The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Wed., Oct. 21, 1998

First Session

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 21, 1998

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Educ. - Pictou Co.: School Closures - Oppose, Ms. E. O'Connell 2357
Bus. & Cons. Serv. - Drivers' Licenses: Graduated - Enhancement,
Hon. K. Colwell 2358
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Lbr. - Northwood Manor: Contract - Reached, Hon. R. MacKinnon 2358
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1153, Bus. & Cons. Serv.: Insurance Info. Week - Recognize,
Hon. K. Colwell 2358
Vote - Affirmative 2359
Res. 1154, Transport. & Pub. Wks.: School Bus Safety Awareness Week -
Support, Hon. C. Huskilson 2360
Vote - Affirmative 2360
Res. 1155, Agric. - Hall of Fame (Atl.): Inductees (Howard Fuller
Dec'd. [N.S.]) - Recognize, Hon. E. Lorraine 2361
Vote - Affirmative 2361
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1156, Nat. Res. - Nat. Gas: Mun. Fees Wave -
Commitment Honour, Mr. R. Chisholm 2362
Res. 1157, Educ. - Chignecto-Central School Bd.: Needs Assessment -
Threats Remove, Mr. J. DeWolfe 2363
Res. 1158, Leader of Opposition - Agenda: True - Reveal,
Hon. Manning MacDonald 2364
Res. 1159, Lbr. - Volvo Workers: Severance Package - Act,
Mr. F. Corbett 2364
Res. 1160, Health - Cancer Survivors (C.B. Indust.): Comments
(Econ. Dev. Min.) - Apologize, Dr. H. Bitter-Suermann 2365
Res. 1161, NDP - Lbr. Movement: Blind Allegiance - Unreliable,
Mr. P. MacEwan 2366
Res. 1162, Transport. (Can.) - Hfx. Port Advisory Comm.: Nominees
Rejection - Disappointment Express (Gov't. [N.S.]), Dr. J. Hamm 2366
Res. 1163, Health - Long-Term Care: Strikes - Prevent,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 2367
Res. 1164, Health - Independent Living Centres (Can. Assoc.): Work -
Acknowledge, Mr. G. Moody 2368
Vote - Affirmative 2368
Res. 1165, Educ. - Women in Engineering Scholarship (N.S.):
Winners (1997 & 1998) - Congrats., Hon. R. Harrison 2369
^^Vote - Affirmative 2369
Res. 1166, Sysco: Mismanagement - Condemn, Mr. D. Dexter 2369
Res. 1167, Educ. - P3: Leasing Arrangements - Status, Mr. E. Fage 2370
Res. 1168, Educ. - St. FX Univ.: Philosophical Assoc. (AGM 26th) -
Organizers Recognize, Mr. H. Fraser 2371
Vote - Affirmative 2371
Res. 1169, Health - Self-Managed Attendant Serv.: Extension -
Support, Mr. J. Pye 2371
Vote - Affirmative 2372
Res. 1170, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Roads Secondary: Neglect -
Investigate, Mr. B. Taylor 2372
Res. 1171, Sports - Canoe & Kayak (World Champs. 1998):
Karen Furneaux (Gold Medalist) - Congrats., Hon. F. Cosman 2373
Vote - Affirmative 2373
Res. 1172, Health: Home Support Workers - Concerns, Mr. G. Moody 2374
Res. 1173, Devco - Future: Mineworkers Pre-Retirement - Provision,
Mr. R. Matheson 2374
Res. 1174, Educ. - P3: Plan Implementation - Congrats.,
Hon. C. Huskilson 2375
Res. 1175, Educ. - P3: Foresight - Praise, Hon. K. MacAskill 2375
Res. 1176, NDP (N.S.) Leadership - CB East MLA:
Truth Undisclosed - Condemn, Mr. Charles MacDonald 2376
Res. 1177, EMO - Min. 911 Serv. Award Prog.: Michelle Beaumont
(Fall River) - Congrats., Hon. F. Cosman 2377
Vote - Affirmative 2377
Res. 1178, Leader of the Opposition - Employment: Stance - Reveal,
Mr. R. White 2377
Vote - Affirmative 2378
Res. 1179, NDP (N.S.) Leadership: Directionless - Recognize,
Mr. L. Montgomery 2378
Res. 1180, Culture - Celtic Colours: Success - Congrats.,
Hon. K. MacAskill 2379
Vote - Affirmative 2380
Res. 1181, NDP (N.S.) Leader: Economic Agenda - Detail, Mr. H. Fraser 2380
Res. 1182, NDP (N.S.) - Gov't. Future: Policy - Change,
Mr. P. MacEwan 2380
Res. 1183, Educ. - St. FX Univ.: Norma Doucet (Inv.) -
Achievements Congrats., Mr. Charles MacDonald 2381
Vote - Affirmative 2381
Res. 1184, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Pt. Hawkesbury: Showcase `98
Trade Show - Congrats., Mr. R. White 2382
Vote - Affirmative 2382
Res. 1185, Sports - MacDonald Museum (Middleton) Heritage
Wall of Fame: Inductees - Congrats., Mr. L. Montgomery 2382
Vote - Affirmative 2383
Res. 1186, Devco - Phalen Colliery: Shutdown -
Input (Gov't. [N.S.]) Ensure, Mr. R. Matheson 2383
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 282, Health: Cancer Rate - Cape Breton, Mr. R. Chisholm 2384
No. 283, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Offshore Support Vessel Prog.:
Engine Building - Location, Dr. J. Hamm 2386
No. 284, Health: Cancer Rate - Sydney, Ms. Helen MacDonald 2387
No. 285, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Offshore Support Vessel Prog.:
Loan Guarantee - Analysis, Dr. J. Hamm 2388
No. 286, Lbr. - Volvo: Employees - Treatment, Mr. D. Dexter 2389
No. 287, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Volvo Closure: President -
Contact, Dr. J. Hamm 2391
No. 288, Nat. Res. - Nat. Gas: Regulations - Release Date,
Mr. R. Chisholm 2392
No. 289, Nat. Res. - Nat. Gas: Access (N.S.) - Deadline,
Mr. R. Chisholm 2393
No. 290, Econ. Dev. & Tourism: Shipyards Small - Assist,
Mr. M. Baker 2394
No. 291, Nat. Res. - Sable Gas: Pipeline (C.B.) - Size, Mr. J. Holm 2395
No. 292, Econ. Dev. & Tourism: Shaw & Shaw Group -
Loan Repayment, Mr. B. Taylor 2397
No. 293, Nat. Res. - Nat. Gas: Volume - Sufficiency, Mr. J. Holm 2398
No. 294, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Job Creation: Funding (Cos.) -
Info., Mr. G. Balser 2399
No. 295, Nat. Res.: Energy (C.B.) - Failure, Mr. J. Holm 2401
No. 296, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Blades Family (Shel. Co.):
Loan - Reasons, Mr. N. LeBlanc 2402
No. 297, Nat. Res. - Nat. Gas: Royalties - Flat Rate, Mr. J. Holm 2403
No. 298, Nat. Res. - Nat. Gas: Offshore Rights - Rule Change,
Mr. J. Holm 2404
No. 299, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Canso Fish. Ops.: Assistance -
Consider, Mr. N. LeBlanc 2405
No. 300, Commun. Serv. - Nursing Home Workers: Negotiations -
Status, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 2407
No. 301, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - New Pet (Amherst): Loan -
Status, Mr. E. Fage 2408
No. 302, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Volvo Closure: Protest - Useless,
Mr. D. Dexter 2409
No. 303, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Oxford Frozen Foods (Cumb. Co.):
Loan - Reason, Mr. G. Balser 2411
No. 304, Devco: Layoffs - Action (Premier), Mr. F. Corbett 2412
No. 305, NSLC - Truro Store: Contract - Untendered, Mr. J. Muir 2413
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 27 Provincial Finance Act 2414
Mr. H. Epstein 2414
Hon. R. MacKinnon 2416
Mr. N. LeBlanc 2419
Mr. R. Chisholm 2422
Mr. M. Samson 2424
No. 30, Road Improvements Act 2425
Mr. W. Estabrooks 2425
Hon. C. Huskilson 2429
Mr. P. MacEwan 2430
Mr. B. Taylor 2431
Ms. Y. Atwell 2434
Mr. John MacDonell 2435
^^Hon. R. MacKinnon 2436
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 98, Commun. Serv./Health - Senior Citizens: Long-Term Care -
Inattention Explanation, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 2437
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 2437
Mr. J. Pye 2437
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 2438
Hon. F. Cosman 2438
Mr. G. Moody 2440
Mr. Kevin Deveaux 2441
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Health - CT Scanners: Regional (3) - Provision Congrats.:
Mr. H. Fraser 2444
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 2446
Mr. G. Moody 2448
Mr. M. Samson 2451
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Thur., Oct. 22nd at 2:00 p.m. 2452

[Page 2357]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 21, 1998

Fifty-seventh General Assembly

First Session

3:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Ronald Russell

DEPUTY SPEAKER

Mr. Donald Chard

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

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of some residents of Pictou County. The operative clause reads:

"We, The undersigned, are opposed to the closure of our seven high schools in Pictou County, which are to be replaced by two 'MEGA SCHOOLS'".

The petition, Mr. Speaker, has 163 signatures and I have affixed my signature to the document.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Business and Consumer Services.

2357

[Page 2358]

HON. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition signed by the people of Nova Scotia on the matter of enhanced graduated licensing and an integrated approach to the training and testing of new drivers in Nova Scotia as a means of improving their safety. In addition to support from MADD, the RCMP, the IWK Grace Hospital, the Nova Scotia Safety Council and the Nova Scotia College of Physiotherapists, more than 5,000 Nova Scotians have added their names in support of the insurance industry on this issue.

I have affixed my signature to the petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Labour.

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I just received word moments ago that the contract at Northwood Manor between labour and management has been reached. As we all know, Northwood Manor is the largest health care facility in the province and I felt it only appropriate to bring it to the attention of all members of the House. (Applause)

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 1153

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

Whereas Canada's insurance industry has a substantial impact on the people of Nova Scotia by providing a wide range of products critical to protecting the financial security of many Nova Scotians and their families; and

Whereas the province's insurance industry is a strong and healthy, consumer-oriented business employing thousands of Nova Scotians; and

Whereas there is a growing importance for brokers, agents and customers alike to meet their higher standards of knowledge and education within the insurance industry;

[Page 2359]

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize this week, October 19th to October 23rd, as Insurance Information Week and compliment the Canadian Association of Insurance Women for coordinating the event and identifying the need to help educate Nova Scotia's consumers on insurance issues within the financial service sector.

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.

Before I recognize the honourable member, I wonder if I could just interrupt the proceedings for one moment. I have a number of members who have asked to make introductions.

The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I draw the attention of the members of this House to the east gallery where we are joined today by a number of members of the Richmond local of the home care workers from Richmond County. They are joined here with members of their bargaining unit and members of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union. Earlier today, they held a press conference outlining some of their concerns and frustrations over the recent bargaining attempts. I would ask all members of the House to wish them a warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Thank you honourable member for Richmond. I, too, would like to add my voice and ask the members of the House to welcome this group of home support workers. I would like to, more specifically, indicate who they are. They are members of the Home Support Worker Council, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Home Support Worker Association, and members of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union.

Perhaps they would stand as named: Ruth Meister, who is the President of the Home Support Worker Council; Janet Bowers, CUPE; Dallas Moore, Chairperson of Home Support Worker Association; Ruth Fougere, Yvette Landry and Mary Landry, Vice-President, Shop

[Page 2360]

Steward, Shop Steward, Local 33, Nova Scotia Government Employees Union; and Sharon Kingston, President of Local 33. Additionally, we have Ian Johnson who is here today with them from the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union. Thank you and I ask all members of the House to extend a warm welcome. (Applause)

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

RESOLUTION NO. 1154

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

Whereas the week of October 18th to October 24th is School Bus Safety Awareness Week; and

Whereas even though Nova Scotia has one of the best school bus safety records in Canada, there are still a few Nova Scotian drivers who do not stop while school buses pick up and drop off children; and

Whereas over 100,000 Nova Scotian school children ride school buses each year, and the government takes their safety very seriously;

Therefore be it resolved that this House heartily supports the Nova Scotia Safety Council in promoting awareness of school bus safety, and that the House particularly encourages the council in its efforts to urge drivers to stop when the alternating flashing red lights and stop arm are displayed on a school bus.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There is a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Agriculture.

[Page 2361]

RESOLUTION NO. 1155

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

Whereas the 1998 induction ceremony for the Atlantic Agricultural Hall of Fame will take place on October 28, 1998, at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College in Bible Hill; and

Whereas the late Howard Fuller of Port Williams is Nova Scotia's 1998 inductee because of his contribution and commitment to the agriculture industry, his community, and local and national farming organizations; and

Whereas Mr. Fuller served as president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, director and executive member of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, president of the Chicken Farmers of Nova Scotia and president of the Nova Scotia Fruit Growers;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the 1998 inductees to the Atlantic Agricultural Hall of Fame, including the late Howard Fuller, for their commitment and lasting contribution to agriculture in this region.

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

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

MR. RAYMOND WHITE: Mr. Speaker, on an introduction, we have today in the east gallery three members of the Canso Trawlerman's Co-operative who are here to meet later this evening with the Minister of Fisheries and myself and, tomorrow, with DFO officials. I would ask if they would stand - Mr. Pat Fougere, President; John Armsworthy; and Harry Dort - and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

[Page 2362]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: I would like to make an introduction of a group of people in your gallery, Mr. Speaker, from the Canadian Association of Independent Living Centres who will be holding their National Conference here in Halifax on Friday, October 23rd, and Saturday, October 24th.

In that group, Mr. Speaker, is Traci Walters from Ottawa, our National Director; Michael Horne; Nancy Fulton; Steve Carroll; Selwyn Fitton; and Lois Miller, the Executive Director of the Metro Resource Centre for Independent Living here in Halifax. I would ask all members to give that group a warm welcome. They are in your gallery, Mr. Speaker, if they would acknowledge that, please. (Applause)

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

MR. SPEAKER: Before we go to Notices of Motion, I would like to advise the members of the House that the motion on the adjournment this evening is the honourable member for Antigonish. His Adjournment motion was drawn and it reads:

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister and Department of Health be congratulated and thanked for listening to the concerns of communities and consulting with regional health boards, local hospital charitable foundations and the public to bring needed new CT scanners to St. Martha's Regional Hospital in Antigonish, the South Shore Regional Hospital in Bridgewater and the Dartmouth General Hospital, which will result in improved medical care and less travel and worry for thousands of Nova Scotians.

That late debate this evening will take place at the hour of 7:00 p.m.

[3:15 p.m.]

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 1156

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 Utility and Review Board will be holding hearings to determine who will distribute natural gas throughout Nova Scotia; and

[Page 2363]

Whereas municipalities and smaller local agencies may wish to participate but the $50,000 fee charged for consideration before the URB is a major disincentive to them; and

Whereas the Premier himself promised that the fee for municipalities and local agencies would be waived but that has not yet occurred;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier immediately honour his commitment to waive the fee for municipalities and local agencies, so that they may participate in the process of going before the URB with their proposals for the distribution of natural gas in Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1157

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

Whereas the most controversial component of the Chignecto-Central Needs Assessment report was the call to consolidates even Pictou County high schools into two of the government's super-schools; and

Whereas the government and the school board's rush to push through such an emotionally charged issue has left our community divided as to which option will best suit today's students and generations of students to come; and

Whereas while there is a declining enrolment issue in the community on which the board and the province are basing their support for the closures, there are also viable options, for example, distance education - successfully used by our universities - which have not been given adequate airing or consideration as alternatives to the seven closures;

Therefore be it resolved that the minister and his government remove their threats as to whether the funding will still be in place for new school construction and commit to either an immediate extension for public consultation for the community, or allow a plebiscite on the issue to ensure the best possible solution for the education of the students of Pictou County is found.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 2364]

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Economic Development and Tourism.

RESOLUTION NO. 1158

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

Whereas this morning on the Brian Phillips show the Leader of the PCs disclosed that he had a meeting with the Leader of the Opposition; and

Whereas the Leader of the PCs revealed that the Leader of the Opposition sought the support of the PCs; and

Whereas the conditions for the PCs support as laid down by the Leader of the Opposition were:

1. The PCs would have to support the NDP for two years;

2. The Leader of the Opposition would proceed with an agenda that would have to be financed through an increase in taxes;

Therefore be it resolved that the Leader of the Opposition reveal to Nova Scotians that the true agenda of the NDP is to raise taxes in order to carry out their pie-in-the-sky agenda.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 1159

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

Whereas the recently announced closure of the Volvo Plant will mean the loss of highly skilled jobs to more than 200 Nova Scotians; and

Whereas Volvo workers are getting what appears to be the worst severance treatment of any North American auto workers and far worse than that what workers received when Volvo shut down operations in Sweden and elsewhere in Europe; and

[Page 2365]

Whereas the package being offered to Nova Scotia workers amounts to barely one week's severance per year for a worker with 30 years experience;

Therefore be it resolved that this government stop sitting by while the Volvo workers get such scandalous treatment and act to pressure Volvo to offer workers a fair and more equitable severance package.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member Chester-St. Margaret's.

RESOLUTION NO. 1160

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

Whereas a human tragedy of enormous proportions has been unfolding in industrial Cape Breton with a susceptibility to cancer running 45 per cent above the provincial average; and

Whereas the Minister of Tourism, Manning MacDonald, during one of his recent brief stopovers in Nova Scotia apportioned blame by implying lifestyle factors; and

Whereas this is one of the most outrageous statements imaginable;

Therefore be it resolved that the minister apologize to the cancer survivors in industrial Cape Breton forthwith and lobbies with the Irvings for much needed cancer research money.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

[Page 2366]

RESOLUTION NO. 1161

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 union representing workers at the Saskatchewan Power Corporation has now filed a complaint of unfair labour practices against the right-wing, anti-labour Government of Premier Roy Romanow in Saskatchewan; and

Whereas a crowd estimated at many hundreds rallied yesterday at the Saskatchewan Legislature to protest the right-wing agenda and back-to-work legislation introduced Monday by the NDP Government and aimed against the Saskatchewan Power Corporation workers; and

Whereas Premier Roy Romanow is reported as being not concerned that his Party may lose support from the labour movement in the next election as a result of his sharp tilt to the right and to the embrace of big business;

Therefore be it resolved that the NDP should not expect the blind allegiance of the labour movement when this is the kind of thing they do when actually given power.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 1162

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

Whereas federal Transport Minister David Collenette said local business interests and port users would be given a voice in determining the future of the Port of Halifax; and

Whereas the minister's actions fly in the face of his words as he subsequently rejected all three nominees to the Port Advisory Committee put forward by the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce as well as the nominee of the Halifax Shipping Association; and

Whereas it is absolutely essential that stakeholders in the metropolitan region and involved with the Port of Halifax have their voice heard when vital decisions affecting the Port of Halifax are being made;

[Page 2367]

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier immediately send a letter to Minister Collenette advising of the province's deep disappointment with his failure to keep his commitment and further that this government not make the same mistake when nominating a provincial representative to serve on the Halifax-Dartmouth Port Development Commission.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 1163

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

Whereas early this morning the union representing workers at Northwood Manor reached a tentative agreement, thereby avoiding strike action; and

Whereas employers, workers, residents and family members in more than 30 other nursing homes across Nova Scotia are anxiously watching the clock tick toward strike dates in their facilities; and

Whereas this situation reflects government's failure to provide a clear direction for this important sector of our health care system;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health act immediately to prevent strikes in the long-term care health sector and ensure a fair settlement across the board for all long-term care workers.

Mr. Speaker, I seek 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 Agriculture on an introduction.

[Page 2368]

HON. EDWARD LORRAINE: Mr. Speaker, I want to draw to your attention and the attention of all members of the House of a long serving member of this House of Assembly in the east gallery, the honourable Guy Brown who served here from 1974 to 1998. I would ask Mr. Brown to rise and along with him is long-time EA Anne Buchanan. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1164

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

Whereas the Canadian Association of Independent Living Centres is holding its annual conference in Halifax on Friday, October 23rd and Saturday, October 24th; and

Whereas Independent Living Centres work to promote awareness of issues facing persons with disabilities and effecting positive changes that support the goals of independent living; and

Whereas this year's host centre, the Metro Resource Centre for Independent Living, has, among its many initiatives, been a strong advocate for broadening the successful and cost-effective Self-Managed Attendant Services pilot project;

Therefore be it resolved that this House acknowledge the important work done by the Canadian Association for Independent Living Centres, and further that the Minister of Health immediately commit to expanding the successful Self-Managed Attendant Care program.

