The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Thur., June 3, 1999

First Session

THURSDAY, JUNE 3, 1999

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 3195, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Truck Safety: Cooperation
(Industry)/Efforts (Staff) - Recognize, Hon. C. Huskilson 6671
Vote - Affirmative 6672
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Justice - Human Rights Commission: Mayann Francis - Executive Director,
Hon. R. Harrison 6672
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 111, Occupational Health and Safety Act, Mr. G. Balser 6675
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 3196, PC Party (N.S.): Fishing - Avoid, Mr. H. Epstein 6675
Res. 3197, Educ. - Teachers: Roy C. Hill Awards - Recipients Congrats.,
Ms. E. O'Connell 6676
Vote - Affirmative 6676
Res. 3198, Lbr. - OH&S Act: Review - Implement, Mr. G. Balser 6676
Res. 3199, East Preston United Baptist Church: Rev. Ogueri Ohanaka:
Induction - Congrats., Ms. Y. Atwell 6677
Vote - Affirmative 6678
Res. 3200, Health - Physicians: Cumb. Co. - Departure Action,
Mr. M. Scott 6678
Res. 3201, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Road Safety: Safe Kids Week 1999 -
Recognize, Ms. Helen MacDonald 6679
Vote - Affirmative 6679
Res. 3202, EMO - Emergency Serv. 911: Info. Confidential -
Release Investigate, Mr. J. DeWolfe 6679
Res. 3203, NDP (N.S.) - Orders (Unions): Info. - Release,
Mr. L. Montgomery 6680
Res. 3204, Environ. - PCB Storage (Hubley): Commun. Efforts -
Congrats., Mr. W. Estabrooks 6681
Vote - Affirmative 6681
Res. 3205, Educ. - Eskasoni Learning Ctr.: Initial Year -
Congrats. Extend, Mr. E. Fage 6681
Vote - Affirmative 6682
Res. 3206, Gov't. (Lib.-N.S.) - Truth: Post-Election - First Casualty,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 6682
Res. 3207, Nat. Res. - Indian Path Common Rec. Hiking Trails:
Volunteers - Creation Congrats., Mr. M. Baker 6683
Vote - Affirmative 6683
Res. 3208, Nat. Res. - ATV Users: Environ. Damage - Action,
Mr. C. Parker 6684
Res. 3209, Health - Investment Fund: Plan - Table, Dr. J. Hamm 6684
Res. 3210, Justice - Crime Conf. (Atl.) [Bible Hill 1999]:
Best Wishes - Extend, Mr. J. Muir 6685
Vote - Affirmative 6685
Res. 3211, Educ. - Wentworth Elem. Sch.: Awards (N.S. Heritage
Fair-Truro) - Congrats., Mr. M. Scott 6685
Vote - Affirmative 6686
Res. 3212, CFB Greenwood - Memorial Garden (14 Wing): Creation -
Note, Mr. G. Moody 6686
Vote - Affirmative 6687
Res. 3213, Sports - Golf (Senior Champs. 1999): Amherst &
Northumberland Courses - Best Wishes Extend, Mr. E. Fage 6687
Vote - Affirmative 6688
Res. 3214, Educ. - Margaret Acker (Truro-MAU Graduate):
Achievements - Congrats., Mr. J. Muir 6688
Vote - Affirmative 6688
Res. 3215, NDP (N.S.): Hfx.-Centred Party - Proved,
Mr. Charles MacDonald 6689
Res. 3216, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Roads Policy (Areas [Non-Lib.]):
Dirt - Used, Mr. B. Taylor 6689
Res. 3217, Housing & Mun. Affs. - Cumb. Co.: Pty. Assessments -
Process Investigate, Mr. J. Leefe 6690
HOUSE RECESSED AT 12:36 P.M. 6691
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 12:41 P.M. 6691
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 1109, Health - Budget (1999-2000): Promises - Believability,
Mr. R. Chisholm 6691
No. 1110, Health - Care: Plan - Creating Confirm, Dr. J. Hamm 6692
No. 1111, Fin. - Budget (1999-2000): Balanced Promise (Premier) -
Believability, Mr. R. Chisholm 6694
No. 1112, Health - Care: Budget (1999-2000) - Plan Table,
Dr. J. Hamm 6695
No. 1113, Fin. - Budget (1999-2000): Health Investment Fund -
Analysis Produce, Mr. H. Epstein 6696
No. 1114, Health - Care: Plan - Reveal, Dr. J. Hamm 6697
No. 1115, Health: Investment Fund - Accountability,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 6698
No. 1116, Health - Budget (1999-2000): Human Resources Plan -
Absence, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 6699
No. 1117, Educ. - N.S. Commun. College System: Transfer Payments -
Amount Confirm, Mr. E. Fage 6700
No. 1118, Health - Nursing Shortage: Solution - Delay Explain,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 6701
No. 1119, Commun. Serv. - Secure Treatment Ctr.: Truro - Confirm,
Mr. J. Muir 6702
No. 1120, Exco: Opinion Polls - Release, Mr. D. Dexter 6703
No. 1121, Lbr. - Volunteer Firefighters: Commitment - Fulfil,
Mr. M. Baker 6704
No. 1122, Fin. - Casino (Hfx.): Delay - Awareness,
Ms. Helen MacDonald 6705
No. 1123, Educ. - P3: Canning & Kentville, Kings Co. - Site Selection,
Mr. G. Archibald 6706
No. 1124, Fin. - NSRL: Dividends - Collection Time-Frame,
Mr. J. Holm 6706
No. 1125, Environ. - Bridgewater Water Treatment Plan: Effluent -
Disposal, Mr. D. Chard 6708
No. 1126, Housing & Mun. Affs.: Assessments - Fairness, Mr. M. Scott 6709
No. 1127, Fish. - Aquaculture: St. Margarets Bay - Dev. Prevent,
Mr. John Deveau 6710
No. 1128, Environ. - Tires: Recycling - New Markets, Mr. J. DeWolfe 6711
No. 1129, Fish. - Aquaculture: St. Margarets Bay (Franks George Island) -
Assess, Dr. H. Bitter-Suermann 6712
No. 1130, Environ. - Tires: Dumping - Sites Enumerate, Mr. J. DeWolfe 6713
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 3010, Estimates - Committee of the Whole House on Supply,
Hon. D. Downe 6714
Mr. H. Epstein 6714
Mr. N. LeBlanc 6725
Referred to CWH on Supply 6732
ON MOTION FOR SUPPLY:
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 6732
Mr. E. Fage 6735
Mr. D. Dexter 6739
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON SUPPLY AT 3:30 P.M. 6742
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 6:00 P.M. 6743
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Secondary Roads: Neglect - Continuance:
Mr. C. Parker 6743
Mr. W. Estabrooks 6745
Hon. C. Huskilson 6746
Mr. P. MacEwan 6748
Mr. G. Balser 6749
Mr. N. LeBlanc 6750
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON SUPPLY AT 6:30 P.M. 6752
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 8:00 P.M. 6753
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. R. Harrison 6753
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. R. Harrison 6753
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Fin.: Public Service Superannuation Plan - Joint Governance,
Hon. D. Downe 6754
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., June 4th at 10:00 a.m. 6755

[Page 6671]

HALIFAX, THURSDAY, JUNE 3, 1999

Fifty-seventh General Assembly

First Session

12:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Ronald Russell

DEPUTY SPEAKER

Mr. Donald Chard

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

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 3195

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

6671

[Page 6672]

Whereas truck safety is a priority for the Departments of Transportation and Public Works and Business and Consumer Services; and

Whereas Nova Scotia efforts and those of local trucking associations have earned this province top ratings in the country for heavy commercial vehicle safety; and

Whereas Nova Scotia is participating in Road Check '99, a road safety program held in Canada, Mexico and the United States, as part of International Transportation Week, May 31st to June 4th;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the cooperation between the province's trucking industry and the provincial staff who work together to make Nova Scotia's commercial trucks among the safest in Canada.

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 Government House Leader.

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

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the indulgence of the House. We were waiting for some of our guests to be seated in your gallery.

Mr. Speaker, this morning I provided copies to the Opposition and Progressive Conservative caucuses, I am very pleased, this morning and I will ask them to rise first and then be seated, because I have a brief statement to make but I would ask the following people in your gallery to rise this morning: Ms. Mayann Francis who is accompanied by Ms. Isabel Waterman, a sister; Francis Waterman, Mayann's niece; David O'Connel who is Francis'

[Page 6673]

fiance; and Janet Sylvester, who is a friend. Ms. Mayann Francis, accompanied by her family and friends this morning. If they could please rise and receive the appreciation of this House. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, I will ask them, through you, to be seated for just a moment, because I would like to read this statement. I am very pleased to introduce to the members of this House Ms. Mayann Francis, the new Executive Director of the Human Rights Commission of the Province of Nova Scotia. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, Ms. Francis has accepted this position and we are delighted that she has. Mayann is a highly skilled professional, with a wealth of valuable experience that will bode well for the future of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission. Mayann is a native Nova Scotian who received her Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Mary's University and has also earned a Masters Degree in Public Administration from New York University.

Mayann is not only returning to her home province of Nova Scotia but she is returning to the commission as well, where she served as a Human Rights Officer in the early 1970's. She was also the first employment equity officer at Dalhousie University and has served as an administrative manager for the Office of the District Attorney in Kings County, New York.

For the past five years, Mayann has served as an Assistant Deputy Minister with the Province of Ontario; first with the Women's Directorate and then with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Mayann has a great deal of expertise in the areas of public relations, employee relations, project management and in the area of facilitation. Mayann is also an active volunteer. She is a member of the National United Way Board of Directors and the Board of Governors of the University College of Cape Breton.

She has been recognized by the Congress of Black Women of Preston for making a difference for her community. Mayann has also received the silver plaque award from the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission for her outstanding contribution in the field of human rights. As you can see, Mr. Speaker, Mayann's track record is very impressive indeed.

We are truly fortunate that someone of Mayann's calibre will take on this extremely important position, which she will officially begin on August 3, 1999.

I wish to take this opportunity to thank those who served on the selection panel, including Mr. Douglas Ruck, Mr. Charles MacDonald, Mr. Bruce Smith, Ms. Judith Sullivan-Corney and Ms. Patricia Doyle-Bedwell. I believe they have made the right choice and the best choice for this commission and for Nova Scotians.

[Page 6674]

Once again, I would ask the members of this House to join me in welcoming Mayann to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, Mayann home again, and wish her every success as she takes on this new challenge for her province. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Standing Ovation)

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I want to echo the words of the Minister of Justice in welcoming the appointment of Mayann Francis as the new Executive Director of the Human Rights Commission.

Having reviewed the information provided to me, including her curriculum vitae, and having spoken with my colleague from Preston who has personal acquaintance with Ms. Francis, I think I can say on behalf of our caucus that Ms. Francis is well-qualified for the position. She is a non-partisan appointment. (Interruption) Yes, she is a Nova Scotian and that is a very good thing as well. She brings vast experience to the job and, indeed, her professional career has been dedicated to the human rights issues in Nova Scotia and in other parts of North America.

The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, Mr. Speaker, needs someone like Ms. Francis at this time. I only wish that the commissioners and the chairman of the Human Rights Commission had the same level of qualifications and non-partisanship as Ms. Francis. (Applause)

The Minister of Justice must recognize, Mr. Speaker, that all appointments to the Human Rights Commission must be beyond reproach, not just the executive director. Nova Scotians deserve a Human Rights Commission that will have the experience and the skills to ensure that all Nova Scotians' rights are protected. One executive director will not accomplish this without commissioners and a chairman who we all have confidence in. The day that the Minister of Justice realizes this fact, we will all be able to celebrate more. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland South.

MR. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in response to the minister's statement. I would like to thank the minister for the advance notice of this announcement.

As I am sure we all agree, the position of Executive Director of the Human Rights Commission is an important one for all Nova Scotians. This position calls for a leader to demonstrate significant insight in the present and potential issues that will impact on Nova Scotia. Based on the information that the minister provided, it is obvious that Ms. Francis is well-qualified to serve in this position.

[Page 6675]

Having said that, I would like to take this opportunity, on behalf of my caucus, to congratulate Ms. Francis on this appointment and welcome her back to Nova Scotia. I would also like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude and the gratitude of my caucus to the selection panel for their hard work in ensuring that Nova Scotia has the best person for this valuable position.

Mr. Speaker, much has been said about the commission and its appointments in recent months. I would sincerely hope this appointment will prove beneficial to Nova Scotians, both now and in the future. Thank you. (Applause)

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 111 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 7 of the Acts of 1997. The Occupational Health and Safety Act. (Mr. Gordon Balser)

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that this bill be read a second time on a future day.

[12:15 p.m.]

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 3196

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

Whereas the Tories and their Leader are swimming back and forth like a school of fish caught in the Liberal current, trying to decide how to vote on the budget; and

Whereas they say they are sending out lines to the people of this province through yet another fishing poll;

Therefore be it resolved that fish should not go fishing because if they do, they are bound to get tangled up in their own lines.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

[Page 6676]

RESOLUTION NO. 3197

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

Whereas four Nova Scotian teachers have been honoured with 1999 Roy C. Hill Awards; and

Whereas Tamara Zann-Roland and Lisa MacKinnon won a national award of great merit for their program created in conjunction with learning disabled students called "Not All Great Minds Think Alike"; and

Whereas Wendy Mackey and Peggy Deschambault were awarded a provincial-territorial award for African Percussion - "Kumba" Ensemble;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Tamara Zann-Roland, Lisa MacKinnon, Wendy Mackey and Peggy Deschambault on their Roy C. Hill Awards which placed them among the finest of our country's teachers.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 3198

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

Whereas the intention of Occupational Health and Safety Regulations is to promote and enhance workplace safety; and

[Page 6677]

Whereas increasing numbers of small, independent businesses have expressed concern over the way in which the regulations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act are being applied; and

Whereas these businesses have expressed concern that if the present pattern continues, they will be forced to cease operation or simply find ways to circumvent this Act;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Labour agree to implement a review of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations to ensure that the regulations are not forcing small businesses to close.

Mr. Speaker, I would seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 3199

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

Whereas a Service of Induction for Reverend Ogueri Ohanaka was held at the East Preston United Baptist Church on May 21, 1999; and

Whereas Reverend Ohanaka served for three years as General Secretary of Nigeria Scripture Union (Kaduna City Branch) prior to coming to Canada; and

Whereas in Canada he has worked with five denominations and served seven summer and three student pastorates;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Reverend Ogueri Ohanaka and wish him well as he continues serving in his leadership capacity within the community of East Preston and his role as pastor to the congregation of the East Preston United Baptist Church.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

[Page 6678]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cumberland South.

RESOLUTION NO. 3200

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

Whereas communities across this province have been forced to actively search for physicians due to the poor management of health care by this Liberal Government; and

Whereas the Minister of Health acknowledged the growing problem by stating that, "there have been 30 physicians leave Springhill in the last 10 years, which to me is an issue."; and

Whereas it is unfortunate for the residents of these communities that the minister has failed to address what he acknowledges is an "issue";

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health immediately indicate to the people of Cumberland County what his department has been doing as a result of his admittance that the doctor problem is an issue.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

[Page 6679]

RESOLUTION NO. 3201

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

Whereas May 31st to June 6th is Safe Kids Week; and

Whereas the mission of this week is to reduce the incidence and severity of children's injuries; and

Whereas this year's Safe Kids Week will focus on road safety;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize that we must keep children safe on our roads, whether they are passengers, pedestrians or cyclists.

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 Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 3202

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

Whereas confidential information was released to the public across Nova Scotia via a scanner on the health of a Pictou County woman; and

Whereas information supplied to me yesterday by the minister stated the only opportunity for third party monitoring between the caller and a 911 dispatcher would be if the party lines still happened to be in use from where the call was made; and

Whereas since party lines no longer exist here in Nova Scotia and the woman was calling from a land phone line and confidential information was still released to the public;

[Page 6680]

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister responsible for Nova Scotia's Emergency Measures Organization launch an immediate investigation into exactly how this confidential information became public and ensure proper guidelines are in place at the dispatch centres so that it won't happen again.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 3203

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

Whereas Nova Scotians are still waiting for a straight answer from the NDP on the influence of massive campaign donations from out-of-province labour unions; and

Whereas Derrick Burton, a candidate for the NDP nomination in Cape Breton North, says that his candidacy was rejected because NDP brass in Halifax are demanding a labour union candidate; and

Whereas it appears that the NDP have allowed the democratic nomination process in Cape Breton North to be hijacked by unions;

Therefore be it resolved that the people of Nova Scotia deserve to know if the NDP are taking orders from union bosses as a payoff for hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

[Page 6681]

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 3204

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

Whereas community projects are more than often successful because of the commitment of volunteers; and

Whereas the citizens of Hubley, near Five Island Lake, have worked tirelessly to have PCB problems in that community addressed; and

Whereas these efforts have resulted in further clean-up work in the north bay of Five Island Lake this summer;

Therefore be it resolved that this House offer its congratulations to these citizens for their continuing efforts to make their community a safe place to live.

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 Cumberland North.

RESOLUTION NO. 3205

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 Eskasoni Learning Centre is regarded as the finest Aboriginal high school in Canada; and

[Page 6682]

Whereas the school preserves the Mi'kmaq language and culture while equipping students with technological skills; and

Whereas the first graduating class of this high-tech high school recently received their diplomas;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend congratulations to the members of the Eskasoni Reserve on the successful first year of this high school and also extend congratulations to all graduates.

Mr. Speaker, I respectfully request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 3206

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

Whereas yesterday during Question Period, government members objected strenuously to the Leader of the Opposition's use of the word truth; and

Whereas yesterday during question period, government members also objected to the NDP Finance Critic's use of the word truth; and

Whereas members of the NDP caucus believe Nova Scotians wants their government to always tell the truth;

Therefore be it resolved that Nova Scotians be reminded that for this Liberal Government, truth - before an election - has always been the first casualty.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

[Page 6683]

MR. SPEAKER: I will make the ruling as to whether the resolution is out of order or not. I do not believe that it is out of order but I will have a look at it before we table it.

