The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Tue., Oct. 20, 1998

First Session


Nat. Res. - Cape Chignecto Park: Roads - Retain, Mr. M. Scott 2243
Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Antigonish Bypass: Option No. 3 - Support,
Mr. R. White 2244
Anl. Rept. of The Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission,
Hon. R. Harrison 2244
Select Committee on the Workers' Compensation Act - Progress,
Mr. M. Baker 2244
Bus. & Cons. Serv. - Residential Tenancies Act: Discussion Paper -
Distributed, Hon. K. Colwell 2246
Res. 1120, Commun. Serv. - Foster Families: Dedication - Commend,
Hon. F. Cosman 2249
Vote - Affirmative 2249
No. 34, Teachers' Pension Act, Hon. D. Downe 2250
No. 35, Nova Scotia Teachers College Foundation Act,
Hon. R. Harrison 2250
No. 36, Gaming Control Act, Ms. Helen MacDonald 2250
No. 37, Westray Payment of Benefits (1998) Act, Mr. C. Parker 2250
Res. 1121, HRDC - Employment Insurance: Eligibility - Expand,
Mr. R. Chisholm 2250
Res. 1122, Fin. - Deficit: Avoidance - Plan Provide, Dr. J. Hamm 2251
Res. 1123, Commun. Serv. - Veith House: Fund-Raising -
Necessity Condemn, Mr. J. Pye 2251
Res. 1124, NDP (N.S.) - Rural (N.S.): Undiscovered - Admit,
Mr. B. Taylor 2252
Res. 1125, Educ. - Maple Grove E.C. School (Yar.): Improvement Plan -
Advisory Council Commend, Mr. L. Montgomery 2253
Vote - Affirmative 2253
Res. 1126, Bus. & Cons. Serv. - Credit Unions:
Commun. Invest. Co-ops - Initiation Commend, Mr. C. Parker 2254
Res. 1127, Aboriginal Affs. - Aboriginal Peoples (Royal Comm'n. Rept.):
PM (Can.) - Promise Fulfil, Mr. G. Balser 2254
Res. 1128, Fish. - Fishermen Concerns: Leadership Role - Congrats.,
Mr. Charles MacDonald 2255
Res. 1129, Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley MLA:
Astigmatism Political - Correct, Mr. W. Estabrooks 2256
Res. 1130, Health: Autism Awareness Month (Oct.) - Recognize,
Mr. G. Moody 2256
Vote - Affirmative 2257
Res. 1131, NDP Gov't. (Sask.): Deviationism (Right-Wing) - Shock,
Mr. P. MacEwan 2257
Res. 1132, Justice - Court Costs: Imposition - Reverse,
Mr. Kevin Deveaux 2258
Res. 1133, Environ. - Sydney Tar Ponds: Pollutants (Frederick St.) -
Resolution Disclose, Dr. J. Hamm 2258
Res. 1134, Devco - Prince Colliery: Future - Ensure (Gov't. [N.S.]),
Mr. R. Matheson 2259
Res. 1135, Nat. Res. - Offshore Resources: Royalty Regime - Redesign,
Mr. J. Holm 2259
Res. 1136, Health - Cumb. Co.: Doctors Specialists -
Recruitment Undertake, Mr. E. Fage 2260
Res. 1137, Donald Colp (Guys.) - Disaster Relief (Florida):
Humanitarianism - Commend, Mr. R. White 2260
Vote - Affirmative 2261
Res. 1138, Educ. - Eskasoni High Tech H.S.: Eskasoni Band Council -
Congrats., Ms. Helen MacDonald 2261
Res. 1139, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Cumb. Co.: Secondary Rds. -
Future, Mr. M. Scott 2262
Res. 1140, Springhill Bump (23/10/58) - "Blood of the Coal" Film:
Geoff D'Eon (CBC Producer) - Acknowledge, Mr. G. Fogarty 2262
Vote - Affirmative 2263
Res. 1141, Musquodoboit Hbr.: Old Fashioned Christmas Open Houses -
Congrats., Hon. K. Colwell 2263
Vote - Affirmative 2264
Res. 1142, Don Tremaine - Citizenship Court Judge: Appointment -
Applaud, Mr. J. Muir 2264
Vote - Affirmative 2265
Res. 1143, Nat. Res.: Coal Industry (C.B.) - Secure, Mr. R. Matheson 2265
Res. 1144, Fish. - Isle Madame/Richmond Co.: Rebuilding - Congrats.,
Mr. M. Samson 2265
Vote - Affirmative 2266
Res. 1145, Culture - RADA (U.K.): Meredith MacNeil (Amherst) -
Acceptance Congrats., Mr. H. Fraser 2266
Vote - Affirmative 2267
Res. 1146, Environ. - Air Pollutants (N.S.): Strategy - Implement,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 2267
Res. 1147, Nat. Res. - Trans Canada Trail: Musquodoboit Trailways
Assoc. - Dedication Commend, Hon. K. Colwell 2268
Vote - Affirmative 2268
Res. 1148, Educ. - Bridget Perrin (Dal. Student): Labatt Future
Leaders Award - Congrats., Mr. J. Leefe 2268
Vote - Affirmative 2269
Res. 1149, Sask. Public Sector Workers - Wage Cap: Solidarity -
Declare, Mr. P. MacEwan 2269
Res. 1150, Premier - Former Staff (Kim Jardine & Sandy McNabb):
Hiring (Public Serv.) - Condemn, Mr. M. Baker 2270
Res. 1151, Fish.: Scotia Rainbow Inc. (Isle Madame) - Welcome,
Mr. M. Samson 2270
Vote - Affirmative 2271
Res. 1152, NDP (N.S.) Leader - Secondary Roads: Policies Fewer -
Condemn, Mr. B. Taylor 2271
Agric. - Anna. Valley: Drought - Assistance, Mr. G. Archibald 2272
No. 265, Econ. Dev. & Tourism: Offshore Support Vessel Prog. -
Availability, Mr. R. Chisholm 2273
No. 266, Fin. - Budget (1998-99): Balanced - Plan, Dr. J. Hamm 2274
No. 267, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Offshore Supply Vessels Prog.:
Irvings - Deal Secrecy, Mr. R. Chisholm 2276
No. 268, Fin. - Debt (Japan): Reduction - Cost, Mr. N. LeBlanc 2278
No. 269, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Offshore Supply Vessels Prog.:
Secunda Marine - Exclusion, Mr. D. Dexter 2280
No. 270, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Fractionation Plant (Pt. Tupper):
Oil Field Trucking Rate - Dispute, Mr. B. Taylor 2281
No. 271, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Pictou Shipyard:
Offshore Supply Vessels Prog. - Availability, Mr. C. Parker 2282
No. 272, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Mentor Networks: Financial Problems -
Awareness, Mr. D. Dexter 2283
No. 273, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Bus. Dev. Corp.: Consultants -
Expenditure, Mr. G. Balser 2284
No. 274, Econ. Dev. & Tourism: Mentor Networks - Loans,
Mr. D. Dexter 2285
No. 275, Commun. Serv. - Long-Term Care Workers:
Contract Negotiations - Status, Mr. G. Moody 2286
No. 276, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Louisbourg: Fish Plant Agreement -
Status, Mr. F. Corbett 2287
No. 277, Housing & Mun. Affs. - Mun. Units: Nat. Gas - Provide,
Mr. G. Archibald 2289
No. 278, Fin. - Nursing Homes: Strike Aversion - Plan,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 2290
No. 279, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Cobequid Pass: Traffic - Growth,
Mr. M. Scott 2291
No. 280, Commun. Serv. - Long-Term Care Workers: Strike Aversion -
Plan, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 2293
No. 281, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Dynatek: Forensic Audit - Status,
Mr. D. Dexter 2294
No. 13, Financial Measures (1998) Act 2295
Mr. G. Moody 2295
Mr. J. Holm 2297
Mr. R. Chisholm 2311
Mr. R. Matheson 2317
Hon. D. Downe 2322
Vote - Affirmative 2324
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., Oct. 21st at 3:00 p.m. 2324
Agric. - Anna. Valley: Drought - Assistance:
Mr. G. Archibald 2325
Hon. D. Downe 2328
Hon. R. Harrison 2330
Mr. R. Chisholm 2332
Mr. G. Moody 2336
Mr. J. DeWolfe 2340
Mr. L. Montgomery 2340
Mr. H. Fraser 2341
Mr. John MacDonell 2343
Mr. G. Balser 2346
Mr. E. Fage 2348
Hon. E. Lorraine 2349
Ms. Helen MacDonald 2353

[Page 2243]


Fifty-seventh General Assembly

First Session

2:00 P.M.


Hon. Ronald Russell


Mr. Donald Chard

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


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland South.

MR. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of the residents of the Advocate area. It says:

"WE THE UNDERSIGNED CITIZENS, draw the attention of the Honorable Murray Scott, M.L.A. to the following: concerning Cape Chignecto Park. That the existing trails, many which were at one time roads should remain and that motorized vehicles be free to use them as they have in the past. This does not mean that we should not pay a two dollar fee for entrance into the park, which at this time is required.".

I have affixed my name to this petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.


[Page 2244]

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

MR. RAYMOND WHITE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition signed by 197 residents. The petition reads as follows:

"We the undersigned support the Department of Transportation's Option #3 for the proposed Antigonish bypass. Without Option #3 it becomes the Guysborough County 'bypass', effectively wiping out the tourism industry in Guysborough County.".

I have signed this petition and I also am on the public record of supporting any option that provides a direct interchange to Route 7.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table a report entitled The Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission Annual Report for the years 1997 and 1998.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg.

MR. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, as the Chairman of the Select Committee on the Workers' Compensation Act, it is with honour that I rise in the House today on behalf of the committee and report on our progress to date. The Select Committee on the Workers' Compensation Act was established under Resolution No. 844 on June 22, 1998, by the unanimous agreement of this House. The committee includes my colleagues from Antigonish, Inverness, Richmond, Cape Breton Centre, Sackville-Beaver Bank, Pictou West, Cumberland North and Pictou East.

The mandate of the select committee is to review changes to the Workers' Compensation Act and in particular to review recommendations of the Auditor General with respect to his audit of the Workers' Compensation Board, Workers' Advisers Program and Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal.

[Page 2245]

Mr. Speaker, today the select committee would like to inform the people of Nova Scotia what has been done to date. When we started this process, we asked Nova Scotians for their ideas on how to make the current system better. Their response was overwhelming. In all, we heard 174 presenters at the public hearings and an additional 90 submissions were received by phone, fax, e-mail and regular post. Interest was extremely high, so high that we had to schedule two additional meetings, one in Amherst and one in Sydney. In all, the committee held 11 public hearings. We started in Yarmouth and finished in Amherst. In between, we met in Wolfville, Bridgewater, Port Hawkesbury, Stellarton, Truro, twice in Sydney, and twice in Halifax right here in this Chamber.

Mr. Speaker, many of the presentations we heard were heart-rending. Many were filled with frustration for a system they feel let them down. They were all filled with passion. On behalf of the committee, I would like to thank each and every Nova Scotian who took the time to share their views on this important issue.

All the members of this House realize there are problems. We hear it from our constituents. We read it in the newspapers and we see it when we meet with employers and injured workers in this province. I stand here today and say to injured workers and employers that they deserve far more. They deserve our attention and they deserve answers. Mr. Speaker, the members of this committee are committed to finding the answers. We have listened to Nova Scotians. We have relied on their expertise. We know there are problems and we know the system needs to be improved.

As part of our mandate, the select committee is to review the recommendations of the Auditor General with respect to his audit of the workers' compensation system. Again, we will rely on his expertise for guidance. When he tables his report next month, we will consider his recommendations as we prepare our report for this House.

Mr. Speaker, this issue is a priority. We feel it is imperative that we table a report as soon as possible, preferably during this sitting of the House. Injured workers deserve fair treatment, fair compensation and respect. Employers deserve a fair and affordable system. We are committed to these goals. Workers' compensation is a concern for all Nova Scotians.

In closing, the select committee has provided all members of the House with a copy of our work to date so they are informed of the progress being made. There is still work to be done, but we are committed to finding real solutions.

Mr. Speaker, we are hoping to table a report, as indicated earlier, this session, hopefully, in the not too distant future. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The interim report is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Labour.

[Page 2246]

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order with regard to the announcement that the honourable member has just made. In reading the press release that the honourable member attached to his announcement here today, which is to be distributed province-wide, in the fourth paragraph of his press release states, the all-Party committee was struck during the spring sitting of the House of Assembly to draft legislation in that improving the Workers' Compensation Act.

Two points, Mr. Speaker, the terms of reference clearly did not indicate that. Secondly, if that was the case then perhaps the fact that the select committee approved in less than one hour 10 out of the 13 recommended amendments that I provided in the draft legislation, it should have been dealt with at the spring sitting by the Opposition Parties rather than to continue to filibuster, creating problems for both industry and for the injured workers of Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order. (Interruptions)

The honourable Minister of Finance on an introduction.

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, for the members of the House, in the east gallery, I am very pleased to introduce the President of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, Mr. Donald MacIntyre, who has been here today in a bill briefing; a bill that I will be introducing here today, an Act to Provide a Pension System for Teachers in Nova Scotia. I ask members of the House to give a warm welcome to Mr. Donald MacIntyre, President of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union. (Applause)



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Business and Consumer Services.

HON. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, there are few pieces of legislation that have so much direct impact on peoples' lives as the Residential Tenancies Act. Tenants and landlord issues affect a great many Nova Scotians. To put this into perspective, last year there were almost 100,000 residential dwellings in the province. During the same year, the Department of Business and Consumer Services received in excess of 45,000 complaints and more than 66,000 inquiries on residential tenancies. Combined, those numbers represent over 70 per cent of all residential properties across Nova Scotia.

The rules that govern relations between tenants and landlords were set down in 1970 and cover everything from leases and security deposits to rent increases and a process for settling disputes. Since that time, a number of changes have been made to the Act. In 1995,

[Page 2247]

the staff of the department set out to do a complete review of the Act in what is probably one of the best examples of public consultation process across government.

As a direct result of hundreds of hours of consultation with key stakeholders, in August of this year, we released a comprehensive discussion paper on residential tenancies issues. The discussion paper represents the opinion of a broad-based group of shareholders who participated as members of the Residential Tenancies External Committee. This committee includes representatives from industry, tenants associations, Residential Tenancies Board members, the Canadian Mortgage Housing Corporation, Dalhousie Legal Aid, and some of our colleagues in the Department of Justice, and the Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs.

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to be able to stand here today and tell you that more than 2,500 copies of the discussion paper have been distributed. We received and responded to close to 50 formal responses. This process is important because it is an ideal opportunity for Nova Scotia to shape a major piece of legislation, a piece of legislation that will directly impact on the lives and livelihood of thousands of people in the province.

Mr. Speaker, I encourage anyone with thoughts on landlord and tenant issues to obtain a copy of the discussion paper and take part in this report and review.

We are looking forward to the next phase of this review. We will continue to encourage and seek public consultation throughout this process, which is important not only for the results it produces but for what it represents - a consultative, all-encompassing, forward-thinking environment where the opinions of all Nova Scotians can and do make a difference. Thank you.

[2:15 p.m.]

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

MS. ROSEMARY GODIN: Mr. Speaker, I certainly agree that there are few pieces of legislation that have as much direct impact on people's lives as the Residential Tenancies Act, and I welcome any initiative that moves to address problems that impact adversely on both tenants and on landlords. The minister has kindly put things into perspective when he indicates that there are 100,000 residential dwellings in the province, but his department has received in excess of 45,000 complaints. I am glad to see that the minister and his department recognize that there are problems, and that they are making moves to address it.

I have read the discussion paper. I did receive one in August. I do have to congratulate the department and the staff there. I have to say that I was pleased to see that the document is written in very concise, plain language that is reader friendly to the people who really count in this province, the tenants and the landlords, the people of Nova Scotia. But I do have to

[Page 2248]

say that the make-up of the external committee that actually worked on this report did concern me, and I did speak about that during the last sitting; for a tenants' committee, I thought it was fairly thin on the tenant representation that was on that committee.

This is an ideal opportunity for Nova Scotians to help shape a major piece of legislation. I do note that there are 2,500 copies that the minister said had been sent out, unfortunately, to this point, he says he has only received 50 responses. I would just like to say that perhaps, if the department has received 45,000 complaints, then perhaps it can also be interpreted as receiving 45,000 responses. I would ask that he keep that in mind.

I too look forward to the next phase of this review, where the minister says he is continuing to encourage and seek public consultation in this process. I can only hope that the minister means public consultation in the same sense that I think of that, and that my Party thinks of that, and that is in terms of public meetings in key areas of this province. I just want to say that when you are going to consult the public, I really would hope that you would go to the public, and not expect the public to come to you. (Applause) But otherwise, I think this is a really good step in the right direction for tenants and landlords in this province. Thank you. (Applause)

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I welcome this ministerial statement from the Minister of Business and Consumer Services. No question about it, any time a government department receives over 100,000 complaints or enquiries relative to a topic, there needs to be some measures taken to ensure that, in this case, the legislation is tidied up. I commend the minister and the staff at the Department of Business and Consumer Services, because it was in 1995 that staff set out to complete an entire review of the Act, and there was, believe it or not, something that is a little unusual to the members opposite, the Liberal Government, there was public consultation.

There was no public consultation, as you will recall, relative to regional amalgamation in Cape Breton and here in the Halifax Regional Municipality. There was no public consultation relative to the toll road. There was no public consultation regarding the 3 per cent wage-roll back. There was no public consultation relative to school board amalgamation. So finally, the government seems to be getting the message. When you are going to amend legislation that impacts not only landlords but tenants, it is time to provide for real meaningful public consultation.

I am delighted that the Department of Business and Consumer Services has circulated some 2,500 copies of the discussion paper. I know our caucus welcomes the opportunity, has taken advantage of the chance to provide the minister with input and I, too, like the minister, welcome the next phase of this review. I do caution the minister that he, over and above anybody else, ensure that there is the necessary balance provided in the legislation not only

[Page 2249]

for the tenant, but also for the landlord. A number of landlords have concerns and it is important that their concerns are addressed also. I thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Community Services.


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

Whereas October 18th to October 24th is Foster Family Week, designed to thank foster families for their commitment to the needs of children and youth; and

Whereas Nova Scotia currently has 605 approved foster families caring for children in need of a secure, loving home; and

Whereas foster parents strengthen our communities through their contributions to the development and the stability of children and youth;

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend the dedication of Nova Scotia's foster families and recognize their valuable contribution to our society.

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 Minister of Finance.

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, before I introduce this bill, I want to say that after a number of months, and years of consultation and discussions and partnershipping with the Teachers Union, I am very pleased to table this.

[Page 2250]


Bill No. 34 - Entitled an Act to Provide a Pension System for the Teachers of Nova Scotia. (Hon. Donald Downe)

Bill No. 35 - Entitled an Act to Establish the Nova Scotia Teachers College Foundation. (Hon. Robert Harrison)

Bill No. 36 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 4 of the Acts of 1994-95, the Gaming Control Act, to Authorize a Binding Plebiscite Respecting the Operation of Video Lottery Terminals in a Community. (Ms. Helen MacDonald)

Bill No. 37 - Entitled an Act to Provide for the Immediate Payment of Benefits to Westray Workers. (Mr. Charles Parker)

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


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.


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

Whereas the federal government recently announced an anticipated $7 billion surplus in the Employment Insurance Fund this fiscal year; and

Whereas the Premier recently declared that the surplus money should be spent on the unemployed and on job creation and training; and

Whereas the current unemployment rate in Nova Scotia is 11.4 per cent which is 0.8 per cent up from August and 3.1 per cent more than the national average;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier should follow through on his declaration, call on the federal government to expand eligibility for employment insurance so that more unemployed persons could receive assistance and to fund more job creation and training programs for persons who are unemployed.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

[Page 2251]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.


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

Whereas the Minister of Finance has lost control of his budget; and

Whereas this government was mandated on a commitment by the Premier to provide a balanced budget; and

Whereas the minister has provided an estimate of an $82 million deficit with no plan in place to remedy it;

Therefore be it resolved that the minister provide a comprehensive detailed plan to get Nova Scotia out of the hole that this minister has dug.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North


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

[Page 2252]

Whereas Veith House, a major community resource, has a long tradition of offering services for low income families and individuals in metro Halifax; and

Whereas like other community agencies Veith House finds it increasingly difficult to deliver its growing number of much needed programs because its funding has not been increased in years; and

Whereas on Wednesday, October 21st, Veith House hosts it major fund-raising event, the Women and Song Benefit Concert at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium;

Therefore be it resolved that this House condemn this government for forcing community agencies such as Veith House to rely on fund-raising for their very survival.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.


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

Whereas the Progressive Conservative caucus is the only provincial political Party to speak against the costly and ineffective federal Liberal legislation entitled Bill C-68, the so-called gun bill; and

Whereas Nova Scotia's NDP, like John Cabot when he first discovered what is believed to be Labrador or Cape Breton Island in 1497, believe they recently discovered a land mass known as rural Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the NDP has been eerily silent in the historic Chamber of the Nova Scotia Legislature and has not said one sentence, let alone one word, to voice their displeasure with Bill C-68;

[Page 2253]

Therefore be it resolved that Nova Scotia's NDP admit that they are no John Cabot and have not really found rural Nova Scotia but instead are merely shooting blanks to lure Nova Scotia voters.

MR. SPEAKER: 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 Yarmouth's Maple Grove Education Centre School Advisory Council is the first in the province to develop their school improvement plan; and

Whereas this plan includes goals common to the junior high school network and the school advisory council; and

[2:30 p.m.]

Whereas parents, staff and community members worked with Ann Kilcher, an independent consultant, and Sue Burke, of the Department of Education and Culture, to develop goals and an action plan integrating both the junior high philosophy and that of the school advisory council;

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend the parents, staff and community members for this truly collaborative approach to improvement planning, which will be used as a model for other schools in the province.

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

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

[Page 2254]


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

Whereas rural enterprises in Nova Scotia play a significant role in the life and economy of the province; and

Whereas it has traditionally been very difficult, if not impossible, for rural businesses to secure needed venture capital from funding pools such as mutual funds, pension funds or big banks; and

Whereas Community Investment Cooperatives address this funding problem by providing a real opportunity for locally controlled investments in rural businesses by offering stable investment with fair returns;

Therefore be it resolved that the province and local credit unions be commended for initiating Community Investment Cooperatives and that they be encouraged to expand and enhance this program for the benefit of all rural and coastal communities in Nova Scotia.

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 Digby-Annapolis.


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

Whereas during the Speech from the Throne, September 23, 1997, the federal Liberals said that they would respond to the recommendations released in the Royal Commission Report on Aboriginal Peoples; and

[Page 2255]

Whereas a recent government study released by the Department of Indian Affairs shows that life for on-reserve natives falls far short of healthy conditions and are, according to the United Nations ranking system, in line with the conditions experienced in Russia; and

Whereas the life expectancy of on-reserve natives is seven years below that of the national average, and the annual income for on-reserve native people is less than half of the national average;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier, on behalf of the native population in Nova Scotia, urge the Prime Minister to keep his promise and address each recommendation listed in the Royal Commission report.

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 Inverness.


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

Whereas Nova Scotia fishermen gained a strong voice when the provincial Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture and his deputy minister were selected to lead a working group of senior fisheries officials from across Canada; and

Whereas this group will explore new ways to improve relations and communications with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans; and

Whereas having a Nova Scotia team leading this national group will make sure the concerns of our fishermen are heard in Ottawa and across Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Minister of Fisheries and his deputy minister for being chosen for this vital role, and offer them support in their mission to find better ways to represent fishermen.

[Page 2256]

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 Timberlea-Prospect.


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

Whereas the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley admits to having "rinky-dink-pink socialist views"; and

Whereas the same member also admits to having "ultra-conservative views"; and

Whereas this member's vision appears to run from rosy to ridiculous;

Therefore be it resolved that the member for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley follow in the footsteps of his political idol, Preston Manning, and have laser surgery performed to correct his political astigmatism.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings West.


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

Whereas autism or pervasive development disorder affects 6 to 7 out every 1,000 births; and

Whereas October is Autism Awareness Month in Canada; and

[Page 2257]

Whereas during the month of October, Autism and PDD Society of Mainland Nova Scotia are holding numerous events throughout the province to educate Nova Scotians about the causes of this disorder, and the services and treatments available to assist affected individuals and their families;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the Legislature recognize October as Autism Awareness Month and support the efforts of the Autism and PDD Society of Mainland Nova Scotia.

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

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.


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

Whereas the right-wing anti-labour NDP Government of Saskatchewan has moved quickly to legislate back to work the employees of the Saskatchewan Power Corporation it had previously locked out; and

Whereas Premier Roy Romanow has thrown down the gauntlet to organized labour in his province, this just one week prior to the annual convention of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour; and

Whereas Premier Roy Romanow has decided to kiss off the financial support of organized labour in the next Saskatchewan election, thinking that by his tilt to the right, he can pick up more than enough support from business to make up for the loss of labour support;

[Page 2258]

Therefore be it resolved that this House is shocked and appalled to learn of the right-wing deviationism of Premier Roy Romanow and his NDP Government, and that this sell-out stands in sharp contrast with the even-handed, middle-of-the-road, pro-people government we are fortunate to enjoy here in Nova Scotia, under Premier Russell MacLellan.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.


