The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Tue., June 8, 1999

First Session

TUESDAY, JUNE 8, 1999

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Routes 336 & 224: Flashing Light - Install,
Mr. B. Taylor 6845
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Justice: Civil Procedures Rules - Amendments, Hon. R. Harrison 6846
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Educ. - Canada Millennium Scholarships, Hon. W. Gaudet 6846
Justice - Dr. John Butt (Chief Medical Examiner): Awards - Congrats.,
Hon. R Harrison 6849
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 3284, Premier - Marking Time: Belief (N.S.) - Disprove, Mr. J. Holm 6851
Res. 3285, N.B. Premier-Elect (Bernard Lord [PC]): Congrats. -
Extend, Dr. J. Hamm 6851
Vote - Affirmative 6852
Res. 3286, Educ. - NSSBA Sch. Bd. Award (1999): Geraldine Browning
(Anna. Valley RBS) - Congrats., Ms. E. O'Connell 6852
Vote - Affirmative 6853
Res. 3287, Health - Care: System Restoration - Innovation Required,
Dr. J. Hamm 6853
Res. 3288, Educ. - UNB (Saint John): John MacMillan (Port Hood) -
LittD (Hon.) Congrats., Mr. Charles MacDonald 6853
Vote - Affirmative 6854
Res. 3289, Housing & Mun. Affs. - FCM (Race-Relations Award):
Anna. Co. Mun. - Congrats., Mr. J. Holm 6854
Vote - Affirmative 6855
Res. 3290, Health - Reg. Bds.: Y2K Prep. - Report Table, Mr. G. Balser 6855
Res. 3291, Commun. Serv. - Volunteer of Year (Rep.-Middleton):
Ruth Moore - Congrats., Mr. L. Montgomery 6855
Vote - Affirmative 6856
Res. 3292, Educ. - Mt. Carmel Elem. Sch.: Joy Prog. -
Lowell Cormier Congrats., Mr. F. Corbett 6856
Vote - Affirmative 6857
Res. 3293, Commun. Serv. - Secure Treatment Ctr.: Need -
Urgency Recognize, Mr. J. Muir 6857
Res. 3294, St. Margarets Bay Lions - Seeing Eye Dogs Prog.:
Fund-Raising - Recognize, Mr. W. Estabrooks 6858
Vote - Affirmative 6858
Res. 3295, Educ. - UCCB: Virtual Reality Conf. (France) -
Best Wishes Extend, Mr. E. Fage 6858
^^Vote - Affirmative 6859
Res. 3296, NDP - Legislation: Fiscal Accountability -
Commitment [Gov't. (N.S.-Lib.)] Make, Mr. D. Dexter 6859
Res. 3297, Housing & Mun. Affs. - Homeless People:
Recommendations (FCM) - Consider, Mr. J. Pye 6860
Res. 3298, Justice - Crown Prosecutors: Action Decisive - Provide,
Mr. M. Scott 6860
Res. 3299, Lbr. - Cdn. Tire Store (Sydney): Dispute - Negotiations Urge,
Ms. Helen MacDonald 6861
Res. 3300, Housing & Mun. Affs. - Homelessness: FCM-CMHC -
Cooperation Urge, Mr. J. Leefe 6862
Vote - Affirmative 6862
Res. 3301, Canning Fire Dept. - Fire (Pereaux, Kings Co. [07/06/99]):
Firefighters/Rescuers - Heroism Praise, Mr. G. Archibald 6862
Vote - Affirmative 6863
Res. 3302, Health - Drug Addiction: Counselling Progs. -
Funding Inadequacy, Mr. G. Balser 6863
Res. 3303, DFO: World Oceans Day - Recognize, Mr. J. DeWolfe 6864
Vote - Affirmative 6864
Res. 3304, Educ. - Univ.-Sainte-Anne: Herbert LeBlanc -
Doctorate (Hon.) Congrats., Mr. N. LeBlanc 6865
Vote - Affirmative 6865
Res. 3305, Lunenburg Town: Anniv. 246th - Congrats., Mr. M. Baker 6865
Vote - Affirmative 6866
Res. 3306, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Chamber of Commerce (N.S.):
John Kelderman (President) - Congrats., Mr. J. Muir 6866
Vote - Affirmative 6867
Res. 3307, Educ. - Battle of the Books (Woozle's): Lunenburg Academy-
Success Congrats., Mr. M. Baker 6867
Vote - Affirmative 6867
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 1131, Health - Investment Fund: Advertising - Necessity,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 6868
No. 1132, Health - Budget (1999-2000): Control Removal -
Decision Date, Dr. J. Hamm 6869
No. 1133, Fin. - Budget (1999-2000): PR Costs - Further,
Mr. D. Dexter 6870
No. 1134, Fin. - Health Investment Fund: Advertisements - Cessation,
Mr. N. LeBlanc 6871
No. 1135, Educ. - P3 Schools: Armoyan Consortium -
MTT Withdrawal, Ms. E. O'Connell 6872
No. 1136, Justice - Jail (Bedford): Site - Public Meeting (08/06/99),
Mr. M. Scott 6873
No. 1137, Educ. - Horton HS (Kings Co.): Technology Problems -
Investigate, Ms. E. O'Connell 6874
No. 1138, Educ. - P3: Canning & Kentville, Kings. Co. -
Site Selection, Ms. E. O'Connell 6875
No. 1139, Sysco - Royal Hoogovens-British Steel: Merger - Effect,
Dr. J. Hamm 6876
No. 1140, Health - Budget (1999-2000): Expenditure - Justify,
Mr. H. Epstein 6877
No. 1141, Sysco - Hoogovens: Mgt. - Payment Schedule Table,
Mr. G. Balser 6878
No. 1142, Lbr. - Building & Construction Trades Council (C.B.):
Investigation - Allegations, Mr. F. Corbett 6879
No. 1143, Educ. - P3: Canning & Kentville (Kings. Co.) -
Site Selection, Mr. E. Fage 6880
No. 1144, Educ. - Schools: Violence Prevention - Funding, Mr. D. Chard 6881
No. 1145, Health - Acute Care Patients: Long-Term Care Beds -
Use Appropriately, Mr. M. Baker 6882
No. 1146, Housing & Mun. Affs. - Homelessness: Combat - Plan,
Ms. R. Godin 6883
No. 1147, Housing & Mun. Affs.: Home Repair Assist. Prog. -
Improvement, Ms. R. Godin 6884
No. 1148, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Budget (1999-2000): Capital Progs. -
Reduction Impact, Mr. B. Taylor 6885
No. 1149, Justice - Abuse: Spousal - Progs. Funding Refusal,
Mr. Kevin Deveaux 6886
No. 1150, Educ. - NSSBA: Funding Request - Adequacy, Mr. E. Fage 6887
No. 1151, Health - Care: PR Plan - Purpose, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 6888
No. 1152, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Lunenburg: World Heritage Site -
Support, Mr. M. Baker 6889
No. 1153, Environ. - ATVs: Use Inappropriate - Prevention,
Mr. C. Parker 6890
No. 1154, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Budget (1999-2000): Reduction -
Contract Employees Impact, Mr. B. Taylor 6891
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
ON MOTION FOR SUPPLY:
Mr. G. Balser 6892
Mr. Kevin Deveaux 6896
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON SUPPLY AT 2:15 P.M. 6901
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 6:00 P.M. 6901
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Educ. - Schools: Violence Reduction - Efforts Support:
Mr. D. Dexter 6901
Mr. D. Chard 6903
Mr. J. Muir 6903
Hon. W. Gaudet 6906
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON SUPPLY AT 6:30 P.M. 6908
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 6:45 P.M. 6908
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 113, Financial Measures (1999) Act 6909
Hon. D. Downe 6909
Mr. R. Chisholm 6916
Mr. N. LeBlanc 6922
Adjourned debate 6929
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., June 9th at 2:00 p.m. 6930

[Page 6845]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, JUNE 8, 1999

Fifty-seventh General Assembly

First Session

12:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Ronald Russell

DEPUTY SPEAKER

Mr. Donald Chard

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we commence with the daily routine, I would advise members that the late debate today has been submitted by the honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes:

Therefore be it resolved that this House supports the effort of communities, parents and youth to reduce the level of violence in our province, and the lack of resources and opportunities for many Nova Scotia youth.

That resolution will be debated, as I said, this evening at the hour of interruption at 6:00 p.m.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of the residents of Upper Musquodoboit. They are requesting a flashing light be erected at the intersection of Route 336 and Route 224. I have signed my name to the petition and shall be tabling it momentarily.

6845

[Page 6846]

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, in my capacity as Attorney General and pursuant to Section 51 of the Judicature Act, I hereby table amendments to the Civil Procedures Rules that were made pursuant to the Judicature Act by the judges of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia on May 28, 1999.

MR. SPEAKER: The papers are tabled.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education and Culture.

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I would like to share some good news with all members of this House concerning the Canada Millennium Scholarships for Nova Scotia students today. One of the main purposes of government is to provide people with the tools they need to make the most of their lives. Of those tools, there is perhaps none more important than an education. We need to make sure our education system offers opportunity for young Nova Scotians to realize their full potential.

When we invest in education, we all benefit. As a province, we create a highly skilled workforce capable of meeting the challenges of the new information economy. At the same time, our young people are developing the skills they need to fill those jobs right here at home. It is clear that it is in our best interest to maintain an education system in which the quality is second to none. What is also clear, Mr. Speaker, is that we must make sure it is accessible and affordable to as many Nova Scotians as possible.

The introduction of the federal Millennium Scholarships is one example of how this will occur. Each year, for the next 10 years, approximately 3,000 Nova Scotia post-secondary students will receive Millennium Scholarships. On average, they will receive $3,000. Simply put, this will put $9 million into the pockets of students in this province; students who need it the most.

Mr. Speaker, post-secondary students will be automatically considered for these scholarships, once they apply for their loans. Once they apply for their loans, loans will then be awarded based on established criteria that determine need.

[Page 6847]

Also, Mr. Speaker, high school students will also benefit from the Millennium Scholarships. Starting next June, about 110 graduating high school students, from across Nova Scotia, will receive Exceptional Merit Awards. These awards are valued at $3,000 and will be given to students who demonstrate academic excellence, exceptional leadership and community service. For these post-secondary students and graduating high school students each year, a Millennium Scholarship will be an important part of the puzzle as they look for ways to finance their post-secondary education.

I would like to congratulate the Millennium Foundation for developing a plan which works for Nova Scotia. As Minister of Education and Culture, students are quick to bring their concerns to my attention and it is my job, Mr. Speaker, to make sure their concerns always remain a top priority for our government.

So, we still have much more work to do, but together with students and administrators, and together with partners, like the Millennium Foundation, Nova Scotia is proving to the rest of the country that we are indeed the learning province.

Mr. Speaker, I will be providing all my colleagues of the House with an information kit, because I anticipate members will be getting calls from their constituents on how they can apply, do they qualify and so forth. So, these information kits will be made available to all members of the House.

Mr. Speaker, before I take my seat, I would like to introduce to you, and through you, and to all members of the House, a special guest we have in the east gallery. Joining us here today for this announcement, we have Mr. Norman Riddell. He is the Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer for the Canada Millennium Scholar Foundation. With Mr. Riddell we have Kelly MacKenzie. She is a student representative on the Nova Scotia Council on Higher Education. Also with them we have Jean LaPierre and Alex Usher. I would ask them to rise and receive the usual warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I rise in response to the minister's statement about the Millennium Scholarship Fund. I must confess that the statement that most warmed my heart in his remarks was the phrase that there is much work to do. Indeed, there is. The Millennium Scholarship Fund is not nothing. I do not think it is true to say that it has no value whatsoever, but I think it is fraught with both difficulty and enormous limitations which I think this government needs to be aware of in order to properly support students to make education accessible for them.

Mr. Speaker, under the Millennium Scholarship Fund most Nova Scotian students will get nothing. If it is true that about 50 per cent of students require assistance through the Student Loan Program and, therefore, we are dealing with 50 per cent of the student

[Page 6848]

population of about 35,000, what that means is that if there are 3,000, a little over 8 per cent of students in Nova Scotia will benefit from the Millennium Scholarship Fund. That means that almost 42 per cent will get no assistance at all from it.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, there are other limitations here. There is a 10 year limit on the Millennium Scholarship Fund. So there is no long-term planning here for the future, no hope that there will be a better system as we go down the road. The Millennium Scholarship Fund will do nothing to address the skyrocketing student debt.

I think that the main thing that I hear and that my colleagues hear in this announcement is, a few students will be helped a little bit by this federal program, but it is very clear that the Millennium Scholarship Fund cannot be used as an excuse to get the province off the hook when it comes to accessible, affordable education for the students of this province. Thank you. (Applause)

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

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I would be pleased to put perhaps a little more positive spin on to what it is the minister has announced. Any time that we make an investment in bright, young Nova Scotians, it has got to be something that is supportable. While it is a fact that perhaps the scholarship will, in fact, for some young Nova Scotians only reduce the amount of student loan that, in fact, they would qualify for, but the reality is that they will not have to pay it back. That is one of the major problems that students are facing here in Nova Scotia. They have to pay the student loan back and that can be for many of them a very challenging post-graduate concern.

Not only do I like the idea that we are helping young students, I think we are perhaps as well recognizing and stimulating many Nova Scotians to aspire to higher academic achievement. I think that is very important, that they see out there a support for them that recognizes their efforts, rewards them for their efforts, and it is the kind of thing that I think is very positive. I laud those who have come up with this initiative. It is a very short step, but it is a step in the right direction and should be looked upon as a step in the right direction.

It is quite correct that it does not address the concerns of many Nova Scotian students who are faced with the challenge of financing a post-secondary education in a way in which it does not financially cripple them for the next three decades and that is something that we have to look at far more closely than we have in the past here in Nova Scotia. I do congratulate the minister for this announcement. I do congratulate the federal government for what I think is a very worthwhile initiative and, as I say, one that I certainly support. Thank you. (Applause)

[Page 6849]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, just prior to making this ministerial statement, I wonder if I might introduce to all members of this House, the Chief Medical Examiner for Nova Scotia, Dr. John Butt, who is seated in your gallery. (Applause)

I will ask Dr. Butt to rise again at the end of this statement, but it is my pleasure to advise this House of a special honour that was recently accorded our Chief Medical Examiner. Dr. John Butt has received a distinguished service award from the Medical Society of Nova Scotia. This award, which was a unanimous choice, is given to a physician who has made an outstanding contribution to the medical profession and to the people of Nova Scotia.

[12:15 p.m.]

Tonight, he will also receive The Jerusalem Award for 1999 from the Atlantic Jewish Council in conjunction with the Canadian Zionist Federation. This award is presented to an individual who, by his or her actions, shows respect for all faiths and a commitment to social justice for all. These awards are certainly well deserved and are added to the list of honours received by Dr. Butt.

As the Chief Medical Examiner for the Province of Nova Scotia, Dr. Butt has performed with dignity, with compassion and with great skill. Nova Scotians will forever remember the leadership he displayed in the wake of the tragedy of Swissair Flight 111. With grace and courage, he led a remarkable group of individuals who worked tirelessly to identify each of the people on Flight 111. These dedicated professionals did so with the needs of families in mind, in the hopes that the identification process would bring a small measure of comfort to those who have lost so much. He touched the lives of grieving families with his gentle compassion and the hearts of Nova Scotians with his caring response.

Many of the members of this House may be aware that Dr. Butt has advised us that he wishes to step down. Though he will most certainly be missed and we hope to convince him to stay for as long as possible, we can understand his need to move on and to move forward.

On behalf of the people of this province and the members of this House of Assembly, I wish to sincerely congratulate Dr. Butt on the receipt of these awards. We are proud, sir, of your accomplishments and want to extend our sincere thanks for your professionalism, your dedication and your commitment. Thank you. (Standing Ovation)

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, after the Swissair disaster Nova Scotians exemplified the best characteristics in human beings, I believe: strength, courage, compassion and generosity. I think all of those things were exemplified by all Nova Scotians to some

[Page 6850]

extent, by a small corps of volunteers who went well beyond the call of duty, but I think particularly that Dr. John Butt exemplified those characteristics more and better than anyone else.

In the past nine months, he really truly has gone beyond the call of duty in performing his job in a professional and dedicated manner. Our caucus believes the award from the Medical Society of Nova Scotia probably has special meaning because it is recognition by Dr. Butt's colleagues. I think it is important that we recognize Dr. Butt and what he has done for this province and for the families who have had their lives so horribly affected by the Swissair disaster.

Our caucus echoes the sentiment of the Minister of Justice, of the Medical Society of Nova Scotia, and I think we just want to say that Dr. Butt has made us all proud. He is very deserving of this recognition, and we wish him all the best in the future. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland South.

MR. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to rise on behalf of my caucus to respond to the minister's statement. The name Dr. John Butt is now synonymous with words such as compassion, caring, dignity and integrity. With his words and deeds, Dr. Butt touched the lives of countless individuals, families and communities throughout the world as the result of his leadership in the wake of the Swissair tragedy. It goes without saying that tonight's honour is well deserved by Dr. Butt as it speaks to the inspiring manner in which he was able to bring a sense of hope to such extreme adversity. The commitment and dedication displayed by Dr. Butt and his entire team of professionals in identifying all individuals on Flight 111 will never be forgotten.