The honourable member for Lunenburg.

RESOLUTION NO. 3207

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

Whereas a group of volunteers have created the Indian Path Common Recreation Hiking Trails; and

Whereas this group of volunteers have worked hard at cutting out trails which take advantage of the natural beauty of one of Lunenburg Township's original Commons; and

Whereas hiking is one of North America's fastest growing past time, one, which is attractive to both residents and visitors;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly congratulate the volunteers who created the Indian Path Common Recreation Hiking Trail.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

Just give me one moment here to take a look at this resolution, please. I will permit that to be tabled.

[The notice is tabled.]

The honourable member for Pictou West.

[Page 6684]

RESOLUTION NO. 3208

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

Whereas most all-terrain vehicle users are responsible operators but a few are causing damage to fragile wetlands; and

Whereas many bird nesting sites and native wildflowers are being destroyed at these sites; and

Whereas many Nova Scotians are very concerned about this environmental damage and loss of habitat;

Therefore be it resolved that this government immediately look at educational programs and legislation to address this vital issue.

Mr. Speaker, I will ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 3209

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

Whereas this Liberal Government is now realizing the travesty and chaos it has created in Nova Scotia's health care system for the past six years; and

Whereas simply throwing money at a system without any plan is like throwing good money after bad; and

Whereas there are needs of an urgent nature at many rural hospitals across Nova Scotia including that of nurses;

[Page 6685]

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier and the Minister of Health immediately table a plan in this Legislature, showing a comprehensive and detailed breakdown of exactly where funding from the new health care investment fund will be spent.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill.

RESOLUTION NO. 3210

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

Whereas the 13th Annual Atlantic Crime Conference begins today in Bible Hill; and

Whereas this is the first time this conference has been held in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the participants come from many fields, in addition to that of Justice and will address important issues such as crime among youth and protection of seniors;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend best wishes to the organizers and all participants in the 13th Annual Atlantic Crime Conference for very successful discussions.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cumberland South.

RESOLUTION NO. 3211

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

[Page 6686]

Whereas on Friday, May 14th, the Nova Scotia Heritage Fair was held in Truro and several awards were presented; and

Whereas the Wentworth Elementary School's project, "Ski with me through the 20th Century", won the Public Choice Award and also won in the Grades 6 and 7 category, where out of 250 projects, eight final prize winners were chosen to represent Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Ewan Scallion will represent Nova Scotia at the National Heritage Fair in Edmonton, Alberta this summer;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature congratulate the staff, students and volunteers of Wentworth Elementary School and the community for their hard work and wish them all the best in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 3212

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

[12:30 p.m.]

Whereas the six Labrador helicopter crewmen from CFB Greenwood tragically killed last year will be honoured during the celebrations for the 75th Anniversary of the Air Force; and

Whereas a memorial stone, dedicated to the crew, will be unveiled in a ceremony for Greenwood's airbase memorial garden; and

[Page 6687]

Whereas the garden commemorates the members of 14 Wing who have lost their lives over the years;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House take special note of the hard work and thoughtfulness of the Greenwood airbase in setting aside a memorial garden and in particular for holding a special ceremony to remember the six crewmen who lost their lives in the line of duty last October.

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 Cumberland North.

RESOLUTION NO. 3213

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

Whereas senior golfers across Nova Scotia have begun their season on many of Nova Scotia's breathtaking courses; and

Whereas seniors will enjoy many hours of competitive relaxation throughout the 1999 golf season; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Senior Golf Championship will be held August 4th to August 6th at both the Amherst Golf Club and the Northumberland Links course;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly extend our best wishes to all senior golfers across Nova Scotia and respectfully to the 240 competitors who will participate in the 1999 Nova Scotia Seniors Championship.

Mr. Speaker, I respectfully request waiver of notice.

[Page 6688]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill.

RESOLUTION NO. 3214

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

Whereas Margaret Acker of Truro recently gave her Graduate Recital at Mount Allison University; and

Whereas Margaret was a member of numerous bands and choirs at Mount Allison, performed in several churches and was a member of the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra; and

Whereas for several years, on a weekly basis, she volunteered her music skills with the Sackville Special Populations;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Margaret Acker on her many achievements and volunteerism during her years at Mount Allison University and wish her every success in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 6689]

The honourable member for Inverness.

RESOLUTION NO. 3215

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

Whereas the Leader of the NDP likes to take his metro caucus on tours of the province, preaching that Nova Scotia is more than just Halifax; and

Whereas NDP bosses in Halifax have snubbed the democratic process by replacing the candidate selection committee in Cape Breton North with a hand-picked faction from other ridings; and

Whereas Cape Breton North NDP candidate Derrick Burton says Party brass in Halifax took this undemocratic action because of pressure from unions;

Therefore be it resolved that the NDP have proven they are a Halifax-centred Party that is deep in the back pocket of labour unions from Ontario and the United States.

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

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

That notice of motion was also too long.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 3216

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

Whereas no matter how hard it tries, this Liberal Government cannot weave and bob its way out of responsibility for the grossly neglected highway system in this province; and

Whereas this counterfeit criticism of their Ottawa cousins just doesn't cut it; and

[Page 6690]

Whereas both Liberal Governments have knocked $32 million out of this province's Transportation expenditures;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works and his Liberal Government admit their only policy for pavement outside their own ridings is to revert to dirt.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 3217

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

Whereas words like accountability and fairness appear to have no meaning for the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs; and

Whereas the minister has angered and frustrated property owners by failing to provide answers regarding the assessment process in Cumberland South; and

Whereas the minister's refusal to cooperate continues to thicken the cloud of suspicion over his department's process to calculate property assessments;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs stop obfuscating and immediately commit to a full inquiry into the fallacious process used to determine property assessments in the northern region.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

[Page 6691]

ORDERS OF THE DAY

MR. SPEAKER: There is a scrum going on. We will recess for five minutes until 12:40 p.m.

We are recessed until 12:40 p.m.

[12:36 p.m. The House recessed.]

[12:41 p.m. The House reconvened.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we start Oral Question Period, I would like to advise the House that the Adjournment motion today was submitted by the honourable Leader of the Opposition and it reads:

Therefore be it resolved that this government explain to the Nova Scotia public why they continue to neglect secondary roads throughout this province.

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

The time being 12:42 p.m., we will terminate Question Period at 1:42 p.m.

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HEALTH - BUDGET (1999-2000): PROMISES - BELIEVABILITY

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, my question is through you to the Premier. The government said in its last Throne Speech that, we can provide more excellent nurses to meet Nova Scotia's health care needs and provide more career options to young Nova Scotians. They said, the government will bring down a balanced budget. They said, the government has established its priorities, increase investment in health care. Mr. Speaker, they will say anything.

My question to the Premier. Why are the health care promises that he makes this year any more believable than the ones that he broke last year?

HON. RUSSELL MACLELLAN, Q.C. (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, the members for Chester-St. Margaret's and Halifax Needham were at a meeting with the Minister of Health and stakeholders yesterday, who believe this government, who think this is a great budget and suggest that the NDP vote for it.

[Page 6692]

MR. CHISHOLM: It underlines my point, they will say anything. (Interruptions)

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

MR. CHISHOLM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Last year the Premier said, we are putting money into health care, we are saying it is a priority. It is a priority because we have the money. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: We have the ability to improve health care pay as you go.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: My question to the Premier, Mr. Speaker. When did the Premier know that he did not have the ability to improve health care?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we are improving health care. We are borrowing to do just that. We are paying it back within this generation. This is a major step forward in health care and I don't know why the NDP is opposed to it.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the Premier promised that through good financial management in this province, we have the money to put into health care.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question.

MR. CHISHOLM: My question to the Premier, Mr. Speaker. Will he explain to Nova Scotians why he will say anything other than what is true?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, on that vein, to listen to the NDP caucus, time and again talking about more money for nurses and more doctors in Nova Scotia, more long-term care, home care and now we have the plan, the plan is right here. Why are they opposing it?

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

HEALTH - CARE: PLAN - CREATING CONFIRM

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. In today's media there is a direct quotation attributed to the Minister of Health. When asked about a plan for health care, the minister is quoted as saying, "We're creating it as we go.". Would the minister indicate did he or did he not say that? Is that a direct quote from the minister?

[Page 6693]

[12:45 p.m.]

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I haven't seen the direct quote and I can't recall if I said that exactly, but I certainly would say, and I will repeat in the House here today, that yesterday for instance, we met with a large number of stakeholders in the health care community, in the morning. We invited them to be part of the process as we build on the blueprint committee, the Royal Commission's Report. We have developed themes and areas that we will proceed with, and we will work with them; that is the commitment I make. In no way did I go into that meeting yesterday morning and put down a total complete plan. We are not going to . . .

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

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I believe that the minister, by not suggesting that he didn't say it, did say it, because we haven't seen a plan. We haven't seen a plan for health care in six years, since this government came into power. My question to the minister. Can the minister explain, in the absence of a plan and recognizing the fact we now, over the next three years, will need 2,000 new nurses, can he explain the rationale of dismissing 1,200 nurses from the health care system since 1993?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I did not dismiss whatever number of nurses, 1,200 nurses, over that period of time. What we have is a commitment (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

DR. SMITH: . . . we have listened to the nurses, they have said that casuality is creating problems in patient care, in the morale of the nursing profession. We have listened to them. We are making commitments. It is in the budget; it is there to see. We are working with them and we are going to turn this around.

DR. HAMM: By way of conclusion with the minister. The minister has in recent days acknowledged the fact that with an aging population there will be heavy demands on the health care system. Can this minister explain, in the absence of a plan and with an aging population, the rationale of this government over the last six years to close over 30 per cent of the acute care beds in this province?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, that honourable member knows full well, we are still among the most heavily hospital-bedded in Canada, certainly, that must tell him something. We have a plan. We are building on all the reports that have been gathered by previous governments and by our government. We have developed themes, and we are putting in place a Health Investment Fund that will have legislation, that we will be held accountable, and we will be accountable to the people.

[Page 6694]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

FIN. - BUDGET (1999-2000):

BALANCED PROMISE (PREMIER) - BELIEVABILITY

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to return to the Premier. On March 4th of last year, the Premier laid out his one-plank platform, which I am going to table. The Premier says in this document, "Nova Scotians know the answer is not in books full of promises. Irresponsible political promises that will send the province back to its insolvent past. And not dream-like wish lists without consideration for either costs or consequences.". My question to the Premier. Why should Nova Scotians not believe that you will say anything to stay in power? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

THE PREMIER: It is really incredible to hear this group on the other side talking about the needs of health care, whining day after day that they are not being listened to, but now that the health care plan is there not to support it and question why we are putting money into health care.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the same so-called Liberal plan for 1998, election promises. It promises new doctors, new equipment, new long-term care beds, and it says that it will all be done with a balanced budget. None of that happened . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Your question.

MR. CHISHOLM: . . . it was nothing but words. I want to ask the Premier. If that was your plan then, what is your plan now?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, when I ran for the leadership of the Liberal Party, I said primarily that I would listen to the people of Nova Scotia. The people of Nova Scotia want better health care and the people of Nova Scotia are going to get better health care. I would suggest the NDP do what the stakeholders recommend and that is support this budget.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, it is obvious the Liberals will say anything in the hopes that they will fool Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: I want to ask the Premier, Mr. Speaker, since your plan last year obviously was not worth the paper it was written on, why should Nova Scotians believe you now?

[Page 6695]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I think Nova Scotians will follow the lead of the stakeholders who are very supportive of what this government is doing, very supportive of this budget. These people know health care. Obviously, the NDP do not.

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

HEALTH - CARE: BUDGET (1999-2000) - PLAN TABLE

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. I earlier asked the minister, was the statement he made yesterday about a plan, when he said we are creating it as we go - something he said yesterday, and he did not deny it - but in answering my second supplementary, this minister said we have a plan. Mr. Minister, do you or do you not have a plan?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we have a plan to stabilize the acute care system. That is clear. We are putting an infusion of money in to carry us through the transition period to a new way of delivering health care to Nova Scotians, to deliver it closer to their communities, to address the adolescent and children's services, mental health, rehabilitation, primary care and prevention. That is what we are doing. We have a plan for that.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I will continue with the Minister of Health. Yesterday, the Minister of Health was asked for a plan by health care providers and he failed to deliver. Will this minister admit that the failure of this government to create a viable health care system in this province is because they have had no plan, they have not got one today, they did not have one yesterday and I doubt very much they have any ability to create one tomorrow?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I would agree with the honourable member that having plans is important. In my earlier answer I outlined the extent to which we have a plan. I was not asked, yesterday, for a plan by the stakeholders. The statement that the honourable member made was not correct. They wanted to be part of continuing to build a plan and to address this transition period as we move into a strategy of planning, a new way of developing a much more comprehensive, integrated, accountable health care system.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, by way of final supplementary to the minister, will the minister indicate how much longer the chaotic approach to health care reform in this province will go on before he has a plan, a plan he can table, a plan he can show health care providers, a plan he can show Nova Scotians, something to show that this government has some idea where it wants to go in health care?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, a couple of days ago that was tabled. There are themes that we are developing and we want to develop. I think it would be wrong to come in with a pile of papers, put it on the desk and say that is the plan. We have a plan. We know where we are

[Page 6696]

going over the next three years and we know how that will be paid back and how that will be dealt with.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

FIN. - BUDGET (1999-2000):

HEALTH INVESTMENT FUND - ANALYSIS PRODUCE

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Finance. Sir, the centrepiece of the government's budget propaganda is that graph that purports to show that spending $600 million now will save much more later, but we have crunched the numbers on that. What we have discovered is that that graph demonstrates a 32 per cent rate of return of investment in the first five years. My question to the Minister of Finance is, where is his plan, where is the financial analysis to back up this very extraordinary claim?

HON. DONALD DOWNE: It is interesting, as they crunch their numbers, Mr. Speaker, the fact is that we have a plan to put health care on a solid foundation and we are doing it, unlike the NDP. All they want to do is criticize the fact that somebody has taken away their proposed agenda for the future.

MR. EPSTEIN: Do you know what this graph is, Mr. Speaker? This graph is an artist's rendition. That is what it is. If my kids came to me and told me that they would guarantee a 32 per cent rate of return over five years if only I would give them $600, I would have a few questions for them.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please, for the minister.

MR. EPSTEIN: My question to the minister is the same question I would ask my kids, where is the plan?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I am sure his children and every other child in Nova Scotia is asking the NDP about their plan. The options are very clear, increase taxes to pay for health care. That is maybe what they want to do but that is not what Nova Scotians want to do.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, the problem is that Merlin the minister isn't asking for $600, he is asking for $600 million. It is very apparent the Liberals will say anything. My question to Merlin the minister is a simple one, where is the plan to back up the financial wizardry?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, it is very clear, in the early 1990's we raised the bar and balanced the budget with regard to the overall expenditure of government. Secondly, we raised the bar again and balanced operating in ordinary. We raised the bar again and for the

[Page 6697]

first time we are going to have balance in three years for the health care system, something this province hasn't seen for decades. That is good fiscal management, something they don't understand.

MR. SPEAKER: It is getting just a little noisy in here. I don't mind a little bit of heckling but however, I would like to hear the questions and I would like to hear the answers.

The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

HEALTH - CARE: PLAN - REVEAL

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. The minister gave a startling answer to a question I asked him just a few minutes ago. In one breath he said, it is wrong for us to have a plan and then in the next breath he held up a piece of paper, a document and said, I have the plan right here. My question to the minister is, Mr. Minister, do you know what is going on? Do you know what is happening to health care? Do you have a plan? Is it wrong to have a plan or do you have a plan? Tell us all about it.

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we may have to pause for a blood pressure check but I am sorry to disappoint the honourable member that I don't have piles and piles of sheets here that I can table. The commitment that we have made to the stakeholders represented by people that we met with yesterday morning in the Cabinet Room was that we would work with them. I think it would be wrong to come in and say that we have a complete plan. We have a plan for stabilizing the acute care system. We have a plan for a transition period as we shift the direction of health care in this province. We have stability and flexibility and we will be accountable.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Finance. The Minister of Finance, obviously on occasion, must have some dialogue with the Minister of Health, considering the mammoth size of his part of public spending. Would the Minister of Finance share with us any documentation he has received from the Minister of Health that would allow him to make an accurate projection of what all of this is eventually going to cost?

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, without question, the member opposite, and the Leader of the Third Party, understands all too well the critical need to invest in health care. He, above all, understands and I support many of the comments that member has made about the importance of investing in health care. That investment in health care is part and parcel of the plan of this government, not like the NDP who do not have a plan, doesn't mean anything about health care in this province, in fact, it is all rhetoric that they talk about.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I will continue with the Minister of Finance. Since the Minister of Finance is unable to give us any documentation or any plan that allows him to determine what allowed him to make his projections on spending down the road in health

[Page 6698]

care, will the minister please, if he can't table a plan, will he table the hat from which he pulled the number that he provided for the people of Nova Scotia two days ago?

[1:00 p.m.]

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, the beauty of this is that Nova Scotians are going to see first-hand exactly, a blueprint, a plan of where the direction of this province is going, a plan that shows that this Liberal Government believes that Nova Scotians are right when they say we need to invest in Nova Scotia health care, unlike the NDP who don't want to invest in health care in Nova Scotia (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. DOWNE: . . . don't want to invest in seniors, and don't want to invest in the young people of this province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH : INVESTMENT FUND - ACCOUNTABILITY

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Yesterday this minister lamely tried to assure Nova Scotians that he will be accountable for spending the health investment mortgage, but he also admitted he had no plan for how he will spend $600 million. He does however have themes. I would like to ask, how exactly will this minister be accountable for managing a $600 million fund with no estimates and just themes?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we are building on our themes, and there is allocated monies, $139 million - and we will get into this in estimates - that will be going directly into operating; there is $50 million for Y2K and the enhancement of that program; and there is $61 million that will give us flexibility to build programs in the community and the services closer to all Nova Scotians. That is our plan.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, we are talking about health care, not a theme park. This government has had themes for health care for six years, like mismanagement, neglect, chaos and arrogance.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: My question is, will this minister commit to not spend one cent of this health care mortgage until he presents Nova Scotians with a comprehensive, itemized plan?