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

Whereas this government recently began charging citizens fees to use the civil courts, a practice which has the greatest impact on Nova Scotians living in poverty; and

Whereas Nova Scotians never before had to pay to use the civil courts; and

Whereas the charging of fees for these services is already being challenged by one Halifax lawyer, who announced he is suing the Attorney General on behalf of his client, over the new civil court fees;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Justice act quickly to reverse the decision to charge for the use of civil courts and ensure that the use of civil courts is not subject to fees.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.


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

Whereas residents of Frederick Street, in Sydney, live in close proximity to the coke ovens and old landfill sites; and

Whereas the residents of Frederick Street have made it clear to the Premier and to this government, that they feel their health is at risk due to their proximity to the coke ovens site and the old landfill sites; and

[Page 2259]

Whereas the Premier, his Minister of Health, and his Minister of the Environment continue to ignore the plight of Frederick Street residents;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier fully disclose exactly what his government intends to do to help the residents of Frederick Street, in terms of resolving this toxic nightmare and public health hazard.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.


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

Whereas it appears that continued production problems at Phalen Colliery have negatively impacted on the cash flow of the Cape Breton Development Corporation; and

Whereas the corporation's cash flow problems have resulted in lay-offs in Prince Colliery's operation; and

Whereas the long-term viability of Prince Colliery is vital to securing the long-term survival of the coal industry on Cape Breton Island;

Therefore be it resolved that this government, in any discussion towards securing the long-term viability of the coal industry, work to ensure operations of Prince Colliery against the negative impact of persistent problems in cash flow, primarily attributed to poor production at Phalen Colliery.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.


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

Whereas the Liberal Government correctly learned that by increasing the film industry tax credit, they could increase benefits for Nova Scotia in terms of job growth and training; and

[Page 2260]

Whereas the Liberal Government negotiated a weak royalty regime for our offshore resources that are resulting in less than the promised employment benefits and a reduction in federal transfer payments when our meagre royalties start occurring; and

Whereas had the Liberals charged a flat 30 per cent well-head royalty from which labour costs paid to Nova Scotians and capital purchases for goods manufactured in Nova Scotia are deducted, the oil companies would have had a genuine motivation to hire and purchase locally;

Therefore be it resolved that this government go back to the drawing board and redesign a royalty regime that will give Nova Scotians real benefits in terms of employment and business development opportunities.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cumberland North.


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

Whereas thousands of people in Cumberland County are without a family doctor; and

Whereas the medical staff at the Highland View Regional Hospital in Amherst is in need of more doctors to reach a healthy staff complement; and

Whereas the present Liberal Government has simply failed to recognize the anguish and the stress people are under when they are unable to secure the services of a family doctor;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier and his part-time Health Minister immediately undertake to have some of the doctors and specialists allegedly recruited to Nova Scotia in the past year come to Cumberland County and begin delivering the necessary services that will ensure that thousands of residents will no longer be without a family doctor.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.


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

[Page 2261]

Whereas Nova Scotians are well known for their compassionate response whenever a disaster occurs and people are in need; and

Whereas Donald Colp of Guysborough is presently in Florida volunteering with the American Red Cross, in the relief effort and cleanup following the devastation caused by Hurricane Georges; and

Whereas Donald Colp is an outstanding example of how Nova Scotians respond both locally and around the world to those in need;

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend and congratulate Donald Colp for his humanitarian concern for people during their time of greatest need.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.


MS. HELEN MACDONALD: 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, the Eskasoni high-tech High School opened with much fanfare; and

Whereas Chief Allison Bernard of the Eskasoni Band Council remarked that this school marks the successful transition from chalk to chips and will provide Eskasoni students with a firm grounding in their language, culture and traditions; and

Whereas the Eskasoni Band Council financed this $5.4 million school through a loan from a major financial institution, without federal loan guarantees and without a lease;

[Page 2262]

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Eskasoni Band Council for its successful efforts in building a high-tech high school without resorting to this government's misconstrued and desperate P3 school construction policy.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cumberland South.


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 secondary roads of Cumberland County are in such deplorable condition and are in need of immediate repair or replacement; and

Whereas the Minister of Transportation and his department have continued to ignore the pleas and the concerns raised by the residents of Cumberland County with regard to repaving a number of these roads; and

Whereas Cumberland County has not received its fair share with regard to road maintenance and repair in the summer season;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation disclose to the residents of Cumberland County his intentions with regard to future consideration to be given to the secondary roads of Cumberland County.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.


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

[Page 2263]

Whereas Friday, October 23rd, is the 40th Anniversary of the Springhill mine bump, that forever changed the town and people of Springhill; and

Whereas CBC producer, Geoff D'Eon has produced a compelling documentary called, Blood on the Coal, which was recently previewed for an audience in Springhill and included survivors Herb Pepperdine and Caleb Ruston; and

Whereas Mr. D'Eon's documentary not only tells the story about disaster, but one of hope and community spirit in the midst of tragedy;

Therefore be it resolved that Mr. Geoff D'Eon be acknowledged for contributing to our cultural history by documenting this unique Nova Scotia story, and that the people of Springhill be recognized for their strength and perseverance on the anniversary of the Springhill Bump.

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

[2:45 p.m.]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Business and Consumer Services.


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

Whereas for the past seven years the Old Fashioned Christmas Open Houses in Musquodoboit Harbour have been a popular event, attracting many local residents and countless visitors to the Eastern Shore; and

Whereas the open houses provide the opportunity for businesses in the area to showcase their unique range of products and services and to show off their own brand of Shore hospitality; and

[Page 2264]

Whereas 12 business owners and operators in the Musquodoboit Harbour area will again be holding Old Fashioned Christmas Open Houses during the weekend of November 13th, 14th and 15th;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the organizers of this event for their hard work and dedication and wish them and the businesses involved the best of luck in their ongoing efforts to promote commerce and tourism along the Eastern Shore.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill.


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

Whereas retired CBC broadcaster, Don Tremaine, was among four Canadians named to the Citizenship Court Bench to welcome new citizens to Canada; and

Whereas in his new role Mr. Tremaine will make decisions on citizenship applications and administer the Oath of Citizenship to new Canadians; and

Whereas Mr. Tremaine has contributed in many ways to public life since retirement through diverse activities such as hosting charity fund-raisers in various parts of the province and being master of ceremonies for the annual Nova Scotia Tattoo;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Mr. Tremaine and applaud his appointment.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

[Page 2265]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.


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

Whereas there is expert opinion available which suggests that a viable coal industry in Cape Breton can be secured; and

Whereas that opinion further suggests that a viable coal industry can profitably exist with stable employment levels between 1,100 and 1,300 employees;

Therefore be it resolved that this government, in any discussion towards securing the long-term viability of the coal industry, work to incorporate in any such plan a provision to secure employment levels in the area of 1,100 to 1,300 jobs.

Mr. Speaker, I so move.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.


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

Whereas on Saturday I was joined on Isle Madame by the Honourable Keith Colwell, Minister of Fisheries; and the Honourable Manning MacDonald, Minister of Economic Development and Tourism; and

[Page 2266]

Whereas the Minister of Fisheries presented the community of Isle Madame with the first-ever Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture Community Aquaculture Award in recognition of its support and promotion of the aquaculture industry; and

Whereas as part of the community award, the minister presented Isle Madame District High School principal, Dave Forgeron, with a $1,000 bursary for students from Isle Madame studying aquaculture.

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the residents of Isle Madame and Richmond County for their continuing rebuilding of the fishery through their financial and community support for the growing aquaculture industry.

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 member for Antigonish.


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

Whereas Amherst actress Meredith MacNeil recently began studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, England; and

Whereas Ms. MacNeil is the first woman from Canada to be accepted into the prestigious three year program; and

Whereas a fund-raising effort by Ms. MacNeil gave the community an opportunity to share in her achievement by contributing toward the cost of tuition;

Therefore be it resolved that Meredith MacNeil, along with the people of Amherst, be congratulated for their efforts and Ms. MacNeil be offered the showbiz salute of, break a leg, as she serves as an ambassador for Nova Scotia's thriving cultural community.

[Page 2267]

Mr. Speaker, I hereby 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 Pictou East.


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

Whereas a provincial, federal and territorial agreement was signed yesterday to reduce pollutants that cause acid rain; and

Whereas specifics about what should be done to address this problem of acid rain, and how, were notably absent from the document; and

Whereas it would appear that a "Canadawide Acid Rain Strategy for Post 2000" constitutes a very soft approach to a very hard problem;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of the Environment go one step further and provide an implementation strategy to reduce air pollutants in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

[Page 2268]


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

Whereas this weekend the Musquodoboit Trailway was officially opened, making it the first leg of the Trans Canada Trail to be opened in the Halifax Regional Municipality; and

Whereas the trail begins in Musquodoboit Harbour and runs 14.5 kilometres along an abandoned railway to Gibraltar Rock, winding through forest and marshlands and past several lakes while providing a great experience for hikers and bikers alike; and

Whereas more than 80 volunteers, as well as five staffers, have worked on the project since April, which will promote recreation and tourism in the local area and will eventually include picnic and rest areas as well as access to the Musquodoboit River;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize trail coordinator Jessie Debaie and the rest of the Musquodoboit Trailways Association for the their hard work and dedication to this very important and worthwhile project which will benefit the Eastern Shore for many years to come.

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 Queens.


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

Whereas Bridget Perrin, a student at Dalhousie University's Maritime School of Social Work, won a Labatt Future Leaders Award for her work with Operation Go Home; and

[Page 2269]

Whereas Operation Go Home is a non-profit organization that helps young people in crisis by helping to reunite runaway youth with their families, or by connecting them with an agency that can help them meet their needs; and

Whereas Ms. Perrin assisted Operation Go Home by working with young people in crisis and by conducting prevention and awareness programs in schools and community centres;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House of Assembly congratulate Ms. Perrin on her award and applaud her enthusiasm and interest for such noble pursuits as those that contribute to helping others to help themselves.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.


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

Whereas health care workers in Saskatchewan have joined the protest against the right-wing, anti-labour policies of Premier Roy Romanow and his NDP Government; and

Whereas the NDP here in this House haven't told us about the wage cap of 6 per cent over three years, meaning 2 per cent a year, imposed on the public sector by the NPD Government of Saskatchewan; and

Whereas again this shabby, anti-labour record in Saskatchewan stands in sharp contrast with the honest efforts of the Russell MacLellan Liberals in Nova Scotia to meet the needs of the people;

[Page 2270]

Therefore be it resolved that this House declare fraternal solidarity with the oppressed public-sector workers of Saskatchewan, shackled as they are by wage caps of 2 per cent per year, lock-outs, back-to-work legislation, and general all-round betrayal by a Party that postures, here, as being the political arm of labour.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Lunenburg.


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

Whereas the process employed for the recent hiring of two former employees of the Premier's Office, Kim Jardine and Sandy McNabb, to government positions directly violates the 1994 Liberal fair-hiring policy; and

Whereas neither position was advertised and nor were other candidates interviewed; and

Whereas these hirings send a clear message that the hiring practices of the Liberal Government prove to be unfair to people without political connections to the government and the Liberal Party;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House condemn the Premier for this inexcusable act, and his make-the-rules-up-as-you-go policy, and further demand that the Premier acknowledge his responsibility to act in the best interest of all Nova Scotians, not just friends of the Liberal Government looking for a handout.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.


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

Whereas on Saturday I was joined on Isle Madame by the Honourable Keith Colwell, Minister of Fisheries and the Honourable Manning MacDonald, Minister of Economic Development and Tourism for the official launch and announcement of government funding for the Scotia Rainbow Incorporated project; and

[Page 2271]

Whereas Scotia Rainbow, which has 750,000 steelhead trout in Arichat Harbour, making it the largest finfish grower in Nova Scotia, is currently completing construction of its processing plant and more facility and will employ 75 people by the end of this year; and

Whereas Mr. Serge LaFreniere, principal owner of Scotia Rainbow, is building a home in Arichat and has relocated his family to the area;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House welcome Mr. LaFreniere, his family and his partners to Isle Madame, and wish them and Scotia Rainbow Incorporated a long and prosperous future in Nova Scotia.

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

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.


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 Leader of the New Democratic Party and his Party recently had a political and startling revelation that there is a rural community and that there are secondary roads in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the Leader of the NDP is clearly having difficulty with respect to understanding rural communities; and

Whereas Tories in the Legislature and in rural Nova Scotia have consistently spoken on behalf of rural citizens with respect to their right to have good roads;

[Page 2272]

Therefore be it resolved that the House condemn the Leader of the New Democratic Party for having two fewer policies with respect to secondary roads than he accuses the Progressive Conservatives of having and that he apologizes to all rural Nova Scotians for misleading them.

MR. SPEAKER: 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 member for Cape Breton East ran as a New Democrat in the last election with the blessing of his Leader, even though he knew he was under investigation of the Barristers' Society of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the member for Cape Breton East still sits as a member of this Legislature inspiring the Leader of the Opposition to comment, "I guess we're kind of naive if we expect that he's all of a sudden going to be straight."; and

Whereas the only naivete being displayed by the New Democrats is the fact that they chose to believe that their Leader knew nothing about the member for Cape Breton East before he ran in the general election;

Therefore be it resolved that the Leader of the New Democratic Party come clean and admit that he allowed the member for Cape Breton East to stand as a candidate because he would stop at nothing to gain power.

MR. SPEAKER: I would like to take a look at that notice of motion before it is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I wish to move that the business of the House be set aside at the time of Adjournment today for the purpose of discussing a matter of urgent public importance under the provision of Rule 43 (1) of the Rules and Forms of Procedure of the House of Assembly.

I refer to the dire financial situation today faced by farmers in many areas across Nova Scotia and in particular, in the Annapolis Valley, where drought, for the second consecutive year, has brought on severe economic hardship for farmers, many of whom will go out of business unless immediate financial assistance is obtained. There are 12,000 Nova Scotia farmers who produce $360 million in agricultural products annually.

[Page 2273]

Mr. Speaker, I provided your office with the official two hours notice, which is required for an emergency debate to take place in these historic Legislative Chambers. I therefore move that the business of the House be set aside for the purpose of discussing this urgent matter.

MR. SPEAKER: I received the request from the member two hours prior to the opening of the House. I thought about this matter for quite some time because I was not just too sure about the urgency of the matter. However, I am prepared to allow debate to take place at 6:00 o'clock and I would ask that the member be given leave of the House to do so.

[3:00 p.m.]

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

At 6:00 o'clock there will be no late debate. We will be having the emergency debate and the late debate which was put over from last Thursday will now be carried forward until Thursday.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable the Leader of the Opposition.



MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to start off my first question to the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. On October 6th this minister's government announced the Offshore Support Vessel Program. I ask the minister if he will tell us if in fact this program is available to all shipyards and all ship buyers in Nova Scotia?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the Leader of the Opposition for the question. Any development issue in Nova Scotia is dealt with by my department on an as-requested basis. I see no reason why anybody in that business cannot come to our department and seek the same kind of assistance that was given to other shipyard dealers in this province.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to table - and in fact I will send a copy over to the minister - an agreement under the letterhead of the Office of the Premier entitled Privileged, Private & Confidential, if I can get a Page to pick this up. It is regarding

[Page 2274]

(Interruptions) This agreement by the way is signed by the Premier. It is also signed by James Irving in March of this year. It refers to negotiations held between the two parties. It is signed by the Premier and James Irving in March. It is regarding negotiations held on February 6th. I just wanted to clarify that for members.

The agreement states, "Availability of the guarantee program will be confined to the Halifax Shipyard ship construction program . . .". I want to ask the minister, Mr. Speaker, to explain to this House and the people of Nova Scotia why his government is giving advantages to one shipbuilding company and not others, as this confidential agreement clearly states.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I hesitate to go too far with a letter that is titled Privileged, Private & Confidential, but obviously the Leader of the Opposition's moles that are in the Premier's Office have made this available to him. Nevertheless, this particular letter refers to the Nova Scotia Offshore Support Vessel Program, the particular one we are dealing with. We are dealing with one company on the offshore program. We have made that quite clear.

MR. CHISHOLM: Well, let me just take this a little further. Since February 6th, the Irvings have known that they have a loan guarantee for this deal. The secret agreement dated March 11, 1998, states the following, ". . . Halifax Shipyards will begin immediately to order materials and equipment . . .".

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: No other builder or shipbuyer had that advantage. My question to the minister is why did he and his government make an exclusive and secret deal with the Irvings?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, this government entered into an agreement with the shipyard the honourable Leader of the Opposition mentions to support business in Nova Scotia, to ensure that these offshore vessels were built here in Nova Scotia, to ensure that Nova Scotians were employed. Badly needed jobs are protected and the Leader of the Opposition obviously doesn't care about the work that is being done at Halifax Shipyards.

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


DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. On September 30th the Minister of Finance revealed to Nova Scotians that he had let his budget

[Page 2275]

get out of control. In fact, an $82 million deficit had been accumulated. Since that time, the Premier has taken a number of different positions on balanced budgeting in this province.

My question to the Minister of Finance. Do you have a plan in place to deliver a balanced budget to the people of Nova Scotia for the current fiscal year?

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I believe what the Premier and what our government has always said is fiscal integrity is the hallmark, and we are moving forward with a balanced budged approach and, when we tabled the budget in June, it was balanced. We will do all in our in power to maintain the integrity of a balanced budget approach for Nova Scotia. This minister believes fundamentally in the importance of that balanced budget approach. (Applause)

DR. HAMM: Well, our Minister of Finance is even less clear about what his intentions are than the Premier has been about a balanced budget.

My question to the Minister of Finance. You have announced to the people of Nova Scotia that your budget is out of control and there is now an $82 million deficit, will you tell us what you plan to do to offset that $82 million deficit?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, what we said to Nova Scotians, a few weeks ago, is that we have some financial challenges. As I have given to Nova Scotians, weeks before I made that presentation, we have some fiscal challenges. What we are saying is that when we realized we had those fiscal challenges, we booked those initiatives as potential deficit positions for the province for the year end.

In fact, what we have done is we are working internally, as I indicated at the press conference that particular day, we are prepared to work and we are working diligently with all the deputy ministers in all departments to come forward with a $30 million initiative, and we are also dealing with a long-term initiative within the Province of Nova Scotia to put ourselves in a fiscally solid and integral position, something that the Opposition hasn't seen in 14 or 15 years, but something that we, since 1993, have been clawing to get and maintain in the Province of Nova Scotia. (Applause)

DR. HAMM: The Minister of Finance, he talks about fiscal challenges, and it would appear that this Minister of Finance and this government is even less adept in dealing with fiscal challenge than their immediate predecessor.

My question to the minister - and he has made reference in his answer to me that there are internal meetings and decisions being made to deal with this deficit that this minister has reported - will this minister commit to provide to this House, before the dissolution of the House, a comprehensive plan dealing with the budget overrun that this minister has allowed to happen?

[Page 2276]

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, what we have said very clearly is that, as I did in the first quarter and as I will in December, present to Nova Scotians the financial position of the Province of Nova Scotia. We will be able to look at the income stream in regard to the revenue side, we will take a look at the expenditure side, and see exactly what the effect will be upon the challenges and the opportunities of this province.

Let it be very clear that we have worked under a plan since 1993. We, as a Liberal Government, had a plan of building economic prosperity in this province for which we have seen . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Prove it. Prove it.

MR. DOWNE: . . . as we have seen, the likes of which has never happened in Nova Scotia for many years. We are seeing employment at the highest levels in the history of this Province. We are seeing exports at 7.5 per cent.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.



MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question to the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism, and I am going to return, if I may, to the question of the exclusive and secret arrangements made with the Irvings.

I tabled earlier, a copy of a letter from the Premier's Office that outlines that the Premier is only offering this deal to the Irvings and not to other companies in Nova Scotia, and the interesting part of this is the fact that the deal didn't come out publicly for eight months. The deal was made on February 6th, the agreement was signed on March 11th, and the minister and his government waited until this month to announce the deal, leaving those workers that they talk about how much they care about, in limbo. I want to ask the minister, would he explain to members of this House why it is that he and his government decided to keep this deal hidden from Nova Scotians?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, we didn't keep this deal secret from anybody. The deal was not completed and ready to go until most recently, and when when the terms of reference of the deal were completed between the government and the Halifax Shipyards, it is at that time we announced it. That is the way we do business. We announce it when the deal is ready to be announced.

[Page 2277]

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to table another document. This document is a Memorandum to Priorities and Planning Committee, dated April 28th, by this very minister. I would like to hand him over a copy of it so he will have a chance maybe to refresh his memory.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: No, I know all about it. You can hang onto it.

MR. CHISHOLM: This memorandum clearly lays out the fact that this minister knew and his Cabinet knew at the end of April about the fact that this deal was done. So clearly when Nova Scotians went to the polls in March, this minister knew about the deal. When MLAs voted on the budget, this minister and his government knew about the deal, Mr. Speaker, and kept it hidden.

MR. SPEAKER: Question.

MR. CHISHOLM: My question to the minister is this, which was the most important consideration here - political advantage or the commercial advantage to Irvings? Is that why you kept it quiet? (Applause)

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I will table this back to the House, but it is obvious that the Leader of the Opposition did not even read the memorandum. The memorandum states, "Approval in principle is requested of a program of loan guarantees for the construction of offshore supply vessels to be built by Halifax Shipyards . . .". Approval in principle is requested. That is all this memorandum says and I will table it back to the House.

MR. SPEAKER: Would you please table the other document as well?

MR. CHISHOLM: I did. Mr. Speaker, the issue here, once again, is a secret and exclusive deal with the Irvings. This minister is the minister responsible for economic development from one end of this province to the other. He is not over there to play favourites with special friends. My final question to the minister, why is it that he covered up this deal? Why did he not allow other companies the opportunity to have a piece of this deal?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, again, I refer to the fact that this government was dealing with the Halifax Shipyards in order to maintain jobs here in Nova Scotia and not let those jobs go to Saint John, New Brunswick. We dealt in good faith with this company to have these vessels built here, to protect jobs for Nova Scotians, jobs we critically need in this province, and it was on that basis we did the deal with Irving.

[Page 2278]

I might also tell you, Mr. Speaker, that that $80 million guarantee is a guarantee that is at no risk to the Government of Nova Scotia. It simply enabled that company to obtain funding at a better price and provide much needed employment in Nova Scotia, something that Leader, obviously, does not care about.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.


MR. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is to the Minister of Finance. On Thursday past I asked the minister in the House a question regarding a large transaction which involved approximately 7 per cent of the net debt of the province whereby this minister, through the Department of Finance, changed 7 per cent of the debt from Japanese yen into U.S. dollars. I will refresh the minister's memory that the yen at that time was much stronger than it is today and that the U.S. dollar since that time has gained considerable strength. I asked at that time the minister if he would divulge to the House and also to the people of the Province of Nova Scotia what this one transaction cost the province?

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate the question. In 1988 the government of the day borrowed some $30 billion Japanese yen. In hindsight that probably was not a very good decision and we all can be armchair quarterbacks but probably looking back it was not a very good decision. Over the years we have managed that particular issue through the ups and downs of the currency exchange, especially with regards to the yen position and that of the United States' position. We have hedged the issue from yen to U.S. dollars and then again to Canadian dollars.

In fact, what we have been able to do is manage that hedge to the extent now that we are at a cost benefit of some $17 million to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia by the management of that process fund. The bottom line is that we are moving out of foreign debt as I indicated to this House and as my predecessors have indicated to this House. Our goal is to move away from foreign debt to the extent where we would be at an 80/20 ratio. We are going to be doing that.

MR. SPEAKER: This answer is getting awfully long. Can we have the Reader's Digest version? (Laughter)

[3:15 p.m.]

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, on my first supplementary, I questioned the minister on Thursday past and he indicated that he would give the information to the House. I find myself four days later and the minister is trying to put forward, obviously, the unabridged version. I would like to again have the minister table in the House, if he has the information, I think all Nova Scotians would like to get the answer to it. This is a rather large transaction and this

[Page 2279]

government is on record, supposedly, that they want to repatriate the debt and we had a chance at that time to move it from Japanese into Canadian and he made the decision to continue to keep in foreign.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. LEBLANC: So I will ask the minister, again, if the information can be tabled in the House, and I think it should go to all members along with myself and whether he will commit to that today and what the final result was in dollars?

MR. DOWNE: The Reader's Digest version is, yes, I will, and we are working on the detail. The question is a very detailed question and it is a very complex issue from 1988 onward, with the changes in the market and the situations that were there on a week to week basis. We will endeavour to bring that information forward to the House. As I indicated earlier, if we hadn't made the decisions that we did, we would have been in a worse situation. In fact, we are $17 million to the good by the decisions we have made.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, in closing and my last question, and I asked this question during the debate on the budget and I haven't had the information as of yet and that was approximately four months ago, so I hope when he says he is going to table it in the House, it will be quicker than that. I will ask one further question in regard to the minister's quarterly report that he brought forward. He brought forward the expenditures and reported on that, but he had no report to the House in regard to what the revenue side of it was, and the minister outlined that a lot of it depended on the federal government.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. LEBLANC: I am coming to the point, Mr. Speaker. He said a lot of the revenues are directly within the control of the province. I would ask the minister whether or not he could give the updated figures in regard to the revenues that come within the prerogative of the province?