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 Minister of Education.

[Page 2369]

RESOLUTION NO. 1165

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

Whereas women are still substantially under-represented in engineering and related professions; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Women in Engineering Scholarship was established in 1994 to encourage women in Nova Scotia to pursue careers in engineering; and

Whereas the endowment was also created in memory of 14 women engineering students who were slain at Montreal's École Polytechnique on December 6, 1989;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in congratulating Ms. Stacey Henley of Timberlea, the 1997 winner whose scholarship has been renewed for her final university year, and Navpreet Singh of Halifax, the 1998 winner of the Nova Scotia Women in Engineering Scholarship.

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 Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 1166

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

Whereas steelworkers at Sysco learned today that many of their number will be laid off, continuing the tragic history of reducing the workforce in an area already hard hit by unemployment; and

[Page 2370]

Whereas the layoff is attributed to the shortage of rail orders from Sysco's customers, both new and old; and

Whereas Nova Scotians were assured by this government, just last spring, that Sysco's future appeared rosy;

Therefore be it resolved that this House condemn this government for its absolute mismanagement of Sysco.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cumberland North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1167

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

Whereas the Liberal Government's inaugural P3 school construction project, Sherwood Park Education Centre, was to be an example for the future lease set-ups but turned into a poor example when no lease was found; and

Whereas the Horton lease project turned the next corner for the Liberals as the most expensive P3 project, and while now occupied for almost two months is still without a lease despite constant promises for that lease; and

Whereas this same government, having campaigned as the government that builds schools on a package of over 30 new schools, has now built up great community expectations but is still far behind on its homework: when will all leasing arrangements be complete?

Therefore be it resolved that the Liberal Government, which benefited politically from its school construction promises, answer to the people of this province just where it is on arrangements for P3 leasing, occupied and committed, to never again sitting in the backseat on financial arrangements for our schools while allowing its private partners free reign in the driver's seat.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

That was a little long.

The honourable member for Antigonish.

[Page 2371]

RESOLUTION NO. 1168

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

Whereas the St. Francis Xavier University philosophy department recently hosted the 26th annual meeting of the Atlantic Region Philosophical Association; and

Whereas the meeting featured 25 speakers, some from as far away as central Canada, the United States and New Zealand; and

Whereas 1998 is the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the theme for the St. Francis Xavier University's conference was Justice and Communities;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognizes the conference organizers and the entire academic community of St. Francis Xavier University for their role as leaders in international awareness of human rights issues and education.

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 Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1169

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

Whereas in the past four years, 10 persons with disabilities participated in a pilot project to take full responsibility for decisions about their own attendant services; and

[Page 2372]

Whereas this pilot project initiated by the Metro Resource Centre for Independent Living and funded by the Department of Health, Home Care Nova Scotia has been shown to be efficient in providing high quality service at a reasonable cost; and

Whereas the Metro Resource Centre for Independent Living proposes to work with Home Care Nova Scotia to extend the Self-Managed Attendant Services across the province in the next five years based on the model of the 1994-98 pilot project;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health support this proposal so that the Self-Managed Attendant Services will be available to consumers in all four health regions of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[3:30 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 member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 1170

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

Whereas secondary and rural roads in many areas across Nova Scotia are in an absolute state of disrepair; and

Whereas of the 52 legislative seats across the province, the Liberals have members representing 19 constituencies, which is 36 per cent; and

Whereas 82 per cent of the secondary road work undertaken in the 1998-99 fiscal year was completed in the 19 constituencies represented by Liberals while the other 33 constituencies were left to pick up the remaining 18 per cent of a budget that was severely underfunded to begin with;

[Page 2373]

Therefore be it resolved that since secondary roads are a necessary component to economic development in rural Nova Scotia, the Minister of Transportation and Public Works immediately investigate the severe neglect of road construction work being imposed upon so many Nova Scotians and remedy the situation tout de suite.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister for Community Services.

RESOLUTION NO. 1171

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

Whereas over the years the athletes of Nova Scotia have brought honour to our province through their athletic activities; and

Whereas Karen Furneaux, recently honoured as the IKON Nova Scotia Amateur Sports Athlete of the Year, competed in September in only her second world championship at the World Canoe and Kayak Championship in Hungary; and

Whereas Karen, along with her partner, captured the gold medal in the women's K-2, 200 metre sprint and is the first Nova Scotia female to receive a world championship gold medal;

Therefore be it resolved that this House applaud the remarkable achievement of this fine athlete.

I am requesting waiver, Mr. Speaker.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings West.

[Page 2374]

RESOLUTION NO. 1172

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

Whereas there is a serious shortage of home support workers in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the salary of these workers in mainland Nova Scotia is grossly inadequate at $7.00 to $8.00 per hour or $12,000 to $14,000 per year, making recruitment difficult; and

Whereas the Minister of Health has not yet followed through with his commitment to establish communication links with the Home Support Workers Council;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health and this government follow through with their commitment and address the concerns of home support workers in this province.

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

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1173

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 are presently working or on lay-off or working approximately 1,500 to 1,700 employees at the Cape Breton Development Corporation; and

Whereas any restructuring of the coal industry in Cape Breton will require a plan for the retirement of displaced workers;

Therefore be it resolved that this government in the development of any such plan for the future of the coal industry in Cape Breton incorporate provision for the pre-retirement of older miners to assist in working towards the downsizing of the workforce to desired and sustainable levels.

[Page 2375]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

RESOLUTION NO. 1174

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

Whereas schools represent the heart of many communities; and

Whereas this government recently announced that 31 new schools would be constructed; and

Whereas the Barrington-Port Latour area in my constituency will be benefitting from this new construction with a new elementary school;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate this government that is implementing a plan to provide Nova Scotians with badly needed new schools.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 1175

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

Whereas our Liberal Government and Minister of Education remains on target with plans to construct 31 new schools across our province, while also upgrading many others; and

Whereas this program affects my constituents very positively as two new schools will be constructed in the north of Smokey area, while additions will be completed at both Boularderie and Rankin Memorial Schools; and

Whereas these improvements will address the critical need to provide a quality education for our children using the best tools available, but also see many local people put to work when construction of the various projects begin;

[Page 2376]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House offer praise to the Minister of Education and the Liberal Government for having the foresight and the fortitude to respond to these issues in the most efficient manner, ensuring students across Nova Scotia receive their education in the best environment possible. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, they are asking for waiver. (Laughter)

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled, but it was much too long.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Inverness.

RESOLUTION NO. 1176

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

Whereas in the last general election the NDP played the ultimate shell game with Nova Scotia voters by promising hundreds of millions of dollars in goodies, predicated on a balanced budget, even though they claimed that the budget was not balanced; and

Whereas depending on their audience, they would either promise the voter balanced budgets or, if that failed, they would promise enormous spending proposals; and

Whereas they continued to deceive the voter, allowing a candidate to stand as a New Democrat even though they knew full well that he was under investigation by the Barristers' Society;

Therefore be it resolved that this House condemn the New Democratic leadership for their failure to disclose the truth to the voters of Nova Scotia and the voters of Cape Breton East.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

[Page 2377]

RESOLUTION NO. 1177

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

Whereas the Province of Nova Scotia was the first province in Canada to offer province-wide 911 service; and

Whereas the minister responsible for the provincial 911 service recently introduced another first for Nova Scotia, the minister's 911 Service Award Program; and

Whereas the first recipient of this award, Michelle Beaumont, a resident of Fall River and a 911 call-taker from the Halifax Regional answering centre, was nominated by fellow 911 call-takers and represents the outstanding calibre of service delivered by all 911 call-takers;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Ms. Beaumont for her award and for the outstanding service she has provided the citizens of the Halifax region.

Mr. Speaker, I am requesting 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 Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

RESOLUTION NO. 1178

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

Whereas the Leader of the Opposition has been very critical of the government's loan guarantee to Halifax Shipyard, which will create employment for hundreds of Nova Scotians; and

[Page 2378]

Whereas the Leader of the Opposition has accused the Premier and the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism for holding clandestine meetings with James Irving; and

Whereas last March, the Leader of the Opposition held a meeting with Mr. Irving and officials of the Irving shipyard;

Therefore be it resolved that the Leader of the Opposition come clean with the people of Nova Scotia and let them know where the NDP really stands on the question of employment for Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 1179

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

Whereas the Leader of the Opposition and his Party have promised that if elected they would appoint an ethics commissioner; and

Whereas the Leader of the NDP has openly admitted that he knew the member for Cape Breton East was under investigation by the Barristers' Society in the dying days of the last election and that he did not disclose this to the voters; and

Whereas the leadership of the NDP has taken the stance on so many occasions that they have glossed over this incident like it was a non-event out of their control;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognizes that the NDP leadership provides no direction for Nova Scotia because they are willing and able to cast aside responsibility and principles for the sake of power.

[Page 2379]

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

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 1180

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

Whereas in Baddeck on this past Saturday, October 17th, I along with 1,800 others attended the Grande Finale of the World's Biggest Square Dance event, representing the Celtic Colours International Festival; and

Whereas Celtic Colours represents a celebration of Celtic culture held this year at mostly sold-out venues across Cape Breton Island and which has drawn visitors from all over the world including Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the rest of North America; and

Whereas the increased tourist activity associated with Celtic Colours International Festival and this government's Autumn Leaf Watch program has allowed many accommodations, restaurants and retail businesses in my riding to extend their season;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in extending congratulations to all organizers, musicians and financial supporters of this festival, including government, for their respective roles in ensuring the success of this now annual event.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 2380]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Antigonish.

RESOLUTION NO. 1181

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

Whereas British Columbia was first in economic growth when the New Democratic Party took power, but has since fallen to tenth out of 10 provinces; and

Whereas under NDP rule British Columbia has the highest marginal tax rate in all of North America with consumer confidence at an all-time low; and

Whereas recent reports indicate the Nova Scotia NDP are secretly planning to raise taxes if they should ever seize power;

Therefore be it resolved that the Leader of the NDP explain to the people of Nova Scotia in explicit detail what their economic agenda is and apologize for citing other provincial socialist governments as examples of fiscal responsibility.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 1182

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 Saskatchewan Power Corporation and its unionized employees had reached a deal prior to the NDP Government stepping in, locking the workers out and then legislating them back to work; and

Whereas when in power, the NDP locks the workers out, whips them back by legislation and then expects their votes at election time; and

Whereas the NDP Government of Saskatchewan offers the workers at Saskatchewan Power 2 per cent per year, like they offer all other public sector workers, and no more;

[Page 2381]

Therefore be it resolved that the true story of what the NDP does when in office, as compared with their soothing blandishments while in Opposition, should be made known to the voters of Nova Scotia to ensure that a similar catastrophe does not take place here.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Inverness.

RESOLUTION NO. 1183

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

Whereas Norma Doucet of Inverness is in the fourth year of the Bachelor of Science program at St. F.X. majoring in Human Nutrition; and

Whereas Norma has maintained an average of 82 per cent while participating as a member of the women's varsity hockey team; and

Whereas Norma has recently been named an all-Canadian student athlete, an award which requires a student to maintain an average of at least 80 per cent while participating on a varsity team;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extends congratulations and best wishes to Norma on her achievement and wishes her every success during the 1998-99 academic year.

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 Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

[Page 2382]

RESOLUTION NO. 1184

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

Whereas the Showcase '98 Trade Show was held the weekend of October 2nd to October 4th at the Port Hawkesbury Arena; and

Whereas more than 80 businesses throughout Inverness, Richmond and Victoria Counties as well as other areas, took part in the trade show; and

Whereas over 1,600 people visited the trade show;

Therefore be it resolved that the House extend congratulations to Showcase '98 Co-coordinator, Robert MacDonald, and all the businesses and citizens who contributed to the resounding success of this business showcase.

[3:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 1185

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

Whereas a Sport Heritage Wall of Fame has recently been established at the MacDonald Museum in Middleton; and

Whereas the official opening of this Sport Heritage Wall of Fame will take place this Friday evening; and

[Page 2383]

Whereas the original members of the Wall of Fame include athletes, builders and teams from 1923, 1947, 1948, 1951, 1955, 1957 and 1967;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend congratulations and best wishes to the board of directors and the initial inductees of the Sport Heritage Wall of Fame.

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 Cape Breton East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1186

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 is apparent that due to ongoing problems at the Phalen Colliery, the long-term future of the mine is in serious question; and

Whereas it has been suggested that a planned and orderly retreat from Phalen Colliery, leading to shutdown, would cut costs at the colliery to the degree where funds could be secured in savings and utilized in designing a pre-retirement package for older miners;

Therefore be it resolved that this government, in any plan for the long-term survival of the coal industry, promote a planned withdrawal and shutdown of Phalen Colliery, with savings that will be achieved applied toward a pre-retirement package for older miners.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The time is 3:47 p.m. Opposition Day Question Period lasts for an hour and one-half, so that will take us to 5:18 p.m. actually.

[Page 2384]

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HEALTH: CANCER RATE - CAPE BRETON

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to direct my first question to the Premier. We learned today, from a study released, that Sydney residents are 50 per cent more likely to develop cancer than Nova Scotians living in any other part of the province. Shocking news. Shocking. Women, children, and men at risk of getting cancer just because of where they live.

I want to take the Premier back to 1985 to a story in the Cape Breton Post where he said what worries him, "is that you shouldn't have to wait until people are dropping in the streets. The fact that there's a link is enough to justify action now.". There have been several studies since 1985, and the problem is clear. When is this Premier going to start acting on the real, serious problems facing men, women and children in Cape Breton?

HON. RUSSELL MACLELLAN, Q.C. (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, when I became Premier, I said that I would do everything I could to make the facts known about the situation with respect to cancer and pollution in the Sydney area. We, in this government, have done everything we possibly can to bring forward information to the people of Cape Breton and the people of Nova Scotia. We have pushed the federal government; in fact we are still continuing to do so. They are cooperating with us in getting this information out front.

When last I was in Ottawa, a couple of weeks ago, I met with the Minister of the Environment, the Minister of Health, the Government Leader in the Senate, and the President of the Treasury Board, to impress upon them the need for further action. This will go on; we will continue to get more information and we will support JAG in the efforts that they have undertaken.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the Premier, when he was an MP back in 1985, thought it was important enough then that urgent action be taken by the provincial government. There have been studies dating back that long and there continues to be studies which show, unequivocally, that people who live in Sydney are more susceptible to cancer to rates 50 times greater than in other parts of the province. We now have ground-breaking information. What is it going to take for this Premier to end the risk that Cape Bretoners are facing as a result of where they live? When are you going to do something?

[Page 2385]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, there is more information than what the honourable Leader of the Opposition is bringing forward and that will be made known. The information that was brought forward yesterday was very sensationalized. There is a concern in Cape Breton, there is no question about that. We have known there has been a concern. We have known there had to be further studies and we have done those. We have to get the information. We have to know what it is that is there before we can take remedial action. That has to be first and foremost. If the studies had been done when I mentioned they should have been done back in the mid-1980's we would have been able to move faster today, but they weren't. We are making sure they are done and we are moving forward with the proper information.

MR. CHISHOLM: I am going to table this clipping for all members of this House to see because there is one other line in here that says, ". . . it's ludicrous for the province to be launching a study of . . . Sydney's high cancer death rates when its own epidemiologist has already put the finger on . . .", the problem. He knew the problem existed then. He knew it was clear enough to call on the provincial government of the day to act.

MR. SPEAKER: Question.

MR. CHISHOLM: I want to ask the Premier, in my final supplementary, is he going to listen to the Minister of Economic Development who blames this on a lifestyle issue or is he going to recognize the evidence that says it is the coke ovens, it is Muggah Creek, it is the problems of where people work and that your government needs to act to save the lives of the women, children (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the question is people are getting cancer. We have to try to stop that. That is the objective. We have also said we are going to finance, along with the federal government, the further work of JAG. First of all, we have to determine what is under the ground. We have to determine what chemical actions have taken place among the compounds underground, what in fact presents a risk to the people who are going to be working on doing the remedial work. There is further information to be done. The people in JAG have undertaken this study on behalf of the community. There has never (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

THE PREMIER: We have a process that works and we are going to support that process. I know that the Leader of the Official Opposition would love to . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable the Premier will take his seat.

[Page 2386]

The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

ECON. DEV. & TOURISM - OFFSHORE SUPPORT VESSEL PROG.:

ENGINE BUILDING - LOCATION

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I too have a question for the Premier. In the Premier's absence there was some discussion in the House yesterday about how the Premier spent his New Year's Eve. I would say that the Premier had spent New Year's Eve in a rather different way than most of us. He was negotiating a deal to have some ships built right here in Halifax. The Premier has taken a leadership role in this agreement because obviously he was upfront in part of the negotiating process. Can the Premier tell me where the engines for the offshore supply vessels will be built?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I make no apology about wanting to find jobs for Nova Scotians. It seems that if it had been left to the Official Opposition these jobs would not be here in Nova Scotia. Even though they were consulted as far back as last spring and told about this possibility, even though the Leader of the Opposition made a pilgrimage to Saint John to see the Irvings to show them what a great guy he is.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable Premier is answering a question from the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, the Premier seems very distracted today. I really was not interested in where the Leader of the Opposition was on New Year's Eve or any other day.

I would like to continue, Mr. Speaker, with the Premier. The issue here is not about jobs, it is about whether or not the government really knows about the deal that it signed with Irving. We are just trying to get a little bit of information. What did we get for an $80 million loan guarantee? I ask the Premier, with respect to winches and electrical components and steel for the offshore supply vessels, where will all that come from?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the ships are going to be built here in Halifax at no cost to the people of the Province of Nova Scotia. In fact, we will probably be getting between $4 million and $5 million for servicing that guarantee. The fact of the matter is if we had not provided that guarantee, these ships would not be built in Nova Scotia. These are jobs for Nova Scotians, 400.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, in case the Premier is asked again, the answer to the question was Norway. (Laughter) By way of final supplementary, the province is on the hook for $80 million. We are told the vessels are going to cost $88 million. Can the Premier tell us

[Page 2387]

today how much of the $88 million that these vessels are supposed to cost will be spent directly right here in Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the ships are going to be built in Nova Scotia. They are going to provide 400 jobs which would not be provided if the Official Opposition had their way. I want to say to members of the Opposition, obviously, there is no sensitivity to the unemployed in this province; obviously, no concern about what people go through, what their families go through when they do not bring home a pay cheque. Well, this government has some sensitivity to that concern and we are not sitting around and fiddling and faddling with their dogma while other people go without work. (Applause)

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

HEALTH: CANCER RATE - SYDNEY

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier and perhaps if they have not been fiddling and faddling, we might get an answer to this. Study after study after study, and the studies began I will remind the Premier in the early 1980's, we discovered that there were real problems with cancer rates in Cape Breton. Yesterday, we find out another study telling us that the cancer rates in Sydney are much higher than the average, the average Canadian. Now, that community is surrounded by an industrial area and Sydney's cancer rates are even higher than the industrial area.

MR. SPEAKER: Question.

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Now, we have not seen much action from this government.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: The memorandum of understanding that was signed . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member will please put her question.

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: I am getting to the question. No clear time lines, no funding.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member will put her question or take her seat.

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: What I want to know, Mr. Speaker, what reassurances can the Premier give to the people of Sydney, today, that the already high cancer rate will not be permitted to grow?

[Page 2388]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the provincial government along with the federal government is financing the community's own choice for dealing with the remediation of the toxic materials in the Sydney area. We will continue to support that at their pace, at the period and at the rate they feel this work has to be done.

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, after the health study was released in September, the Minister of Health said it is time to roll up our sleeves and start looking at some better prevention. The JAG Agreement was signed but there was no indication of any kind of money being included there. So in light of this new study, would the Premier explain the government's prevention plan? The Minister of Health indicated some time ago that there was a plan for preventing the growth of cancer. Would he please explain that plan? (Applause)

THE PREMIER: They are using up my time by clapping but I thank them very much. Mr. Speaker, the Government of Nova Scotia is doing what the honourable member wants us to do. She says that there hasn't been any money put forward. We said we would put forward money when JAG told us they needed the money and what they needed the money for. All of the projects and areas of concern that they want to work on now are being funded by the federal and provincial governments. (Applause)

[4:00 p.m.]