[Page 6699]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we will have broader consultation on the distribution and the use of this particular money, this Health Investment Fund, than ever before; that is the commitment. When she sat in that room with all of those people the other morning, she heard the good news and she didn't like it, and she heard them asked to support that budget.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I heard people in that room say this minister has to be accountable, for a change.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: This government would say anything about health care.

MR. SPEAKER: Your final supplementary. Question.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Why should Nova Scotians believe you now?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my Cabinet colleagues for the direction that we have taken, for the support that they have given to the Department of Health, to me, and to our deputy, for a faith in us that we can take the investment fund, move it through a transition period and change the direction. This is something that is not done in Canada, this is something that other areas are only talking about. We are doing it.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - BUDGET (1999-2000):

HUMAN RESOURCES PLAN - ABSENCE

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is again to the Minister of Health. One of the health care themes the minister has ignored is the casualization of other health workers like PCWs, home care workers and lab technicians. Years of mismanagement have left our province short in every facet of health care. My question is, why isn't the need for a comprehensive health human resource plan addressed in this budget?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the year before, we put $22 million; it will be approaching $20 million in long-term care. We have addressed the issue of parity with acute care and nurses and LPNs, and we have parity across the system. That is a lot of progress in one year, in times of financial restraint. We are not running a theme park. I think to degrade the issue of mental health and adolescent children's services and call them themes is wrong.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, nursing homes and home care providers cannot attract new workers because they can only pay $7.00 an hour, and these workers haven't had raises in years.

[Page 6700]

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: My question to the minister is, why doesn't this budget provide a plan to treat all health care workers fairly?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the theme of this investment fund and this current budget is on two large groups, the consumers or the patients, the people of Nova Scotia, and those who work in the health care system. We are going to offer them support through times of change, and perhaps, yes, that has been lacking, but that is a commitment that I make as Minister of Health today to those large groups and, after all, that is why we are here, because of those people.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, this minister has repeatedly failed to address the needs of the poorest health care providers. My question is, why should health care workers believe any promises you make to them now?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we have made commitments. We have addressed the issues of parity within the QE II hospital. We have addressed parity within the long-term care sector. We have committed to the nurses to address casuality. We have that commitment and they believe us and they trust us. That is why they have agreed to support us in this initiative.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland North.

EDUC. - N.S. COMMUN. COLLEGE SYSTEM:

TRANSFER PAYMENTS - AMOUNT CONFIRM

MR. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Minister of Education. I would like to raise a question on a subject that is very critical to young people, their ability to achieve financial responsibility in jobs and, obviously, the future of Nova Scotia. Mr. Minister, the federal transfer for community colleges this year, will there be in excess of a $10 million cut in the federal transfer?

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, again to the honourable member, our department has been working with the federal government to firm up on these numbers. As we have seen, especially in the last number of months, we are getting additional federal money going into community colleges that was not planned on going into community colleges and, again, that funding is certainly a lot higher than we had anticipated.

MR. FAGE: Obviously, the minister is unsure of his facts and figures in dealing with the federal government and his own department in that regard. Most experts will tell you it is a $12 million cut. Will the minister confirm that his department is prepared to put $5.3 million into the breach for the $12 million this year?

[Page 6701]

MR. GAUDET: As the honourable member knows and has seen this week, Mr. Speaker, our government is investing $5.3 million with the community colleges. We are also investing $500,000 with the Collège de l'Acadie.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, to the minister, Mr. Minister, obviously, your math is something like this health care plan; less than half the dollars are there to maintain what you got and you are going to double it.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. FAGE: Can you assure this House that there will be no cuts in seats, no increases in tuitions to students, and you are going to double, as you have said in your plan?

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, again to the honourable member, as probably the honourable member and all members of this House has heard from the people from within the community colleges, praising this government with the level of funding that we are providing community colleges and that commitment will certainly be carried through.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - NURSING SHORTAGE: SOLUTION - DELAY EXPLAIN

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. The government is now claiming this budget will handle the nursing shortage. The truth is that they have had six years to develop and implement a plan. My question is, will the minister please explain why six years was not a long enough time to develop a human resource plan for nurses?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the nursing profession has undergone a great deal of change. The honourable member would know that. They have moved to a university training program. There is an absence of what we used to call student nurses in the hospital and those types of initiatives. We have worked in consultation. We have a task force or a group consulting. We have focus groups that we have used and we have worked very closely with the nurses. We have made a commitment and we are going to keep that.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, nurses are in demand all across this country and Nova Scotia needs to attract at least 600 to avoid a real crisis. My question is, will the minister tell us the specifics, not just his themes and rhetoric, but specifics about his plans to recruit nurses to this province?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, there have been statements released, relative to the budget matters, that we are funding casual positions for 200. There will be an additional 200 full-time equivalent nurses hired; that is 400 right there. I think it will create an environment that will

[Page 6702]

look at nursing in Nova Scotia as being one of the areas to return to and return to nursing, not only to return from other places.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, this government has failed 25,000 Nova Scotians with their family doctor recruitment program. My question to the minister is, why should this province's nurses believe anything this minister says now?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, it is really sad how success bothers the NDP. They really grovel. They love to grovel in misery and whine about it and that is what the honourable member, with respect, is doing now. We have success, in the very breath as she says, we have success in recruiting physicians. We had debate in this House. I have tabled information from the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

MR. SPEAKER: The next question please.

The honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill.

COMMUN. SERV. - SECURE TREATMENT CTR.:

TRURO - CONFIRM

MR. JAMES MUIR: My question, Mr. Speaker, is for the Premier. In the Budget Address delivered by the Minister of Finance two days ago, he indicated that there would be a secure treatment centre located in Truro. An article in today's Truro Daily News indicates that the Department of Community Services cannot confirm a location for that facility. Will you confirm that that new centre will be in Truro, please?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I think that was in the budget where it is going to be. The fact of the matter is that this secure treatment facility is very important to Nova Scotia. We absolutely need it and we need it as soon as possible. There is no question about that. We are going to make sure that we proceed with it. I can't right now tell the honourable member exactly where it is going to be, I have to leave that to the department to be able to work that out and get back in due course.

MR MUIR: I can tell the Premier, on Page 16 of that document, it is there in black and white and the Minister of Finance did say that in the House.

The same spokesperson for the Department of Community Services, Mr. Speaker, indicated that there would be money for that secure treatment facility only if it was left over from the four residential centres. Will the Premier please confirm that there is specific dollars allocated this year for the development of that secure treatment?

MR. SPEAKER: That's getting pretty close to the estimates and the budget. However, if the Premier wishes to answer, fair ball, but we should discontinue that line of approach.

[Page 6703]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, because of the importance of the project, I think it is safe to say that we are very sincere about proceeding with that in this fiscal year.

MR. MUIR: I could say, Mr. Speaker, that these statements are not nearly as encouraging or definitive as they were two days ago. Again, to the Premier, in light of what he said and the importance of this centre to Nova Scotians, will he confirm for the people of Nova Scotia that that treatment centre will be opened in this fiscal year?

THE PREMIER: I can't give that guarantee. We have to be able to assure that this secure treatment facility is going to be fit for the uses intended well into the future. Whatever it takes to make that facility that calibre we will do. Whether it can be finished in this fiscal year, I really can't undertake that kind of a commitment.

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

EXCO: OPINION POLLS - RELEASE

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, for two days now I have asked the Premier to release the Liberals' government-funded polls. He has refused to answer that question. I want to ask the Premier why he has dodged my questions and why he won't release the Liberal polling done at taxpayers' expense?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, as soon as I find some polls I will be glad to share them with the honourable member.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Liberals have chosen to govern by polls but they refuse to release the details. Mr. Premier, what percentage of the people who responded to your poll by saying they wanted to plunge the province $600 million further in debt?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, polls have no bearing whatsoever on what we do as a government. We believe in giving the best government that we can possibly can is the surest way of being successful in politics.

[1:15 p.m.]

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Premier, how much is he now spending on polls to come up with some kind of a plan to spend the $600 million he has borrowed on the backs of Nova Scotians?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this is an investment in health care. It will be paid back within this generation. Fortunately, the honourable member will be able to share in that repayment.

[Page 6704]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg.

LBR. - VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTERS: COMMITMENT - FULFIL

MR. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Labour. I have a very simple question to the Minister of Labour. My question is does he believe that commitments made in this House by him and his government should be carried out or does he believe that they are just words that can be ignored?

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, obviously, the honourable member raises a very important question with regard to the commitment that we made to the volunteer firefighters as a result of extensive consultation. Requested by and supported by the volunteer firefighters across this province, in writing.

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, my question was very simple, does he believe in carrying out his commitments? Is the Minister of Labour suggesting to this House that the volunteer firefighters in this province, rather than have a $500 tax credit, would rather have $75 off their license plates?

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, it is a very important question. I will provide the data to the honourable member. But quite clearly, when we made the announcement we also announced that there would be a process by which all stakeholders, including the volunteer firefighters, would be consulted. We sent out letters to close to 370 volunteer firefighters, received input, had several recommendations brought before this committee upon which the chosen preference was paying for the license plates.

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, my final question is to the minister. Is he telling this House that the people of Nova Scotia who are volunteer firefighters would rather have a $75 rebate on their license plates than $500 every year to make sure they are compensated for the contribution they make to Nova Scotians?

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, again, it is very important that we are clear on the facts. It was a $500 tax credit toward an income which the evidence quite clearly demonstrated it would only benefit at best, 60 per cent of the volunteer firefighters in the province. That is documented and I will provide it according to the report that came back from consultation with all volunteer firefighters and departments in this province. I can only respond to their recommendation.

[Page 6705]

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

FIN. - CASINO (HFX.): DELAY - AWARENESS

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. Buried in the government documents is the fact that once again, the Sheraton Casino is being delayed. Depending on what part of the document you read, it won't open until December 1999, or January 2000. I don't recall seeing any government announcement. My question to the minister is, when did you become aware that the completion date of the Halifax casino would be delayed yet again?

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, everyone in this House realizes that the construction side of that was going to be delayed. I don't think that is a surprise to any Nova Scotian or anybody in this House, maybe with the exception to the NDP. The reality is that they have a $10,000 a day penalty until it is completed after the date that we had agreed to have it officially open.

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I think there had been more than one date agreed to. In evidence given before the Public Accounts Committee last year, the Gaming Corporation acting chairman acknowledged that the delay in building the casino was good for Sheraton and bad for the province. My question to the minister is, how much money will the province lose as a result of this delay?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, the NDP want to mislead everyone in this House and all over Nova Scotia as they misled Nova Scotians about the fact that they think health care is a priority. The reality is they are against health care improvement in Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: I will ask the honourable member to withdraw that statement regarding misleading the House. That is unparliamentary.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, would lead astray be okay?

MR. SPEAKER: Yes.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, they led us astray, I guess, is the other term we could use.

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my final question to the minister is, when it comes to casinos and gambling why should Nova Scotians believe a single thing that he has to say?

MR. DOWNE: We have some quotes here from Robert Chisholm, Mr. Speaker, on a number of items, and I would like to say who would ever want to believe or trust the words that he is saying about his Party's position relative to anything to do with social reform in the

[Page 6706]

Province of Nova Scotia. He supports anything to do, whether it is balanced budgets or not. We are balancing the process in Nova Scotia and we are on a fiscal track record that is proven.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

EDUC. - P3: CANNING & KENTVILLE, KINGS CO. -

SITE SELECTION

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Education and Culture. I would like to ask the Minister of Education and Culture a question regarding the P3 school selections that will be replacing both the Canning and the Kentville High Schools. The committee that was charged with selecting a site could not come to a conclusion so it was left to the Nova Learning Consortium who are going to be building the school. Would you consider this would be a fair and just way to select the site, to allow the contractor to decide where to put it?

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for raising this issue to the floor this afternoon. I can assure the honourable member that no recommendation has been filed by the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board directly to our department for approval for this site. Until the recommendation is within the department, I guess we are going to have to wait. So, to my knowledge, there has been no recommendation forwarded.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I have had calls from many parents from the constituency, mostly from the area of Kentville, and I am wondering if the minister would agree to meet with the mayor of Kentville, tomorrow. The mayor will be in town tomorrow and I am wondering if the minister would agree to meet with the mayor tomorrow to discuss site selection for this area?

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, I certainly am available. Again, I would indicate to the honourable member that I certainly would extend an invitation to have someone from the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board attend that meeting. So, yes, I will meet with the mayor of Kentville.

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

FIN. - NSRL: DIVIDENDS - COLLECTION TIME-FRAME

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct a question through you to the Minister of Finance. Yesterday, the Minister of Natural Resources indicated that he had no idea how they were going to be dealing with the staggering debt of Nova Scotia Resources Limited that is ballooning and which will reach $700 million by the end of this year. I would

[Page 6707]

like to ask the Minister of Finance if he could tell us in what year your government will start collecting dividends from NSRL's 8.4 per cent investment in the Sable project?

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, the minister, yesterday, pointed out very clearly to the House that the report from NSRL will be coming forward to the House. That will be tabled and the information will be there.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, and the year is 2008. I spoke very recently with the former president of NSRL who told me that even with the revenues from Sable, NSRL's debt will double to $1.4 billion by 2008.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. HOLM: I want to ask the minister, why has the government not developed a plan to deal with the exploding debt of NSRL?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I would ask the member opposite to table that document and that information with regard to the allegations he is making in this House. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, when the minister was the Minister of Natural Resources, he said the debt made him want to hurl. I want to ask the minister, why have you not developed a plan to address the ballooning debt of NSRL, a debt that is guaranteed by the people of the Province of Nova Scotia? (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, it is interesting, NSRL now is a partner in the offshore play that the member opposite floats around Houston and all those places, bragging about the opportunities in Nova Scotia. Now he wants to condemn the fact that we had a body in place that was actually there to help build the infrastructure, start the process and develop the offshore creating thousands of jobs in the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

[Page 6708]

ENVIRON. - BRIDGEWATER WATER TREATMENT PLANT:

EFFLUENT - DISPOSAL

MR. DONALD CHARD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of the Environment. The Town of Bridgewater Water Utility is building a water treatment plant in the Village of Hebbville, outside the Bridgewater town limits. My question for the minister. Is the minister aware that the utility is proposing to dispose of aluminum-laced waste water into a wetlands area which drains into Fancy Lake and ultimately into the Petite Rivière?

HON. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, yes, we are well aware of this. Staff have been working directly with the town in developing this proposal. Again, it is important that we be honest with the people of Nova Scotia and we don't use words like "laced with aluminum" and stuff that the member has no knowledge of and that he repeats so carelessly here in this House. We have a responsibility here to the people of these communities, to be honest with them. Staff are meeting with them and will continue to work with that community.

MR. CHARD: Mr. Speaker, I would be prepared to stack up my knowledge of these subjects against the minister's any day. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. CHARD: Mr. Speaker, studies indicate that dissolved aluminum compounds are toxic to aquatic life forms and may play a role in conditions such as Alzheimer's, in cancer and in genetic disorders in newborn infants. My question for the minister. Will he provide this House with details of the investigations his department has made into the degree of hazard posed by this effluent?

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated, staff are working directly with the town. We have nothing to hide here. The other day when I gave projected employment here in the House, that member questioned it, he denounced it, then he finally had enough honour to meet with staff and apologize for the statements that he made here. If he wants this information, he is welcome to come to our department and we will provide that for him.

MR. CHARD: Mr. Speaker, will the minister assure the affected people in the Hebbville-Fancy Lake area that a full environmental assessment will be carried out before a decision is made about disposal of the filtration which contains aluminum and other chemicals?

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the fact is that this department and this government is not going to do anything that those residents do not want. They have come to us with a proposal on how to responsibly treat their water. We are working with them. We are not forcing this upon them. They have come to us. We are working with them, and we will

[Page 6709]

answer what the community has as its concerns. We will continue to meet with them. If they do not want the system, they are free to reject the system. That is the choice of the municipality and we will not force them into anything.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland South.

HOUSING & MUN. AFFS.: ASSESSMENTS - FAIRNESS

MR. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs. Would the minister please confirm that the assessed value of property in Nova Scotia is based on fair market value, which means that the sale price that it is compared to should be higher than the assessed value?

HON. RAYMOND WHITE: Mr. Speaker, in assessing properties, there are many factors taken into consideration. There are accepted international standards and there are more factors than what the member has just raised that result in the assessments of properties.

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, again for the minister. As a result of going through a Freedom of Information request, I have information here - which I would like to table today - that clearly demonstrates that in Cumberland South, of a total of 295 properties, 129 were assessed at a higher rate than the sale value; that is almost 50 per cent. Will the minister please explain why the assessed rates are higher than the sale value in such a huge number of cases?

MR. WHITE: Mr. Speaker, not knowing the particular properties that are involved in the question, if renovations are done on a property, that is picked up on assessment. When permits are issued by municipalities, that is picked up and those are sometimes reflected in the assessed value. So there are many parameters that are considered and it is not easy to respond without knowing the particular residences that the member is talking about.

[1:30 p.m.]

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, again to the minister, the minister is well aware of this information and has been for quite some time. In some cases properties are assessed at almost $15,000 more than the sale value. Would you now admit that mistakes were made when these properties were assessed, and immediately initiate an inquiry into this outrageously flawed process?

MR. WHITE: Mr. Speaker, we have been carrying on a dialogue with the residents of Cumberland County who have concerns about assessments. There were over 840 appeals and there were contacts made, which resulted in 72 of those people withdrawing their appeals. We have been working with the municipal units, we have been working with people in the area to discuss with them assessment issues and will continue to do that.