On behalf of the Progressive Conservative caucus, I would like to congratulate Dr. Butt on this prestigious honour by the Atlantic Jewish Council and the Canadian Zionist Federation. I would also like to take this opportunity again on behalf of my caucus to extend best wishes to you as you leave the position of Nova Scotia's Chief Medical Examiner.

On a personal note, Dr. Butt has instructed police officers across this country, I have had the opportunity personally to receive instructions both in Nova Scotia and at the Canadian Police College in a Major Crime course in Ottawa, where he shared his expertise with police officers across the country. I would like to thank him on behalf of all those police officers who have received some of that training from Dr. Butt.

Before concluding, I want to echo the words of the Minister of Justice in extending a sincere thank you to Dr. Butt for your professionalism, dedication, commitment and compassion in fulfilling the significant role of Chief Medical Examiner for the Province of Nova Scotia, and wish you all the very best in the future. Thank you. (Applause)

[Page 6851]

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 3284

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

Whereas the New Brunswick Liberals defended their toll highways and other expensive privatizations, made last-minute promises of massive new health care spending and kept assuring people that things were better than ever; and

Whereas Opposition promises of a decent minimum wage, no tolls, adequate health care and support for communities were judged more credible; and

Whereas Nova Scotia Liberals defend their own tolls and other privatizations, boast of a miserably low minimum wage, made death bed promises to fix health care and assure people that things are better than ever;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the Premier to tell Nova Scotians why they shouldn't believe that he is just marking time and handing out appointments while trying to delay the inevitable.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 3285

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

Whereas yesterday, when the voters of New Brunswick went to the polls, the Party standings were Liberals 45, Tories 9, and NDP 1; and

Whereas a decisive election victory was handed to the Tories who were elected in 44 seats with the Liberals holding on to 10 and 1 for the NDP; and

[Page 6852]

Whereas this landslide victory for the Tories ends 12 years of Liberal rule;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend congratulations to New Brunswick Tory Premier-elect Bernard Lord and all of the winning candidates and wish them all the best as they tackle their new responsibilities for the people of New Brunswick.

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 Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 3286

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

Whereas the NSSBA School Board Recognition Program made its first annual award at the association's 45th annual general meeting; and

Whereas Geraldine Browning of the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board is the first recipient of the award; and

Whereas she was nominated by her peers as a role model in her field;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Geraldine Browning on receiving the NSSBA School Board award and for her significant contribution to education.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 6853]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 3287

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

Whereas the nursing shortage is increasing at such a rapid rate, Nova Scotia is expected to be short up to 1,500 additional nurses within the next two to three years; and

Whereas despite the planned hiring of 200 new nurses with another 200 moving from casual to permanent status, Nova Scotia is still facing a severe shortage in the nursing profession over the next two or three years; and

Whereas the Liberal Government is devoid of any creative solutions on how more nurses will be recruited or trained here in Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that for confidence to be restored to Nova Scotia's health care system, more than money is required and that innovation and creativity must top the list when it comes solving this province's health care woes.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Inverness.

RESOLUTION NO. 3288

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

Whereas on May 21st, the University of New Brunswick in Saint John conferred an Honorary Doctor of Letters Degree on John Lofty MacMillan, originally of Port Hood; and

Whereas Lofty MacMillan is a well-known leader of the labour movement and worked tirelessly for the United Mine Workers of America, CUPE, the New Brunswick Policemen's Association, as well as being an active supporter of the CCF and a candidate for the NDP; and

[Page 6854]

Whereas Lofty has been decorated for his wartime efforts and recognized for his years of service by the Canadian Labour Congress and the New Brunswick Federation of Labour;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Lofty MacMillan on his most recent honour, and extend appreciation for his many years of dedication and commitment to his community.

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 Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 3289

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

Whereas the Municipality of Annapolis County yesterday received the top race relations award at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Conference in Halifax; and

Whereas Annapolis County received the award in recognition of their practice of holding council meetings in minority communities and providing race relations in schools; and

Whereas Annapolis County was chosen from among 20 nominated municipalities across Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Annapolis County for their leadership in building race relations and for providing a model for other municipalities.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 6855]

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. 3290

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 federal government is urging companies, organizations and provincial governments to have their computer systems Y2K compliant by the end of this month with worst case scenario plans to be available no later than September 30th; and

Whereas despite assurances from the minister responsible for the Technology and Science Secretariat, a number of questions remain concerning the total eradication of the Y2K bug in Nova Scotia Government computer systems; and

Whereas health care organizations across Nova Scotia are clearly off the mark in preparing to be Y2K compliant because the four regional health boards and the Nova Scotia Hospital are not even scheduled to begin testing until the end of November;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health immediately table before this House a report as to why regional health boards are behind in their Y2K preparations.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 3291

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

Whereas Ruth Moore is known throughout the Town of Middleton for her many volunteer activities including serving the home and school association, the school band association, the Middleton and District Welfare Association, and the Friendly Neighbours Program; and

[Page 6856]

Whereas Ruth is also a life member of the IODE, was on the Rink Commission, is Past President of the Middleton Ladies Curling Club, and she volunteers at the hospital and has canvassed for the VON, Red Cross, Cancer Society and Heart Fund; and

Whereas for these extraordinary efforts, Ruth Moore was recently honoured as Representative Volunteer of the Year for the Town of Middleton;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize Ruth Moore for her commitment to her community and thank her for her many years of volunteer service.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[12:30 p.m.]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 3292

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

Whereas Mount Carmel Elementary School runs a unique program which sees older people working with youth; and

Whereas this project, called the Joy Program, pairs volunteers with students with special needs; and

Whereas the students' self-esteem noticeably increases because of these sessions;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Lowell Cormier, the Leader Centre teacher at Mount Carmel Elementary School, and all the volunteers who have made the Joy Program a success.

[Page 6857]

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 Truro-Bible Hill.

RESOLUTION NO. 3293

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 Liberal Government has been on record as promising the opening of a secure treatment centre for Truro since 1997; and

Whereas more than two years later, the Minister of Finance has used his Budget Speech as the impetus for yet another official promise to open the centre; and

Whereas when asked to confirm that the centre would open this fiscal year, the Premier stated decisively, I can't give that guarantee;

Therefore be it resolved that the Liberal Government recognize the urgent need for a secure treatment centre and fulfil their long-standing promise to open this facility immediately.

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 Timberlea-Prospect.

[Page 6858]

RESOLUTION NO. 3294

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

Whereas Lions Clubs throughout the world are recognized as Helen Keller's Knights of the Blind; and

Whereas the Seeing Eye Dogs program is an integral part of Lions Clubs' work with the blind; and

Whereas on Saturday, June 5th, the St. Margarets Bay Lions Club held its annual Seeing Eye Dog Road Toll, raising over $2,700 towards the club's goal of sponsoring its fourth dog in the 11 year history of this great Lions Club;

Therefore be it resolved that this House offer its congratulations to the St. Margarets Bay Lions and a well-deserved thanks to the surrounding communities for their generosity.

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. 3295

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

Whereas three students from the University College of Cape Breton left for France to compete in a unique international virtual reality conference; and

Whereas Erin MacNeil, Harry Doyle and Chris Fedora are all members of one of two Canadian teams participating in the competition; and

[Page 6859]

Whereas calling themselves, BeCreative, the trio invented a new virtual sport which they will outline, demonstrate and promote during the 30 hour competition;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House applaud the imagination of this three-member team and extend best wishes on their showing at the conference in France.

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 Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 3296

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

Whereas yesterday, the NDP tabled amendments to the Provincial Finance Act which would require a vote in the House of Assembly to approve the forgiving of loans; and

Whereas these amendments represent the seventh piece of NDP legislation aimed at making the government more accountable on provincial finances; and

Whereas no bill introduced by the NDP has yet become law, and the Economic Development Minister was quoted as saying, this won't be the first one;

Therefore be it resolved that this Liberal Government, which has demonstrated an appalling lack of commitment to fiscal accountability, begin to take these issues seriously because Nova Scotians are taking notice.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

[Page 6860]

RESOLUTION NO. 3297

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

Whereas there are approximately 150,000 homeless people living in Canada and 300 people living on the streets of Halifax; and

Whereas a report by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities urges that government build affordable housing and provide extra assistance to low-income households; and

Whereas the volunteer sector has shouldered the burden for feeding and sheltering the homeless;

Therefore be it resolved that this government give serious consideration to the recommendations in the FCM report and take action to address this serious situation.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cumberland South.

RESOLUTION NO. 3298

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service is undergoing its second outside review in only five years; and

Whereas last week, Crown Attorneys marched in protest for the second time in one year to bring attention to their ongoing concerns; and

Whereas in response to these concerns, the Minister of Justice and the Liberal Government have provided weak band-aids, which they refer to as solutions;

[Page 6861]

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Justice and his Cabinet colleagues stop playing games with Nova Scotia's Crown Prosecutors and work to provide real and decisive action that will ensure that the justice system is not compromised.

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.

RESOLUTION NO. 3299

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

Whereas a labour dispute has dragged on for nine weeks at the Canadian Tire store in Sydney, with no end in sight; and

Whereas negotiations have proved fruitless to date and, according to one of the parties, Department of Labour conciliators are fed up at the employer's intransigence; and

Whereas the fate of the 60 employees involved is tied to an employer who wants undefined concessions from them;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge the Minister of Labour and the Premier to do everything in their power to get the parties back to the table in meaningful negotiations.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

[Page 6862]

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 3300

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

Whereas the Federation of Canadian Municipalities held its national conference in Halifax over the weekend; and

Whereas the events of the weekend provided a valuable opportunity for municipal officials to discuss problems shared by all municipal governments; and

Whereas two issues that generated much debate at the conference were homelessness and affordable housing;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs urge his federal counterpart to work with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in taking action to address the ugly phenomenon of homelessness and the shortage of affordable housing.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 3301

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

Whereas heroic and determined measures were required to save the lives of two individuals trapped in a burning home in Pereaux, Kings County, yesterday morning; and

[Page 6863]

Whereas Jessie Viner and Brad Hazel rescued 33 year old Trina Price from the burning structure by breaking through the living room window and pulling Ms. Price to safety; and

Whereas Canning firefighters, Mark Cruickshank and Steve Greydanus, upon arriving at the scene, conducted a desperate search of the burning structure and found a six year old girl hiding under her bed and scared of the intense fire burning around her;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature praise the efforts of firefighters Mark Cruickshank and Steve Greydanus, along with Jessie Viner and Brad Hazel, for their heroism yesterday morning and thank them for their excellent work.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 3302

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

Whereas this Liberal Government has chosen to continue its policy, if it ain't broke let's fix it anyway, by announcing that Nova Scotia will withdraw from the Atlantic Loto to establish its own lottery corporation; and

Whereas this province's history of problem gambling involving taxpayers' money has included such sure bets as Mac Timber, Mentor and Sysco; and

Whereas the odds of a Nova Scotia operated lottery being a winner for the taxpayers is a long shot at best;

Therefore be it resolved that this government's failure to provide adequate funding for addiction counselling programs has created a situation where they, themselves, cannot get access to a service that they so obviously need.

[Page 6864]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 3303

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

Whereas it has been said that oceans represent the last true frontier on this planet, as there is much to learn about this vast and vulnerable resource; and

Whereas today, as World Oceans Day, reminds us of the significance of ensuring that our oceans are protected and preserved both now and in the future; and

Whereas for the past five years the Canadian Wildlife Federation has worked to promote the significance of ocean health in schools and communities throughout Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that the House recognize World Oceans Day and applaud the efforts of the Canadian Wildlife Federation for their hard work in promoting awareness of the critical need to protect our oceans.

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 Argyle.

[Page 6865]

RESOLUTION NO. 3304

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

Whereas Acadian musician Herbert LeBlanc of Lake Doucette, Digby County recently received an honorary doctorate at Université Sainte-Anne's spring convocation; and

Whereas Herbert LeBlanc founded the well-known Acadian musical group, Tymeux d'la Baie 20 years ago; and

Whereas the recent doctorate was only the latest in a series of recognitions in recent years for Mr. LeBlanc who 10 years ago was honoured by Université Sainte-Anne for his work in conserving Acadian heritage;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend our congratulations to Mr. LeBlanc for his tireless work in the Acadian community over the past number of years.

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

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Lunenburg.

RESOLUTION NO. 3305

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

Whereas the Town of Lunenburg celebrated the 246th Anniversary of its founding on June 7, 1999; and

Whereas Lunenburg was founded by a group of German and French speaking immigrants who were looking for a better way of life in a new world; and

[Page 6866]

Whereas the settlement of Lunenburg Township added the vibrance of German culture to Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly congratulate the Town of Lunenburg on the anniversary of its founding and congratulate the people of Lunenburg County for their unique heritage.

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 Truro-Bible Hill.

RESOLUTION NO. 3306

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

Whereas Truro businessman John Kelderman was sworn in as the new President of the Nova Scotia Chamber of Commerce; and

Whereas John Kelderman is a Past President of the Truro and District Chamber of Commerce; and

Whereas in addition to being a business leader, Mr. Kelderman has been a generous supporter of many community activities;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House thank John Kelderman for his service to his home community and wish him every success as President of the Nova Scotia Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 6867]

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 Lunenburg.

RESOLUTION NO. 3307

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

Whereas the Lunenburg Academy team won the Woozle's provincial Battle of the Books competition, defeating a team from Sir Charles Tupper School in a competition where everyone won; and

Whereas 13 students from Grades 4 and 5 were selected to comprise the Lunenburg Academy team, which was led by teacher Roberta Macdonald; and

Whereas the students demonstrated the importance of reading to education;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly congratulates the students of the Lunenburg Academy on their commitment to reading and their success in Woozle's Battle of the Books.

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 time being 12:45 p.m. we will terminate Question Period at 1:45 p.m.

[Page 6868]

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - INVESTMENT FUND: ADVERTISING - NECESSITY

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Health. The Liberal Government's propaganda on its health mortgage is costing taxpayers more than it gives some non-profit organizations for crucial health services for an entire year. My question to the minister is, if your latest health scheme is as good as your propaganda claims, why can't it just sell itself?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the people of Nova Scotia have clearly said over and over - and I don't know why that group over there doesn't seem to understand it; they have broken with their past - that they want a system that is more responsive to their needs and better access to the system. We are doing that. The communication part of this is to have the people of Nova Scotia more informed of what we are doing and a clear understanding of what is happening so they can hold us more accountable, which we have . . .

[12:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham, your first supplementary.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, there is a lot of health promotion and care that could be given with the $100,000 this government is wasting on PR, things like three more teen health centres or a family caregivers line.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: My question to the minister is, will you stop this wasteful PR campaign now and spend the money where it could really do some good?

DR. SMITH: I don't understand what part of our plan she doesn't like. Doesn't she like having more nurses available to Nova Scotia, a more stabilized acute care system? What doesn't she like? We will continue to communicate with Nova Scotians, Mr. Speaker, and we will continue to listen to Nova Scotians and hear what they have to say and we will respond.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: My final question to the minister, Mr. Speaker. Since the only plan this government has for health care is a PR plan, will the minister please explain why Nova Scotians should believe this government now?

[Page 6869]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the last few years the government has made many difficult choices in many different areas. Government is about choices and it is about leadership. We have responded to the people of Nova Scotia. We are saying that we want to stabilize the acute care system as we broaden the issues of home care, long-term care and those particular issues. That is why they will believe us, we are responding.

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

HEALTH - BUDGET (1999-2000):

CONTROL REMOVAL - DECISION DATE

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. Normally a government provides through the Minister of Finance a budget to government departments and entrusts that minister to, in fact, administer that budget. My question to the Premier is, when did you decide that the Department of Health and its minister should not control its budget?

HON. RUSSELL MACLELLAN, Q.C. (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, nothing could be further from the truth. The Department of Health does control its budget, controls its budget solely. But when you have the special fund that is going to be used for special purposes that will allow our health care program to be viable well into the future, we have to be able to assure the people of Nova Scotia that this money is being spent for the use intended. For that reason, the Minister of Finance is involved.

DR. HAMM: The Premier didn't come within a country mile of answering the question. The question is, traditionally in this province, a minister is given a budget to carry out the ministerial responsibilities.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

DR. HAMM: When did you make a decision that the Minister of Finance would not support the Minister of Health in carrying out his mandate and would give control of his budget to somebody else?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance has not given the control of the Health budget to anyone else; the Minister of Health still controls the Health budget.