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I guess in the last few days all we have heard are the words deficit, incompetence and secrets, and that answer fits right in with those. It is no answer. They are doing nothing and that is what they plan on doing.

MR. SPEAKER: Next question.

The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

ECON. DEV. & TOURISM - OFFSHORE SUPPORT VESSEL PROG.:

LOAN GUARANTEE - ANALYSIS

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, again I return to the Premier. I had an opportunity in my previous question to inquire of the Premier about the safeguards that are in place regarding the loan guarantee that the Premier's government has signed with the Irving company. My question to the Premier. Was there an independent analysis performed by government, to ascertain the value of the ships that will be built, before the government undertook to guarantee 87.5 per cent of the value of those ships by way of a government loan guarantee?

THE PREMIER: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 2389]

DR. HAMM: I would assume then that the Premier will be tabling that piece of information.

I understand, and the reason I ask the question, the information has circulated that a rival company to the Irving group has put the value of their offshore vessels at $25 million, and that causes me some degree of concern, particularly while the Premier didn't give us the figure that perhaps only something in excess of 30 per cent of the money will actually stay here in Nova Scotia. My question to the Premier. Is he prepared to table in the House, no later than tomorrow, the independent analysis that this government did to ascertain the true value of the supply vessels that will be built at Halifax Shipyard?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I cannot give that undertaking, because I don't know what is privileged and what is not privileged. I don't even know, frankly, if there was an official report done on the analysis, but I can assure the honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party that we are not guaranteeing a ship that isn't going to be built, and we are not guaranteeing costs of building if they are not in fact being incurred.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I will look forward to having that information from the Premier. By way of final supplementary. I think it is very important that we know who co-signed the loan that will result in these ships being built, and my question to the Premier is specifically, who signed on behalf of the Irving group, what corporate entity signed? Was it the Irving umbrella group, was it Atlantic Towing or some other subsidiary of Irving? Who exactly is the business partner with the Province of Nova Scotia in this business deal?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, there is no hesitation, the subsidiary that signed this was Atlantic Towing.

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

LBR. - VOLVO: EMPLOYEES - TREATMENT

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is through you to the Premier. The Premier has stated publicly that in his experience, Volvo is a company that treats its employees very well. I would like to ask the Premier, does he consider that throwing 223 workers out of a job a week before Christmas, with a poor severance package, treating the employees well? (Applause)

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member forgot to mention, announcing it on the same day as we were conducting the memorial service for the people who died in Flight 111.

[Page 2390]

It has always been my experience that Volvo did treat their employees well. I had no reason not to believe that and I don't think any member of the House had any reason to believe that. I am very concerned about the treatment they are giving to the workers in Nova Scotia, the severance package they are offering. I am concerned that our workers are not being treated as well as they should be, not to the extent they treat workers in other parts of the world. I want the honourable member to know and the workers to know that I am supporting the workers any way I can. The law is very clear on severance pay in Nova Scotia, but if anything that this government can do to help the workers, we will do it.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, that is fiddling while Volvo leaves. That is what that is. The Premier has, on many occasions, remarked on the high level of skill and experience of the Volvo workforce and he is certainly right about that.

I wonder if the Premier is aware that this world class workforce is being offered a severance package far below what Volvo workers in Sweden were offered, below those in Europe, below those in other parts of North America. Does the Premier believe that the workers are being well treated when Volvo offers Halifax workers one of the worst severance packages Volvo offered anywhere else in the world?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I have heard, as the honourable member said, that the severance package offered to the workers in Halifax are not comparable to severance packages offered by Volvo in other parts of the world. This does cause me a great deal of concern and we are presently looking into this and, hopefully, we will have some response before too long.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Volvo workers are fighting to receive some very fundamental benefits: fair severance pay; health care benefits; and pension coverage. The Premier has committed to ensure that the workers there will be very well looked after. I want to ask him today, what concrete steps will the Premier take today to ensure that the workers at Volvo get a fair severance package?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I think it is only fair that I turn this question over to the honourable Minister of Labour.

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I have spoken with senior staff in the department today and put them on the alert. I have given an indication to both parties that if they wish the services of the Department of Labour that we are only too prepared to meet with either party, in particular the labour force. To date, neither party has contacted our office, so we have to take it on notice.

[Page 2391]

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

ECON. DEV. & TOURISM - VOLVO CLOSURE: PRESIDENT - CONTACT

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, a question for the Premier. I, along with several colleagues who sit in this House of Assembly, were out the day that they had the rally at Volvo. Do you know what I heard? The message I heard is that we really don't want severance, we want jobs. That certainly caught my attention. We certainly were caught asleep at the switch, for whatever reason. This really sneaked up on us.

My question to the Premier, and the Premier has expressed, I believe, some disappointment at the way Volvo has conducted itself to this point. Have you taken it upon yourself to directly contact the president of Volvo in Sweden?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, that is something that we are contemplating doing. I have not done that, as yet. We are waiting for further analysis and we should have that very shortly on exactly the position that Volvo is taking with respect to the workers in Nova Scotia and that is certainly an option.

DR. HAMM: I would urge the Premier not to wait too long. It is always better, I think, to be ahead of the situation than behind, to act rather than to react.

I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development. The Minister of Economic Development recently, I believe, was off on an economic development junket to Cuba and I would have that there will be some real benefits from that. My question is, since the minister saw fit that there was business opportunity in Cuba, why was it that no one representing the Department of Economic Development and no one representing the Government of Nova Scotia accompanied the Volvo workers when they went to Sweden to try to encourage Volvo to continue operations here?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable member for the question. Our department was in contact with the Canadian Auto Workers who were arranging the trip to Sweden to talk to Volvo officials. We encouraged them that if they wished we would send representatives from our department. As far as I know, they didn't take us up on the offer. But we certainly are concerned about this particular problem at Volvo but to quote the Canadian Auto Workers rep that I talked to, Mr. Speaker, he said, "It's no use anyway. Volvo is not going to change their minds and we know that.".

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, by way of final supplementary. The Minister of Economic Development is aware that there is a task force working to try to find alternative employment for the Volvo plant, with the good workforce and workers who want to go back to work. Can the minister report what success the task force has had up until now in finding an alternative use for the Volvo plant?

[Page 2392]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the deputy minister of my department is a member of that task force and has assigned some staff to this particular problem. I can only tell the honourable member today that the problem is still there. They haven't found anybody to go into that plant and certainly, their efforts are continuing to do so.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

NAT. RES. - NAT. GAS: REGULATIONS - RELEASE DATE

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you to the Premier. The Premier will be aware, in fact, I think he is speaking there tonight, of the UNSM meeting in Yarmouth. Many municipalities across the province will be asking him in Yarmouth, undoubtedly, what his government is doing to ensure access of natural gas to all Nova Scotians. The Premier has said he would release the natural gas regulations soon. Shortly is not far away, he said, about two weeks ago.

My question, (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The Leader of the Opposition has the floor.

MR. CHISHOLM: My question to the Premier, Mr. Speaker, is, will he table the regulations while the UNSM is meeting this week, will he table them while this Legislature is sitting so the government can be held accountable?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his question, it is a very important one and the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities has an interest in this. We will not be able to table the regulations while they are meeting in Yarmouth but we will be able to table the regulations while this House is sitting.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the Premier has made an additional commitment to the municipalities in this province that he will see that the $50,000 fee to participate in the URB hearings, which is a major barrier to many municipalities, especially small rural ones, will, in fact, be waived. My office called the Utility and Review Board today and they told us the fee is still in force. They have received no indication from this government that they want the fee waived. I want to ask the Premier, Mr. Speaker, will he direct the URB this afternoon when Question Period is over and tell them to waive this prohibitive fee to municipalities?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the undertaking that I gave to the municipalities is that no municipality would be prohibited from appearing and testifying at the Utility and Review Board because of lack of funding. That is still in effect. The hearings have not begun as yet, so there is no need for me to talk to the URB this afternoon.

[Page 2393]

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, municipalities are not comforted by the Premier's words, especially seeing how it has been weeks now since he has been uttering the same assurances. The URB is still under regulation to charge the $50,000 fee to municipalities. They want to participate in this process in order to ensure that natural gas gets to their constituencies. I want to ask the Premier, to not give any more assurances, direct the URB today, please, on behalf of municipalities, to waive that $50,000 fee.

[4:15 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will continue to give assurances because I believe in this very strongly. I believe municipalities have the right to appear before the URB on this very important question.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

NAT. RES. - NAT. GAS: ACCESS (N.S.) - DEADLINE

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to return to the Premier and it is with respect to the access of natural gas for all Nova Scotians. We are very interested in seeing the regulations tabled in this House because the Premier has released his principles surrounding the distribution of natural gas and there are many questions that Nova Scotians are asking about that. The Premier has said that no matter where they live, all Nova Scotians will have access to natural gas. I want to ask the Premier, what is the deadline that he has set for all Nova Scotians to have access to natural gas?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the undertaking was that all communities in Nova Scotia of any comparable size, whatsoever, will have access to natural gas and that includes communities between Yarmouth and Sydney. The time will be made known because the regulations will require that anyone who is going to be interested in distributing natural gas has to be able to give an assurance as to when that natural gas will be available to all parts of Nova Scotia.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, another concern by Nova Scotians is the whole cost of distribution and that that cost will not be borne solely by individual Nova Scotians. They want the regulations to include some assurances that all who enjoy the benefits of natural gas will share in the cost of distribution. Clearly, that is only fair. I want to ask the Premier, how is he going to ensure that any industry that benefits from direct access to the Halifax and Point Tupper laterals pay their fair share of the cost of distribution?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I feel confident that the honourable Leader of the Opposition will have that information when we table the regulations, which won't be too far away.

[Page 2394]

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians have been looking now for two years for some indication from this government about how they are going to ensure that Nova Scotia actually benefits from this deal instead of the lip-service that they continually get from the Liberal representatives. The whole question about the deadline of access throughout the province is extremely crucial to municipalities and to individual Nova Scotians. I want to ask the Premier to tell us here in the House today what deadline he has set. He is the one giving municipalities the assurances and Nova Scotians all across the province the assurances. What deadline has he set - one year, two years, five years, 20 years - that all Nova Scotians will receive direct access to natural gas?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the honourable Leader of the Opposition says people have been waiting for two years on information about distribution. Well, I want to say to the Leader of the Opposition, it has only been 10 months since we signed the memorandum of understanding with the partners in the Sable Offshore Energy Project. (Interruptions) I want to say to all the members of the House and all Nova Scotians, we only have to look at the benefits that have come to Nova Scotia in those short 10 months to see the value of this project for this province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg.

ECON. DEV.& TOURISM: SHIPYARDS SMALL - ASSIST

MR. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. Mr. Minister, your department has given loan guarantees to the Irving companies to buy ships from each other. What is your department going to do to assist the small shipyards located in communities like Lunenburg and Meteghan and North Sydney, to assist them to compete for the same kind of work as the Irving interest can compete for?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, as I stated here in the House yesterday, we treat all applications for assistance on an individual basis as they come forward to my department. If the honourable gentleman opposite knows some shipyards that want to do business with us, tell them to come and see me.

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, the minister is being a bit disingenuous. He is aware of shipyards in Lunenburg, for example, who have proposals for ship guarantees and the minister's department has still not given them a firm answer. So my question to the minister, will your department create a program such as the one that has been alleged to have been created for the Irving interests, to assist small shipyards in Nova Scotia to compete for work? Will he commit $70 million of loan guarantees to assist small shipyards the same way as he can assist large shipyards?

[Page 2395]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, as I stated before, we treat every application for assistance on an individual basis as they approach my department. The honourable member is obviously acting as a lobbyist for all of the shipyards in Nova Scotia and I can only tell him to bring them into my office and I will talk to them.

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, the minister is right, I am lobbying for small shipyards all over Nova Scotia because those shipyards have been hurting from years of government neglect. These companies need assistance to be competitive in the offshore oil industry. Will the Minister of Economic Development tell the House today what he is going to do constructively in forming a program that will assist these very important Nova Scotia owned companies?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, we do have a program and we have been assisting small companies in Nova Scotia for many years, including some of the areas that the honourable gentleman talks about, including some of the locations that he talked about. We will continue to do that on an as requested basis and if a deal makes sense, our department will do it. I can tell you that we have had some very good success stories in the small shipyards in this province.

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

NAT. RES. - SABLE GAS: PIPELINE (C.B.) - SIZE

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. When I take a look at how this government is mishandling the negotiations dealing with natural gas, I am sadly reminded about what has happened with our gypsum for many years. It has largely been shipped out of this province for the benefit of those living elsewhere. Cape Breton stands to lose much when gas comes ashore but gain very little when the lateral is built to Point Tupper because of the inadequacy of the size of that lateral. My question to the Premier is quite simply this. What is the Premier prepared to do to guarantee that the lateral to Cape Breton is properly sized to ensure that Cape Bretoners are going to have access to the amount of natural gas that they and their industries require?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased that the honourable member asked that question because the province is undertaking a study right now to determine what the usage and the uptake on natural gas is expected to be in Nova Scotia so that we can be sure that we are supporting the proper sized laterals in this province. We want to make sure there is sufficient capacity in the pipeline for the natural gas but we do not want too much excess capacity because that goes to the charge that the homeowners are going to have to pay for natural gas and it is an unnecessary cost. So we have to be very careful on how we support this.

[Page 2396]

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, 10 months after the government signed an agreement to build an eight inch lateral, they are finally now hiring a consultant to figure out how much gas Cape Breton and Nova Scotians will need. Hello, where is the timing? Maritimes & Northeast are saying that the lateral will cost $20 million. The reality is it will cost between $5 million and $6 million. However, once that trench which carries the liquids line is closed, the cost will become prohibitive.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. HOLM: So my question to the Premier is simply this. Will the Premier commit that his government will install a lateral across the Strait that is at least 16 inches to 20 inches in diameter so that the proper amount can be carried, Mr. Speaker, and in that way Cape Bretoners will be assured that the volume of gas will, in fact, be there?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, if we install a lateral of 16 inches to 20 inches, we might as well continue it all the way across to Europe. The natural gas line to New England is only going to be 36 inches. I mean there is no need to put in excess capacity; that is not going to help anybody. We have to determine the proper size and go with it, so we don't put additional costs on the backs of the users of natural gas.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, it shows the Premier's priority is to get our gas to New England, not to Nova Scotians. That lateral, the way that it is going to be built, is going to come out six kilometres past the Goldboro plant and, therefore, those users are going to be subject to the 60 cent toll, whereas a 5 cent to 6 cent toll would actually be enough to pay for the cost of that lateral if the gas is taken out of the back-end of the plant before it goes into the Maritime & Northeast pipe.

MR. SPEAKER: Question.

MR. HOLM: So my question to the Premier. Is he prepared to insist, to guarantee that the lateral to Cape Breton will come out from the back-end of the plant, so that they will not be forced to pay the loan-shark-like toll rates that they are going to be charged for the gas going to Cape Breton?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the people of Nova Scotia, the people of Cape Breton can be assured that there will be a natural gas pipeline to Cape Breton. That has been an undertaking given by Maritimes & Northeast and it will be built at the same time as the natural gas liquids line.

[Page 2397]

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

ECON. DEV. & TOURISM: SHAW & SHAW GROUP -

LOAN REPAYMENT

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question to the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. Over a year ago, the province gave The Shaw & Shaw Group $1 million to help them with site preparation and to establish a pipe-coating plant in Sheet Harbour. The minister indicated by way of an August 19, 1997, missive to the Progressive Conservatives that the recovery of this $1 million would be negotiated and he would disclose the details. Will the minister disclose how much of the taxpayers' $1 million has been repaid, has been received from The Shaw & Shaw Group by way of direct payment as opposed to impossible-to-quantify benefits?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, that contract was a very important contract for the offshore. It has provided much-needed employment in the Sheet Harbour area and it is a project that we certainly were very anxious to get under way. As far as any return on that investment at the present time, I think the return is that we have people working down there and we are preparing materials for the offshore.

MR. TAYLOR: So, Mr. Speaker, I guess I can take from that that, in fact, zero is the answer. Now, the minister - and I did take his advice the other day, I tried to call the minister but I did not have the area code for Cuba - in concert with Senator Willie Moore and a bunch of other good Liberals gave the big company, the big corporation, Ceres Corp., a sweetheart deal and, in fact, gave them the Port of Sheet Harbour, a taxpayers' asset.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. TAYLOR: The question. In view of the fact that his department has an $18.5 million deficit, will the minister disclose to Nova Scotians how much money, by way of direct payment, Ceres Corp. is paying the Province of Nova Scotia as opposed to impossible-to-quantify benefits?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: First of all, Mr. Speaker, I want to say again that there are more people working in Sheet Harbour today than there were in very many years, and I can tell you that compliments of this particular proposal that was done by this government. (Applause) But that is a typical question of the would-be member of the Reform Party who, I expect, will probably be making some kind of a decision in that regard in the near future. I simply disregard your question as one that is basically frivolous.

[Page 2398]

[4:30 p.m.]

MR. TAYLOR: It certainly isn't frivolous to Nova Scotians, and it probably isn't frivolous to any Party in Ottawa. The the Minister of Economic Development would know, that the fractionation plant down in Point Tupper, the construction of that fractionation plant has been halted. Will the minister tell the House what leadership role he is taking to get that $50 million economic development project back on track?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, again, let me tell the honourable member that we are getting $100,000 a year in rent at Sheet Harbour from the particular corporation, and that that port is the busiest it has been in years. Let me say again to you, Mr. Speaker, this member obviously has a problem with Ceres Corp., he has been bringing this up for a year. I just wish the member would tell this House what his particular problem is with Ceres Corp. so we can get down to the nitty-gritty here and find out who is lobbying him to bring this up all the time in this House.

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

NAT. RES. - NAT. GAS: VOLUME - SUFFICIENCY

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, through you, I would like to go back to the Premier again. In a letter addressed to me from the Premier on October 13th of this year, the Premier assured us that there was going to be enough natural gas for all Nova Scotians, because he said that the Sable producers were going to be producing or guaranteeing 10,000 MM Btu a day, and that our own share, which would amount to about 45,000, meaning 55,000 in total was going to ensure that our needs were going to be met.

My question to the Premier is simply this, given the fact that Nova Scotia Power themselves are going to be taking 62,000, given Stora and a few other industrial users, could the Premier explain how 55,000 MM Btu a day is going to be enough to meet the needs and the desires of Nova Scotians from Sydney to Yarmouth for natural gas?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, for one thing, that is not going to be the amount needed when natural gas comes ashore in November 1999, that there will be limited access initially and then gradually, in a short time-frame it will be available to all of the province. We can assure Nova Scotians the gas is available because we have an 8.4 per cent share of the production, because we have retained Nova Scotian Resources.

MR. HOLM: I wish the Premier would listen to himself. If you add our share in and you add it on to the 10,000 that is guaranteed by the producers, we don't even come close to having enough to meeting the demands of Nova Scotia Power alone. In the same letter, and the Premier confirmed it again today, the directorate that he leads, 10 months after they signed their agreement for an eight inch lateral to Cape Breton and an eight inch line to

[Page 2399]

Halifax, that they are going to be studying our needs for now and 10 years from now. My question to the Premier is simply this, why didn't the Premier follow good business practices and determine the needs before you gave away the shop? (Applause)

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the contract signed with Nova Scotia Power was signed by Shell, not by Nova Scotia Resources. Nova Scotia Resources has not signed any contracts to give anybody any part of our percentage of the natural gas. We want to be absolutely sure that Nova Scotians are looked after first. (Applause)

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the Premier this, given the fact that his signature is on the Memorandum of Understanding signed in December, saying that his Liberal Government will support your partners, your friends, Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline's application for a lateral that is only eight inches in diameter going to Point Tupper and only eight inches coming here, even though they are going to build 16 inch ones in New Brunswick, and build free ones in Maine to connect people there.

MR. SPEAKER; Question, please.

MR. HOLM: My question to the Premier is simply this, given what you have already done, what are you now prepared to do in a concrete way to guarantee that the laterals are properly sized so that Nova Scotians in my community, in your community can get access to gas? (Applause)

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am absolutely convinced that the laterals, even as presently constituted, will supply enough natural gas to the Province of Nova Scotia.

The question is what are the future needs going to be. That is what we are trying to determine right now and we will have that information very shortly and I will be glad to share it with the honourable member.

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

ECON. DEV. & TOURISM - JOB CREATION: FUNDING (COS.) - INFO.

