, no. It is available on the Internet. I commend it to them and I am sure they will all take the opportunity to read through it.

In every bill that comes before the House, there can be both good measures and bad measures. There can be parts of it which are of benefit to the general population of the province and there can be things that are overly harsh. Sometimes the hallmark of a particular piece of legislation is not what is in it, but what is left out of it. I think that this is one of these cases. I am getting a little ahead of myself here. We should talk about what is in the legislation before we get on to what is not.

As legislators, we have to have confidence in the provisions of the legislation presented to be passed. We have to have some semblance of belief that what is being brought forward is something that is for the general benefit of the population of the province, that they are beneficial to the lives of the people that we represent. We have to have confidence that the legislation says what it means and means what it says. We have to have confidence that the measures which are the subject of interpretation, both by the government and, potentially, by the courts, that they do what they purport to do and that they do not do some other thing. This is particularly so in the case of an Act such as the Financial Measures Act, because of its potential effect on the income and, therefore, on the standards of the lives of the people of the province who have entrusted us with their confidence.

[Page 2038]

Now in this House, the question of confidence means more than just an assertion of support for the bill itself. As a money bill, support for these measures is ascribed greater importance, and the legitimacy of not only the bill, but the legitimacy of the government itself is at stake. That is the reason we have to give it careful consideration; that is the reason we have to look for reasons why support ought to be given.

Does the text of this bill implement the agenda of the government as laid out in the last session of the House, as laid out in the public utterances of the government caucus, its ministers and the Premier? That is the question we consider when we are considering this legislation.

Does this legislation prepare the province to meet its obligations to the people of this province? We have to look at this bill at this time in light of the progress the government has made in the course of its affairs to date. How are we to have confidence in these measures when the budget brought before the House in the spring, and which this legislation provides support for, when it is some $80 million in deficit, when we were told that the budget would be balanced? How do we find confidence in these measures? How do we find confidence in these provisions under these circumstances? How, when it is obvious to all that a more accurate statement could have been promulgated at the time, how do we muster the confidence to continue dealing with these measures in the form they exist here?

Now we know that in this House there is an ebb and flow of confidence in the government. That is apparent from all the machinations we see, from Question Period to the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne. We are charged with the responsibility to judge this bill at this time on its merits, and we have to struggle to accept a defined reason in the actions and the proposals of the members opposite.

It would be easy to say simplistically that this is just a bad bill, that it fails to live up to the expectations of the people of this province, that it fails to live up to the expectations of the Parties in the House, and it fails to live up to the expectations of the Third Party which gave its support so wholeheartedly to the government during the Budget Debate. We could say that. We could say that simplistically this is just a bad bill, but that is not the way that responsible legislators do their jobs. No, it is our job to dissect this bill piece by piece and to do an analysis that fairly reflects what the bill actually says.

I want to begin with a few words about the amendments to the Assessment Act, which is Clause 2 of this bill. We should recognize that Clause 2 is essentially a retrenchment of their former position. Initially this government introduced measures to do away with the property tax relief measure which, quite properly, earlier helped support the people who farm land in this province.

[Page 2039]

So although it is a new measure, in the sense that it makes its way into this bill, it is not, in fact, something that is new to the people of the province, it is the re-instatement of something that was unfairly taken away. Although we should congratulate the government for saying, at least you recognize the inherent unfairness of what it was that you did and you are taking measures now to correct one of the errors of your ways. This is a good thing. We support this retrenchment as the right place to start with legislative measures to assist the farming community. I will say that although this measure is essentially a remedy to a self-inflicted injury, it is worthy of support. This particular clause should be advanced.

I will also say that I am concerned about the ability of the Cabinet as set out in the Act to be able, at its discretion, by regulation, to change the amount of the grant to the municipalities. I am concerned, this is problematic because it limits the ability of such changes to be debated. It essentially forecloses the democratic function. It is a mistake, I believe, to empower a Cabinet or a Governor in Council to affect the livelihoods of so many people, without having that come forward for debate. But nonetheless, the reinstatement of this particular provision, I am sure will be welcomed by many Nova Scotians.

Perhaps the concerns such as these, that I have set out with respect to the ability to, by regulation, make the kinds of changes which might not be beneficial, perhaps these kinds of things can be ironed out as this bill moves on to the Law Amendments Committee. I certainly want to take this opportunity to recommend to the members opposite and to this House that we take a good look at this bill as it moves forward, as it moves into the Law Amendments Committee, and that these helpful suggestions, that I think are being made both by our caucus and by the caucus of the Third Party are endorsed and are used to improve upon the work that has been done and presented to the House.

Mr. Speaker, I raise with this House, the provisions of the Public Service Superannuation Act, and we heard the newly elected House Leader for the Third Party speak about some of the difficulties that he felt these particular provisions had, and he did make a good point, you don't judge the performance of any fund over the short period of time, and in fact, you must take the long view of how a fund is going to perform. There are ups and downs, as we have said, and certainly as the government now recognizes, there are ups and downs in the financial markets. They don't have the crystal ball, they have said that, they don't know where it is going.

Therefore, all the more reason for caution, all the more reason when taking money out of something as important as a pension fund to make sure that it is done only in circumstances where there could be no injury done to the people who would otherwise receive the benefits of that fund. Essentially, if you are looking for the distribution of a surplus, you are really looking for the distribution of the surplus to a surplus, because surpluses in funds are good things. They act as cushions against downturns in the market, and they should be maintained, they should not be distributed just willy-nilly, they should act as a reasonable hedge against the unforeseen. (Interruption)

[Page 2040]

Now, well the member opposite mentions the EI fund and those I guess, Mr. Speaker, are what are know as rabbit tracks, and I am not going to go down that road right now. I guess it is Downefeathers in this case. (Interruption) But it is true that any time there is a surplus that accrues in a fund, we have to be careful in what happens with that surplus.

[5:30 p.m.]

In these circumstances, what is being proposed by the government members is that this pension holiday will essentially mean a return of contributions to both the employer and the employees. I think, in these circumstances, that that is fair. The people who pay into the funds receive the money back.

I do take issue with the way in which this is being accounted for. Essentially, what the provisions of this bill do is go back and re-write history and they would make it seem as if these contributions had never been paid at all. I don't believe, and my colleague pointed out before that this is not a proper accounting procedure. I have some difficulties with that. Again, I believe that these are the kinds of things that can be remedied as this matter moves on to the Law Amendments Committee.

I want to spend a couple of minutes on the assessment of the surplus because, of course, that is the critical point with respect to the fund. It is important that whatever valuation of the surplus that takes place that it is done in a way that is completely above suspicion, is at an arm's length, that it is not merely an internal function of government where it can be seen as a tool used to prop up a sagging budget where a pension holiday can be taken at the whim of the Governor in Council and for reasons that may not seem to be of common sense.

What I would say to the government caucus is that, in these circumstances, the appropriate thing is to see that an actuary is appointed who is outside of the government, that that person or individual is asked to provide a report to the House that can be tabled here, perhaps as part of the budgetary process on a year over year basis and that no money could be taken from that fund until such time as the budget itself and, therefore, by extension, the report had been properly discussed and debated and passed by this House. That makes some sense to me, again, for very democratic reasons. We ought not to be doing things, especially financial measures, behind the backs of public. We ought to be tabling them, putting them out front there so everyone can assess for themselves the import of the particular measure that is being suggested.

I am also distressed that this is not a one-time measure, so the legislation, as it sits now, means that by measures, which it is not apparently obvious are open to scrutiny, there would be or could be a periodic year over year withdrawal from that fund. This is problematic as well because when, as I mentioned earlier, we have these kinds of pension funds that people in the future will rely on, they should not be treated as an investment fund for the purposes

[Page 2041]

of the government. That is not the purpose of them. So we have to be very careful what we are doing with these kinds of measures.

I would like to spend a little time talking about what is missing from the bill and that is important, especially in light of the fact that we now have a worsening financial situation, the marginal surplus has become an ever-escalating deficit. It is $82 million, at worst, and then if we can save $30 million, then maybe it is only $50 million, but that doesn't count what is in the hospitals or various boards out there.

The real state of the province's finances, quite frankly, are not known. They are not known or at least are not known to us - perhaps they are known to the members opposite - and the reason we do not have the information is because they do not want to say. That is a possibility. We have to consider all the possibilities.

What is missing in this bill? What is missing is that this bill does not fulfil the Premier's promises on the health services tax. Do you remember those? Do you remember, Mr. Speaker, that there was going to be a rebate and it was going to cover the tax on home heating fuel? It was going to do some good for the people of this province and they were going to be better off after the election. If we can just get past March 24th, a better day is just around the corner. You can see it.

Well, we got around the corner and in fact the financial measures that would have fulfilled those promises are not in this bill. That is unfortunate because the people of Nova Scotia believed the Premier. They believed the members of the government caucus when they said this is what they intended to do. It is a shame that those measures are not part of this bill.

It does not, for example, implement or put in place the budgetary measures to implement or to fulfil the commitments that were made by this government on hepatitis C and the Medical Research Foundation. That structure should have been put in place in this bill and perhaps they will say, we are saving that. We do not want to do all the good things at once. We are saving that for next year.

AN HON. MEMBER: The next election.

MR. DEXTER: So maybe it is next year. Maybe it is the next election. I do not know, but it is unfortunate that they did not take the opportunity to put it in this bill so the people of Nova Scotia could be assured that when they cast their vote for members of the government caucus in the last election, that those individuals were willing to live up to the commitments that they made. So that is unfortunate.

Perhaps this bill should be reworked. Perhaps it can be reworked in the Law Amendments Committee to set out those measures that I have just mentioned, but more importantly to set out the measures that would bring the budget back into balance. That is

[Page 2042]

within the control of the government caucus to do. We talked earlier of the necessity to have a strategic plan. Whether it is a strategic management plan, as someone in the House mentioned earlier, or a plan to bring the budget back into balance. This could be done. It is not too late. You could amend this bill, to put in place that part of the plan that will bring back the financial health of this province in a way that makes sense to everybody. So that is a challenge to the members of the government. You have an opportunity to amend this bill and to bring back a better product to this House than leaves.

All of these things I have mentioned, the things that are missing, I consider to be extremely serious. I believe they in fact outweigh the potential benefits that are contained in the bill. However, Mr. Speaker, the legislation is, if I can use the apple pie analogy, just half-baked. Therefore, when it gets to the Law Amendments Committee and when it gets through that process, perhaps it will be ready for consumption when it comes back. At this point it is half-baked. What we will need to see is what we get back out of the Law Amendments Committee. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, what we have just been treated to is the NDP apologia as to why it is going to support the Liberal Government through the rest of this year, why it will not move to defeat this government, at least until the spring of 1999.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: There you go. John is talking tough now, aren't you, John?

MR. LEEFE: I can tell the Leader of the Opposition that when it comes to him, I would not want to talk tough to him because he could not take it. It is going to be interesting to see just where the Leader of the Opposition fits with respect to the final vote on the Financial Measures Act; I would suspect that up to now only his hairdresser knows for sure.

There is absolutely no doubt that this is a money bill. This is a bill which is closely tied to the budget which was voted on here last June. A budget which was spoken against by the New Democratic Party and which was voted against by the New Democratic Party. They cannot escape the fact that to defeat this bill, the Financial Measures Act, would be to defeat the government and trigger one of two things: an invitation by the Lieutenant Governor to the Leader of the Opposition to form a government when he has already indicated publicly that he would have no interest in doing that because he does not trust the Tories; or secondly, to simply have the House fall and trigger an election immediately.