DR. HAMM: I will continue with the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health knows that he no longer controls his budget, that $600 million in the proposed budget over the next three years will be controlled by somebody else other than this minister.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

[Page 6870]

DR. HAMM: My question is, why have you taken the loss of control of your budget sitting down?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, in this House of Assembly, I have spent a very large part of 12 hours in estimates standing on my feet; I have not taken anything sitting down, nor do I intend to. The Health Investment Fund is a health-driven initiative that was developed in the Department of Health. We have approval of the Cabinet and the Minister of Finance to proceed. It is not only the Department of Health that is developing this, we are developing this with the stakeholders of Nova Scotia . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. Next question.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

FIN. - BUDGET (1999-2000): PR COSTS - FURTHER

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, this Liberal budget is not about providing a planned direction for this province, it is more about advertising, polling and public relations designed to hoodwink Nova Scotians. My question to the Premier is, how much further in debt will this province go to purchase the polls, advertising and public relations used in your failed attempt to get Nova Scotians to believe you now?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we feel that the people of Nova Scotia have a right to know about the Health Investment Fund. We feel they have a right to know the criteria of the Health Investment Fund. They do not get a copy of the budget. It is only fair that we have a synopsis in a periodical to which they have access so they can find that information.

MR. DEXTER: Will this Premier confirm whether public relations work done on the budget was done by Corporate Communications Limited whose new senior vice-president is Frank McKenna's former chief spin doctor?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, all I can tell the honourable member is that Communications Nova Scotia took the lead in this advertisement program.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the only plan this government has is a public relations plan. Will this Premier table any documents and contracts outlining the work done by Corporate Communications to sell this failed budget to Nova Scotians?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this is purely a wish to inform the people of Nova Scotia about the contents of the Health Investment Fund. That is all it is. It is purely stated, factually stated without any kind of connotation put on the information whatsoever.

[Page 6871]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.

FIN. - HEALTH INVESTMENT FUND:

ADVERTISEMENTS - CESSATION

MR. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance, but I will start with the Premier. Mr. Premier, there has been a blitz of advertisements heralding the Liberals' Health Investment Fund and how it is going to save the Province of Nova Scotia literally hundreds of millions of dollars. My question to you, will the government cease the spending of taxpayers' funds to put forward such propaganda and spend the money where it is needed in delivering health care services?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable member that this is not a long-term advertising campaign. It is purely a wish to inform the people of Nova Scotia about the facts of the Health Investment Fund.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, we have ads for $57,000; we have brochures for $45,000, letters to municipal councillors sent across this province. How many departments are involved in this propaganda distribution and how much has it cost the Province of Nova Scotia in total? People deserve those answers.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the people of Nova Scotia have a right to know what their health care plan is going to provide. After all, this government got the information about the wish of the people of Nova Scotia to have a better health care program from the people of Nova Scotia. It is only fair to tell them what we are doing.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, if the Premier thinks the people of Nova Scotia deserve to have this Liberal propaganda, why do you not spend it out of your trust funds? Why do you not take that money out of your Liberal trust funds and why do you not spend that to tell it, rather than taking the taxpayers' money? Why are you wasting their money on your propaganda. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would be very interested if the honourable member could show me one place in any of that literature where the name Liberal is mentioned.

[Page 6872]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

EDUC. - P3 SCHOOLS:

ARMOYAN CONSORTIUM - MTT WITHDRAWAL

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. We all know that the consortium led by the Armoyan Group won the contract for a bundle of P3 schools. The Armoyan bid included participation by MTT to supply the schools' information technology. Now we understand that MTT has quietly severed its links with the Armoyan consortium. My question to the minister, will the minister tell this House why MTT withdrew from the Armoyan consortium?

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: To the honourable member, I will take that question under advisement and I will report to her on a future day.

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, the Armoyan bond prospectus confirms that the province must approve any replacement for MTT as their technology partner. I want to ask the minister, who has the province approved as the technology supplier to the Armoyan consortium?

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, could I ask the honourable member to repeat the first part of her question?

MR. SPEAKER: Please repeat the first part of your question.

MS. O'CONNELL: The question proper or the preamble?

The Armoyan bond prospectus confirms that the province must approve any replacement for MTT as their technology partner. My question. Who has the province approved as the new technology supplier to the Armoyan . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member knows, and as all the members of this House know, our government has committed to build 55 new schools across communities in Nova Scotia; these are much-needed schools. Again, our department will continue to work with all school boards across this province to provide these much-needed schools to students across Nova Scotia.

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, my final question to the minister. What steps will he take to review the Armoyan bid now that one of the key partners has withdrawn?

[Page 6873]

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, as we have seen in the past and we will see again, all the tenders for these new school construction projects are tendered out. It is an open process, and it is a transparent process that allows Nova Scotians full access to the information throughout all these projects.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: On a new question, Mr. Speaker. This is also to the Minister of Education . . .

MR. SPEAKER: On a new question?

MS. O'CONNELL: Yes.

AN HON. MEMBER: No, it's not your turn.

MS. O'CONNELL: Yes, it is.

ANOTHER HON. MEMBER: Yes, it is; she's back to back.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. No.

The honourable member for Cumberland South.

JUSTICE - JAIL (BEDFORD): SITE - PUBLIC MEETING (08/06/99)

MR. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. The Premier is aware that there is a public meeting tonight in Bedford with regard to that new Bedford jail. Will the Premier please indicate which members of his Cabinet or his caucus will be attending that meeting tonight?

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

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, we are aware that a debate has been organized by one group in Bedford. We continue to meet with the Bedford Futures Group. We continue to hold public meetings, and we will continue to discuss this issue with the members of the Bedford Future Group.

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, again to the Premier. The Premier hasn't attended one of the four public meetings held in Bedford. He is not attending the meeting tonight and he refused to meet with the Bedford residents here in the Legislature last week. What do the

[Page 6874]

members of the Bedford community have to do to get a meeting with the Premier of this province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is purely in the hands of a very excellent Minister of Justice.

MR. HARRISON: Last summer, when the preferred site was announced, there were two workshops held to which members of the Bedford community and the Sackville community were invited. A series of workshops took place, the site was confirmed, and public meetings have taken place ever since. On Wednesday night this week, there is yet another public meeting. We have met with the community and we continue to meet with members of the community.

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, since the Premier refused to answer, I might as well go to the Minister of Justice. Your department promised a response to the Bedford Futures Group today regarding assessing other sites for the new jail . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. SCOTT: . . . and neither you nor the Premier are attending the meeting tonight. Will you commit to providing the response that you promised to those people this afternoon?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, the honourable Justice Critic for the Progressive Conservative Party is asking me to honour a commitment we made last week to the members of the group that I have been meeting with ever since the full public meeting at Basinview. We always honour our commitments.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

EDUC. - HORTON HS (KINGS CO.):

TECHNOLOGY PROBLEMS - INVESTIGATE

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. One of the centrepieces of Liberal P3 is that the new schools are technology rich, and one of the earliest experiments, as we all know, is Horton High School. There is a problem, the new technology isn't working very well at Horton and the principal is frustrated with the series of problems.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question.

MS. O'CONNELL: My question to the minister is, what investigation has the minister undertaken into technology problems at Horton?

[Page 6875]

[1:00 p.m.]

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for raising this important question this afternoon. Horton was one of our first pilot projects. With all pilot projects, at some point in time, you certainly come across some glitches along the process. With Horton, we had a number of glitches with the technology that is being provided in the school and our staff is currently working with our partner.

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, we understand that the original technology partner for Horton is no longer a part of the consortium and that another company has been brought in to try to fix the problem. So my question to the minister is, who is it who is now trying to clean up the mess at Horton?

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, again to the honourable member, yes, our department staff is aware there have been some problems with the technology that has been delivered in the Horton High School. Our staff is currently working in order to address these concerns and I hope that we will be in a position very shortly to be able to provide the honourable member with an update.

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, there were problems at Sherwood Park, there are problems at Horton, so I have to ask the minister, wouldn't it have made more sense to figure it all out before they started or is the minister going to buy a 100 years' supply of duct tape to fix it?

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, this Opposition Party, I can't really understand where they are coming from. One day, they want to provide Nova Scotian communities with much-needed new schools. The next day, they want to delay, have more study, more analysis. Yet, at the same time we see how the NDP B.C. Government are providing new schools for their communities. They are just adding to the provincial debt. I can assure the honourable member and the Official Opposition Party that our government has made a commitment to provide much-needed schools to communities.

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

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

SITE SELECTION

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is again for the Minister of Education. We know that P3 is flawed because it pits communities such as Kentville and Canning against each other. The people in these communities deserve a school in their communities and they don't deserve a consortium picking the preferred site. My question to the minister is, since he promised to investigate possible conflict of interest by the chair of Nova Learning, has he investigated and what has he learned?

[Page 6876]

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, on Friday when that concern was brought to my attention I indicated at that time that I would have staff look into this matter immediately and report back to me. I still haven't received that report but once the information is received, I certainly will provide that to all members of the House.

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I have to ask the Minister of Education then, who is conducting this conflict of interest investigation and will he table the results in this House and when?

MS. GAUDET: To the honourable member, Mr. Speaker, our staff, working with the Department of Justice, is reviewing this matter. Once the information is received - I hope this week - that information will be made available and tabled in the House.

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Minister of Education, why won't he commit to producing conflict-of-interest guidelines to prevent P3 consortiums from profiting from the school site selection process?

MR. GAUDET: Again, Mr. Speaker, I can't understand where this member is coming from. The member from the community in question did indicate, declared in writing, that he and someone else owned the property adjacent to the proposed site before the school board actually took a position on that site. I can't really understand where the member is coming from. That information was made available.

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

SYSCO - ROYAL HOOGOVENS-BRITISH STEEL: MERGER - EFFECT

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism who is responsible for Sysco. My question to the minister is, when did the minister become aware and what is his perception of the British Steel takeover of Hoogovens relative to the contract that Hoogovens has signed with Sysco?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the answer to the question is that British Steel did not take over Hoogovens. Royal Hoogovens of the Netherlands has merged with British Steel.

DR. HAMM: The minister has a somewhat different interpretation as to what is going on, but regardless of what is happening, the minister should have some kind of a comment because the minister, this morning, said publicly that British Steel might be interested in Sysco.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

[Page 6877]

DR. HAMM: My question to the minister is, was that pure speculation or does he have evidence that British Steel would be interested in purchasing Sysco?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, again, Royal Hoogovens and British Steel have merged their operations. They have expressed some interest publicly that British Steel, particularly, are interested in doing some acquisitions in North America. Whether that includes Sydney Steel will remain to be seen. All I can tell you is that the situation has not changed. Hoogovens are managing Sydney Steel. ABN Amro are out there in the market place looking for buyers for Sydney Steel and that situation has not changed. If British Steel would be part of that consortium, that would be fine with me.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, press release, London, "British Steel is taking control of its Dutch steel and aluminium rival Hoogovens . . .". That is what is coming out from British Steel. They are taking control of Hoogovens.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

DR. HAMM: The minister should know this. By way of a press release British Steel indicates that there would be no guarantee that the plants would not be closed.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please! Can I have your question?

DR. HAMM: Why does the minister speculate that British Steel, when it will not guarantee that existing plants that they own or that Hoogovens owns would not be closed, that they would be interested in buying Sysco?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Third Party is continuing to keep Sysco before the public in an effort to destroy that corporation in Sydney and I think the workers of Sydney Steel would be ashamed of what is happening in this House on a regular basis with that Leader who is playing politics with the lives of the people of Sydney. I can tell you in terms of Royal Hoogovens and British Steel, that company will now become the third largest steel operation in the world, behind Nippon Steel and Posco of Korea. I can tell you that puts us in a better situation.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

HEALTH - BUDGET (1999-2000): EXPENDITURE - JUSTIFY

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, by now, at this point in the process it is painfully obvious that this government cannot even remotely back up the numbers in its budget. The Minister of Health cannot even explain how much we spend on health care now and, worse, the minister cannot explain how spending $600 million now is going to save us anything in the future.

[Page 6878]

My question to the Minister of Health is, when will the minister table for this House and for all Nova Scotians some justification for the huge numbers that are being thrown around so carelessly?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we have brought a budget to this House. We are in the process of estimates, which we will be reverting to today after the order of business of Question Period, and we are held accountable to this Legislature. We have the figures. We have a special Health Investment Fund that will address the immediate and the long-term needs of health care in Nova Scotia.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, this Minister of Health cannot, or will not, explain the yawning gaps in his numbers and these are very large numbers. My question this time is for the Minister of Finance. In producing this budget, did the Minister of Finance simply accept the numbers given to him by the Department of Health or did the Department of Finance independently attempt to verify the accuracy of the numbers?

HON. DONALD DOWNE: I must admit the jacket kind of threw me off, Mr. Speaker, and the glare from the other side of the House. It is interesting, the member opposite is talking about numbers as if numbers are going to be able to help people that are sick, that numbers are going to help the seniors of this province get better. The reality is we understand the numbers and we understand health care is a priority in this province. That is why we are investing in health care.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, the only plan this government has is a PR plan. My question this time is to the Premier since neither his Minister of Health nor his Minister of Finance can back up their numbers. Will the Premier tell us why Nova Scotians should believe a single thing they have to say about this budget?

THE PREMIER: Well, he asked for one, so I will give him one. Mr. Speaker, you will recall that last winter I discussed taking over the debts of the regional health boards. We said that we would like to do that. Well, we have done it with this budget.

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

SYSCO - HOOGOVENS: MGT. - PAYMENT SCHEDULE TABLE

MR. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Minister of Economic Development. Over the past few months the minister has shown a great deal of reluctance about sharing the details of the financial arrangements involving Hoogovens/Sysco management. Will the minister table the Hoogovens payment schedule so that the taxpayers of Nova Scotia will know exactly how much it is costing them for the day-to-day management of Sysco?

[Page 6879]

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable member for the question, another steel expert has emerged from the House. I would just like to inform the House that I made the offer to all Parties of this House to go to Sydney, to visit the steel plant, to hear from Hoogovens themselves their business plans for the plant, to tour the plant and to have all of the relevant documents pertaining to Sysco made available to them. That offer still stands and the honourable member can take us up on that offer if he likes.

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, it is my intention to follow up on that offer. The minister once again continues to maintain his well-deserved reputation for being flippant in terms of questions asked on behalf of the taxpayers. Once again, maybe this time, will you table the fee structure so that taxpayers of Nova Scotia will know exactly how much it costs them for the day-to-day operation of Sysco?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, all he has to do to get that is to look at the annual statements of Sysco.

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, since the minister doesn't seem willing to answer that question, would he try one more time to confirm that since January of this year, the day-to-day operation of Sysco has cost the taxpayers of Nova Scotia in the neighbourhood of $4 million? Will you confirm that?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, what I will confirm to the honourable member opposite is that the Tory Party is determined to destroy the livelihoods of 700 steelworkers in Sydney and I think that is reprehensible that they are keeping this issue before the House while we are trying to sell the steel plant.

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

LBR. - BUILDING & CONSTRUCTION TRADES COUNCIL (C.B.):

INVESTIGATION - ALLEGATIONS

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order please. I warn the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party and the Minister of Economic Development. Thank you.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is for the Minister of Labour. The minister's recent allegations in this House of fraud and corruption against the Cape Breton Building and Construction Trades Council have aroused much ire within that group. They had some choice words for the minister in a press conference on Friday. Will the minister confirm for this House that he made these allegations knowing full well there was no

[Page 6880]

ongoing investigation by the RCMP into the activities of the Building and Construction Trades Council?

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I guess the question I would have to ask myself is, is that the same press conference that the media received faxed press releases from the NDP caucus advertising on behalf of the Building and Construction Trades Council?

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, still no answers. The Saturday edition of the Halifax Chronicle-Herald stated that Thursday the minister sent a letter to the RCMP regarding the activities of the Cape Breton Island Building and Construction Trades Council. Will the minister confirm that he has indeed sent a second letter to the RCMP to manufacture an investigation to shore up his tattered credibility?

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I will never get to the position such as the NDP when they tried to interfere with justice on Thursday past. I confirmed in this House on several occasions that there are a number of matters before the Department of Justice and the RCMP and I am advised by legal counsel that I cannot give further details.

[1:15 p.m.]

MR. CORBETT: I see the Dick Tracy of the Cabinet is at it again, Mr. Speaker. Why is this minister carrying on a personal vendetta against this group and if he has sent a letter, will he table it today in this House?

MR. MACKINNON: Again, Mr. Speaker, given the fact that the NDP took it upon themselves to fax a press release that was prepared for and by the Cape Breton Building and Construction Trades Council in the midst of a number of officials or before the Department of Justice and the RCMP, to me, that raises the question as to what that Party has to hide.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland North.

EDUC. - P3: CANNING & KENTVILLE (KINGS. CO.) -

SITE SELECTION

MR. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Minister of Education, Mr. Minister, as we all know, when a community is about to receive a new school, the choice of the site is paramount. A site that is both safe, and with equal distance, and a number of other factors, come into concern. When concerns are raised by the community, things start to fall apart. Is the minister concerned that the developer of Nova Learning, Mr. Wade, owns a piece of property adjacent to the new site of the proposed northeastern area Kings school?

[Page 6881]

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, again to the honourable member, last Friday I was made aware that the recommendation that was being proposed by the Annapolis Regional School Board - where they are proposing to build the new school, in the area that the member is referring to - the lot adjacent to the site was owned and declared by Mr. Bill Wade, prior to the recommendation being brought before the school board.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the minister appears that he is not concerned at all about this situation. If that is so, then when will the minister assure the parents and children of the Kentville area that they may go to the Horton school?