MR. DOWNE: We make a good team, Mr. Speaker, we both like to talk a little bit. What I did in September was present a forecast of challenges to Nova Scotians. As I indicated at that session, in December when we come forward with the next quarterly report, I will then in turn be able to present to Nova Scotians the forecast on where we stand with regard to revenues and income streams in the province.

[Page 2280]

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



MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. Today, we learned that he has arranged a deal with the Irvings which gives them a great advantage in building supply vessels for the offshore. There is a company in Dartmouth, jobs in Dartmouth and jobs in Nova Scotia, Secunda Marine, which would have liked to have purchased Nova Scotia vessels but this government's loan guarantee was not made available to it. Why has this government excluded companies like Secunda Marine?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, thank you very much for the question. The whole question of the $80 million guarantee to Irving was to protect jobs in Nova Scotia. I can't recall any other firm coming to us and putting a proposal together to build supply vessels for the offshore in Nova Scotia. If the company that the honourable gentleman opposite mentions is interested in doing some work in Nova Scotia in the future, they should contact me. I have never had any contact with anybody from the firm he mentions. Not only that, there was a widely publicized article the other day suggesting that we didn't do anything for this particular firm in the past and I can tell you, that this particular firm has received loans from this province for vessels in the past.

MR. DEXTER: On the one hand, they know nothing about the firm and on the other hand, they have given them loans. Well, Mr. Speaker, this government in striking secret and exclusive deals to the great advantage of one company over all others, this government has said that it closely monitors the Nova Scotia content of all aspects of the offshore. So when Secunda Marine was going to Mississippi to build its vessels down there, did you offer them the same loan guarantee that you offered the Irvings?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I am not going to negotiate deals on the floor of this Legislature. All I can tell you is that we did a deal to protect jobs for Nova Scotians in the future. I don't understand, Mr. Speaker, why the NDP is against jobs in Nova Scotia. I just can't understand it. They should be standing up here and congratulating this government for supplying jobs for Nova Scotians right here in Halifax.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, today we have learned that in fact the deal the province struck with the Irvings is exclusive. I ask the minister if he will now admit that the government was in error and that he will make the offshore supply vessel loan guarantee available to other shipbuilders, to other ship buyers, in this province?

[Page 2281]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the honourable gentleman is quite right. This deal is exclusive. You can't do an exclusive deal with two companies. We are doing it with the Irvings. We have made a deal with them and that is where we are going with this deal.

MR. DEXTER: What about the jobs?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.



MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. The minister will know that the $50 million fractionation plant that is being built down in Point Tupper has essentially been halted. National Pipeline Oil Field Trucking Rate, which is respected in the Provinces of New Brunswick, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, is not being respected and honoured here in the Province of Nova Scotia. The Department of Transportation and Public Works has an agreement with the Nova Scotia Truckers Association and for that the trucking industry is grateful. I ask the minister today, what role is he playing to bring this dispute to a successful conclusion and see the fractionation project proceed?

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable member for the question. I am sure the honourable member knows that this company is a private company and the Department of Transportation and Public Works are not hiring them to do this work and for that reason, we are not involved in the negotiations.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, the project is in Nova Scotia. The resource is a provincial resource and the minister stood up in this House and said he is basically doing nothing. Who is protecting? This is a government that tells us that they are doing all they can to provide jobs for Nova Scotians. Who, on the government side of the House, and I direct my question to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, is standing up for the truckers in this case?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, I want to assure the honourable member that we have spoken out in the past for the trucking association of the Province of Nova Scotia and we do work with the truckers right across the Province of Nova Scotia from Cape North to Cape Forchu in Yarmouth. I want to just advise the honourable member that this is a private issue with a private company and we will not get involved in a private company.

[Page 2282]

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, this is not a private issue. Those truckers are buying fuel in Nova Scotia, they are paying taxes here and they are Nova Scotia taxpayers. They have big payments to make and this government should become involved. Will the Minister of Transportation and Public Works investigate why the trucking component of the Sable Offshore Energy Project has not been included in the contract that his government has with the proponents?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, as I have stated before, we certainly do not regulate trucking fees, especially dealing with a private company and I want the honourable member to know that.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.



MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. Mr. Minister, as you know, in the Town of Pictou we have a shipyard, Pictou Industries Limited. It is owned by MM Industra and it is currently under upgrade and being fixed up at this time. They are making quite an investment there in that property and it is supported by the provincial Business Development Corporation. You mentioned a few minutes ago that there is no risk to the Province of Nova Scotia in a loan guarantee so my question to the minister is, will the minister show his support for the shipyard and its workers in Pictou and assure them the loan guarantee program is also available to them?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I didn't say all loan guarantees were risk free in the province. I said the one that we just finished doing with HDIL is. However, I know where the member is coming from. MM Industra is a very important corporate citizen of this province. They are doing some very valuable work, both in the Halifax Regional Municipality and in Pictou. Indeed, this government has supported the Pictou operation and will continue to look at ways to support employment measures in Pictou County.

MR. PARKER: So far, as I heard earlier in your comments, you have provided loan guarantees only to the Halifax Shipyards owned by the Irving company. I guess I would like to ask, you have put money into Pictou Industries to get them modernized and renovated but I have not heard you say you are going to give money for loan guarantees, so can you tell us, do you have money for a shipbuilding loan guarantee for Pictou Industries?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, we have assisted this particular industry in the past to get them up and running to revitalize the Pictou shipyard. It was this government that put the Pictou shipyard back in operation with some money. To suggest on the floor of this Legislature that I should be telling that member what I am going to do in the

[Page 2283]

future for a company that has not asked me for anything in addition to what they have already received from the Government of Nova Scotia, I think the whole line of questioning is somewhat ridiculous, Mr. Speaker.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, at this point Pictou Industries is very much on their own and you have given a little bit of money to help them get started but they need money to guarantee a loan so they can build ferries or ships or offshore supply vessels, whatever. It is not right that you are giving money to one company only and not to another major shipbuilding industry in this province. I will ask the minister, will you come to Pictou County and explain your position to the workers and to Pictou Industries so they will know what your position is on loan guarantees?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: The honourable member opposite is doing such a great job, maybe he will explain it to them.

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



MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. The minister has a bad investment track record. That is just a fact. In January when one of the minister's favourite companies, Dynatek, went under he said, well, we have made a good investment in Mentor Network of $5.5 million. Five months later Mentor is in receivership. On June 10th this minister said in the House that his government needed to take no action to ensure Mentor Networks survived. "This government is pleased with Mentor,". The minister said, "Mentor is a good company . . . it is well-positioned to grow.". On December 31, 1997, Mentor was $14 million in the hole. My question is, when the minister gave his rosy forecast did he know that the company was bleeding a flood of red ink?


MR. DEXTER: "This government is pleased with Mentor,", the minister says. "Mentor is a good company . . . it is well-positioned to grow.", and yet the financial statements of Mentor as of December 31, 1997, state, "the ability of the company to continue as a going concern is contingent upon significant short-term revenue.". I would like to table this. Perhaps the minister would like to take a look at it if he has not seen it before. My question is, when the minister gave us his rosy forecast did he know the company's auditors had clearly signalled severe financial problems?


[Page 2284]

MR. DEXTER: On June 10, 1998, this minister said, "This government is pleased with Mentor,". "Mentor is a good company . . . it is well-positioned to grow.". On July 20th, just one month later, Mentor went into receivership. Why did the minister seem to have no idea what was going on with Mentor Networks?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: In Nova Scotia today we have over 900 accounts in our department. Since 1993 roughly $400 million is out there in investments; 97 per cent of those investments that we have are working very well, thank you very much. There are a few in the Province of Nova Scotia that have been problematic for us and, Mr. Speaker, we are dealing with those.

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



MR. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, my question is directed to the honourable Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. On October 2nd I obtained information through a Freedom of Information request regarding the use of private consulting firms by the Business Development Corporation. Now one of these firms received over $24,000 for 20.7 work days spent doing business evaluations. One wonders, in light of the previous speaker, if those business evaluations were involving Mentor or perhaps the Italian pasta companies. In light of the fact that your department is bleeding red ink all over the balance sheets of this province, why would your department spend $1,200 a day to purchase services that should be available within the department itself?

[3:30 p.m.]

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for the question. The Business Development Corporation deals with many accounts on a monthly basis and some of these accounts become a problem for them and, if they do, the Business Development Corporation goes outside to try to get independent appraisals and assessments of those particular businesses in order to assure themselves that we are getting value for dollars spent, in terms of supporting some of these business concerns in Nova Scotia.

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, again my question is directed to the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. The minister has a department that is $18.5 million over budget. He has a staff of over 150 people, a staff with all manner of expertise and training, and yet this department is willing to spend $97,000 to hire nine private consulting firms to complete business evaluations, product reviews, and financial projections. How do they determine when they go outside? He alluded to that, but the question is when do they retain consultants and when do they use their internal expertise?

[Page 2285]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, that is why we have a Business Development Corporation, to make those kinds of determinations.

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, my final question is again directed to the minister. In light of the department's apparent need to hire private consultants to help carry out decision-making processes, will the minister commit to a complete restructuring of the department so that by year end it will no longer be that mismanaged, financially irresponsible white elephant that it is today?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the instant economic development expert over there talks about what my department is doing. He knows very well why the Department of Economic Development and Tourism is projecting a deficit at the present time but, as I stated the other day, we will do everything we possibly can in the remaining five months of this fiscal year to try to pare that deficit down and, hopefully at the end of the year, come out with a balanced budget in my department.

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


MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I want to continue with the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. What is disturbing about Mentor is that all of the information that we have presented was all on file with the securities regulators. In 1997, at Mentor Networks, there were five executives earning $136,000 a year or more. One of them got a $45,000 bonus and the problem was that the company had net sales in 1997 of $400,000. Did the minister know he was pouring money into a company whose executives were earning double its annual sales?


MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, on June 10, 1998, I asked the minister if the province would throw any more money after Mentor and he said no - much like today - I have here a letter dated September 16, 1998, which shows that his department offered ITC a $2 million loan if they would purchase Mentor and, in addition, the minister signed the deal with ITC which has placed ITC's creditors ahead of the province. Why did the minister give away the province's security for its investment, and why did he throw another $2 million after Mentor when he said he would not?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, with regard to the Mentor business, it has been a difficult account for my department over the past couple of years. It was a growing company and it ran into some marketing problems. The Business Development Corporation and people who work in my department are trying everything they possibly can

[Page 2286]

to get that company up and running and to encourage other people to try to take over that company.

Mr. Speaker, every single business deal we do in this province doesn't come out the way we want it to come out. But the easiest thing for us to do is to do no business deals in this province. Don't do any. The 97 per cent that I am talking about here, the success rate, is of no interest to members opposite. It is one or the two companies that we have difficulties with (Interruptions)

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, when he announced the sale of Mentor, these are the other folks that the minister is referring to, this minister spoke glowingly about ITC, the company that purchased it. Does the minister know that $2 million more of taxpayers' money is now tied up in a company that has lost $7 million in the last two years, a company which had already lost $2 million by July of this year, and whose stock price had plummeted to a 52 week low a few days before the Mentor deal?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, when we sought new partners for Mentor, it was determined by our government that it was a better business deal for the Province of Nova Scotia to continue to work with this particular company rather than lose our entire investment.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.



MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is for the Minister of Community Services. We all know that the workers in continuing care have had no contract since November 1997. We also know that wage parity was given the nursing component in continuing care, the same as nurses in acute care, with raises of 30 per cent to 40 per cent. We also know that the other workers that make $5.00, $6.00, $7.00 an hour have been offered 1.9 per cent. When the negotiations started, the Departments of Health and Community Services were negotiating together, I think there is about 5,000 workers under Health, and about 2,500 under Community Services.

All of a sudden, they have now found out that Community Services are not following along with Health, that Community Services say, we are not honouring any agreement that the workers make with Health. I ask the Minister of Community Services, why have Community Services broken off with Health in negotiating with these workers? If they have, why have they, and who made the decision?

[Page 2287]

HON. FRANCENE COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member opposite for the question. As far as our department is concerned, we are still in negotiations on the issues with the long-term care sector, and negotiations have not broken off. (Applause)

MR. MOODY: Clap if you want, but they haven't heard from that department since September 29th. That department, she had better go talk to her department for very clearly they have indicated they will not follow the Department of Health's lead. I would ask the minister then if they haven't, why haven't they given the budgets to these homes under continuing care under her department, other than wages for the year 1998-99? They are still operating on the 1997-98 budget for everything else including wages. Why has that budget not gone out?

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I think it is obvious that when we are in negotiations, we wouldn't be putting the dollar figures out on the table, in the first instance.

MR. MOODY: Maybe I can get an answer, Mr. Speaker, I asked why the operating budget didn't go out, excluding the wages, and I get a nothing answer. That is what happening to the workers out there. I have workers that are going to the food bank, working for wages of $5.00 and $6.00 an hour, waiting for this government to treat the workers in continuing care fairly, and this minister says, nothing is happening. I would ask the minister, when can these workers expect this government to treat them fairly, like the other workers in the health care units?

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I recognize that the honourable member opposite is displaying a fair degree of passion on this. I would like to say that as minister of this department, I also would show a fair degree of passion and emotion around this. While he is shouting that we are doing nothing, we continue to be in negotiations. We respect our workers, and we respect the people that they are working with.

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



MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Economic Development. As I am no doubt aware, the minister remembers back in December when he rode in on his white horse to the Town of Louisbourg and told them the fish plant was saved. Now he and the Premier announced some $7.2 million to Han Beck Sea Products Limited. The deal was announced, as I said, shortly before Christmas, and now this project seems to be on hold. My question to the minister, quite simply, why is it on hold, and why are you taking back your Christmas gift?

[Page 2288]

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite from Cape Breton Centre knows exactly what the problem is with Han Beck. The federal government negotiated a deal with Mr. Kim and his company and the Province of Nova Scotia, a tripartite deal which would see the reopening of the NatSea plant in Louisbourg and a quota that was sought by Mr. Kim was approved at the same time for the underutilized species that the company is hoping to produce. The whole question of financing came to a grinding halt when the federal government decided they were pulling out of the deal.

The federal government in their wisdom, two departments of the federal government decided that this whole situation with Mr. Kim and Han Beck at Louisbourg was something that they were very uncertain about, that they were very concerned about, and regarding some, what they termed to be, irregularities, Mr. Speaker, and it is on that basis they did not see fit to continue to support the operation. As we speak here today, the Province of Nova Scotia is still supporting that operation but there has to be additional funding found in order to make this project viable.

MR. CORBETT: You know Mr. Kim has shown his commitment to the people of Louisbourg by investing over $800,000 million of his own money in renovating that facility.

Mr. Speaker, if you talk to Mr. Kim, he will tell you, well, maybe this glossy announcement before Christmas time was pushed by the minister and by the unelected senator to say, well, we will get you the money. You just announce that it is there. My question, quite simply, to this minister is was that money there when they made the announcement last December?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Is he referring to the provincial money, Mr. Speaker, or the federal money? (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I cannot speak for the federal government on this matter. I can tell you that the provincial money was there in December and we are continuing to negotiate with Mr. Kim and his company.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, again to the same minister, I can assure you that Mr. Kim had informed us that he was pressured to make that announcement, that the money was there from the federal government on a certain minister's commitment. It is very honest and it seems like you people are trying to discredit this company for some other nefarious reason, I do not know. Will this government, along with its federal cousins, give a commitment to Mr. Kim and the people of Louisbourg that that plant will operate?

[Page 2289]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I cannot give a commitment of a fish plant that is going to operate. All I can say is that the province is continuing to negotiate with Mr. Kim. Now, I will table this from the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, August 22, 1998, and I want to quote from it, "The provincial government has not withdrawn its share of the funding for this project, almost $3.6 million promised last December. That move received criticism from Cape Breton Centre MLA Frank Corbett. "Given Manning MacDonald's record as head of the Liberal economic development . . .", Department, "I think Cape Bretoners and all Nova Scotians need to know the reasons for the minister's faith in the project,". That is what he said. He did not have the kind of faith in the project that we do and he still does not.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.


MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. The Minister of Municipal Affairs I am sure has been contacted by mayors, wardens and other councillors throughout Nova Scotia because all of the mayors, the wardens in small towns in Nova Scotia are interested in receiving natural gas in their villages, their towns and their communities. I am wondering what the Minister of Municipal Affairs is doing to assure the municipal units that all of Nova Scotia will, in fact, be a recipient of natural gas?

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for raising that question. As the Premier has indicated numerous times, this government will certainly be providing gas to all parts of this province.

In our department, Mr. Speaker, we have indicated to all 55 municipalities throughout the province that we have a number of resources available to work directly with the municipalities to help them basically examine, very carefully, to make sure that all municipalities do have access. Once the regulations are made available, and I suspect those will be coming very shortly but, again, I want to stress to the honourable member that staff within the Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs will continue to work with all 55 municipalities throughout this province to make sure that we can help in any possible way to make sure that gas is provided to all parts of the province.

[3:45 p.m.]

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that the minister and the folks that work in his department are going to be doing everything in their power, but is the minister going to do anything along the line of bringing in regulations that instruct any of the companies that are going to be delivering natural gas that Nova Scotia in its entirety will be covered by natural gas, or is the staff in his department simply going to be continuing with talking or are you going to bring in some regulations to make sure that it happens?

[Page 2290]

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, our department is not responsible for bringing the regulations forward; however, the point that the honourable member raises here this afternoon certainly is something that municipalities are waiting for and I suspect, as the Premier of the province indicated previously, these regulations will be forthcoming very soon.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, through you to the minister. The Premier has indicated an awful lot of things, even a balanced budget. The Premier has made a lot of commitments, and he can make all of the commitments he wants, but unless there are regulations in black and white - so that we can read them and they can follow them - the communities are not going to get natural gas.

The municipalities have been leading the charge in education about natural gas throughout Nova Scotia. They have held meetings from one end of the province to the other, while your department has been silent. I want to know, during the week that the UNSM is meeting, what assurances can he give the mayor of Antigonish or the mayor of Yarmouth that their towns are going to be able to hook up to natural gas? What assurances, other than just I hope it happens, can you give them that this will happen?

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member knows, the regulations will be forthcoming very shortly, as I have indicated many times. So far I had the opportunity to meet with approximately half of the municipalities throughout Nova Scotia. I have certainly invited all of the units that I have met with that anything that our staff can do to help them to make sure that they have access to gas, whether it is Antigonish or Yarmouth, or to any part of the province, our staff will certainly be working directly with these units across the province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.


MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Deputy Premier, the Minister of Finance. There are 34 nursing homes in Nova Scotia that have filed for conciliation. As many as 4,000 unionized support staff in 45 private and municipally run nursing homes across Nova Scotia - 13 of them in Cape Breton - have started moving into a legal strike position. My question for the Minister of Finance is whether his government has a plan in place to avert these strikes by enabling nursing home operators to negotiate wage parity with workers in acute-care facilities?

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I believe the question should be more appropriately presented to the minister responsible but, as a government, we are always looking at contingency plans with regard to the issues. I think in light of the question that was posed, I would ask the minister responsible to answer the question.

[Page 2291]

HON. FRANCENE COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I think that the question basically is answered around is there a contingency plan, and yes, there is a contingency.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I think that workers in the province who are working in these facilities deserve more than a two second answer to what is a very serious matter. In my own constituency, the workers at Northwood Manor are in a legal strike position tomorrow. It is the largest stand-alone nursing home in this province and I can tell you, my phones are ringing off the hook from family members and nurses in that facility concerned about what is going to occur.

So my first supplementary, Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Community Services, will she explain why her government doesn't consider long-term care workers worthy of more than a two second response to a serious question?

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, that is one of the sillier questions that I have heard asked in this House. Of course, our long-term care workers who are doing incredibly important jobs in this sector deserve a huge amount of respect for the work they do, and a two second answer has nothing to do with the kind of work they are doing. It happens to be one of the sillier questions I have heard.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure who the Minister of Community Services thinks she is impressing by her evasive answer to a very serious question that is not a joke. Nursing home workers have watched everyone else in the health care system get pay increases. Even nurses in their own setting have achieved wage parity but they continue to be treated like second class citizens.

My final supplementary question to the Minister of Community Services, will this government keep its promises to be fair to long-term care workers or is this another broken Liberal promise?

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, if I could hear the question clearly, it was, will we be fair and, of course, we will be fair.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland South.


MR. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. Traffic has increased on the now famous Cobequid Pass. Original projections were somewhere in the order of 6,000 vehicles per day and, as we know, on a lot of weekends that has risen some days to as much as 10,000 a day. It has increased by 30 per cent this year. (Interruptions)

[Page 2292]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. SCOTT: Will the minister provide to me details as to the anticipated growth in revenues this will bring to the Government of Nova Scotia annually?

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, I would like to tell the honourable member that any revenues that are acquired are all distributed in different pots, shall we say. For maintenance, for taking care of the highway and any additional revenues will actually go towards paying that highway down sooner and that highway will be paid down sooner.

MR. SCOTT: I would like to thank the minister for not answering the question. I would like to know what devices are in place to ensure that the true numbers that relate to the highway are in fact passed on to the province?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, I would like to inform the honourable member that there is a very accurate accounting system that is in place. The accounting system is very accurate and they are passed on to us.

MR. SCOTT: I just hope it is not the same one the Department of Finance uses in this province. (Laughter) As the minister knows, many Cumberland County residents, children, people going for medical services, kids travelling for sports in this province have to travel through that pass and have to pay those scarce dollars. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. SCOTT: As the minister knows, he repaved zero highways in Cumberland South this year. I would like to know if the minister today will commit some of those profit dollars made from that highway back on the secondary roads of Cumberland South, which are being paid for?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member knows that that money is allocated and I cannot take that money out of that system to pave secondary roads in the Province of Nova Scotia. However, I would like to inform the honourable member that we are working on a 100-Series Highway project with the different agreements with SHIP agreement and I will be working with those agreements to get more money so that I can have more money to spend on our secondary roads in Nova Scotia.

[Page 2293]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.



MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. Since obviously there is very little commitment on the part of this government to workers in the long-term care facilities, perhaps the minister would tell residents and families who have family members in the long-term care sector what plan her government has to avert a strike in the event that workers in this sector who believe that the promise for wage parity made in the campaign is about not to materialize, putting them on the sidewalks. What plan do you have for families and residents in long-term care facilities?

HON. FRANCENE COSMAN: Again, the honourable member opposite is working on a misassumption in the first sentence that she uttered. Certainly, our whole business of good negotiations with our workforce is the answer to that question.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it is absolutely appalling the condescending responses that the government provides to members of this House of Assembly trying to get answers that workers and family members and residents themselves are asking as they call us.

My question for the Minister of Community Services is would she care to explain to long-term care workers, residents and their families why this government feels that investing money in the care of seniors is less important than handing out money to big business?

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, these questions really do surprise, coming from this honourable member opposite. I can only say we are involved in fair negotiations with this sector. We know that the sector takes very seriously their responsibilities to their clients and our department takes very seriously our responsibility to our clients. We have a joint and mutual responsibility for these people in this sector.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: I cannot believe that the Minister of Community Services is surprised by these questions. We had a wildcat strike in the largest long-term care facility in this province in August and the workers are set to go out there tomorrow. Why is this minister surprised? Where is the plan?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order.

MRS. COSMAN: It is always obvious, Mr. Speaker, that the members opposite never really want to hear a question answered.

[Page 2294]

It is very clear that the department has contingency plans in the event of a strike. The honourable member opposite is using the words wildcat strike. There certainly is no wildcat strike going on at this present time.

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

You have time for a question.


MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, this is to the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. One of the minister's more spectacular failures was Dynatek, a venture that disappeared with nearly $15 million of Nova Scotia taxpayers' money. Dynatek's creditors, including the province, have ordered a highly detailed or forensic audit of the company's accounts. I am sure all members of this House want to see exactly how the taxpayers' monies were wasted. Can the minister tell this House if the report of the forensic audit is ready and when will we see it?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the forensic audit was done by the bank that was involved in this particular business transaction. I suggest that the member opposite ask the bank.

MR. DEXTER: A widely reported allegation was that Dynatek's owner, Sam Gur, bought a luxury condo and then sold it to Dynatek. Somehow, the minister's department missed this transaction. Will the minister now confirm to the House that taxpayers' money was used to buy a luxury condo?

[4:00 p.m.]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the whole situation with Dynatek was, indeed, a sorry situation over many years. That company, I think, had great potential in Nova Scotia and in the information technology business. Unfortunately, the situation didn't acquit itself the way we wanted it to. However, the bank has been investigating this matter.

As to the question about condos, that has been on the street that the Government of Nova Scotia knew about that condo. The only time that the Government of Nova Scotia knew anything about outside assets outside of Nova Scotia was when we started to investigate the dealings of the company.

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

[Page 2295]

There have been a number of messages delivered to my desk with regard to people who wish to make introductions. Are the visitors still with us? Would anyone like to make an introduction?