What we have now is the NDP putting forward all of the reasons why it may be able to support this bill because they talk about spouses and widows . . .

MR. CHISHOLM: Are you supporting it?

[Page 2043]

MR. LEEFE: You will find out when I vote. They talk about taxation rebates to farmers and they talk about a lot of things in this bill that are indeed important to average Nova Scotians, but that is all a smokescreen to allow them to try to get away with supporting the very Liberal Government that they, up to now, have spoken against. The only way the New Democratic Party can be consistent is to vote against the Financial Measures Act for, if they vote for it, they will clearly demonstrate that they stand not on principle but rather that they stand on political expediency. That is the dilemma which they face.

There are measures in this bill which I would anticipate most Nova Scotians would expect would be supported by members of this House, and if this were not a bill upon which the government will stand or fall, I suspect that most members of this House would, just as a matter of course, support what is in this bill. Things like the $2.10 per acre grant with respect to agricultural land, which is very important. We are looking at increases in the film industry tax credit, the film industry being very important to Nova Scotia and growing in importance, providing employment in many communities in Nova Scotia, some of it ongoing employment with respect to the filming of television series here in the province.

It speaks to investment tax credits, and we all know that if we are going to have increased economic opportunity here in Nova Scotia, we must attract investment not only from Nova Scotians, but from other parts of Canada and elsewhere in the world as well. We cannot raise sufficient funds within a population of less than one million to drive the economic development that we need here in Nova Scotia.

There is in this Act the regulation-making authority to implement a Nova Scotia Child Benefit Program, and each and every one of us, all 52 of us who serve the people of this province, know that there are children in need and that those regulations are absolutely necessary in order to give assistance to those children who are in need and to the families to which they belong.

[5:45 p.m.]

There are references here to increases in pensions paid to surviving spouses. We know, particularly with respect to women, how many women who lose spouses before they themselves are eligible for old age assistance fall into abject poverty, shameful poverty. So it is absolutely essential that we look to alleviating that poverty.

There are also, of course, sections in here respecting dependants and survivors. There are sections in there respecting contributions for holidays, employers and so on and so forth. All things that are of significance to the people at whom they are aimed. There also, Mr. Speaker, is a reference here to the distribution of surpluses and the superannuation fund. There is a problem in the bill in this in that it leaves the discretion to the Governor in Council. (Interruption) It is my view, one that is clearly shared by many, and I am glad to see that I have the support of the member for Sackville-Cobequid in this matter, that, in fact, should be

[Page 2044]

legislative authority, not left to the Governor in Council. I think the same should be applied to the grant in lieu respecting agricultural land.

There also are sections in here respecting guaranteed full pension benefits to the end of a five year period for spouses and dependants. Again, this speaks to the need to sustain families who should have financial assistance made available as a consequence of their spouses having invested along with their employers in superannuation benefits. I don't think anybody in here would object to tax increases on cigarettes and pre-proportioned tobacco sticks. We all know that smoking is indeed terribly injurious to our health. This is one of the sin taxes that is supported by the public, the public very clearly believing that it is right and appropriate for all kinds of reasons to apply taxes to them.

The bill itself, clause by clause, then seems to have some support from the member who just spoke. We will see if the other members of his caucus are of like mind. Certainly, there are sections of the bill which are supported by our Finance Critic, who just spoke, and sections which certainly find favour with me as I go over them on behalf of my constituents, although I suspect probably fewer of my constituents will benefit directly from the provisions of this bill than will those in some of the larger areas in the province.

Again, Mr. Speaker, it is essential for us to understand that the Financial Measures Act is not just a bill to do good things for spouses, to do good things for dependants of deceased persons, to do good things for the farmers, to do good things for the film industry, to do good things with respect to attracting further investment. It is not just a bill which, with a few modest amendments, some of which have been spoken to by my colleague, the Progressive Conservative Finance Critic or my friend and colleague, the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, and myself, that with those few modest amendments that the bill can be put in an acceptable form, because it all boils down to the final decision which must be based on the inescapable fact that this is a money bill. This is not just an ordinary bill. This is a money bill. It is a bill on which the government will either survive or be defeated. Each of us must understand that that is essentially what we will be voting on when we vote on this bill in second reading and again in third reading.

Those who choose to support the bill must understand that they, in fact, are voting to support the continuation of the MacLellan Liberal Government. Those who vote against the bill must, of course, understand that in so doing they will, in fact, be triggering a provincial election. We cannot escape that reality no matter how much lipstick we may wish to put on the pig. A pig is still a pig. Whether this is a pig in the poke or a pig that is worthy to be taken to market, it is nonetheless one which will determine whether this government will or will not survive and we shall see when the votes are counted. We will see when the votes are counted where each Party stands or, indeed, where the individual members in this House stand with respect to the future of the MacLellan Liberal Government.

[Page 2045]

Will they vote for the bill and, therefore, like it or not, swallowing hard perhaps, accept the fact that they are supporting the Liberal Government or will they vote against it and bring down the government and, therefore, trigger a general election? It is going to be interesting to see whether the New Democratic Party will stand on its much vaunted principle or if, in fact, the New Democratic Party . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. JOHN HOLM: I wonder if the member would entertain a few questions.

MR. SPEAKER: He will. (Laughter) I would point out I was not reading the honourable member's mind but he did nod his head when you requested, with a nod.

MR. HOLM: I appreciate your decisive interpretation, Mr. Speaker. My question through you to the honourable member, good friend from Queens, if he could tell us if his caucus and if he has decided yet how the Progressive Conservative caucus will be voting on second reading on this bill? Is it the intention of the Progressive Conservative Party to be voting against this bill or do they intend to pass it on to the Law Amendments Committee process?

MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, my honourable friend may have missed this in June, but we have a very democratic caucus. We have a caucus in which our Leader supports the right of every member of this caucus to vote on the basis of his own conscience.

Mr. Speaker, that is not theory, that is fact. That is a fact that is well known to Nova Scotians in this province and each member of this caucus, after discussion with each other and after discussion with our constituents, will make up our minds how we should vote on this bill as we do on any bill as we advance through this process.

So, Mr. Speaker, again, we see the NDP trying to put up a smokescreen but it is a very thin one. It is a thin veil through which each and every member of this House who sits in Opposition to them can see and through which the public of Nova Scotia is going to be able to see because if they vote on the basis of self-interest and political expediency, they will be seen to having done that. If they vote in favour of this bill, they will be voting in favour of the government. If they vote against it, they will be voting against the government and in favour of a general election.

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member entertain another question?

MR. LEEFE: Absolutely.

[Page 2046]

MR. HOLM: It is just like Question Period, as somebody said, and I thank you, Mr. Speaker. I wonder if the member could tell us how the majority of members, including himself, during the democratic process that took place in the spring on the main budget, I wonder if he could tell us how they voted, if they voted for the government or against the government?

MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, it is not too difficult to count 52 members. If you look at the votes that were cast on the day in which the budget question was put, it is very clear that those who voted against the budget, voted against the Liberal Government and against giving it an opportunity to continue to be the government until a future date; those who voted for it, voted in favour of giving the Liberal Government an opportunity. Bear in mind, it was that Party which said, before they ever saw the budget, that they would not support it. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruptions) Order!

MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, it is not difficult to choose between a Party which expects blind obedience from its caucus even before they see legislation, or a Party like ours whose Leader allows each of us to vote on the basis of our conscience. (Applause) So, will they or won't they? Will they be consistent and vote against the Liberal Government, or will they be inconsistent and will they be subscribers to the apologia offered by the member of the New Democratic Party who just spoke.

MR. SPEAKER: With all due deference to the member for Queens, I must call him to order, he is straying from the principle of the bill. (Interruptions)

MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, I must admit that that was rather a long answer to the question put to me by my friend, the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid, and I am delighted at the questions he posed, because it gave me an opportunity to give answers I would not otherwise have been able to give. Will they support the government or won't they? That is the question. If they do support the government, they will have seriously undermined any credibility they would hope to have with the people of Nova Scotia. Thank you. (Applause)

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, given the hour of 5:57 p.m., I wonder if we should adjourn the debate.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 2047]

We will take the time as being 6:00 p.m., and we are going into an emergency debate. For those members who have not had any involvement with an emergency debate, you should know that it lasts for two hours. Each member can speak for 15 minutes, there is no quorum necessary and the matter does not come to a vote at the end of the period.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Will I announce, at this time, the hours for tomorrow and also the agenda for tomorrow, rather than wait until 8:00 p.m. as members are leaving?

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: The hours will be from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow, and also Monday evening will be from 6:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. We will continue with Bill No. 13 tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: As I was saying, for the emergency debate, at the end of that period or when there are no more members speaking on the bill, then the House simply adjourns, but no vote is put. If members wish to split their time, in other words, if a member wants to split their 15 minutes allotted time with another member, that is acceptable.

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 43

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

DEVCO: WORKFORCE - LAYOFFS

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am certainly gratified that members of this House agreed that this was an urgent matter that needed to be addressed. I referred to it this morning when I read the motion, the fact that 235 employees of the Prince Mine were sent home yesterday; and more than one-half of that total workforce, 175 employees of the Phalen Mine, were laid off already, again representing more than one-half of the miners in that colliery. The issue here is the fact that not enough coal is being produced to service the needs of Nova Scotia Power and the direction of Devco, from most objective observers, is one that does not bode well for the future of the coal industry in this province.

[Page 2048]

As I get ready to engage in this debate once again, I was looking at an intervention that I had back in December 1997, and then I said that I had been here six years and we have dealt with this every session - the problems facing the coal industry, the impact the coal industry has on the economy of Cape Breton, on the communities that support the miners and their families, and the fact that we are not going anywhere.

[6:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, here we are again in the fall of 1998 and we are back at it again. What has changed? There are other members of our caucus who are going to talk a bit more specifically about the coal industry and Devco and the history and give you - in particular our members from Cape Breton - a bit more of the flavour of the impact this has.

What is making me crazy is the politics of this whole situation. Prior to 1993 when the Liberal MPs and MLAs were running for office they said to Cape Bretoners, you elect us, you get rid of these awful Tories, and we are going to solve all the problems. If you go back and look at the newspaper clippings from the late 1980's - you will see the now member for Cape Breton North; and the member who used to be the member for Bras d'Or, Mr. Dingwall; the member for Cape Breton Nova; and the now member for Cape Breton South, although he was not in office - if you look at what they are saying, they are saying to Cape Bretoners, you elect us and we are going to get in there and we are going to do something about these problems. We are going to fight for Cape Bretoners. We are going to fight for coal miners' jobs. We are going to fight for this industry.

Then in 1993, you know what happened? Nova Scotians voted overwhelmingly for the federal Liberals. We sent 11 Liberals to Ottawa out of 11 seats. One of them was the now Premier. They went with a commitment that they were going to solve the problems of the Cape Breton coal industry, that they were going to talk about it, that they were going to bring some reassurance, that they were going to get the government to back off on the plan that was brought in by the Tories to cut the subsidies, that they were going to solve the problem.

Well, you know what happened? They didn't do anything. The other point about what happened in 1993 is that Cape Bretoners elected 10 Liberals to the Legislature of this House where the Liberals formed a majority government. Four of the most powerful Cabinet Ministers in the province were from Cape Breton. What happened? Nothing. Nothing happened.