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, last Friday morning with my colleague, the member for Kings North, I believe, a meeting was organized with the Mayor of Kentville, His Worship Gary Pearl, that raised a number of concerns that his constituents did bring forward. At that meeting, the mayor indicated to the representative of the board, who was also present at that meeting, the possibility to examine further having some students attend the Horton school. I understand that is being looked at.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, to the minister again, when will the parents in the Kentville area, which is in the Horton district and there are over 1,000 children involved in this new school, when are you going to make the announcement that they can attend Horton?

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I learned Friday morning, presently there are approximately 20 high school students from the Town of Kentville presently attending Horton High School. I was not aware of that. At that meeting, this issue was raised again, this possibility of having high school students from the Kentville area attending the Horton High School. We indicated to the mayor that that would certainly be looked into and I made the commitment that I would be reporting to him at a future time.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

EDUC. - SCHOOLS: VIOLENCE PREVENTION - FUNDING

MR. DONALD CHARD: Mr. Speaker, there continue, across this province, to be violent incidents in our schools. While school staff have worked hard to instill respect in students for each other, our schools and our school boards have inadequate resources to deal with today's problems. My question for the Minister of Education is, will you be providing school boards with more appropriate funding this year to deal with student behaviour?

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Again, to the honourable member, I think the question that he raises here, everyone who is involved from the department, to the school board, to the teaching staff and to the students and parents of all those schools throughout Nova Scotia, everyone is concerned to provide a safe learning environment to all those students. Unfortunately, with the incident that was reported yesterday, again I think it is certainly

[Page 6882]

alarming for all of us. I think one incident is too much. As the honourable member knows, with the current budget we are providing further funding to the school boards in helping to address some of the immediate . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Your first supplementary.

MR. CHARD: Mr. Speaker, this question will be for the Premier. In some cases, schools are struggling to help students with extreme behavioural problems. They are trying to pick up the slack caused by the closure of institutions such as the MacKay Unit at the Nova Scotia Hospital. Mr. Premier, when, and I stress when, will your government open a secure treatment facility for children of this province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable knows, we have provided in the budget for a secure treatment facility, and we will be starting construction of a secure treatment facility this year.

MR. CHARD: Mr. Premier, it costs roughly $90,000 a year to keep a young offender at Waterville. Why isn't your government being proactive in providing school boards and other agencies with adequate resources to deal with these issues before they erupt with tragic consequences?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I beg to differ with the honourable member. School boards should not be dealing with children at risk and violent offenders. That is not the place for them, in our school system. What we have to be able to do is to take our young people and put them in the proper care. That is what we are going to be doing.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg.

HEALTH - ACUTE CARE PATIENTS:

LONG-TERM CARE BEDS - USE APPROPRIATELY

MR. MICHAEL BAKER: My question is to the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health seems to have been converted recently to the concept that in this province people should get the appropriate level of care to which they are entitled. We have a long-term care sector in this province which has been woefully underfunded; 30 per cent of the beds in the hospitals in this province are taken up by people who should be in long-term care facilities. My question to the minister is, will the minister acknowledge that there are people in this province in acute care beds that would be more appropriately housed in long-term care beds?

HON. JAMES SMITH: The honourable member has brought up a very important issue. Yes, this is a condition right across this country that all jurisdictions are grappling with it. His 30 per cent figure is obviously on the high side, it could be 5 per cent or 10 per cent. The best care for people is at the most appropriate place at the right time by the right people. That is

[Page 6883]

not treating long-term care people in acute care facilities, and that is what our Health Investment Fund is all about.

MR. BAKER: The difficulty with what the minister just said is that he indicated, and I think he is wildly low at 5 per cent, but that at least 5 per cent of beds in this province were inappropriately filled. The question to the minister is, the 170 beds that he has announced which haven't even been built wouldn't even deal with that 5 per cent, how is the minister in the Health Investment Fund going to address the problem of inadequate long-term care beds?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question because this is the crux of the issue. It is moving from that acute care, high-cost $500 a day bed into a $120 a day bed or into the Home Care Program. It is moving the money from the acute care system into the shoulder areas of the continuum of care. That is how it is done and that is what will work.

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, the Health Investment Fund won't provide any answer to that because you need planning and the government doesn't have a plan for what they are going to do. My question to the minister is, what is the government's plan under the Health Investment Fund that will allow them to move those people into a more appropriate setting?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the issue over the next three years will be one of investment in the acute care system while we stabilize that and we move and enhance. It is not only that a person could be treated possibly from acute care into long-term care, they may well be able to be treated in home care. It is that whole continuum of care, supported by the health care team, by the physicians and nurses, the physiotherapists, social workers and occupational therapists, and that is building a team for a continuum of care.

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

HOUSING & MUN. AFFS. - HOMELESSNESS: COMBAT - PLAN

MS. ROSEMARY GODIN: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs. Last weekend at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Conference a clear message was delivered, homelessness and the threat of becoming homeless is at an all-time high. What plan does the minister have to combat homelessness in this province?

HON. RAYMOND WHITE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for this very important question and I know it is of concern to many people. We do have in place programs to provide subsidized housing, we work with various community groups, and we also have a plan in which to raise the profile of this both at the provincial and federal level.

[Page 6884]

MS. GODIN: Mr. Speaker, you can't just provide low rent housing and hope the homelessness problem will go away. My question for the minister is does his plan include working with the Department of Community Services to provide social supports for Nova Scotia's homeless?

MR. WHITE: Mr. Speaker, those involved with providing shelter for the homeless have said this is a very complex issue that does certainly involve more than just providing accommodations. We will be discussing this with the Department of Community Services to have a joint approach to deal with this very important topic.

MS. GODIN: Mr. Speaker, the minister's budget for public housing subsidies has been slashed. Why has the minister's department decided that people in need are no longer worthy of government help?

MR. WHITE: Mr. Speaker, close examination of our budget will show that we have a multitude of programs that are available for people in need. We will continue to assess those needs and deliver programs that will help those people.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank, on a new question.

HOUSING & MUN. AFFS.: HOME REPAIR ASSIST. PROG. -

IMPROVEMENT

MS. ROSEMARY GODIN: Mr. Speaker, again to the Minister of Housing. One of the department's self-imposed goals is the provision of home repair assistance to Nova Scotians. However, the budget indicates a distressing lack of support for these programs. My question to the minister is, your government cares for big developers like Armoyan, what are you going to do for Nova Scotians in modest housing?

HON. RAYMOND WHITE: Mr. Speaker, I think a close examination of our budget and discussions will happen in estimates. We indicate that we are certainly concerned about those people in need and we will deliver those programs.

MS. GODIN: Mr. Speaker, the family income cut-off for assistance under these programs is currently at a maximum of $14,000. This government has chosen to penalize the working poor. My question to the minister is, why are low wage earners who own homes being denied access to these programs?

MR. WHITE: Mr. Speaker, we have a number of programs, some are rent related, that are tied to income and provides subsidies to allow people to stay in our rental units. We certainly are not ignoring those people, we have over 13,000 units across the province that

[Page 6885]

are administered in various ways and they do meet some of those needs and will continue to meet those needs.

MS. GODIN: Mr. Speaker, those programs the minister speaks of are inadequate. This income cut-off penalizes the working poor for working. My question for the minister is if your government truly has compassion, will you change these programs so that families living on a $7.00 or $8.00 an hour income can access them?

MR. WHITE: Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated several times in responding to the member, we do have in place various programs that deal with the needs of Nova Scotians. We will continue to assess those programs and meet those needs.

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - BUDGET (1999-2000):

CAPITAL PROGS. - REDUCTION IMPACT

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, through you I would like to direct my question to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. A number of employees, some with 25 years service, have contacted the Progressive Conservative Party caucus, very nervous and concerned that they will not be called back this year to work for the department. The minister knows that he has $32 million less this year to work with because this government can't get an agreement with Ottawa. My question is simply this, how is the $32 million reduction in capital expenditures going to impact programs, services and employees of this province?

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member knows we are still calling contracts, we are putting out tenders for additional work in the Province of Nova Scotia. We put some out on the weekend, there are more to come out and we will push ahead with this.

[1:30 p.m.]

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, in case the minister didn't hear the question, the question was, how is the $32 million going to impact programs and services and employees in the Province of Nova Scotia? Answer the question.

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member. I want to remind the honourable member that this money that he is talking about is not the provincial share, that's the federal share. It will have some effect on the Province of Nova Scotia and on some of the employees; it will have that.

[Page 6886]

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, the minister knows and Nova Scotians know that he has $32 million less this year because that government has been unsuccessful when dealing with Ottawa. Now, my question to the Premier. Your government has no agreements relative to our resource-based industries - transportation, fishing, farming - when are you going to do something about it?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I don't know which one he wants us to do something about. (Interruptions)

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

JUSTICE - ABUSE: SPOUSAL - PROGS. FUNDING REFUSAL

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Justice. Transition house programs funded under the Framework for Action Against Family Violence are at risk and spousal abuse programs that are not police-based, direct referrals will not receive funding beyond July. So my question to the Minister of Justice is, why is the Minister of Justice refusing to fund programs for all victims of spousal abuse?

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member will know, there were certain pilots created that extended services to certain segments of the population. It is our interest to extend services to the entire provincial population to ensure that victim services are province-wide.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, the Department of Justice consulted with the communities, and the communities told them what they wanted; now the department has changed the rules. So my question to the minister is, why did the minister bother consulting transition houses if he wasn't going to listen to them?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, as part of the framework for action against domestic and family violence, we consult continually with transition houses and, in fact, are in the process of doing so right now to ensure that we have the highest quality provision of services for the people of Nova Scotia.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, the Department of Justice had invested $188,000 in this initiative. My question to the Minister of Justice is, will this money now be used to fund the RCMP's Victim Assistance Program?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, we don't intend to spend any less whatsoever. We intend to follow the discussions with transition houses, we intend to be guided by the evaluation that has taken place in that, and we intend to be guided, overall, by the framework, the very successful framework, that has curbed, and continues to curb, violence in family situations.

[Page 6887]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland North.

EDUC. - NSSBA: FUNDING REQUEST - ADEQUACY

MR. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Minister of Education. A report was released recently by the Nova Scotia School Boards Association, in which they request $106 million as the absolute minimum to ensure that proper services at a minimum level can be delivered this year. Are you satisfied that that is a realistic number, a $106 million increase?

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I agree with the honourable member. When we start looking at investing in the educational system in Nova Scotia, what exactly is enough? Again, when we are looking at our government's commitment in this year's budget, is it enough? It absolutely is not. As we have indicated before, we will continue to provide additional funding to all the school boards across this province in order to help them deliver their programs.

MR. FAGE: Obviously, the minister is not too concerned about special needs for students and that program's teachers' aides in this province, because $2 million is a pittance for what is needed and teachers and parents have told us that across this province . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. FAGE: . . . 65 per cent is a long way from what we need. When will the minister ensure that the formula is adjusted in this year to satisfy those needs?

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member says here that we are not looking at addressing these concerns. When you are looking at, in this year's educational budget, we are providing school boards with an additional $2 million in order to try to help, not to meet all the needs, but to try to help the school boards meet the special needs of students across this province.

Again, Mr. Speaker, is it enough? Absolutely not. Will we continue to provide them with further funding in future years? That is our commitment.

MR. FAGE: To the minister as well, I know the special needs are a low priority with this government and this minister but, again, parents and teachers demand, request and we have to address this paramount situation in our school system. Their policy of inclusion has demanded that the funds be there.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. FAGE: When are you going to put those funds there to satisfy the need?

[Page 6888]

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I am having a hard time understanding the Opposition, the Third Party, and we have to get this straight, absolutely. I want to assure all members of the House and all Nova Scotians that one of the priorities of our government has been, last year and again this year, education in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Again in this year's budget, Mr. Speaker, we are adding additional funding in order to meet those needs and, again, we will continue to (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - CARE: PR PLAN - PURPOSE

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Mr. Minister, have you adopted a public relations plan for health care because of concerns that under this government's direction the quality of patient care in this province is now at risk?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, in our Health Investment Fund we are investing in the future of health care in this province. We are meeting with the groups representing the regional boards, the tertiary care hospitals, and all the stakeholders in Nova Scotia. Through that we are communicating our message. We are getting feedback and maybe it is the feedback from all the positive reaction that we are getting from all those groups that is not . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham, your first supplementary.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, well, the minister knows but Nova Scotians do not, that the 1999 employee opinion survey at the QE II Health Sciences Centre shows that 80 per cent of employees feel that the quality of patient care is at risk.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: My question to the minister is, when is he going to start giving us the straight goods about the state of health care in Nova Scotia?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, these sessions of the House, the Department of Health budget is before the estimates committee. The honourable member knows that. We have released a document here with a financial analysis that outlines the Health Investment Fund that will stabilize the health care system, the acute care system, and move into the future; that will be affordable, sustainable, transparent, and accountable.

[Page 6889]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to table this survey from QE II employees that tells us exactly what is going on. Why after six years can't the minister produce a plan that answers the needs of Nova Scotians?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the Health Investment Fund has five broad elements in a plan that is incorporating the blueprint plan and even as far back as the Royal Commission on Health. We are taking that in concert with all the stakeholders who are delivering health care in Nova Scotia and that is the plan that is moving forward.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg.

ECON. DEV. & TOURISM - LUNENBURG:

WORLD HERITAGE SITE - SUPPORT

MR. MICHAEL BAKER: My question is to the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. Would the minister agree with me that the Town of Lunenburg's designation as a World Heritage Site is one of the premier tourist attractions in the Province of Nova Scotia and that that tourist attraction deserves the support of this government in making sure that it is utilized to its fullest?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Yes.

MR. BAKER: Thank you very much. If it is such a wonderful thing, and I agree with the minister that it is, why will his government not provide a sign on Highway No. 103 so that people travelling the roads of this province can find the World Heritage Site? Why will his department not provide the funds?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: I would like to thank the honourable member for the question. As he knows and members of this House know, our signage policy in Nova Scotia is currently under review, and that is one of the particular areas that we are reviewing.

MR. BAKER: How much lost potential does there have to be before the government can make a change? My question is, there is only one World Heritage Site in this province that is a residential area, can they not make a policy for that World Heritage Site so that the sign can go up for this tourist season?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: I agree that Lunenburg is indeed a World Heritage site and we have all kinds of other sites in this province that merit our consideration for proper signage. We are working on that signage program.

[Page 6890]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

ENVIRON. - ATVs: USE INAPPROPRIATE - PREVENTION

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, most all-terrain vehicle owners are responsible people, but some are causing damage to sensitive wetlands throughout our province. Many Nova Scotians are very concerned about that. My question to the Minister of the Environment is, Mr. Minister what measures are you taking to prevent this inappropriate use of ATVs?

HON. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated to the member yesterday during debate on estimates, our department has been working with a number of different stakeholder groups throughout this province on this issue. It is a very important issue and one where a level of education is required. For the most part, ATV users in this province are responsible users, and our department is working with the different groups out there to make sure they have the proper education in regard to the need to protect the wetlands and the their possible destruction by ATVs.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, destruction of our sensitive wetland habitat is a serious offence. My question this time is to the Department of Natural Resources. Mr. Minister, what measures will you take to reactivate the interdepartmental committee dealing specifically with ATV problems and potential controls, which I understand has not met for over a year?

HON. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I concur with the Minister of the Environment in his answer to the first part of the question. We are monitoring the situation, particularly on designated protected areas, and we will follow up any place we see damage from ATVs. We want to monitor it and see what we can do to curb that.

MR. PARKER: Monitor, monitor, monitor, that is all I hear from this minister. Something has to be done about this very serious problem. I will ask the Minister of Natural Resources again, what is your department's time line for the development of an enforcement policy and guidelines dealing with ATV use in this province?

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member should know that there are several designated trails across the province. I don't know what more we can do unless we take the wheels off them.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, a quick question.

[Page 6891]

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - BUDGET (1999-2000):

REDUCTION - CONTRACT EMPLOYEES IMPACT

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, my question through you to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works is simply this, because his department is only going to spend an amount that equals $32 million less than last year, how is it going to impact the employees in the Province of Nova Scotia, the Department of Transportation employees that haven't been called back yet?

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, I have already told that honourable member that there are still more contracts that are going out and there are several more. There will be a lot of these people that aren't employed right now that will be coming back to work. I also want to point out to the honourable member that that $32 million is federal money not provincial money.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, we don't care if it is federal or provincial money, employees want paycheques. They don't care where it is coming from. $100,000 will go to pave one kilometre of a 200-Series Highway, you know what the current expenditure . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. TAYLOR: . . . account, the capital account in this province will buy and pay. It goes to highway improvements . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. TAYLOR: . . . programs and services. I want to know a number, how is it going to impact on valuable, hardworking, faithful employees?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member, I don't know, he just doesn't seem to get it. I have told him and told him that there are still more contracts that are going out and there will be several of these unemployed people that will be called back to work.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, your time has now expired.