[Page 6710]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Yarmouth.

FISH. - AQUACULTURE: ST. MARGARETS BAY - DEV. PREVENT

MR. JOHN DEVEAU: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, there is a growing concern in East St. Margarets Bay about further aquaculture development. Many residents feel it is out of step with the nature of this beautiful residential community and popular tourism and recreation destination. My question to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture is, will the minister consider zoning the area of St. Margarets Bay, between Peggy's Cove and Head of St. Margarets Bay, to keep it free from any further aquaculture development?

HON. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, it is a very good question; St. Margarets Bay is a very special place, as there are many other special places in Nova Scotia. We do have in the department, and in government, a very complex system whereby we review aquaculture site applications, and it involves 10 different government departments and all the considerations of the community, environment and everything else that is taken into consideration.

MR. JOHN DEVEAU: Mr. Speaker, an American company, Blue Gold International, is currently selling shares and using a glossy brochure citing St. Margarets Bay as their number one aquaculture location. My question to the minister is, in what area of St. Margarets Bay is this large U.S. mussel grower planning to develop new aquaculture farms?

MR. COLWELL: The only thing that I can answer the honourable member with is, we have no application on file, none has been filed with the Department of Aquaculture, our department, who is the lead agency in this, for any large, or any size, mussel operation in St. Margarets Bay.

MR. JOHN DEVEAU: Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is, what assurance can he offer coastal communities that the scale of aquaculture projects is balanced with the needs of the residents?

MR. COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, we go through a long and involved process, sometimes taking up to two or three years to put an application in place, to review it through its communities, through community meetings, RADAC and several other systems that ensure that the communities' interests and the concerns of the communities are well addressed before anything is even considered in aquaculture.

[Page 6711]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou East.

ENVIRON. - TIRES: RECYCLING - NEW MARKETS

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question to the Minister of the Environment. Through you to the minister, yesterday in this House the minister indicated that his department was anxious to see companies such as Nova Tire Recyclers, recycle 100 per cent of the tires that they recover. What plans are under way to help this company and others develop new markets?

HON. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, as the member is probably aware, we have the Resource Recovery Fund Board which works directly with companies such as Nova Tire Recyclers and other cottage industries that we have in this province that are dealing with recycled tire products. This is an industry that we are looking to promote, that we are looking to grow, and in the end it is going to benefit Nova Scotians and it is going to benefit our environment. So, by all means, we are working closely with the industry to make sure that it continues to grow and that it expands.

MR. DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to table some crumb rubber which I believe to be the future of recyclable tires in this province.

Again, to the minister, Mr. Minister, what has your department done to increase recycling opportunities for tires, like used for crumb, and shredded tires and the like? What has your department done to increase these opportunities for the company?

MR. SAMSON: As I indicated, Mr. Speaker, we are working closely with Nova Tire Recyclers and the other cottage industries here in this province. As I indicated, currently Nova is recycling 99 per cent of the discarded tires in this province. At 1 per cent now remaining, we have a proposal in front of us that will see 100 per cent recycling, unlike what the member for Dartmouth South suggested or what the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley suggested, we will not return to the days of burning tires in the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, again to the minister, in light of the fact that a number of provinces and states, including northern states, are currently allowing the use of shredded tires in their subgrades for road construction, will the minister undertake a review of the environmental regulations which unnecessarily restrict the use of rubber products for road construction so that companies such as Nova and other companies can maximize their recycling opportunities?

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, as I just indicated, Nova Tire right now recycles 99 per cent of the tires. There is a proposal in front of us to recycle that other 1 per cent which would make it 100 per cent. I am not sure what that member means on us trying to help them,

[Page 6712]

they are at 100 per cent. We will continue to work with them and we are always open to new technology. We have great companies here in this province that are coming up with innovative ideas. We have a sector that works directly with them, we promote them and we are leading the country right now in recycling of tires and solid waste.

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

FISH. - AQUACULTURE:

ST. MARGARETS BAY (FRANKS GEORGE ISLAND) - ASSESS

DR. HINRICH BITTER-SUERMANN: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. I understand an aquaculture advisory committee in the HRM portion of St. Margarets Bay is being formed and in the meantime new applications for aquaculture development are on hold. My question to the minister is, will he assure residents of this area that there will be a full environmental and technical assessment of the Ocean Farmers site at Franks George Island before renewing the lease in the year 2000?

HON. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, the area in St. Margarets Bay as any area in Nova Scotia, when a lease is going to be renewed there is a technical review that our department goes through and it will be no different than we do anywhere else in the Province of Nova Scotia.

DR. BITTER-SUERMANN: Mr. Speaker, residents are concerned because of the amount of sewage from the farm, the illegal use of an island, guard dogs, bright lights, and gunfire. My question to the minister is, why won't he address the serious concerns of the community?

MR. COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is making some very serious allegations. These allegation have been made in the past and we sent our enforcement people out to investigate them and unfortunately, we haven't been able to justify or find any of these things to actually be true.

DR. BITTER-SUERMANN: Mr. Speaker, the department has just evicted an illegal fish farm set up at Redmond's Cove in St. Margarets Bay, that the community opposed. My question to the minister is, why did you first belittle the community concerns as unfounded, exaggerated, alarmist, and irresponsible and yet, then you acted on them?

MR. COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member has asked two different questions. Number one, we issued an order the other day, 24 hours after we realized that a farmer had moved his site to an illegal location from a legal location. That action was taken, as it should be taken and will always be taken. The other thing is there are a lot of rumours going around in the community that are not accurate and those things have to be dealt with

[Page 6713]

to ensure the people get the right answer, not just a bunch of gossip that goes around a community and is not properly founded.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou East.

ENVIRON. - TIRES: DUMPING - SITES ENUMERATE

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question to the Minister of the Environment. The issue has been raised before in this House and we have been told that steps are being implemented to get rid of illegal dumping of tires, however, the problem still exists. Will the minister please tell Nova Scotians today exactly how many sites the department is aware of across Nova Scotia where tires are dumped illegally?

HON. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, dumping of tires in the province is an unfortunate practice which we are aware still continues in a few areas in this province. Whenever it does, our department goes in and investigates immediately and tries to establish who is doing this and tries to put an immediate stop to it. We all know that right now in Nova Scotia the system that we have is successful. We are recycling, right now, 3,000 tires a day which are being diverted from dumps and our landfills. If that member is aware of any illegal dump site, by all means I would ask him to approach our department, and we will do the necessary investigation.

MR. DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, again to the minister. It is troubling, the minister is obviously unable to produce such a list. Nova Scotians were made aware yesterday . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. DEWOLFE: . . . through the media of a dump on Highway No. 103. Is the minister going to order these tires removed?

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the fact is that that particular incident that he refers to, both the RCMP and our staff are investigating that to try to establish the illegal activities which are going on there. Again, if that member is aware of any other illegal practice to make us aware of it.

Mr. Speaker, it is important though, while we recognize there are some liabilities and some unlawful practices going on, we do emphasize the system is working in this province. We should encourage each and every Nova Scotian to do the responsible . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou East, your final supplementary.

[Page 6714]

MR. DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, again the minister didn't answer my question. Environment officials in Bridgewater are only saying that they are looking into the matter and they can't discuss it any further. People are regularly burning in the area.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. DEWOLFE: Why can't these tires be taken to Nova Tire Recyclers and dealt with there? Why doesn't your department . . .

MR. SAMSON: As I said, our department is continuing to investigate along with the RCMP. We will continue to recycle tires in Nova Scotia and not burn them.

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

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Government Motions.

GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 3010, Estimates, Committee of the Whole House on Supply, adjourned debate. I believe the member for Halifax Chebucto hasn't completed his yet.

Res. No. 3010, re Estimates - Committee of the Whole House on Supply - notice given May 27, 1999 - (Hon. D. Downe)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto. You have 45 minutes remaining.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, now we have seen the so-called health so-called budget. The Minister of Finance will probably be surprised to hear that it works for me because I feel perfectly healthy, but I particularly feel a healthy scepticism, especially with respect to a number of crucial matters. I want to lay this out in as clear terms as I possibly can so that the members opposite can understand what the problems are with this budget.

[Page 6715]

MR. SPEAKER: I wonder if before the member gets into full flight if he would permit an introduction?

MR. EPSTEIN: Absolutely.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of the Environment.

HON. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable member for yielding the floor. To all members of the House, in the east gallery we are joined today by a long-time councillor of Richmond County. He was a member who served on the health boards in Richmond County, served on the school boards, and has worked very closely with Dr. Smith in the Department of Health with the local physician recruitment committee, has played a major role in securing a full-time doctor for the Strait-Richmond Hospital, and has led the charge with physician recruitment which has brought five new doctors to Richmond County. A good friend and a hard worker in Richmond County, Councillor Steve Sampson. (Applause)

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

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to you and through you to all members of the House, I would like to introduce in the east gallery Captain Blandford Nickerson, formerly of Shelburne County, now he is residing in Queens County. I would like the House to give him the usual reception. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I will permit the honourable member to start again, if there are no further introductions before we get rolling here.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto. You have 45 minutes.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, this budget has had the immediate effect of producing health, not only here but around the province, but the kind of health it has produced is healthy scepticism. I am going to explain under three general categories, in the simplest terms I possibly can for the benefit of the members opposite so they can understand exactly where they have gone wrong.

There are three general categories that we ought to keep our eyes on, and I assure you all Nova Scotians are keeping their eyes on. The first category is the question of sheer fiscal irresponsibility. The second category is the problem of trustworthiness, of what is believable. The third category is the whole question of whether anyone can have faith in the ability of this government to actually deliver what it is they have said they intend to deliver.

[Page 6716]

[1:45 p.m.]

I will now deal with each of these three aspects in turn. Going back and starting with the question of fiscal irresponsibility, the obvious starting point is with the deficit for this year. In calculations that we have done, we have taken the view that it is required to take the money of the so-called Health Investment Fund and add it to the expenses of the Department of Health and, therefore, to the books of the province for this year, 1999-2000. What that produces is not a surplus of $1.5 million, but a deficit of $248.5 million.

I have tried to stretch my imagination, to be fair about this, and I have asked myself if conceivably there might be some other way of understanding whether there might be a legitimate way in which that money could be regarded as entirely off-book and not part of the operating budget of this province but, Mr. Speaker, when I look at the Estimates Book, at Page 13.17, the last lines of the Department of Health, and I find that in the calculation of the net expenses for the Department of Health they have included $139 million of that $250 million towards the operating expense of that department and they are right there in the middle of the estimates, I cannot reach any other conclusion except that they have added that money to the operating expenses of the province. The only appropriate way to regard that is to say that that money, at least the $139 million, and in my view all of the $250 million, has to be regarded as part of the operating expenses of the government as proposed in this budget for this fiscal year which means that we are looking at a deficit of $248.5 million at least.

The reason I say at least is that it is clear elsewhere in the estimates that there is a built-in assumption of $60 million of administrative savings, some kind of administrative savings. I do not find that figure credible at all. We heard last year, when the government found itself suddenly wildly out of control in its quarterly statements in terms of control of the finances of this province, that suddenly they had decided to set a target of saving $30 million and they thought they could do it by administrative actions. They have not done it. They just plain did not do it.

To the extent that there were any savings at all, they mostly came under that particular line item from the sale of a government asset - the Sherwood Park School. So I find it important that we all focus clearly on that underlying assumption of at least $60 million that has to be found somewhere in administrative savings. That makes me profoundly sceptical about whether we are looking at a balanced budget and I am not the only one.

It was interesting to hear what it is that the Auditor General said. He described the bookkeeping method as innovative at best. Well, I want the government to be innovative. I want them to be innovative when it comes to devising a good health care program. I want them to be innovative when it comes to taking care of meeting the needs of Nova Scotians. I do not want them to be innovative when it comes to doing their accounting. That is not the place to be innovative and the question that was asked and, rightly so, is what is the point of

[Page 6717]

having balanced budget legislation if all of a sudden you can create these other funds and pretend that things are off-book?

That is a very good question and that is a question that Nova Scotians from one end of this province to the other are asking themselves, has fiscal responsibility been shown in this budget? They do not think so. This is showing up in editorial reports all around the province. In the Amherst Daily News they quote the Minister of Finance as saying he is not ashamed one bit, but the response of the editorial is to say but most Nova Scotians think he should be ashamed, very ashamed, of the fact that he has abandoned any attempt at fiscal accountability by adding to the province's massive debt.

The editorial raises this question of debt. So far, under the heading of fiscal irresponsibility, I have just been discussing the deficit for this year. Let's look at what is actually happening with respect to the debt.

I have gone back and I have looked at 25 years of history of growth of debt of the Province of Nova Scotia. In 1978, when the Buchanan Government came in, and during all of the time in which the PCs were the government, the debt of this province grew from less than $0.5 billion to $6.8 billion. That is a growth of $6.3 billion in 15 years; that is an average of $423 million per year. Has it been significantly different in the six, seven or eight years in which we have had the Liberals in charge of the finances of this province? What have they done with respect to the debt and what are they proposing to do now?

Well, let me tell you what has happened to the net direct debt of the Province of Nova Scotia. They inherited that figure of $6.8 billion and now they are proposing to take us to the level of $9.4 billion net direct debt by the year 2000. Thank you very much. Is this a significant difference? Their increase in debt on their watch is more than $2.5 billion; that is an average of $312 million per year on the Liberal watch. I do not find that a satisfactory approach.

Furthermore, there is a completely inaccurate statement with respect to debt that is to be found in the financial statements, particularly in the document called Government By Design. I refer members to Page 25 of this year's Government By Design document, where the claim is made that the ratio between debt and Gross Domestic Product is declining. They are claiming that it is 39.9 per cent. Now this is already a high number but, Mr. Speaker, the minister should have taken me up on my offer when I suggested he borrow my calculator because if that amount of $9 billion is 39.9 per cent of Gross Domestic Product, our Gross Domestic Product would have to be $22.3 billion, but on the same page, the same document, they are telling us that our Gross Domestic Product is only going to be $20.3 billion in Nova Scotia. The percentage of debt ratio to Gross Domestic Product is therefore 44.2 per cent, an easy calculation to make, and I trust that the error was not made deliberately. That means that we are not improving when it comes to the ratio of debt to GDP.

[Page 6718]

So far, Mr. Speaker, I have looked at this year's deficit, I have looked at the debt picture, and neither of them show any trace of fiscal responsibility. I have to say that we are not the Party that drew the line in the sand with respect to the deficit question. For us it is very important because fiscal responsibility is very important, but to so massively ignore fiscal responsibility is not acceptable to us because these two items, this year's deficit and the total debt picture, are not the only aspects of fiscal irresponsibility. I want to give some other examples.

The next example is the one that has been referred to just recently in Question Period, having to do with the use of Sable revenues. For the longest time, the two chief economic claims that this government has tried to make are: first, that they got the deficit under control - well, we can see what has happened to that - and second, that they have stimulated the economy and the centrepiece of that stimulus is Sable. They have been telling the people of Nova Scotia for years that as soon as the Sable money starts to flow, Nova Scotians will be in a significantly different financial position. Well, lets just see exactly what it is that they are proposing to do.

An interesting thing occurred the other day with respect to Sable revenues, because for the first time we have now been told exactly what the revenues are projected to be over the 25 year lifetime of that project. Prior to yesterday, the only figure that we had ever seen was a figure of $2.5 billion as presented in a graph a couple of years ago by the Minister of Natural Resources, Mrs. Eleanor Norrie, during the National Energy Board's Environmental Assessment Hearings. It was never known nor did the government ever say whether that $2.5 billion was gross revenue to the province or whether we had to consider after that, the offset of the 70 per cent reduction for equalization under the equalization formula with the federal government.

Yesterday, officials from the Department of Finance confirmed for the first time publicly that that $2.5 billion is the gross figure before the equalization offset. All Nova Scotia can expect to get by way of royalties over the 25 years is 30 cents on the dollar of those $2.5 billion and that is to say, about $800 million. What has happened with respect to this sum of money that might have formed some kind of nest egg for us here?

Remember, the Province of Alberta has managed to generate for itself a big heritage fund. We are not going to generate a heritage fund out of this because what has happened right away is that the first $335 million of that $800 million is going to be used to pay off the spending from this year and the next two years, that so-called Health Investment Fund will eat up at least $335 million of that. It will probably eat up more because the assumption that the government is building in is that it will be running surpluses in those years in which to add to the Sable revenues, on top of those Sable revenues, so that it can pay down the so-called Health Investment Fund. I am profoundly sceptical about whether this government is going to be able to do that.

[Page 6719]

What else is there to be noted under fiscal irresponsibility? A small but important point and I will return to this when I discuss the health aspects of this budget, is that this government is relying on an increase in revenues totalling $23.5 million from increased tobacco sales, from increased alcohol sales, and from increased gaming on the part of Nova Scotians. That is to say they are hoping that Nova Scotians will smoke more, drink more and fritter away their hard-earned money, gambling. This is not fiscal responsibility, this is not how it is that we want the Government of Nova Scotia to be framing its intentions for the future.

There are serious other examples in the way the books of this province are being kept. I want to remind members of the whole range of problems that we have exposed this past year. Let's remind members of the P3 schools which are supposed to be off-book. This is not an appropriate method of financing, it is dubious, there is a fine line there, it is another doubtful approach to the bookkeeping of this province that Nova Scotians do not welcome. In terms of how the books are presented the key is that they should be open, honest, transparent, completely accountable to the people of Nova Scotia. We have heard this time and again from Auditors General.

Do we feel that we have a clear feel as a result of reading this budget of the contingent liabilities of the Department of Economic Development? Look at what happened last year. What happened last year was in the middle of the financial year, suddenly we learned that the Department of Economic Development and Tourism had signed contracts and obligations years before, that were suddenly coming due in tens of millions of dollars that suddenly appeared and had to be accounted for on the books of the Province of Nova Scotia. Do we think now that we are getting an accurate picture and have they been detailed in the financial statements? I do not think so. Why should we believe now that we are getting an accurate picture with respect to that department?