Here we are in 1998 and we have the same problems, only worse, because they have been followed by years of inactivity. The member for Cape Breton Nova has the audacity after the voters in Cape Breton said, the Liberals betrayed us in 1997, they said David Dingwall and the Liberals betrayed us, we are not sending Liberals back to Ottawa because they have done absolutely nothing for us, the member for Cape Breton Nova has the audacity to punish, to try to punish, to try to whip the voters in Cape Breton that what is going on now, the

[Page 2049]

problems of Cape Breton are all their fault because they voted for New Democrats. Imagine the arrogance of that member, Mr. Speaker, to sit in this House for as long as he has, to sit on his hands for as long as he has, to make promises to people in his constituency about what he is going to do and what Liberal MLAs and Liberal MPs are going to do and then do nothing and then blame it on the voter. It is obscene. It is absolutely obscene the way the coal industry has been dealt with in Cape Breton, absolutely obscene.

There has been no public discussion about the tragedy that is besetting the communities in Cape Breton; none. Has this government, has the member for Cape Breton Nova pulled together public meetings to talk about what we need to do to try to resurrect the coal industry or what we need to do to protect coal mining jobs or what we need to do to prepare for the advent of natural gas? No. He sits down and he writes his columns and he talks about how it is all the New Democrat's fault. That is right; that is exactly what he does and he is proud of it. That is what is so upsetting about this, Mr. Speaker.

I was at the pithead of the Prince Mine a few weeks ago at 6:00 a.m. and I talked with dozens of coal miners who said to me that they have lost hope. They have lost hope because they have been beaten down by this kind of malicious, offensive, punitive kind of politics that has been played with this issue by members opposite. (Applause)

The don't believe, Mr. Speaker, that this government, even though the Premier says I am from here so I understand, I feel your pain, they say to me that they don't believe this government is going to do anything, and they don't believe that the federal government is going to do anything. They believe, far, far too many of them, that the end is near. What is so discouraging about this and so upsetting about this is that when people lose hope, that affects their families, it affects their communities, it affects how they participate as a volunteer, it affects everything. This government and that member and all the other members from Cape Breton should be ashamed of themselves for allowing that to happen. (Applause)

There is no question that the problems facing the coal industry are significant. The fact that the federal government has turned its back on this industry and on this province is clear. The Liberal Government, preceded by the Tory Government, has decided that they were going to cut off the coal industry in Cape Breton, not energy-producing industries in other parts of the country, no, we are going to keep the $600 million in subsidies to the oil and gas industry out West as of 1996. We are going to keep that going but, in Cape Breton, we are turning our backs. What kind of response do we have, Mr. Speaker? We don't do anything. I think that is wrong and it makes me extremely angry and I just feel that when I walk into industrial Cape Breton and talk with those coal miners, I don't know what to tell them because we continue to raise this issue.

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, will the honourable Leader of the Opposition entertain a question?

[Page 2050]

MR. CHISHOLM: No. Mr. Speaker, the member for Cape Breton West is a Cabinet Minister. He has the opportunity to actually do something, but he doesn't; he can't. The member for Cape Breton Nova doesn't and can't. The member for Cape Breton South has the power, but won't do anything for his fellow Cape Bretoners; he should be ashamed of himself.

That is the situation we have and it is incumbent upon all of us to fight as hard as we can to bring some rational thinking into this process so that we, so that some people, some leaders in this province, like the members of this side of the House, in this caucus, can try to deal with that loss of hope and try to bring back some spirit, and try to help by standing side by side with those miners and those families, to try to bring some solutions and some resolve to the problems facing them. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: There are four minutes remaining.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: I am going to remind members of this House of some official statistics from the federal government that have to do with employment and unemployment rates in this country. In Canada as a whole there is an 8.3 per cent unemployment rate. In Nova Scotia it is 11.4 per cent. In Halifax Regional Municipality it is less than the Canadian rate at 7.3 per cent, but in the Cape Breton region it is 17 per cent. That is twice the national rate and these are only official numbers. We know that the real numbers and the impact of unemployment in Cape Breton is the most serious of problems in this province.

It is important, therefore, that we pay serious attention to the difficulty that our Leader brought forward to this House as a matter of urgent debate. It was our Party that did this because we are the ones who recognize the difficulty of this. I know because of this kind of across-the-floor chatter that there are members in this House who have the erroneous view as to my opinions as to what has to happen in Cape Breton. Now I would not normally take the time of this House to make personal observations about my own life but it seems to me necessary that I do because the members opposite who have been particularly engaged in this chatter have ignored or are completely ignorant of some pertinent facts.

I am not a Cape Bretoner. There is a well known Epstein family in Cape Breton. As it happens there are two Epstein families, mine is from Yarmouth but my late mother is from Glace Bay. She was born there, she grew up there and I assure you and every member of this House that the concerns of Cape Breton were well recognized in my household throughout all of my growing up years. The second personal fact I want members of this House to know is that for more than 20 years I have been a labour lawyer representing unions. I have represented public sector unions and private sector unions and again, if any member of this

[Page 2051]

House thinks that I do not have a serious concern about workers in Cape Breton, they are completely wrong, absolutely wrong. (Applause)

I want to tell the members of this House what is the cornerstone of our Party's policy with respect to how we deal with the problem that has been identified today. The cornerstone of our policy is that all decisions have to be taken within the context of a comprehensive energy policy publicly worked out by all players who are concerned about that in the province, that means everybody. Do you want to know what happened in Nova Scotia about a comprehensive energy policy? I will tell you.

In November 1991 the Department of Natural Resources, its Energy Management Branch, came forward with a draft energy strategy and that was the last time a document came forward in Nova Scotia that attempted in any comprehensive way to come to grips with the different aspects of energy. Do you know what happened? Two months later there was the announcement of the privatization of Nova Scotia Power and in that draft statement was the following observation, "We have no problem . . ." said the draft energy policy, " . . . about what Nova Scotia Power does because it is a Crown Corporation and we can tell it what to do.". Well two months later the Tory Premier of this province blind-sided all the people who had worked on the energy policy in Nova Scotia by telling them unilaterally that there would be a privatization of Nova Scotia Power. That so demoralized the Department of Natural Resources that it has never yet turned again to the problem of writing a comprehensive energy policy and all we have seen is ad hoc-ery at every turn when important things come forward to deal with energy. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I just would like to say at the outset that when the honourable Leader of the Opposition rose to ask for an emergency debate about the conditions in Cape Breton, the problems of Devco, that I honestly believed that he was concerned and that he wanted to be constructive. I have never heard such nonsense, such effrontery to the people of Cape Breton in all of my life.

He starts off by saying what a terrible thing it is for him that every year he has to rise in the House on a debate on the problems of Devco. Well my goodness, what does he think the people of Cape Breton are going through right now? They are going through a lot more inconvenience than he is and this is absolutely ridiculous.

[6:15 p.m.]

He says they have lost all hope. He goes into Cape Breton and he talks doom and gloom - no hope. I tell you, by the time he leaves, everybody in Cape Breton wants to go home and drink turpentine. It is absolutely counter-productive. He goes there and talks to the people of Frederick Street, no concern about the people of Frederick Street. He hides behind

[Page 2052]

a tree and waits until it gets dark and hopes he sees a dog that glows in the dark. Mr. Speaker, that is not addressing the problems of the people of Cape Breton.

He talks about the NDP and their sensitivity. How many times have the two Members of Parliament in the Parliament of Canada stood up on their feet and asked questions about Cape Breton and the problems of Devco. I want to see the transcripts of those questions; no, that is not neat, that doesn't fit within the neat little ambit of the Leader of the NDP nationally. There are bigger fish to fry in Ontario and in Quebec and out West, don't bother with the little nitsy bitsy problems of Cape Breton. There is absolutely no concern whatsoever. He likes to blame the people provincially for the problems of Devco and he knows very well that it is a federal responsibility.

I say, Mr. Speaker, that is not the way that we in the Liberal Party treat this. We treat this as a tremendous concern. I want to say at the outset that the problems of Cape Breton have to be addressed, not just for political purposes. This is not for political purposes. The people of Cape Breton genuinely want to know, are the members of the Legislature concerned about what is going on in Cape Breton? I want to say, Mr. Speaker, it is beyond unemployment. You can talk, as the member for Halifax Chebucto talk about unemployment. It is beyond unemployment. We are at the point in Cape Breton now where we are facing a complete collapse of the economy beyond unemployment. That is how serious it is.

We are talking about the future of Sysco in a few months. We are talking about whether the mines can keep going in a few weeks. Add that to an unemployment rate of between 30 per cent and 35 per cent in realistic terms. The people of Cape Breton don't want people to go in there and make them feel like there is no hope. If that is what the Leader of the Official Opposition genuinely feels, he should stay away from Cape Breton because they don't need any more of that. (Applause)

They want solutions, we will be providing solutions, we have to. Nothing else is going to matter. If we don't have answers, the people of Cape Breton are not interested; we will not have lived up to what they expected any of us to do, of any political Party.

When I was in Ottawa two weeks ago I met with the Honourable Ralph Goodale and explained to him that I am tremendously concerned, our government is tremendously concerned about what is going on in Devco. I met with the Prime Minister and I told him that this is going to be a tremendous catastrophe if the federal government does not wake up and do something. I said exactly how I felt. Back in 1995 the federal government, when I was there, gave $75 million for the Prince Mine and the Lingan-Phalen Mine in Cape Breton. Well, as far as I can tell, that money is gone. How are they going to work the final two mines? That means they have to be able to work it on their own, they have to be self-sustaining. With the roof-falls that they have, can they be self-sustaining? That is a good question. Neither mine is really self-sustaining the way they are being run at the present time.

[Page 2053]

The fact of the matter is that when that money was given, there was funding for production, for planning, there was funding that provided a stockpile. Well, the stockpile is gone. There is no planning going on. The next wall is not ready when the existing wall is finished. The Devco seams right now, they are mining a ton of coal to get money to be able to produce the next ton of coal. There is no wall ready to take over when the walls that they are working right now are finished.

This is alarming. This is tremendously alarming to me, to the union, to all of the people of Cape Breton. The signs are there and they have to be corrected. We do not want the federal government saying, oh, my goodness, tut-tut-tut, it is not working, we are going to have to close the mines. That is not an answer and I want to say out loud in this House that we will not accept that decision or that thinking from the federal Government of Canada. (Applause) If they are not prepared to finance Devco, then they have to let us in on what they plan to do. We need to be able to work with them and I have said to the Prime Minister, I have said to the Minister of Natural Resources, there are answers. Work with us, allow us a lead time that we can work with you to find these answers and that, I hope, will be the position of the federal government. I called Mr. Goodale's office this morning. He was in his riding. I spoke to his office and I said I have not heard back from you and that is not the kind of cooperation that I expect.

I want to say to the people of Cape Breton, and I hope I am speaking for every member of this House, this Legislature, that we are genuinely concerned and I cannot stress it enough, genuinely concerned, about the problem with coal mines in Cape Breton. These are 1,700 jobs. Miners make $45,000 a year without overtime. How are we going to replace those on a moment's notice? What will that do if those mines go down to the economy of Cape Breton? Well, I am in politics because I want to try to face the problem. I want to work and provide the answers and if I felt I could not, I would not be here. It is not going to be easy, Mr. Speaker, but I want to serve notice on every member of the Legislature that I do not want any more political nonsense about the coal mines in Cape Breton. I want constructive criticism. I want participation. I want answers as to what we can do in Cape Breton and I want the support of every member of this Legislature when the time comes to deliver on behalf of the people of Cape Breton. Thank you very much. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: There are six minutes remaining.