Order please. The time allotted for the Oral Question Period has expired.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

[Page 6892]

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, through you and to all the members in the House, it is a great privilege for me this afternoon to introduce to you a group of individuals in the west gallery. The individuals who are here today are the employees of the Canadian Tire Store in Sydney, a store that is destined to close if some action isn't taken. They are here today to plead with the Premier and Minister of Labour to act on their behalf. Ms. Lynn Pollock, the national representative of CAW, Ms. Raylene Lee, President of the local are here with the group of workers and I would like the House to extend a warm welcome to them and hopefully, they will have an opportunity to meet with the Premier and Minister of Labour. (Applause)

[1:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Labour.

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I too, welcome the honoured guests here today and I will be meeting with them, as I indicated when they first arrived, shortly after we exit the Chamber here momentarily. I would also like to introduce to all members of the House a very distinguished gentleman, a very hard-working municipal councillor in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, he is probably one of the most hard-working councillors that we have in that municipality. I would ask that he rise and receive the warm welcome of the House, Councillor Danny Hansen. (Applause)

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, 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 Digby-Annapolis.

MR. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to rise and say a few words about the budget. This is probably one of the most significant budgets in recent times. This budget could, in all honesty, precipitate an election or it could ensure the

[Page 6893]

continuation of the present minority situation. So the contents of this budget need to be reviewed very carefully.

This budget and the Finance Minister's address, were an attempt to explain the direction that the Liberal Government would like to take this province in the next year. However, the reality of the budget is that it will set the financial strategy for this province well into the middle of the next decade. As I said earlier, the real significance of that is the fact that it is being brought forth in a minority situation, a situation where a vote against the budget and the enabling legislation could force an election.

The real difficulty with this budget is the fact, by the Finance Minister's own admission, it is not balanced. It is a deficit budget and that in and of itself has very serious implications. The government has indicated that the deficit is required by them in order to allow this province to finance the Health Investment Fund. The deficit would allow the government to protect valuable and vital health care services. No one can argue against a government spending monies that will help to improve health care in this province.

The government said we need more nurses, we need more acute care beds, we need more doctors, we need better ambulance services, we need, we need, we need, there is no question. The ageing population and the demographics that creates clearly shows the burden that is being place on the health care system and the fact that it will only continue to increase for the foreseeable future. So really, in all honesty, beyond the rhetoric, and we have heard lots of it here, and beyond the numbers, there lies a fundamental question that is going to have to be addressed and that simply is, do the people of this province want to return to wholesale deficit financing? Do they want to return to borrowing from the future of their children and their grandchildren and their grandchildren's grandchildren, in order to maintain a level of services for today. Do they want to continue to rob Peter to pay Paul?

In all honesty, the recent past has shown us that the answer to that question was a resounding no. The Liberal Government came to power in 1993 on what they claimed to be a platform of fiscal responsibility. Balanced budgets, cost reductions, that was a cornerstone of economic and social policy for the Liberal Government. In the early 1990's most provinces opted for a time of fiscal conservatism with belt-tightening and balanced budgets as the order of the day. They wanted to pay down the deficit. That was foremost in every political agenda and it was accepted by the public; there was no question.

In many provinces that strategy worked well. You only need to look at New Brunswick and Ontario to see what can happen when a government implements a clear plan of fiscal responsibility and when it is implemented in a well-defined manner. However, in Nova Scotia it is obvious that, while the Liberal Government knew the song, they certainly did not know the words or how to sing the tune. They embarked on a helter-skelter plan that had no real plan.

[Page 6894]

In order to create a balanced budget they embarked on regionalization of school boards, and regionalization of health boards. They reduced expenditures in infrastructure, ambulance services were restructured, social programs were cut and restructured, and P3 school financing was introduced. All supposedly to save money but, in reality, all with no real plan. The government has employed a make it up as you go along strategy for every major fiscal or social policy implementation they have undertaken since 1993.

Now the Minister of Finance wants the taxpayers of Nova Scotia to accept the budget that will allow them to have their cake and eat it too. Make no mistake about this budget, this budget would never have seen the light of day in a majority government situation. This budget was crafted with a callous disregard for actual costs; this budget is a ploy to buy popular support. It is a vote against fiscal responsibility but, to vote for that, is it a vote against health care? Is it a vote against $600 million for health care, or is it a vote to question whether or not this Liberal program will be any different than any other Liberal program that has been introduced, that is, no real plan?

While the budget does have many much-needed economic development ideas, each one comes with a price tag. The question that has to be asked by the taxpayers of Nova Scotia is, can we afford this budget? This is a chicken in every pot, Ford in every driveway kind of budget. It is an election budget. It is a budget that forces those who would say no to increased spending on social programs and health care to face the very wrath of the voters, but for those who vote against the budget, is it a vote against health care? Is it a vote against deficit financing or is it a vote against lack of planning?

The $600 million to be borrowed in order to finance the Health Investment Fund has serious, long-term implications for the financial stability of this province and that fact should weigh heavily on the mind of any responsible politician. There are some in this Chamber who would see the upcoming budget vote as an opportunity to seize some political advantage; there are those who would like to force an election or those who would like to maintain power regardless of what the long-term cost is. There are those who because of their position can vote no, with the full realization that more responsible politicians will have to cast the deciding vote. There is a saying, heavy is the head that wears the Crown. It is true, particularly true in this instance because it requires weighty deliberation on what is in the best interest of the province.

We, as a Third Party, have been perceived to hold the balance of power, that we can determine whether this government will live or die. While that may be true in terms of vote cast, it is important to bear in mind that we were elected by the people of our various ridings to do what is in the best interests of them and what is in the best interests of Nova Scotia. I must say, as the member for Digby-Annapolis, I take that responsibility seriously. I have consulted with people; I have asked their opinion and I have asked for direction and I will continue to do that up until the time the vote is cast. While I know that, ultimately, the

[Page 6895]

decision is mine, I want to be sure when I cast my vote that I have taken into consideration the people in my riding.

This budget is truly about faith, hope, trust and, most importantly, about the future. In the minister's own words, "I rise today to present a budget which will carry Nova Scotia into the next century . . .". He said also, "I also see people who are in despair. They look at the world and they fear for their jobs. . . . They look to their children and worry about their future.".

In that same address he also said that it is the right time to build a system and in that he is correct, but at the heart of that last statement lies another question, a fundamental question. Do Nova Scotians really believe that this Liberal Government is the government with a plan for the future? My observation would be no. Over the past few years, this government has stumbled from one ill-conceived reform strategy to the next with no real plan. Why should the people of Nova Scotia expect anything different this time? This is the question that must be asked of each and every one of us and must be answered by each and every one of us before the vote is taken. Does this government have a plan?

A great deal of our future rides on the performance of the Sable offshore gas project. The profits realized from that venture have the potential to ensure a strong economy in Nova Scotia, a strong economy into the next millennium. Has this government undertaken a strategy that will ensure that we maximize the benefits from this project? Not so far. Has this government shown leadership that would inspire the confidence of the people of Nova Scotia? No so far.

How can we ensure that all areas of Nova Scotia will benefit from this new prosperity? That certainly was one of the issues raised in the discussions. The economic growth of this province isn't even, some areas are moving ahead very quickly while others are languishing. Do the Liberals have a plan to address that? They have the words, but do they have a plan? Not that we have seen.

Will the creation of enterprise zones level the playing field? One hopes, but one needs to see the details. Will the film tax credit really stimulate the film industry in this province? Will labour-sponsored venture capital corporations really create needed employment? Can this government truly recognize the savings that they say they can through increasing productivity within government departments?

In the past the government has presented many items, plans and promises. The question that must be addressed is whether or not Nova Scotians are prepared to believe this government. No one wants to force an election that will not resolve these issues. Elections are expensive and in light of public opinion polls, the people of Nova Scotia are not very anxious to go to the polls.

[Page 6896]

There are many things in the budget that are positive, the focus on education, the focus on economic development, the focus on rural Nova Scotia. These all have the potential to improve the quality of life in this province. But again, they must be weighed against the financial implications of once again returning to deficit financing. Once again returning to a time when we mortgage our children's futures to ensure that we in the present have the best quality of life available. That is a fundamental question that must be addressed.

Mr. Speaker, in closing, I would ask that each and every person in this Legislature truly listen to their constituents, truly consult with them, that they listen to the budget debate, talk on the estimates, and then once they have carefully weighed those considerations, concerns and issues that they vote in a way that represents what the people in their constituency are telling them that they should do.

This is not about individual agendas or political Party agendas, this is about a time when politicians need to do the right thing. I would encourage each and every one of us to ensure that we do the right thing when we are called upon to vote on this particular budget. Thank you. (Applause)

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I have had opportunities in the House in the last 15 months or so to stand up and talk on many issues, many of them dealing with bills related to my critic area, Justice. I have had an opportunity to do work on the Workers' Compensation Bill. Today when I was thinking about getting up to speak, I said one thing I haven't had much of an opportunity to speak on is my own riding, and I want to take an opportunity to speak a little bit about Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

It is somewhat of an esoteric matter I want to speak about, because there are a few areas describing the riding that I want to take a few moments to talk about. My riding is a riding demographically that I think many would consider as a young riding, many young families, new subdivisions, new homeowners, a riding where there are a lot of young children or people in their pre-teen years. That has resulted in a couple of issues that are common in suburban ridings, like mine, or Timberlea-Prospect, or Sackville-Beaver Bank, or Halifax Atlantic to give a few examples that maybe aren't as common in the urban core ridings or maybe in some of the more rural areas. Those are issues of recreation and education. I am going to start first with a few issues around recreation.

[2:00 p.m.]

I had an opportunity before I was elected to do work with youth at risk, both with the Cole Harbour Boys and Girls Club and with the Youth Alternative Society. What I have noted generally and what I have noted in my own riding are concerns about what we are going to do with youth at risk. This is particularly an issue now because demographically in

[Page 6897]

the next 10 to 15 years, there is a large bubble of children of baby boomers that will be coming of age between the ages of 15 and 30 probably in the next 15 years. What we need to do is address the issues now before they get out of hand and that is my concern.

There are a lot of recreational issues in my riding, I will give you two examples. One is we have situations in my riding where houses are built, they are planned, approved by the Halifax Regional Municipality for zoning purposes, but no recreational facilities are designated, no playgrounds, no rec facilities, no ball fields, no rinks, et cetera. Let's face it, we have all been young once and we all must realize that at those ages, particularly between the ages of 10 and 20, we need those facilities. We need both structured and semi-structured activities that allow youth to know that they have a place to go, a place to hang out, a place they can call their own and that they know there are opportunities to enjoy themselves and to burn off a little steam. Those are not now being considered in the communities of Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage and that is a concern that I have. This is not only a municipal issue, it is also a provincial issue.

The province is the one that adopts the Municipal Government Act, the province is the one that has some authority over educational issues and I think there really must be a long-term comprehensive goal toward addressing the issue of recreational facilities within our communities. It is not there, we are letting our youth down, we are leaving them to sit on street corners and hang around corner stores and Tim Horton's, not giving them the opportunities and the potential to grow through structured and semi-structured youth programs and that is not what we have.

Again, I give examples of things like the Cole Harbour Boys and Girls Club and the other boys and girls clubs in Nova Scotia where there have been opportunities for youth to get ahead because there are programs there for them. There is not enough of them and we shouldn't only be relying on non-government organizations or at least not directly. There has to be some government support and some government leadership and that is a key word, leadership, on these issues. The other thing is education.

Again, I have a riding with a lot of children between the ages of Grades P to 6 and again there is a bubble of them that are moving up. Soon it will be junior high and we already have a junior high being built in Eastern Passage. Next it will be high school and these are issues that must be addressed now. I have seen through my own childhood growing up in Eastern Passage and Cole Harbour the problems of a lack of planning and I see it again now. I will give you one classic example; the new Eastern Passage Learning Centre - as the Armoyan Group likes to call it, I preferably call it a junior high school - it actually calls for 16 or 18 classrooms, there is room for four more classrooms to be built on. I said great, here we have a plan and the government is finally thinking forward and saying, we will ensure that when this school expands we will have room for four more classrooms.

[Page 6898]

Here is the problem, I spoke with my school board representative about this, I crunched some numbers myself, talked to the local school principals, in four years that school is going to need eight new classrooms. They built a school, designed a school and are now constructing a school that will be too small. Why on earth would a government do that? The over-crowding problems that have affected Eastern Passage, Cow Bay and Shearwater will continue. They have almost ensured, through a lack of planning, continued over-crowding problems that have been affecting my community now for 10 or 15 years and they will continue to affect my community for 10 or 15 more years unless the government is willing to address this issue on a long-term basis. Again, the key word is leadership.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Absolutely.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

MR. PETER DELEFES: Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for yielding the floor to enable me to make an introduction. We have in your west gallery this afternoon a group of 20 students from l'École Beaufort School here in Halifax, accompanied by their teacher, Madame LeBlanc and a parent, Carolyn Bourque. I would like members to extend their warm welcome to this school group this afternoon. If they would please stand. (Applause)

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I am talking about leadership on educational and recreational issues. One of the things as an MLA I hope to work toward and again, work with the community and I know the school board has already started to be proactive in this way is a high school for Eastern Passage. It is a high school that is desperately needed. This is a community of almost 10,000 people that buses its students to another community. It is something that I had to do as a youth and it is something that because of the numbers, we have always been told we do not have enough people in our community to warrant a high school, but the numbers in about four or five years will warrant a high school. I want to say for the record that I will be working with the school board representative, I will be working with the school board and the members of the community to strive and to fight for a high school in that community.

That is what it means. It means starting now, being proactive, starting in 1999 in hopes that in four or five years we will have a high school because that is when the students will be there; not waiting until we have 600 or 700 high schools students in Eastern Passage and we are busing 13 or 14 buses down the road, 15 minutes, to Cole Harbour, but working now to ensure that when that number is there and the numbers warrant it, we have a school for their needs.

[Page 6899]

I want to talk about a couple of other points, Mr. Speaker. One that has been an ongoing concern of mine, and the Minister of Natural Resources would be aware of that, that is erosion. This is not just a problem in Eastern Passage. I know that. It is a problem throughout Nova Scotia, but it is a particular problem in Eastern Passage and I will talk about it. There is a beach called two different names, Barres Beach, Noonans Beach, depending on who you talk to. It is on the outskirts of the harbour on the Dartmouth side just before you hit Hartlen Point. It is a beach that back around 1900 stretched out a quarter of a mile, about half a kilometre, into the harbour, a beautiful, long, sandy beach. That is a beach that was almost a natural breakwater to prevent the waves coming particularly when we have winds and storms from the south from hitting the shore and causing erosion.

In 1918, shortly after the Halifax Explosion, Mr. Speaker, there was a need for sand to help build the hydrostone houses in the north end of Halifax. That is a very admirable project, one that was needed, and the people of Eastern Passage and its resources were brought into use to ensure that that sand was there for the north end of Halifax. As part of that dredging of sand, that mining of sand, which today seems so ludicrous that anyone would actually support such a thing, back in 1918 that was done. That helped whittle away at the ocean's ability to get toward and it helped break down the natural breakwater that the beach had.

In the 1940's, Mr. Speaker, it was again used for the mining of sand, both for the development of CFB Shearwater during the war and my understanding is of the Halterm Terminal in Halifax. By the time 1960 came around there was no sand left and now all we have is a very rocky shoal, shallow, yes, but the breakwater is gone and through government actions in the last 100 years, both in 1918 and again permission being provided in the 1940's, 1950's, and maybe even into the early 1960's, we have a situation where that breakwater that was there was systematically removed either directly or indirectly by the government and now we have no breakwater and we have major erosion problems, problems that are forcing people in that area to reconsider whether their houses are safe.

This just is not a problem for the houses. There is a road, the Shore Road, a key piece of transportation infrastructure that goes both to the golf course in the area and to many houses, that is also being threatened. Over the last year and one-half constant questions, particularly to the Department of Natural Resources and to some extent the Departments of the Environment, Transportation and Public Works, and to the HRM, have fallen on deaf ears, Mr. Speaker. What we have with the erosion problem in Eastern Passage is the government in the last 100 years has been active in removing the sand and now is not willing to admit its part in trying to protect the houses that are being affected because that breakwater is gone. That is wrong. I will continue to fight for my residents in order to try to find a way to ensure that that breakwater, whether it be natural or whether it be artificial, be put in place to protect both the houses and the infrastructure of Eastern Passage.

[Page 6900]

Mr. Speaker, I have one other issue I do want to address and that is Ocean View Manor, which is owned by the Halifax Regional Municipality. It is a long-term care facility in Eastern Passage. It is one that I am particularly worried about. HRM has decided to sell it. That is their choice, but my concern is that it will be sold to a private sector operator for purposes of trying to help reduce the deficit or the debt of the city.

Without really looking at the rationale for why a private sector owner of that facility won't be as good as a non-profit society, we have examples of non-profit societies with the Northwood Manor. And with the Northwood Manor we have a situation, most would say, that works well, the board of directors is appointed on a yearly basis through an annual general meeting, the residents and the members of the community have an opportunity to vote, and therefore they have some say over how the operation is being dealt with.

The problem is a private sector operator may reduce the standards of care that are being provided at Ocean View Manor. This is a concern I have heard from many in my communities, both residents of Ocean View Manor, families who have residents there and general members of the community, whether they be workers or just people who live nearby. They are concerned that Ocean View Manor will be sold to the private sector and its high standards, standards that are among the highest in Nova Scotia for a long-term care facility, will be gutted, and a private sector operator will come in and have an opportunity to operate it for profit.