[2:00 p.m.]

A number of footnotes to the statements of account given draw our attention to environmental liabilities. There are any number of sites around the province for which the provincial government has responsibility ultimately as the entity that will have to pay for cleanups. Those are not costed out. All it keeps saying, year after year, in the footnotes, is that these might be substantial, but we cannot cost them. Cannot is not the word really. It is they will not cost them. It is possible to do that kind of costing and it is not being done in these books. These books, again, fail to give a clear picture.

Our assets, the assets of the province, are not costed out or presented properly in these books and that is something the Auditor General has drawn our attention to in years past and it was promised in the blueprint last year that there would be an accounting method that would deal with the matter of the assets of the Province of Nova Scotia. Senior officials of the Department of Finance came to the Public Accounts Committee last year and said they

[Page 6720]

were going to speak to the blueprint with the Public Accounts Committee and suggest to us how that ought to be done and we would engage in a dialogue. That never happened. So we still do not have a proper accounting method for the assets of the province. The government has admitted in last year's blueprint that the method that they use now is not in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles and they have not moved to change that.

I will tell you something else that is wrong with the way the books are presented here. There are no tax expenditure tables and when we brought in legislation to say that this ought to happen, the government would not support it. A tax expenditure table is a simple device which has been included in the tax statements of the federal Department of Revenue and in any number of other provinces for a number of years now. What it does, is it says to Nova Scotians, here is a tax break that we have put in place and here is how much in foregone revenue it is costing us. It allows people to decide whether that is appropriate or not. This is a question of accountability to the public for the policy decisions made by the government, but it is missing. It is not there. It should be there. We brought in a bill to try to say it should be there. The government would not support it and although there is some passing reference to some of the exemptions this year, again, there is no full-scale tax expenditure table.

What else is wrong with how the books are presented? Sysco is not fully accounted for. Nova Scotia Resources Limited is not fully accounted for and let me remind members that the Y2K costs are not fully broken out as separate line items. They are buried in there somewhere. All of these things which are accounting deficiencies are serious in their consequences. They are especially serious when you add them up and look at the deficit from this year, and the cumulative debt. None of this amounts to fiscal responsibility. It is not what the people of Nova Scotia want to see from their government. They do not find it acceptable.

The second aspect that I wanted to draw members' attention to is the problem of what is trustworthy and what is believable in this budget. It is already clear that Nova Scotians are not finding anything that this government has to say very believable. Here is the problem and here has been the focus of what it is that Nova Scotians have been saying to themselves up and down this province and why it is that at every coffee shop, as soon as this budget was presented, Nova Scotians looked at each other and said, I know that now with this budget and $1.00, I can buy a cup of coffee. They have looked at it and they have said, well, we know that this budget is in deficit. Nova Scotians know that. They knew it as soon as they saw that budget. The reporters knew it immediately they saw the budget. Anybody who has had any exposure to what it is that the government is trying to do here immediately does not find it believable.

What they have refused to do - and we specifically invited them - is to go back and recalculate, over the last four years, the balance sheets that they put forward, because it is acceptable accounting that what you do is when you change the basis on which you account for your debt, if that means that you are admitting that you spent more in a previous year, you go back and you account for it.

[Page 6721]

That is what the province should have done. That is what we have invited the Minister of Finance to do, but it is not what Nova Scotians have been offered. Quite the contrary, Nova Scotians have seen an advertising campaign coming from this government that preceded this budget by just a month in which the claim was made that the government had run surpluses in three consecutive years, and they promised they were going to do it again this year.

Mr. Speaker, this is not regarded as trustworthy action on the part of the government. We do not find it trustworthy, and Nova Scotians do not find this kind of behaviour trustworthy or credible. They do not find it trustworthy or credible when one year, the government says it is important not to put a mortgage on the future and the next year, the Minister of Finance stands up in his following budget speech and says, I have decided now that the best thing we can possibly do is put a mortgage on the future.

We can deliver health services, all needed services, they say one year, and balance the budget, but the following year, they stand up and they say, we can't deliver the services and also balance the budget. How can anyone in Nova Scotia find any of that to be credible?

Now there were alternatives. There were other things the government could have done. They could have simply come forward and said, we feel we have to put this much money into health care but it means we can't balance the budget. Now that is something they could have said. That would have been the direct, the straightforward and, to use the minister's words, transparent thing to have done. The only thing that is transparent is this transparent device. I can tell you that it is not a device that Nova Scotians find appealing.

I said on Tuesday when we started that the important currency in politics is not the value of the Canadian dollar versus the American dollar, the currency in politics that is crucial is the currency of trust. I have to say that this government has failed yet again to honestly earn the trust of the people of Nova Scotia. Perhaps that is why they lost 20 seats in last year's election. Perhaps it is why we gained 15 seats in last year's election. (Applause)

I want to turn - and these points I should say are really in many respects all connected - to whether we or Nova Scotians can have any faith whatsoever in the ability of this government to deliver on its so-called Health Investment Fund and so-called plan. It is quite clear that over the six, seven years in which the Liberals have been the government of the Province of Nova Scotia, they have failed to get the health system under control. It is not just that spending in health care has gone up year after year, it is that the system hasn't delivered to the people of Nova Scotia the health care system that they want, that they need and that their families need. The failure has been obvious year in, year out.

[Page 6722]

The system has been in chaos, and the system has been in chaos because what they have done is failed to come to grips with the managerial side of the system. Never mind that we know that inevitably some costs are driven up year to year because of an aging population or because of small increases in population. This happens; we know this. We know, as well, that costs are driven up through changes in technology, through new discoveries of pharmaceuticals. This happens; Nova Scotians recognize this. What they do not want from their government is a complete abandonment of that element of the health care system that is the managerial element, and all we have seen in the Department of Health, centrally and in the regional health boards around the province, is a chaotic system that has not satisfactorily built on the plans that were developed earlier in this decade.

In 1990, there was a thorough Royal Commission in Nova Scotia to study health care. After that, there was developed, on this government's watch, a blueprint document to actually move ahead to implement what the Royal Commission had talked about and what the people at the Department of Health, in consultation with the health community, had decided was necessary. That was 1994; that was five years ago when that blueprint document came forward and was worked out and was there. The intervening five years have seen a failure to act responsibly to implement that document, and that failure has been the failure of Minister of Health after Minister of Health.

In the Government of Dr. Savage, he as Premier was not able to get his ministers - be they Dr. Stewart, be they Mr. Boudreau, be they Dr. Smith - to organize themselves in any way that has been convincing to Nova Scotians, because they know, particularly in the rural areas, that they have had problems in accessing the health care services that they need. There are any number of communities around Nova Scotia where they still have problems getting access to a family physician. Access to a family physician is one of the basics that front-line health care ought to be able to deliver to people anywhere in our province, but that has not happened.

At the same time, we know there are problems now that we are facing up to with respect to nursing, but it is not as if these problems suddenly arose or were not predictable or, indeed, had not been predicted years ago. They were predicted years ago. Everyone knew this, and everyone knew it was a bad idea to begin to force nurses to cease to be full-time nurses and to be casual. To be a casual nurse means to be on call. It means that this changed the working conditions of nurses in a way that they found intolerable. Many nurses, much to their credit, have struggled ahead and kept up hard work in the face of these changed working conditions, but many other nurses chose to move elsewhere, to places where they were being offered full-time jobs.

Those who stayed are not happy, let me tell you, Mr. Speaker. Those who stayed and saw their jobs changed fundamentally in that fashion have not been happy in their jobs. Let me tell you, we want our nurses to be happy on their jobs. People who deliver front-line health care services to people in hospitals, people in long-term care facilities, through the

[Page 6723]

VON, wherever it is, it is crucial that they be treated with fairness, that they be treated in a way that respects the dignity of their labour, so that we have a good system. It is on that government's watch that this system was allowed to deteriorate and it is only now that they are pretending they have discovered there is something wrong and maybe they ought to do something about it. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. EPSTEIN: This system has been badly mismanaged. There are vacancies throughout the senior management at the Department of Health. Morale is bad at the Department of Health. We have had to invent a new task force to go out and look at how regionalization ought to be accomplished, because the system that this government devised is not working. Do you know why it is not working? It is pretty simple; it is because regionalization was supposed to be community based.

[2:15 p.m.]

Now I spent four years on the board of directors - two years as Chairman - of the North End Community Health Clinic right in Halifax, on Gottingen Street; four years on the board of directors of the first community-based health clinic in Nova Scotia. That was a model and that was a good delivery model of services but it has been in place for more than 25 years. Community-based health care works. The community has good ideas, the community knows what they need and the input of the community was not what was uppermost in the minds of this government when they invented regionalization. What they wanted was something that they could call regionalization but which they could continue to control from the centre but they have done a darn poor job it, let me tell you.

There are problems with nurses, there are problems with physicians but there are also problems with shortages of other health care workers - personal care workers, home care workers, lab technicians - all of those are facing shortages and the government could well be facing strike after strike in those sectors this year as we saw labour unrest in the health care sector last year. But where is the plan to deal with this? We don't see it here and I don't think that Nova Scotians have faith in the ability of this government to deliver what it claims is a plan but which Nova Scotians know is not actually a plan.

AN HON. MEMBER: Themes.

MR. EPSTEIN: Themes, according to the Minister of Health today, he has themes. This standard of performance is not acceptable.

Now we hear, as well, from the Minister of Health, that he is planning more consultations with respect to Pharmacare and long-term care. More consultations. Well, consultations are fine but not when you are six years into your watch. It is not the time to

[Page 6724]

suddenly discover that there is a blueprint document that tells people what should be the case with respect to health.

Nova Scotians know, Mr. Speaker, that what they have seen in this budget with respect to health care is not investment but damage control. What they did was they caused chaos in the health care system and when pushed to it, when they see that there might be an election coming up, they have decided that they had better do some damage control and they are following the lead of the federal government, putting some more money back into health, of other provinces putting a lot more money back into health. They are following the lead. To the extent that this government is willing to try to do something for nurses, it is because I think they realized that if Ontario is planning on hiring 6,000 nurses, that we could stand to lose not just our nurses who are off on casual positions but a lot of the nurses that we have who have suffered through this government's term of office in hard conditions, they might give up and move elsewhere. It was only in response to that kind of competition that we finally saw some action.

Now after the neglect, the underfunding and mismanagement in our health care system, that is what we finally see, damage control, not a proper investment system. Is that an investment in our future? Damage control is not an investment in our future. It is just an admission of past failures. I will tell you something else about this damage control. It is not investment in health care to ignore the fundamental determinants of health.

So far, we have just been talking about the health care delivery system - the doctors and nurses and other medical professionals, other health care professionals, very important, that is a system that we need - but let me tell you what is fundamentally of importance in a health care system, is that people have a healthy way of life which means that they have to be secure economically and there has to be a system that delivers equality of opportunity to people all across this province. We have not seen in this budget or, indeed, during the lifetime of this government, a dedication to these basic determinants of health care.

Canada's National Forum of Health in 1977 said, "What really matters are the social and economic determinants of health. We are particularly concerned about the impact of poverty, unemployment and cuts in social supports on the health of individuals, groups and communities.".

Let me assure you that those kinds of concerns are the kinds of concerns that we share and which Nova Scotians understand. When I look back at the record of performance on this government's watch, what I know is that Nova Scotians' real income has fallen. It has fallen 8 per cent over the last 10 years, the bulk of that during that government's watch. The poorest 40 per cent of Nova Scotian families have seen a decline of their real income, after taxes, of 24 per cent. What that means is that the poor are getting poorer. These are the crucial determinants of health, not just the health care system. We have to add that together with the health care system. Our Party recognizes that more than 70 per cent of Nova Scotia's

[Page 6725]

single mothers live below the official low income cut-off line. We know that. This government does not know that.

Most disturbing of all, is the fact that child poverty has increased by more than 50 per cent since 1990. That means more than 50,000 children - 27 per cent of Nova Scotia children - under the age of 12 now live in poverty, one of the highest rates in the country. These are the fundamental determinants of the health of a population that have been ignored year in, year out, by that government on its watch and let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, the people of Nova Scotia have no faith in the ability of that government to deliver on a health care system to change any of that. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, I have gone through in a forum which we are looking forward to expanding over the coming several weeks the problems with this budget as presented, the problem of fiscal irresponsibility, the problem of whether it is fundamentally believable or trustworthy, and the problem of faith when it comes to delivery on health and health care. What is the conclusion?

Mr. Speaker, this budget has been referred to as a roll of the dice. What it is, is a calculated, political gamble on the part of a cynical government. At stake is the future of the opportunities of Nova Scotians and that crucial issue of whether health and health care will be there when people need it. The record of this government, the promises they have made in the past, give Nova Scotians no reason at all to trust them. Why should we believe them now? This is a government that will say anything to try to hang on to power. That budget presented on Tuesday proves it absolutely.

Mr. Speaker, our caucus is not prepared to consider supporting this budget unless or until it is presented honestly to the Legislature and to Nova Scotians. We say to this government and to this Premier, present an honest and accurate statement of your spending, your revenue and your deficit. Show Nova Scotians the health care plan, if there is one, then and only then can we seriously consider whether the budget is worthy of our support. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.

MR. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to have the opportunity to respond on behalf of our caucus to the Liberal budget. I call it a Liberal budget, but I think another word that we can use is the Liberal's health budget. I want to start off by dispelling a myth. Contrary to popular belief, the Liberal Government has not cut and slashed health care spending over the last six years; in fact, it has added hundreds of millions of dollars to our health care budget.

[Page 6726]

I look here for the year 1993-94 to the year 1998-99, the health care budget grew from just over $1.28 billion to just over $1.508 billion. When you take into account the $340 million that the federal government cut in health transfers, you see that over the six year period that the Liberals were in office, Nova Scotia taxpayers had to kick in more than $500 million for health care. This doesn't include the $600 million fund that they now say is required to put health care back on track.

Mr. Speaker, you might ask why is an Opposition member talking about this, why would I raise this point? Why doesn't the government talk about how generous they have been in supporting health care over the years? The simple fact is that the Liberals don't want taxpayers to catch on to how badly they manage the most expensive, the most important service that government provides its citizens - that is health care. The Liberals don't want Nova Scotians to catch on to the extent of their waste, and what is a telling story or record of incompetence and mismanagement.

Despite the fact that hundreds of millions of dollars have been added to the health care budget over their watch, services have declined at an alarming rate. Nova Scotians are paying a lot more for a lot less. Consider that the Liberal Government closed and they consolidated hospitals, they reduced the number of ambulances by almost one-third, they closed more than 1,000 hospital beds, and they placed a moratorium on long-term care beds.

Up to 2,000 health care professionals, most of them nurses were let go. Doctors left our province in droves, and my area of Yarmouth has felt that impact. Insured services were cut. New fees and premiums such as the Seniors' Pharmacare premium were introduced, and only recently did it lift a three year roll-back it imposed on health care professionals in 1993-94.

You would think that health care costs would have either gone down slightly or at the very least they would have stabilized, but instead they started to accelerate at an alarming rate. To be fair, some of the increased costs can be attributed to an aging population which places greater demands on health care resources and inflation to some degree. But Liberal mismanagement, I believe, is largely to blame.

Let's examine some examples of how these Liberals not only jeopardized patient care but wasted tens of millions of dollars. At the same time as our population was aging, the Liberals placed a moratorium on new long-term care beds in this province and cut as much as 30 per cent of the hospital beds across this province. Today, between 20 per cent and 30 per cent of all our hospital beds in Nova Scotia are being occupied by people who should be in a continuing care facility today.

I look at the cost of an acute care bed in those hospitals and compare them to what it costs for a long-term care bed, and people have legitimate questions as to what this government is doing. As a result of this short-sighted, costly decision, Nova Scotians who are

[Page 6727]

sick and should be hospitalized are often turned away at hospital doors or are lying on stretchers in emergency room corridors.

Another example, less than four years ago, this Liberal Government offered a multi-million dollar incentive package, and I believe it was $25 million, to encourage nurses and other health care professionals to leave their profession. Today, less than two or three years later, Nova Scotia is experiencing a critical shortage of nurses. Hospitals and nursing homes are scrambling to find nurses to keep open desperately needed beds. Emergency, intensive care and other specialty care nurses are virtually impossible to locate in this province.

[2:30 p.m.]

In my own area of Yarmouth, the chair of the Yarmouth Regional Hospital Advisory Services Committee recently wrote to the minister and we had that letter in this Legislature last week. They said that the shortages of full-time nurses was contributing to an unsafe and unstable hospital environment, an environment that jeopardizes health care and patient care. Now the government is saying that we need to spend millions more to hire, to recruit and to train new nurses. I say as a result of this costly and short-sighted decision, patient care has suffered not only in my riding, but across this province, and millions of scarce health dollars have been wasted.

I will quote another example. At the same time as this Liberal Government was saying that there was no money to keep hospital beds open, to open desperately needed long-term care beds, or to hire nurses, they somehow miraculously found dollars to create four regional health boards that continue to grow by leaps and bounds. These distant, remote boards, somehow have money to hire PR consultants, to pay for fleets of leased cars to transport a minister to and fro across health board areas, and to hold afternoon get-together sessions that cost more than $1,000 a pop. As a result of the creation of regional health boards, communities remain shut out of the decision-making process. As a result of these same boards, scarce health care dollars that should be going to patient care, prevention or wellness promotion, are going to feed not one but five administrations, five growing bureaucracies, ironically, all of which are charged with seeing health care is properly and efficiently managed.

The government claims that regional health boards have resulted in administrative savings. They even put out a document saying so. I believe it should top the New York Times best list for pure fiction. Let's not forget that just before last year's election the Liberal Government handed the QE II Health Sciences Centre a cheque in the amount of $12 million. The money was given to the QE II to cover the lost savings - lost savings, Mr. Speaker - that the hospital would have achieved had it been allowed to go forward with its business plan. Of course, we all know the reason the business plan wasn't allowed to proceed. It was because there was an election on the horizon. In effect, the Liberal Government paid the QE II a bonus to incur costs that it didn't have to.