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, while I certainly welcome the chance to engage in this very serious debate on the future of the Cape Breton Development Corporation, I am certainly not pleased to have to do this today. I realize that we do have a serious problem here with the Cape Breton Development Corporation.

[Page 2054]

Mr. Speaker, any time that we have layoffs, either pending or happening on Cape Breton Island these days, it is a serious situation. Before I outline some of my concerns here, I think that the position of the NDP in this matter is absolutely tragic. Here we have the Leader of the Opposition standing in this House and saying yet again am I standing here and asking for an emergency debate on the Cape Breton Development Corporation and its problems. So, what do we see? We see the debate happens at six o'clock. We see the Leader of the Opposition, the honourable Leader of the NDP, get up on his feet and speak for less than 10 minutes on this subject and then leave the Chamber. That is how much the Leader of the NDP cares about the coal miners in Cape Breton. He could not even hang around to hear what the rest of us had to say about the debate and about how we feel about the problems of the coal miners in Cape Breton. He spent all of 10 minutes here before he left. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would like to point out to all members that it is not proper to draw to the attention of the House that a member has left the House.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. May I continue?

MR. SPEAKER: You may.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: With regard again to the NDP, and their obsession with hit and run politics. I have yet to hear either one of the federal MPs in Cape Breton Island say anything in the House of Commons about the situation with the Cape Breton Development Corporation. The member for Cape Breton Bras d'Or, the only contribution she has made to this whole debate was to say, I think the government should have let the employees know quicker what was happening here.

Now the national Leader of the New Democratic Party, the national Leader hasn't said a word about this issue, to my recollection, because it is not popular in the rest of Canada to say something positive about the Cape Breton Development Corporation, and she knows that. She knows that she has all she is going to get in Nova Scotia, politically. As a matter of fact, the ones she has are only temporary. And I can tell you that that Leader has not said a word.

What our Premier has said is that the federal government has to come clean with their intentions on what they are going to do in Cape Breton with the coal mines. We are continually pressing the federal government for answers on what is going to happen with the Cape Breton Development Corporation. I can recall, maybe a dozen years ago, there were 5,000 employees with the Cape Breton Development Corporation, and the industry was at that time doing very well. Today, as the Premier so correctly pointed out, there are 1,700 people working in the industry, and that is going down all the time, as we speak. There are layoffs this week, there were layoffs last week.

[Page 2055]

Mr. Speaker, approximately a year and a half ago, the UMW came to me and wanted me and other members in Cape Breton, people in the provincial government to go to Ottawa with them, to plead their case. I went to Ottawa with them. There wasn't one single member of the New Democratic Party, either provincially or federally, at that particular meeting. I was representing the Government of Nova Scotia at that meeting, and noticeable by their absence, members of the NDP.

Again, Mr. Speaker, it is hit and run politics. They are again playing politics with the lives of Cape Bretoners and that is simply not appropriate at this time. What is appropriate at this time is for all of us to get behind the effort to do something about the plight of the mineworkers in Cape Breton. Thank you very much. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North. (Applause)

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, it is often that we do have debate in this Chamber about Devco and coal mining and the coal miners. It was nice a couple of years ago, when we had Charlie MacArthur, who used to sit in the back row, and he was a member of this Legislature for a couple of terms. He had a long career in the coal mines, and he used to talk once in a while about when he started mining. He was on his hands and knees with a little pick and bucket, and he would haul it out. Today, people don't work like that. But he grew up through that era of coal mining, into the modern methods that we are seeing in use today.

Mr. Speaker, this debate tonight isn't about coal miners or the plight they are facing, it is about petty politics, and with your permission I would like to ask the Leader of the Opposition a question?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. This is not Question Period. The honourable member for Kings North can either resume or take his seat.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Well, Mr. Speaker, I thought that the honourable Leader of the Opposition called this debate for late in the evening so he could be here a couple hours later, and I thought I could perhaps ask him a question. I would like to know from that honourable member, what earthly good he thought his diatribe, his criticism, what earthly good did that do for you or for me or one single coal miner in Cape Breton?

Mr. Speaker, in the paper the other day, it said the workforce was cut in half at Devco. Is that leadership, when you come in here and you criticize everything under the sun from former governments to current governments? It is not right to be trying to win votes and influence people on the backs of people who are suffering layoffs. The miners are family men. I have met some of them. They don't deserve to be used as political ploys in this man's game. It is much too serious for that.

[Page 2056]

[6:30 p.m.]

I am concerned about the future, Mr. Speaker, of the coal mines in Cape Breton, as each and every Nova Scotian should. Those are Nova Scotians that we have working in the coal mines in Cape Breton. Some of them can trace their roots back hundreds of years. Traditions in the coal mines, I think you have to be born into it. I have heard them say it is in your blood. Not many of us would want to go underground on a little tram that takes two hours to get to work. That is how far it is. You get to the coal face and it is not dry like you might see in the movies. There is water pouring down on top of you. You are constantly waiting for a bump and you may never come home. Those men live in fear, in terror, but they do their work because that is how they get paid. For that Party to try to use those people for a stage to debate so they can criticize everybody under the sun, I don't think that augers very well for the future of our province, if that is the best our politicians can do. I expect more and my constituents expect more than that.

All the criticism of the Liberal Government in Ottawa when they were doing things that affected Devco. Well, bless my soul, Mr. Speaker. Who do you think is representing those two ridings in Cape Breton now? It is two NDP people. You would think that the sun would be shining on the whole world now. It is worse now than it ever was. To hear a peep from those MPs that are representing the NDP, let's look at the folks that are there today, not the people that were there two years ago.

Mr. Speaker, we have a problem with coal in Nova Scotia. The biggest customer is Nova Scotia Power. We are living in a world of what you call deregulation, world trade and all that sort of good stuff. You have seen it. Years ago - not many - if something happened in Japan, we would hear about it a couple of years later. When it happens in Japan, our dollar goes up, our dollar goes down, our markets are flying all over the place. We are in deregulation in this world and it is not something you and I can stop. Nova Scotia Power is looking at deregulation. That is the biggest customer for Nova Scotia coal.

Nova Scotia Power is going to be looking at competition from hydro power out of Quebec, from power generated by Nova Scotia's natural gas. In New England, there are over a dozen applications today to make power-generating plants to make electricity. What are they going to do with this stuff? They are not going to eat it. They are going to export is somewhere and maybe Nova Scotia is one of the markets they are looking at and, under deregulation, there is nothing we can do but welcome them here.

Nova Scotia Power is going to be competing in a North American market. They are burning Devco coal, Mr. Speaker. Devco coal has to be competitive so that Nova Scotia Power can continue to buy and employ those people. At the same time, we have to be concerned about the future of mining coal in Cape Breton. We have to have a contingency plan. If Nova Scotia Power has difficulty buying the power because someone else is selling

[Page 2057]

me electricity in my house and your house and everybody else's house, what is going to happen? They are not going to need any coal.

What we need, Mr. Speaker, is a government in Nova Scotia with a plan for energy. Our friend over here in the NDP talked about one that was in 1991 and hasn't seen one since. We need a plan today, not just for energy but for employment, so that we can make sure the 1,700 people that were saying, I am a coal miner in Cape Breton, we need a replacement for those jobs now or in the future, perhaps. If we don't, so much the better. If we can make that Devco coal mine work and get the miners and keep them in the ground mining, they will be happy and I will be happy and everything will be great, but we have to have a plan.

Nova Scotia has the richest natural gas basin in North America. What are we doing about it? Are we making sure that the ethane, the building block of the chemical industry, is kept in Nova Scotia so that we have jobs? Thousands and thousands of jobs could be created by a natural gas chemical industry. We have to make sure those jobs are here. We have to make sure that any spin-off, any jobs available, let us say that the displaced coal miners have first crack at those jobs. What would be wrong with that? Is there one Nova Scotian who would complain? I do not think so.

The Laurentian Basin is right off the tip of Cape Breton. I have never been there, but if you look at the map they have got it in all different colours and all wavy lines and they say they think there is a lot of gas there. If there is natural gas, they will be roaring right through Sydney Harbour and up through the mainland, under the Strait and off to export and in our homes and everything else; that could be an opportunity for 1,700 coal miners to find a job. I do not want to say it, I do not want to be a doomy and gloomy kind of guy, but when you read the newspapers and you see half the workforce is laid off, when you look at the notes that I have on Devco from 1967 until today, it does not paint a pretty picture, it does not paint a picture of optimism.

We have to turn it around so that we do have optimism in Nova Scotia for the people who are involved in mining. We have to have opportunities and if it is not going to be coal through Devco, then it blessed well better be natural gas, and this government had better start paying attention to the job creation departments.

This debate was called tonight and most of my caucus colleagues are here, most of the members are here, and that shows we are concerned and interested in the coal miners of Cape Breton. I wish all of the members could be here, but I know there are previous commitments with annual meetings, speaking engagements and all that sort of thing but, you know, this is so serious. Coal is one of our primary industries. It is one the building blocks and one of the reasons people live in Cape Breton.

[Page 2058]

We are not having an easy time in Cape Breton. The steel mill is not as successful as we wish it would be. They have one of the most modern mills in the world, but just because it is modern and up to date does not mean it is a great success. It has been run for the last few years and it is having a struggle. It has been for sale; it was going to be torn down and moved to China; it was going to be run by some Mexicans; it was going to be run by some guys from Holland. I do not know just where exactly we fit with the coal and with the steel mill, but these are two intertwined industries and we have to be not just compassionate, we have to be genuinely concerned and we genuinely have to be looking for the solutions, because there are too many jobs at stake.

A job is one thing, but when you look beyond the job and you see the breadwinner and his children who have to go to school, they are going to university, they are getting married, it is the family we are looking at. When you divorce it and just say a job, well that is just out of the question, but, boy, when you put it in and you focus on the family it is a different situation altogether. For anybody to call debate tonight and then make light of it, it is not fair, and I am afraid our friends and colleagues in the New Democratic Party are trying to use the difficulties and the terrible situation that the coal miners are finding themselves in as just a political stepping stone to power.

There are an awful lot of people who will tell you that you never get ahead by trying to tear someone else down, but I did not hear one constructive suggestion from the NDP. Now we are not seeing a whole lot of constructive activity from the current government, but at least they did not say we want to debate it and try to use the coal miners for our own benefit. Who called this debate, Mr. Speaker, and why?

The coal mining industry has occupied thousands of hours of debate in this House over the last 200 years. Belt line difficulties shut down Phalen. Rockfalls, the roofs just cave in and it shuts it down. Where do they go? They have to stand at the top of the ground and it takes weeks and weeks to clean up all the debris. People have suggested in Ottawa that the federal government wants just to divorce itself from Devco. Maybe that is true. They have been divorcing themselves from agriculture, from the Port of Halifax, from the airport. The federal government is going to build a little wall around Ottawa and just wave at us as we come to visit, because they are not taking seriously the need to unite and keep all of Canada together. We need leadership from Ottawa in all regions of Canada. Canada begins on the West Coast and it continues to the East Coast. Mr. Speaker, Ottawa cannot leave itself open to the thoughts that we are not important, we are not taking part.