Mr. Speaker, I would implore this House - and through the next few weeks, I hope to raise this again in different forms through this House - that this province and this Department of Health and Department of Community Services, in whatever control it may have, put pressure on HRM to ensure that this is sold to a non-profit society so that it remains part of the community. What we have heard time and time again in this House, I think both from the government side and the Opposition benches, is that community input and community access to health care and community control of that health care is one of the key tenets to ensuring that health care is improved.

That won't happen through a private sector owner who will probably not live in the community or have any connection to the community. It can only be done through a non-profit society that is based in the community so that family members, employees and residents of Eastern Passage-Cow Bay do have some say in how the facility will be operated. They have the wherewithal, they have the foresight to try to do this. The governments, both the provincial and the city, should be working with them not working against them in an attempt to address this issue.

Mr. Speaker, I will end on those words. I hope the government will do something about Ocean View Manor. I hope they will do something about erosion. But in the long run, I hope that our youth, particularly in my riding, have an opportunity both for recreational and educational services because they desperately need them. Again, leadership is key to ensuring

[Page 6901]

that we don't turn our backs on the youth and then in 10 or 20 years, we will pay the price through increased social problems and costs that are involved. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

[2:15 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Supply with Deputy Speaker Mr. Donald Chard in the Chair.]

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

MR. SPEAKER: We have reached the moment of interruption.

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

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

EDUC. - SCHOOLS: VIOLENCE REDUCTION - EFFORTS SUPPORT

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening to speak to the motion that has been put before us this evening that reads:

"Therefore be it resolved that this House supports the effort of communities, parents and youth to reduce the level of violence in our province, and the lack of resources and opportunities for many Nova Scotia youth.".

I would say, Mr. Speaker, that I will be sharing this time with my colleague for Dartmouth South. I wanted to begin by just making a few comments that will lead into, I am sure, what he intends to say.

Mr. Speaker, today, in Question Period, the Premier said that schools should not be dealing with violent offenders. That is true, but, unfortunately, the reality is that there is violence that happens in our schools periodically and we have to recognize that our schools, whether they are elementary right through high schools, are dealing with a complex set of factors that are the result of an increasingly complex and stratified society, everything from integration programs to smoking cessation programs. They are dealing with mental health issues, with health issues, with poverty issues; all of these are now becoming part of the rubric of things that schools have to deal with.

[Page 6902]

These schools, the principals, the staff and the parents, are trying to deal as effectively as possible with these factors and, at the same time, trying to provide quality education to the students of the province. All of this with shrinking budgets, at the behest of a government that holds out as a justification the jingoism of a cut-back agenda.

The Minister of Education, like the ministers before him, likes to keep saying that we must do more with less. I must say, Mr. Speaker, that in response to this, the communities have rallied around their schools. From early times, schools and centres of education were seen as part of the building block of every community. In my riding, volunteers repair soccer fields, buy new playground equipment and raise money to equip schools with technology. They do all of these things to support a healthy learning environment. These valiant and greatly appreciated initiatives are not met with assistance, but they are met with more downloading of programs, either intentionally or unintentionally, into the schools. This has got to end.

The minister and the department have to take action now to support the efforts of communities, parents and of youth. Tomorrow, in my riding, I will attend a meeting convened at the initiative of a dedicated, concerned and responsive principal and staff of an elementary school. They are struggling with the question, how do we give the children the help that they need? To try to answer that question, they are bringing together, psychologists, community service workers, RCMP staff, professionals from the medical community, school board members, educators and they have made it clear that these are their partners. They have posed three questions to those partners: what are the concerns of each and how can the school develop a system of support to address those concerns, and where does the school go in the future?

I am not going to pre-judge what will happen at that meeting tomorrow and I will be the last to suggest that there are some pat answers to those questions because, truly, that is not the case. I would suspect that of all of those, the most difficult to answer is the last, but I want there to be no mistake, Mr. Speaker, that the schools are not running away from these difficulties. They have shouldered the burden and they are simply asking for assistance.

What needs to be done is we need to provide support for our schools. If they are going to be asked to fulfil larger roles, then we have to provide the resources to allow them to do so. The department needs to identify these concerns and they need to identify the money that is required to be provided to follow the service that is being demanded. So I ask the government to take stock now. I will be forwarding to the minister in the days to come the recommendations from that group and I will be asking for the support of those parents, principals and staff to address the demands of the system.

Mr. Speaker, with that I will be turning this over to my colleague, the honourable member for Dartmouth South.

[Page 6903]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

MR. DONALD CHARD: Mr. Speaker, there are probably as many reasons for violence in society today as there are instances of violence. There are no easy solutions to the problem. It is, as my colleague, the honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, has indicated, a complex question, but I would like to speak specifically, as my honourable colleague has done, about the problems of violence as they relate to young people and as our schools have attempted to deal with them.

I would like to draw upon some information that I came by in my experience working with home and school associations in Dartmouth and as a member of a school board. I had dealings with two situations, I had knowledge of two situations that were extremely disturbing. In one instance a student in our schools in Dartmouth was identified as having learning problems when he entered our school system. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, although his problems were identified early, there was inadequate resourcing in the system for this child to be helped immediately. There was no room in the special class for children with attention deficit problems which this youngster exhibited.

So he struggled on in a regular class for several years. Finally unable to cope any longer, he entered a program in the MacKay Unit at the Nova Scotia Hospital, a program which helped him tremendously, gave him a great deal of structure, which was much needed in his life. He came out of that program, went back into the public school system, was fortunate enough at that time to have the support of a special class. A year or two later there were cutbacks in the system. That support was ended. He ended up in such dire straits that the police had to remove him from his home. He went to the school in Truro. Again, it helped him, he was able to re-enter the system.

Mr. Speaker, we no longer have the MacKay Unit at the Nova Scotia Hospital. We no longer have that school at Truro. The schools do not have the resources to help the large number of students in difficulty and it is absolutely incumbent on us to provide our schools with the support they need. It is just not good enough, as a former Minister of Community Services told me and another school board member when we went to him to plead for help, to say, I would like to help you, but they will not let me. We have to do better than that for the youth of our system. Thank you. (Applause)

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

MR. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak for a few minutes this evening on what is becoming, unfortunately, an all too prevalent segment or portion or reflection of conditions in our society, the issue of violence and the increasing levels of it.

[Page 6904]

For many years, we tended to think that in Nova Scotia we lived a pretty serene life and that these pictures of extreme violence took place in other parts of the country, in the big cities, or even to a greater extent it was an American phenomenon that we in Canada weren't really subjected to. Unfortunately, in recent years and in particular, I guess, in most recent weeks it appears that Canadians, in particular young people, are beginning to get involved in more violence than ever before, and in some ways too often there is not a great deal of difference between what happens in our society and that in some of what I will call big cities in Canada or in the United States.

We only have to think of events that happened in Canada recently. Out in Alberta, the young person who did the shooting in Taber, and then in our own home province, the headline in this morning's paper was that there was a young person in Prince Arthur Junior High School over in Dartmouth who is in hospital in critical condition because of something that happened in a school. In addition, we had another home invasion where violence was exhibited by young people against seniors. These are perhaps symptoms of something running amok in our society that needs to be addressed.

Mr. Speaker, I think that there are a number of things that are contributing to this. I think first of all is the - and I don't like to use the word breakdown of the family, but probably the - changing pattern of the family where the family unit that used to be the very strong foundation of our society seems to be, in too many cases, eroded now. Young people are losing that sense of belonging and are not getting the inculcation of the old, what we would call, familiar family values that they used to. That is one thing.

I think a second thing, and probably perhaps worst of all, is what we see on the television screen or in the theatres. As I heard somebody comment today - and it may have been the member for Dartmouth North who said - we are in a situation, unfortunately, where violence sells. Violence sells movies, it sells television; it sells too much in this society. What people will say is it doesn't make any difference if you see that in the media, well, I tend to think it must.

The reason is very simple to me. If companies and corporations are prepared to spend millions of dollars to get their advertisement on that television, there has to be some payback for it. If the violence is exposed time and time again on the television too, that has to rub off on our population, in particular our young people. That is a problem.

I think, as well, a third thing that is sort of a prevailing feeling in our society, is the attitude that if it feels good, do it. In other words, I guess what I am trying to say is that it seems to me - and I will reflect back - that there is a greater concentration now on the individual by many people than there is in the group. I don't like to say that people are often more selfish than they have been, but I think if we were trying to describe some of the behaviour which is in violence, that it would be selfish.

[Page 6905]

[6:15 p.m.]

I should say that violence among young people is not simply restricted to violence against others. The violence against self of many young people is growing and growing. I became aware of a group of young people in Nova Scotia earlier this week, a group of six people who are basically pretty good friends and four of them had tried to do severe damage to themselves. This is a pattern and school programs and other segments of society, mental health people, are talking about the issue of violence against self. Teen suicide is quite a problem and is becoming more and more of a problem. Unfortunately, I think we have the situation of the high school in Moncton where there were about four in the last two years. I seem to recall something like that and this is another example of it.

I believe one of the things that is needed to curb this type of thing is to return to a sense of community. I think it does in many ways take a community to raise a child. It starts within the family and goes out from there that a community must take some sort of responsibility for the people that live in it. This is not happening anymore, it is changing in the pattern of our communities and with the result that the responsibility for young people, when they go astray or are not following norms, is put onto the former aspects of society. For example, we now expect the public schools to do a great deal of this in some of their programming and I guess they have to because obviously and unfortunately, the amount of violence that has been documented in the public schools is increasing substantially.

I read a statistic today that said in Canada children between the ages of 12 and 17 - and these are our school-aged youth - 2,000 young Canadians were charged with violent crimes in 1998. That is a large number and that is a Canadian figure. The NSTU has had the issue of violence in schools on its agenda for some time. The number of documented cases of the increase of violent crimes or crimes against teachers in the school is something like about 37 per cent, I believe, from about 1993 to 1996. It is a sad reflection on where we are.

I had the occasion last weekend to attend the Atlantic Crime Prevention Conference in Bible Hill on Friday evening. On their program there were two main focuses, one because this is the year of the senior, they were talking about crimes against seniors and the second portion of it was crimes by young people. These people included 350 social workers, justice workers, police officers from all over Atlantic Canada with some from other parts of Canada as well and these were topics on their agenda.

In the past year I have had three groups come to me and say, we would like to start youth centres. There are some organizations in the community that do extremely good work and I can think in my own community of the Truro Boys and Girls Club, the Big Brothers-Big Sisters, I can think of the youth groups at some of the various churches in my community, all who hold activities and provide programming for young people. I do believe that if it wasn't for these types of organizations doing these types of things, the problem might be greater than it is. I do know too, that as an MLA some of the first problems brought to me and ones which

[Page 6906]

I was most stressed about, I had phone calls from parents who were telling me that their young children or their teenagers were out of control and they didn't know what to do with them. They were pleading for help.

I can tell you that in one case it ended in tragedy, a loss of life, which really had an effect on me. In a couple of other cases the problem has not been solved. In a couple of other cases we were able to come up with some suggestions and it appears that some progress has been made, not because of anything I did other than to refer them to agencies that were able to provide the help.

A number of years ago when I was fulfilling a different role in life, I was part of a group called an Inter Agency Group. I will sit down, thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education and Culture.

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, before I begin I would like to introduce to you and through you to all members of the House two special guests in our east gallery this evening. I would ask both of them to stand. The President of the Nova Scotia School Boards Association, Margaret Forbes, and the Executive Director of the Nova Scotia School Boards Association, Mr. Frank Barteaux. I would ask to provide them our usual welcome. (Applause) A good hockey player.

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to rise in the House to debate this important issue. Like all Nova Scotians, I am concerned and saddened by any news of violence among the youth of this province. We have seen on the news the images from Taber, Alberta, and Littleton, Colorado, but when it happens close to home it is alarming and must be taken seriously. Yesterday a student at Prince Arthur Junior High in Dartmouth was the victim of a cowardly attack. Right now I am sure that all members would agree that our prayers are with the student and his family and I wish him, on behalf of all of us, a speedy and full recovery.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to report to the House that students returned to Prince Arthur Junior High this morning and classes resumed as students prepared for the end of the school year. There was also a team of counsellors on hand to provide comfort to students and teachers and to allow them to deal with their grief. This is just one step the Halifax Regional School Board has undertaken to deal with this incident.

The school board is also communicating with parents of all students, to make sure they are aware of the incident and that there are services available for their children. The school board and the staff in the school are doing everything within their power to return things to normal as quickly as possible. We have highly qualified teachers and administrators in all our schools. I applaud each and every one of them for the job they do every day in the classrooms of Nova Scotia.

[Page 6907]

It is interesting to note that many parents of students in this school are treating yesterday's assault as an isolated event. They consider this to be something which is a rare occurrence. This by no means lessens the severity of this incident but it does indicate that parents at this school feel their children are safe when they are in class.

This is what it comes down to; if our students and teachers feel safe then they can do what they do best, students can learn and teachers can teach. Without question, Mr. Speaker, the government has a role to play in ensuring our schools, our playgrounds, our communities are places where we can work and play without fear for our safety. In our school we must work day and night to make sure our students and teachers are safe. We must work with our school boards and our education partners to share ideas and best practices. Where needed, we must be willing to commit the resources and to roll up our sleeves and get the job done.

This is the case in a number of programs. For example, in each of the past two years our Department of Education and the Halifax Regional School Board have provided funding for the League of Peaceful Schools initiative. This program was created in 1997 to support and recognize schools in Nova Scotia which are committed in promoting a safe and positive learning environment for their students. The League is under the direction of Mrs. Hetty van Gurp, Principal of William King Elementary School here in Halifax, and has more than 130 schools registered across the province, schools from Port La Tour to Donkin and at many points in between, and the number grows daily.

Schools belonging to the League take an active approach to dealing with violence and conflict, particularly to promote peer mediation, a proven intervention strategy. For example, when staff noticed that bullying was becoming a concern at Victoria Middle School in Westville, they organized a one-day student conference on bullying. At Leslie Thomas Junior High in Lower Sackville, Mr. Speaker, students are rewarded for promoting a positive school climate with a RAD award, meaning Random Acts of Distinction. Each of these schools is taking the responsibility to make sure their school is a safe place to learn and teach. We must continue to encourage their efforts and lend a helping hand where we can.

Mr. Speaker, even though there is some great work being done in schools across this province, there is still work to be done. Two years ago, we asked our school boards to partner with us and develop proposals to reduce violence and promote a positive school climate. As a department, we provide start-up funds to assist schools in developing their proposals and asked that they involve parents, students, educators and communities. From this request, a number of projects were approved, implemented and then evaluated.

Staff of the department worked hand-in-hand with each of these schools to produce A Best Practices report and video, which will be shared and promoted with school boards across the province. This report and video will be released before the end of this month and I will be providing a copy of both to all members of this House so they can develop a good understanding of some of the great work taking place in the classrooms of Nova Scotia.

[Page 6908]

Our school boards have undertaken considerable work to develop crisis intervention plans and to train teams to respond when called upon. This ensures that students and staff receive support when necessary.

Mr. Speaker, this morning, the Halifax Regional Police charged a student in connection with yesterday's assault, and I understand their investigation continues. In the meantime, we must make sure public confidence in the way that our justice system deals with young offenders remains high. In speaking with my colleague, the Minister of Justice, I understand Nova Scotia is ready to launch the Restorative Justice Program, a program aimed at youth between the ages of 12 and 17, which will begin as early as this fall in some areas around this province. Restorative Justice actively involves the victim, offender and members of the community in examining the crime and its impact on the individual and the community.

The meeting helps those involved understand the nature of the crime, the real consequences to the other parties and of the steps needed to make amends. The meeting concludes with the party agreeing to a plan outlining how the offender will make amends. This could include monetary payments, service to the victim, community service, or any other measure agreed upon by the parties.

This is by no means the entire answer, Mr. Speaker, and in many cases the nature or severity of the crime might rule out Restorative Justice. This approach does, however, mirror the approach adopted by many schools to be active in dealing with issues of violence and conflict.

Mr. Speaker, let me make it clear, violence in our schools, in our streets and in our communities is not acceptable at any time. Not now. Not later. Not ever. We must do everything in our power to keep our school peaceful and safe to all students and to all groups. We will continue to work with our school boards and partners like the Nova Scotia Teachers Union and the Nova Scotia School Boards Association, to make sure students and staff feel safe.

Taber and Littleton and, yesterday, Prince Arthur Junior High, have brought the issue of safety to the attention of the media, but I assure you it has always been, and will remain, a top priority of our government. Thank you. (Applause)

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

[6:45 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:

[Page 6909]

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

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Public Bills for Second Reading.

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 113, the Financial Measures (1999) Act.

Bill No. 113 - Financial Measures (1999) Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on the second reading of a very critical and crucial part of our budget. The Financial Measures (1999) Act does several things. First and foremost, it establishes the Health Investment Fund. This fund allows our health care system to do two important initiatives.