MR. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, my question is directed to the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. On August 19, 1998, I forwarded a letter to his office, a letter that was requesting job creation information on 16 separate companies, companies that had all received funding support, funding support that was tied to specific job creation targets. What does your department do when a company fails to reach loan conditions?

[Page 2400]

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, our department has a policy with various companies who do not meet loan conditions and that policy is simply to do the due diligence necessary to try to find out why they are not meeting their commitments and then take the appropriate action if they are not.

MR. BALSER: My second question, Mr. Speaker, is, again, to the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. I wonder about your reluctance to respond to my letter. I wonder if it is related in any way to the announcements that were made by your department concerning companies that had obtained funding through your department and which had not managed to reach the targets that they had set. For example, OSP Consulting was given $1.8 million in forgivable loans, provided 200 permanent jobs were created. As of today, OSP has only 97 on its workforce.

My question, Mr. Speaker, do companies actually go out and create temporary employment opportunities just so they can satisfy loan conditions?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: There were a number of questions there, Mr. Speaker. I think the question is what are we doing with the companies that create temporary jobs. The member has asked, through the proper procedure in my department, for information on companies that he is interested in and there is a procedure for him to receive that information. He was written back and given that procedure.

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I might indicate then that the letter must be like the proverbial cheque, somewhere in the mail. Because, as of August 19th, I have received no response to that particular question. (Interruption) We are into October now.

My last question, Mr. Speaker, would be, perhaps if that letter was forthcoming, the information could be made available to the public and they could then judge whether or not the targets being set are being reached. My question would be, when can I expect a written response?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, as I outlined the other day, this department has over $400 million in loans and assistance in the Province of Nova Scotia to over 900 business concerns since 1993. We have a success rate in those operations of 97 per cent. The ones that are selectively brought to this Legislature are problematic for us. We realize that, but this department is creating jobs in Nova Scotia in a meaningful way. (Applause)

[Page 2401]

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

NAT. RES.: ENERGY (C.B.) - FAILURE

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to go back again to the Premier. It is very clear that the Premier and his entire Liberal Government have let Cape Breton down very badly. He will be familiar with the Doig Report, which is an independent energy oil and gas industry publication, which this month said, in one short quote, "Why does the Government of Nova Scotia treat people living by the Strait of Canso and on Cape Breton so badly, at least in energy matters.". If the Premier hasn't seen the Doig Report, I will provide him with a copy.

My question to the Premier is, in the face of all of the mounting evidence and the ridicule that is being brought upon this government and the people because of the kind of deals that are being negotiated, will you at first admit that you have failed Cape Breton, so that we can start to get on with the next process of correcting the errors that you have made?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I don't know what the honourable member is talking about. I am not even sure he knows what he is talking about. But I can assure you, Cape Breton has not been forgotten and Cape Breton is going to benefit from the oil and gas.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, if I don't know what I am talking about I am in good company when I am talking to the Premier because I think we are on the same wavelength then according to the Premier.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier should also be aware of study of entitled, Sable Offshore Energy Project Royalty Structure Economic Analysis. It was done in 1998 in April because a copy, he knows or should know, was given to his staff. In it, it says, and one short quote dealing with royalties to the province, all evidence points to the fact that this royalty structure is a bad deal for Nova Scotia. He wonders if the Government of Nova Scotia is to blame for being perhaps ignorant of what a fair royalty structure would consistent of.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. HOLM: So my question to the Premier, has the Premier looked at any kind of independent economic analysis other than those through his own rosy glasses prepared by his own department and is he now prepared to admit that his so-called better deal is, in fact, a failure?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I think all Nova Scotians would agree with me when I say that we have an excellent deal for Nova Scotia. We have a first class royalty regime in place and this province is poised to benefit tremendously from offshore oil and gas.

[Page 2402]

MR. HOLM: The Sable Offshore Energy Corporation's quarterly report verifies, Mr. Speaker, that Mobil has not lived up to its commitments to Nova Scotia in terms of their Nova Scotia component. My question to the Premier, given the fact that Mobil and their partners is now in the process of breaking their commitment to us, will you use that as leverage to reopen the negotiations to ensure that Nova Scotians finally start to get our fair share of the benefits from our gas?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, there is no indication at all that Nova Scotians are not getting a fair share. We have every statistic showing us that Mobil is keeping their commitments and, in fact, are going to be making statements which I think will show that they are going above and beyond what they promised they would do for Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.

ECON. DEV. & TOURISM - BLADES FAMILY (SHEL. CO.):

LOAN - REASONS

MR. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. Mr. Minister, your department recently gave a $4 million partially forgivable/partially interest free loan to the Blades family of Shelburne County. Can you please inform the House today as to what exactly this loan was for?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it was for the continued operation of the fish packers. It was to protect the jobs in Shelburne County.

MR. LEBLANC: So you are saying that this was for ongoing operational costs. We requested from your department information and have been denied and are going through a process of applying for freedom of information. Can you inform the House as to whether or not the taxpayers are secured in this loan?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Yes, Mr. Speaker, the taxpayers are secured by the fixed assets of the plant.

MR. LEBLANC: So in regard to this win-win loan to this well-connected Liberal family, (Interruptions) can you indicate to the House whether or not an assessment was done . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. LEBLANC: . . . of the assets and whether or not that assessment will be tabled in the House as to whether or not those values will cover the loan?

[Page 2403]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: We are confident with the terms of the loan and I am not going to negotiate them any further on the floor of this House. However, I will say, Mr. Speaker, to you that the honourable gentleman opposite is concerned about the fish plant, this particular loan. I have no idea who he is talking about, I have never met the gentleman in my life. But I can tell you this, that we assist fish plants all throughout Nova Scotia, from time to time, including the one that gentleman was associated with some years ago.

[4:45 p.m.]

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

NAT. RES. - NAT. GAS: ROYALTIES - FLAT RATE

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to go back again to the Premier. Most of the western provinces, the Gulf of Mexico and so on . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. HOLM: . . . are knowledgeable of the oil and gas industry. They have a flat, well-head royalty rate of approximately 30 per cent, from which the companies may deduct, dollar for dollar, what they spend on wages paid to local workers and on goods that are manufactured and purchased from within that province.

My question to the Premier is simply this, why is it that this government rejected a regime that would have supported the development of jobs and business opportunities in this province? Why did you reject such a royalty?

THE PREMIER: I don't know what deal he is talking about, but if he wants to give me a copy of that arrangement that exists in the Gulf of Mexico, I would certainly be prepared to look at it and get back to him about the difference between Nova Scotia and the Gulf of Mexico.

MR. HOLM: He doesn't know a lot of things, Mr. Speaker. I would be happy to, as the time permits, do the research for the Premier, but he didn't answer the question. My second question is this. Given the fact that when we finally do start to get our meagre royalty payments, we are going to lose 70 per cent of those in the way of lost federal transfer payments, in other words, we are going to be getting 30 cents dollars, why did he opt for a system that is going to be accepting 30 cents dollars rather than one that would have produced 100-per-cent dollars in terms of jobs and business opportunities for Nova Scotians?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I just want to remind the honourable member - and he will probably will remember - that the split between the federal and provincial governments on royalties was signed in 1986, not by this government.

[Page 2404]

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, the option that I suggested would have gotten around that agreement, but he opted for it.

My final question to the Premier. Given the fact that natural gas development, being done properly, is crucially important for this province, for our children and all of our futures, and given the fact that the Premier has dropped the ball so often that we need a full-time minister and a full-time deputy minister, will the Premier agree to pass over responsibilities for the Petroleum Directorate to someone else so that we can have a full-time minister in charge of this crucial portfolio?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member likes to have people think that there is not going to be investment in Nova Scotia. I want to assure the honourable member that is not true. Whether he really believes what he is saying or not is open to question, but I would say to him that Mobil has stated that they are going to be spending $4 billion themselves in the next couple of years and that by the end of 10 years, in 10 years time, Mobil will be spending, in Atlantic Canada, $30 billion on offshore oil and gas.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid on a new question.

NAT. RES. - NAT. GAS: OFFSHORE RIGHTS - RULE CHANGE

MR. JOHN HOLM: A new question, Mr. Speaker, back to the Premier. Despite the fact that the government and the Premier has let us down badly on many occasions, there are still some things that can be done. For example, when companies bid for the mineral rights on our offshore, we receive nothing in the way of a direct payment to the Province of Nova Scotia. In other jurisdictions, if they want mineral rights to explore, they pay cash, as well as committing to do work on that area.

My question to the Premier. Will he instruct his members, who are sitting on the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, to change the rules so that those companies that wish to bid for our gas on our offshore, pay some money directly into the coffers of the Province of Nova Scotia for that right?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I know it was important that the honourable member go to western Canada but I think he should come back and be able to tell us that he could at least differentiate between oil and gas agreements and potash agreements.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I will not even comment about his breakfasts and so on. My question to the Premier is simply this, when companies are drilling on our offshore once they have been given this deal by the government, they are not even required to have completed a single well. Yes, they have to start one but they do not even have to have completed their exploration during that five year period of the initial licence that is given to them. Will the Premier instruct his officials to change the rules so that they must have completed at least one

[Page 2405]

initial test-well before you give them an extension that would last up to nine years, tying up that possible reserve?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I cannot believe this. I cannot believe that question, I really cannot. I have heard some stupid things but I have never heard anything that stupid in all of my life. Who, in the name of Heavens, is going to spend millions of dollars to partially drill a well? Who is going to put a drilling rig out in the ocean to partially drill a well and move away before they know if it is finished or not, if there is oil or gas? I cannot believe this.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I give the Premier an A for his theatrics and all Nova Scotians look forward to the day when we can give him an A-plus for administration and leadership. My final supplementary then is this, will the Premier instruct his members on the board to tell those companies that have these significant discovery licences, which they can hold in perpetuity, that they either have to develop them or they will lose them so that we can put them back out to sale for money for Nova Scotians to somebody who will develop them?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I just want to read from the recent Standard and Poor's publication which says, "Nova Scotia's economy performed reasonably well last year, though lagged the strong growth nationally. Near and medium-term prospects have improved, with 1998 real GDP growth expected to exceed 3 per cent and investment spending growth to lead the nation. The main driving force is the Sable Island natural gas mega project, which is getting underway this year.".

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.

ECON. DEV. & TOURISM - CANSO FISH. OPS.:

ASSISTANCE - CONSIDER

MR. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. I mentioned earlier that the Province of Nova Scotia had given a sizeable loan to a family in Shelburne County to assist a fish plant in that area. Today there was a delegation here from the Canso area which is trying to develop a community-based fishery. Canso, as we all know, is basically the birthplace of fishing as we know it in the Province of Nova Scotia. They are trying to develop sufficient quota and are going to most certainly be requesting financial assistance from the province to develop sufficient quota to have two viable fishing operations operate from that area. I ask the minister whether or not he would be in a position to offer them some assurances that the Province of Nova Scotia will at least look at their proposal, in-depth, and offer them whatever assistance that they feel would be required to make this a viable operation and protect the interests of Canso?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, if the honourable member does not know, I will remind him that we have already given this company some initial assistance and we are prepared to keep working with them.

[Page 2406]

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his answer. I was aware that they have given some funds to the group and it will require more. I will turn my attention to the Minister of Fisheries. Part of this whole solution will be the obtaining of sufficient quotas to make this a viable operation. On over 50 occasions they have requested meetings with the Minister of Fisheries in Ottawa, the Honourable David Anderson, and have yet been unable to achieve a meeting in the past two to three months. I ask the minister today whether he could use his office and his position as Minister of Fisheries of this Province of Nova Scotia to obtain for these people from Canso, a meeting with the Minister of Fisheries? I think they deserve no less.

HON. KEITH COLWELL: Thank you to the honourable member for his important question. The question of Canso is very critical to the Nova Scotia industry and the fishing industry in general. I want to remind all the members here in the Legislature, and I think this is a very important point, that this province has no representation in Ottawa today, federally, none; no elected representation in the government caucus. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. COLWELL: Unfortunately that is making it very difficult for us to negotiate deals with the federal government. However, saying that, we have been working very closely with the Canso trawlermen to resolve the problem. We have made significant progress in that regard and will continue to do that with everything we can do provincially. We just the other day arranged a meeting with senior officials at DFO in Halifax to discuss your situation further. We have dealt with this, both myself and the Premier have dealt with this, with Mr. Anderson and the federal government, and will continue to do so.

MR. LEBLANC: My final supplementary will be to the Premier. I take offence to the comment that was just given by the Minister of Fisheries. That meant that if you were not an elected member of this House (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. LEBLANC: If you were not on the government side of either this House or the House of Commons, that means that you have no voice. I don't accept that, Mr. Speaker, and the people of Canso deserve to have a voice in Ottawa whether or not they have a member on the government side. I ask the Premier today, will you be that government voice in Ottawa and will you ensure that they get a meeting? I think that they deserve no less and Canso deserves to survive just as much as the communities in my constituency. I ask the Premier, will you intervene and will you ensure that these people at least get a meeting? That is not too much to ask.

[Page 2407]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can understand the honourable member's concern. We are all concerned about the future of Canso and the Seafreez Fish Plant and we are concerned about the trawlermen as well. Seafreez needs a quota, probably shrimp would be good. The fishermen need a quota. The trawlermen need work. I have spoken to the Minister of Fisheries as has our Minister of Fisheries spoken with Minister Anderson. He was going to speak to Seafreez about this question. He has not reported to me yet but I have asked him to meet with the people in Canso. Hopefully he will do that.

As the honourable member will know, Mr. Speaker, I cannot guarantee that he will meet with the people of Canso, but I have asked him to do so.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

COMMUN. SERV. - NURSING HOME WORKERS:

NEGOTIATIONS - STATUS

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. About 430 workers at Northwood Manor, this province's largest nursing home, reached a tentative deal this morning, narrowly averting a strike. (Applause) This still leaves thousands of workers at homes across (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: This still leaves thousands of workers in nursing homes across this province in uncertainty. For the Premier, is it this government's intention to reach a similar deal with other unionized workers at nursing homes across the province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, these concerns and negotiations with nursing homes and the nursing home workers are presently going on. We have every reason to believe the negotiations are going ahead constructively, and we hope that there will be arrangements suitable to these workers, as we have an arrangement suitable to the workers in Northwood Manor. (Applause)

[5:00 p.m.]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you, Mr. Premier. Approximately 50 per cent of nursing home workers are non-unionized however, and they also work long difficult hours for pathetically low wages. If we want to find the working poor in this province, all we need do is go to a nursing home. All long-term care workers deserve wage parity. My question for the Premier, is his government prepared to make a similar deal possible for non-unionized nursing home workers?

[Page 2408]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to turn this question over to the honourable Minister of Community Services.

HON. FRANCENE COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, and I thank the honourable member for her question. Certainly, our goal across the sector is equity in the professions that we can make the equity comparisons on. There are some differences between the Department of Health, I can't speak for the Minister of Health, I can only speak for the Department of Community Services. But certainly we recognize that people should be paid the same for doing the same jobs. When you get into the question of, are the standards of training different and are the jobs different, the wage levels may be different, but certainly we have been supporting equity in the professions that we can compare.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, thank you to the Minister of Community Services. My final question is again for the Premier. During the election campaign, the Premier told the Yarmouth Vanguard that money for all health care workers' salaries would be forthcoming. I have here, to table, a copy of that article, committing this government to wage parity for all workers. Will the Premier uphold that commitment today, to be fair to all long-term care workers and end the uncertainty for non-unionized workers as well as unionized workers in this province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would be prepared to give that undertaking that the province will be fair. We have to be fair, that is our commitment. As the honourable member said, we have negotiated contracts for about 30,000 to 50,000 people in Nova Scotia to date - and this may not hold - but to date, we haven't lost one day with a strike or a walkout on these contract negotiations because we have strived to be fair. I think we have succeeded up to the present point. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland North.

ECON. DEV. & TOURISM - NEW PET (AMHERST): LOAN - STATUS

MR. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct a question this afternoon to the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. In early March, a new company opened doors in the Amherst area, which was welcome news. It meant jobs to the area, new opportunities for people. The name of that company was New Pet, and it was a plastic recycling company. It has come to my attention, from company officials, that they were promised a loan, they haven't received the cheque. My question to the minister is, how long before they can expect to have the cheque, sir?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, we are dealing with a number of companies who are experiencing difficulties in the Cumberland County area. We have assisted some most recently, and I have talked to the honourable member about those companies. This

[Page 2409]

particular company is also having a problem, and our department is currently looking at that particular company with a view to doing something about their problem.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Minister, that is welcome news. Before the election, the Liberal candidate in our area touted this as a great achievement and the work began. After the election, company officials contacted me and told me they had been turned down, that nobody was working on it, and that is why they are so concerned. When is the cheque coming, Mr. Minister?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, on the one hand Opposition members criticize the government for giving loans, and on the other hand, they are looking for the cheques without even doing any due diligence. They can't have it both ways. We are trying to assist businesses from Yarmouth to Glace Bay on an individual basis, and on a basis that as requirements are outlined to us from these particular businesses, and as they approach this department with good business plans, we respond.

MR. FAGE: Through you, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Minister, that is just not good enough. This company had partisan politics put their way. They were promised help. They were promised that they would receive a loan if they located in the Amherst area. They located in good faith in the Amherst area. It is not about economic development in the sense that you are assisting companies, you were the one, it was your department that initiated the guarantee if they showed up. These individuals are wondering when they are going to receive the cheque?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, that honourable member must be hard of hearing. I have said it at least twice now, that we assist each and every company in Nova Scotia on an individual basis when they approach our department. Again, and I have said this before, I am not going to discuss the financial arrangements with every business in Nova Scotia on the floor of this Legislature. We do it in a businesslike manner over in my office.

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

ECON. DEV. & TOURISM - VOLVO CLOSURE: PROTEST - USELESS

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is through you to the Premier. I hesitate to quote the Minister of Economic Development, given his track record, but I want to just remind him that he said with respect to Volvo, "Anything the Government of Nova Scotia could do at this point I think would be useless.". Now, that is the philosophy of the Minister of Economic Development. What I want to know, Mr. Premier, is do you agree that anything the government would do with respect to Volvo would be useless?

[Page 2410]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we are doing everything we can. We have told the workers and we are working with the Greater Halifax Partnership. We are looking at future utilization of that plant. We have until December 18th. That is not a lot of time but we are hoping to utilize that time. As the honourable member has said, these are well-trained workers. These workers have families. They need some security. They need to know where they are going. We realize that and, believe me, we take no pleasure in what is going on at Volvo and anything we can do we will do.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Premier is on record as saying and I quote, "We will ensure that the workers at the Halifax Volvo Plant will be well looked after.". I am not sure what he has done to date but I want to know if the Premier is going to continue to support a company which treats Nova Scotian workers like second-class citizens by renewing the leases on the Volvos for himself and the Minister of Labour?

THE PREMIER: Believe me, Mr. Speaker, we have looked into that. The car that I drive is a Volvo. There is one more year to go on the lease. If we turn the car back and we have to pay that one year anyway, then what kind of a signal is that doing for a company that is trying to manage a deficit projection? We have to. We cannot afford to forgo one year of a lease on a car regardless of what kind of car it is.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, when Volvo announced it was pulling out of Halifax, it is clear that this government was not prepared. Since the announcement they have done nothing about this situation for fear, I guess, of being useless, as the Minister of Economic Development says. What we are hearing out there today is where is the Minister of Economic Development? Where is the Premier? Where are they? That is what the workers want to know. I would like to ask this question, Mr. Speaker, why doesn't the Premier jump in his Volvo today and drive out there and see if he can help the workers or at least he could get on the phone and contact the workers in the plant right now? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable member that we are doing everything we possibly can. He has to remember, too, that there are a lot of Volvo dealers in Nova Scotia who are reputable business people who are in the business of selling Volvos. They have a business and they have every reason to expect that the government is going to support them as well. There has been overtures from others that we have to secure Volvo's shipment for the Port of Halifax, that new Volvos coming to North America come through the Port of Halifax. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

[Page 2411]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, Volvo has threatened to pull out before, told us they may pull out. This was not a surprise. They said that unless we would subsidize so much per vehicle, that they may not be able to stay. The fact is, when they decided to go, they didn't give us any notice.

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

ECON. DEV. & TOURISM - OXFORD FROZEN FOODS (CUMB. CO.):

LOAN - REASON

MR. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is to the Minister of Economic Development. Back in August of this year, his department approved a $5.1 million loan to Oxford Frozen Foods. In light of the province's current economic situation, why would his department approve that loan when the company had other loans available to them?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable member opposite for the question. I can tell you that that loan is a well-secured loan. It is not a problem for the Province of Nova Scotia. It was done to ensure that that particular business would grow in that particular area which desperately needs full-time jobs. That is why we did it.