Mr. Speaker, thank you very much for the few minutes that I have had to speak this evening. Devco is important and in actual fact the people in Cape Breton who earn a living in the mine are the most important thing we have talked about tonight. (Applause)

[Page 2059]

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

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, although I certainly always consider it a privilege to have an opportunity to speak in this House, it is becoming very disappointing that we must continue to speak about Devco. Regardless of what the honourable Premier has to say about why this issue is on the floor today, we know as New Democrats that it is here because miners talked to us about it and that miners have told us very clearly that all of their pleading and all of their intercessions have gone unnoticed. They are the ones who want this debate on the floor here tonight. I think that some of the comments made by some of the members certainly would be considered to be insulting to the miners of Cape Breton.

The miners of Cape Breton do not sit around waiting for the NDP to come and tell them how terrible things are. I live in a community where there are lots and lots of miners. I come from a mining family. My father worked in No. 12 Colliery. My nephews continue, or did until a few weeks ago, to work in the mines. I live in a community where the people who shop at my Co-op are miners and who go to our credit union are miners; the people I go to church with, my friends, my neighbours. I am not here interceding on my behalf, I am interceding on their behalf and that is what I was elected to do. Regardless of what the members of the Third Party or the members of this government have to say about that, that is what we will continue to do.

We have a community that depends on the mining industry. We have been chastised over and over again that we are not very constructive. Well, we have a Liberal Government in Ottawa and we have had a Liberal Government here. What I would like to know is what constructive actions have these governments taken to help the plight of the miners in Cape Breton. Their activities have been criticizing the NDP for what they have had to say on behalf of miners, telling us that we are bringing debate here on our behalf, on behalf of the NDP. I stood at the pit head a couple of weeks ago and I felt very happy to be there but I soon realized, in fact I was a little bit surprised at how dejected and defeated the miners in Cape Breton actually feel. They watched the last election and what happened in Cape Breton. They heard the regular promises about what this government is going to do to help the mining industry. Well, not a whole lot has changed.

[6:45 p.m.]

The honourable Premier sat - they talk about the present members from Cape Breton being in Ottawa - he sat in Ottawa without ever mentioning in the last three or four years he was there, Devco or the mining industry. So what is the message he is trying to get out now? We asked this government, when we were looking at solutions, to intercede as far as the Donkin Mine is concerned. We know, because that is what miners and the people who know the business tell us, that we need a three mine operation in Cape Breton. We have asked that this government intercede with the federal government, to make sure that happens.

[Page 2060]

We have not seen anything like that. We have not heard that that is moving along. We have not had any progress reports on that. That would be a constructive activity. They are looking for things they could do, that would be a constructive activity. Why are we not calling the management of this mine to task? Obviously if you are managing a mine you would know about rock bursts, outbursts and flooding. You would know that machinery is going to fail, you would know all the things that can cause mining to stop. Yet, what kind of planning, what kind of preparation is done in order to be ready for this kind of event in the mines in Cape Breton? None.

The miners will tell us, they are not even working on developing walls for mining. What kind of mining direction is that? That is management? Well, it is mismanagement. This government and the federal government could have some control over that if we were not putting people in those positions for the last number of years, because of who they are rather than what they are capable of doing. (Applause)

The miners in Cape Breton know all there is to know about mining. We heard announced today, I don't know how many task forces and how many studies to get around problem-solving by this government. Has this government ever suggested that we have any kind of a round table? Any kind of a real discussion with the real players in the mining industry in Cape Breton? Or, when we go there, who do we talk to? Do we talk to the miners? I think they would be the people who would be able - and the community - to come together and make some good decisions and come to some solutions about this continuous problem we have.

It is disturbing that we have to continually plead that as a group of elected people, that we come together and try to find solutions. When that happens, the most we hear is criticism, one Party criticizing the other for what they have not done. Well, we are not in government. The Liberals are in government in this province, the Liberals are in government in Ottawa and I think they could listen to some of the constructive things we have to say about the mining industry in Cape Breton and that they could begin and take some action on that.

We have had debates in this House when there were not any members here except the one person who would stay behind, any members from the government side, except the one or two people who would stay behind to listen to the debate. Maybe if they had stayed around last year and listened to some of the things we had to say, we would not have had 235 miners laid off yesterday. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I understand, while I was out of the House on other business, that some members took the liberty - the member for Cape Breton South and I believe the member for Kings North - to point out and to condemn me for being outside the House. I would just like to say that I expect that from some members, but I just want to say that I participated in this debate and I am here again to continue to participate in this debate, as I have every year that I have been in this House.

[Page 2061]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. For the benefit of the honourable Leader of the Opposition, I did attempt to advise members that that was most improper.

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to inform the Leader of the Opposition that I did not refer to his absence. I would have liked to ask him a question had he been here. I did not refer to him in his name as being absent. I explained that many members miss debates because they have other previous commitments. I think it is a shame though when a person does call for an emergency debate, and this is an emergency debate, I think it is incumbent upon that person to be here, but I didn't call attention that he wasn't here. I think you can vouch for that.

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order. There are approximately five minutes remaining.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak for a few minutes. I don't live in Cape Breton. I am not from Cape Breton. My father was and my father's family was, but I am not. But I did learn a great deal about Cape Breton from my family and I learned a great deal about the pride that they have as miners and had as miners. I learned a great deal about the work ethic that they had, the sense of community that they have and the feelings that they have of working for one another and with one another.

We have had a lot of political shots being made here this evening. What we are looking for, Mr. Speaker, let's underscore, let's understand what we are talking about, this is not about whether I or you or anybody in this House keeps our jobs. It is about survival of the coal industry in Cape Breton and the communities of Glace Bay, New Waterford and others who depend upon the coal mining industry in Cape Breton. That is what this is about. What we have to do is look for some solutions.

Mr. Speaker, I heard the Premier say today in his remarks, he talked about the fact that Devco is in the situation as they are mining coal they are looking for money so that they can produce the next day. That to me sounds like he is agreeing with the notion that there is mismanagement that has gone on. We have had and, in fact, this government, back in 1993 when they ran for office, said that they were going to introduce regulations so that the URB, when they are regulating Nova Scotia Power, that they would be looking at the socio-economic impacts of decisions being made by Nova Scotia Power; that means looking upon the impacts that it would be having, for example, on the coal industry in Cape Breton. We have not had a socio-economic impact study done on the impacts of gas, even though that was ordered well over 15 years ago by the panel.

[Page 2062]

The Premier has said that we cannot turn around tomorrow and find solutions if all of these jobs are eliminated, that it takes time and he is right. So why is it that if this government is so intent on protecting the communities of Cape Breton are you not now aggressively looking for a solution so that we can be finding industries that can move in to pick up any slack that may be occurring. Yet, this government supports an eight inch gas line, which will mean that the kinds of industries that could move into that area and create employment, if they had an inexpensive energy source, to employ those who may be displaced in the coal industry and they would have work. No commitment that that line would even go to Cape Breton or up as far as the industrial area.

We want solutions. The people want solutions. The coal miners and their families, Mr. Speaker, are depending upon government, all sides, to find answers. It is not good enough to say that we demand that the federal government comes clean. It is not good enough for us to say we demand that they work with us. We also have a responsibility to make sure that we are putting the infrastructures and the underpinnings in place to ensure that those communities can, in fact, not only survive but they can grow.

We have Sydport which could have been an excellent base for serving the offshore, creating jobs, attracting other industry to that area, but what do we do? We know the answer to that, Mr. Speaker. They want to sell it or give it away. (Interruption) The member for Cape Breton Nova says, that is the answer? No, it is not the answer. That is why we oppose it.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is your answer.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, we have heard and this government has heard, the mine workers have said, we want to work with management. We know solutions. We know ways that we can save money. We know ways it can be made more efficient and more productive. The Government of Nova Scotia, maybe they will insist that the workers be brought into a partnership, to be able to work with management to find solutions. Maybe the Premier will announce, or one of the other speakers will announce that they will honour the 1993 pre-election commitment to ensure that socio-economic impacts are considered by the URB when they are dealing with Nova Scotia Power so that we can be protecting jobs in Cape Breton. It is a vital industry.

If Cape Breton hurts, all of the province hurts, whether you live in Cape Breton or whether you live in Yarmouth. When we have unemployment, when we have communities that are suffering and in pain, we all suffer. We all hurt and, surely to God, Mr. Speaker - and, yes, my time is running out - we need to have some leadership. I pledge that if the Premier or any member of this House comes up with concrete ideas or suggestions on ways that we can work together to solve these problems, we will be there. (Applause)

[Page 2063]

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

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by saying that I very much appreciated the tenor of the remarks of the honourable member for Kings North. I thought that he made a number of very valid points and I appreciate his observations very much.

Mr. Speaker, to begin, I would like to pay particular tribute to Premier Russell MacLellan. Premier Russell MacLellan is the best friend that the Cape Breton coal miners have today at any level of government. Premier Russell MacLellan reminds me of an old song called, He's Got the Whole World in His Hands. Premier Russell MacLellan has the whole world, sometimes it seems to me, on his shoulders. He is expected to solve every problem, to be on top of every issue, to intercede on every concern, to meet with every delegation and to solve every problem. He does his best to try and do all of that and anyone who has witnessed Premier MacLellan in action since he has become Premier of Nova Scotia would have to agree, if they were fair, that this man works morning, noon and night to try to address not just the coal crisis but all the concerns that we face, and there are so many of them.

I know that Russell MacLellan, Mr. Speaker, has made telephone calls to Ralph Goodale in Ottawa. He has gone to Ottawa. He has spoken with the Prime Minister personally. He has done everything that is possible to enumerate to bring the issue of the Devco crisis to the forefront and I know that his efforts on this matter will continue.

I want to say, Mr. Speaker, as an elected representative for Cape Breton, who at one time represented the area that contains the Lingan and Phalen Mines, and also currently represents the areas containing the International Piers, the mothballed International Piers, which are not shipping coal to the international markets of the world any longer, but are still there on standby, if ever needed, and also the Victoria Junction coal preparation plant. Those are in the areas that I represent.

[7:00 p.m.]

I know that Premier Russell MacLellan has done the level best that he could on this and will continue to. I go to bed each night humbly thanking God that we have Premier MacLellan at the helm today and not Premier Chisholm, who if he were in that position, Mr. Speaker, would simply attempt to exploit the situation politically and then run away from it. He wouldn't put the genuine commitment into this that our current Premier has. If we were to lose Premier MacLellan's continued services on the Cape Breton coal industry and continued support and advocacy of that industry and of its workers, I believe that the coal prices would be considerably greater, considerably more acute than it is.

[Page 2064]

So let's begin by giving credit where credit is due, in fairness, all politics aside. Premier MacLellan is from the industrial Cape Breton area, that is the area that he has represented as a federal and as a provincial representative all of his lengthy political career. If there is any man in Canada who is going to try to help the Cape Breton coal miner, it is the Premier we have right now, and we intend to keep him there so that his efforts can continue. That is point number one that I wanted to make on this matter.

The second point that I wanted to make is that we have a few other people in political positions who are working very hard to try to help on this matter. Number one is Senator Al Graham. Senator Graham did not seek to be a federal Cabinet Minister. He is a man in his late 60's, he was asked by the Prime Minister of Canada to fill the breach, to fill the void created by the electors in June 1997, when the Island of Cape Breton and the Province of Nova Scotia did not return one single elected member to the federal government in Ottawa to represent this province or to represent our Island of Cape Breton, not one. They sent up representatives of rump Parties, fourth and fifth place groups competing for the fifth place spot in Ottawa, who were so far removed from the corridors of power where decisions were made that it is not even funny.