First, it gives the current system a bit of breathing room. It allows the hospitals and the health boards two years to establish stable funding for them and to develop new plans and initiatives. Secondly, Mr. Speaker, it provides the investment funds needed to change the rate of growth of the health care system.

Let me make it very clear. The current rate of growth of health care cannot continue and it will not continue. Eleven per cent is unsustainable. No government can allow this situation to go on. We have a choice. We can manage health care and health care spending or it will manage us. We have chosen to manage the growth. We have chosen to make the investments that will slow down the rate of growth in health care.

The precise details, Mr. Speaker, will be developed with our health care partners, but it should be no surprise that we know we can invest more in technologies that will help us manage care more efficiently and more effectively. We can invest in training to help nurses

[Page 6910]

take on more responsibility. We can invest in new care that will allow people to leave the high cost acute care hospital beds and move to more lower cost continuing care or home care.

Mr. Speaker, this all makes good sense. Our problem has been that we have not had the flexibility to make the investments that are needed for health care. When we took office, the government's day-to-day spending was way out of control, back in 1993. When we took office, our economy was shrinking and not growing and that was clear to everyone. When we took office, the federal government started taking money out of the health care system in our province and across the board.

In fact, in the Province of Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, they took a total of some $340 million between 1995-96 to 1998-99, but that was then. This is now. Today we have a budget balanced everywhere with the exception of health care. Today we have an economy that is growing and expanding rapidly. Today the federal government is putting at least some money back into the health care system. So, today, we have the opportunity, today we have the challenge, to do the things that we know we should do as a government, but we are doing it in a very prudent fashion. We are not mortgaging our children's children. We are taking out a short-term loan, as it were, and promising to start paying and making payments right away. In 12 or 13 years time we will show that we are not turning this debt over to the next generation, or our children's generation, but, in fact, the mortgage will be fully paid off.

Mr. Speaker, allow me a few moments to go through this bill clause by clause to deal with a number of issues that have arisen.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Finance, we are on the principles of the bill. Clause by clause comes when we get into Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

MR. DOWNE: Yes, Mr. Speaker. With the indulgence of the House it has been a tradition for some ministers to actually go through the clause by clause to inform the House of the intent of the bill.

MR. SPEAKER: General principles by section, if you will, is fine.

AN HON. MEMBER: Don't use the clause numbers.

MR. DOWNE: All right. (Interruptions)

ANOTHER HON. MEMBER: Carry on. Carry on.

MR. DOWNE: I want to compliment the members of the House for their intent (Interruptions)

[Page 6911]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I want to compliment the members of the House for being cooperative, as they normally are. I would like to go through . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Some principles.

MR. DOWNE: . . . some principles dealing with a number of issues that have arisen over the short period of time.

First of all, this is an ominous bill. It implies and implements all the budgetary measures (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. DOWNE: Some amendments to the Act, section number 2, we see amendments to the Costs and Fees Act . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. DOWNE: This amendment removes some of the archaic language. It talks about one-third of the sheriff's fees being paid over to the consolidated fund. This practice has not actually existed for years in this province, in fact all the money has been paid into the consolidated fund for many years, and this amendment simply reflects current practices.

Section 3, that is the substantive amendment. This amendment has the effect of ending the practice of setting some probate court fees by way of regulation. Later on in this bill, we will establish a fee schedule in legislation. This measure is required because we want to preserve the sliding fee schedule. We currently charge on an estate worth $1 million more than one that is worth $5,000. We feel very clearly there should be a sliding rate with regard to the estate size. However, a recent court case in Ontario suggests the need to have it enshrined such a regime in legislation. The court ruling suggests that a fee schedule implemented by regulation should simply be a cost-recovery measure.

Mr. Speaker, let me be clear, our probate fees overall are basically on a cost-recovery system. It is just that the small estates do not cover all the costs and that is made up by the fees on the larger estates. Again, we believe this is fair and we can maintain this practice by passing this amendment.

Clause 4, or section 4 to section 7 . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Principles.

[Page 6912]

MR. DOWNE: Principle 4 to principle 7 . . .

MR. SPEAKER: I don't want to coach the honourable minister and I know it is not necessary, but when you speak of, for instance, part 3 or part 4, you can speak in general terms about what that particular part accomplishes or endeavours to do; however, you cannot refer specifically to the clause.

MR. DOWNE: Principle 4 to principle 7 is part of the effort to encourage business growth generally, and specifically in the areas outside urban Halifax. The legislation in principle 4 extends the equity tax credit for an additional four year term.

Mr. Speaker, this credit gives investors in active small businesses an incentive through our tax system. We recognize the fact that small businesses can be risky. We recognize it as a fact that these ventures need capital, and one of the biggest problems we are hearing across the province for small businesses is the ability to access venture capital. This is what we are doing in this particular piece of legislation, allowing that to continue to grow and to be able to find venture capital for our small businesses that all of us in this House agree needs to be done.

The equity tax credit meets the need head-on by offering a tax credit; a 30 per cent of an eligible investment is returned in the form of a credit against provincial income taxes up to a set limit. To date, more than 200 businesses have been helped by more than 2,000 investors in this fashion. I believe the amount of investment has been in excess of $25 million to help small businesses in Nova Scotia.

As word gets out, this message is clear. The opportunity for small businesses to be able to access venture capital by Nova Scotians for Nova Scotians. We think it is a measure that could be used to even greater efforts outside the Halifax area. So, it is the key part of the enterprise zones policy. This legislation sets out the framework for the establishing of the enterprise zones through regulations. Initially, it is our intention to give this edge in some tax policies to all areas outside the Halifax-Dartmouth-Bedford-Sackville area. For the equity tax credit, it means a 35 per cent increase instead of a 30 per cent credit.

Mr. Speaker, with respect to principle 8, I want to make one issue very clear. This principle establishes the legislative authority for the province to assume the debts of the health boards and hospitals. This is a critical budget measure. It explicitly states that this debt shall be assumed as an exception to the Expenditure Control Act. Everyone seems to think it is a good thing for us to assume this debt. They say it is the right time to do it. Well, this amendment will be able to make it a reality. Without this amendment, the Expenditure Control Act would require us to recover the extra spending within two years. We do not intend to inflict such a requirement upon the health care system or any other part of the public sector.

[Page 6913]

It leaves the main intent of the legislation intact. Outside the Health Investment Fund, budgets and budget balances will remain. I would hope that the honourable members opposite would make their views known on this bill during the debate. I would hope that they do not just simply criticize. I would hope the Opposition would make everyone aware of the position they have taken on each one of these measures.

To be very clear about this, I ask this question. Do the honourable members opposite favour balanced budgets? Do they favour making limited, one time exception for the debts of the boards and the hospitals as well as some flexibility in making critical health care investments? Do they believe that the rest of government must stay in balance while we solve the problems? Where do the other Parties stand? We need to know. The people of Nova Scotia need to know how they stand in each one of those very important questions.

Mr. Speaker, let me move to some other principles of this bill. Principle 9 is a technical amendment to clarify the intent of legislation establishing the manufacturing and processing investment tax credits. Businesses may renounce the credit if they wish. This amendment clears up the issue with respect to the timing and when that will take place.

Principle 10 is a technical issue. Our Provincial Income Tax Act is kept relatively simple by making references to the federal Act. For this to work, two Acts must be kept up to date and they must be kept in harmony. This amendment harmonizes our Act to keep in step with the recent changes in the federal budget.

Principle 11 makes a significant improvement to our tax assistance for those on low incomes. As many honourable members realize and will remember, when the HST was brought forward in this House, the sales tax changes were a part of an overall program. For all taxpayers, we had a reduction in the income tax rate by 2 percentage points. For low income taxpayers, we enhanced our low income tax reduction program and for those who made so little they paid no income taxes at all, we introduced the Direct Assistance Program. At that time, Revenue Canada was unable to help us use the tax system to deliver this program but it has become more flexible and we are now moving in that direction. This legislation will allow us to deliver the tax reduction to more people in a more effective and efficient way. The only application requirement next year will be a simple tax return, the same return currently filled out by people who received the federal GST credit or Child Tax Benefit.

At the same time as we are streamlining the delivery of this program, we are enhancing the benefits. Under our HST credit program students and those on social assistance will be eligible. In total, we now estimate 105,000 Nova Scotians will be eligible for this credit.

Principle 12 is another measure under the enterprise zones initiative. This principle extends the small business tax holiday from three years to five years for small business corporations in the enterprise zone. Principle 13 is an enterprise zone measure two, it simply

[Page 6914]

extends the ceiling on the equity tax credit when the investors put money into a company in an enterprise zone. Principle 14 is another enterprise zone measure. This one will help the film production operations outside the Halifax urban metropolitan area.

[7:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, we have a tremendous opportunity in this province. The creativity of Nova Scotians is evident in many communities across this province. The investment film tax credit will encourage more film activity around Nova Scotia.

Principle 15 is another technical tax issue to harmonize our definition and wording with that of the federal rules. Principle 16 is our new digital media tax credit. This is an exciting new development for us, as a province. We have seen growth of this sector in Quebec and in Ontario. The industry here has done well in Halifax and in Sydney but we want it to do even better, Mr. Speaker. With this tax credit we can help this rapidly expanding sector grow even faster.

I want to say that we are already in discussions with the industry on what areas should be supported. Because of this need of consultation, we are leaving some of the definitions open to regulation. I would also say this approach is wise, given the rapidly changing nature of the digital media industry. Regulations will allow us to meet the changing requirements more rapidly. On the other hand, I want to stress the fact that the tax rate itself of 15 per cent is enshrined in legislation.

Principle 17 is another technical issue to harmonizing our legislation with new practices by Revenue Canada. Principle 18 is another part of our move, recognizing the fact that some of our probate fees are, in fact, by the definition of the Ontario Court, taxes and, therefore, should be in legislation. Again, Mr. Speaker, to all members of the House and to Nova Scotians, no increases in revenue are expected. This is simply a move to put the sliding fee structure into the proper place.

Principle 19 is at the heart of the legislation before us here today. It sets up an accountability framework and a repayment plan for the Health Investment Fund. Mr. Speaker, this legislation sets out the terms of the fund for three years. It sets out the payment schedule for money going into the fund. The legislation clearly states that the Minister of Health administers the fund. It also clearly states the criteria he must use when examining proposals for the use of this money. In effect, the Minister of Health and his staff will examine each proposal and lay out a business plan before recommending an expenditure. All of this has become public through a report that will not only be made public to all Nova Scotians, but, in fact, will be tabled in this House. Everything will be transparent. All members will be able to judge the investments we make and all Nova Scotians will be able to judge for themselves exactly the direction in which we are going with health care.

[Page 6915]

I would also mention at this point that principle 34G has a technical flaw in the drafting of that document. I want to clear up the amendment to that today. My amendment will make it very clear that the Auditor General shall provide . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order. We are getting out of order here. We are in second reading and you can indicate when the bill is wrapping up, that you will be suggesting amendments in the Law Amendments Committee but certainly you cannot do so on second reading, unless you are going to move a dilatory motion of some kind for a hoist or referral to a committee or what have you.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I will, with your indulgence, indicate that I will be moving an amendment to clarify an issue within the statement that the Auditor General, in fact, will be responsible to the House, not the Minister of Finance and Minister of Health, respectively.

For each regional health board the hospital will continue to receive a budget, as voted by this House, and they will be able to spend the money without further authorization. In addition, they may receive money from the Health Investment Fund. After the project is approved, no further approvals will be required. On the other hand, if they decide to go beyond their budgets and go beyond the payments from the Health Investment Fund, they must go into debt and that is another matter. The point is we are absorbing the debts of the boards and we intend to solve the problems of the past. We do not intend to allow a major debt to build up and allow it to happen again.

This legislation simply ensures that the debt build-up does not reoccur without a clear written authority by the Minister of Finance. If the boards are within budget, they are fully within their rights to purchase supplies and equipment. It is only if they wish to borrow that the Minister of Finance must be informed. I think that is a reasonable requirement and most of the taxpayers would agree that we need to make sure we manage.

This legislation lays out a clear plan for the repayment and let me lay out those conditions. First and foremost, there is a legal requirement to repay no later than the year 2012-13. Secondly, there is a clear statement on how this will be accomplished. Budgetary surpluses will be fully dedicated to the repayment. All net Sable royalties will be dedicated to repayment. Finally, if these measures are not enough and quite frankly, we do not expect them to be, we will then allow for principal payment through the budgetary process.

I do not know how we can be any clearer on the issue than this. If something happens such as the Sable royalties are less than projected, the gap will be made up on principal payments regardless of what happens with Sable. The fund will be fully paid no later than the year 2012-13.

[Page 6916]

Finally, we have authority to pass regulations that may enhance the operations of this fund. For instance, we will seek input from those outside the health system. It may be useful to put this consultative process in your regulations. We may seek advice from those outside the system. Regulations would allow us to formalize such a role if that would become useful to the process.

This brings me to the conclusion of these remarks and I will listen closely to the comments of the honourable members with regard to the debate on this issue, but I think all honourable members should realize that the principles of this bill are critical to the future of the health care system in the Province of Nova Scotia. We believe the investment approach we have developed, with the full health care sector representatives, is the best opportunity to help put the health care system today on the right track and tomorrow for the long-term stability of this province. With those comments I move second reading of Bill No. 113. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to rise and address the principle of Bill No. 113, the Financial Measures (1999) Act. This bill is the centrepiece of the budget that was delivered on June 1, 1999. In fact, the Liberal Government has already spent nearly $80,000 on election advertising to hype this bill, after spending $17,000 on the false boasts that the budget was balanced for the past three years. You will remember headlines reporting, Province Records Third Consecutive Balanced Budget.

Bill No. 113 includes several measures that the New Democratic Party supports and which would be enacted by an NDP Government. We support the new multi-media tax credit. We endorse the principle of the better tax credits for areas of real economic need. We welcome smoother delivery of the HST credit, though it won't start for a year. I should note that according to the briefing provided in the budget lock-up, the higher non-metro tax credits will only cost $1 million a year, far less in fact than is being cut out of the roads budget. At best, this is a symbolic recognition of the situation facing most communities in our province. We can also endorse, subject to further representation, the housekeeping measures that are included in Bill No. 113. However, we cannot endorse the scheme in Clause 8 to try to justify the phoney Liberal claim that there were three consecutive years of balanced budgets.

Mr. Speaker, a private business that admitted that it had failed to report $226 million of previous spending would require a reconciliation. It would restate the previous year's results. There would be a new set of financial statements. There would be a honest statement of the financial results for each of the last three years.

Mr. Speaker, even the Buchanan Government would have presented a new set of financial statements. Even John Buchanan would have told this Legislature how much money was actually spent in the previous two years. The former Conservative Ministers who sit in

[Page 6917]

the House today can confirm that their government presented the true state of the previous year's spending in the Estimates Book, with detailed information so that Nova Scotians and this House could compare past performance with present promises, but not this government. Oh, no. These Liberals are too good to tell the truth. They are so arrogant that they want to be given general absolution without ever going to confession.

This government wants the Legislature to excuse them from the obligation of ever having to tell the truth.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I dislike the rather loose use of the word truth. I think, perhaps, the context in which the honourable member is using the word is okay, but it is just not right to accuse . . .

MR. CHISHOLM: You are right, Mr. Speaker. It is a very troubling situation facing this Legislature. This government wants to tie the Auditor General's hands as much as humanly possible, by passing a law which states that the financial statements need never honestly and accurately report what has actually been spent during those three so-called balanced budget years.

The Premier is fond of asking Nova Scotians to trust him. Trust me, he said, when he promised 37 times in one debate that he would balance the budget. Now he says, trust me about this legislation, which would rewrite history and require that major spending on health care never be reported honestly to Nova Scotians. Mr. Speaker, if the government will not keep the promises that they made a short year ago, why should Nova Scotians ever trust these Liberals again? Money spent on the operations, under the control and direction of Cabinet, such as money spent by the health care system, should be reported to the House and, thereby, to all Nova Scotians, honestly and straightforwardly, in the estimates of revenue and expenditure and then again in the Public Accounts.

Debts incurred, explicit and implicit, with the explicit and implicit approval of government should appear on the books when those debts are undertaken, Mr. Speaker, not be snuck in the back door two or three years later under the cloak of a special rule like that in Clause 8. No exceptions. No excuses. No detours. No special rules for governments or for Premiers who are struck silent by the topic of balancing the budget. Clause 8 amounts to rewriting the law after it has been broken; not good enough, I say. The Legislature should not rewrite a law after it has been broken by the government and broken so brazenly.

Mr. Speaker, the Legislature should not excuse and absolve, with one clause in Bill No. 113, every single claim that a Liberal has made in the last three years that they balanced the budget. The spending happened. The debts are now part of the consolidated debt. The government should be big enough to admit the truth and tell the truth, instead of trying to wave the magic wand in the form of Clause 8 of Bill No. 113.

[Page 6918]

Mr. Speaker, even if this government is unwilling or unable to honestly present an honest budget, in a minority situation this Legislature really does have the final, last word.

[7:15 p.m.]