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, again, to the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. Does that minister support his department spokesperson's statement that that particular loan was a loan of last resort because there were no other loan agencies available to it?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my views on the problems that businesses in rural Nova Scotia are facing are well known.

AN HON. MEMBER: You would think he would know.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: You would think he would know that, yes. He is from rural Nova Scotia. It is a problem for business people in rural Nova Scotia to obtain capital financing from some lending institutions from time to time. They come to the Province of Nova Scotia and we look at each one of them on their merits. This particular company employs 1,300 people and is a growing company in Nova Scotia and a company that Nova Scotia should be proud of in the export business.

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, again, I question the need for the Department of Economic Development and Tourism to shore up a company that has the wherewithal to access funds through private financial institutions. (Interruption)

[Page 2412]

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please. Is there a question?

MR. BALSER: Yes, there is. I am just waiting so they can hear me ask the question. (Interruption) The question is, in light of the minister's spoken concerns about the availability of financing for industries locating in rural Nova Scotia, what is his department's plan to ensure that companies that try to access funding have it available to them?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I think there were two questions there, but I will answer the first one. The first one was that he asked me why are we supporting companies with assets rather than supporting companies with no assets. I think that is what he asked me. This is a good deal for Nova Scotia. The same kind of deal that was done in that gentleman's constituency on more than three occasions in the past two months.

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

DEVCO: LAYOFFS - ACTION (PREMIER)

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is directed to the Premier. As the Premier is well aware, there was another visit by the layoff witch doctor in Cape Breton last week as he put his pox upon Devco. Our good friends over the other way know that the feds are doing absolutely nothing to secure ongoing work at the mines, while the privatized Nova Scotia Power continues to maintain offshore jobs by importing coal for production. It is clear there is no federal commitment to Devco. While this government and its federal friends sat there and watched the fisheries go to ruin and, surely, that is the way they are hoping the coal industry will go.

My question to the Premier, what are they going to do about this crisis and does he have the slightest idea?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, as I said in the emergency debate we had one week ago, I am concerned about Devco and the future of Devco, just from what I have seen. I relayed my concerns to the federal Minister of Natural Resources. We met with him in Ottawa. I spoke with him last week again to reiterate my concerns to get more information and follow-up and I want to know what the federal government's course of action is going to be. He said they are presently looking into the in-depth situation at Devco and that he would be getting back to me.

[5:15 p.m.]

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, we truly appreciate that this is a federal matter. But as the Premier is well aware, the province has people on the board of directors of Devco. What I am asking the Premier, will he now go and have them removed while they just sit there and

[Page 2413]

fiddle while Cape Breton coal does not burn? Will you have those people removed and have people on that board that will support the people of Cape Breton?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the role of a board of directors is to deal with presentations that come before it, they do not get involved in management. Most often they are not aware of the actual operational difficulties until those presentations are made to them at a board of directors' meeting. I do not think we can be concerned about the board of directors. What we have to do is try to look at the future of the coal industry in Cape Breton, make sure that there is one, anticipate where the problems can be and work with the federal government to make sure that there is a future for the coal industry in Cape Breton.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, again this board of directors in that industry has the heavy hand of Joe Shannon all over it who is Chairman of that board, who they allow to go unfettered. What I am asking very simply, Mr. Premier, will you support these miners in a more substantive way than this and help them to secure their industry which is on the brink?

MR. PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I acknowledge the honourable member when he says there are difficulties and we are working with the federal government to do everything we can and to make the federal government aware of the importance of this industry to Nova Scotia.

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

NSLC - TRURO STORE: CONTRACT - UNTENDERED

MR. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. In the Truro Daily News on Friday, October 16th, local businessman, Roger Ryan, reported that a new liquor store was going to be built in Truro and it was untendered. Why did this particular contract not go to tender?

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Your time is up.

MR. HUSKILSON: Oh, I am sorry.

MR. SPEAKER: Before we move into Opposition Members' Business I will recognize the honourable Minister of Agriculture on an introduction.

The honourable Minister of Agriculture.

HON. EDWARD LORRAINE: Mr. Speaker, I had a very pleasant meeting this morning with the Consul General of the United States, Ms. Elo-Kai Ojamaa, who is here discussing trade between the two countries. She saw fit and had time to meet with me and I

[Page 2414]

want to introduce her to the House. I will ask her to rise and have the members of the House give her a warm welcome. (Applause)

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, before I announce business I would first like to introduce in the west gallery, two guests. We have with us Councillor Bob Harvey from District 20 of the Halifax Regional Municipality and he is accompanied by his wife, Carolyn. I would ask them to rise and receive a warm welcome from all members. (Applause)

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

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 27.

Bill No. 27 - Provincial Finance Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, all members of this House will know that the members of the Official Opposition have expressed, fairly extensively, our discontent with the financial measures brought forward by this government. This bill addresses a technical aspect in fairly simple terms.

We are proposing amendments to the Provincial Finance Act in order the clarify what ought to be required when the government comes forward at the beginning of the year and gives us the annual estimates for that year, plus when the government, by December 31st in that year, gives us the results of that year's expenditures and revenues through the forum of the Public Accounts.

There are quite a number of improvements that are necessary and desirable with respect to this bill. Bill No. 27 does not include absolutely every one of the possible improvements, but it is the least we could do in good conscience at this time. The bill is very simple. It makes three required changes, and let me remind members of the House of the forms of what is required by the Provincial Finance Act. Annual estimates under Clause 1, Subsection 7A(2) of the Provincial Finance Act are required to be brought forward at budget time. Clause 2, Subsection 9(2) of the Provincial Finance Act requires that by December 31st of a fiscal year,

[Page 2415]

Public Accounts be laid in front of this House. They are different things but, essentially, all part of the apparatus of good government, to make the government's financial side understandable to members of this House and to hold us accountable to the public.

There is a difference between what it is that is now required in the bill, under Clause 1, Subsection 7A(2) and Clause 2, Subsection 9(2), which Bill No. 27 proposes to amend. The estimates, we are told, have to set out the proposed Supply votes and really very little else. The requirements under the Statute for Public Accounts are somewhat more extensive right now. They have to give us the state of the public debt; they have to give us details of the Consolidated Fund; they have to set out the revenues received in the fiscal year and, of course, the expenditures made; and they have to set out, as well, the supplementary appropriations or special warrants that have been required during the course of the year and authorized by Cabinet.

Bill No. 27 makes proposals for three changes to the Provincial Finance Act to improve the public accountability of the financial system in place here. The first is to require a statement of tax expenditures, as they are known, to be included in the estimates, when the estimates are tabled in the House in the spring, along with the budget. Now, what is a tax expenditure? A tax expenditure is a clear statement of the cost in terms of foregone revenue to the public purse of any particular tax measure that is introduced. For example, in the bill that we have in front of us right now, we see a suggestion with respect to farm taxation, and we see a suggestion made with respect to the Nova Scotia Home Ownership Program, but no price tag is attached to either of those. We don't know, just looking at them, how much it is going to cost the public purse in terms of foregone tax dollars. Although we may agree that these are good measures, it is important that we know and that the public be told exactly what the cost of any foregone tax measure is.

The federal government now publishes annual statements, setting out the details of tax expenditures, that is to say foregone tax revenues for all parts of any income tax changes that have been made, all special programs. We could have gone further in this. You will see that this legislation is essentially just prospective. It says that, for future measures, the cost should be set out. In fact, federally, they set out the costs of all existing tax measures and I could well imagine a time when we would probably want, if we had the appropriate reporting mechanism, to put that in place. Indeed, the federal Auditor General, in his latest report of April 1998, in Chapter 8, goes out of his way to praise the existence of a tax expenditure system and to insist that, in fact, it ought to be expanded and made more detailed.

All I am saying here is that we ought to move forward through the mechanism of Bill No. 27 and amend Clause 1, Subsection 7A(2) of our Provincial Finance Act to take one step towards requiring that tax expenditures be set out in the estimates each year. It is a step that is a model that we can take from the federal government and a number of other provinces have taken that step as well. That, Mr. Speaker, is the first change proposed to the Provincial Finance Act by Bill No. 27. There are two others.

[Page 2416]

The second is a provision with respect to contingent liabilities. I should say that both of these two are addressed at the format of the Public Accounts, as well as the estimates, although the first one applies only to the estimates.

The requirement as proposed in Bill No. 27 would be to say and require in the legislation that any contingent liabilities to which the province is exposed have to be specified in both the estimates and Public Accounts. Members will know that the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, in its published guidelines for governments as to how financial statements are to be set out, has made it clear that it is desirable that contingent liabilities be specified. This is, however, a guideline and there is nothing in legislation to require this to take place in Nova Scotia. The whole point about this part of Bill No. 27 is essentially to say that it should be put in legislation and specified. Of course, there is nothing to prevent the government from doing it and to a certain extent they do it now.

What we are saying is that it ought to be required in the legislation and that it ought to be as specific as possible because this has to do with our exposure to risk. The important thing, as we know, is that our government can find itself involved in some pretty dusty corners that might involve a lot of exposure to risk. I know that many members of this House in recent days have had occasion to put their fingers on particular examples of items of exposure to risk that were made manifest and not accounted for in the estimates of the government this year. We are worried about it. This second part of Bill No. 27 simply says let's take what the CICA, the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, says is good accounting practice and make it mandatory.

A third provision in Bill No. 27 says let's specify the debt in part of the expanded public sector, the municipalities, the schools and hospitals, and again make sure that this is required by Statute. To a certain extent this is now included in the financial statements, but again it should not rely on the goodwill or guidelines, it should be in the Statute. That is the third provision of Bill No. 27.

Mr. Speaker, I hope that all members can see their way clear to supporting the whole of Bill No. 27. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable the Minister of Labour.

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, the bill that has been introduced by the honourable member suggests certainly a number of changes to the Provincial Finance Act. The intent, apparently, is to add more information to both the estimates of the province and the Public Accounts of the Province of Nova Scotia. The reason, I suspect, for the proposed additions is not entirely clear but one can only assume that this information is intended to improve financial accountability.

[Page 2417]

I would like to remind the honourable member that the Minister of Finance and this government recognize that improvements can be made to our financial reporting. That is why on June 4th of this year the Minister of Finance tabled with his budget this document entitled, Financial Accountability: A Blueprint for Success. It sets forth a plan for the province to improve its financial accountability. Through the tabling of this document, the Minister of Finance announced plans to bring Nova Scotia into a position of leadership in financial and other forms of public accountability. Minister Downe, at that time, stated that full disclosure of financial decisions and implications is a fundamental part of democracy. Nova Scotia has made major improvements in this area over the past few years and we are now telling the public where we are going next.

He also said that in some cases these new accounting practices will represent significant change from our present policies. This means that we must move forward carefully and after proper consultation with key stakeholders, including the Office of the Auditor General. Financial Accountability: A Blueprint for Success, clearly articulates the vision that this government has for the financial accountability of the province. We want to be a leading jurisdiction in Canada and we want to do it on a carefully-thought-out, planned basis.

When this government took office in 1993, many would say that the Province of Nova Scotia was behind all the other provinces in terms of financial accountability framework. Some would suggest that out of the 10 provinces and the territories, we were last. Today most of these people would agree we are somewhere in the middle of the road, somewhere about halfway. It is a clear indication that we have made substantial gains in this area.

[5:30 p.m.]

Since 1993 the province has made great strides. We introduced four year multi-budgeting and business planning and printed them in Government By Design, of which all members are certainly aware. We introduced business planning for Crown Corporations and tabled these plans annually with the budget. We introduced legislation requiring the Auditor General to review estimates of the province prior to the budget being tabled. We improved communications to the public by releasing quarterly reports - the first time in the history of the province - Public Accounts and financial results on a regular and timely basis.

The full Public Accounts for the 1996-97 fiscal year were published in December 1997, and the 1997-98 financial report Hitting the Targets was released on July 31, 1998. This was the earliest that these documents have ever been released. I believe the honourable member would certainly concur. We reported a number of liabilities of the province that had previously gone unreported in our financial statements. These included our liability for self-insurance under workers' compensation, the pension plan liabilities, student loan risk premiums, vacation pay accruals, as well as others.

[Page 2418]

We disclosed our lease commitments for the next five years in our financial statements for the first time ever in the history of the province. We improved our financial statement disclosure for the various pension plans in the province. We disclosed our exposure in other areas such as environmental liabilities, the Y2K, in our financial statements. We continued to improve the financial management capacity of the province through the development and enhancement of a central financial management system, particularly with respect to procurement, inventory management, budgeting, accounts receivable, payable, and cash management.

Mr. Speaker, financial direction has been provided for the development of the new corporate financial management system which will fundamentally redefine how government does business in such areas as financial management, procurement, inventory, fleet management and budgeting, thereby providing opportunities for improving efficiencies and effectiveness. As I have mentioned previously, we developed a plan to significantly improve financial accountability by government. A financial accountability document, A Blueprint for Success, was tabled in the Legislature as part of the 1998-99 budget process. This document lays out a rationale, a process and proposed timetable for fundamental changes in the way in which government accounts for its results and subsequent reporting. Our goal is to work towards continued accountability.

Communication of fiscal and economic planning and accountability information creates awareness throughout government and, indeed, the province as a whole. This government takes this role very seriously and provides information through the budgetary process, the Budget Speech, annual reports, Government By Design, Hitting the Targets document, quarterly updates, reports for rating various agencies, the Provincial Prospective, the Public Accounts and the Supplement to the Public Accounts. This government's actions have shown clearly that we believe in improved financial accountability to the taxpayers of this province and have taken significant steps to ensure enormous improvements.

Some of these improvements, I might add, have received international recognition. Financial Accountability: A Blueprint for Success is the next step in building on our improvements in financial accountability. As we move forward, Mr. Speaker, we will also take the time to reflect on the accounting standards as set out for the public sector by the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, including the public sector accounting and auditing board.

Mr. Speaker, we will also consider the reporting and accounting practices of other provinces, reflecting on our similarities and differences to ensure that accounting and reporting practices for the Province of Nova Scotia are comparable and consistent with the rest of Canada.

[Page 2419]

Now, if I may Mr. Speaker, I would like to address the specific suggestions as outlined by the honourable member in his bill. "Clause 1 requires the annual estimates of the Government of the Province to include (a) a statement of revenue foregone by the Province by reason of tax exemptions or exceptions;". Well, this is certainly an interesting proposal. The federal government has a vast array of tax credits and exemptions. The use of these credits is normally designed to create some sense of social justice and to encourage some form of economic activity. I am sure the honourable member would agree.

When the credit is designed to encourage economic activity, there is normally an immediate cost, but also a longer term gain. That makes it difficult to establish the true cost. Is the public well served by only knowing the immediate cost, without also seeing the long-term benefits? Perhaps not. The issue is more complicated than the honourable member makes out. In any event, Nova Scotia does not have anywhere as many exemptions and credits; most of the ones we do have are directed at helping people on low income.

There are a number that are designed to encourage businesses. The film development tax credit is one of them. Perhaps it would be possible to report on the cost of these credits, but again I wonder, should we not also report on the economic activity that resulted because of this. How do we do that? These are the questions that need to be answered.

Mr. Speaker, I realize my time is coming to a close. The second, Clause 1(b) indicates the issue of contingent liability. It is an issue that is very long and complicated, although he has drawn it in very short form. I realize my time is drawing short, so I think it would be imprudent to start on a process that would not be complete. If it is agreeable, then we will certainly move on to the next speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.

MR. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I rise with great interest in regard to Bill No. 27. I thank the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto for introducing it. I think, when I look at the bill, the bill has as its intent to make the government more accountable with more information being at the disposal of the public to judge the finances of the province. I think in that regard that we could be very supportive of this initiative. I look at the situation as Finance Critic, in trying to decipher the information even upon the presentation of the estimates, but especially upon the presentation of the quarterly reports. It was very difficult for us to offer comments and opinions when the information is so overwhelming.

I will just make one comment before getting into the crux of my remarks. Especially in regard to the quarterly reports, and this isn't addressed in the bill and it may be something that we could look at as an amendment, is the consistency. I found that when I reviewed the Minister of Finance's quarterly report, the first quarterly report that he brought down, I found that I was trying to compare apples and oranges. It was very difficult to offer an in-depth look

[Page 2420]

into trying to understand and offer some opinions as to where I felt the government was being successful and where it wasn't.

I think that is something that if this bill were to go on to the Law Amendments Committee, that would the type of thing that we would be looking at in trying to make the bill better. I am looking at this with an open mind and saying, what can I offer to the debate to bring about this bill being, I guess in a sense, more efficient.

It is a very simple bill. There are only two clauses. The first one, of course, is asking the government to bring about information in regard to any tax exemptions that the government would bring about in a budget. I think that is information that we as Opposition members would very much like to have. I believe that the people of Nova Scotia would support such a measure. I noticed that the Minister of Labour indicated that we had a tax credit brought in that we would show the information. But we should also show the economic gain so that people will understand it.

Mr. Speaker, when we are looking at the estimates, we don't get an explanation and a litany as to why every program is in the estimates. So if we are going to have to give explanations of every single program that the government offers then, obviously, we will be reading the estimates for years to come. When I think that the government is prepared to bring about a change and is offering some exemptions, then they should be quantified. I believe that is a reasonable request and I think one that the government should look at.

When I am offering some suggestions, I will make a few comments that this government has brought about some good changes in the reporting procedures of this province. I have often said that if they do something good, I will congratulate them. The trouble is that most of time, I am condemning them. But I am trying to put forward a balanced approach and if anybody caught Question Period earlier on, I wasn't exactly on the positive side of this government, but today, I will mention that they did bring about this change and I will bring it to their credit.

Another thing that I would like to bring about is that in this, that also the honourable member is bringing about, is that the province should list the contingent liabilities of the province. He makes mention that the CICA, which is the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accounts, has made a recommendation for guidelines that they should be disclosed. I don't think anybody argues that fact. I think that is a reasonable approach. Again, it is the public's right to know where the province stands at any point in time. As it is now, we are talking about the estimates and that is in Clause 1. The only problem that I have in this regard is two questions, one of which is how do you find contingent liability? That is very difficult. We were having a debate here on the tar ponds in Question Period as to whether or not the province will assume the debt, whether the province will clean it, do remedial work, whether the province will move the residents. Those are decisions that, often times, are not going to be determined until further down the road.

[Page 2421]

So we haven't got assurances from the government whether they will assume those costs, whether they will be responsible for it, whether the province will be the one assuming that debt, or whether this will be cost-shared with the federal government. So, a lot of times, contingent liabilities are extremely difficult to quantify. When I bring that to the member's attention, I would think that there would have to be very strict parameters or clear guidelines as to how it would be approached. I think that the request is in the right direction, but I think that, as a country, government should develop what is reasonable to be disclosed, especially in the estimates and further on when the final report of the province comes forward. When I say that, I realize that to get all provinces to agree to a format is virtually impossible. So I think that the Province of Nova Scotia, in a sense, should take the lead in this.

So when I say that I agree with it, I have some reservations because I think there are a lot more details to be worked out for definitions in regard of what exactly is a contingent liability and the other thing is what is material. When you speak to accountants, they always work about what is material. If you are working with Irving Oil, material may be $1 million and if you are working with my bank account, $2.00 might be material. So it depends on who you are looking at, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I obviously have the government members' attention and that is good that they are listening to my comments. I will continue to the second clause. I think the member has brought forward the same types of recommendations, which is disclosure. This is what the whole purpose of this bill is is disclosure and the people's right to know where the province stands at any one point in time.

In Clause 2, he makes mention that all debts and deficits incurred by municipalities, hospital boards and school boards should be disclosed. I don't have any problem with that, Mr. Speaker, but I am a little bit perplexed as to why municipalities are included in that. Because when you are making that disclosure, you are giving the inference that these are all debts that the province solely is responsible for. Now if the Municipality of Argyle were to build a sewage treatment plant and we incur a debt which is going to be paid over 20 or 25 years, should that be disclosed in the province's books? I am not really sure that is appropriate, especially if a municipality is more than solvent. You ask yourself as to whether that should be included in this clause.

I think school boards and hospitals definitely should be included because we all know in this House that if they incur debt subsequent to that, that eventually someone is going to pay it and it is not going to be the tooth fairy. It undoubtedly is going to come out of the public purse of this Assembly and the taxpayers of Nova Scotia.