Because of that unfortunate situation, Prime Minister Jean Chretien invited Senator Graham to take a seat at the federal Cabinet table as the stand-in representative, as it were, for Cape Breton and for Nova Scotia, which he did. Without hesitation, he volunteered yes, to take on those onerous duties, and I have seen Senator Graham in action. He works day and night. He is constantly on his cellular telephone or dictating memos or making initiatives. The man is a constant producer, just like Premier Russell MacLellan. A bundle of energy. I am amazed at his fortitude as he works so hard to try to help in these matters.

I want to pay tribute also to three other people, and they would be the honourable Minister of Economic Development, the honourable Minister of Labour and myself. Because those are the only other three elected people that we have, other than the Premier, in either of the two senior levels of government, federal and provincial, representing industrial Cape Breton right now that are in government, that are in administration, and therefore are in a position to try and help in this matter.

I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that with any federal Crown Corporation that is falling on hard times, the first thing one ought to do is to look at the elected federal representation for the area in question. That is the logical approach to take, and see what they are doing. Well, we find, first of all, that the two elected federal Members of Parliament for that area do not belong to the Government Party. As the honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes has so eloquently pointed out, the Liberals are the government in Ottawa. A very true statement, and one likely to remain the case for a long time to come. Such being the case, and I think everybody realized that it is true that in Cape Breton, in June 1997, the majority of voters who voted chose to send representatives of another Party, a fourth place Party with no hope of ever forming a federal government in Ottawa to represent Cape Breton Island.

[Page 2065]

I think that is a very big part of the problem we face. We have no elected input at the federal level. None. (Interruptions) Yes and since last June we have seen a steady growing worse of the difficulties.

I suggest that this is not only because of those elected federal members' political orientation or the fact that they are not members of the government but I suggest it is also because they, themselves, have not given any high priority to the Cape Breton coal industry. As an example of what I mean I refer to the recent parliamentary report in NDP orange, circulated at the taxpayers' expense by Peter Mancini, MP for Sydney-Victoria. Members of Parliament, the insides read and there is only a single sentence there devoted to the Cape Breton coal industry. There is lots of stuff about Frederick Street, they seem to love Frederick Street. Not a suitable place to live but a great place to spend your summer vacation. (Interruptions) No, I only have 15 minutes and I am not going to read the report but I will table it so that those honourable members who wish to read the report can read it. They will see that there is only a single sentence there referring to the Cape Breton coal industry and all the rest of the report deals with other matters.

This is an indication of NDP priorities, they do not consider the coal industry important so it receives no advocacy to speak of from the elected members in Ottawa. Although they are not members of government they could, as members of an advocacy group that has the time in Question Period in the House of Commons, it has opportunity to make member's statements and to initiate various forms of representations up there. They simply do not do it because they are under a muzzle from the national Party which is more concerned with keeping the environmental lobby happy.

The environmental lobby, of course, is totally opposed to the coal industry because it considers that it creates greenhouse gases and thereby pollutes the environment and that the burning of coal is bad and should be stopped and that all coal mines everywhere should be closed. We know that those advocacies are made by the environmental lobby and it is a very high priority of the federal New Democratic Party to support, encourage and receive support in turn from the environmental lobby. Such being the case their Members of Parliament simply will not advocate coal in any real way on the floor of the House of Commons in Ottawa and so this is part of the problem. We do not have any elected voice in Ottawa pleading the cause of the Cape Breton coal industry where its fate is going to be decided.

I suggest to you that this is a very serious problem. It is a problem involving quality of representation, just like quality of life. What kind of representation . . .

MR. SPEAKER: I do not wish to interrupt the honourable member but I call attention of all members, if they want to have a private discussion would they please leave the Chamber.

[Page 2066]

MR. MACEWAN: What kind of representation do we receive from our elected representatives? Are they able to deliver? Are they able to produce? That is the acid test, that is the benchmark that all of us have to stand judged by, whether federal or provincial. It is my view that since June 1997 we have not had effective representation in Ottawa and it is my view that we have not really had any representation there at all, hence, I think, a great part of this current crisis.

I realize that we had Liberal members in the past in Cape Breton at the federal level and that not all problems were solved. There is no state of Heaven on earth. We are not capable of achieving Utopia. I know the New Democratic Party would like to think that under an NDP Government you have Utopia but the voters of Ontario certainly did not find that out under Bob Rae, nor British Columbia under Glen Clark, nor Saskatchewan under the ever-righter-winging, Roy Romanow.

So certainly, under Liberal representation in the past there were problems, I admit it, but I would say this, that the Liberals set up the Cape Breton Development Corporation in the first place, the Liberals have kept the Cape Breton coal industry in operation since the year 1966, which is now a period of 32 years and when the Tories were in power they continued the Liberal policies, they did not shut down the federal Cape Breton Development Corporation and privatize it as some in their Party were advocating but they kept it going. So the old-line Parties, so-called, have kept the coal mines in Cape Breton going since 1966, which is when the Dominion Coal Company wanted to shut them all down and just simply walk away.

The Liberal Government kept the coal mines open, provided the Cape Breton Development Corporation, opened a number of new collieries, including the Lingan Colliery in 1973, the Phalen Colliery and the Prince Colliery more recently. All of those are the achievements of the Cape Breton Development Corporation and it is at a point of crisis right now. I suggest what the voters of Cape Breton need is effective federal representation so they would have some elected input, in addition to the work of Senator Graham and Premier MacLellan and the two ministers I have mentioned and my own efforts.

They would have some direct input, they would have somebody in Ottawa who had access to the Prime Minister, somebody in Ottawa who had access to the Cabinet Ministers, to Ralph Goodale and so forth. Imagine how much more effective it would be if we had one or two federal Liberal members in Ottawa who would tug Ralph Goodale's coat-tails daily, rather than receiving two or three telephone calls a week from Premier MacLellan here in Halifax, and of course, the efforts of Senator Graham but Senator Graham is expected to look after everything in Nova Scotia because of the absence of any elected federal MPs from the mainland either.

[Page 2067]

All these are part of the picture. I realize that we all stand answerable for our deeds or misdeeds to public opinion. It is my honest opinion that when the time comes, the voters of Cape Breton will not repeat the mistakes they made in 1997. I think there is a very wide recognition in Cape Breton today that it is simply not practical to send to Ottawa members of a fourth or fifth place rump Party that isn't going to form the government and has no influence on the government.

This is not the question of the people's right to elect or vote as they wish, they can vote whatever way they want. If the voters wanted to send two members of the Rhinocerous Party to Ottawa, they have that right. But one could also understand it if those two Rhinocerouses - if that is the proper plural of that term - when they got to Ottawa were not taken very seriously. Such is the case, Mr. Speaker, with members who are asleep at the switch, whether they represent a first place Party or a fourth place Party, members who are not doing the job will not be able to produce results.

I realize that all of that is about the politics of this situation perhaps more than the actual nuts and bolts. As you know, Mr. Speaker, I was only permitted 15 minutes to speak under the rules of this debate and it takes me 15 minutes just to get warmed up. I have a file here on the Cape Breton Development Corporation and we weighed it on the scale before I came over here and it weighed nine pounds, so I have nine pounds of material to go through any time that the House has the time and wants to hear me in some detail on the topic of the Cape Breton Development Corporation. (Interruptions) Lots of solutions here, nine pounds of solutions but, unfortunately, not the time to deliver them or at least to unveil them at this particular time. I will get around to it at a later time. This is just the first day of the fall session and I am sure that in the days that lie ahead I will have plenty of opportunities to present plenty of ideas on this and many other topics. I thank you, sir.

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

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity provided by the Leader of the Opposition to talk about the coal mining industry in Cape Breton. As many of you know, I am a resident of what used to be a coal mining community and we don't have any underground mines left in Pictou County anymore; we have two surface mines.

The town in which I live has interesting neighbourhoods; the neighbourhood of Bunker Hill, the neighbourhood of the Red Row, the Asphalt, Mulgrave Row, the Bull Pen, all former mining communities, a testimony to the legacy that mining has left in our community. I am old enough to remember very clearly the agonies of our community when our coal mines started to shut down because the very nature of coal mining is such that it creates a dependency on that kind of employment. It is dangerous employment but it is good paying employment.

[Page 2068]

It is good to debate the crisis in the coal mining industry in Cape Breton. The question we have to ask ourselves when it is all over is, what good has the debate done? What has it done to help the mining families in Cape Breton when you realize that now perhaps half of the underground workers in Cape Breton next week will be laid off?

We had this debate in this House ten months ago, in December. What came out of that debate that helped the coal mining industry in Cape Breton? What helped the miners? Nothing. This debate will simply be a waste of all our time and energy and our lungs if, in fact, something positive doesn't come out of it. If we don't come out with some kind of a plan that makes sense. None of us here can guarantee that the coal mining industry will be around in 20 years, but we can certainly come together and provide a plan that will give it the best chance possible.

[7:15 p.m.]

I presented, in the debate 10 months ago, some suggestions and I am going to repeat them here in this debate today and I had a lot more time to talk last time. As I look back over my remarks that I made 10 months ago, the Speaker was urging me to sit down as I wasn't going to leave enough time for other members of my caucus to discuss the issue. It is very important that we don't spend the entire debate talking about which political Party has been more empathetic to coal miners. Coal miners don't need empathy now, they need action. (Applause)

Ten months ago, I put forward what I call my four-part solution to the problem we face here today, and that was the decline in the fortunes of the coal mining industry in Cape Breton. The first part of my solution was a socio-economic study of the effects of natural gas on the Cape Breton coal industry. What kind of an energy policy are we going to have in this province? Can we have a synergy between coal and gas? We cannot afford not to develop gas in this province, but can we develop gas and keep the coal mines alive? I believe we can. On the other hand, let's have a real serious look. Let's find out what is going to happen when gas comes to industrial Cape Breton. Let's find out what it is going to do for the economy.

All of us in this place know that Devco has some 1,400 to 1,600 miners employed. The offshore gas will employ some 242 direct jobs, and we hope that those jobs will be held by Nova Scotians. The one thing we do know is that the jobs in the Cape Breton coal industry are held by Nova Scotians, but we don't yet know who will hold those jobs in the gas industry and who will work on the platforms at Sable Island. So let's look at this. Let's stop talking about the study; let's do the study. Let's get the facts and let's base all of our decisions on cold, hard facts.

The second part is what I call a management-employment partnership. I am tired of going to Glace Bay and going to one office and talking to the union and going to another office and talking to management. We have to have worker empowerment. We have to bring

[Page 2069]

management and labour in the coal industry in Cape Breton together, the same way as management and labour have come together in other industries in Nova Scotia to allow those industries to survive. The confrontational approach between management and employees no longer works; it has been proven not to work time and time again. Part of the survival of the coal industry will depend on a working relationship between management and union that does not exist today.

Let's talk about the plan. Our good friend, the former member for Cape Breton West, represented our caucus at the Senate hearings and he put forward what we thought would be a sensible five year plan for Devco, and it included a three-mine policy. All of us knew that Phalen would not be a dependable supplier of coal, that rock outbursts and roof falls would mean that not only can we not entertain offshore sales of coal, it has been proven to us that we cannot even supply the one customer left, Nova Scotia Power. Time after time we have to buy coal offshore, while our miners are sitting home in Cape Breton doing nothing because of technical problems at the Phalen Mine.