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: There is a constituent up there in your gallery, Mr. Jim Neville of 251 Bay Street. May he receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Annapolis tabled a resolution and I asked to take a look at it before it was tabled. The notice of motion is out of order and if the honourable member would like an explanation, I will speak to him later.


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.


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 Kings West, if I remember correctly, just commenced and that was it.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: No, I had about 15 minutes, Mr. Speaker, I think, if you will check the time.

MR. SPEAKER: I found the sheet, so I can tell you exactly how much time you have. You spoke, actually, for 17 minutes. So you have 43 minutes remaining. The debate is on Bill No. 13 for second reading.

The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I don't intend to speak the full hour, so no one needs to worry about that, but I do have a few more things to say about Bill No. 13 - An Act Respecting Certain Financial Measures.

[Page 2296]

Clause 20 on increasing taxation on cigarettes and tobacco sticks. Mr. Speaker, I don't have difficulty with this increase but I wonder if it is enough? We tax a lot of things that I feel are necessities. The GST has hit a lot of people. We are taxing home heating fuel. We are taxing electricity, children's clothing and all kinds of things, and all kinds of things people have to have to live. All of a sudden, we are only increasing the cigarettes by a small portion and I don't think that is enough. I think that those who choose to smoke, and I believe one shouldn't, obviously, and I believe it is harmful to one's health, but what amazes me is that many times if individuals want to smoke, what they have got to realize is that the studies and information we have that second-hand smoke can actually be more harmful than the person actually smoking.

So what are we doing to protect many people out there? People who smoke say, I have the right, and I understand that. But make sure that you use that right not to affect others. Would we get support? The government seems to be short of revenues. It could use more money for health care. It could use more money in other areas. Many times we come in here and every day we say there are opportunities for us to spend more money on things that I think every member of the Legislature would support. So maybe when we go to the Law Amendments Committee or to Committee of the Whole House, can we increase this amount, for the right reasons?

I know the honourable member for Dartmouth North talked about making a dedicated fund. Maybe it goes to cancer treatment; maybe it goes to whatever sector that we feel is the most important. Here is an opportunity for us in the Legislature, and yes, people will complain that cigarettes have gone up, but it is not a necessity of life. You have to heat your home, you have to have electricity and yet we continually knock those people with a 15 per cent tax.

Here is a way that maybe if we found enough tax on cigarettes we could reduce the burden in some other area. So, if we all agree, why don't we put our minds together and see if we can improve this bill, increase revenues and put it where it should go? Or, are we going to let it slide and say, oh, we agree or not agree? Let's really try and do something about it. Surely we can get enough members in this House to support such a reasonable approach.

I would be more than willing to support an additional increase in tobacco for the right reason. I don't think I would have a call from a constituent saying that is wrong. Now there will be a few smokers who will grumble, I understand that, but I still think I would be doing the right thing for the right reason. Maybe in this Legislature we ought to start doing the right thing for the right reason. It is not called grandstanding, it is doing the right thing. No one can argue when you are up doing the right thing.

So this bill, although everybody I have heard speak on it, some people say yes, it has some good parts and some parts are a little iffy and, as I said last evening, this bill is far from perfect. The bill could be made so that it would have more appeal but it is going to take a joint effort by more than one individual Party to make it happen, or it won't happen. We

[Page 2297]

know how the votes go. As we move along with this piece of legislation, it will be interesting to see what happens.

I have had calls from a number of retired civil servants who have a concern that they have not been represented at the table, a concern that they want to make sure the fund is always there for them or their surviving spouse. We have to make sure that whatever we do and fiddle with the numbers, that we can give assurance to the retired employees that the fund is adequately funded and that no matter what happens in the stock market that it will always be there and that they will have a say at the table.

It seems they are the forgotten ones because no matter when they approach government for additional benefits, whether it is for dental benefits or for whatever benefits, government sloughs them off and they don't seem able to make any inroads or gains because they are away from it, being retired. They have a very effective association. I think if the government put them on the committee to oversee the Superannuation Fund, it would actually allay their fears, they would have representation. That is one that I could support, Madam Speaker.

So I will watch with interest as this bill moves along because, as I indicated, there are some changes that I think are necessary to make this bill workable and better for all Nova Scotians. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to see you in the Chair this afternoon. I certainly will not try to transgress on the Rules of the House or give you a difficult time this afternoon - of course I never try to do that anyway - particularly on a matter that is as important as the bill before us for consideration this afternoon.

Now the bill we actually have before us is one of many principles, and of course, we are talking about the principles of Bill No. 13. We are talking about a bill of course, which is affecting and changing many past measures. Therefore, as I am trying to spend a few minutes going through the bill, it will mean that I must talk about a bunch of different principles. I know that this is not a clause by clause evaluation of the bill, that that is not done in second reading, but each one of the clauses, not each one but many of the clauses contain separate principles, and therefore, it will be necessary to refer to different sections of the bill, but what I am not doing is referring to the clause, of course, I am referring to the principles that are contained within those particular clauses.

Madam Speaker, we have heard a great deal about this particular legislation, and what it is going to mean and what it could actually even mean for the survival of this government. There are those who would be suggesting that as a matter of principle that one should be automatically, at each and every turn, voting against any measure that could bring down the government, or voting for any measure in a negative way that would bring down this

[Page 2298]

government, which has, let's face it, at every opportunity proved their total and complete incompetence and mismanagement. We saw examples of that again this afternoon, when we were discussing questions, when questions were being put to the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism.

This bill is a budget-related bill. The questions dealing with the minister this afternoon were directed and were dealing with budgetary matters. It is those kinds of matters that places the government's house is such disarray. So there is a temptation to automatically say that one would vote against this bill to turf this government correctly out of office. The Minister of Finance, himself, is quoted as saying a vote against this bill would of course mean a vote of non-confidence and that the government would fall.

But you know, one also has to be responsible. There is no indication at this stage, certainly, that the government is going to be falling. What I am saying that I intend to do, at the second reading stage, and I make no commitment beyond that point, at this point in time, I anticipate that I will vote for it to go on to Law Amendments. I say that trying to be as responsible as I can, because there are elements in this bill, yes, that are good. But you know, there are elements in this bill also, that are very bad.

Madam Speaker, on this side of the House, between the two Opposition caucuses, and we can include also, the members of the Independents, we have the numbers to make changes to this legislation. We have the numbers and the will. In this caucus, we certainly do. I hear the member for Queens saying that they also have the will. I want to say quite clearly that where and how this government will survive can depend a great deal upon what amendments, what changes it is prepared to do in this legislation, and what kinds of signs it is going to be demonstrating that it is in fact going to turn over a new leaf and start to become accountable and become responsible.

The kind of answers that we heard this afternoon from government members who are supposedly standing up, in response to serious budgetary and serious employment and serious equity issues, certainly does not instill in me any warm fuzzies that this government has learned anything at all about what happened last March. It has told me, in fact, what I have seen from this government, is that what they really are doing, what they are really saying, Madam Speaker, is that they will thumb their noses at the legitimate concerns that Nova Scotians have expressed and that we will continue to govern our own way, our own incompetent, mismanagement style that we have demonstrated for the last six years. Madam Speaker, that is not good enough.

[4:15 p.m.]

The Leader of the Third Party on Friday said, we will have an opportunity to bring forward amendments to this bill later. That implies, Madam Speaker, that the Third Party, the Progressive Conservative caucus, intends at this stage, or at least that is the way I am

[Page 2299]

interpreting it and I have heard nothing said anywhere else to the contrary, that they are anticipating the bill going on from second reading where those amendments can be taken. The member for Kings West also on Monday said there has never been a piece of legislation that any government in 20 years I have been here has put in that cannot have a second thought and cannot be improved upon. So we have to take responsibility as we move along with this piece of legislation.

So, Madam Speaker, I take those comments also to mean that it is the intention to move by the Progressive Conservative caucus this legislation on to the Law Amendments Committee. Therefore, that means that obviously we also, in anticipation of what appears to be the obvious, are going to continue to act as I believe we have been acting all along in as responsible a manner as is possible with regard to this. I can assure you that we will be seeking amendments to this legislation and the only commitment that I am prepared to make is that at the second reading stage I anticipate I will vote for it to go on to the Law Amendments Committee. Beyond that stage, I think that the government is going to have to be demonstrating a lot more openness, a lot more accountability and a lot more willingness to actually live up to the words that they mouth.

We had supposedly a balanced budget in this province. Of course, the Liberals also tell us that they had a balanced budget the year before and the year before that. Not so, of course, according to the Auditor General, because there was fancy footwork, shell games going on with the finances of this province. You slide expenditures from one year to the next and back and forth and you project revenues here and there, Madam Speaker, so that on paper you can pretend, not using proper accounting practices, not the kind of business practices that proper businesses would operate. However, it is a bookkeeping technique that lives up to the Liberal style.

Then, of course, we had the veil of secrecy pulled down over a whole bunch of things last spring. Commitments that supposedly this government, gee whiz, yes, they knew they had commitments that they were supposed to pay out x number of millions of dollars here and x number of millions of dollars there, but we thought there might be possibly a chance that we might acquire that money somewhere else. So, no, we do not allocate that or we do not mention that in the budget. More of those shell games, Mr. Speaker. Welcome back to the Chair.

So, Mr. Speaker, and to the members opposite, this very much is a budget bill and there are many things that are not in this bill that should have been in this bill. There are a lot of things in this bill that cause me some concern. As I was saying when I started my remarks, this bill is a bill of many principles. It is a bill that is changing certain financial measures but it is affecting a number of pieces of legislation. I want to touch upon a number of those items.

[Page 2300]

Under this legislation, there will be - and this is a positive amendment, Mr. Speaker - a requirement that the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs, the former Speaker of this House, is, ". . . to pay an annual grant to municipalities with respect to farm property that is exempt from property taxation pursuant to the Assessment Act.". That is included in the explanatory note. That is restoring something. It is restoring a grant to the municipalities that had been there since about 1972-74 (Interruption) and it was introduced, yes, by a former Liberal Government back in the 1970's and it was taken away by the Liberal Government, many members of whom are sitting still, the remnants of that group still sitting on the government benches today. So they giveth and they taketh away.

It is good, Mr. Speaker, it is amazing what a trip to the polls can teach government sometimes about accountability. It is amazing what it can teach them about being responsible. Now whether this is being motivated by common sense, concern for the farm industry and the farming communities, or a political measure to try to redeem themselves slightly matters not in the greater scheme of things. The main thing that matters is that, in fact, this is being restored.

What happened, of course, when the program was cancelled, it meant that the municipalities were forced either to take yet another drop in revenue as the government withdrew those grants that they had been providing for the agricultural farm property, or they had to impose the property tax as assessed by the province. So the municipalities are in this chicken and egg situation. They can either decide to take yet another financial hit from the province, which is offloading all kinds of costs on to them and the home owners and the property tax payers and the small businesses in those communities can only stand so much. So they can either decide that the municipality will provide that tax exemption and increase others taxes. They could cut services to the municipalities that are already being ratcheted back because of the costs that are being downloaded to them by the provincial government.

That is one of the key ways that the province tries to balance their books, Mr. Speaker. They say, what we will do is we will take an expenditure that should be out of our hip pocket. It is something that we are responsible for and we will pass that responsibility on to a municipality, on to the property tax payers. That is the key way that this government offloads. In fairness to the provincial government, it happens to them too. The federal government, Jean Chretien and Brian Mulroney before him, did the same thing and still are doing the same thing. They are cutting payments and transfers to provinces like Nova Scotia.

You know there are still some provisions in this Act, it is a principle that I am talking about, the power that the government is giving to themselves here. Because in Part I of the Act, Clause 2, it talks about the amount of the grant per acre that is going to be given. But the next clause has another principle. What that principle is saying is that the government can continue to do whatever the heck it is, without any legislative authority added being given to it and without any public input. What the government is saying is that they, by Governor in Council, that is the Cabinet sitting in seclusion behind their red curtain of secrecy down in

[Page 2301]

their bunker, they can pass a regulation that will change the amount of the grant that is going to be provided, per acre, at any time they want. They can turn around here and say look, we are being so great, we are being so generous, we have seen the light and the harm of our ways and now we are going to restore that grant that was so crucially important to many farmers, many farming communities and many municipalities around this province.

Yet, while they are handing out this olive branch, while they are pretending that they are so concerned and totally interested in and compassionate toward these communities, they are sticking a little clause in here that says, but of course as soon as this passes, if we decide next year - we do not have to bring in a new budgetary measure, we do not need to bring in a bill, we do not need to get the approval of the Legislature to change this - we can say to the municipalities, well we have changed our mind. We can no longer afford this and we are no longer going to accept this responsibility so the grant is now going to be reduced to a nickel an acre. They have that authority in this bill. Surely, if you are going to be putting a formula in this bill, you should require that any changes to those formulas also would have to require legislative approval in the House of Assembly where it will be open to full and open public debate.

Farming is an extremely important industry in this province. Agriculture provides tens of millions of dollars worth of income into our economy. Instead of doing things that are going to be hampering or making it more difficult for our farms to survive, the Minister of Agriculture knows this, we need to encourage the agricultural community, we need to strengthen the agricultural community from one end of this province to the other. There are farms in Cape Breton, there are farms down in Yarmouth County and in almost every community across this province. It is extremely important that we find ways to support and to strengthen those programs.

Another principle in this bill deals accordingly with the Home Ownership Savings Plan. That is going to be extended until 1999. I do not know the take up in this particular program, I think that the actual numbers of how many people are involved in it. It is a good program and I certainly would be supportive of continuing that program, particularly those young families who are trying to get started, those who are going to post-secondary education, because of the kinds of tuition fees that students are facing now as they go on to attend our post-secondary education facilities, are being left with huge debts.

Listening to the students who were speaking out here last Friday, the students were talking about debt loads that they were being left with after three and four years in university that are more than I paid for my first home. So we have to have ways to help them and others to be able to have programs that will assist them to save to be able to get into their first home.

One of the things that might have been nice to see in this bill would have been a program announcing that the government is again going to support a cooperative, the old cooperative type of housing where, in fact, sweat equity was used by people who wanted to

[Page 2302]

partake or to help in the building of their own homes and that that would count as part of the collateral. That also was a program that the Liberals back in the 1970's had supported. I know my community and many in other communities also were able to get their first home because they were able to join together three or four families to pool their knowledge, to pool their skills, to pool some of their resources, and to be able, under a proactive Department of Housing, to actually be able to get into building a home, when they didn't have or weren't able at the earlier stages to have saved up the kind of investment that would be needed for the down payments and so on. So that might have been another proactive approach, and it would have been certainly one that would have encouraged also, and created jobs in the construction industry and in the suppliers and so on of those building products.

[4:30 p.m.]

The next thing I want to talk about is the film industry tax credit. That has been, and it is the kind of thing that we had talked about in our caucus many years ago, as being an extremely important initiative. That is one that I believe has been very successful. I don't know, and I don't know if you can ever quantify exactly, how many tens of millions of dollars of activity we have had going on in this province as a result of this, but certainly this film industry tax credit has been extremely important in attracting companies to Nova Scotia, to film their movies that they are doing, and to produce their movies here. It has been extremely important in helping the growth of the sound stages and the work that is going on here.

Every time one of those movies or one of those programs are beamed across, whether it be Canada or the United States, we are also selling ourselves. We are selling ourselves, and we are enticing people to come to Nova Scotia, whether that be as tourists to leave their dollars here, as are those who are coming here to be involved in the film industry, leaving those dollars in the pockets of other hard-working Nova Scotians who are providing them with the goods and services that they need for their productions.

It also means that Nova Scotians are gaining an opportunity to gain the skills and to gather the training and trade so that they too can become employed, not just as stand-ins, not just as extras on the movie scenes, but actually as those who are knowledgeable in working and producing and providing major contributions. So that is good. This is a good measure. It is one that we support. And it is one that we hope will continue to pay literally millions and millions of dollars of dividends, both directly and indirectly to the province.

But when I look at that, and I see the obvious benefits, I can't help but wonder why there isn't another measure in here, dealing with the royalties for our offshore natural gas and oil. Because you know, this tax credit system, we are giving them tax credits for monies that they are spending in this province, which is enticing them to use Nova Scotia resources and to be here. In our royalty system for the offshore, what we are doing is we are taking a paltry 1 per cent. After the profits, we are going to be getting peanuts. I won't get into that long debate on exactly what we are getting then.

[Page 2303]

There should have been, in this Financial Measures Bill, an amendment that required or set up a royalty regime that was very much like this tax credit, and it could have been included in this bill. What it would have done is, it would have set a flat rate of royalty at the wellhead, like they do in most other places; 30 per cent. Then from that amount, the companies would be able to deduct, dollar for dollar, monies they spend employing Nova Scotian labour and for goods and services provided by Nova Scotians for that proportion of the good that was manufactured in this province. That would have meant that those companies would have been motivated for their own financial well-being to have hired Nova Scotians. It would have motivated them to also create job opportunities as well as business development opportunities.

Now I am looking at this and seeing the principle here of the film tax credit and they have it right. Maybe the government would be prepared to consider amendments that would affect the royalty regime so that Nova Scotians also would be able to benefit in the same kind of manner from our resources that right now we are basically giving away and not receiving anything close, for our investment, in terms of benefits to Nova Scotians, from that sector that we are from the film industry tax credit.

There are strong parallels. It is an important principle. Do we or do we not want Nova Scotians employed in Nova Scotia? Do we or do we not wish to provide the businesses in this province with the advantages that will help them to either develop or grow to employ our children? I am talking collectively, as Nova Scotians. Our constituents, Mr. Speaker, surely to Heavens Nova Scotia's Government should be at the forefront in demanding that we, in this province, receive maximum benefits - not Houston, not Calgary, not those shareholders. Let's look at this to consider amending this Act to bring in that kind of a principle so that it ties in with that one. I will leave that topic now.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, because you are wandering a little far from the principle of Bill No. 13 that we are discussing.

MR. HOLM: I have tied it into the principle, certainly, Mr. Speaker, and I am not challenging you. I am just trying to explain myself, that I would hope the government might be willing to be supportive or even to be proactive in trying to have some kinds of amendments to this legislation to bring those kinds of things in. It would make the bill more supportable.

Now, Mr. Speaker, there are a number of other things in this legislation. (Interruptions) I am encouraged, I hear the honourable member for Inverness over there. You know one of the things that has been startling in this whole debate has been the absence of government members speaking on it. So I would anticipate and I am encouraged by the honourable member for Inverness when I hear his helpful comments come across the floor. I am encouraged to believe that before the debate finishes, he will get up and partake. So I want

[Page 2304]

to say that I am most impressed by that; I will be more impressed when they are on the record.

Now I want to go on to the Nova Scotia Child Tax Benefit Program. Mr. Speaker, I really don't know what it is. I know what a Child Tax Benefit Program is, I know what is happening in Ottawa, I know how money is being given and how it is being taken away. I know, as anybody who pays any attention at all to their constituents and to what they are hearing from others across this province, that we have an alarming and unacceptable rate of child poverty in this province. You know, the earliest years of a child's life are often the most important years of that child's life in determining whether or not they are going to end up being possibly educationally or developmentally delayed. Many of the difficulties that children will experience, you can trace the roots back to the beginning, could have been either eliminated or greatly diminished if there were in place proper programs to ensure that they are going to have their basic needs met, that they are going to have nutritious meals, that they are going to have a place to live or that if they are in an environment that is for one reason or another unsafe for them to be in, if they are children at risk, that there be programs where they can be placed, possibly during the daytime or on other occasions where healthy, happy nurturing can occur.

Under this section what we really have is saying that defining the Child Tax Benefit Program can be done. It does not tell us what it is. We do not know what the government's proposal is. We do not know what their plan is. We do not know who it is going to cover or how it is going to cover them. It is going to be prescribing the eligibility criteria and the payment amounts that will be going into this program. Is it a secret? Do you have an idea? Do you know what the eligibility criteria is going to be? Has the government turned its head to that? Would you mind sharing that with the people of this province?

I hear the Minister of Labour saying okay, sure. We would be happy. He is happy. So maybe the minister on a point of order - I am not silly enough to sit down and wait for him to jump up because I know what happens when you do that, Mr. Speaker, you lose your place - but if the minister would like to stand on a point of order and indicate that he is prepared to table all that information this afternoon, I would certainly not object to his rising on a point of order to make a commitment on behalf of the government to tell us how they are going to be defining the program, to tell us what the eligibility criteria are going to be, what the payments amounts are and all of that kind of material. Maybe the minister would like to even go a step further and not only say that I am willing to stand up and table it, but I am willing to suggest that we move an amendment to make those part of the bill. Then we can even discuss whether or not they are adequate or if they exist.

I don't hear the point of order being raised, Mr. Speaker, but that is, I am sure, still coming. That is being thought about.

[Page 2305]

Another principle in here. The Municipal Grants Act. Municipal grants have been extremely important. They provide assistance to municipalities to carry out badly needed capital projects within those constituencies. Those monies can be used for safety matters such as sidewalks. They can be needed for important environmental as well as safety matters, like water and sewer. All kinds of avenues that they can be used for. What they have done here, Mr. Speaker, is that they have said how much for the first fiscal year the municipality's share is going to be. It says how much it will be reduced by, by 5 per cent.

[4:45 p.m.]

We have an important principle here in those two sections. It is laying out that for this fiscal year the amount for which the municipality residential capital grants exceed the sharing of the debt charges in the year commencing April 1, 1997, that they shall be reduced by 5 per cent. So, we have a formula. It is clear, it is obvious. I am sure the municipalities don't like having their grants reduced by 5 per cent because they are struggling right now and there are many, many, badly needed projects desperately needed by municipalities that don't have the wherewithal to do it.

You know that is being done here by this Act on the floor of the House, where we can debate it and bring those concerns forward, but the next provision says that for next year, commencing April 1, 1999, the residential capital grant payable pursuant to this section shall be the amount - it doesn't say determined by the Legislature, as an amendment to certain financial measures; here the government is slipping in another one - they say that it shall be the amount determined by the Governor in Council.

No requirement to bring it to debate on the floor of the House; no requirement for any kind of public scrutiny, no requirement for any kind of consultation. Instead, as going back to the grants for the farm properties, the decision will be made now, if that provision passes, henceforth that will be made by the select, hand picked few of a Premier, sitting down in secret, behind closed doors where the minutes are not even available, but they will have an impact on the municipalities and the abilities of those municipalities to deliver their needed capital programs.

I am surprised that the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs will stand for that. I am sure that the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs who, by virtue of his responsibilities and by virtue of the kinds of comments he has made about his concerns for the municipalities, would want to see that provision struck. I am sure the minister would like to ensure that any possible future contemplated, or whatever reductions that are going to come about, he would want to ensure there is the fullness of debate, openness, and accountability. Isn't that what the government - didn't they once - I don't think I am mistaken, but I was just checking with my colleagues, if my memory serves me correctly, the Liberals . . .

[Page 2306]

MR. GERALD FOGARTY: . . . they'll agree with you.

MR. HOLM: Oh, no, the member for Halifax Bedford Basin, I wonder if he does. Didn't the Liberals promise to be open and accountable?


MR. HOLM: Oh, that's us, they say, so sayeth the honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury. Well, if that is us for the Liberals, as they say, one would assume that this must have been a typographical error because, surely to Heavens, you would not have intended to have put into this legislation a provision that was intended to be undemocratic, secretive and to shirk accountability and responsibility. Surely there must have been a mistake, you would not have intended to have this kind of decision made secretly, down in the Cabinet.

The way this reads right now, any time the Minister of Finance, who does have a little bit of trouble with his budget, does have a little bit of trouble with his financial predictions, . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Trouble with his Minister of Economic Development, too.

MR. HOLM: Yes, a little bit of trouble with the Minister of Economic Development as well. We need to come up with a few extra dollars, a million here, a million there. Well, let's drop the grants to the municipalities for the farm properties, we can do that, we don't even have to bring it to the floor of the House for an amendment to the legislation. We can just chop that downstairs, and just chop that down here as well. It can be done.

You know, if it requires legislative changes, it doesn't mean it won't happen, because I know, Mr. Speaker, you have sat through this House longer than I, you have had to bear listening to me on many occasions as I was berating a number of governments, including the former Progressive Conservative Government. As they would come in here each and every year, they would have provisions under the Municipal Grants Act, stating the amount that it was supposed to be, and then it would say, notwithstanding clause such and such, the amount for this year will be such and such.

So, I had gone to the somewhat considerable effort of going back to the very beginning, getting out my trusty calculator and calculating out how much had been taken away cumulatively over the years. It made a very easy speech to give, because all one had to do was talk about the history of how the municipalities had been shortchanged by successive Liberal and Conservative Governments. It was just tracing through the history. There was an hour. That doesn't guarantee that in fact there won't be changes. However, what it would guarantee, Mr. Speaker, (Interruptions) Oh, I hear the member, he is awake, he is awake, I

[Page 2307]

am pleased to hear that he is awake. I didn't think he spoke other than when he gave a resolution, thoughtful pieces that they are as well.