So I believe that the accumulated debt of school boards and especially of hospitals are appropriate to be disclosed and I think that all people in the Province of Nova Scotia, especially those interested in this type of information, should have access to it and it should be mandatory for the government to disclose it.

[Page 2422]

[5:45 p.m.]

This is an exchange and a debate and I have offered the point that I am not really sure whether the debt of the municipalities should be disclosed and maybe upon further explanation by the mover of the bill, or subsequent debates, or even the Leader, that he can make some suggestions to it. I have an open mind. If there is something there that should be disclosed, then I think that is the type of thing that we would support, if I can be shown what the reasoning is behind the request. Overall, I believe that this is the type of bill that makes the government more accountable.

In conclusion, I have congratulated the government for the changes that they have made in the past five or six years and they have improved them. I think I have offered a couple of suggestions today, especially with regard to the quarterly reporting that they have that they could improve, especially to make the information compatible. But I will say one thing that I was disappointed when we did get the quarterly report is that he only addressed the expenditure side of the equation. If find it very strange that he had not addressed the revenue side of the equation.

As the Finance Critic, I would have liked to have had that information. A lot of the financial revenue items are completely within the domain of the province and could have been provided to all members of this House at that time and should have been.

I agree with the minister that a lot of times the federal numbers will take time to come forward and, as such, it will take a while for him to provide it. But the things that are within the provincial mandate should be released at the time that the quarterly report comes forward. So on those few inputs I would like to thank you for the opportunity to speak and those are my comments on this bill. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the debate on the bill and wanted to address a couple of things that have been raised. I want to first of all address, why are we introducing this. I think most Nova Scotians will recognize after the first quarterly report was released that we were not getting the full picture. There were problems and we discussed them back in the spring, about the fact that we just were not getting enough of the story in terms of what kind of deals the government had made with corporations, or municipalities, or hospital boards, or regional health boards. What kinds of liabilities are out there in terms of our responsibilities? We found some of that with the Canadian Blood Agency, for example, to the tune of $30 million that the Minister of Finance told us, they didn't expect that. Well, maybe we should have known that, we think we should have.

[Page 2423]

The question of economic development, there were deals that had been consummated. The government should have been recording that information and showing it in the budget, we would suggest. Those would be the kinds of contingent liabilities that we would think need to be shown. But clearly, Nova Scotians do not have a good handle on what the financial situation is facing this province and that is what we are trying to do with this piece of legislation.

I agree with the Minister of Labour who spoke earlier about the fact that the government has gone some distance. Yes they have, in terms of public accounting. In fact, some of this stuff they are already doing through their reports. What we think needs to be done is that this information needs to be in legislation, or the requirements need to be in legislation, so that the government is bound to provide the information and to provide additional information.

In terms of the question of the tax exemptions that we refer to in this bill, the federal Auditor General has said that with that kind of information what that enables him to be able to do is to proceed with what he called an effectiveness audit, so that he can look at the cost of a particular tax exemption program or credit program, whatever it is, and he can then go forward and examine the impact that that program has had, the effectiveness, whether it is good or bad, and we talk about that in terms of a value-for-money audit, in effect, on some other questions.

In terms of the definition of contingent liabilities, there is no question that is not always going to be clear. There is going to have to be some discretion there, but there are some fairly strict guidelines in the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants guidelines that we feel we should be following in order to make sure that issue is dealt with. The point that was made by the Third Party's Finance Critic was a good one in terms of that contingent liability question, but that is not enough, I don't think - and I think he agrees - to not consider it.

The question of the municipalities, he was right to raise that, I think, whether or not municipalities should be there, maybe that is something we should consider. Clearly the problem is, and I think the member answered his own concern by saying that if a municipality goes heavily into debt, it is going to be the provincial taxpayer that is on the hook. So I think that is a debatable issue and that is certainly something that the mover of the bill would be willing to discuss.

We understand, and we understood this especially in debate last spring on the estimates of the Minister of Health, that the debts and deficits of the regional health boards and the regional hospitals was significant and it was coming back to us; at some point or other it was coming back to us. The minister didn't say that completely, but he certainly made the noises that in the final analysis, given the state of our health care system, we are going to be on the hook for those exposures, and we think that needs to be there. The bottom line is this, we have in excess of an $8 billion debt in the Province of Nova Scotia. This government is talking

[Page 2424]

about a deficit in excess of $80 million. We think it is in fact greater than that, Mr. Speaker, and the only way that we are going to be able to deal with this financial situation is if we know what it really is. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: If we know what the financial situation really is, then we can plan. We can plan and adopt strategies and have debate based on something that is real. We have talked coming into this House - all members of this House - that if we have a good idea, if we have a measure that is worth supporting, then we in fact will support it and see it go forward. I am asking all members of this House; this is an attempt to try to bring about greater accountability in the province's finances, and I ask members to support this bill going forward into Law Amendments. I would ask that a vote be now put, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

You have four minutes.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today in this Chamber to speak on Bill No. 27, the Provincial Finance Act. I want to thank the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto for bringing forward these proposed changes. I would certainly point out, in his comments earlier referring to the government and the Finance Department, he himself along with even his Leader did point out the fact that the previous Liberal administration made quite a number of significant changes to what currently are the reporting procedures here in the Province of Nova Scotia.

It is just the beginning. What this government has continued to do is look at the system we have, hear some of the recommendations we have had from outside associations and involved parties, and make some changes to the department, and we have seen that with the tabling of the budget this spring and the documentation that came with that and the reporting procedures. (Interruptions)

We didn't tell the people of Nova Scotia we would raise taxes and we didn't raise taxes. We didn't lie to the people of Nova Scotia.

AN HON. MEMBER: Honesty, something that is lacking on your side of the House.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, this legislation, obviously, brings about some very interesting changes but it comes back to the question of consultation. I think, if anything, that Party there has been the Party that has accused every administration and everybody in Nova Scotia of not doing the proper consultation. I questioned them, where has the consultation

[Page 2425]

been on these proposed changes? I questioned where has the member for Halifax Chebucto consulted on these changes? Who has he spoken to before bringing forward this legislation?

Mr. Speaker, I put to you that this would be an interesting discussion paper, a paper where we would look at some of the changes that he is recommending, put it to Nova Scotians, and let Nova Scotians see what they think of it. Let many of the associations we have out there, many of the businesses we have out there, give us some of their recommendations before we jump right away to legislation. That Party there immediately wants to jump to legislation, make all these changes. Then they are going to consult. Then they are going to consult with the people. That is not the way you do that. Let's have the people come before us immediately, tell us what their concerns are, and then let's have a look at drafting some legislation which reflects what Nova Scotians want, which reflects what is needed in our reporting of our finances.

Again, Mr. Speaker, the idea is that this government and the previous administration clearly cited its problems with the reporting of our finances here and that the people in Nova Scotia demanded that there be better accounting procedures. We have made those changes. The Department of Finance and its staff have done an admirable job in bringing forward the system that we have right here. Is this the end? Not by far. We have a long road ahead where we are going to make more changes. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. SAMSON: But to suddenly say let's jump into legislation, let's draft, let's pass this bill, and then let's look at what Nova Scotians want to see, these are interesting changes that the member proposes but it is not the end. Even himself, in speaking on this bill, he said this is just a start. This is not a reflection of all the improvements that need to take place. This is just the beginning. So why suddenly jump into this legislation and just pass this before the consultation?

MR. SPEAKER: The time allotted for the debate on Bill No. 28 has expired.

The honourable Acting Opposition House Leader.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 30.

Bill No. 30 - Road Improvements Act.

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I want to say at the outset how proud I am as a rookie MLA in this House to announce that it is my pleasure to introduce for the first time as an MLA the bill entitled An Act to Set Criteria for Prioritizing Road

[Page 2426]

Improvement Projects. (Applause) Although there were no problems with the roads in Timberlea-Prospect with the prior member, over the past number of months numerous problems have come to my attention and, therefore, I thought it would be important if we brought together these criteria so that we could debate the merits of the current system.

As all members present can testify, Mr. Speaker, roads and road improvements are important subjects for all of us but let me make this perfectly clear, that all Nova Scotians expect fairness from us as legislators. They expect fairness in health care, fairness with the school system, fairness on guaranteed loans for businesses of all sizes and, more particularly, they expect fairness when it comes to road improvements in this province.

Mr. Speaker, we can no longer allow ourselves as legislators to be the butt of political jokes across this province and across this country when it comes to pavement patronage. Must a constituency always have a government MLA to get attention for its roads? That is a question which I hope we can discuss openly and freely during the next number of moments. I want to remind members present of the words of the Liberal Leader at the time on April 21, 1993, when he said, in a headline in the Halifax Herald, there should be no more pothole politics. Mr. Speaker, that Leader, that Liberal Leader was the Honourable John Savage. He said, transportation spending will be based on need, and need will be determined by an independent assessment.

[6:00 p. m.]

HON. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I wonder if the member realizes that presently, right today, in Preston, the member for Preston's riding has a major amount of paving going on in the Lake Echo area. That is not a government riding.

MR. SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.

The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: I would like to make an introduction, if I could.

MR. SPEAKER: An introduction, by all means.

MR. ARCHIBALD: And I want to thank the member. In our gallery, Mr. Speaker, today is a great friend of mine and a resident of Kentville, the brother of the Leader of the Opposition, and I hope that Robert is listening to the good advice that his brother, David, is giving to him. It is great to see you, Dave. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We will add an extra 30 seconds to your time.

[Page 2427]

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, that Liberal Leader of course was the Honourable John Savage. Mr. Savage in fact goes on to say, and I quote from the Halifax Daily News of the same date, if there is a road that is in need of repair and it can be shown that on the grid it is a much higher priority then other roads, than it doesn't matter a jot whether that road is in the constituency of a Cabinet Minister or a backbench Tory.

The current government's process for establishing road improvement priorities is a secretive process. It is based upon a narrow set of criteria, which lends itself to political manipulation, in my opinion. Currently, only those roads selected for review by the Transportation Department's district directors are assessed for road improvements. Under this proposal, all roads will be assessed. Currently, road improvement priority is assessed using three factors, and we have heard it many times: Traffic volume; riding comfort index; and pavement condition. These criteria are too narrow. Under our suggested policy, an expanded list of criteria would be used to determine the priority of road improvements.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. RAYMOND WHITE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I am just wondering if the member has read the article that says MLA pleased with tender call for roads, that confirms that tendering, that road work is done in all constituencies. In this one we are referring to the Bras d'Or, the MLA, Helen MacDonald, for Cape Breton The Lakes.

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

MR. ESTABROOKS: I am answering more questions than they did. I don't know if that was a question or a comment.

MR. SPEAKER: It was a point of order.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Thank you. I will continue. (Interruptions) Thank you for that advice. These priorities that we propose include: the presence of a public facility on that road; the impact on economic development with improvement to that road; the tonnage of the vehicles that are using that road; the time period since the road was last worked on; and here is a criteria which we must include, the number of fatal and non-fatal accidents that have taken place on that road.

This broad list of factors will help provide a greater level of fairness to the process. This bill will make sure that all roads are assessed and all communities are treated equally.

This government's process for establishing road repairs is far too secretive, and it is open to that manipulation that I have mentioned. The NDP road improvement policy makes for a more open, transparent process that will take politics out of decisions about what roads get repaired and when they get repaired.

[Page 2428]

Under Bill No. 30, Nova Scotians will know what criteria were used to assess their roads. They will know why their roads received this priority ranking and why other roads were ranked in comparison to their needs. Most importantly, members, this priority list for road improvements will be published every six months in the Royal Gazette, ensuring a complete accessibility to the public.

I am interested in the response from the member for the Third Party, as he made reference to this clause the other day. However, it is of some importance to allow the minister some discretionary powers. Road improvements in certain urgent situations must be left to the minister, with advice from his staff, a minister that, however, within 30 days, has to table in this House, if the House is sitting, the reasons why that particular road was allowed to jump the priority list.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am afraid the member for Timberlea-Prospect, the Official Opposition's Transportation Critic must have circulated a different bill to the Progressive Conservatives than he is speaking from tonight, because he just indicated that one of the clauses we had some difficulty with said that the minister, in consultation with staff. In my copy, nowhere is staff referenced in the legislation. So there must be another bill. That is what he said.

MR. ESTABROOKS: If I could reply. I know it wasn't a question, but that is the sort of revision which I would like as a friendly amendment when we move this on to the Law Amendments Committee, if possible.

Mr. Speaker, this is an opportune time on an opportune topic to begin to restore the public's faith in us as elected officials, a time to show that we can make decisions for improvements on the roads in this province, fairly, openly, equally.

HON. KEITH COLWELL: A question for the member, Mr. Speaker. Well, I would like to ask the honourable member, I am really perplexed. He is standing here and he is telling everybody that there is all kinds of politics in paving. In his own riding, at this minute, there is a tremendous amount of expansion going on on his highways. How can he explain that happening in his own riding when he is sitting in Opposition?

MR. ESTABROOKS: Well, of course, the answer is that if we didn't get the metro dump through some flawed selection process, we wouldn't have the garbage expressway in Timberlea-Prospect. But the next time they want to put it down the shore, they can have it, Mr. Speaker. This is an opportune time to make sure that we are not going to continue to play politics. Why should the Prospect Road or the Hammonds Plains Road, or the much needed improvements to Porcupine Hill suddenly get to the top of the priority list? It is a time for openness, equality and fair treatment and I thank you for your time. (Applause)

[Page 2429]

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

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to talk about Bill No. 30. First of all, I want to congratulate the member for Timberlea-Prospect for introducing legislation that pertains to a department that hasn't been in effect for some years. This demonstrates the member's knowledge and interest in my department and the important work we do for Nova Scotians.

This bill's biggest flaw is that it makes the assumption that the Department of Transportation and Public Works does not set priorities for road improvements. I say to the honourable member that his assumption is completely uninformed. The Department of Transportation and Public Works has been using an objective prioritization process since 1994. A prioritization process was developed by the engineering expertise within the Department of Transportation and Public Works and is based on fairness and the needs of all Nova Scotians, Madam Speaker.

The process for evaluating and privatizing repaving projects is intended to rank repaving needs. Each year the districts submit a rank list, a top repaving priorities list within each district. The priority list has been tabled in the past years and I intend to table it this year when it is completed. The data for our analysis includes traffic volumes, pavement condition ratings and riding comfort index.

The pavement condition rating is a measure of surface distress based on the severity and the density of cracking, wheel-track rutting and other surface defects, and the riding comfort index is a measure of the roughness of the riding surface. All riding comfort index and paving conditions data are obtained by either the technical services branch or private consulting firms. I would point out that Bill No. 30, as it is drafted, makes no mention of these critical, technical factors.

Each project is analysed and rated using a formula that I tabled in the House back in June. All of the roads are in a prioritization province-wide, based on these ratings. The priority list is based on the ratings for each project and the selection of repaving projects for the capital program is based on this priority list. This entire process is a valid, objective guide, but we also make allowances for extreme deterioration over winter, and this proposed legislation fails Nova Scotians in this aspect.

The current system uses objective criteria, applies technical assessments, but it also allows us to respond quickly to changing conditions. Department officials develop the priority list each year based on objective data and criteria. The decisions made by the Department of Transportation and Public Works are good decisions based on fairness and need, and I am proud of the staff of the Department of Transportation and Public Works and I trust their professional judgement and the recommendations they make.

[Page 2430]

Road priorities may not have always been established this way in Nova Scotia but, since 1993, fairness is the system we have been working with and I will continue to work with that system. Thank you. (Applause)

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Madam Chairman, I ask to speak on this bill this afternoon because it aroused my indignation because of its preposterous flimflammery and unadulterated balderdash so typical of the New Democratic Party. They speak of playing politics. This bill is the most crass attempt to play politics that I have seen for some time. It is launched from a platform of ignorance.

The sponsor of the bill is not even aware of the correct name of the department that he expects to analyse and evaluate. The department is known as the Department of Transportation and Public Works; it has not been known as the Department of Transportation and Communications for some number of years. It is time, I think, that our honourable friends opposite got clued in before they start prescribing the medicine.

The most significant admission of the day is that an NDP Government would increase taxes by a level that they do not know - they do not know that either as well as not knowing the name of this department - but they know that they would be increased nonetheless because government under the NDP would cost more than it costs now. Why would an NDP Government cost more than what we have now? Well I suggest (Interruptions) We have some pie in the sky across the way, Madam Chairman, but I will return back here to terra firma, back to solid ground. Never mind pie in the sky.

This bill demonstrates why an NDP Government would be so costly because it would attempt to legalistically, to lawyerishly codify matters that right now are handled by administrative regulations. It suggests that these things don't exist when we know full well that they do. It suggests that there is no staff to this Department of Transportation and Public Works. There will be a one person operation. The minister will do everything himself or herself were this bill to be enacted as legislation.

[6:15 p.m.]

The bill is based on some very false assumptions. It is based on the assumption that we still have the red, blue and green coloured coded filing system for running the Department of Transportation and Public Works that existed prior to 1993. It is based on the assumption that there operates in this province here something like the system of highway prioritization that was used under the government of Maurice Duplessis in Quebec. It is based on the assumption that this government is unfair in its allocation of road work. Nothing could be further from the truth.

[Page 2431]

I have right here in my hand an excerpt from the Cape Breton Post, October 16, 1998, the headline of which is, MLA pleased with tender calls for roads, and it is datelined Bras d'Or. It quotes you, Madam Speaker, as stating that you are pleased to receive notice of tender calls for road improvements have been announced. It further states, and I quote, MacDonald said she was encouraged to see that the minister - that means this minister over here, the Honourable Clifford Huskilson - had followed through on the commitment he made in the Legislature to realign the Auger Point Road and to complete Point Aconi paving and to carry out work on Seaview Drive and to install traffic signals at the corner of Keltic Drive and Westmount Road. I think I should table this item so that honourable members could be enlightened as to the true situation on these matters.

I believe, that in Cape Breton County, there is more road work being done right now in total dollar value in the constituency of Cape Breton The Lakes than in any other constituency in the county. I would stand by that.

MADAM SPEAKER: You keep talking about Cape Breton The Lakes, speaker. You have less than one minute.

MR. MACEWAN: Well, that is too bad because I am just starting to warm up. But I can tell you, Madam Speaker, that there is a great deal of road work being done today in ridings that are not represented by government members. Government members have rights too. I believe that road work should be done in their ridings, as well. I will certainly fight to obtain what I can for my constituency. I notice that the honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank, in a resolution introduced in the House on June 16th, called on this minister to immediately accelerate the twinning of Highway No. 101, which sounds, perhaps, somewhat different from the principles enunciated in this bill. Perhaps we may find that there are some deviationists . . .

MADAM SPEAKER: Your time is up.

MR. MACEWAN: . . . across the line that don't subscribe to the principles found in this bill. Madam Speaker, they don't do this in Saskatchewan. They wouldn't do it . . .

MADAM CHAIRMAN: Your time is up. Next speaker, please.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise this evening and speak on a bill to set criteria for prioritizing road improvement projects. Lord knows that the present system is flawed. I don't think anybody in this Legislature would dispute that and, probably, it has been flawed for a number of years. However, I do want to congratulate the member for coming forward with legislation.

[Page 2432]

However, I am not sure, at this point, whether the member and his Party were trying to provide legislation that would ensure accountability, answerability and clarity. I don't know if that was the intent; or does the NDP see themselves as a Party in waiting that wants to ensure that they grab hold of pavement politics in its entirety? Which is it? I don't know.

Again, I have to cast that smallest version there, Madam Speaker, because when you look at this legislation, and as much as I would like to talk about the deplorable, the terrible state of roads in Nova Scotia today, I must talk about this bill and the principle of this bill, the substantive clauses in this legislation. When you go through the seven clauses with a fine toothed comb, and not the same one that the Finance Minister has, you see that it is the minister who shall evaluate each road in the province. So does that mean the minister will decide, sitting back in his ivory tower, which roads are going to be done? I am not sure. The member did to his credit talk about amendments to this legislation, but it is the minister who shall evaluate. It is the minister that shall prepare and maintain the priority list. It is the minister that shall . . .

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: A question for the honourable member, Madam Speaker. I am wondering if the honourable member would clarify the point he is making with regard to the minister and his or her responsibility. Is he suggesting that the NDP would, in fact, politize this process in an attempt to try to buy some votes in rural Nova Scotia where they have no seats presently?