[Page 6728]

I can best summarize in three words why costs have gone through the roof at the same time as services have steadily declined. The three words are: Liberal Health Reform. The Liberals are now saying that they need another $600 million to put health care back on track. This is an admission that Liberal Health Reform was a colossal failure. This massive $600 million health fund that the Liberals want to establish outside of the parameters of the health care budget wouldn't be necessary if health care had been managed properly over the last six years. It is a telling admission of six years of failure; it is a telling admission of six years of mismanagement and also six years of waste.

Mr. Speaker, let me make something perfectly clear, health care does need more money. There is an urgent need for new nurses, and my area of Yarmouth County is no different from any other area across this province. There is an urgent need to find more doctors, particularly I would say, mostly in rural Nova Scotia. There is an urgent need also to invest in new medical equipment and also in technology. All of those needs are very real, but they are all very costly. If we are to deliver quality, accessible care to Nova Scotians, we need to find the dollars to make these and other investments in health care. But dollars alone will not guarantee a better and more efficient health care system.

The track record of the Liberal Government over the last six years is the best example that throwing money at the problem does not work, Mr. Speaker. It will take a new commitment, a real commitment to work with health care providers and community-based organizations to make sure that the investments made, pay what we all consider long-term dividends. It will take a new commitment to make sure that the investments that we make in health care make sense and address the most pressing needs in our health care system.

Mr. Speaker, this is something in the past that the Liberals have shown themselves incapable of. For six years they got it wrong. For six years they shut out consumers, they shut out health care providers and they shut out communities. So the obvious questions that we ask ourselves, why should Nova Scotians believe them when they say now we promise that we will get it right this time. We promise that we will consult and we will listen.

Mr. Speaker, that commitment is six years too late. This government should have been listening to communities six years ago, five years ago, four years ago, three years ago, two years ago, one year ago. Why start now? Why were you not listening? Our caucus and Nova Scotians told you that the health system was broke. Until today, until this budget is tabled, this government denied it. They said that we were fear-mongering. They said all Opposition members, all we were doing was trying to scare the public. Well, you have tabled a budget that says it is a $600 million mistake. What happened? (Interruption)

Mr. Speaker, to the budget, Nova Scotians are not going to be fooled by the creative bookkeeping of the minister. They are not going to let the Minister of Finance have it both ways - claim a balanced budget on one hand, set up a separate borrowing account on the other - to spend on what should be clearly reported as an operating expenditure. Nova

[Page 6729]

Scotians know the budget was not balanced and even the Minister of Finance, after being questioned by the press, I think on the seventh question, had to agree that the budget was not balanced. He should have answered on the first one.

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals said that this was a health care budget and it is hard to disagree, but I think all Nova Scotians know that it is also an election budget. A budget built more on political strategy than credibility. Let me for a moment just raise a number of serious concerns that my caucus colleagues and I have with this budget.

The 1999-2000 budget contains approximately $160 million of spending that will not be available in future years. The compensation money that Ottawa gave to Nova Scotia for signing on to the HST is all used up in this budget, Mr. Speaker, $52.5 million. The special Health Investment Fund that was given by the feds just before March, that this government used in this budget of $107 million, is all in this budget. So we have approximately $160 million that this government is spending in this budget with nothing left for future years, while those monies were supposed to be set out for a number of years to help Nova Scotia deal with its problems. The Minister of Finance is using it all this year so he could claim, or at least attempt to claim, a small surplus, a surplus of $1.5 million on a multi-billion-dollar budget.

What happens next year when that money is not there, Mr. Speaker? Those are serious questions. Will the Health Investment Fund suddenly be raided to cover off the short-fall in the Department of Health?

Mr. Speaker, the province is increasing the budget - or so they claim - for Nova Scotia's community colleges by $5 million. They say that is a significant investment and a welcome investment, but the federal government is cutting its contribution by $15 million. It is hard to stand up here today and applaud what amounts to a net loss to our community college system of almost $10 million. If that is what you call progress, our caucus does not agree with that. It is hard to believe that the community college system can address the pressing need to prepare our young people for today's job market, for tomorrow's job market, with such a significant loss of federal funding.

When you read the budget, something else becomes painfully obvious, Mr. Speaker. Nova Scotia continues to get short shrift from Ottawa. This budget is not only an admission the Liberals have failed to properly and efficiently managed health care - it is an admission that they failed to get our full and fair share from Ottawa. Something that this government lobbied on and campaigned on in the last election.

Little or nothing to support highway or road improvements. Mr. Speaker, Ottawa collects over $100 million in gasoline and diesel fuel taxes from Nova Scotia every year and gives virtually nothing back to support and sustain our highway infrastructure. Where is the money going? Is it going to other provinces across Canada that have more effective

[Page 6730]

governments in negotiating with Ottawa? That is a valid question and is something that this government has to answer for.

Where is Ottawa's support for our forestry sector? Where are the silviculture dollars needed to sustain our forests, this crucial sector to our economy? New Brunswick, Mr. Speaker, has invested $12 million in silviculture. What is this government doing? It is bringing forward the $3 million it committed to silviculture last year and promising to spend another $1 million this year for a grand total of $4 million, one-third of what our sister province of New Brunswick has invested to protect their forests and what they consider to be a valuable resource industry.

Mr. Speaker, as with any budget, there are also some things to applaud and I will mention them. Our Leader, John Hamm, and members of our caucus have repeatedly called on government to assume the growing debts of our hospitals and the regional health boards. I stand here today and say that makes good sense. The government, after all, can borrow the money for less than what it would cost our hospitals to borrow the same money from chartered banks. We applaud this move because hospital debts - no matter how you look at it - are debts that must eventually be borne by the province. As much as the government on the other side, tried to make believe that the hospitals themselves could take care of it, no one believed that, as we looked at the results after last year.

There are other things too that we applaud, Mr. Speaker. Finally, after years of refusing to recognize the need to provide urgently needed funding to support the work of women's centres, the government has increased their funding. This is something that our caucus has been urging government to do for some time and we are pleased that the government has finally recognized the important work that they do.

As well, our caucus has been urging the government to provide greater support to Nova Scotia's growing film industry. The increase in the tax credit is welcome news, although it falls a bit short of similar tax credits offered by other provinces that we compete with for film and video business.

While we welcome news that government is planning to build a desperately needed secure treatment centre for young Nova Scotians, Mr. Speaker, we want assurances - and I think Nova Scotians demand assurances - that this facility will be built within this fiscal year. We continue to hear frightening stories from parents who need to know that help is on the way in this province, parents who need to know that their children will finally get the help that they so desperately need.

Mr. Speaker, there are some other positive and welcome initiatives in this budget. It is, after all, what I consider to be an election budget. But we also have many questions of the government regarding some of the commitments that it has made, questions that we intend to raise with this government over the next couple of weeks.

[Page 6731]

We also have some very serious concerns. We recognize that health care is the predominant concern of Nova Scotians. We recognize as well that it will take money to fix the problems that this government has largely created. But, Mr. Speaker, we need real answers from this government. The most obvious is, where did the government come up with the $600 million price tag for its so-called Health Investment Fund.

I refer to our Leader, John Hamm, today asking the Minister of Finance which hat did he pull the number out of, because we have not had the answers to those questions and I think we will be pressing the government to give us some insight as to how this fund is supposed to work and who costed it and where the money is going to be going. We don't think it is unreasonable to ask questions on behalf of taxpayers who are being asked to contribute $600 million to a health care plan without being given any details of that plan.

It is not good enough for the Minister of Health to say, we are planning as we go. I quote an article today in The Cape Breton Post, "Everybody says where's the plan . . . I didn't come in here this morning with a full plan. The model is ourselves. We're creating it as we go.". That is not an answer, it sounds like a song, a tap dance. We need to have answers. As a caucus, if we want to consider this budget I think all members of this House and all caucuses deserve to have plans and we will continue, on behalf of the people of Nova Scotia to be asking this government for those answers to those plans.

[2:45 p.m.]

I look here and as I am starting to wrap up my comments, I think this government's credibility or rather the lack of sometimes, is what is being debated or considered here today. This government has made promises in the past and they have also made promises here today of this budget, a $600 million promise. That sounds very familiar because this is the same government that promised to deliver 170 long-term care beds, very specific, I and all Nova Scotians, heard the Premier say that we will deliver immediately 170 long-term beds and we had 41 delivered. Those are the kinds of initiatives that are in health care and if this government had listened, we wouldn't have the problems we have today. This is the same government that promised, very specifically, HST relief to homeowners in this province. This is the same government that promised, very specifically, secure treatment. This is the same government that promised health care reform.

I remember the former Minister of Health, Ronald Stewart, saying I know the way. Follow me and I will lead you. There are promises being made here with a $600 million plan and we want some answers and our caucus will be asking this government for answers to the plan that they have or details of the plan. I think if we didn't ask those questions before we make a decision on whether we will support this government or not that we would be very much remiss and Nova Scotians would be disappointed in us.

[Page 6732]

Our caucus has made a commitment to listen to the government and its explanations of this budget. We have started today with our Leader asking questions in this House as to what the plan is, specifically, with regard to the health plan. We did not get the answers to those questions but that will not deter us in our determination to find out just what is being planned. We just don't want the oversight. We want the details and I think our caucus and all Nova Scotians deserve to have more than what the minister said yesterday, we are creating it as we go. I don't think that is very helpful to all members when they consider this budget.

I went down yesterday, as Finance Critic, to listen to the Minister of Health outline what his plan was. When he came out of the meeting he told us we had a very good meeting and we told them we would discuss it with them. Well, that sounds very familiar to the answers to questions we asked last year when we told the government we were concerned about health care. We were told they were discussing it with the stakeholders. We do not want just reassurances from the government that they are going to talk to the stakeholders. We want to see where they are going and we want to know specifics. I think if we as a caucus didn't do that then we would be remiss.

Our caucus is committed to talking on all aspects of our critic areas that we serve in our capacity as an Opposition Party. We will talk to our constituents and will be giving this budget very serious consideration before we make a decision as to whether or not we will support it. In my closing comments, I cannot be any more clear to this government, we want answers before the vote on this budget comes forward. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The Estimates are referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Supply.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I move that you do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House on Supply unto Her Majesty.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to make a few brief comments on the budget that has been announced. It is amazing, isn't it, who can possibly believe these Liberals? They thought they could take all kinds of money out of the health care system and not damage the system. This group here and their federal counterparts believed that, they went ahead and did it and look what happened. They did damage to the health care system in this province that was unprecedented. How wrong they were when they thought that they could do that. But you know, they also thought that nobody would notice. Maybe they thought nobody would care, but that certainly wasn't the case.

[Page 6733]

Nova Scotians and Canadians certainly have demonstrated again and again that they care about health care. It is their number one concern; it is their number one issue, and no government, no political Party can tamper with the basic, fundamental values that Nova Scotians, Canadians, have with respect to the health care system. It is a defining feature of our identity as Canadians and it is something that we absolutely need all of the life cycle, from birth until death.

Mr. Speaker, do you know what else? Not only did this government believe that they could take money out of the health care system and wreak havoc and nobody would notice, they thought they could manage what was left and they could stand here day after day claiming that they were doing a good job of managing what was left and nobody would notice that either. We noticed, and Nova Scotians noticed; everybody noticed.

Now they are coming in with themes. They have some themes that tell us absolutely nothing, no plan, and they think nobody is going to notice. They think Nova Scotians are going to believe that now the health care problems that they created are going to disappear and we will all go back and everything will be nice and lovely. Well you know this is not the case whatsoever, because the basic problem here is their inability to plan for the health care needs of people in our province.

Let me tell you, there are big challenges ahead. Whoever is in government has to be prepared to meet these challenges head-on. We have an aging population, and we have a medical system that is increasingly developing more and more sophisticated technology that costs more additional money than perhaps in the past. We have a greater reliance now on modalities of treatment that rely on pharmaceuticals, drug therapies. These all bring with them particular costs, and we need to be prepared to meet those costs. We need to be able to plan to meet those costs. At the same time we have study after study, in this province and elsewhere, which tell us that if we do not start to transform health care systems away from illness-based models alone into prevention and preventive care, then we will never get out of this enormous hole that we have dug ourselves into or, more specifically, they have dug themselves into.

Mr. Speaker, they, on the government benches, have attempted in the last day or two to paint members of this caucus as being opposed to spending in the health care system. Nothing could be further from the truth. We absolutely support investing in health care. What we oppose is waste in the system; we oppose the mismanagement of the system; and we oppose the inability of government to transform the health care system from only an illness-based system of care to one that has much more attention to prevention.

Mr. Speaker, let's be clear about the lack of a plan that we got from this government with the announcement of $600 million in mortgaged money. There is no plan there, not because the Department of Health has not been doing their best, many of the hardworking public servants have not been doing their best to develop plans, and it is not because health

[Page 6734]

care professionals, providers, community health boards, community groups and citizens have not been doing their best to articulate and formulate plans for health care. It is because this Premier, this Minister of Health, and their colleagues in that government are not prepared to act to do the things that needed to be done. It is because they were scared to take the bold steps that were required because they might offend their friends.

Let's be clear about what some of those things would have been, Mr. Speaker. This government backed away from serious tobacco control which could have saved Nova Scotians millions of dollars in our health care system. This government backed away from investing in non-profit organizations that are currently providing health care services. This province backed away from nurse practitioners, even in pilot projects, around the province which they announced with some fanfare last summer. We have not seen those yet. This government has failed to empower community health boards. This government has been incapable of reforming the Pharmacare Program in a way that will give senior citizens in this province any sense of security that, tomorrow, the program is going to be as good as it is for them today, or it was the day before.

Nobody knows where Pharmacare is going and do you know why nobody knows where Pharmacare is going? Because they do not know where it is going. They do not have a plan. It is a theme. (Interruptions) This is a very big problem that we have now. Nursing organizations have repeatedly told this government that they need a comprehensive plan to deal with the nursing shortage. They said that that plan would cost $30 million to $40 million. They said that they would have been happy with $20 million, but in reality what they got in this budget was $10 million. One has to question how realistic that is as a plan for dealing with the nursing crisis.

I had an opportunity to meet with quite a few groups that were looking at the minister's announcement. They had some very interesting things to say and, like myself, I know that there has been a lot of damage done to health care in Nova Scotia. So any expenditure that would help address this abuse of the health care system by our government in the past few years, six years, is welcome. However, people out there are questioning the size and the method that this government has chosen to address the damage that they have done.

Mr. Speaker, the question that people have beyond where is the plan, beyond why should we believe you now, the question is, is this sustainable? At what cost are we taking this path? What will happen to us, what will happen to our health care system, when that $600 million, heavily mortgaged, borrowed, is gone? What will happen? Will we be back in the same situation we find ourselves in today? People ask that with very good reasons. They have good reasons to ask that and the reasons are there is nothing here in this plan so-called, this little theme book. There is nothing here to tell us what the accountability mechanism is. How is the money going to be spent; where is it going to be spent; what are the methods for evaluating whether that is an effective use of money; what are the outcomes of the use of these dollars; and what is the time-frame for the expenditure of these dollars? There is

[Page 6735]

absolutely nothing here that would help any questioning person who wants to understand how our health care system will be better next month. Nothing; there is absolutely nothing here.

[3:00 p.m.]

There is a reason for that, Mr. Speaker, and the reason is the Minister of Health, he has admitted this, he does not have a plan, he is making it up as he goes along. As a matter of fact, the minister did not have a plan for the meeting he held the other morning. One has to ask yourself: How can you believe this government now? So I think that in the next few days we will be standing here and we will be asking many of these questions. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We will be asking questions in an attempt to get answers that Nova Scotians want. I think people in this province recognize we have a health care system that is broken. They recognize that it is a health care system that requires some stability and that it is going to require some infusion of funding, but they also recognize that throwing money at the problem without a comprehensive, well thought out plan, there is no direction without this. They have no way of assessing whether or not this will result in a better health care system for themselves and for their children in the future.

I think, Mr. Speaker, we need to ask ourselves what it is we are doing here with respect to not just our present, but our future. We need a health care system that works for Nova Scotians today and tomorrow. We need a system that is sustainable and one that is based on good planning, on good public participation and consultation, strong management and, definitely, accountability at the ministerial level. These are things that not only do we not have, but we have not had for six years and, frankly, I do not believe that we are going to get those now. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland North.

MR. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a few minutes today to talk about the true future of this province, that is our young people, and about the institutions that we are prepared, and the dollars we are prepared to allow them to acquire educations, that will allow them to be active participants in our economy and boosters of this province for the next coming number of decades.

We look at what the commitment has been and where it should go. I think the first and foremost thing we look at as we look at the school system, Mr. Speaker, is the instructor or teacher, the most valuable portion of that learning experience. In this province, outside of metro Halifax and, indeed, in some schools in metro here, there is a severe problem with the amount of teachers, declining enrolments or readjustment of enrolments because of a decline

[Page 6736]

somewhere else in one of the large school boards. I think of a school that I have attended, and parents that I have worked with, would highlight that and that would be Pugwash District High School.

Over the last four years, Mr. Speaker, they have had a decline of 56 students in that school, but what has happened is along with that decline of 56 students, the provincial funding formula has ensured that they have lost 5.9 teaching positions. That is an average of one for every 9.5 students.

The province says the average class size is 30, 31, 29, in that area. Pick what you want. But think of that number, Mr. Speaker. One teacher, 9.5 students lost. Therein lies the unfairness, the inequity and why there is going to be severe complications with funding of teaching positions in this province who provide the actual instructions, along with other resources for our children.

The funding formula needs to be addressed for the future, or there will not be sufficient teachers and instructors to look after instruction for young people of this province in the future. A system that is based on course selection instead of raw numbers must be addressed to ensure that rural communities in Nova Scotia are able to offer not only core programs, along with technology, but a sampling of other programs and a base of other programs so that we have equity of education for our students across this province.