If that clause is removed, then municipalities would have the opportunity, not only to have people like myself stand up to argue that they are being ill treated, but they would have an opportunity, if it ever is to be changed, to appear in the public forum down in the Law Amendments process to make their views known and to argue their case. The government here is taking that right away from them. I believe that is wrong. If we are truly open, if we are truly going to be accountable, then we aren't going to close those doors. We are going to provide that kind of opportunity. (Interruptions) I am hearing a squeak, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member will ignore the chit-chat from across the floor.

MR. HOLM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Somebody asked me if that squeaking was actually the door hinges or something, but I didn't think that it was. I will certainly try to do my best to ignore them.

Mr. Speaker, the provisions, and my colleagues, a number of them, have spoken very eloquently already about the amendments and the changes to the Public Service Superannuation Fund. I want to say here and now that if this government falls or if it survives, I will be supporting those amendments. If this government should fall on this bill, I would be pushing for the reintroduction of those provisions, those amendments to provide the contractual agreements that have been entered into with the NSGEU, as they were agreed to, ASAP. How much time do I have left?

MR. SPEAKER: You can go on until 5:09 p.m.

MR. HOLM: 5:09 p.m., so I have about 10 minutes. Now, that is an important provision. It is important for the government too, because although you are committed to providing the benefits to the public servants and many of those cheques certainly have already gone out, the government is also depending upon its share of the refunds that are going to be returned to keep your budget from being even more unbalanced.

So, obviously, the revenue is extremely important to the government and I understand that, just as I understand that it is extremely important when the government enters into a contractual agreement with its employees, that it honours those commitments that it made. A handshake is a handshake. It is something that, of course, this government and the former government forgot when they decided to roll back and to alter unilaterally by legislation contractual agreements that they had with our hard-working public servants across this province.

[Page 2308]

Mr. Speaker, I do have some concerns for the way that this legislation is set up. I am concerned not by the fact that there are going to be paybacks out of the surplus fund to public servants, nor am I concerned - in fact I am quite pleased - to see that the level of benefits that are going to be paid to those who have retired or to the widows and surviving spouses will actually be increased. What I am concerned about is the decision-making power is to be taken unto the government.

I do not know what the current surplus is or is not of that fund, or any other fund. We all have witnessed the rocky road of the stock markets this fall. We all know what has happened to the dollar and how that has impacted upon our deficits, on how it has impacted upon investments, but we do not know the particular effects on this fund, or the Workers' Compensation Fund, or on the Teachers' Pension Fund, or any of the others.

Under this, Mr. Speaker, for any future decisions it is going to be the Cabinet, it is going to be the government that is going to be deciding. One of the things that is crucially important that we do as legislators is to ensure that the fund that those who have worked for this province are depending upon to support them and their loved ones once they have retired is healthy. We have that responsibility. We cannot play footloose and fancy-free with their future. We must ensure that adequate funds are available. There are no requirements under this that future withdrawals from that surplus will be negotiated with the NSGEU, with the body that represents these employees.

There is no provision in this Act, no role for the Superintendent of Pensions. It is not in here. The actuarial report, Mr. Speaker, is not specified. It is not laid out that it has to be independent, at arm's length from the Department of Finance. There is not any role in this either for the retired employees. These funds are not even jointly managed, we know, and here we have a situation where the province and this government's future is hanging on commitments that they have made with regard to balanced budgets. We have seen this government conveniently forget about, when they are talking about deficits, the $60 million that the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre is in debt; they conveniently forget about the $3 million that the Central Regional Health Board is in debt and all of the other accumulated debts of the regional health boards and hospitals across this province. They conveniently forget about these numbers when they bring forward a budget. The point that I am getting at is the principle here of having a government which is so dependent upon incompetence on their front benches that they allow themselves to get, through such mismanagement, in this kind of situation. They are so intent on trying to cover themselves that they have the temptation . . .

[5:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member is straying again from the principle of the bill.

[Page 2309]

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I apologize, I certainly did not intend to. What I am trying to get at here is the principle about accountability on the Public Sector Superannuation Fund. I am trying to get at the fact that there needs to be, in the legislation, some protections to ensure the security of that fund, assurances that those who have their future invested in those funds will have a say in the management of those funds. It is all a matter of accountability.

I do not know about you, Mr. Speaker, I do not really have that many dollars that I really need to worry about how I manage them. I am not really one of those sitting on a large nest egg, but even the couple of dollars that I have, I am not quite prepared to say that I would just turn them over to somebody and say that you can manage those totally for me and if you decide that you want to take it out and use it without my permission, that you can do that; especially if there is even the slightest possibility that it might be a government who would be needing to get some extra money to try to cover, through moving of the shells, their fiscal deficit. We know about the other deficits that they have got. All you have to do is listen to them and they become quite obvious.

In this Financial Measures Bill there is nothing at all, it must have been a figment of my imagination. The Liberals could not have talked about HST relief, they could not have done that because Heavens, this is a Financial Measures Bill. This bill would be implementing measures that the government had committed to do in areas such as that. I do not know, I read through the bill several times but I have been known to miss an occasional thing, I am sure members opposite might even agree with that last statement. I have been known to not always be correct, that is a sort of roundabout way of saying, I have been wrong before. But you know try as hard as I can and I am welcoming an opportunity for somebody on the Liberal benches to prove that I am wrong, to show me the errors of my ways, could they please point out for me in this legislation where it is that I have missed the provision dealing with HST relief for home heating fuel, for electricity, for children's clothing, things that affect many families that are having a hard time.

MR. SPEAKER: Honourable member there is nothing about the HST in the bill.

MR. HOLM: No, that is right, there is not. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member will debate the bill, the principle of Bill No. 13.

MR. HOLM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The principle of the bill should be good financial management. It should be a good plan. It should be that the government has an objective. It should mean that the government is able to tell the people of this province clearly and succinctly how financial measures are going to be made or changed, whether they be the tax system or otherwise, that are going to be treating them fairly, equitably and how the programs that they are talking about are going to be helping them.

[Page 2310]

This bill fails to do that. I anticipate maybe the Minister of Finance will be doing an amendment to this to provide possibly a plan as to how he intends to deal with our deficit. Maybe that will come about through some changes to other sections to the Income Tax Act. The minister, of course, has all such possibilities. However, Mr. Speaker, my time is, in fact, getting short.

MR. SPEAKER: You have approximately two minutes remaining.

MR. HOLM: That is what I mean, Mr. Speaker, I looked at the clock and I saw that I have just a couple of minutes left. However, I want to really conclude with the following couple of observations. There are some provisions in this bill that are very supportable. There are some provisions that part way are supportable. There are provisions that, for example, if you were to withdraw the provisions of Cabinet in secret without any public consultations to amend and change formulae on their own, they would be more supportable.

Mr. Speaker, provisions certainly with the collective agreement, the agreement that was reached I should say, between the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union and the government would be acceptable but there need to be some provisions, some changes made to provide greater security and protection for those workers and I believe to give them an increased role in the management of their funds because it is after all their money. It is their money.

MR. SPEAKER: You have got one minute.

MR. HOLM: There are things that can be done. I hope that the Minister of Finance will be willing to indicate that he is prepared to make amendments or to be supportive of amendments that would come forward. It would make life a little bit easier. (Interruption) Well, the astute Government House Leader says that is what Law Amendments is for and yes, indeed, and as I can point out, Mr. Speaker, on this side of the House, and I do not know, I have not had any discussions with the Progressive Conservative caucus what exactly they may or may not be willing to support in the way of amendments. But in case the observation has been missed by the Government House Leader, this side plus with the Independents have more than enough members to vote through amendments and changes.

Mr. Speaker, the bill, as I said before, . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member is out of time. (Applause)

MR. HOLM: . . . I will support through second reading with no commitment beyond that point in time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 2311]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak for a few moments this afternoon on Bill No. 13. It is a hard act to follow, I do not think there is any question. My colleague, the member for Sackville-Cobequid, can stretch out an iron rod when it comes to debating but, as usual, he made some very succinct and profound points and managed to squeeze in a few other issues that while tangentially relevant, were relevant nonetheless.

I want to say today in debate, Mr. Speaker, that the bill that we have before us, Bill No. 13, an Act Respecting Certain Financial Measures, has in fact been subjected to an extremely wide-ranging debate, and I think for good reason, because it does relate to the budget that we saw and that we debated in this House in the spring and that was passed through by a majority of members of this House. Here we are four months later dealing with the Financial Measures Act which in fact goes forward and implements a number of things. In other words, it is very clearly tied to that particular budget. Members have taken the opportunity to say that a lot has changed between the time that members voted on that fateful day in June for this budget or for a budget until now when the financial circumstances facing the province for the year 1998-99 have changed considerably.

The points were made by some that perhaps those were material changes and we should go back and get a new budget tabled. That point has been made by a few and I for one have suggested that while that is certainly a good point we would still be in the situation we were in last spring and after we saw the first quarterly report this government brought down a few weeks ago. Unless we know what the assumptions were that the revenue projections were based on then we still wouldn't know how accurate or whether the budget projections were any more accurate in the first quarter than they were back when the budget was initially tabled.

I want on behalf of my caucus to address a number of points that were made during this debate and to make a few things very clear from the point of view of our caucus with respect to how we feel about various provisions of this particular bill. I want to begin by talking a moment about what this bill means and supporting it or not supporting it.

Less than a week ago, I guess, it was back on Thursday, the member for Queens went into full flight as he is wont to do from time to time. He urged this House to ignore actual clauses of the bill. He said and I quote from Page 2044 of Hansard, "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." He went on then and suggested that for any support of the positive features of this bill, it was all a smokescreen. He was referring to the NDP caucus which had indicated that we would be supporting the bill in principle at second reading. He said that any support for the positive

[Page 2312]

features of this bill was, ". . . all a smokescreen to allow them . . .", and he was referring to us, ". . . to try to get away with supporting the very Liberal Government that they up to now have spoken against.".

That was followed the next day by the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party who found much to praise when he spoke on the bill. Despite his criticism inside and outside the House of the budgetary policies of this government the Leader of the Third Party in fact laid out what I felt were reasons why he would be voting in support of the bill because of the positive aspects that many of my colleagues have suggested. Clearly conflicting messages. Now I would not want to accuse the Conservative Leader of simply putting up a smokescreen. I will leave that and say that the words of the member for Queens speak for themselves.

I want to state very clearly for members who may not be listening the position of our caucus on the budgetary policies of the government and on the issue of confidence of this government. I think that what is going on right now is a real shame. There are mixed messages being sent out to the people of Nova Scotia about exactly what is at issue and what is happening and where people stand on what issues. I think it is important, I think Nova Scotians deserve some clarity on the whole question of the budget and the budgetary policies of this government. (Interruptions)

[5:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: I couldn't hear what the honourable member for Inverness was saying, Mr. Speaker. I heard him mumbling and he was pointing at me so I assume he was talking to me. I would certainly encourage that member to rise to his feet some time in the near future and speak his mind.

Mr. Speaker, it is extremely important that we clarify what the import of this bill is in this legislation. I want to say, let's recall what happened last spring. Our Party and the Liberal Party came out of the election tied in the number of seats and virtually tied in the popular vote. That has been confirmed, in fact, by the member for Cape Breton Nova. He has done the math and proven beyond doubt how close it was. I can assure him that his mathematical prowess has not gone unnoticed.

Mr. Speaker, we offered a different approach to the government in the March 24th election campaign. We could not honestly say then or now that we have confidence in this Liberal Government because we do not. We believe that the many similarities between our platform and the Conservative platform provide a clear mandate from the voters for this Legislature. In fact, the Conservatives even used a slogan from the Ontario NDP back in the 1980's during this campaign, you will remember, putting people first. The point is that there

[Page 2313]

is a 65 per cent mandate that rejects the record of the Liberal Government. It is important as we decide how we are going to vote on this and how we are going to proceed in this Legislature that we understand this context.

Now when it came time to decide on the budget that was put before us and the contentions of this government that that budget was balanced, many of us suggested there were problems with it. You will recall at the time that the Leader of the Conservative Party and members of his caucus were talking with various members of this House as to exactly what they were going to do and what was going to happen. We were clear. We said that we felt that there were many similarities between the Tories' strategy and our strategy and that under two conditions we would certainly recognize the support of the Conservative Party; one was two years of stability and two was an agenda of implementing those issues that we both agreed on, and there were many, Mr. Speaker.

Now I applaud the Conservatives for acknowledging the joint mandate . . .

MR. SPEAKER: I do have to draw to the attention of the honourable member - I have given him a fair bit of leniency so far - to come back to the principle of the bill, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would suggest, as I have indicated, that there has been a very wide-ranging debate on this bill. I would say that what I am referring to has to do with the very principle of this piece of legislation. I hope to make that point to you and to other members of this House. If we don't understand the principle of this bill then we are going to continue to send mixed messages to the people of Nova Scotia. That is what I am hoping to clear up.

Bill No. 13, as we have said, continues to draw the line and link the budget that was supported by a majority of members in this House and passed in the last session. We know the Progressive Conservatives found themselves between a rock and a hard place, and they chose to keep the government alive despite the voter's rejection of the Liberal record. The results of that decision became immediately apparent, I would suggest, when the Westray prosecution was dropped without any warning to the family members who today are still looking for justice.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I do not want any advice from the government side of the House or from the Opposition side of the House. I will look after this myself and I would advise the honourable member that he is straying far from the principle of the bill.

[Page 2314]

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, thank you. The issue of Westray and a settlement, many members have already talked about how that is something that should be included in Bill No. 13. Members have suggested, have tried to draw out the point that because so much time has gone by since the budget has passed and since this bill was tabled, things have changed and they are arguing that the government should revisit this bill and make amendments, to include things like packaged severance, to Bill No. 13.

The importance of where we go in this bill becomes more apparent every day, but no more so than on the issue of the deficit. Remember, this bill pertains to a budget that was supposedly balanced. It was voted on by this House in June and we now know that, in fact, that deficit has ballooned to $82 million, and we would suggest that the register is way up above that. There is no question that the decision was made by the Progressive Conservatives that they would not voluntarily help put an NDP Government into power and I say that is fair enough. What we have to understand is that if we want to make a decision on this bill about how we are going to proceed or not that maybe it is a decision that the voters should be given the opportunity to make.

I referred earlier to the comments by the member for Queens on Bill No. 13.

AN HOH. MEMBER: I guarantee you won't vote against me.

MR. CHISHOLM: The member for Cape Breton South - and this is part of the confusion that I am trying to address - he seems to think that for some reason how I vote or not vote on this particular bill at this stage has some significance. What I am trying to explain once again is exactly what this bill means.

Now as I have suggested, we have seen some fancy dancing going around by the Progressive Conservatives on how they will vote on this bill, and the suggestion that somehow the NDP is trying to get away with something because we intend to vote in favour of the bill on second reading and then seek improvements - our Party's goal right from the beginning as we came into this session has been to bring about positive change for Nova Scotians - I would say that if the member for Queens or other members do not like the fact that we making that clear in our approach to Bill No.13, then that is too bad.

There is every reason for us to believe that the Progressive Conservatives are sticking with their decision to support the Liberals for a year. In that context it is our public duty to try to form a majority of members who will demand improvements to bills like Bill No. 13 and to other government legislation, as well as finding a majority who will demand that good Opposition legislation is approved before anyone agrees to adjourn this session. That is what our goal is in this session and that is how we approach Bill No. 13.

[Page 2315]

There cannot be a Nova Scotian out there who really believes that our caucus wants this government to carry on. We wouldn't wish this government on our worst enemies, on our worst enemies. We have always been ready to put this government out of their misery and to help bring a breath of fresh air into the rooms of government. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Economic Development suddenly has found his tongue.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition will ignore the Minister of Economic Development, and I would ask him again to please return to the principle of the bill.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate your diligence here in keeping me focused on the bill and keeping me from not participating in debate across the floor. The question of the vote on Bill No. 13, I think, has become one of confidence in this government. That is what we have been told by the member for Queens and by others inside and outside this House. The Progressive Conservatives have said that they do not have confidence in this government. I would suggest that if in fact (Interruptions) well, then that is what will happen.

I would suggest that if this Third Party doesn't have confidence in this government, that they can advise His Honour that the Liberal Government no longer enjoys the confidence of the Progressive Conservative Party and, thus, no longer enjoys the confidence of the House. They can urge His Honour to dismiss the House if the government refuses to test the will of the House forthwith.

There is another option as it relates to Bill No. 13. If in fact they have truly had enough and are ready, in fact, to defeat this government, they can put forward an amendment right now, at second reading of this bill, which states that the House lacks confidence in the government. The reason why this is so important is because we have said this for some time now, we have said for some time now that we don't believe that this is a confidence bill. We don't believe this is a confidence bill because the budget has already passed.

We have made that clear because, not surprising to anyone, but the Minister of Economic Development doesn't know what is going on in his department . . .

MR. SPEAKER: I would ask the honourable member to ignore the remarks from across the floor.

MR. CHISHOLM: Or the rules with respect to what is going on here. Clearly the question of confidence is to be determined by the government of the day, and this minister himself was outside this House no more than one hour ago making that very point, saying that

[Page 2316]

this is not a confidence bill as it relates to the survival of this government. The member for Cape Breton South, the Minister of Economic Development . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I have asked the honourable member on numerous occasions to please ignore the remarks from the Minister of Economic Development. (Interruptions) Order, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I know that this is difficult, but I would suggest to you that it is simple and it is unmistakable. Members of the Third Party can even publicly ask someone else to bring forward an amendment, because they want to vote for it. They don't have to leave anyone in suspense until a vote on second reading. They don't have to permit any confusion between their desire to see this particular bill approved with amendments and their supposed desire to defeat the government.

You see, unless or until the Progressive Conservatives take the simple step of expressing their non-confidence in the government, our caucus will continue on with our agenda that we outlined a week before the sitting began.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Your caucus agenda has absolutely nothing to do with the bill. Unless the honourable member returns to the principle of this bill, I will ask him to take his seat. (Applause)

[5:30 p.m.]

MR. CHISHOLM: On Bill No. 13, Mr. Speaker, we will press forward to bring about the amendments that we believe are necessary in order to see this bill become something that Nova Scotians can find some credit in. We can do that and we can stay here in this House until we get those amendments because the only way that this House will rise is if a majority of members of this House, in fact, vote in favour of adjournment. So a majority of members of this House can stay here until we get the changes to Bill No. 13 that, in fact, we want.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member is giving a lecture on the rules and procedures of this House. We are debating second reading on Bill No. 13. Please return to that.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to also add, as numbers of my colleagues have added with respect to the specific provisions of this bill, we want to see both retirees and current contributors to the superannuation fund, farmers and others, get the benefits in this bill and more, either before Bill No. 13 is approved or else when a new government introduces the same benefits and more.

[Page 2317]

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the New Democratic Party, I pledge our support for the benefits in this bill and for the enactment at the best possible opportunity. I have made my position and our caucus has made our position on this bill clear, that we are supporting this bill in principle at second reading, that we will be voting in favour of it moving forward to the Law Amendments Committee, and that we will do our utmost, hopefully with support from the Progressive Conservative Party, to bring about changes to that particular bill.

I say as I wrap up my intervention on this bill that the whole question of confidence in this government needs to be dealt with and it needs to be made clear and it can be done so in a couple of ways. I urge the Third Party, who are making such suggestions, to pay attention to that and to send a clear message to the people of Nova Scotia, in the interest of stability, in the interest of doing what is right for Nova Scotians, and responding to the mandate they gave us back on March 24th. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)

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

MR. REEVES MATHESON: Mr. Speaker, it is 5:33 p.m. As the honourable members know, they have 27 minutes so it is not too long to wait.

In any event, I want to thank you for the opportunity, allowing me to rise and speak with respect to this very important piece of legislation presently before the House. Mr. Speaker, I am sure that over the course of the last several days you have heard member after member in this particular Legislature outline the good and bad points being debated or being put forward as it relates to this particular piece of legislation. I do not pretend for a moment to go down each particular enactment as it is contained in that document and put forward critiques or criticisms or speak favourably with respect to the same.

However, there are a couple of matters that I would like to address as it relates to the presentation of this enactment before this Assembly. Specifically, first, I want to address the question as it relates to the Nova Scotia Child Tax Benefit. Mr. Speaker, as you are aware, the legislation calls for and provides for a vehicle whereby regulations can be enacted in order to introduce or put in place the Nova Scotia Child Tax Benefit Program. I would like to note in that regard that it would be nice to approve that particular clause. However, before so doing, it would certainly be beneficial for all those people who depend on that program in this province, if we could know what the pith and substance of the program was.

What is patently clear in this debate and before this House is that this particular section of the legislation has no particular substance because we don't know what the Nova Scotia's Child Benefit Program is or the pith and substance of what this particular government plans to put in place with respect to that.

[Page 2318]

What we do know, Mr. Speaker, is that in 1989 the federal government of this country pledged to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000. What we do know is that since that time, in the years 1991 to 1995, child poverty increased 58 per cent in this country. We do know that finally last year the federal government came down with a Canada Child Tax Program which, in effect, admitted defeat in terms of the stated objectives of that government to overcome the problems of child poverty in the country.

What is even more reprehensible, Mr. Speaker, as it relates to Bill No. 13, is the fact that what this government did is it took the measly $50 a month that was allocated in the Canada Child Tax Benefit Program and clawed it back from those recipients of family benefits in this province, so that they could not have the benefit or enjoy the extra purchasing power it would give them. Just this month we know that the province is going to be issuing cheques which, in effect, is an attempt to reimburse those recipients of that child tax benefit some of those funds.

Mr. Speaker, my point is simply this, I have talked to recipients of family benefits in the constituency that I represent. In fact, I attended with them when the select standing committee on the social assistance system in this province met in Sydney. I know and I trust these particular individuals to be capable enough to look after their own affairs.

What I want to suggest to this government is that they give back the $50 they took from these people that was given to them by the federal government. If they really care about children on family benefits and if they really care about children in need, then give back that money and, in addition, if there is money to be expended in terms of setting up this bureaucracy for a Nova Scotia child tax benefit, break that down, too, and give it to them. What I say to you is, trust them to manage their affairs; trust them to be able to manage that lousy $50 in a manner that they see best fits their family and family members.

Mr. Speaker, poverty is simply defined as not having sufficient income to meet one's daily basic needs. I think we can give and empower the single mothers and persons on family benefits in this province the ability to spend that $50 without the need of setting up another government bureaucracy to assist them and to demean them in terms of how to best allocate that measly sum.

Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that in order to properly assess Bill No. 13 as it is presently before the House, one has to revert to the budget document passed in this House in the spring, in order to fully understand whether the measures as contained in Bill No. 13 have a reasonable possibility of coming to fruition and whether they have a reasonable possibility of reflecting any real veracity as to the truth of what this government is trying to accomplish. In many respects the problem here is that we can only rely on Bill No. 13 to the degree that we have confidence in the government's budgetary initiatives as placed before this House in the spring. The concern about Bill No. 13 should be if the budget document upon which it is based is unreliable, then can we trust the initiatives that are set out in Bill No. 13 that we are

[Page 2319]

asked to approve throughout the course of this debate and this session? In order to do that it seems reasonable to examine the budget that brought Bill No. 13 into existence. Are the assumptions underlying that budgetary initiative sound and are they of such a nature that we can place the necessary confidence in Bill No. 13 that it should gain the assent and approval of this House?

In reviewing this particular problem in this particular piece of legislation, I am going to suggest that the focus of the debate must shift from the question of why it is that the balanced budget of this government is now $82 million in the red to the more fundamental question of whether or not in the present context it is even possible in this province to achieve a balanced budget. In fact when we debate balanced budgets in this province at this particular juncture in our history, we are simply tilting at windmills? That is the essential question underlying the budgetary document passed in the spring and it is the essential question that we have to ask ourselves when examining Bill No. 13.

It seems to me that the budgetary statement giving rise to this particular piece of legislation was unrealistic in the first place. It seems to me that the objectives that were set out in that legislation upon which Bill No. 13 is predicated were not and could not in any realistic way be substantiated. Why then did this government come to the House and attempt to convince members of this House and the public in the Province of Nova Scotia that somehow those objectives could be achieved? I suggest there are probably several reasons why the government strayed off the course in this regard and refused to accept the reality that this budget could not be balanced for this fiscal year.

The first reason is that there seems to be and there has been in the country - and this government and previous administrations have been caught up in it - a desire to be politically correct, a desire to fall in step with the mantra that has been enunciated across the country about the need for balanced budgets so that you want to balance a budget at no cost or at whatever cost, that it is more important to appear to have achieved a balanced budget than in effect to recognize the reality of whether or not it is really possible in any true sense at this time to achieve that goal.

Some examples of how this thinking or this desire, this craving to be able to say that we balanced the budget that distorted this government's thinking in arriving at the conclusions it had, can be shown in the examples that are demonstrated in the projections of the budget passed in June. In June we had a surplus, according to this government, of $1 million. Five months later we have now a deficit of $82 million.

Clearly this government refused to recognize that there were very real problems in terms of presenting a budget that in any way, shape or form could possibly be balanced. Rather than address those matters in the budget, it chose to ignore them or at least make assumptions that any reasonable person at the time should have known were false. Consequently, a 71 cent dollar in terms of financing on our debt was unrealistic. It seems to

[Page 2320]

me that the evidence is clear in June that it was unrealistic and history in the past several months has demonstrated in no uncertain terms that it was.