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I do not think there is any question that the Progressive Conservatives would like to see some fairness employed in the decision-making process relative to highway projects. However, the NDP, a few days before they introduced this legislation, were quoted by various media outlets as saying that they are a government-in-waiting. They are a Party waiting to form the next government. So, to me, to cast a small aspersion and to answer the Minister of Labour's question, I honestly believe that if this legislation were to go through, politics would be politized; if it is possible, it would be politized and you would see more patronage than we have today, if that is possible.

Now, I should point out, Mr. Speaker, we should know that the government and their 19 seats only represents about 36 per cent or 37 per cent of the population, if you do the fine math, but yet this year they received 82 per cent of the budget on secondary roads and that is very unfair. So there has to be a system employed and what the Progressive Conservatives will do as this session unfolds, we will bring forward legislation that confirms we meant what we said and we say what we mean because in our platform during our . . .

HON. KEITH COLWELL: A question, Mr. Speaker. I would like to ask the honourable member if during the election campaign if there was any paving that he personally took credit for in his riding, which I understand was going on and also if he will admit on Highway No. 102 at the present time, this government is spending $1 million to repair a road in your riding?

[Page 2433]

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, let's just go back to the election campaign. That member raised the question and here is exactly what happened. During the election campaign the Mayor of Stewiacke, a fine gentleman, His Worship Dick Steeves, at that time at least (Interruption) The Liberal candidate in Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, through the media, on the radio, anybody who would listen, he said, I must take credit for the paving of the Eastville Road. It is about seven kilometres. The road was so bad vehicles were getting lost in potholes. It was in terrible condition.

So the residents came to the incumbent, if you will, and asked that he try to advance some of the concerns they had been raising. I did that. I raised the concern with the Minister of Transportation of the day, the Honourable Don Downe, and the community also raised concerns, Mr. Speaker, with the Minister of Transportation. We held a rally. There was over 125 people at Bev's Diner in Upper Stewiacke. We got the ear of the minister and the road was subsequently paved and what I said, and if the Minister of Fisheries can produce anything different, and I said that I was proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people in Newton Mills and Upper Stewiacke in their efforts to get the road paved. I never laid claim for anything and over five years we received seven small kilometres. That is all we received as far as a secondary road goes, nothing in the Halifax Regional Municipality during six construction seasons, nothing, absolutely nothing; nothing in Cumberland South either I might add last year.

So, Mr. Speaker, to answer the question, the Liberal tried to take credit and the citizens wrote letters to the editor complaining that the guy was trying to take credit for something that the people did in concert with their MLA. So that is how that unfolded.

Yes, out on the four lane highway, to answer the second part of the question of the Minister of Fisheries, Business and Consumer Services, is that I understand, in spite of the fact - and I commend the Minister of Transportation and I commended the minister publicly and the NDP candidate for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley in the provincial election criticized me for commending the Minister of Transportation because the roads were so poor out there on the four lane, the 100-Series Highway, that again vehicles were being banged up and costing a lost of money. Yes, there is some work going on and we are appreciative, but that work is going on, what really disturbs me is that Ottawa, in spite of the fact, your Liberal cousins in Ottawa rip off now, they used to siphon it off, now they are ripping it off. They have taken over the last six years nearly $1 billion from this province through the fuel excise tax and they have returned a pittance, hardly anything. I commend the minister and that government for going to Ottawa at least and trying to get some of our tax dollars back, the fuel excise tax.

So, Mr. Speaker, the legislation at hand, I cannot support this legislation. I don't believe my caucus can. I understand that the minister's intent may have been to provide for more accountability, but the whole system, when you look through it, it is the minister who shall evaluate the road, it is the minister who notwithstanding the aforementioned legislation

[Page 2434]

may consider road improvements that are more urgent, that is the same old, same old. What the Tories will do is provide a solid financial base, fuel taxes, Registry of Motor Vehicles' receipts. Not in dedicated funds but the equivalent amount of those funds must be spent on the highways. If you have a level-headed Minister of Transportation, if you have somebody who will employ fairness in the system that is the only way; to take the politics out of pavement is extremely difficult. This legislation puts more in. I am sorry. I cannot support that legislation.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

I understand you are doing a split.

MS. YVONNE ATWELL: Yes, a split. Mr. Speaker, I just want to add my voice to that of my colleague regarding this bill. First, let me say that there are members in the community of the Preston riding in particular who are very frustrated by the process. This evening I am attending a meeting in Lake Echo and Mineville where people are so frustrated about how their roads got on the list or off the list that they need to talk about that.

The honourable minister is right. There is a lot of work going on on the roads of Lake Echo, however, there are many individuals within that area who wonder why their road that is as smooth as cream is being paved while other roads are falling apart. There are holes, the pavement is literally crumbling and they are not on a list to be paved. The criteria that is set is inefficient.

Looking at the road criteria, I had asked in the spring for a list of roads that were on a priority list for the area, for the entire riding of Preston and for the province. I got two priority lists, one that says next year and one that says three to four years down the road, whatever that means. I don't know when it is going to happen. It is very ineffective the way the process is right now. I have looked at the process for how roads are being prioritized right now. You talked about traffic volume, you talked about the comfort index, you talked about paving conditions. That is very narrow. There are other things to consider: the usage of the road, the number of fatal accidents on the road, how roads are developed around the fact of economic development. There are a number of issues. The process is not open, the process is confusing and the process needs to be changed.

[6:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, there are some roads in our communities where people are saying to me, is it because of where we live that we never get work done on our roads? It has been 10, 15 years and we are not on a priority list. What is the problem? We need legislation to ensure that roads are prioritized in a way that is honest, that is fair and that is equitable to all of the people in this province. Thank you. (Applause)

[Page 2435]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, if I could get through this without somebody raising a point of order, I would consider that a feat. I have some concerns about the roadwork in my constituency, and I have talked on occasion with the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. I can't say that I have been entirely disappointed with those conversations. (Applause)

I do want to make it clear that the NDP does have at least one member in a rural riding, and actually two because we have Pictou West as well; Hants East is a rural riding. When we look at the present criteria for roads on the priority list - and in my conversation with the minister, we discussed these - if we are going to say road condition and ride are two out of the three criteria, then to me, they don't make sense. Will we assume that if the road condition is good, the ride will be bad, or if the road condition is bad, the ride will be good? If the road condition is bad, the ride will be bad. I think those two could at least be lumped in the same category.

We have talked on occasion and I have asked the minister if the department ever uses tonnage on the roads as a criteria. He said that they did not, but it would be something that they would be willing to look at. I appreciate his remarks there. It was the minister himself who told me that he has been told that one tractor-trailer is equivalent to 1,200 cars. (Interruption) If that is true, and I don't know what the number of cars it would be equal to, but I know, in Hants East, it doesn't make a lot of sense to me to have money spent on the 100-Series Highways if nobody can get to them.

If we have rural ridings, and these are generally resource-based ridings, then in order to haul lumber or rock or milk or whatever over those roads to get to the 100-Series Highways, because they are limited-access highways, that means you just can't pull out of the woods and get on them, you have to have a prescribed route to get there. So, if you are going to have economic development in our ridings, then you have to have some basis for good roads so that those goods can be transported. I think the Liberal Government would be interested in that.

In my riding, there are roads that were built before the existence of these large tractor-trailers. Because of that, they were not built to specifications for the loads that they will carry. I think just about any of the MLAs, at least in rural ridings, would be aware of that. We can recognize that it would take some time to get around the province to ensure that all these roads are upgraded. The question is, what are you going to use to determine how quickly you will upgrade those roads?

For us, it is definitely a priority in the sense that we have long stretches that have maybe low volumes of traffic, but heavy tonnage on those roads that are tearing those roads to pieces. The minister had mentioned about winter conditions and what the effects on those

[Page 2436]

roads will be by spring, and that may cause him to jump on the priority list, and that certainly makes sense. The Georgefield Road in my riding is one, that if it goes through another winter without anything being done to it - and it will, I know that now - next spring that road will be worse than it was this spring. I think it is something that the minister will have to recognize, because it is a heavily-travelled road for tonnage, it is a road to the Georgefield dump which means it gets a lot of heavy traffic.

Highway No. 215, which goes from Shubenacadie to Maitland to Noel, is a well-used tourist route. There are a lot of concerns with that road. The shoulders are breaking apart. People are forced in toward the centre line and when you are meeting another vehicle, it is raising a lot of concerns, especially when one of those vehicles might be a pulp truck. They don't tend to push very far when you hit them.

To sum up my comments on this bill, I would certainly hope that the members will consider this bill, even if it means some amendments because, certainly, the consideration of tonnage on rural roads is a major one that is causing immense damage and I know the minister agrees because we have talked about this previously. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Labour.

There is approximately two minutes left.

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I rise to offer a few interventions on this particular bill, Bill No. 30, which I concur with the Minister of Transportation. This bill was ill-conceived, ill-prepared and leads to nothing but a gross exaggeration of partisan politics in Nova Scotia when it comes to road maintenance. Obviously, the author of the legislation didn't even take the time to understand whether he was creating a new department or just didn't happen to realize what department or time-frame in history he was speaking about.

Mr. Speaker, the final clause of the bill clearly states that he puts everything back in the hands of the minister to make a decision on road priority. If that is not politicization of highway maintenance and roadway construction in Nova Scotia, what is? These are the self-righteous, pious, socialist anarchists who think that everybody is going to believe what they say. But in reality, it is nothing but fluff and puff and an attempt to try and buy some votes in rural Nova Scotia.

You know, Mr. Speaker, I believe the honourable member was so concerned he asked the government members to lighten up because he did such a poor job on the bill. But we will lighten up. We will continue to offer good leadership under the Minister of Transportation on this very important issue. Thank you.

[Page 2437]

MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Acting Opposition House Leader.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 98.

Res. No. 98, re Commun. Serv./Health - Senior Citizens: Long-Term Care - Inattention Explain - notice given May 25/98 - (Ms. Maureen MacDonald)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, our caucus do not support this resolution as it is written. This resolution is characteristic of the majority of resolutions emanating from honourable members on the government back benches. One word could be used to describe this resolution and that is misdirected, or it could be characterized as a resolution that makes use of selective use of facts.

Mr. Speaker, that is probably a very generous interpretation of this particular resolution. A less generous interpretation would be that the honourable member has used precious time of this House to curry favour with the minister. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

AN HON. MEMBER: It is your resolution.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Hyland Fraser's . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: No, that's the late show. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I wanted to rise with respect to this resolution that is before us, Resolution No. 98. I want to tell you that I have welcomed the announcement and I recognize the honourable member across for bringing this particular resolution before us. There is some legitimacy with respect to this (Laughter)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. PYE: Our resolution, okay.

AN HON. MEMBER: Which resolution?

[Page 2438]

MR. SPEAKER: Order. Resolution No. 98

MR. PYE: Where's the resolution on there?

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: I have a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I ask you to please identify to the House what the proposition is that is currently under debate. (Laughter) The honourable member seems to think it was something moved by somebody over here . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Resolution No. 98, I haven't got the Hansard copy with me, but Resolution No. 98 was introduced by the honourable member for Halifax Needham and it is Senior Citizens: Long-Term Care - Inattention Explain. The honourable member has two minutes remaining.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, this resolution calls on the Ministers of Community Services and Health to explain to the senior citizens of this province and their families why long-term care services, which are often so important for the final years of life, are not important enough to warrant the attention of this government.

The Speech from the Throne last spring indicated that the long-term care sector would be subject to a review and some attention by the Ministers of Community Services and Health. With the current reform of the health care system we have seen hospitals receive attention, we have seen programs such as Pharmacare receive some attention, and attention has been focused on the regional health boards, but the long-term care sector, nursing homes in this province have received absolutely no attention. It has gotten to the point where we today have 30 nursing homes in Nova Scotia in collective bargaining, facing the potential of strikes. We have non-unionized workers in many nursing homes throughout Nova Scotia confronted with poverty wages and extremely bad working conditions in these homes.

It used to be that . . .

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

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

HON. FRANCENE COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, is the time five minutes that we are using here?

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, five minutes.

[Page 2439]

MRS. COSMAN: Thank you, and I really do thank the members for the opportunity to enter into this debate. Again, it amazes me that we are debating a resolution that the NDP socialist Party introduced and tonight their two members did not know they introduced it. What does that tell me about their ideas around the long-term care sector? I want to go on record here (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order. Order, please.

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I hope my time gets extended for every one of their interruptions. We are taking significant steps in the long-term care sector and this government wants to make sure that we continue with quality services in this sector. We are very concerned about what is happening in this sector and how our senior citizens are being looked after. Long-term care is for this population in our province, that is an ageing population. The numbers are increasing every day and we know and recognize that we have to have appropriate care for seniors and appropriate strategies in place to meet the future. That is a strategic issue for our government. Long-term care also is known as continuing care, and it crosses over the Department of Health and the Department of Community Services both.

In addition to long-term care for the elderly that some members want to talk about tonight, we actually serve a wide variety of clients of all ages. I want the members to recognize that because we service clients who have mental and physical disabilities, we have emotionally disturbed children, we have clients with chronic alcohol and drug problems, we have transients and we have families in crisis, so the long-term care sector serves more than just our elderly population.

Services in this sector are varied, they include home care, in-home support, adult protection, adult service centres, community-based options and all the homes for special care. In-home support and nursing homes for the aged are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Health; community-based options, adult service centres and all the other homes for special care come under my bailiwick in the Department of Community Services.

[6:45 p.m.]

Our government relies on a wide range of operators to provide the services on a day-to-day basis, and those involved include government agencies and departments, publicly-owned, not-for-profit facilities and agencies, and private companies that operate for profit. I would like to remind the honourable member opposite, when she is insulting these homes, she is insulting not-for-profit organizations that run them among others, and shame on her.

The strength of this system is that each agency and each operator can tailor its services to the needs of the clients, and that is very important. Let's talk about the labour issues that we have been hearing about over the last few days. We are not dealing with just one uniform system of service delivery. We are dealing with a multi-faceted system that is regulated by the

[Page 2440]

province. The collective bargaining process is under way now, and it is under way in all the facilities across Nova Scotia. This is a normal process. Independent operators are bargaining in good faith with their employees, and some, including Northwood last night, have settled.

I want to emphasize that the province doesn't bargain directly. What we are trying to do is to provide a framework for our operators to use in their own bargaining. It is important to note that we have made considerable progress over the past few years. I want to correct the mis-assumptions coming out of the socialist side. The socialists say, we have done nothing but the Department of Health's budget has been increased in this sector by $133.2 million over the past two years. It has been increased by $21 million in the last year. That is a 27 per cent increase in funding, and the socialists say we have done nothing. In the past three years, the equivalent of 400 new full-time jobs have been approved for 70 long-term care homes in the province. We are making progress, and we are building on that progress.

I saw you signalling that my time was about to run out, but I have to say that I have heard a lot of insults slung around this sector in the last couple of days from the socialist side and I think it is important to recognize this is strategic work to a sector that so important to this province, we as a government respect our workers in the long-term care sector, they are doing phenomenal jobs. Every single day of life, they are on the front line doing very hard work with a huge amount of dedication. We recognize that and we support it. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I rise to debate Resolution No. 98. I see we are back on track with the resolution, after kind of a false start. This is a very serious issue. Long-term care or continuing care as they now like to be known, is a very important sector. When you look at what is happening, and I can only talk to you, Mr. Speaker, because I am sure many other members along with myself have met not only administrators but workers in the continuing care sector. What are they telling you? They are telling you they have had no capital budget for the last five years.

You know what is happening, many homes are reaching a crisis. They will also tell you that they are operating on last year's budget. Their budget started April 1st, and when I questioned the Minister of Community Services, why weren't they given their operating budget, excluding wages, because obviously there are settlements to be reached, they still haven't been given that. So they are borrowing money and paying interest, and borrowing money to try to make sure that those who can't fend for themselves are being looked after. When the minister said that they respect the workers, if you offer workers that are making between $7.00 and $9.00 and $10 an hour, and you offer them a 1.9 per cent raises, is that respect? I don't think so.

[Page 2441]

Somehow, if you look at what has happened, yes, if I look at the health budget, and I commend the government, there is more money for long-term care and continuing care, and I am told by the people in the sector that that probably will take care of the needs of that sector but I look at Community Services and there is no money. There is no money to look after many of those continuing care that come under that sector and no commitment.

When you talk about quality of service, Mr. Speaker, and you talk about caring, then you have to put up. You cannot just talk. You have to put up. Whether you go, and I will tell you and I know and I know every member of this House has a great deal of respect for the people who work in those facilities, they are caring people. They are patient people. We know those people are not there for the money or they would not be there. They are loving. They are caring and they are committed but, you know, I am concerned that many of these people are going to, and I was told at a meeting just two days ago, that many of these workers are so low paid with the money coming from Community Services, they have to go to the food bank.

I mean, you say that you have respect. I am saying something has to be done and it has to be done immediately. We cannot have, obviously it would be a hardship. They told me if a strike occurred in a mentally challenged home, when all the workers except maybe one nurse would be on duty, there would be nobody to look after those people that cannot fend for themselves. Now that we have negotiations, this government was so wise to make sure all the contracts ended at once so that we could have a strike right across the province.

Mr. Speaker, the long-term care or continuing care have been a forgotten sector in health reform in this province. This government has left that sector out there to hang and has done nothing for them in the last five years. So something has to happen and has to happen soon. If we care about the elderly, we care about those who are disabled and we care about those people, then this government will take action. On one hand, the Premier was out saying, you know, we look after the nurses. We got an agreement. Now, with the long-term sector workers are out there, the government is saying we cannot get involved in negotiations. They want the credit - like the Minister of Labour who stood up today - when it is done but they do not want to get involved. They say they did it but they do not want to get involved when the process is taking place.

They can get involved, Mr. Speaker, by making sure that those homes have enough funding to fairly treat the workers who will fairly treat those residents that are there. Action speaks louder than words. (Applause)

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak in favour of this resolution, Resolution No. 98, which states, I shall briefly quote, "Therefore be it resolved that the Ministers of Community Services and Health be called to explain to the senior citizens of this

[Page 2442]

province and to their families why the long-term services which are often so important for the final years of life are not important enough to warrant the attention of this government.".

I want to start by explaining to this House why this issue is relevant to my particular riding, the riding of Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage. In particular, I have two long-term care facilities, one for senior citizens, Ocean View Manor, which is in Eastern Passage, and also another, the Halifax Regional Rehabilitation Centre, which is for those who have long-term challenges. Obviously, Mr. Speaker, as every riding in this House, I do have a lot of seniors in my riding as well that are affected by long-term care issues and how this government treats people, the seniors, their families and, of course, the workers that work with them.

I want to pick up on something that the member for Kings West discussed, Mr. Speaker, and I think it is an important issue. I think we all recall during election time, prior to March 24th, . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Excuse me just one moment. There are a lot of conversations going on in the Chamber and there is a steady drone. Would those who want to have a private conversation, please leave the Chamber.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I think we will all recall that prior to March 24th when the health care sector was in the process of negotiating with this government, this government was very generous. In particular, we found the whole issue of wage parity for nurses, wage parity for the staff, their other staff in the hospitals, was found and was negotiated prior to March 24th. As the member for Kings West noted, the Premier prior to the election was quick to claim that they treat the nurses right but now they are not in an election, at least not yet.

This government has failed to show the same commitment to the long-term care workers in this province. Although the Minister of Community Services can stand up and say that she does have respect for those workers, I must admit that the way these negotiations have taken place and the way in which they have been treated does not show much respect. We do have one settlement today and I hope this leads to others, but until all those workers are satisfied with the way that they have negotiated the contracts, when all the workers in union workplaces have ratified their contracts, that is only the time that we can say that this government has at least made an attempt to negotiate with these workers.

We do not have that at the moment. What we have is a situation where the long-term care workers are very apprehensive about the whole issue of how the matter will be settled. Will they get wage parity? Will they be given fair wages for the work that they do? If we truly care about seniors and families who have members in long-term care facilities in this province, then we must be able to pay the money to these workers that results in them being respected and in turn respecting the seniors and their families. In particular, I think it is vital to note that these workers do similar work to those in the health care sector yet are paid much less.

[Page 2443]

As we move forward and as we see the need for long-term care increasing, both because of the demographics in Nova Scotia - baby boomers are getting older; in the next 20 years there will be many more people hitting age 65 who will be requiring services in long-term care - but also acute care facilities are changing so that they are trying to push more people into long-term care facilities, the demands on these workers, the demands on these facilities is much greater than it used to be. If we are not willing to face that and also pay the respect to the workers who are doing the work in the health care sector, both acute and long-term care, then we are really letting them down and we are letting all Nova Scotians down. That is the key to this whole issue.