The two-mine policy, the five year Devco plan is flawed; it has been known to be flawed from the start. This is not a criticism of Devco at this point; they are doing their best, but it isn't working. There is no power on earth or no persuasion on earth now that would convince anyone that the five year plan was anything but a death knell for the coal industry in Cape Breton. So the third part of a recovery plan is to look at another plan for coal mining in Cape Breton. I must say that I am not tied into Devco. I am tied into coal miners and coal mining. We have to look at what is the best way to approach continuing to provide coal for Nova Scotia Power. Once we have that sorted out let's start looking at coal for other markets.

It does not much matter to me whether the coal mine is operated by a Crown Corporation or by an owner that is prepared to develop that industry in a way that will guarantee its survival. A moral victory here is worth nothing. What we need here for the coal miners is a real victory.

The fourth part of what I think is a sensible approach to the survival of the coal industry does involve Ottawa. Devco carries tremendous pension liability. It carries tremendous environmental liability. The federal government, whether it likes it or not, is responsible for that pension liability and will be responsible for that environmental liability if coal mining stops tomorrow morning on Cape Breton Island. Let them assume that responsibility. Let's get the coal miners out from under carrying the weight of that tremendous pension liability. How can you expect an industry with that kind of a liability, contributing nothing to the bottom line, how can they have a cash flow that will allow them to survive?

I do not think that is a particularly complex plan, but I believe it is a plan that gives the coal mining industry in Cape Breton a chance, something that I do not believe it has today with the current approach that is being taken to the coal mining industry in Cape Breton.

[Page 2070]

Again, I will close where I began. Will this debate make any difference or will it be like the debate 10 months ago, an exercise we go through and then we walk away and nothing is done? I do not think I have all the answers but I have tried to provide you with what I think would be a reasonable approach to the Cape Breton coal industry problem. I would urge all members of this House, when this debate is over, let's think about it tomorrow morning and let's think if there is something we can do as legislators to help the Cape Breton coal industry or has this been simply a political exercise.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland South.

There are approximately four and one-half minutes remaining.

MR. MURRAY SCOTT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you to the Leader of our Party. As everyone here knows, I am from Springhill and there are a lot of ties between Cape Breton and Springhill; coal mining history and heritage for my community. I guess I am a little bit disturbed to think that anyone from any Party would play politics when you are talking about the lives and livelihood of people. I have seen what happens to a community when it is a coal mining town, and the main thing is keeping that community alive, the lifeblood of the community, the people, dies, the community dies with it. I have seen families broken up. I have seen the community basically board its main street up, buildings close and families spread right across this country.

Coal mining is not like the trucking industry where if you lose your job today you can go out and find another job tomorrow. Coal mining is in your blood. It is an individual way of life for a lot of people. It is not the type of thing you can transcribe into a different type of living.

As I started out to say, I find it very disturbing to think that people play politics with the lives of people. The people who sent us here sent us to do what is right for them, not to play Party politics, not to push our individual agenda or Party agenda, but what is right for those people. I would ask that everybody here, no matter what Party, put together a plan that will save the jobs of these people because it will not only save their jobs, it will also save their community. So once again, from the people of my area, and there are a lot of ties with Springhill to Cape Breton. A lot of Cape Bretoners came to Springhill and stayed there. They are still there today. I know they would be very disturbed to think that what is taking place here today would be allowed without someone speaking up on their behalf. I will not be here and stand by and let it happen. Thank you. (Applause)

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I would like to say it gives me great pleasure to stand here tonight and talk about this situation but it does not. We have heard people talk about the industry and how they have been affected by it and so on. Well, I will tell you, I

[Page 2071]

come from a family of three generations of coal miners. My father spent 47 years in the mines. Certainly it does not give me any great pleasure to stand here today and talk about the situation that my friends, my family, my neighbours, are facing in that coal industry. Then for people to say, well, it is all well and good, but you are only saying that because of ugly partisan politics.

Mr. Speaker, my stomach is churning just for people to accuse anybody of that. We are here to try and come to grips with a problem that is devastating a part of this province, a part of this province that has been kicked around for political purposes and then for them to say, well, you guys, you know, you are the evil empire. We did all the good and you want to just tear it apart. Just the sheer hypocrisy of those statements, oh, it just makes me want to hurl, as they say. We want to sit down and make solutions. We want to find solutions to this devastating problem with the economy of Cape Breton.

The Liberal Government here likes to say, well, it is a federal matter and blame it on the voters in Cape Breton for not electing more Liberal members. Well, that is simply not the case. The provincial government has appointees on that board who seem to dance in concert with this whole idea of to heck with the miners. One way of asking this government to do something positive is to get people on that board that are going to espouse the views of the people of Cape Breton for securing the coal mining industry. That is what we want.

People are saying, I do not want to be here another year and talking about this. Well, I am sorry if somebody is inconvenienced because we are here talking about it. We are not here to talk about this problem because we like to talk about this problem or that we are here trying to curry favour with somebody. We are here - and I think my friends from across the way will understand this, as I sure hope they do - to understand the problems with the economics of that island and how it is woven within the fabric of the coal mining industry.

We see those things. We see the effect of the decline of heavy industry in industrial Cape Breton, particularly in the coal and the steelmaking, Mr. Speaker, and we want to be there. We want to be the leaders to help resolve problems. We are certainly not up there saying, whoa, stop that. We are there and we are trying to help people. When we say stuff, what we are saying, quite honestly, is there is a problem here.

The Leader of the Third Party talked about the warm and fuzzies of we have got to get management and the workforce to sit down. Well, Mr. Speaker, what we have got to recognize first, and there is validity in that statement, but we have got to understand first that there are years of mistrust here and we have got to move forward. We have got to be real when we are talking about industrial relations and they are not being honest. We have got to be. It is akin to giving a man in a snowstorm a T-shirt, shorts, and a pair of gloves and telling him he is going to survive.

[Page 2072]

[7:30 p.m.]

Let's get out there, let's do something meaningful. Let's make them a part, and part of it may be to put two miners as appointments from the province. That is a suggestion. That may be there. I am not sure. Let's talk about other things. Let's talk about community involvement. Let's get together and decide, get the players all together in a room and discuss it and find out where it is at. The people from the municipality had to drag this government kicking and screaming to give them a study on the impact of offshore gas on the coal industry. They didn't come here as willing participants and still, to that fact, if you listen to the people of the municipality, what they are telling us is that that survey is still underfunded, that it is not going to do what is needed to really ferret out what the problems are, and still we are left holding the proverbial bag.

What is Devco's role in all this? They are not producing coal, so there is nobody working, and if there is nobody working, no revenues. Why can't Devco act as the broker when they buy offshore coal? Then they can offer their services as the broker, there can be some put on that which, in turn, can be put in development of the mines. That is an option I put out there.

Again, as I stand here today, I get so angry when they talk about no solutions being offered. I don't know if these are the be-all and end-all, but we would like to put them out there and see if this government will act on them, or will be inclusive, if you will, of everybody in the process, and say, look, let's try to find the problem. The problem isn't coming here year after year and debating the merits of should we or shouldn't we talk about Devco, what we should do here is, as I think some members have said, put a face on it. There are families suffering, Mr. Speaker.

There are people who spoke before me, people from Cape Breton and other areas, who see this every day whether it is calls to their constituency office because of problems with the lack of money and having to go to community services, problems through WCB from working in a heavy industry and not being properly compensated, or problems within the automatic assumption system for coal miners. Mr. Speaker, I see it every day, and it bothers me greatly.

Going back to talking about the workforce being listened to by management. Now, last week, executive members of the United Mine Workers were saying - here may be a problem with the Phalen Mine - that they are not cutting the walls straight. At no point did anybody from the management of Devco say, let's look at it, there may be validity to it, but it is dismissed out of hand. There are problems there, and I don't think we can put these two groups in a room together and expect everything to be sunshine and roses.

[Page 2073]

There has been much said about the Premier's support of the coal industry, his undying and unwavering support. Well, I would like to see a copy from the Parliament of Canada from 1993 to 1997, from Hansard that is, to see how many times he stood up in support of that industry.

AN HON. MEMBER: He was on the phone; he couldn't.

MR. CORBETT: Yes. Now it is cheap platitudes. He did absolutely nothing, nothing, to support those miners. Another member over there before brought up the fact, well, we prevented Devco from falling into private hands. Well, I can remember a federal minister hauling in some people from a company called Donkin Resources Limited and getting some money for them to have a study if they can take over Donkin Mine.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who was that?

MR. CORBETT: I don't know. He is defeated.

AN HON. MEMBER: Was it Wallding?

MR. CORBETT: Wallding Associates is heading that up, but I am not quite sure, but you know, Mr. Speaker, there are 237 miners that will be walking the streets and that is a shame. (Interruption) There is a member over there saying he will be back. I guess everybody gets tired of waiting for the second coming. We have got to remember a couple of points about coal mining in the 1970's and so on, not the least of which is the fact that if you remember in this province when everybody else in this country was scurrying around in an energy crisis, who supported the energy policies of this province? The coal miners of Cape Breton sold our coal below the world market so we could enjoy a standard of energy production here that could help the homeowner plus industry. These people are like thrown on the scrap heap now. They are forgotten about. Oh, that was yesterday. What did you do for us today? I think these people are there and they should be listened to today.

I had occasion about three weeks ago to go to a meeting with the Devco Pensioners Association in the Town of Dominion. These men know the industry and they sit down and they say, look, it is a recipe for disaster operating one wall. So you ask these people, with their vast experience, why do you say that? Their answer is that the men working underground see that wall, as long as that is in production, I get paid, my family eats, my mortgage is paid, my car gets paid for. Then they are driven. That is their problem. They are worried about the safety problems after that.

These people know the industry. Again, I welcome the comments of the Leader of the Third Party, that there should be a better dialogue between these people, the active workers and management. That just doesn't exist in this equation.

[Page 2074]

AN HON. MEMBER: It should though.

MR. CORBETT: It should, but it won't because there is no drive there. They have no desire because you have to get back then to the point of the motives of the federal government. A friend of mine, a professor at Carleton University, is on sabbatical this year. What did someone from HRD ask him, right out of the minister's office? Would you like to participate in a program while you are on your sabbatical? My friend says, well, what is that? Well, we want you to do an impact study on what happens when Devco is phased out.

These are the things that are going on. These are the problems. The sheer dishonesty, Mr. Speaker, of how they are playing Russian roulette with the lives of these people. Let's be clear about it. Let's be honest with these people. Let's tell them what is going on. Yet, they will play these games. They will coach these things forward, but yet never really be honest with them. It is a redefining of the management that now exists at Devco, a whole new group of people on the board of directors. These are things that I think we have to look at as a government. These people across the way are quick to tell us, again, that this is primarily a federal matter. Well, I am going to tell them across the way that if they don't do more than haphazardly call the ministers in Ottawa asking for another handout, that their deficit is going to even balloon further because you are going to have 1,700 people on your welfare rolls.

We are not doing this to be overexcitable or we are not doing this to anger people, what we are doing, if you will, is a call to arms. We are asking the government to go see their federal cousins, push this forward and if it is a matter of standing together, we will stand together and we will help you if you do it in an honest, forthright way. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Labour.

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I rise to offer a few comments on this most pressing issue. Nearly 100 years ago 75 per cent of the coffers that were raised for the provincial government were raised strictly from the resources of Cape Breton. Today that has substantially diminished, for a wide variety of reasons; technologies, demands, both locally in terms of the modifications in the marketplace, external forces, free trade, competitive edge in terms of the cost of coal production, many reasons.

Mr. Speaker, the realization is the industrial revolution is over and we are now into a new economy. This new economy, in my view, should and can and, with my efforts certainly will, include coal in Cape Breton.