The net result is we have a deficit and we had a government who refused to recognize that fact and now is suffering the consequences.

[5:45 p.m.]

It is realistic to expect that this government must have known in June that it had commitments to Stora Forest Industries, and commitments to Michelin Tire, in terms of outlays for commitments it had been made to those industries in terms of job performance, quotas that they had committed to meet in return for benefits to be accrued from grants by this government. Can, and should Nova Scotians accept the fact that this government can stand up just four months after tabling that budget document and say that it was not aware that it was going to be committed to Stora Forest Industries in the amount of $10 million? Is that realistic, or is that just being willfully blind? Is that just being subjective and subjecting this government to the mantra of having the appearance of a balanced budget regardless of whether or not the reality of this province's finances could sustain it?

In addition, we have the over-expenditure in the Department of Health. If there is any example . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I will ask the honourable member to please come back to the principle of the bill.

MR. MATHESON: Mr. Speaker, again I am, and I would submit these assumptions underlying the questions of whether or not the assumptions that are present in Bill No. 13 are in fact, indeed, worthy of gaining the confidence of the House.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I am just asking the honourable member to return to the principle of the bill.

MR. MATHESON: In any event, once again this government refused to recognize commitments to the health care system in terms of doctor shortages and attempts to explain away the over-expenditure by the fact that it required those expenditures to attract more doctors to the province. Now everyone knows that the issue of doctors and the issue of attracting them to the province was something that should have been foremost in the mind of this government at the time they tabled that budget document, and it is a sorry excuse now to say you are $20 million over your health care budget because we had to pursue that very goal.

[Page 2321]

The real issue here is whether or not this particular bill reflects the reality of this province's finances or whether or not this government has chosen to affix to its forehead a pair of virtual reality glasses that makes it intent on appearing to have a balanced budget, when anybody with any amount of reason would quickly understand that is not the case. Examples again: they choose to ignore the health care reality and the overruns in that budget; they do not attempt to address the crisis in long-term care workers facilities and the need to bring those workers up to a fair and decent wage; they do not attempt . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I ask the honourable member to get back to the principle of Bill No. 13.

MR. MATHESON: Yes. Well again, Mr. Speaker, if this government had cared to include the problems of the schools and the construction of schools, instead of attempting to divert the capital outlays by coming up with this hocus-pocus of P3 schools, it would have been clear as well that this budget was not balanced. In any event - what are we left with in the time remaining - why is it that we should have any confidence that Bill No. 13 is any better a document and deserves or requires the support of this House?

The government, because of its failure to address the real financial situation in the province, appears simply like a small child who is attempting to insert a square peg in a round hole. It is frustrated by its inability to accomplish that goal and frustrated by the fact that its assumptions, as they have been laid bare and shown to be woefully amiss, in terms of reaching this balanced budget, in the eyes of the province and the people that it governs, this government is appearing more and more to be incompetent and incapable of balancing and managing the finances of this province.

Again, the examples are: a $1 million surplus; an $82 million deficit; a $38 million overrun in health care; the Premier saying on one day that we can balance the budget and on the next day that we cannot, and that it is not really important, but on the next day yes it is, when the bottom line and the reality is that this government is simply saying to the people of Nova Scotia, we lied in June, we could not (Interruptions)

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

MR. MATHESON: Sorry, I withdraw that remark, Mr. Speaker. What is clear is that the assumptions upon which this government built and convinced and led this House in June to adopt its particular budgetary measures were wrong. They were wrong, not only were they wrong, but they should have been patently clear to this government that they were wrong.

In conclusion, either this government was so intent on meeting and dancing to the mantra of a balanced budget that it chose simply to ignore or not to include or to divert those measures which would most likely cause this government to show the actual budgetary

[Page 2322]

overrun off into other areas of finance, albeit the deficits that are being experienced by health care boards, the cost of building the P3 schools, downloading of costs onto municipalities.

So the question is now, whether this particular government should continue to warrant the confidence of this House, predicated on what it has presented here in terms of Bill No 13. I am going to suggest that the Opposition, since it has since June gone out on a limb, has been very forceful in terms of its critique of the budgetary document that was adopted in June, it has to be very cognizant of the fact that in many respects this is a question of confidence. This is a question of confidence, this is a question of whether or not this bill and this government warrants the trust of the people of this province in terms of delivering on what this bill proposes to deliver to the House, if it is indeed passed.

I would ask them to keep that in mind. I would ask them to remember that the woeful failure, in terms of this government's budgetary document produced in June, as demonstrated by its record to date, in terms of how it has been able to deliver to the people of Nova Scotia, the balanced budget that it promised in June. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable Minister of Finance, it will close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the member for Cape Breton East, and I noticed the Leader of the Opposition and his members with their heads bowed. I too would be bowing my head, if a former member of my Party was speaking in the type of talk that he was just saying about honesty and integrity.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. DOWNE: As the time is relatively short here tonight, I wish only to make a few remarks before sending this bill off to the Law Amendments Committee. As honourable members have pointed out, this bill covers issues related to my budget tabled in the spring, by the way, a balanced budget tabled in the spring. I want to use this opportunity to stress in the months leading up to the tabling of the budget, we used prudent assumptions when assessing the likely costs of programs and the expected revenues. Since the tabling of the budget, a number of events have occurred. We have adjusted some targets, and now forecast at the end of the year, forecast I might say, we could have a shortfall.

However, this is a forecast based on no change in revenue. This is a forecast based on current cost expectations for the balance of the current year. We will have an update and a more detailed forecast in the months ahead, as I indicated to members of the House, with a better picture of the situation in the Province of Nova Scotia, in December.

[Page 2323]

With respect to issues honourable members have raised during debate, I wish to address some of them before the bill passes to Law Amendments. First of all, on the issue of the Orders in Council regulating certain matters. I believe this is a topic where we may have some very useful discussion in Law Amendments Committee, there is a balance between legislation and regulation, a trade-off between ensuring full parliamentary debate and the ability to adapt more quickly to changing circumstances that we have. This trade-off may be more accurately understood based on the circumstances that we all receive. I am sure that the committee will want to look at this issue and will discuss it in Law Amendments Committee.

With respect to deeming provisions on the pension contribution holiday, the wording here has nothing to do with accounting. It has to do with the tax law. We have received outside expert advice in this matter, and they have suggested that we should proceed in this fashion in order to meet the requirements of the federal tax law. I would be pleased to provide further clarification to honourable members at the Law Amendments Committee.

On the role of retired pensioners on our investment advisory committee, I am pleased to note that we had already moved and are moving forward in this direction. In May of this year, we reached an agreement with the Nova Scotia Government Retired Employees Association on this very matter. Furthermore, we have established a pensioners' consultative committee. My predecessor, the honourable William Gillis, gave a commitment to create the committee and I was pleased to be able to follow through. We have already held several meetings with this group.

I would also like to point out that we are currently improving the pension plan in ways to benefit a number of pensioners. The key change is to improve inflation protection for employees who retired many years ago. For example, a pensioner who retired in 1982 will soon see a 5.6 per cent increase in their pension while some who retired prior to 1971 will see a 70.7 per cent increase. These improvements did not require legislation and I expect to announce further details of these matters in the House over the next couple of weeks.

With respect to defining spouse to bring it into conformity with recent court rulings, I am pleased to say that we expect to bring forward such amendments in the committee. When the bill was originally brought forward, the federal government had not announced its intentions with respect to appealing the Ontario court decision. We expected that they would allow the decision to stand but it was not final until the end of June. Now we have certainty at this time to make the appropriate amendments.

Now, on the key issue of where the plan stands today, we are able to monitor the investment performance of the plan on a monthly basis and at the end of August, based on the investment performance, the plan was in surplus. I might point out that the end of August was one of the worst times that we have seen in regard to the overall performance of the market. This is following severe market downturns and since that time financial markets, in fact, have improved and, therefore, we believe the plan still is in surplus, Mr. Speaker. Honourable

[Page 2324]

members should remember that the plan was originally about 120 per cent funded and the contribution holiday reduces the plan funding by only 2 per cent to 2.5 per cent.

Finally, I should note that the honourable Finance Critic for the Official Opposition raised a number of technical questions during the debate in June. My staff have provided him with briefing notes on some of those issues and, if required, more information will be coming.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I would like to now move second reading so the bill will proceed to the next stage.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 13. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried. (Applause)

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

The honourable Government House Leader. I am sorry. It is Opposition Day tomorrow. The honourable House Leader for the Official Opposition.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, by agreement of all three House Leaders, the hours tomorrow will be changed to the hour of 3:00 p.m. until the hour of 7:00 p.m. Following Question Period, the business of the day will be the debate on a couple of bills, Bill No. 27 and Bill No. 30 and, as the time permits, Resolution No. 98.

MR. SPEAKER: The time being 5:59 p.m., we will accept the time as being 6:00 p.m. with the agreement of the Government House Leader.

The motion is to adjourn.

We will commence the emergency debate and, as I understand the rotation of time, the Progressive Conservatives introduced the motion and they will have 15 minutes. Then we will go to the Liberals for 10 minutes. Then to the NDP for 15 minutes and then 15-15-15 all the way around and then 10 minutes for the PCS, 15 minutes for the Liberals and 10 minutes for the NDP. Is that the agreed rotation?

It is agreed.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

[Page 2325]


MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you very much, and the other members of the House, for allowing this debate to take place. An emergency debate does not happen very often in this Legislature but when it does, it has to be because there is an emergency.

The agricultural industry is facing a very uncertain future, Mr. Speaker. Farmers are concerned today. The emergency debate takes place because farmers simply will not survive without immediate help. Crops were planted this spring, they were fertilized, crop protection applied and now the bills are coming due. The harvest season has become a disaster and the expenses continue to mount. The cash receipts are not in and farmers require help. If help is not forthcoming, many farmers will not survive to plant next summer's crops.

[6:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, those are very stark words and I don't want to be an alarmist but truly, if help is not forthcoming, we are going to lose a lot in rural Nova Scotia. Agriculture is at a crossroads and this government and the government in Ottawa have a role to play in deciding which road agriculture is going to go down. Farmers are telling me and the Department of Agriculture and the minister that they can't wait, agriculture is too important to Nova Scotia. So, for the last three months, the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture and the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture officials have been meeting. They met in August, September and October. They met last weekend; next week they are going to meet again. It is good to meet, so that there is a meeting of the minds. It is good to meet so that everybody knows what is going on but agriculture cannot be left simply at meetings.

Over the last few years there has been a general decline in government support to our resource industries. We all know that, all members of this Chamber know that agriculture and the other resource industries have been bearing a large part of the brunt of money saving and budget reductions. The last few years have been very hard and it is time, Mr. Speaker, that financial assistance was on the way.

This year the financial assistance absolutely must be on an individual basis. Just to say, here are so many dollars, split it up, just will not work. Each individual farm must be assessed so that the farms that are suffering the greatest and have the greatest potential for bankruptcy are helped. It must be delivered immediately. The farmers are in dire straits. I talked to a farmer the other day who has been farming over 25 years. This year and last year have driven him almost to bankruptcy. His reserves went last year, this year he has no reserves left. He is in the apple industry and the beef industry. I know the Minister of Agriculture has met with this individual on more than one occasion. The minister also knows that if you are in the apple industry and the beef industry, you have had a very difficult time in the last two years.

[Page 2326]

Restructuring is also going to be necessary in this emergency situation. When I look at some of the well-established agricultural sectors in Nova Scotia, for instance the poultry sector, they are also at a crisis and will need to be restructuring between all the producers and the processors. Certainly there is talk today of a single processing facility for all the poultry produced in Nova Scotia. This is something that the Department of Agriculture and the farmers and the processors are going to have to sit down and look at very seriously.

Mr. Speaker, there is so much at stake that it is time for the public to become part of the solution. Why would the public of Nova Scotia want to help a bunch of farmers? We all can close our eyes and see that beautiful red barn and the silo and the chickens kicking around the dooryard, you drive in and there is a big apple pie on the kitchen table - that is the image we have, a beautiful green valley and maybe even a stream running through. The image that we have of agriculture and reality is very different. The reality is that there are 12,000 jobs directly related to the farm. Last year agriculture produced over $300 million of revenue at the farm gate. Kings County has one-third of all the agriculture in Nova Scotia. Look at the factories we have in Kings County: Scotian Gold; Mason & Sons Limited are in Hants County, processing apples; ACA Co-operative Limited, poultry and a feed mill; Maple Leaf, poultry; Larsen Packers; Avon Foods; the feed mills in Port Williams and New Minas; Sarsfield Pies; Homestead Cheese; John Deere; Massey Ferguson; New Holland; all the farm machinery dealers.

This is the reason why agriculture is so important. Why help, indeed? If it is not enough that you realize there are 12,000 direct employees in agriculture look beyond and look at the indirect people who are absolutely depending upon the future of our industry. That number of indirect employees comes close to 40,000. Is there another industry in Nova Scotia that has the potential for 40,000 employees? Can you imagine the disaster if agriculture is not given assistance and we lose an industry producing 40,000 jobs?

Farmers for years have produced food for Nova Scotia and one of the interesting things is Nova Scotians have perhaps the lowest food costs in all of Canada. Each and every Nova Scotian is benefitting because farmers are here. Last year, for instance, in 1996 Nova Scotians spent 12 per cent of their gross family income on food. The Canadian average was higher, 12.14 per cent. The Atlantic is 13.1 per cent. So Nova Scotians do pay less for their food than any other region in Canada. We spend less for food now than we did in 1986 or 1978. Nova Scotia should be thanking the farmers because year after year the farmers are keeping the price of food at a reasonable level so Nova Scotians can spend their money on other things. Agriculture must be saved.

The Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture which has been representing agriculture with the Department of Agriculture is made up of 13 regional and county federations, 20 commodity groups and 1,750 farm families. This is a very large grassroots organization that is capable of sitting down and meeting with the Department of Agriculture and speaking a language that they all can understand. We need a sustainable future for this to continue.

[Page 2327]

We have the Nova Scotia Agricultural College and in Nova Scotia we have more college graduates running farms than any other region in all of Canada. We have, in fact, the best educated agricultural community anywhere in Canada. We have the best technology because our farmers have adapted and adopted the best technology that is available to them.

Let me give you a couple of statistics that bring home the value to Nova Scotia: over $1.4 billion is invested in capital on the farms; $60 million a year capital investment; $330 million per year in goods and services; $66 million in wages on the farm. All this and 42,000 jobs to boot.

There is no person who can argue that agriculture is not important. There is no person who would disagree that agriculture is our primary industry. But two years of very severe drought conditions have taken the savings away from the farmers. The farmers have no reserve. The farmers are meeting with the Department of Agriculture. I met with the federal Minister of Agriculture and the provincial minister. The federal government indicated that unless there is a program already in existence they are not going to help. I do not think that is good enough when we have a situation of drought that has rendered our agriculture in rural Nova Scotia in a state of emergency, I truly feel the federal government should be opening its eyes and studying and not merely saying if there is not an existing program we cannot help.

In 1997, beef producers lost over $250 per head and that is a big loss. Every time they grew an animal so that we could eat steak, roasts and hamburgers, they were making a contribution of $250 to us because every time they sent one to market that is how much they lost. This year has been even worse. The summer drought meant that the beef producers were feeding their stored feed that they plan to feed in the winter, in the summer. Their pastureland was gone by the middle of June and they were feeding hay to their cattle and turning their cattle out in their hayfields. This is very, very serious. On top of that Nova Scotians imported $200 million worth of beef last year. So it is not that we do not like beef in Nova Scotia, we just are not paying for it.

In the hog industry there are 1,500 people working full time. Last year the hog industry was worth $37 million to Nova Scotia. The hog producers are in a serious price crisis because the hog production around the world has increased dramatically, the Asian flu has struck the money markets, so people in Asia do not have any money to buy pork, so there is a world glut. Poor little farmers in Nova Scotia that have never seen Japan are suffering because of the Asian flu. The hog industry set up a stabilization fund between themselves and the Government of Nova Scotia. Unless the Province of Nova Scotia increases the Hog Industry Risk Management Program, the hog industry is going to be in dire straits in a month's time and what then?

We have several hundred people working at Larsen Packers in Berwick. Larsen Packers is one of the most modern, high-tech processing facility for hogs in all of Canada. I might add it is a facility that is there because the Government of Nova Scotia showed the leadership and

[Page 2328]

the desire to see that it stayed there. We loaned them about $10 million to rebuild the plant and guess what? They not only have not missed a day's payment but they are making a profit and showing the world how good it is in Nova Scotia.

We can have great success in Nova Scotia. Are we going to let our hog industry disappear? The turkey producers are having a problem, the poultry producers. When you get to vegetables, we have some of the smartest vegetable growers anywhere. Kings Produce is a company set up by a half-dozen vegetable growers in Nova Scotia who said we are going to get together to do our marketing and you know, it is a success. But when you look at the crops they are growing and you see that the beans, the Brussels sprouts, the cauliflower, they are all down anywhere from 25 per cent to 50 per cent in their yield from what they should be, they are having a hard time.

You look at the potato industry. Let me very briefly tell you the history of the last four years of potatoes. In 1995 there was a blight, there was poor yields. In 1996 they had a very wet fall so the potatoes would not store. In 1997 it was dry and they had a terrible yield and 1998 was even drier than 1997, the yields are even worse.

All areas of Nova Scotia agriculture are in a crisis and it is up to this government to show the leadership to assist. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance, you will be splitting your time I understand, is that correct?

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Yes, that is right. Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate the opportunity to talk about this very serious situation and the fact that we are able to talk about agriculture and the crisis that is there.

[6:15 p.m.]

During the drought of 1997 it came to our attention that there was a serious problem in Nova Scotia. We, the Liberal Government at the time, realized the importance of meeting that requirement and working with the farm community through the leadership of the Minister of Agriculture and Marketing. We understand all too well that today there is another problem, a crisis in a very specific area of the province, again related to the drought.

As the honourable member for Kings West talked about yesterday, when we were trying to determine who represents rural Nova Scotia more than anybody else, the comment was made about working for a farmer. This farmer had 400 milk cows and my colleague, the member for Kings West, talked about how ridiculous that was, there was no such thing, and he is right. He also talked about, how can anybody who says they have worked on a farm all of a sudden become born again to rural Nova Scotia? Or how can anybody who says they lived beside a farmer have any real understanding of the reality of rural Nova Scotia?

[Page 2329]

What the member opposite did say is it is only a person who is a farmer who really understands the problems, the complexity, the challenges that rural Nova Scotia farmers really face. Well, Mr. Speaker, I stand before you today as an active farmer in the Province of Nova Scotia. I agree with the comments of the member opposite that farmers do understand.

I just want to talk for a brief second through the eyes of a farmer. I know that when that drought happened last year the effect on the family farm was dramatic. I know the economy in the region was affected. I know that the farm operation was affected. I talked to the husbands and the wives and the children on those farms who were going through some very serious financial difficulty last year because of the drought. I remember the calls when people were crying about losing a century farm or one that had been in the family for many years and the effect that has on rural Nova Scotia and what effect it has on rural communities. That is why I stand here today as a proud Nova Scotian but, more importantly, a proud farmer and a member of this government that is concerned and committed to do what it can to reach out and help the individuals who are seriously in financial difficulty because of concerns and situations beyond their control.

Yes, a farmer has to compete on domestic markets; yes, the farmer sometimes has to compete on an unfair and unlevel playing field on a national market and even an international market. Those farmers go to that challenge and many times they meet that challenge. They deal with the markets, they deal with technology, they embellish technology, they deal with the issues of environment. But, when they deal with things beyond their control, like Mother Nature, about droughts, about situations that have taken away their opportunity not in just one year but two years and beyond, then we all have a responsibility, as Nova Scotians, to show that respect.

So I stand here today to show my respect for the farm community, the Federation of Agriculture, the farmers who are affected by that and to voice my concern about not only the need of what we can do domestically, here in the Province of Nova Scotia, but we as a whole Legislative Assembly, and as the Minister of Agriculture and supporting of him at the national level pointing out that we do have serious problems that have to be addressed. This is not just a drought in the Palliser Triangle, this is not just a drought in parts of Saskatchewan or if it was Quebec or if it was Ontario, those things seem to be addressed and I remember fighting for those issues, as a member of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. This is a situation that is affecting Nova Scotia and the farm community and the industries surrounding that.

We have a right to be able to stand to Ottawa and say they, too, have a responsibility not to forget the fact that those farmers are just as important as farmers anywhere else in this country. For that I will do whatever I can in support of my colleague, the Minister of Agriculture, in bringing forward those issues to the national level. Thank you very much. (Applause)

[Page 2330]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education. (Interruption)

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, this Leader of the Opposition suggests that I am not a farmer and therefore cannot speak on this. The reality is that agri-business is everyone's business in this province. We have over 16,000 people directly employed in this sector, either in the processing or production level. They are competing in a global marketplace such that just to give you a sense of what has happened in the apple concentrate-apple juice business, a can of apple concentrate juice sells for something like 69 cents on the shelves of the grocery stores all around us, our neighbours are purchasing that. That concentrate comes from half a world away.

It is impossible for our Nova Scotia apple producers to compete with the low-cost concentrate when they go to send their apples to the local juice plant in Coldbrook or Port Williams for production. Yet we have some of the most innovative, creative and enterprising people in our farm community of any sector in the province. The member opposite indicated that not only is agribusiness important to all of us, but that the Minister of Agriculture and the former Ministers of Agriculture in this House, the federal Minister of Agriculture, all of them are committed, to a person, to ensuring that we partner with our farm and agribusiness community in an ever-increasingly global market place to ensure that the costs of production are reduced.

We met the other day with members of the federation. For the second year in a row now, they meet annually with the Premier of this province and each commodity group, and Horticulture Nova Scotia is organized in a different way this year, probably as a result of drought conditions for at least the last two years, and blight two years before that for the potato growers. They are organized in a way, and they speak to the Premier the way major companies do, a vertically integrated company from seed certification right through to retail marketing all over the world.

The speak to the Premier about a billion dollar industry and about 16,000 jobs, and about how some sectors, the greenhouse sector is actually thriving. The growth is unprecedented in the last few years; an exceptionally robust sector of the industry. On the other hand, potatoes on the other end and beef are under severe stress by virtue of costly production impacts from weather, from pests and so on. Do you know what they asked for? They asked for access to research, to make sure that the federal government doesn't pry out any more key research positions, because they know that their costs of production are directly related to the research capacity.

They want to make sure that the Premier understands the impact of feed costs on local grain production and the research needed to make sure we can feed our own livestock in our own industry sectors and a variety in groups. They talk about the drought and, yes, we need short-term help; there is no question. There are farmers who are impacted severely, so that the kitchen tables are not pleasant places in those farm homes over the last few months

[Page 2331]

because they are worried; they are worried about their child going to university; they are worried about a child going through school; they are worried about next year's business; and they are worrying about staying in business.

But they said, beyond that, beyond the short-term help - last year some $26 million, over $3 million in interest relief, designed by the federation, supported by the Government of Nova Scotia at a time when it was hard to find funds, and over 500 farm families took advantage of that, and the farm community appreciated the co-designing by the federation of support - look we will have irrigation needs out into the future, the entire seed potato crop was lost on the North Mountain because they never needed irrigation before. This year's drought was more significant than anything most of those farmers had ever seen before, compounded two years in a row; at 1-in-30 droughts, that is significant.

The talked about short-term partnership and cost of production reduction, and long-term partnerships, medium- and long-term, to make sure they can get into external markets to ensure that pest management and control is looked after, and that those costs are down. Labour shortages are a problem for many of the sectors. They sat down and talked to the Premier the way a vertically integrated company, bigger than other company we have in the province, bigger than Michelin, bigger than Irving, bigger than NSPI, even bigger than DND when you add up all them, and they talked to him as if they were one company, with certain sectors doing well, others near crisis, and a few variations in between, and said, we need the commitment of the Government of Nova Scotia to be a partner in keeping our cost of production costs down.

Thank you for the HST, that was a blessing to farmers. On the other hand, we have the Port of Halifax here and the ability to bring feed grain in from around the world, let's make sure we consider short-term solutions to benefit farmers, medium-term and long-term solutions in the full context of a global economy, because we are innovative, we are capable of being creative and enterprising. We don't need a rule book, we don't need a member of the NDP caucus standing up and saying, just reduce the retail cost of milk, that will solve one problem. Believe me, that is the last thing the farm community needs to hear right now. They also don't need, by the way, the legacy of debt from the Party opposite, because that is just as hobbling to creative energies, to enterprise and innovation as anything else.

What is needed in these times is for all three Parties to face the reality of a global economy in an area of Nova Scotia where we have supply managed commodities, and we have other sectors, we have some highs, some lows. They need their government to be a partner in agri-business at the processing level when the banks are bailing out. It is the BDC that we heard criticized all day today by the NDP, and that is who is helping in rural Nova Scotia with our processing plants, that is who is lending $2 million, non-concessionary money, to ACA and Eastern Protein Foods Ltd. It is BDC, it is the Government of Nova Scotia supporting a very element, cornerstone element in the entire poultry industry, and the

[Page 2332]

members opposite would be so quick to write off government involved in business. That is a cooperative. That is exactly where we should be.