The Minister of Community Services talks about framework, that they do not do the negotiations but they provide direction and that they provide a framework to all the facilities in their negotiations. Well, I am not sure what that framework is but I would hope that the Minister of Community Services and the government on the other side would take the time to push forward and address, through a framework, what is fair and what shows respect for the workers and, in turn, for their families and for the seniors that they care for.

Long-term care facilities have become the backbone of our health care system and like any chain the weak link is the weakest part of the chain. If we are not willing to show respect for those workers and pay their due and ensure that they are respected with fair wage offers and, if possible, wage parity, then we have developed a very serious weak link in a chain in the health care system that will eventually result in its collapse. We cannot have that, Mr. Speaker. I hope that this government will see fit to do something about it.

MR. SPEAKER: That is the conclusion of Opposition Members' Business.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, we will meet tomorrow between the hours of 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m., and following the daily routine and Question Period we will be calling Bill No. 4 and, if time allows, also Bill No. 5.

I move that we do now adjourn until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

We have reached the moment of interruption. We will take the time as being 7:00 p.m. The late debate this evening is a resolution introduced by the honourable member for Antigonish.

[Page 2444]

[Therefore be it resolved that the minister and Department of Health be congratulated and thanked for listening to the concerns of communities and consulting with regional health boards, local hospital charitable foundations and the public to bring needed new CT scanners to St. Martha's Regional Hospital in Antigonish, the South Shore Regional Hospital in Bridgewater and the Dartmouth General Hospital, which will result in improved medical care and less travel and worry for thousands of Nova Scotians.]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Antigonish.

HEALTH - CT SCANNERS: REGIONAL (3) - PROVISION CONGRATS.

MR. HYLAND FRASER: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise and address the House on an issue that promises to make a positive difference in the lives of thousands of Nova Scotians. It gives me a great deal of pride to speak on this topic tonight.

A CT or catscanner is a vital piece of diagnostic imaging equipment for a hospital and the work that has gone into gaining new CT scanners for the South Shore Regional Hospital, the Dartmouth General and St. Martha's Regional Hospital is a tremendous example of people, community groups and governments working together to identify a need and to achieve a goal. The announcement in August of new CT scanners for these hospitals will mean improved emergency services for their areas. Patients will have quicker access to diagnoses and treatment without having to travel to other hospitals further away from home.

[7:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, these new scanners at each hospital came as a result of aggressive, community-based efforts. On behalf of the people of these areas, I would like to thank Dr. Jim Smith and the Department of Health for listening to the concerns of these communities and consulting with regional health boards. As well, the Department of Health worked in cooperation with the residents of these areas, through the South Shore Regional Hospital Foundation, the Dartmouth General Charitable Foundation and the St. Martha's Regional Hospital Foundation and Auxiliary. Thanks to Minister Smith and his department, there will now be at least two CT units in each of the four health regions in this province. But it is the efforts of the people of the eastern region and the new CT scanner unit at St. Martha's Hospital that I want to highlight in my remarks tonight.

Mr. Speaker, together with my colleagues: Ray White, member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury; Michel Samson, member for Richmond; and Charles MacDonald, member for Inverness, we helped to arrange meetings between Premier MacLellan, Minister Smith and

[Page 2445]

representatives of the hospitals medical advisory committee, members of the Eastern Regional Health Board and administrative staff of St. Martha's Hospital and community leaders. In their review of capital equipment needs, a CT scanner was determined to be the top priority.

It was a priority because St. Martha's Regional Hospital serves over 45,000 people. For these people, travelling to the Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow or further afield for diagnosis and treatment was unacceptable. For the doctors, getting the new CT scanner at St. Martha's was a professional necessity. The two radiologists at St. Martha's Hospital knew that if they didn't get the use of a CT scanner, they would lose their accreditation and be forced to leave the area.

The Eastern Regional Health Board carried out an impact analysis of CT scanning for the hospital almost one year ago. Mr. Speaker, this was followed in April of this year by a request to the Department of Health for cost-sharing. The hospital board's request was backed by letters and petitions from area residents and from the medical staff. At the same time, the hospital auxiliary continued their fund-raising efforts. For instance, back in May, the auxiliary held their annual Mayfest fund-raiser on the St. Francis Xavier University campus. This work has allowed St. Martha's Hospital to make some important additions of medical equipment, including MedSpeak voice recognition software worth over $30,000. MedSpeak was described by one local doctor as a significant time-saver for doctors and one of the biggest impacts in patient health care in five years.

Aside from the short-term benefits for patients, the work of the auxiliary will have a long-term impact on medical care in our region. The purchase of the latest medical equipment, including the introduction of the CT unit, will act as an incentive for the recruitment of new physicians to this area of the province. As well, it will be cost-effective for the hospital. Mr. Speaker, the CT scanner means the need for a lot of different, older tests will be eliminated. Of course, the hospital will no longer have to transfer some in-patients to the Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow for testing. This is good news for the people of Antigonish, Guysborough, Inverness and Richmond.

This government will pay 75 per cent of the capital cost of the new equipment and also provide for annual operating costs. This is a solid demonstration that the Liberal Government is fully ready to support specialists. The remaining 25 per cent, or $200,000, will be funded by the community through the St. Martha's Hospital Foundation, half of it in the form of a pledge from the St. Martha's Hospital Auxiliary. This is an amazing commitment on the part of the local area and a tremendous boost to the foundation. But financial and moral support from our community is nothing new at St. Martha's Hospital. Since it officially opened in 1989, the hospital has occupied a special place in the hearts of our community. This complex was made a reality through the generosity of the Sisters of St. Martha and the people of eastern Nova Scotia. Over $8 million was raised for the facility, which was over $2 million more than the original goal of the fund-raisers. St. Martha's Regional Hospital is a testament to the will of the people of rural Nova Scotia.

[Page 2446]

We have seen in recent months, Mr. Speaker, how Nova Scotians pull together when they face disaster. A sudden tragedy will bring a community closer while at the same time tapping into reserves of strength, courage and determination. This is part of who we are. However, it does not always take a tragedy for rural Nova Scotians to display determination. That is why I am proud to have played some part in ensuring that the determination of the Strait Regional of Nova Scotia came to fruition.

Before I finish my comments tonight, I would like to read excerpts from a letter I and the other Strait MLAs received from Dr. Mike Silver, the radiologist of St. Martha's Regional Hospital. Dr. Silver writes, ". . . I must extend my utmost gratitude for your role in the decision to provide funding for a CT scanner in Antigonish. I am very proud of the way our community pulled together in such a cohesive group to accomplish such an important goal. I would hope that the overwhelming response from the constituents of Antigonish, Guysborough, Inverness and Richmond Counties gives this government and members of all parties a true indication of how dear our health care system is to us. As a radiologist and physician this means an entirely new level of service I can now provide to my patients . . .".

Dr. Silver concludes his letter by saying, ". . . I thank you once again and guarantee you that this single investment will be remembered as one of your Government's most cost effective measures for improving health care for the rural Nova Scotians in Inverness, Richmond, Guysborough and Antigonish Counties.". I would like to thank Dr. Silver for his hard work and kind words.

I am nearly ready to conclude and I will do that by saying a new CT scanner at St. Martha's Regional Hospital happened because it had to happen and the people of this community made it happen. That was a commitment I made during the last provincial election and this was an issue that I, along with the MLAs, Michel Samson, Raymond White and Charles MacDonald, worked hard along with our constituents to successfully settle it. I will look forward to the day in April of 1999 when I can stand with my colleagues and friends in the community and celebrate the full operation of the CT scanner at St. Martha's Regional Hospital. That will be a good day for rural Nova Scotians and a great day for Eastern Nova Scotians because they made it happen. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, before I speak on the resolution I must say I welcome the opportunity, however limited it might be, to redeem myself after my gaffe earlier. Not being a Liberal, I can admit to making mistakes and although the member for Truro-Bible Hill has left the Chamber, I would like it noted for the record that I would like to thank him very much for providing me a copy of the resolution we were speaking on earlier.

[Page 2447]

As I was saying earlier, I do not support this resolution as it is written. This resolution is characteristic of a majority of resolutions that emanate from the honourable members on the Government backbenches. It makes a very selective use of the facts. If we examine this resolution it thanks and it congratulates the Minister of Health. What does it thank and congratulate the Minister of Health for?

It thanks and congratulates him for listening and for consulting. And with whom does he listen to and consult with? Well, he listens to the public and he consults with the regional health boards, the hard-working volunteers of the hospital charities and the public as well. I am not sure that we should be thanking the Minister of Health for listening and consulting. This should be a matter of routine. This should be understood to be part of the job and part of the process of governing. Therein lies the problem with this resolution. This minister and this government do not listen and do not consult as a matter of routine.

Now, why were these hospitals in the situation they were in to begin with. Well, they were in the situation because the Department of Health has no plan for health care, especially in rural Nova Scotia. They have tied the hands of the hospitals by their failure to ensure adequate public funds for capital equipment in these hospitals, and they expect these hospitals to go out and fund-raise. St. Martha's Hospital in Antigonish was given a budget of $42,000 for capital equipment. Let me tell you, there is no way you can run a regional hospital in this province with a capital equipment budget of $42,000.

Now let's talk about what the process really was here in terms of how CT scanners arrived in these hospitals. Mr. Speaker, this is how it worked, the hands of the hospitals were tied in terms of the needed equipment they had. They approached the Minister of Health and his department, and he said that he supported what it was they wanted, but his staff was advising against it. Then groups in the community and in the process of organizing, they go to the Official Opposition and the Third Party. Through the process of mobilizing and organizing, they are able to bring an enormous amount of pressure to bear on their own member and on the government to actually act. The end result is that they are able to get a very much needed piece of equipment in their hospitals.

However, I would submit, this is not the way that communities and the public throughout Nova Scotia should have to have health care provided for them. They should not have to be organizing and mobilizing constantly to make this process work for them. I didn't bring my letter with me from Dr. Silver that I received after the CT scanner was awarded, thanking myself and thanking the Leader of the Opposition and thanking our caucus for meeting with him and other members of the hospital staff but I can assure you that the people in eastern Nova Scotia are not fooled one iota in terms of what occurred here, why they were able to get the CT scanner. They are very astute in these matters.

[Page 2448]

I want to say, on quite a personal note, that I wholeheartedly would like to congratulate the people in eastern Nova Scotia, particularly in the Antigonish area for the degree of organizing and mobilizing that they undertook to have favourable results in terms of the CT scanner at St. Martha's Hospital. My dad lives in that area and has on many occasions had to drive to New Glasgow, to the Aberdeen Hospital for a CAT scan. I understand only too well what that has meant for my family and why it is really important to have a piece of equipment like this in the area. The loss of the radiologist out of that particular regional hospital would have a dramatic and a very negative impact on accessibility for health care for people in eastern Nova Scotia, including my father.

I think that it is very important that people there have mobilized and have been successful. However, the resolution doesn't say this. It doesn't congratulate and thank the people who truly need to be thanked; that is the medical staff at St. Martha's Hospital, that is the public and the community who put an extraordinary amount of time and energy into mobilizing, both in the Antigonish region, in the Bridgewater region and in the Dartmouth region to secure these important technical aids for hospital personnel. For the reason that they are not thanked, rather we are in this resolution being asked to congratulate the minister for listening and consulting which, as I have said, he should be doing anyway on a regular basis and the fact that it occurred in a very reactive way in this situation is no cause for rejoicing, no reason to support this resolution. Thank you.

[7:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on this resolution. Of course, everybody is pleased that the CT scanners are in St. Martha's, the South Shore and Dartmouth General but it is amazing that it is the Liberal Government to bring the resolution in. You know, I remember in this Legislature during the reform of the Liberal Government on health care, they had 40 members sitting over there - we were just a small little group sitting over here - and they told me that they knew what Nova Scotians wanted in health care and they knew that they did what was right and they would be rewarded at the polls. Well, they got 19 seats and I believe a lot of that had to do with health care and their policies on health care.

Mr. Speaker, they set up the regional boards without any capital. They took away the community ownership in the hospitals, and communities no more have ownership of anything and cannot attach themselves to the hospitals. We have got volunteers in the foundations working hard. I know in the Valley, the breast screening unit had to be paid for, not by the Department of Health - the Minister of Health was not so kind as to come down and listen to their concerns - they are down there raising money for the breast screening unit on their own . . .

[Page 2449]

AN HON. MEMBER: They got a mobile unit.

MR. MOODY: Mobile, yes, but who is paying for it? They are paying for it by the groups going out and raising money.

AN HON. MEMBER: It's a mobile unit.

MR. MOODY: It is a mobile unit. I know all about it, but I can tell you one thing, the Minister of Health was not so kind to contribute. They are out there raising the money. They loaned them the money and now they are going out to raise the money to pay it off.

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that we have to do . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Raise the taxes.

MR. MOODY: Well, you know, raise the taxes. We got to make sure whatever we do we have priorities. I always thought, Mr. Speaker, as a member of this Legislature, that health was a priority. People's well-being is a priority and government has to decide, are we going to look after the well-being and the needs of individuals and help them with their quality of life or are we going to make up excuses of where and what we do with our funding and what is important and not important? I happen to think this is probably one of the most important issues - health care - that we can talk about. It touches us all. It touches some of us in here, either through our family, through our loved ones, or friends.

Mr. Speaker, as a Health Critic, to get the calls you get and the things that people talk about, what is happening, I have a lot of concern. When you talk about the shortage of doctors, everybody will make up excuses for why we have a shortage of doctors, why people cannot get access to the system, why people are on waiting lists - and we could go on and on and on - yes, I have to say we have dedicated health care professionals, we have people trying to do their best, and we have people working long hours. As a matter of fact, my colleague, the member for Cumberland South will tell you that he is short of doctors and he has good, young doctors leaving because it is affecting their health; they cannot continue the pace they are working.

We have got to start coming in here, Mr. Speaker, with resolutions, not congratulating somebody for such a thing as getting a CAT scanner, when that is a fact of life that they should have had. Many of us helped without those kinds of things; we should not be in here saying congratulations. We should be coming in here trying to work out solutions in areas where we can make it work better.

The Minister of Health, what is his job? When they say that he consults, I have never had so many complaints, whether it is an environmental illness group or whether it is a professional group that I met with today, or many other groups that cannot get meetings with

[Page 2450]

the Minister of Health, so I cannot figure out who he is consulting with, that all these groups that I have the time, and I remember, I know what it is like to be Minister of Health and I know that you cannot be Minister of Health and Minister of Justice and give it its due, because the man cannot humanly, possibly complete those two jobs; no human being can do that.

The Premier refuses to prioritize health and make a full-time Minister of Health, because that is what we need in this province. If you are going to consult, that is the minister's job. It is not something that you praise somebody for. It is expected. If you are going to run for this office and you are going to be a minister, you make yourself available and you consult, yes, from one end of this province to the other. You consult with all the groups that have an interest because what they are interested in is not a pat on the back, they are interested in making health care better in this province, every one of them and every one of them has good ideas, wherever you live in this province.

We turned off so many volunteers with health reform. We have actually turned off. You know, I remember this same Liberal Government and a Premier said, you can't even serve on the regional boards unless you are Liberal or you believe in the Liberal policies; if you don't, you can't serve. You know what they said? We are going to allow anybody to get on those boards. We will make it so that the communities can choose. Communities cannot choose anybody. The Minister of Health is still trying to figure out who is Liberal and who is not Liberal, who will do as we say, won't do as we say. I am saying to myself, does that work? Of course it doesn't work. We go back to having community health boards without any legislation, without any mandate. We have regional boards where you can't even get to the meetings. They have closed meetings and it is a closed shop.

I asked the Minister of Health a couple of years ago why the meetings cannot be public like school board meetings and council meetings and other meetings. But they have closed meetings, Mr. Speaker. Reporters cannot report. You can't go there and make presentations, unless you can get to know somebody. What kind of a system have we got? If you talk about who is responsible, the minister says, no. We cannot get the beds in Windsor, Mr. Speaker, as you know about, because that is the Central Health Board's region. The Central Health Board says, no, we cannot do that because we can't get the money for the Minister of Health. So they pass the buck and who is responsible? Somebody is going to be responsible. I will tell you, the public is going to hold somebody responsible, in the next election, for health care. They did last time and they are again.

What they want is leadership. They don't want us running around patting one another on the back. They want leadership and they want to see that their health dollars are spent in a manner that is efficient and effective and is meeting their needs, not their wants, but their needs. As I talk to people in my area, and I know every member does, and every member in here, regardless of what side of the House you are on, I know you are concerned about your area. I know you want to help in every area. I know you are sincere. But you know, when all

[Page 2451]

of these people tell you that we cannot adequately fund, and I know capital equipment, we can't adequately keep up the equipment and maintain the equipment so that it is adequately meeting the needs, we all have to try to figure out how to do it. There isn't one of us in here that wouldn't try to do that. We all care about our communities. We all care about our hospitals. We all care about our people.

Mr. Speaker, a resolution like this is counter-productive. We have got to have something that says, listen, we have got some ideas, let's make some changes. No system is perfect. I admit that any system I was involved in or system today can always use improvement. But you know, people in the government, the best kind, are the ones who will take advice, who will make changes to make things better. Never mind patting yourself on the back and saying everything is wonderful. Get on with the change. Get on with making it better and let's work together to do just that. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

You have roughly four minutes.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it wasn't my intention to speak on this resolution, but after hearing what I have just heard from the other side, I can't help but address some of the concerns. First, I would like to start off with the points we heard from the NDP members who indicated that it shouldn't have come to this. That the community shouldn't have to have gotten involved in this matter. The community should have remained silent and everybody else should have taken care of it, not the community.

I want to tell you right now, Mr. Speaker, like my colleague, the member for Antigonish, and like my colleague, the member for Inverness, and as I am sure my colleague, the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury would agree, we are proud of our community. We are proud of the interest that they took in this question, of their efforts, of their church groups who put forward these petitions, of all the different groups in the community who fought for this, who lobbied and who worked together and who stood united as rural Nova Scotians in the quad counties for this service.

I think, at this time, I also want to thank the staff and the members of the boards of the Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow who, for so many years, provided CT scan service for our four counties. I want to personally extend my thanks to them for what they did for our communities. There was a service there, but we felt the service wasn't adequate enough. We felt that for St. Martha's to be a regional hospital it needed to have a CAT scan service to properly take care of our citizens. That is what the Minister of Health agreed to do.

Now, my honourable colleague, the member for Kings West on the other side, having been a former Minister of the Crown clearly understands that there are so many demands that come from throughout Nova Scotia. Each community feels that their problem is the number

[Page 2452]

one problem and it should be dealt with first. He knows that. He has been there. For us to stand here and say, well, the Minister of Health should have taken care of this from the start and the problem in Cumberland South, the Minister of Health should have taken care of that, and the shortage of doctors here, that should have been taken care of - you cannot do everything.

What the minister has to do is prioritize and to listen to the people and to see where the need is. There is need all over the province. It is not fair to say St. Martha's is more important than Cumberland South or St. Martha's is more important than down in Yarmouth. All Nova Scotians are equal and it is a question of prioritizing and that is where the communities got together and we as the MLAs got together. We stood united and said, we need a CAT scan service at St. Martha's. The minister listened to us. He listened to our concerns as he appraised of every other group and he said, I understand your needs. I am going to provide a CAT scan for St. Martha's Hospital and address that concern.

How many times have we heard the NDP say, fix the problem? As my colleague from the Tory caucus has said, we need ideas. We need solutions. Where are the solutions? Fix it. Spend money here. Get more doctors in Richmond. Put a CAT scan in St. Martha's. Get more doctors for Cumberland South. You ask them how you guys are going to do it? What do you propose? Well, do it. Where are the ideas? Criticize. Criticize. Nova Scotians are sick of that. They want ideas. How many times do we hear, let's work together? Let's work together for ideas. We are open to their ideas. You don't hear them. You hear criticism, doom and gloom. Everything is bad. Everything is falling apart. They do not talk about what an achievement this is to have a CAT scan in St. Martha's to provide the people of the quad counties with adequate medical service. They do not talk about the fact that there are four new doctors in Richmond County since the March 24th election - four new doctors. You do not hear about that.

Mr. Speaker, I fully support this resolution and again I thank the staff at St. Martha's and the Minister of Health for listening to these concerns.

MR. SPEAKER: We stand adjourned.

[The House rose at 7:30 p.m.]