What solutions have we offered? I am not going to waste a lot of time, Mr. Speaker, on some of the diatribe that has been put forth. I am disappointed enough to know that somebody would introduce an emergency resolution and, checking Hansard, you will find not one solution for the coal miners or the industry of Cape Breton put forth.

[Page 2075]

Assuming that we are all wrong, assuming that we have done a terrible job, what proposal was put forth? Not even one. I am speaking about the sponsor of the resolution. Mr. Speaker, the Conservative caucus has made some excellent proposals, as far as I am concerned. The member for Cape Breton The Lakes is absolutely correct when she says we should look at a possible three-mine operation because the reality is that without Donkin, in a few more years we will not have a coal industry in Cape Breton. That is the reality.

We can pretend we are deaf, blind and dumb about the whole issue but that is the reality. I am not going to waste a lot of time and energy with the foolish diatribe that comes from the member for Cape Breton Centre on such a pressing issue when we have 1,800 people's lives at stake, $300 million a year, and what do we get? Silly diatribe and attacks. (Interruption)

What are we going to do? I am glad you asked. Finally, since the sponsor of the resolution can't offer anything, maybe we will help him with a little bit of what the Cape Breton economy is all about. Mr. Speaker, perhaps if they will settle down - they had nothing to offer before - maybe they will listen and learn something. They obviously have not spoken to the United Mine Workers of America because if they had, they would have realized the discussions that have taken place with Donkin Resources, this private consortium that the honourable members have referred to as being some kind of a negative, notorious villain with a diabolical plot to undermine the people of Cape Breton, as if private enterprise is such a terrible thing. (Interruption) Oh, they would rather everything just boom, like there, okay. Complete anarchy is what they would advocate rather than look at the real world.

The real world is, we can entertain a public-private consortium. The UMW has entered into conversations, discussions with this private consortium. But no, they have not taken the time to do their homework because if they had, they would have realized that.

Second, Mr. Speaker, they would have readily realized that the UMW membership also has entertained conversations with at least one of the major gas companies competing for the market in Nova Scotia and how it will impact on their labour force, and, indeed, the economy and the community and the social fabric of Cape Breton, but they did not do that. They jumped on an emotional whim because the headlines were there. Fluff and puff that is all we got, no substance.

[7:45 p.m.]

There are two solutions. Shall we continue? Mr. Speaker, the reference to Sydport. How is the coal industry going to be integrated with the gas industry? Anyone in the gas industry will readily tell you, the experts will say, some of the greatest finds of gas are off the shores of Cape Breton. We have to look down the road. We can't continually look back at 100 years of mistrust. At some point in time, we have to put down the swords, these invisible walls that the socialists like to build and force the workers to think that they are oppressed,

[Page 2076]

suppressed, repressed, compressed, according to that philosophy. It is not so. The people in Cape Breton deserve much more credit than some of these socialists are giving them, a lot more. They are a lot more intelligent than some of these people would like to have us believe.

Mr. Speaker, they can think, they can talk, they can walk and they can look after their own affairs very well, with or without politicians, whether it be Liberal, Tory, NDP or whatever. We have to work with them. I haven't seen a lot of evidence, but I am going to go back to the suggestion that was made by the member for Cape Breton the Lakes because I think it was a good one. It is the only one I have heard from that caucus, so I want to dwell on the positive because she makes an excellent point. Let's assume that the private consortium is not in the cards, so what do we do? The federal government is saying it doesn't want to put any more money in. You have letters from well-known socialists like Parker Barss Donham who just loves (Interruption)

I have my own interpretation, an American deserter who likes to propagate borderline slander, but that is another issue for another day. So he is complaining that the taxpayers have put $1 billion into this sinkhole called Devco. He is now advocating a private consortium to keep the industry alive because of competitive forces. You cannot compete on the national and the international market when you can go to other jurisdictions, whether it be north or south of the border, buy coal for $35 a ton and it is costing us $60 to $65 a ton. Maybe they would like us to believe that voodoo economics is what people will buy into.

Mr. Speaker, I would love for every coal miner to have the highest paying job that anybody could ever have. My family worked in the coal mine too. My uncle died because of work in the coal mine, of black lung disease. We don't have an exclusive ownership on certain aspects of these social and economic perspectives that are held by the socialists.

Mr. Speaker, in a $3 billion a year economy, which is essentially what all the goods and services of Cape Breton will generate, we have 10 per cent of that as the coal industry. We have a rather strange dichotomy coming forth from the honourable member who was once with the Ecology Action Centre. He says that we should shut down the coal mines. Mr. Epstein says, close the coal mines. What will we do with the unemployed coal miners? We will employ them building and maintaining windmills. Talk about hot air. Well, I could see why he would want windmills, but that does not do any good for the economies of scale in Cape Breton.

Let's look at Sydport. Every time we talk about an initiative from the private sector, the socialist says it is some kind of a diabolical conspiracy between some friend of the government who is going to put money in his or her back pocket and we are all going to be sunkholed.

[Page 2077]

Let us look at the positive side of Sydport and the opportunity that the private sector can offer when the offshore gas is developed in Cape Breton. It would be great if we had all the money in the world to do what they asked for. Do you know what the Opposition asked for today, just in dollars and cents, between their questions and their resolutions? $115 million of taxpayers' money. Why don't they do some coordinated effort on what they want? Mr. Speaker, that is shameful. If we are going to help people, let us deal with the facts. (Interruptions) He is moving back in the back rows, he is slowly going back to where he should be, out the door.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, this is the same group that went to Louisbourg the day that the question came up with the federal government on Han Beck, wham, pull out provincial government. Pull out. Pull out your $2.5 million, and then, a bunch of them ran down with their socialist friends, and then tried to convince the people that we are bad guys, because we are trying to be responsible with the taxpayers' money. And now they are saying that we should put it in.

We have our $2.5 million on the table, and we will stand behind our commitment, but we cannot control, if a private investor does not want to live up to his commitments, if he does not want to put his money on the table, like he said he was going to. We are not going to give $2.5 million and then, several months later, find out that he may be in Korea and who will get the blame for irresponsible management? That is the type of diatribe and anarchistic attitude that these individuals have. I will not put up with it. I will not even pay attention to it. It is sinful.

Mr. Speaker, I raise concerns . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Argyle.

MR. NEIL LEBLANC: I hate to interrupt a member when he is in full flight, however, the agreement was that it was going to be 15 minutes, 15 minutes, 15 minutes, we had agreed to two rounds, and then it would be 10 minutes and 10 minutes and 10 minutes. The honourable member got up, per my calculation . . .

MR. SPEAKER: At 7:40 p.m.

MR. LEBLANC: That is right, so he has been up there for more than 10 minutes. It was for 10 minutes that it was agreed upon, so his time has expired.

MR. SPEAKER: Well, I wasn't aware of the 10 minute rule, however, if that is the way it is, your time has expired. (Interruptions)

[Page 2078]

MR. MACKINNON: I will certainly wrap up in one sentence. I have even communicated to my federal colleague, the federal Minister of Labour today, subsequent to meetings I have had previously in the month, raising even my concerns about the safety in the coal mines, because I understand now, Nova Scotia Power won't allow some of their employees to enter the coal mines. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou East. (Applause)

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to address this important issue. I, too come from a mining district, like my honourable Leader, the member for Pictou Centre. I come from Pictou East, and my office is sitting over a coal mine on the main street of Westville. When I started with the government back in 1967 with the Department of Mines then, that was the year that Devco was formed. We did a lot of sharing at that time, during that start-up period. So I do have a bit of knowledge of Devco.

But given the short time that we have here, I just want to say that I have been involved in coal mining, in exploration and monitoring of coal mines' operations for nearly 30 years, and on a full-time basis. I understand, I know a lot of miners, and I know that the people that I have worked with in Cape Breton and in mainland Nova Scotia, come from a proud history of mining and they are a very hard-working, proud people.

Certainly, the coal industry in Cape Breton continues to be riddled with ongoing problems. There are problems with production, there are problems with water entering the mines, with roof-falls that have been ongoing, belt line problems, running into faults and stone intrusions that they continue to run into. So it is a real problem down there, and what they have to do is get a new wall going. Nova Scotia Power is importing coal from the U.S. and sometimes South America to keep their resources at a manageable level. It is very unfortunate because our department had conducted, back in the 1980's - and I was involved in it - a very comprehensive coal inventory survey. We have proven resources in this province that could maintain the coal industry for many years to come. There is lots of coal in this province but, if it is not economically feasible to develop, we must put a spin on the natural gas to take care of these jobs and employ Nova Scotians. It is very important.

We have identified resources onshore and offshore. We have drill ships working off Cape Breton and I can tell you there is lots of coal out there. There was a $350,000 study at Donkin to develop 275 million tons over 20 years. That has been identified and this could be put into production at a reasonable price by using existing equipment. I can tell you there is lots of existing equipment around the province for coal mining operations, and very good equipment at that.

The Leader of my Party has suggested that this debate will be for naught if we do not really do something about it. I was very concerned. From our first speaker I thought, here we are, we are heading down the wrong road, with political posturing sort of predominant, but

[Page 2079]

I must say there was some very good debate from all sides and I think it is very important to have debate.

What this is about is leadership; there is no question. I feel there is some lack of leadership by the federal NDP in Cape Breton, but there is also lack of leadership in Ottawa. It is very apparent when you see headlines like "No panic in Ottawa over Devco" as part of an ongoing problem that was occurring there in July. That is typical of their thinking in Ottawa. This is about leadership; this is about jobs; this is about the preservation of an industry in this province; this is about maintaining our markets before we lose them to the Americans; and this is about the preservation of the dignity of a proud workforce, their families and their communities.

This government must take a leadership role, work collectively with their federal counterparts and the Parties in this room and take very seriously the future of the Cape Breton coal industry. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland North.

MR. ERNEST FAGE: I will only be brief.

MR. SPEAKER: That's all you can be.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, "Workforce cut in half at Devco", 235. There is a proud history of coal mining in Nova Scotia. Tonight I am appalled at the majority of what I heard; certainly from the Official Opposition I heard a political diatribe that absolutely appalled me. We cannot change the past, but we can influence the future. All I heard here tonight from the Official Opposition, and from the government ranks, was blaming a former government about why something did not happen.

Well, if we are serious about doing something about the families in Cape Breton, about the economy of Cape Breton, and allowing people to go to work in Cape Breton and being proud of themselves, we had better sit down, and look at this industry, look at those communities in a holistic view. Those communities when I was there with the Select Committee on National Unity - you were there too - the occupancy rate last January in hotels in downtown Sydney of 10 per cent to 12 per cent. This issue is a holistic community issue and these people are extremely important. Let's work for the future and not play politics with the past and these peoples' lives. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The time allotted for the emergency debate has expired.

The House is adjourned until 10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.

[The House rose at 8:00 p.m.]

[Page 2080]

NOTICE OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 1024

By: Mr. Paul MacEwan (Cape Breton Nova)

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

Whereas since this House last sat the Nova Scotia New Democratic Party has reached a most amazing discovery; and

Whereas after exhaustive research, countless hours of gut-wrenching debate and intense input from myriads of stakeholders, the NDP has reached a definitive conclusion; and

Whereas this definitive discovery is that rural Nova Scotia is part of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the NDP be congratulated on their recent discovery with hopes that as their diligent efforts persevere they may in time achieve further new insights such as that the Earth is round, not flat, and that the Atlantic Ocean is east of here, not west.