So we have short-term solutions that must be found at a time when we do not have much money, needless to say, as we have heard all day today. We have to find this money. We have to find a way of supporting those farmers through the last two drought crises and then we have to continue to work on a partnership on keeping production costs down, on research, on irrigation, long-term solutions, on labour shortages, on pressures in a global economy that relate to markets, on food coming into this province so cheaply that we cannot compete. We have got to be there with them and for them and as a government.

This minister, Minister Lorraine, his federal counterpart, Minister Vanclief, and even, although we do not like to talk about it in this House, even the former Ministers of Agriculture who sometimes travel and are partners in the process of making sure that our agri-business is successful all over the world, are fully behind short, medium and long-term solutions for the farmers of this province at the production level, at the processing level and at the international marketing level.

Mr. Speaker, I am proud of this government's response last year. We are now collecting information from each and every household in partnership with the Federation of Agriculture. The Farm Loan Board is standing by. We will have to come up with even more creative solutions this year but we are pledged and committed, as a Premier, as a Minister of Agriculture, to do what we can in this fiscal environment, to stand with, to stand behind, in the short term, the farmers and in the medium and long term to make sure that we are partners in keeping production costs down so that we have a thriving sector. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Kings West for introducing the resolution, was it the member for Kings West?

MR. SPEAKER: Kings North.

MR. CHISHOLM: Sorry, Kings North, who introduced the resolution today that we deal with because of the emergency nature of the challenges facing farmers in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, let me say at the beginning I said, somewhat sarcastically, across the floor to the member for Kings South about, you know, you are not a farmer. Therefore, you are not allowed to speak on this because there has been some suggestion in debate in the past couple of days that you have got to be a farmer in order to understand what is going on with the agricultural community, why it is so important.

[Page 2333]

Well, I do not agree and I quite enjoyed listening to the member for Kings South, the Minister of Education, in his intervention. He is from the Valley. I do not think there is anybody in this House that does not have some connection with agriculture. I mean agriculture is in many ways the lifeblood of much of this province and something that affects us all and something that we should all be proud and not hesitate to stand and to talk in favour of, either protecting it, or promoting it, or in any way raising the concerns. I do not care if you live in the city or if you live on top of a coal pit in Cape Breton, you are a Nova Scotian. Therefore, you have a right and a responsibility to speak up about issues that affect the agricultural sector in this province.

I am from the Valley, born and raised in Kings County, Mr. Speaker. I had the opportunity to spend many hours, days and years, in fact, working on farms, both beef farms and tree fruit farms. I look back very fondly on that experience. When I had the opportunity this summer to visit some farms in the Valley, down Middleton way, with the Agriculture Critic for our Party, John MacDonell, the member for Hants East, I, in fact, ran into some people that I knew when I used to be out showing the Aberdeen Angus at some of the fairs and people who knew the farms that I worked on and so on.

I quite enjoyed talking with some of these folks and it was interesting listening to them talk about the problems that they were facing with the weather conditions and with problems with the grain centre in Middleton - you have heard that discussed in this House - and just generally the whole question of marketing throughout the province, their products, transportation costs, marketing to the world and just trying to stay in business, trying to stay alive. It was interesting to listen to them. No prouder group of people in this province than farmers and I would suggest people who are connected with farms, either people who work on them or people who are families of farmers. It has been a difficult year. This year in particular because last year was difficult. We have heard. The discussion has been sort of focused on the Valley but I have had the opportunity to talk to some people in Colchester County where in a general sense they have escaped most of the effects of the drought but there were some pockets where there were problems.

[6:30 p.m.]

My colleague, the member for Cape Breton The Lakes and I met with a group of about 10 or 12 farmers in Cape Breton County who talked to us about some of the challenges that are facing them, not just weather related but also how they are able to get their crops marketed and delivered to market. It is something that we should recognize.

I remember when I first came into this House we were engaged in a battle that the now Minister of Finance was heading up for the Federation of Agriculture and that was trying to affect the negotiations that were happening with respect to GATT, to the international treaty, and the whole question of the impact that might have on our supply management programs here in Nova Scotia. We all talked in all Parties in those days about the role of the family farm

[Page 2334]

and agriculture in this province and how we needed to prevent the encroachment of the large factory farms from the southern United States or elsewhere. There are some states now, I understand, where they no longer produce in particular areas of agriculture because it is all contained within one state and that state supplies all of the United States. Given our weather and other geographic questions we would not be on a level playing field in some questions relative to that type of competition. We all joined together, the Province of Nova Scotia, along with other provinces in this country and the federal government, to try to protect those supply management programs.

I just want, if I may, to briefly indicate to you and to other members of this House just how serious the impact, as documented by the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, is. The impact that this current drought situation again coming on the heels of the previous year's drought, the impact that has had on various sectors of the agricultural economy. The estimate of the effect of the 1998 growing year on field crops shows a total value lost of $13.7 million. The report says that while there does not appear to be a provincial forage deficit in 1998 as there was in 1997 there has been a severe impact on ruminant livestock as a result of the condition of pastureland. That was certainly one thing that I noted as I was travelling through the Valley in particular was the fact that there was very little grass in the pastures from which the livestock could feed. We also of course were shown and noted the condition of the forage crops. Corn, for example. We went through one field where the cornstalks were half the height that they normally would be and the cobs themselves were tiny and just simply it would not be useful to harvest them for that purpose and they would simply end up being cut down basically for roughage.

As it says in this report, two years of poor forage crops coupled with a number of years of low margins has placed the beef industry in the affected areas in a particularly vulnerable position. The report suggests that a noticeable liquidation of breeding stock is already taking place. They suggest here with respect to livestock producers, especially beef producers, they may lack the financial resources to buy the forage crops they require. Clearly a concern.

One of the other things that was raised by a number of beef producers that I talked with was the problem that they have in marketing their product here in Nova Scotia and whether there is anything we can do collectively, as government, to try to strengthen our programs to encourage our local grocers, our large grocers in particular, to buy and to sell local beef.

Horticultural crops, again this was a problem not only in the Valley but also in Cape Breton, the impact that the lack of rainfall had on the 1998 crop. You go down the list: a 33 per cent loss in low-bush blueberries; a 30 per cent loss in raspberries; 100 loss in snap beans; 30 per cent in sod production; 40 per cent in field flower production; a huge impact on some of these producers, to the tune of in excess of $14 million.

[Page 2335]

Bee production is a concern. Bee production has been severely impacted by the dry conditions. It is estimated there will be a 40 per cent to 60 per cent reduction in honey production as a result and again, as a result, beekeepers will be forced a heavy feeding regime before winter to compensate for the lack of stored honey in hives.

It is important to go on. The potato industry has experienced serious financial setbacks due to adverse weather conditions, leaving the industry in a financially vulnerable position. The future survival of the potato industry in Nova Scotia is at risk, Mr. Speaker. The report that has been produced by the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture in cooperation with the Minister of Agriculture's Department has produced a number of recommendations, strategic actions, remedial action that it is hoped the government will step forward and respond to. These include, of course, the current support programs and whether, in fact, they fit the bill, whether they do what they are supposed to do, the whole question of the crop insurance programs requiring broader coverage, water resource strategy, the need for that strategy for agriculture and, of course, the development of a comprehensive irrigation program.

There are others - the direct assistance to producers to deal with the immediate impacts, the immediate effects of the problems, in order to make sure we don't lose those producers as a result of these extenuating circumstances, Mr. Speaker.

Other members have certainly talked about the impact the agriculture sector has. Kings County is reputed to be one of the top three in agricultural production in this country, as I understand it, behind only the Fraser Valley and the Niagara Peninsula, in terms of aggregate production. It has been cited before, the member for Kings North said, 40,000 indirect jobs, 12,000 direct jobs, $800 million in indirect farmgate receipts, approximately $322 million farm gate receipts. This is a sector that means a great deal to the Province of Nova Scotia, not only in terms of the economic impact but also in terms of the culture of this province. I think it is incumbent on all the members of this House that we make sure we come to this place and represent in as strenuous a manner as possible, regardless of whether we are farmers or not farmers or regardless of whether we had anything at all to do with farms or whether we ever got our hands dirty. This is an important sector in this province and it is something that we should all be extremely concerned about under the current circumstances.

I have written to the Minister of Agriculture and the Agriculture Critic for our caucus, Mr. MacDonell, has spoken with the minister about the concerns that have been brought to our attention. We have written this minister and have asked him to step forward and give a clear indication to the producers most affected and, in particular, to the Federation of Agriculture. Give them a clear message of the fact that the province, that the Department of Agriculture will, in fact, step forward and that we do believe that this is an extremely important sector for this economy and that we are prepared to continue to support it and not let these producers that are so affected by these weather conditions fall by the wayside.

[Page 2336]

The minister has indicated his receptivity to doing that, his interest and his commitment to doing that. We have asked him, of course, to be more clear and I hope he will take the opportunity today to do that very thing. As I wrap up my comments, I think it is important that we all recognize, as members of the Nova Scotia Legislature, that the agricultural sector is important to the very lifeblood, the vitality of this province. It is a sector that we must ensure is sustained and is maintained well into the future. That will take some assistance from all of us and I think all members of this House are committed to ensuring that is done. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I rise tonight to take part in this emergency debate on agriculture and I think this debate is long overdue. I hope to touch a bit on some of the difficulties but also look at some long-term solutions because I believe there are long-term solutions.

I think no one would argue and that everyone agrees how important the agricultural sector is to Nova Scotia. We have been quoted and I could quote the amount of money, the worth, the $360 million at the farmgate in Nova Scotia, the number of people that are employed. As my friend and colleague for Kings North indicated, a large sector of agriculture is in Kings County. I know other counties are touched by it, be it Annapolis, Hants, Cumberland, Colchester and others but we do have and I do represent a large farming community in my area.

I also represent the processing plants and they go hand in hand and the jobs go hand in hand, whether it is Larsen Packers, or Scotian Gold, or whether it is O.H. Armstrong Limited. I know that I have talked to the Minister of Agriculture, to the Minister of Economic Development about O.H. Armstrong who want to have federal inspectors in the beef industry. If we do not do something with O.H. Armstrong in some manner, we will lose what we have in the beef industry and it will go totally down the tubes because there will not be any killing of the beef in this province. We have to look at some long-term solutions.

I was a little disappointed in the member for Kings South who is the other representative of Kings County. I liked when he talked about some of the things and some of the solutions but he made some statements that kind of surprised me. He talked about how well the federation liked the HST. Well, I still talk to some farmers who say it was more convenient to have the card. For them to outlay money for a tractor and the HST, and wait to get it back, it is a pretty big outlay. So they are not as happy as the member for Kings South seemed to indicate, at least the farmers I talked to, as they were with the solutions, the way it was before when they were tax exempt. It hasn't totally worked in their benefit.

[Page 2337]

[6:45 p.m.]

I want to say that if we look at what has happened in the last five years, when the Savage Government came into power, we looked at the Savage Government taking away the grants, whether it be in the fertilizer or the technology transfer and those sorts of things which were very beneficial to farmers. So we saw some things eroded in the last five years that farmers thought were very beneficial. We talked about, yes, there had to be cuts, but there weren't cuts proportionately as there were in the Agriculture Department.

I know the new Minister of Agriculture has inherited that. He wasn't there at the time. As a matter of fact, I have often said, if he was in Cabinet, the Minister of Agriculture at the time, it would never have happened. I honestly believe it would never have happened, because the present Minister of Agriculture was a farmer himself, he understands clearly what is needed in the agricultural sector. I have talked with him many times about the beef industry and other sectors, and I know that he is very knowledgeable and understands the plight of farmers.

I know that wouldn't have happened, but one of the things that amazes me is that we have a federal government that ignores us down here for some reason. We know that Ottawa responded quickly to the crisis that the western grain farmers faced, and so they should. But you know, when we have a crisis in a small province like Nova Scotia, you hate to beat up on them all the time in Ottawa, but it is hard to get their attention to tell them, we are really part of Canada. We deserve some help in this province, as well as the provinces that send large numbers of people to the Parliament in Ottawa.

They have to understand that if we are ever going to have this country hold together, if they are ever going to understand that one end of this country from Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, to British Columbia is important, then you have to start treating people fairly, and understand that the small problems to them that we may have in Nova Scotia are big problems to us, and we have to be treated in the same manner as where there are large votes. Until a federal government does that, there is always going to be the discussion about Canada and its make-up. So the federal government can take a lot of blame for what is happening in Quebec, and take a lot of blame when people wonder what fairness is all about.

I hope that in some manner, this provincial government can get the federal government to live up to its responsibility, because we are talking about a drought that affected the farmers, not only in 1998, but also affected the farmers in 1997. They have had two years running. I don't see anything yet from the federal government that makes me feel any comfort level that they really care. Yes, I have heard the Minister of Agriculture say that he cares, and this government hasn't said what they will do, but they say they will do something, and I have faith that they will. But I am not convinced that under the parameters that they have to work with and the money they have to work with, they can do it alone, without the federal government.

[Page 2338]

What does the industry say should happen? Well, there is no question. We can't rely on the weather forever and a day. Obviously, something is happening to our planet, something is happening that hasn't happened for a number of years. Maybe we won't have a drought next year, maybe we will, maybe it will be in two years, maybe in five years. But we have to look for some kind of support, for infrastructure, for irrigation, so that we can store water, have water available so that if we have a drought, we have a mechanism to supply many of the crops that we need to produce. Because you know, we do grow a lot of crops, not only do we grow feed crops, for the dairy industry and the beef industry and the hog industry and all the rest, we are in the mixed farming. We grow a lot of vegetables, and many farmers, without the vegetable crops couldn't support the beef industry. Many farmers have to have mixed farming in order to survive totally. Without it, they would go down the tubes. One year, you have it tough in the beef, if you have the mixed farming then you have maybe a decent crop and you make enough money to offset the other.

Farmers in this province have subsidized us as consumers for years and we have always said to ourselves, well, there goes government helping out farmers. They are not helping out farmers. They are helping us as consumers because if they did not help out the farmers, you would not get the product for the price you are getting it and the quality you are getting. So we have got to get beyond the mentality of saying, well, yes, we are just helping out the farmers. We are helping out the consumer. It is pretty sad, Mr. Speaker, when you go into the store and realize the price sometimes the farmers are actually getting for their crops. It is pretty sad. It really is. In some way we have got to find a way to help that.

Another idea would be to look at the crop insurance so that we could extend it to all crops at a higher level in order to reduce the risk, so that if we have a crop failure, that there is not such a risk and they do not have to run to government and say to government, help us out. So maybe we have got to plan and look at crop insurance to make sure that we can adequately cover and make sure it is high enough so that the risk is not so great to the individual farmer because what may happen, Mr. Speaker, if the crop failure happens two years in a row, some of them actually go out of business. They cannot carry on.

So it is another area where we can make a suggestion and we can work together to make this sort of thing happen but you know in the short term - that is long term and the member for Kings South talked about that we have to look at ways for technology and capital investment but in the short term - we need to help, in some manner, these farmers get over the last two years so that we can put our long-range plans into effect to stabilize the industry. I am impressed with the Federation of Agriculture. They are thinkers. They are planners. They know that they do not want to come to government. They want to be sustainable. They want to be independent and they want to make it but sometimes they need a little help in order to make it through some very tough times so that we can plan for the long term.

[Page 2339]

They also suggested on the human resource side in the industry, if the industry is going to grow to its capacity, they want to see the redesigning of the Employment Insurance Program. They want some tax exemptions for casual workers. We all know that it is sometimes difficult and some farmers in the Valley have even had to go offshore to get enough labour to harvest their crops. It used to be, Mr. Speaker, that there was not any difficulty in finding people to pick apples or harvest the crops but that is not as easy today as it was years ago in finding those people because it is for the short term and the crops have to come off almost at once because if you do not get them off in a window, then you will lose a good part of that crop.

Even the beekeepers in this province, the dry season has affected them, affected the reduction in honey, and I could go on and on and talk about all the sectors. Yes, it is the dairy farmers. Yes, it is the beef industry. Yes, it is the hog, the poultry and all, but even the beekeepers and the whole crops and go on and on and on. I think we, as a Legislature, in an opportunity like tonight to sit down and be committed to not only helping in the interim, Mr. Speaker, these farmers so that they can stay in business but to help them in the long term, to assure them that if they plan for the future, we are there to assist them. The government is going to have to reinstate some of the programs that I think they quickly took away. It was not a lot of money but a few million dollars in some research and technology advancement and even in the Fertilizer Subsidy Program made a great deal of difference to some of those farmers who were running the farm on the line, Mr. Speaker.

I know many of these farmers personally. I know how hard they work and their families work. It is usually a family-oriented business where everybody contributes. Mr. Speaker, how long have I spoken?

MR. SPEAKER: You have spoken for 13 minutes.

MR. MOODY: I am sorry, I was supposed to leave some time. (Interruption) I might as well finish. I thought I was only speaking for 10 minutes. I apologize. I got carried away.

In wrapping up, Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the honourable member for Kings North for raising this issue. I have been in this Legislature 20 years and this is the first emergency debate we have had on agriculture. It is time that we, collectively, assist the Minister of Agriculture in finding long-term and short-term solutions. So I await the rest of the debate tonight and thank those who have stayed and participated in the debate on one of the most important industries this province has. Thank you very much. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: There are still two minutes remaining, if anybody wants to use it.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

[Page 2340]

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, the agriculture resources of this province are often taken for granted and, quite frankly, not understood very well by a large segment of our population. I don't mean this in a directed or derogatory way, it is just that much of our population is located in our cities and towns and very often far removed from the industry, with no understanding of how our natural resources that many of us take for granted can mean the difference between a bumper year to a loss and even bankruptcies, from abundance and reasonable market prices to shortages and higher-cost imports.

The agricultural sector is paramount to our future social and economic prosperity. Even in Pictou County we have 343 farms and, in 1996, prior to the 1997 drought which affected my area in particular, there were total expenses of $13.1 million and total receipts were in excess of $15 million. The 1997 figures are nowhere as productive. The summer of 1997 was the driest growing year in 40 years, and farmers and beef producers are faced with a lack of financial resources to replenish their forage supplies from abroad. The future of agriculture in Nova Scotia is uncertain and, in the words of the Federation of Agriculture, government cannot create rainbows, but they can create the conditions that make rainbows possible. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Annapolis.

As I understand it, you have 10 minutes.

MR. LAWRENCE MONTGOMERY: Mr. Speaker, and members of the Legislature, it is my pleasure to speak on behalf of the farming producers of Nova Scotia, of the Annapolis Valley and, in particular, the riding of Annapolis that I represent. The farming community, going to the processors, and then from the processors to marketing, and then from marketing to the retail outlets, and then to the consumers, is part of the economic chain, and notice that at the top of that economic chain are the farming producers.

It is very important that we should recognize them as employers, both full-time and part-time employers. I think it is important that we should recognize them as consumers of equipment and of materials in terms of building homes and in terms of building buildings on their farms and purchasing automobiles and trucks and farm-related equipment, as well as the average consumer in terms of everyday needs. All of this contributes to the economy of Nova Scotia.

The loss of farms in my particular riding over the last while has been considerable, especially the larger dairy producers. In addition to that, in the drought of 1997, we had a loss of approximately 100 producers and these are small producers. It was said earlier in the week that the day of the small producers is over. Well, I have to take exception to that in the sense that I know many small producers and many of them diversified - part-time beef, part-time woodcutting, part-time snow removing, and part-time Christmas tree operation - so the diversification of the farming industry for those smaller producers is still there. We have many

[Page 2341]

of them in my particular riding. Although we lost 100 in the drought of 1997, we have approximately another 100 still going. We do not know what the outcome will be in terms of the drought conditions in 1998. Part of the 1997 loss was due to the low cattle prices but certainly a considerable amount of the loss was due to the drought.

[7:00 p.m.]

This year, in 1998, there has been a loss of 50 per cent of the forage in the first cut and in the second cut, zero per cent. The estimated total loss is somewhere in the area of between $30 million and $50 million. In the crop pertaining to beans it is a 100 per cent loss and as we have already heard, a considerable cost in terms of the potato industry. The apples in many areas are small and are of low production. However, where there is irrigation they have maintained a quality and sufficient amount; however the profit margin therefore would be greater.

There is no question that our government will support the farming community and I look forward to supporting them. I will support all action on the part of our government to lobby the federal government for greater assistance from that end. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Antigonish.

MR. HYLAND FRASER: Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to stand this evening for the rest of my allotted time to speak a little bit on agriculture in Nova Scotia. I appreciate the honourable member for Kings North for bringing this forward. A little earlier in the discussion people were trying to qualify themselves whether they ought to be speaking on agriculture or not and I guess we are all food eaters. So in one way, shape, or form we can all qualify.

I must say that I was born and brought up on a mixed farm back in the rural area of Antigonish County. I lived there until I went off to university and I got away from it for a number of years. But in fact I went back and bought my father's farm in 1975, a mixed farm and I farmed that for about 10 years in mostly the dairy industry. I had an opportunity to serve as the Director and President of our Federation of Agriculture and as a Director and Table Officer of Eastern Dairy Foods Cooperative and later Scotsburn Cooperative. I have gone to Federation of Agriculture meetings where the problems were different many times and sometimes they were the same. I keep in close contact with farm friends that I have in Antigonish and area.

It seems like every year there is a new problem. I remember a couple of years ago, in the dairy industry, which I am most familiar with, there was great fear in the industry that free trade was going to knock the bottom out of the industry altogether. But I think we have come around to where interest rates are reasonable for those who carry debt and that sort of thing and that our farmers here can compete. We just have to give them the opportunity and the tools to work with to allow them to compete with anywhere in the world. They should be able

[Page 2342]

to compete not just on price, I think price is important and for those of us particularly who are Scots, price is darned important. I think the quality we get in the stores, at the farmers' markets where people are able to buy produce like vegetables, fruits and other sorts of things that are made locally, those are the freshest that we can get.

I always look at farming as an industry that I think government has to support it. I look at when I was involved, government supported growth in the industry, in allowing land clearing and that sort of thing for farmers to expand, to grow more of their own forage than they could in other years where people had to stay small because there was not sufficient land available. When I look back now and see some of the things that are going on, we ought not to let our good farmland be threatened and taken over by cities or towns or businesses where they expand out into very precious farm areas in our country and in particular in our province.

I know, from being a farmer, its ups and downs. When I first started in 1975 on my own and in years later the problem then was trying to get sufficient feed in dry enough. Because we didn't have the proper equipment, you used to have to cut your hay and leave it out there for couple of days and depend on the sun to shine and the next day you would plan ahead to do the same thing. Our problem was trying to get the feed in dry enough in those times.

Farmers have been so innovative and the industry has been so innovative that they have been able to overcome those problems, where forage is made almost daily; it is cut in the morning and put in the next day. Silage can be stored with a higher moisture content. Trying to get feed in when the weather is uncooperatively damp and wet is not the problem it used to be. What has happened in the last couple of years is drought and there is nothing you can do about it. If you cannot irrigate, you cannot do anything about it.

I think all across the province last year, I know in my constituency, those who raised forage and berries and particularly the beef industry really suffered. The crops were down, grain was down, corn was down. I guess farmers being as innovative as they are, with some support from governments and some real support from the MacLellan Government, farmers were able to survive and get through. Maybe their debt is a bit bigger now than it was a year ago but farmers were able to get through that. This year it is different. Those options are not there anymore for the farmer. They have used up their reserves, as has been said.

I appreciate the comments made by the three members who represent the Kings area - north, south and west - because for them it is a hands-on what they see and people they talk to on the weekends are directly involved in the suffering that goes on. It is not just in farming. It is a little different than some other businesses because in fact most farms today are family farms still. Families are involved. Either it is a father and mother and children or perhaps a father and a son or perhaps two or three brothers involved, but it is a family affair. That is why I think it is important that this government continue to support farming and agriculture in our province.

[Page 2343]

I guess in closing, I would only ask that the other two Parties across the way support our minister in trying to find solutions that will bring forward something that is - I guess it is like a sore foot; if your foot is sore, you are sore all over. That is what is happening because the Federation of Agriculture is standing as one with those people in that area of the province who are suffering. They are speaking for the farmers all across the province. I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me to say those words.

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

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would also like to thank the member for Kings North for raising this issue. We all know that the agricultural industry is a food industry, but I hope that this debate is more than just food for thought. I really hope that something concrete and perhaps palatable and easily digestible will come out of it.

The members have indicated that you have to be a farmer to understand what farmers go through. Well, maybe to a point that is true. I am a farmer, only to a small degree. When I leave here tonight I have to do my chores. My hired help will probably be in bed. I think too that if we assume that only farmers can understand what farmers go through then we will never ever be able to get the people of Nova Scotia to understand why they have to give their support to the agricultural industry.

Will we assume tonight that those farmers who work under supply management cannot understand the plight of farmers who do not? If we assume that the rest of Nova Scotians who are not farmers cannot understand what farmers go through, then we can say that different aspects of the industry cannot understand what other aspects of the industry go through, because they don't walk in their shoes. I disagree with that.