Mr. Speaker, the government, when they come up with their numbers of average class size, include non-active instructors, as far as principals, vice-principals, heads of departments, so the real number in a classroom can be deceptively higher in this province than what the average looks like. Also, average class sizes, depending on the size of the school, obviously, are going to vary as well. It is a benchmark. But, in many communities, it is one that works to the detriment of education of those young people.

Mr. Speaker, we have looked at some numbers announced in the last several days where great commitments are being made to those young people in the reduction of class sizes. There is $300,000 quoted as to school boards in the Budget Address and the press releases that will reduce class sizes. Well, $300,000 in an overall budget of hundreds of millions for this province, all members of the House well know, and the minister should know better than anybody else, is not even measurable. It is lip service is what it is. It is mentioning a subject and intending not to do anything about it.

Nova Scotians are becoming very wary and Nova Scotians, parents and teachers, are beginning to feel that these commitments are commitments not made in honesty and in the vein that adjustments will be made, but they are commitments made to adjust voter recognition and to influence a poll at any given time in the future. Those same situations exist and a fine example is the recent announcement of 6,000 computers for schools. It is hailed as new unveiling. Well, last May, that same announcement was made. It is just a shame that they

[Page 6737]

actually weren't put in the schools and the commitment they made was not achieved when it was supposed to be.

It is the same sort of situation that you address with long-term beds, 170 in last year's budget and none of them are occupied. The money has been spent in the budget, Mr. Speaker, but there are no patients or clients occupying those beds. They just spent the money. Nova Scotians are questioning this government's sincerity of where they want to go. Nova Scotians look at this government and say, yes, they promised me those beds. They said they were going to reduce class sizes. Well, what have they got? They have less teachers. Their only hope to reduce class sizes is to force amalgamations, and declining enrolment, not leadership or priorities or planning. That is what it entails if you want to govern in a province and you ought to have vision and you want that province to prosper. You want our young people to have something to look forward to. It takes people here with vision. Mortgaging our future for that vision is what Nova Scotians, for the last six years have said to us, that they want a future that would entail vision.

I think we have to be extremely careful. So we go down the road, we make statements about this generation will pay. I would remind the honourable members on that side of the House and on this side of the House, the vast majority of them, in 20 years, will be collecting seniors' allowance, rather than being active members and participants of the economy. So we have to be careful in those type of statements and commitments that we aren't ensuring that a future generation is supposed to pay for an election promise or a vote-getting scheme of today.

We have, in this province, two styles of education - a have and a have not. This government is determined to ensure that equity gets more despairing instead of closing.

They have done that with their school construction program, where high-tech, where every appliance and convenience will be allocated to your community if you have a new school, if you don't it is too bad, you receive very little or the services in your school are downgraded because the operational budgets continue to shrink in real terms of what is available to the student in the classroom. That is why when I visit classrooms in Nova Scotia, people are photocopying books, teachers are dipping into their funds, raising their own money to supply the basic instructional material for that classroom. That is why computers promised time and time again would show up as a new release in the budgetary statements of this government, when you have already announced them a year previous.

It is all about trying to hoodwink the voter into thinking you are really doing something, when all you have been doing is talking about the situation and never addressing the situation. Students in this province need the situation addressed so that they can compete with students in other provinces, indeed other countries.

[Page 6738]

Once we move into post-secondary education - the community college is a fine example. By most estimates the federal government's funding will leave this year, and that will be approximately $12 million. This government's answer to that is, we are going to maintain and double the enrolment in community colleges by putting $5.3 million into solving that problem. The efficiency gains that they have been able to achieve over the last six to eight years wouldn't indicate that they can double the number of community college seats, double the number of people who are going there and pay for it with less than half the money. That is not their record, and it is not reality.

What is really happening out there is that this year we are in danger of seeing a massive decline because the funding is not in place. To pat yourself on the back as a minister and as a government that you are out there spending and ensuring that there is more money in place for community colleges is a hollow promise when you actually know that there is going to be a decrease in excess of $5 million in the community college system. That portion may have been federal, but the minister well knows it is up to him to negotiate and his government to negotiate those agreements with Ottawa.

It fits their inability whether it is highways, whether it is education, agriculture, natural resources or any other field of government, to negotiate those agreements where other governments in other provinces have been successful, then that clearly reflects on the government benches across the way, that they certainly a) have no sway with the federal government, and b) their negotiating skills or what they want for this province and should stand up and demand are not there. They tout themselves as being first cousins in Ottawa, well for first cousins they seem to know how to have the lumber put to them rather than any type of financial redress for those critical agreements in each one of those different portfolios across this province.

Returning to education, we, as a province and a people, want a future for our young people, for our children and our grandchildren. We have to sit down and stop paying lip-service to operational budgets, put instructors there, put courses there, put guidelines there and ensure it is a safe learning environment and put our money where our mouth is rather than saying I am putting $5.3 million into community colleges and I am taking $12 million out.

Mr. Speaker, that is not what Nova Scotians want, that is not what our students deserve, and that is not what the people of Nova Scotia want for an opportunity in the future for the young people of this province. Thank you for your time. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works, on an introduction, just before I leave the Chair.

[Page 6739]

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to you and through you to all members of the Legislature, I would like to introduce, in the east gallery, the Mayor of Lockeport, Mayor Sarah Huskilson. I would like for the House to give her the usual welcome, please. (Applause)

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak this afternoon. I wanted to spend a little time at the beginning on some general observations with respect to the budget that is now before the House. I note that over the past number of days it certainly has left us with somewhat of a conundrum in terms of the language that we are able to use to describe the budget. I know that, and I don't want to trespass on unparliamentary language and will try to be a bit more delicate in our descriptions about the way in which this budget is presented, the themes and schemes, as we can refer to it.

[3:15 p.m.]

I said in the past about this government and about their attempts and I think it bears repeating that the policies of this government continue to be nothing more than truth-twisting, service-smashing, health-care-wrecking policies. That is what they are and that is what they continue to be. It is not as simple as saying that they try to mislead, I wouldn't do that. I think there is a clear attempt here and it is not one that is done by mistake, it is not misinformation, then intend what they do. They know chicanery when they see it, they know poppycock. This is a matter of shameless duplicity, that is what is in this budget, shameless duplicity, it is exploitive. What it does is it tries to exploit the fears of people about the need that they have for health care against the need for honest government, that is why it is exploitive.

It is unfortunate that this government would make a riddle out of a budget and use the people of Nova Scotia as the punch line. Having wrecked the health care system, having smashed the confidence of Nova Scotia in their personal security, having manipulated the books, and having to try to misdirect the public's attention, this budget now spins like a top. I have to say I agree with the member for Argyle who spoke earlier this afternoon when he said this budget is worthy of a nomination for a prize in fiction. That is, in fact, the truth and it is no more than balderdash.

This government heaves back and forth like an amateur sailor in a squall. They are blown by the winds of polls. They are without direction, without a plan and it is a rudderless, ageing, leaking vessel that is captained by Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dummer. I have to say this vessel is bound for the shoals with their unfortunate crew. That is the reality of this government and this budget. What we have seen over the past number of hours already is no more than what they call their themes. They want to turn this into a theme park and they wonder why it is we ask the question, how can Nova Scotians believe you now? Well they can't after six years of lurching from one so-called health reform to another, without any

[Page 6740]

sense of direction, without any guidance, without any real consultation with communities, without any semblance of a plan that we can discern. It is not just in health care and I want to make that clear. Let's have a look at Economic Development as an example.

We couldn't even get a report out of the Department of Economic Development until we relentlessly, virtually day after day, week after week, pushed the minister and he finally produces a report, the one previous to which was six years earlier, even though it is required by legislation. Even though it is required by legislation, they do not do it.

They have some options. If they do not like it, they are the government. They can change the rules. If they do not want to produce an annual report, they can change the legislation so that they do not have to do it, but when the legislation is in place, their choice is either to produce the report or to change the regulations or the legislation. They do not have a third option which says that we can just ignore it. They have an obligation, a responsibility to do what it is that is required of them in the legislation.

Those are my comments with respect to the government in general and now that I have dispensed with the opening pleasantries, I want to talk a few minutes about what is going on that is affected by this budget, out in my community.

Mr. Speaker, in Dartmouth-Cole Harbour the results of the failed policies of this government, the economic policies, the health care policies, everything that they have, in fact, touched over the last six years, whether it is amalgamation, or regionalization, that is where the end result of this is really felt. This is where the jagged edge of those policies are felt. For example, in my community next week in the local community school, Joseph Giles Elementary School, there is going to be a meeting convened by the principal to address a number of problems that have arisen as a result of the downloading of responsibilities onto the backs of the school system.

Teachers and principals are finding more and more that instead of just providing the educational guidance that is their obligation, they have to provide social work support, mental health care support, sometimes health care support. There is much that they are providing now that they never ever had to provide before. In some cases, as with respect to the Joseph Giles Elementary School, the principal is taking it upon himself to pull in, for example: the nurse manager of the Central Regional Health Board, a psychologist, a case work supervisor from the Department of Community Services, the RCMP, officials from the Dartmouth General Hospital, and he is bringing all those people together to meet, in order to figure out how to deal with the problems that have been downloaded into the schools as a result of the failed policies of that government.

[Page 6741]

I say it is a good thing for this community that we have such dedicated people operating in our schools and operating in our community, that they would take it upon themselves to organize themselves so that they can respond to these kinds of difficulties as they arise because, Mr. Speaker, that government has failed to do it. That is the truest indication of failure, when somebody else has to pick up the ball that you are responsible for and run with it. Fortunately, in my community the administration of that school is doing that and they are to be applauded for doing so.

I have a letter which I intend to table, but it is a good indication of how the health care system is failing. It is a good indication of how people feel about the service that they are being provided with. The letter is not long. It is about a page or so, but I think it provides a real life example of some of the turmoil that is going on in people's lives out there. So I am just going to read it.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member is prepared to table the letter I take it?

MR. DEXTER: What is that, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member is prepared to table the letter?

MR. DEXTER: I am prepared to table it, yes. It is addressed to me as the MLA and it says, "Since it is common knowledge that osteoporosis is a preventable and treatable disease, I am wondering why our provincial government continues to drag their feet on purchasing DEXAs [Dual Energy X-Ray Assessment]. There are five in New Brunswick and they are considering adding one more, for a total of six. P.E.I., with a population of 134,577, also has one in Charlottetown.

Since 90% of hip fractures in women between the ages of 65 and 84 are due to osteoporosis and there were 1,010 hip fractures in Nova Scotia last year I would think that some person in the health department would see the urgency of more machines. The cost of purchasing one DEXA is less than a X-ray machine.

The waiting time in Nova Scotia is about one year since there are only two machines available for approximately one million people. This is very alarming to me since my husband has osteoporosis and I have also been waiting for a bone scan. The cost of treatment surely would decrease with early diagnosis since effective treatment is in place.

I certainly will be anxious to know your action on this question since the government is planning to purchase two travelling machines which would almost cover the cost of five permanently placed ones. It certainly doesn't sound like good sense to me, a taxpayer.".

[Page 6742]

Mr. Speaker, we only have to listen to the heartfelt concerns of people like this in my constituency when they talk about their interaction with the health care system, and with the frustration that they feel over not being provided with the services that they require in order to give them the sense of personal security, the sense of personal well-being that they need to have long and productive years in this province. So I say to the minister, pay heed to this kind of information and to the concerns of people like this from my constituency.

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if you could tell me how much time I have left?

MR. SPEAKER: You have approximately two minutes and some-odd seconds.

MR. DEXTER: Two minutes, well that is time enough for me to relate one more story from my riding. Mr. Speaker, as you approach the Ross Road, going out the Cole Harbour Road, there was a sign located on the right-hand side that pointed to Ross Road and to the communities that are at the other side of that road. Some time ago, that sign blew down and it hasn't been replaced yet. I have made a number of inquiries about that, and it turns out that when the regional municipality legislation came in, they never bothered to think about road signs and there is no agreement between the municipality and the provincial government over who will replace them. So, instead of replacing the sign, what they have done is they have entered into a dispute between the municipality and the provincial government over who is going to replace the sign.

I don't know how much money, time, or effort is being spent in this disagreement between the provincial and municipal governments. What I do know is that the people who live on that road and who have people coming to visit, but who can't find the road because there is no signage, the businesses who operate on that road, but whose customers cannot find them because there is no signage, find this most distressing. I don't understand why it is that the Department of Transportation and Public Works cannot get its act together long enough to replace a road sign, a simple road sign.

So, Mr. Speaker, this is a great concern for the people who live on Ross Road. It is a great concern for those businesses who operate there, and I would just commend to the government that there has been a lot of problems and a lot of difficulties that have arose as a result of your decision to proceed with amalgamation. Won't you please take the time to correct this one small thing? I say again that I don't have a lot of faith in what they do, but I am asking them one last time, please, on behalf of my constituents, to assist. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

[3:30 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Supply with Deputy Speaker Mr. Donald Chard in the Chair.]

[Page 6743]

[6:00 p.m. CWH on Supply rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Ronald Russell, resumed the Chair.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The moment of interruption has arrived. The debate this evening was submitted by the honourable Leader of the Opposition. The honourable member for Pictou West will be speaking on that resolution.

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - SECONDARY ROADS:

NEGLECT - CONTINUANCE

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege tonight to be able to take a few minutes and speak about the rural roads and the deplorable shape that they are in throughout the Province of Nova Scotia. The resolution reads:

"Therefore be it resolved that this government explain to the Nova Scotia public why they continue to neglect secondary roads throughout this province.".

As I listened carefully to the Minister of Finance the other day to see what was in his budget, I heard not one word, not one single iota of information on rural roads. I could not believe my ears. So after he was finished speaking, I had an opportunity to go through the Budget Address and see what was in there on rural roads. I looked through it carefully, the full speech that he had given us, and not a word on rural roads. It tells you what kind of commitment this government is putting towards the rural infrastructure and secondary roads in this province.

I hear words like deplorable, terrible, damaged, broken, rutted, destroyed, cracked, even hay crops growing in the middle of some roads in this province, Mr. Speaker, and for too long our government has neglected, and previous governments have neglected, rural roads in this province. As I attend to constituents in my constituency office and answer the telephone, faxes, letters, on the doorsteps, again it is probably the number one issue I hear from residents in my constituency.

I should mention, Mr. Speaker, I am going to be sharing my time with my colleague, the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect, so I will pass it on in a few minutes. Secondary roads, bridges, lack of paving, re-paving, weed control, ditching, culverts, grading, gravelling - or lack thereof - dust control, calcium chloride, these are all things that are within

[Page 6744]

the Department of Transportation's budget and are considerably lacking throughout this province.

Even on beautiful Pictou Island that is a part of my constituency, there are problems there with the one single road that runs down the middle of the island, lack of gravel, lack of calcium chloride for dust control. So there are real concerns from one end of this province to another. A year ago when we heard the budget put forward, there was $27 million cut out of the budget for road repair and maintenance. This year, again, I am disappointed that the budget has gone down again in the area of secondary roads, I understand, by the value of $3 million. We are headed in the wrong direction, not the right direction, Mr. Speaker.

As I have travelled throughout this province, from Cape Breton to Yarmouth and the various Counties of Cumberland, Lunenburg, Colchester, Guysborough, I see very poor secondary roads. In my own County of Pictou I want to mention a few of the roads that are in deplorable and terrible condition amongst secondary roads. Route 289, which runs through Union Centre on through to Colchester County, a lot of B-trains, heavy traffic on a road that is never ever closed. It is open 365 days a year, a lot of lime trucks, pulp trucks, gravel trucks, and it is open. It is a 100-Series Highway and it never gets a break even in March and April when other roads are closed.

I want to refer to the old Highway No. 104 at Mount Thom, which the minister and I travelled last August. It is one of the worst roads according to the regional engineer out of Truro, that he has seen in his jurisdiction of the four northern counties. The Stillman Road, the River John Road, Scotch Hill Road, the Green Hill Road, are other examples of very poor secondary roads that have been too long neglected. The White Hill Road, the Mill Brook Road, the Granton Road leading down to the Michelin Plant, the Cape John Road, the Westville Road between the Towns of New Glasgow and Westville, the West Branch Road, and on I could go, Mr. Speaker, but these are poor secondary roads that I am quite familiar with within the County of Pictou.

Mr. Speaker, rural roads build a stronger local economy and help build the infrastructure needed to attract local business or local industry to our counties. It helps build up tourism within rural areas and certainly by having better roads we would increase the safety for local residents as well as saving money for vehicle repair. This government is abandoning rural Nova Scotia by not increasing spending on secondary roads and they are actually spending less than in previous years.

That, Mr. Speaker, is completely unacceptable. They are completely ignoring the very real needs of rural Nova Scotia. The New Democratic Party believes we must maintain our secondary roads with more funding and a credible priority system.

With those comments, Mr. Speaker, I am going to turn it over to my colleague.

[Page 6745]

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Pictou West. I think it is of some importance that we continue the thoughts that the rural economy of this province is driven, in many cases, by our roads. I think the economic development in certain parts of this province, parts of the province that I hear from, from Yarmouth through to Cape Breton, often rely upon the fact that if the government is serious about not just having Halifax having all the cream when it comes to development, it is of crucial importance that rural roads are considered in that balance. That balance is based upon the fact there must be attention to certain areas of this province outside of HRM.

In particular, I would like to address the issue of tourism and the impression that our roads have left us over the last summer in particular. On many occasions I looked at the fact that when you are travelling certain roads in this province, the impression that was given - I am not necessarily talking about the quality of the pavement under the car, I am talking about the condition of the sides of the roads, the maintenance of brush-cutting. In particular I think of one particular section of road that I travel fairly regularly and, lo and behold, I am headed for the Pictou ferry. The Pictou ferry, on the way to Prince Edward Island, I know the honourable member for Pictou West can assure me there are certain sections of that road where there was mowing that had to be done and that mowing was neglected. The impression tourists have of that, Mr. Speaker, is that we don't care. That is not the case.

I understand the priorities and I understand that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works has, in his own way, responded to questions in this House in a manner that is more than acceptable. However, it is important that the minister understand that rural Nova Scotia is concerned about where that money is being spent and how it is being spent. In particular, I draw the minister's attention to an issue of Highway No. 103 - not the twinning beyond the dump, excuse me, the landfill site - not the twinning behind the landfill, but the idea being there are many man-hours, people-hours that are used on Highway No. 103 to pick up garbage. That is not, as far as I am concerned, a job that our highway employees should be doing. There are better ways these men can use that time - and women, if they are employed - in this particular use of the funds that are allocated to this Minister of Transportation.

I would like to clarify a very important issue. That is that one of the most highly used tourist roads in this province is Route 333. It seems to me that there would be a better time to address the improvements to that road, particularly from Indian Point down to Seabright. I would like to point out to the Minister of Transportation that that road does need work and I am glad to see that it is on the list. However, the request came from local business people who want that road work. They want it completed but not completed during the tourist season, those peak months when there were so many interruptions on that particular stretch of road that goes all the way from the crossroads in Tantallon, all the way down to, of course, Peggy's Cove.

[Page 6746]

It seems to me that the concern we have is the neglect; the neglect comes because of a lack of planning. I know we have heard that word many times in here. Nova Scotians want to know the plan, they want clarity. They are willing to wait. They are willing to say to whoever that Minister of Transportation is, tell us when our particular section of road will receive that attention. Nova Scotians want the best impression for tourists, they want the best chance they can have for economic development across this province. They are patient and willing but they want to know when will our roads receive greater priority in this province? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak on the motion introduced by the honourable Leader of the Opposition. It says;

"Therefore be it resolved that this government explain to the Nova Scotia public why they continue to neglect secondary roads throughout this province.". It is signed by the honourable Leader of the NDP, Robert Chisholm.

Let me say that it is high time that the Leader of the NDP recognizes the importance that roads and transportation play in the Province of Nova Scotia. Indeed, Mr. Speaker, the NDP Leader's commitment to the very important discussion about the secondary road network in this province is long overdue, and I think rural Nova Scotians deserve an explanation for the deafening silence on this issue. For the Opposition Leader's benefit, let me explain to him and his Party once again how the Department of Transportation and Public Works establishes road work priorities.

When the department sets out to look at priorities for road work, it considers safety first. This is very important, that is number one. Safety is number one. The next step is to look at the objective factors such as traffic volume, pavement condition and riding comfort. Still other factors which we will take into account and can affect a road's priority standing are, in no particular order: economic importance of the road; unexpected determination due to weather or type of traffic; whether a particular road is a major link for a community; and a rapid or unexpected growth of a community creating a significant impact on transportation infrastructure.

Potential projects are further subdivided into traffic volume categories before they are ranked. Projects included in the capital program are selected from these ranked lists. Let me reiterate so that it is clear to the NDP. The number of projects in any given year depends on the amount of funding that is available through my department. Projects at the top of the priority list are placed on the capital program, but sometimes it is necessary to give priority to projects that may have experienced extraordinary deterioration after the initial analysis was completed and the road was rated. This process is undertaken by senior management in the

[Page 6747]

department, who have the best knowledge of both the needs and the level of expenditure that the department can allocate to road work during the fiscal year.

The NDP complain that new paving is not included on a priority list. Let me explain to them once again how the department sets priorities for new paving. For new paving, turning gravel roads into paved roads, each district assesses local roads and submits a list of priorities for consideration. The districts consider many factors when they are establishing the priorities.

These include traffic volume, the alignment of existing gravel roads and whether the existing alignment would be able to safely handle the increased speeds on the road that paving would allow, the number of residents served by the road, maintenance factors such as plowing and sanding in the winter, and many other factors. There is no simple formula. Each road has a unique set of factors that need to be considered and only the experienced Transportation and Public Works staff are truly qualified in making these judgement calls.

The NDP would have Nova Scotians believe that there is no fairness in the prioritization process. But how can we possibly believe them when their members stand in the House and repeatedly demand road work in their own constituencies with no regard for the priorities that have been set using objective criteria?

Mr. Speaker, in recent years limited government spending has meant that my department has focused its attention on maintaining the existing paved network. The Leader of the Opposition and the NDP Transportation Critic would say that we are treating gravel road users unfairly, but they are misinformed, unenlightened and lacking any real knowledge of the realities facing the road network in Nova Scotia.

I have listened to the members of the NDP stand in this Chamber and demand countless kilometres of new paving be done in Nova Scotia. At a cost of $150,000 per kilometre for new paving, the NDP would have my department's capital budget spent in a very short time. The NDP doesn't seem to understand that once you pave a road, you have to maintain it over a long term, and it might come to surprise the NDP that that costs a lot of money. The only conclusion that Nova Scotians can reach about where the NDP would get such a huge amount of money is through increased taxes. They have given no other alternatives, they have made no other suggestions. This government is opposed to raising taxes, unlike the NDP.

As minister, I must make difficult choices about where to allocate limited resources. I have chosen to mainly concentrate on preserving the infrastructure we have in place. I have chosen the responsible path to work with the budget I have been given and make the best possible use of the resources I have been given. I am the first to admit that we need to invest more in Nova Scotia roads, that is why I have been lobbying hard for infrastructure focus in next year's budgets, both federal and provincial, and the Premier is supporting me.

[Page 6748]

[6:15 p.m.]

What I am not prepared to do is saddle the taxpayers of Nova Scotia with a greater burden by raising taxes. This motion is a cynical attempt by the Leader of the Opposition to show that he cares about transportation, about rural Nova Scotia. He has not fooled me and he is not fooling Nova Scotians. Too little, too late, Mr. Speaker. Nova Scotians deserve to know where the NDP plan to cut so they can deliver their road plan. How much do they plan to raise taxes? Tell us today. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova is taking the remainder of the time.

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, indeed I am. I would like to compliment the Minister of Transportation and Public Works on his excellent speech. The minister is a great friend of a safe highway network in Nova Scotia and is a great booster of transportation in this province. Indeed, sir, he calls to mind the enthusiasm of former Highways Minister, A. Garnet Brown, who, I believe, was perhaps at his level of enthusiasm, in terms of protecting the interests of the road users of Nova Scotia and working day and night for a better highways network throughout the province.

I contrast the enthusiasm and commitment of the Minister of Transportation to that of the Leader of the Opposition who tabled this motion, signed it, and then failed to show up for the debate and put up substitutes in his place. Mr. Speaker, we are not fooled by the Leader of the Opposition. We know about that Party he leads and we know about that Leader. We know that the NDP do not acknowledge safety as being an important element of a good transportation network. The NDP don't care about safety, they think that knowledge networking is a more important consideration than safety, because their web site says so.

However, Mr. Speaker, this government believes that safety should be our first priority on the highways. The NDP say there are no plans or established priorities. The fact is that they are more interested in their own political priorities. The NDP view is narrow and self-centred. Almost all of the roads that their Transportation Critic ever talked about since last April are in his own constituency.

The Department of Transportation and Public Works on the other hand, Mr. Speaker, is concerned with establishing plans and priorities based on safety considerations, objective analysis, and provincial objectives which, sometimes, leads to a great deal of work being done in Opposition ridings. I found it noteworthy that the honourable member for Pictou West led off for the Official Opposition, the member who represents the constituency that is most favoured anywhere in Nova Scotia with the spending of transportation dollars.

AN HON. MEMBER: You mean he's ahead of me now?

[Page 6749]

MR. MACEWAN: Yes, he is very slightly ahead of Cape Breton The Lakes, but Cape Breton The Lakes is in second place.

Mr. Speaker, the NDP has not told Nova Scotians what their transportation priorities are or how they would pay for them. We can only conclude that the NDP would raise taxes to pay for all the new paving that they call for. The NDP believes that paving a gravel road is the only way to improve the road network. Adding to the paved network will only limit the province's ability to preserve the infrastructure we now have, the Department of Transportation and Public Works sets priorities and does as much as it can within its budget.

The Leader of the NDP has no credibility on transportation issues. He has continually neglected transportation issues in this House; indeed, he neglected to attend this debate today, which he himself called for. The actions of the Leader of the Opposition demonstrate that just as the NDP is anti-health, so also the NDP is anti-transportation. Thank you, sir.

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

MR. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the honourable member for Argyle. Once again we rise to debate roads in Nova Scotia. You know if we could pave roads with rhetoric, every road in Nova Scotia would be capped and recapped; it is unfortunate that that cannot happen. Roads are truly a problem. In fact, I would say that in most rural constituencies - if I use mine as an example - it is probably the number two call that I receive from constituents. In the winter it is plowing, and in the spring it is grading, ditching, chloride. The list goes on and on.

The problem is, yes, and workers too, in fact one of the problems that has been faced by the Department of Transportation with this government is that they have not been able to get the funding needed to ensure that the roads can be kept up. Part of the problem is that their voice in Ottawa is not heard, and so the funding is not transferred. The second part is that because of the priority the government has placed on health care and education, and it is legitimate to say that health care and education are important priorities, they have seen fit over time to strip away money from the Department of Transportation and place it in these other two departments.

That is unfortunate because the truth is not everyone in Nova Scotia has a child involved in public education, not everyone in Nova Scotia makes use of the health care system, and so their appreciation for those problems is probably not as great as their appreciation for the need for road repair, because each and every Nova Scotian in this province gets up in the morning and at some point travels on a road.

If they are fortunate enough to live in metro, chances are the roads are reasonably well prepared, but if you get out into the rural ridings, like my riding of Digby-Annapolis, the roads are abysmal. Take for example, Highway No. 217, I have raised this issue with the

[Page 6750]

minister time and time again, it is on a priority list. A priority list that never seems to get addressed. Take the road that travels from Highway No. 101 to Bear River, one of the tourist Meccas of my riding. The road is so rough and bumpy that many tourists make a conscious decision not to go there. How can the economy of rural Nova Scotia grow and thrive when you can't get anywhere on the roads?

The other thing is the loss of rail transportation. Once the railroad was gone, it increased heavy truck traffic on all of our highways. I know the area that I represent has a great deal of truck traffic because of the Port of Digby. Now I am thankful for that fact, that we do have a port that allows shipping to travel from Digby to Saint John and it brings tourists in, and that is good thing. But the fact is the more traffic on the road, the more it is worn.

The problem that we need to address is to put in place a long-range plan to ensure that highways are looked at and repaired in a non-partisan manner. One other time when we rose to discuss this issue, I pointed out that one of the roads that was paved in my riding, again for which I am grateful, abutted a riding that was held by a Liberal Cabinet Minister. Now, I would never suggest that perhaps the reason that it was paved had anything to do with that, I think maybe it was that the priority list was addressed at least in this one instance.

What we need to do here is we need to put aside petty politics. We need to talk to the people and ensure that when a road needs to be repaired, it will be repaired. The people that work in the Department of Transportation in my area are to be commended. They are constantly doing more with less. This spring when the budget was being talked about initially, they expressed real heartfelt concern that they were going to be reduced to one chloride application on many of our rural roads. They felt that that wasn't adequate.

When they talk about the bushes - and I get a number of calls about bushes along the sides of the road and the fact that they just can't seem to get around to getting them cut back - they say, why is this such a problem, why can't they put some people to work cutting bushes. It would create employment, it would beautify the area, and it would address a real safety concern and that is that when cars come out onto the highway, if there are so many bushes that they can't see up and down the road, there is a risk of accident. We need to put in place, as I say, some kind of plan that will really address that.

We hear great talk about economic development and how it is tied to infrastructure. We need to have infrastructure development in terms of highways so that there will be a possibility for these roads to be repaired. On that note, I will turn it over to my colleague.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.

MR. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Digby-Annapolis for giving me some of his time to speak on roads. I think any member of the

[Page 6751]

Legislature who represents a rural riding knows how passionate our constituents are about roads. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure it out. They are in a situation that for most of them, every day they are travelling and when the roads aren't maintained, it is really a difficult task just to get to and fro, and especially for businesses to get their product to market.

I am going to speak first of all provincially, and to where I think we should be going. I have some real serious concerns, and I will say that I believe this minister is doing his best in this department and it is not always easy because you have a lot of different people pulling on your attention and pulling to try to get monies into it. But I will say that this government hasn't succeeded in getting the amount of dollars from Ottawa that they should be.

Looking at the budget here, the recoveries that we are going to get are going down from almost $40 million to about $7.5 million. When I talk about recoveries, it means that is the dollars that you won't have from Ottawa to cost-share when you are building new highways. That is going to make your job that much more difficult. I realize that you are just one minister in this government but when I am going to come to you for roads in my constituency, such as the Argyle Head Road which is one that is falling apart and people are calling me about the terrible condition of that road and saying people are going to get injured on it, it makes your job more difficult in order to get it addressed.

I really believe that the constituents in my riding over the last six years, and I will say over the last six years because I have only been back in the office since 1998 and my predecessor, of course, was Allister Surette, a lot of roads in my area really did not get addressed during his term and my constituents can judge him for his actions or whatever, but I believe that I have been put a little bit behind the eight ball and that is very much unfortunate, but this road here was one actually that was paved back in 1984, I think it was a problem - 1985 - and it is amazing how much the road has deteriorated over that period of time.

The situation is, and I think that a lot of times the department misses the boat on inspections and so forth, this road was paved late in the fall and I believe the weather was much too cold when they did it. I really believe that the base and the road fell apart and you are into a situation that the residents are calling me consistently as to when it is going to be addressed.

On priority lists I know that it is being addressed by the department, but we are waiting for tenders to come out. This begs the fact that this year the budget came out so late that I do not really see how the department is going to be able to even look at any reasonable amount of tenders going out. I am concerned that this road here specifically will not be addressed by the minister. Time will tell. The minister has stated in this House that tenders will be going out. We are going to have to wait and see as to whether or not this road or other roads will be looked at.

[Page 6752]

Mr. Speaker, I look at roads in our area. This is one that is in my riding that I am very concerned about and I am proud to be here in the House today bringing it to the minister's attention. He is listening to what I am saying and I am hopeful that maybe it will be addressed. I will mention something in his riding that I wish he would address, that is the Oak Park Bypass. It is very strange for me to be sitting here in the House and talking to the minister, but the people who live in Oak Park reside adjacent to my constituency.

Mr. Speaker, the minister has started some work on that. There has been some clearing, but I tell you the people of the community of Oak Park - and they are not my constituents - do not deserve to have the traffic going through that community that has been going through there for the last 12 or 15 years. It is amazing. It has to be a miracle that no one has gotten killed. It is a very narrow road. You have tractor trailers going through all the time in all kinds of weather and I really cannot believe that someone has not been hurt. I really would call on the minister to impress on his colleagues that that section of highway should also be finished as quickly as possible. I rarely stand up here and talk for an Opposition opponent, on their behalf, but it is one that should be done.

I want to focus one last time, in Yarmouth County. I know that the Warden of the Municipality of Yarmouth held some meetings lately and I guess the hall was packed. People are very upset. A lot of the roads that he is discussing are not in my constituency. They are in the Municipality of Yarmouth and there are a lot of roads there that people have been talking about, the Lake George Road, the Canaan Road, those are roads which people are very concerned about. I will tell you, if you want to have a meeting and have a lot of people show up, if you have a meeting about a road and people will come there. Do I have one minute?

MR. SPEAKER: You have about 30 seconds.

MR. LEBLANC: Anyway, I only have a short time left in my discussion. I really feel that tonight I have been talking to the minister about the roads in my riding. I have also met with him and his staff as to whether or not he can address that. I am still waiting to hear as to what the situation will be. I am hoping to get an answer in a short time period so at least I can give an answer to my people. I would rather get a yes or a no but, obviously, I am looking to get some commitment from the minister as to whether or not he could address that. I would like to thank the House for its indulgence and I am looking forward to hearing from the minister.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted for the late debate has expired and we will return to the Committee of the Whole House on Supply unto Her Majesty.

[6:30 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Supply with Deputy Speaker Mr. Donald Chard in the Chair.]

[Page 6753]

[8:00 p.m. CWH on Supply rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Ronald Russell, resumed the Chair.]

MR. SPEAKER: The Chairman of the Committee of the Whole House on Supply reports:

THE CLERK: That the committee has met and made some progress and asks leave to sit again.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would ask that you revert to the order of business, Presenting Reports of Committees.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

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

Bill No. 108 - Health Council Act.

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

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

The honourable Minister of Justice.

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

[Page 6754]

Bill No. 105 - Fisheries and Coastal Resources Act.

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

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Tabling Reports, Regulations and Other Papers.

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I rise to table a report pursuant to the Financial Measures (1998) Act regarding progress of discussions toward joint governance of the pension plan under the Public Service Superannuation Act.

I am pleased to report that officials of the Department of Finance and the Department of Human Resources have met with employee representatives and pensioners to discuss the question of joint governance of the Public Service Superannuation Plan.

Those we met with included representatives from the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union; CUPE Local 1867, the highway workers; and a current management employee who brought the perspective of a non-unionized employee; and two pensioners, including a representative from the Nova Scotia Government Retired Employees Association.

There has been an exploration of, amongst other topics, the concept of joint governance. The discussions are taking place in a constructive atmosphere and are continuing. The next meeting is scheduled for later this month. All parties recognize that this issue needs exhaustive examination and analysis.

I understand that the next stage will involve a review of various governance models and an analysis as to whether or how they may be applicable to our situation.

The Public Service Superannuation Plan is currently governed by an Act of this Legislature. If any changes are proposed to the governance structure, they will come before the House for debate.

I table, Mr. Speaker, the report.

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MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, that completes the government's business for today. The House will sit tomorrow between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Following the daily routine, we will go back into Committee of the Whole House on Supply.

I move that we do now adjourn until 10:00 a.m. tomorrow.

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

The motion is carried.

[The House rose at 8:03 p.m.]