We know that everybody has to eat, and perhaps to a point, the fact that we walk into our grocery stores and food is always there in the showcase, that we never ever give much thought to what farmers put up with. Well, farmers live with the bottom line, the same as everybody else. They still have to supply things for their families, and if we assume that their wants and desires and needs and aspirations for their families are different than any of the other families in this province, then we are wrong. Probably the only thing they are facing is for those children who have aspirations to be farmers, the difficulty for them to attain that is ever-increasing. We are not attracting many new entrants to this business.

Mr. Speaker, I know you must realize as I do in Hants County, the impact of agriculture. In my area, the dairy sector is a major sector. In one instance I know, one farmer has built a barn that was somewhere between $3 million and $5 million for the barn. That would give you an idea of the kind of money that this industry attracts.

[Page 2344]

The plight this year is somewhat different than last year, in the sense that it didn't cover the whole province. There was more or less a strip down through the centre that really was affected. Hants West, Kings County, Annapolis County, Digby, the Cobequid, the Northumberland Shore areas of Colchester and Cumberland Counties, and parts of Queens and Lunenburg Counties. The Annapolis Valley, parts of West Hants and Colchester Counties have not experienced one month during the 1997-98 growing season in which average or greater rainfall has been recorded. Therefore, what we are saying is, they received less than average for 1997-98. The problem of less than average rainfall is compounded by the increased heat units that were experienced. So we had hotter temperatures along with the lack of rain.

The member for Kings South said that government involvement in agricultural business was a cooperative. Well, that is not a cooperative. That is cooperation. A cooperative is when like-minded people with the same goals, they get together to have some control of that industry, that is a cooperative. I would hasten to add that the degree of cooperation has been tenable. It has already been stated that in impacts of commodities, livestock feed and grain, there has been a loss of $13.7 million. Tame hay and forage reductions of somewhere around the $8 million range. This is as of August.

Now we know that more time has gone by to evaluate those losses, and originally the Federation of Agriculture was looking at a total loss value in the area of $30 million. Now they are thinking it may be more in the range of $50 million, so these numbers are probably low. As far as those forage productions, it has gone anywhere from 10 per cent reduction in production to 50 per cent in Annapolis and Kings Counties.

Because of adequate rainfall in parts of the province, there didn't seem to be, overall in the province, a reduction in forages, but in specific areas, there definitely was. If we take those animals that are ruminants, like cattle and sheep, then we can see, particularly in supply managed areas like the dairy sector, the effect is not as bad as it is in the beef sector. Being a sheep farmer, I would like to think that people won't pull the wool over my eyes on this issue. (Interruptions) If we consider the beef industry, it has been failing with reduced prices for some time. If we add in the drought situation for two years, people think well, you can just go somewhere else and buy that feed. Well, you can, if you can get it cheap enough. That would make it easier. But farmers are independent, they try to produce what they need because they reduce their costs. If they are going to spend the money on equipment and have it there to harvest their forages, then they want the forages to harvest. If they are going to buy their feed year after year then they might as well not spend the money keeping equipment to do that.

[Page 2345]

[7:15 p.m.]

We don't realize that when it comes to forages, these are things that farmers don't plan every year. In other words, if you are talking about carrots or potatoes, if you have a drought one year then you can replant your crop the next year and hope for better conditions, but in the case of forages, those drought conditions on the root systems of those plants will mean they will have to have a much better year the next year to get them back to the production they should have. In a lot of cases this year in this province they had a drought two years in a row so that means those root systems are going to be severely damaged and even a good year next year will probably not yield the crop they should have gotten if they had a much better year this year.

In the case of horticultural crops, along with lack of water which would mean a lack of yield, then you would have the problem associated with high temperatures and the problem of storage. Even though you have a reduced crop you still want to try to market it and then you have greater expense in trying to sustain that crop so that it is worth something for the consumer to purchase. This also brings in problems with insect damage or disease problems.

Dollar losses in the horticultural sector are in the range of $14.5 million and that number probably is higher. It has already been mentioned about the bee industry or the honey industry. This to a point is an aside because people don't really think of that as a unique industry unto itself but it is. High production in blueberries, strawberries and other crops as well has been scientifically associated with increased pollination. Now if your blossom count is down due to drought conditions, then the bees are not going to generate the honey that they might have generated in a better year. That means that those hives are going to come into the fall with lower honey production for one thing, which will reduce the bottom line for the producer, but it is also going to mean that those hives are not going to be well prepared for the winter and producers are going to have to spend more money to see that those hives can make it, and probably have to replace hives where part of the hive has died off due to lack of nectar.

Some of these remedies that have been proposed by the Federation of Agriculture are based on the short term and the long term. Since most of them have been dealt with, I won't dwell on them for any length. Some of it will deal with direct assistance to producers and it will have to be looked at on a producer by producer basis because if we assume the way the drought had occurred, there will be some areas where you might have a farmer, just because of his particular location, it may have rained all around him and yet he would not have gotten any rain. We certainly know that can occur. So here you will have one individual who will have a greater need than his neighbours may have but certainly there will be that strip through the province where just about everybody has been affected.

[Page 2346]

For the long term, the enhanced safety net programs, like the NISA Program, I think this is a good idea but we have to realize that when we look at the use of the NISA Program it takes years of accumulation of funds in order for anybody to draw a large sum of money from that. So if we would assume that droughts only occur in widespread time-frames, that might work out well, so there has to be some adjustment of that. Here we have two years in a row and that would certainly tax that program.

We think when we go through the agricultural communities we never think that is exactly what they are. We have to realize that what we are talking about is the impact not just on individual farmers but what that impact might be on those communities. If rural communities are important to us, then we should take some steps to see that those communities survive. To a second degree, you know, our whole tourist industry is based to a high degree on our rural communities. So if we were to leave that a total void, then what would our tourists come to see? We would have our coastline left but nothing in the interior. So there are extra dollars generated there by maintaining those rural communities.

I think in closing I would really direct my comments to the House and to the minister, to listen and I know in my conversations with the minister, he relies quite heavily on what the Federation of Agriculture has to tell him. I know he listens to their concerns but the real juggling act is going to be to twist the arms of other people that he might have the ear of in order to make them listen. The effects on the economy of the agricultural sector is somewhere in the $800 million to $1 billion range. We certainly have found money, $14 million or so, for Dynatek. I do not think 40,000 indirect jobs is what that would have produced. So if the government can find money for that, then certainly for something that is sustainable, that historically has been here as a cornerstone of developing communities since the beginning of this province, then I think that they can take some time to analyze this situation seriously and come up with some real recommendations for it. I certainly will be eager to support anything that the Federation of Agriculture would be agreeable to. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: There is still two minute's time left for your caucus if you wish to avail yourself of it, only two minutes, running shorter by the minute.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis. (Applause)

MR. GORDON BALSER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Interruption) That is right, almost, wants to be.

Thank you very much for allowing the opportunity to speak regarding the crisis in farming. Farming is without a doubt one of the cornerstones of the economy of this province. It employs directly or indirectly 42,000 individuals. It is a $1.4 billion industry in terms of capital investment. It is an integral part, not only of the economy but also of the very fabric of this province, one that has to be recognized and supported. Farmers in this province have

[Page 2347]

allowed Nova Scotia and Nova Scotians to enjoy the lowest household food bill in Canada. Agriculture has been good to us and it is time for us to be good to the farmers of this province.

Farmers feel abandoned. There is no question about it. They deal with problems related to weather. They deal with problems related to competing in a global economy. They have conflicting demands placed on them by a society that is becoming more and more urban in their point of view. They must constantly juggle the need for agricultural land against the needs of a more and more urban society. They see a government that is unwilling to commit the funds necessary to help them in the time of need. As the previous speaker said, the government, in terms of economic development, can see its way clear to commit funds to support industries in many instances that are only marginal in terms of their viability and yet when you see a long-term sustainable industry, such as farming, there is no willingness on the part of government to ensure that the funds are there in the time of need.

I represent Digby and Annapolis and Digby County is not really particularly recognized as a centre of agriculture but it is, in fact. Because of the reliance and the developing mink industry in my riding it has become one of the top counties in terms of its farm gate receipts. The mink industry is contributing literally millions of dollars to the local economy and by extension to the provincial economy. The mink farmers have had a difficult time. They have weathered times of depressed prices and depressed demand. They have had to work to overcome an active lobby on the part of the anti-fur groups and just at a time when they saw the industry turning a corner, they saw opening of new markets in Russia and they saw stabilizing markets in the Asian area and they saw a time when they could begin to consolidate and expand after a number of years of marginal existence, just when the corner had been made, you see a downturn in the Asian economy and the Russian economy. So now these people are forced, have laid out massive amounts of capital, anticipating a strong and stable vibrant market, only to see that destroyed.

The other thing is that we have heard a great deal of talk about drought. My riding is facing the exact opposite of that. As a result of the unseasonably large rainfall in the past little while, there has been flooding on a marsh area in my riding. That flooding was not anticipated and the farmers had been trying to extend the season for pasturing their cattle in order to prolong having to turn them over and begin to feed them their hay. Unfortunately, because of the rains, the cattle were caught and three or four head drowned, and a number of those that did not drown immediately have contracted pneumonia and have had to be put down by the farmer. They did not anticipate that happening and they now face the economic impact of that. They have been forced to try to push the season a little bit longer in order to ensure that they would have adequate hay supplies.

The hog farmers in my riding are also facing a crisis. Production is up, but the demand is down. The collapse of the Asian economy has meant a decrease in the actual demand for pork produce and that has resulted in over production and a decline in market prices. The

[Page 2348]

Nova Scotia Hog Risk Management Program has been able to sustain the producers the last eight months, but they have given indication that that money will be running out by the end of December.

There is another underlying issue in terms of crisis and that was raised when we began this debate and questioned who had the right to speak on behalf of farmers. The reality is we are seeing the abandonment of farming not only as a way of life, but as a part of the economy in one generation. Probably many people in this room can think back to having grown up on a farm but, because of the fact that it has become economically non-viable to continue to try to eke out an existence on a farm, they have abandoned that and moved to a different way of life. So the reality is that if we say that only those people who have a direct relationship to farming are those that can speak, in one more generation there will be no one left who can talk with true conviction on behalf of the farmers and that is a sad testimony.

One of the cornerstones of the rural way of life, the farming way of life, is that you instill values in your children that you hope they will carry on to adulthood: values of hard work and honesty; values of respecting nature for what it can provide; and the value to see a job that needs to be done and to do it.

When I gave my Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, I spoke to the fact that my riding is still a place where people will lend a helping hand and that is very much the farming way of life. I know a few years ago one of the farmers in my community suffered a heart attack at a time when his pastures needed to be made ready so that he could turn his cattle out, and he was very concerned about what would happen. One Saturday morning all of the people in that community got together, put in the fence for him and turned his cattle loose, so he did not have to worry about it, and that is the kind of thing that is going to be lost when we abandon farming as a way of life. That is the very thing that needs to be addressed.

The farmers are not looking for a handout, they are looking for a plan and that was mentioned earlier. What is needed is for this government to put aside funds, scarce dollars, so that there will be funds available when there is a need. That is the only way that can be addressed, to plan ahead so that when problems arise there are plans in place to address those problems. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland North.

MR. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I rise tonight to speak about an extremely serious situation.

MR. SPEAKER: It has to be a few words. (Laughter)

MR. FAGE: Yes, indeed, Mr. Speaker, it may be a few words, because time is moving on.

[Page 2349]

We are dealing with a situation where a large economic engine in this province, the farming community, is being unjustly affected - without government support - by a drought, by something beyond their control. We have a situation here where we have an industry that receives support of approximately one-half of one per cent of the provincial budget in this province; this is an industry that generates $1 billion worth of goods for this province; this is an industry that is export-driven; this is an industry that has 42,000 indirect and directly related jobs involved here; and it is an industry that we have to take seriously.

The Minister of Agriculture needs the support of this entire House to lobby the federal government to make sure there are funds here when a drought, such as this situation we have been faced with for the last two years, occurs. This is an extremely serious situation. A year ago, the agriculture community assessed that at least $50 million had been lost during the drought. We don't know the dollars yet, they are not in. A similar situation exists this year.

[7:30 p.m.]

This government last year was able, several million dollars. It was nothing. Offering loan money to farmers to put them into more debt than they were already in was not a solution, it wasn't even an alternative. It didn't even address the situation. Farmers across this province went away owing more money. They sold their beef herds. It was depleting the industry. We are approaching that same situation this year, and we need concrete plans. We need support for the minister, if he can't get it federally and he is not prepared to do that, then we have to get it provincially, because those industries, those individuals, those families, those rural communities that depend on agriculture have to be supported out there.

This is a huge industry. This is the fabric of the rural economy in this province. One sector I will quickly touch on tonight that isn't represented by the Federation of Agriculture but has a huge stake here is the wild blueberry industry. In Northern Nova Scotia, it is the largest producing area in North America. They lost significantly, huge losses in some areas. Farmers report to me, 40 per cent losses. Their plight has to be taken into consideration, and each farmer's plight and each farm business's plight on an individual basis has to be assessed, and there has to be drought relief money provided to them in this year's budget, and it has to be emergency. Thank you. This is an extremely serious issue. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Agriculture.

HON. EDWARD LORRAINE: Mr. Speaker, first of all I want to thank the member for Kings North. When he mentioned to me about this emergency debate, I think it is excellent, because I am a bit interested in the agricultural industry, quite a bit interested. I spent pretty near my full lifetime in the agricultural industry. I want to thank that member for bringing this debate before the House. And I want to thank his seatmate - I call them the two Georges - who has had a great interest in the agricultural industry, who I have met with a

[Page 2350]

good many of the members on a number of occasions to discuss the agricultural industry, and long before I became the Minister of Agriculture myself.

So I do appreciate all the comments made here tonight. I agree with 99 per cent of them, too. I wouldn't dare say 100 per cent, then people would think that maybe I was going to join another Party, which I don't intend to. (Interruptions) You know, Mr. Speaker, we have been working the Federation of Agriculture, and I consider the Federation of Agriculture to be the spokesman for the farm community in the Province of Nova Scotia. You have heard me say that on hundreds of occasions, and I really believe that, because I was a member of the Federation of Agriculture for a good many years myself, worked with the federation. I think I have a pretty good understanding of the agricultural industry, and I am not saying any member here doesn't.

I think they all spoke well tonight in this debate. I think they expressed their concerns and there are a number of concerns out there, and I will never cover them all in the time you allotted unless you give me right until 8:00 p.m., and probably not cover it all then, what I want to say about the agricultural industry. First of all, I want to talk about the program that we brought in last year.

Now there has been some criticism of it. What we did, and this was a committee set up, well, I will back up a little. You recall when the Federation of Agriculture brought a report to me, I was prepared to take that to Cabinet, did take it to Cabinet. I was prepared to support it, but at the last minute that morning, the federal minister sent us down a fax indicating that there would be some federal assistance, and yes, there was under the safety net programs. But when that fax came, it was one page. I received it at 7:45 a.m., I was to speak and planned to make an announcement to the federation - that was on December 5th - planned to make an announcement that afternoon at four o'clock when I was to speak to the Federation of Agriculture, but I felt if there is some federal assistance, it would not be very responsible if we didn't take advantage of that federal assistance, whatever may be forthcoming.

When I went to the federation, and I know there were some farmers who were disappointed because they were expecting me to announce the program that was developed by the federation and our department staff. I know there were people who were a bit disappointed. What I did say, in view of the facts that came from the federal Department of Agriculture, I was then going to name a committee that would study whatever the federal assistance program meant and what we needed to assist the farmers that could show they had loss due to the drought in 1997. That committee was established very quickly.

I want to say on our own department staff and on behalf of the four members from the Federation of Agriculture, they worked tirelessly to bring in some recommendations I could take to Cabinet. In fact, I remember being called by that eight member committee on Saturday and Sunday. We met and they continued to work on it. Our last Cabinet meeting was going

[Page 2351]

to be, I think December 17th or in that range, and I wanted that report that I could take to that Cabinet prior to Christmas. I wanted the report in. They worked over the weekend and they delivered the report to me on a Monday night and on Tuesday morning I took it to Cabinet and we got approval. This was the recommendation of the Joint Committee, the department staff and the federation. We got approval. They estimated the loss as being in the range of $26.7 million and they estimated the interest would be in the range - they wanted interest forgiveness on that loan - of $4 million. Cabinet bought it.

I am going to stop for a minute, they are not here but all Cabinet supported me very strongly, including the Premier, including your Minister of Education, there was a little debate between him and the Leader of the Opposition whether they should be speaking about agriculture. I think everybody should speak about agriculture in this province because I think it is the economic backbone of the Province of Nova Scotia. I will get into that a little later on.

Anyway, I gained support - Robbie Harrison was a jewel, so was Don Downe, well, so was all of Cabinet. We got the support and we implemented the program that was recommended by the federation and our department staff. I will say here, last Friday morning the commodity groups across the province, that is the commodities of the Federation of Agriculture, they requested a meeting, I think this was the second meeting, they want to meet with the Premier and the minister to outline what their concerns are and how they see the agriculture industry going in the future. We met with them last Friday morning. I had people from the member for Kings North and Kings West and there was a big group of people, all the commodities were represented. They all spoke and they all said - I shouldn't say they all, but a number of them said how thankful they were for the program last fall. I agree with them and I don't believe that same program is going to work this year because I think this has to be more of a direct payment to those farmers who can prove hurt due to the drought.

Last year you remember there was a loan program, we loaned and capped it at $100,000 per farmer. When the program was implemented there were people and they were able, based on the Farm Loan Board rates, which was 7.5 per cent, they then could get assistance at a cost of $7,500 per year for two years. There were some of those producers, particularly the potato producers in the Valley, who couldn't possibly have enough money out of that $100,000 loan to get their crops in the ground this spring. The Federation of Agriculture got back and asked us to increase that cap from $100,000 to $200,000 for potato producers and beef producers to which the department and the government agreed. That meant then those people could draw over the two year period $30,000 in total in financial assistance through the loan interest forgiveness. That got their crops in. Well, who in the world was ever going to predict you were going to have another drought in parts of the province? This was pretty widespread across the province but not nearly as serious as last year. Who was ever going to predict you would have a second backed up one on top of the other?

[Page 2352]

Well, parts of the Valley did and parts of Colchester. I know I was out to carrot producers and some blueberry producers and those people were affected. So we won't know until that committee brings in - and by the way the same committee as last year is working on this problem, it is going to bring us - recommendations, hopefully now by the end of this month. I was corrected the other day. I said by the end of the month I expect it and the chairman of the committee said the president of the Federation of Agriculture said it may be November 1st but we expect that report in.

When I was doing a tour through the Valley and different tours throughout the province I found that there was a terrific lot of people that maybe were not going to be affected but they were not sure at that point in time, end of August, first of September, particularly in Colchester County. The carrot producers in west Colchester were estimating their crop might be down 50 per cent. Some of them tell me now they had about 100 per cent crop, but they got the rains in time.

It has been said and I heard it here tonight about the rainfall being less than what the average was. I have the statistics right here in front of me: for a 30 year average, the rainfall in Kentville in 1997 was 60 per cent of the 30 year average; in 1998 it was 45 per cent, which is getting less. That is in the Valley region that was the worst hit.

Then you look at Truro and my own area, last year we had 75 per cent of the normal 30 year rainfall. This year we had 110 per cent. I will tell you, in our own farm operation and all the farms right around our area I never saw such terrific crops. I have had people say that the effect of the dry weather last summer would hurt it this year. Well, in this particular case where we got the rain at the right time it did not hurt it. In fact there is not a farmer up there who would not tell you of the bumper crops they had.

Then you go down to west Colchester where we have blueberry and carrot producers, they were affected earlier because there was less rain down in that area. So this is not just a problem in the Valley. I was in Cape Breton. There has been a bit of problem there, more rainfall. In fact, in Sydney last year they had 80 per cent of the normal 30 year average rainfall and this year they had 165 per cent. Those are the statistics you have to go by.

Nevertheless there are an awful lot of people who are hurting throughout the province. We met last Friday morning with the federation, as I said, this joint committee is still working. They will be bringing recommendations in. I did make a commitment to the council and the commodity groups that there would be support. When we get that financial support I am talking and I think it has to be different from last year. I think it has to be a direct payment to those people with proof that they are hurt due to the drought. I think when you talk about the first report coming into us and that was probably in July, I have it here somewhere, or August, they were estimating the losses could be $30 million. That was not just drought losses. What they are looking at is a long-term plan and now they have adjusted that. It came in late in September to $50 million. That is what their estimate is now, but what they are

[Page 2353]

looking at is long-term programs to support the infrastructure. For instance, in the Valley - and I wish those two Georges would start to listen, once in a while they are not - this summer I was up on North Mountain. What they have got to do in the long term is identify where there is a water supply. Then we have got to have a program that is going to assist in the infrastructure because irrigation equipment is very expensive. We have an irrigation system on our own farm where we buy about $10,000 worth of piping every year because it is very expensive and I believe the farm has got to pay for whatever money goes into it.

[7:45 p.m.]

We need a program, particularly in the Valley, that was hurt so bad the last two years. One minute? I cannot argue with you.

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: You are doing so well.

MR. LORRAINE: Thank you. I will say that the member for Kings North did an excellent job, too. Look, I have got enough notes here to keep going for three weeks if you would let me but in wrapping up - and you say I have got one minute, yes - I do want to say that I consider and this government considers the agricultural industry because we talked about and it has been mentioned here many times tonight, there are about 12,000 employed on the farm but with that total spin-off, and if you use the multiplier factor of 3 to 1, you are talking 36,000 and I suspect it is closer to 45,000 who are gaining a living through the agricultural industry which is really the economic backbone of this economy in the Province of Nova Scotia.

I think and I believe that this government, or any government, has got to support the agricultural industry because we do not have another industry that employs as many people, I do not believe, although the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley says the trucking industry employs more people. Well, maybe they do. I do not have any statistics on them but I do know what is happening in the agricultural industry and I also know with the $360 million produced at the farmgate, that means an economic spin-off well in excess of $1 billion and I would not be surprised if it is $1.5 billion. So that is how important agriculture is to the economy. I want to close by thanking all the members that took part in this debate. I think it was long overdue. I think we should have had it and I again want to thank the member for Kings North for bringing this debate to the floor of the House. Thank you very much. (Applause)

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

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I, too, would like to thank the member for Kings North for bringing forth this debate that proved to be most interesting and we hope most helpful.

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Mr. Speaker, I am not a farmer. In Cape Breton though in the 1940's and 1950's most families had to grow vegetables and raise cattle in order to survive in a mining community. (Interruption) Almost. I certainly did not work on a farm, Mr. Speaker, unless picking potato bugs would be considered work on a farm, but I do represent a community that does have a number of farmers. In Cape Breton, as we know, there are about 104 farms, maybe a small percentage of the farms in Nova Scotia, but certainly a viable part of our community and a part of our community that we would not want to be without for sure. We certainly appreciate the farm markets that are so close to us in Cape Breton.

As we know, Cape Breton is known for greenhouse farming, greenhouse vegetables, the hydroponic vegetables. We have quite a variety of mixed farming going on in Cape Breton. Boularderie Island I guess is the second largest acreage in berry growing and vegetables outside of the Annapolis Valley and, of course, we have beef and dairy there as well, along with some interesting new ventures like the emu farms and the ostrich farms in Cape Breton; so quite an interest in farming in Cape Breton and, in particular, in Cape Breton The Lakes.

As I mentioned last night in the debate, I have had many opportunities to meet with farmers in Cape Breton and although they did not suffer the past summer to the same degree as many of their colleagues across the province did, they certainly have many concerns about their industry and, of course, weather and weather in Cape Breton is pretty unpredictable. As the honourable minister mentioned, in Cape Breton we had more than our share of rain at some points during the growing season this year.

Farmers in our community also talk about the cost of running a farm today and what return they get on their farm products. Of course, equipment and all of the new equipment that is becoming available to them is certainly a real expense for them. In our community there was quite a concern expressed about the whole business of - as you know in Cape Breton we do a lot of promoting of thinking Cape Breton first - we had quite a concern in Cape Breton about the determination as to whether or not something I would purchase in my cooperative store was actually local as it does say on it local. When we had that discussion we were led to believe that if something can arrive in Cape Breton within 24 hours of being picked then it can have local on it. I guess that is quite a concern for many of the local growers in our community because it really does not give a true picture to the consumer.

So, I guess it is increasingly clear that without assistance and without some creative planning and without programs that are designed by farmers, by the agricultural community and by the government as partners with the agricultural community, without this kind of moving ahead, agriculture in Nova Scotia will continue to suffer. We really need to have a serious look at what it is that is happening in our farming communities.

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I certainly respect all of the information that the honourable minister brought to us this evening but I guess I would have liked to have heard some more concrete evidence about what the government is exactly going to do. The honourable member for Kings North who spoke first certainly made the point very clearly that we cannot wait, farmers cannot wait, the agricultural industry in Nova Scotia cannot wait. They need assistance and they need assistance now.

I think with the technological advances and the possibility of new products and new emerging markets, that the agricultural industry in Nova Scotia does offer a lot of hope. So I think what we need to see happen is this government invest in that industry so that it can continue to move forward and continue to be a part of the heritage of Nova Scotia that we have always appreciated it being. I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to speak. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: If there are no further speakers, we stand adjourned until 3:00 p.m. tomorrow.

[The House rose at 7:54 p.m.]