Bill No. 113 contains another section, authorizing another $600 million of debt, giving the Finance Minister unprecedented control over the health care system but without even establishing a schedule for the repayment of that debt as, for example, is done with the use of sinking funds to ensure repayment of bonds or even the 20 year schedule for P3 schools, Mr. Speaker. You see, this will be a debt like those that were run up by the Buchanan Government, the Cameron Government and the Savage Government. The only difference is that Bill No. 113 creates the convenient fiction that this debt really does not exist; this mortgage is in limbo, it is out there in never-never land.

Bill No. 113 also binds future governments and future Legislatures ever tighter in a web of debt that has entangled this province since 1978. Mr. Speaker, this is absolutely incredible. The only accomplishment - if we will go that far - that the Liberals were given some credit for during their first five years in power was their effort to balance the budget. It was wasteful, it was cruel, it was misdirected, it broke every promise the Liberals ever made. Health care took the biggest hit with tens of millions of dollars spent to get rid of nurses, doctors, hospital beds and of hospitals themselves. People felt that if the Liberals had one clear goal - and many can find no evidence of any consistent goal from this government, only excuses for Liberal mistakes, but if there was one goal - it was a balanced budget; the opportunity to fund new services without piling more debt on future generations.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians are saying that the Liberals might not be able to deliver health care, and they can't. The Liberals might be creating an unequal and top-heavy school system, and that, in fact, is what they have done. The Liberals might be turning rural Nova Scotia into pothole paradise, and there is no other way to describe the road conditions throughout this province. The Liberals might have turned their back on Cape Breton, on Yarmouth and on the other fine communities that are the heart and soul of Nova Scotia and communities have been abandoned from one end of this province to the other. At least it seemed true that the Liberals were committed to balancing the budget. Well, the last scrap of Liberal credibility was shredded by this budget and Bill No. 113 is the shredding machine.

The Budget Speech actually boasted that this is a mortgage. It amounts to legislative authority to run a deficit of $248 million this year, a deficit next year and a deficit the year after. As someone said on Budget Day, isn't this what the Liberals say the NDP would do? Remember those credit card ads, Mr. Speaker, that we saw during the last campaign? It was the fiscally responsible Liberals cutting up the credit card but watch out, said the ads, elect anyone else and the debts will start to climb.

[Page 6919]

Nova Scotians have learned who are the real shopaholics. People now know who wants to run that credit card way up past the agreed-upon limit. The Liberals promised major new health care spending on a pay-as-you-go basis in the last campaign. The Premier appeared time and time again on real pretty TV ads to promise all good things, thanks to the Liberal's balanced budgets.

Now they admit their platform was false. They admit that none of it was accurate, Mr. Speaker. They have found the enemy of health care and that enemy is the Liberals themselves. It is the Premier who says, "We have to save our health care.".

Yes, Mr. Speaker, we have to save our health care. We have to save it from the Liberals. Six years of promises to provide quality care; six years of assurances that new community-based services were opening up; six years of commitments that the QE II merger, the regional health boards and all other Liberal measures were building a new wellness-centred system; six years of claims that hospital workers, nurses and doctors supported this government's goals; and six years of speeches saying that the Liberal Government had turned the corner and was now ready to open up new health care services.

Mr. Speaker, it was the one-plank platform. The Premier said, "We're putting money into health care. We're saying it's a priority. It's a priority because we have the money. We have the ability to improve health care, pay as we go.". The Premier promised that, "Through good financial management in this province we have the money to put into health care.".

Mr. Speaker, the government said in its last Speech from the Throne 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 . . . Increased investment in health care . . .".

Mr. Speaker, this government will say anything. Why should Nova Scotians believe them now? That is the question. (Applause)

Listen to the employees at the QE II. They are at ground zero for Liberal health policy. Eighty per cent say that the quality of patient care is at risk; 80 per cent of employees at the QE II say the quality of patient care is at risk. Only 20 per cent believe there is enough emphasis on direct patient care. Half find that paperwork is keeping them away from patient care, and as more of that employee survey comes to light we will see just what the employees think of the massive hospital merger that has consumed at least $100 million.

You see, the merger is part of the problem, not the solution. It was a merger initiated by this government, and it has added to costs and to confusion. It is this government's own health care decisions that are one of the greatest burdens on the front-line worker. This government is perhaps the biggest barrier to quality health care in the Province of Nova

[Page 6920]

Scotia. Just go to the regions, as our Party has done, and you hear the same story. The problems were created by this Liberal Government, people say, and now the Liberals have the arrogance to come along and cry "save health care".

You know this bill piles more debt on the health care system with no pay-back plan. Debt service costs were already a bigger burden in Nova Scotia than in any other province, yet the Liberals do not know and will not say where the borrowed money will go. They do not know how they will pay it back; they do not know what the outcome of that borrowing will be. Long-term care is just one example, but one good example.

You see, the government admits that they do not know how many staff, how many nurses, or how many new beds it will take to meet Nova Scotians' needs for long-term care services; they do not know in what parts of the province the needs are the greatest; they do not know who will make those decisions, but they do know the final approval rests with the pencil sharpeners in the Finance Department. They also know that this bill does not even describe or require the much promised consultation that once again has been promised by the Liberals.

Mr. Speaker, good management means planning ahead, anticipating change, forecasting needs and being ready to negotiate collective agreements. But why should any of us believe that the Liberals can suddenly pull off a well thought out plan for health care after six years of expensive mistakes? Why should this Legislature approve the principle of borrow now and ask questions later?

Another $600 million in debt, which will bring the debt to $10 billion before this bill takes full effect. No plan for how that money will be spent. No explanation of the money that has already been allocated from the borrowing. No explanation of the outcomes that are to be achieved. No explanation of why a $248 million deficit is necessary this year. Is this the best this Liberal Government can do? Is this all there is?

How are future governments bound? How are future governments bound by this bill? Let me tell you that if one takes the bill at its word, if the Legislature in the year 2010 is facing major health care needs, it will not be able to use Sable gas royalties to meet emerging health care needs, because this bill has spent that money before it was ever earned. If one takes this bill at its word, the Legislature is boxed into deficit financing until the year 2002.

Mr. Speaker, let's assume there is another major worldwide shakeup in oil and gas similar to those in the 1970's. What happens to this bill if the world economy unfolds in a way that is not foreseen in 1999 by Merlin the Magician, in a way that he doesn't foresee in his crystal ball and that only unfolds long after he has gone back home to the farm? What if a Republican administration in the U.S. tumbles the North American economy back into a recession? We know there is no payback schedule, we also know that there is no fall-back plan in case anything else happens.

[Page 6921]

The Financial Measures Act that arose from the 1998 budget was only called for debate long after the budget itself had been approved, because it contained only a few positive changes that had all-Party support and some housekeeping measures. We supported that bill, apparently to the everlasting consternation of the 11 Progressive Conservative MLAs who also supported it. We supported it because it was positive legislation and we have always stood ready to cooperate and make this minority situation work.

Let me be clear when I say this, MLAs are not elected or re-elected on the basis of their ability to hold their noses and break their promises. We aren't here simply to get along with one another, regardless of the consequences. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: We are not here to approve a $600 million mortgage that would put even more money into the hands of Liberals who have wasted every single opportunity to make sure that health care is there when Nova Scotians need it. We have no assurance that the Auditor General's report on the mortgage will be public. We do know that the bill ties his hands in some significant ways.

Eight days after the budget came down, the Premier, Minister of Health and Minister of Finance have still failed to produce any figures to justify the claims they made in the budget about health care spending, with or without the mortgage.

[7:30 p.m.]

Their only plan is a public relations plan, Mr. Speaker. It is obvious that they have been briefed to make sure that they never, ever, under any circumstances, give Nova Scotians the straight goods about how much has been spent on what by the Health Department. You see, it is a multi-year mortgage, but with no multi-year projections.

The budget documents say that the time for consulting and planning has gone by. Then the lack of plans is justified by the Health Minister and the lack of plans is justified by Liberal ministers' claims that there must be consultation. Yesterday, we saw the amazing feat of the Minister of Health actually switching in mid-stream, from praising the lack of a plan to demanding that we support the plan. You see, it is all spin. There is no substance here whatsoever.

Mr. Speaker, the government will not even tell Nova Scotians how much future revenue is going to be tied up in paying this mortgage. (Interruptions) I will say this again so the Minister of Economic Development, who is having a lot to say, will hear this. The government won't even tell Nova Scotians how much future revenue is going to be tied up in paying this mortgage. They are asking Nova Scotians to forget the Buchanan debt, forget the six years of broken Liberal health promises, and sign a blank cheque of another $600

[Page 6922]

million loan. I will tell you, we will not sign that blank cheque. The NDP caucus will not take such an irresponsible step. (Interruptions)

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

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, in June, in July, in August or any other month of the year, this bill doesn't look any better on a warm summer day than it would look in May or September.

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you something else. We are not putting our finger to the wind to try to craft some polling question that will provide an answer that justifies whatever short-term goal we have in mind. You see, we think that Nova Scotians are sick of that arrogant, Liberals-know-best, public relations approach that we have seen for so long.

Mr. Speaker, if it is true that Nova Scotia must go deeply into debt simply to maintain health care during the short burst of Sable gas construction activity, then whoever governs this province faces some tough decisions. To gain public understanding and support for hard decisions requires honesty, genuine participation and a significant degree of community control. This government offers none of the above.

Mr. Speaker, this morning in Sydney, I had the opportunity to outline another approach rather than that which Bill No. 113 mandates. Our Party is ready to submit that different approach to Nova Scotians for their judgement, whenever the occasion presents itself.

Mr. Speaker, I want you and all members of this House to remember that exchange in the 1999 Leaders' debate, when the Conservative Leader asked if the Premier would resign should the budget not be balanced. The answer then was seven seconds of silence. Now the Conservative Leader can answer the question himself. If the last Conservative line in the sand is erased, the Liberal-Tory coalition will survive. Should that happen, our Party will be ready with amendments to try and salvage something from the wreckage that this bill would create. If this bill is defeated, we are prepared to face the consequences. The New Democratic Party will be voting against Bill No. 113. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.

MR. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise tonight to talk on the principle of Bill No. 113. This is definitely different than any bill that I think we have seen before because obviously the government has come through with a new invention, which is the Health Investment Fund, which is the major thrust of this bill. When I look at it there are actually a few components to it other than that. I will start on those because some of these initiatives are things that our caucus has been pushing for. I look at things that our Critic for Economic Development and Tourism, the honourable member for Digby-Annapolis, has been pushing this government to move along with, initiatives such as the film industry tax credit.

[Page 6923]

This bill does bring in an initiative which is good, which increases it, not to the levels that we would have like to have reached. However, it does come two-thirds of the way, from 32 per cent to 37.5 per cent. The industry was requesting a 40 per cent tax credit to make Nova Scotia competitive with other provinces. The industry was concerned that this may have a negative effect and especially transfer businesses to other provinces. So this is an initiative we are very pleased with.

I look at another initiative that is in this bill which creates an extension of the small business tax deduction, which is in designated areas or these business investment zones, the enterprise zones I think they call them, which is going to be going from 3 years to 5 years. I think a lot of times tax credits, in my own estimation, is a good way of going. We look at different initiatives and too often, Mr. Speaker, we have been here in Question Period asking questions of the honourable Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. I must say, we might be asking questions but we don't get answers very often. Oftentimes it is whether or not we are putting money into different companies.

I am a strong proponent that sometimes you put your money where your mouth is. A lot of people are coming forward and asking for assistance from the government without putting a whole lot of equity into it. Every so often there may come a time that, as a government, you make that leap of faith. You have an entrepreneur who may not have the capital or the resources available to him that he could put in place a new business. However, Mr. Speaker, there are times when I, as a member, and I am sure all members here would have an open mind, if the process is done in an open way and it is somehow removed from government so that we have objective people looking at it, whereby we do make a leap of faith.

There are areas of this province where I think all members would support some government involvement. That may be in my area, Mr. Speaker, but it probably would be in other areas of the province where unemployment is higher, whether that be in areas such as Cape Breton or Cumberland or Guysborough or whatever, it makes no difference. I think all members of this House want this province to prosper and be economically stimulated by government to the extent that it should be.

When I say that, Mr. Speaker, there is a role for government. One thing I learned in the past is the same thing as when I speak to my kids, you can't be all things to all people. Government has to find a role. I think that is difficult sometimes because people expect governments to be all things and when people come to government, for no matter what initiative, they often look for government to always say yes.

I have had the opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to be in the government benches and have people come forward to me and oftentimes, I will be candid, you want to believe if someone comes forward with a proposal, I think that most of us would like to have those initiatives work because if they do create jobs in areas that require those type of initiatives, then I think

[Page 6924]

that it is something that we want to believe. Oftentimes we have made leaps of faith and they have succeeded in some instances and other ones they have not.

I have to say right off the bat that we have been disappointed in the way the Department of Economic Development and Tourism has been forthcoming with answers. If I said anything other than that, I think I would be remiss. We have been looking for answers in regard to Sysco and getting information on that. Our Leader has been looking for information in that regard and whether it was the Mac Timber deal, I state again that our Critic for Economic Development has been asking for answers and we have not had them. Those are the types of things that I believe, when we were discussing these types of initiatives, these tax credits and so forth, we sometimes forget that a lot of the other initiatives do not come from tax credits, they come from major insertions of capital by the provincial government. When they fail, Mr. Speaker, people's faith sometimes in government is shaken.

The minister sometimes speaks about the percentage rate, about how many good deals there are and how many bad deals. Well, some of those percentages may include Michelin. I tend to think that Michelin is a relatively solvent company. So when you take it into that, whether or not it is taking a risk factor, that often begs the question as to whether or not when you are figuring out percentages, on what percentages, or whether they are taken on the total investment, or whether they are taken on the number of companies they are dealing with. Those are things, when the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism gets up to debate this bill, I am sure he will be more than willing to share with us in the House.

Other initiatives in that department that I really should make some small mention of, and I think that they are good initiatives, and one of which is in regard to the equity tax credit which is being extended to 2005 with an increase in percentages from 30 per cent to 35 per cent. These are small percentages but, Mr. Speaker, I still believe that it is in the right direction. The last one that was in that field was the interaction of digital media tax credits. My understanding of this field is rather limited although I had the opportunity to speak to people in the field. They feel that this is a growing industry and it is one, as a government, that if we give some initiatives, that maybe Nova Scotia can grow in its successes in the information technology field.

These are initiatives that I feel are good because people will have to put their monies up front. They will have to make these companies work and these tax credits are a partnership between government and the private sector whereby, hopefully, we can bring people here without large insertions of capital monies up front. Mr. Speaker, there have been some examples, especially in this field, that have not succeeded. I am not going to get to all the specifics because I think that it is beyond what I want to talk about on this bill, but I do want to make mention that these types of credits, I believe, are the way that government should look more in the future because I think that is a good incentive for people to find whether or not they have to find capital on their own, or through venture capital. I think that those are

[Page 6925]

the types of initiatives that we should be re-examining as a government because that is the direction we want to go.

To go back to the major initiative of this bill, Mr. Speaker, you could talk about the 34 or 35 clauses, I do not know how many there are in here, I forget the exact number. (Interruption) I will take a look. There are 34 clauses and we are in a situation that the major initiative, no matter what happens, is the creation of the Health Investment Fund. We have to ask ourselves for what reason the fund was created. No matter how you look at it, that is the basic question. When I look at the situation here that we are creating a fund of over $600 million, that is an amazing amount of funds that the public is going to be entrusting to any government to spend at any one time. We have asked in this House during the estimates debates about how the fund was thought of, whose initiative was it? Was it an initiative of the Department of Finance? Was it an initiative of the Department of Health and we get different answers depending on who we speak to. But I will say that we have some concerns in regard to where the amount was derived from. I will also have questions as to where the monies will be spent.

[7:45 p.m.]

In this bill, there is enabling legislation whereby there will be regulations that will be drafted, the regulations are not included in the bill, and they have not been tabled for the members to consider. That concerns me, and I will say here tonight that that is something that concerns me because the fact of the matter is we have been asking this government for a plan. I couldn't have been any clearer when I made my budget address that we wanted some details from the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Health as to where the monies were going to go.

When you look at the bill, the bill is putting into place the Health Investment Fund that was part of the Budget Address. In this fiscal year, there is $139 million that is going into the operating and $111 million that is going into an investment fund. We have been asking questions as to where those funds are going to go.

I want to say today that when I asked the minister yesterday as to where those monies were going to go so that we could assess whether or not we in all conscience could support this, the minister stated that of the $111 million that is going, this year, for spending on this so-called investment side of this $250 million, that $50 million of it is going for a Y2K problem and $61 million is going for new innovations, I think I could quote him, such as long-term care beds, respite care and a few others that I can't remember. The $50 million concerns me because up until now, we had not even heard that. We have heard that these initiatives are going to deal with the front-line care workers of this province. I think his exact words were, the stakeholders in health.

[Page 6926]

The day after the budget, when the minister had a press conference down below here, he mentioned that he had a meeting with a lot of them, and I believe two members of the NDP caucus got into the room too and listened to what he had to say. When you came out, you made mention that you were going to talk to them, that you were going to come up with a plan and that we are going to make it as we go. I think you have been quoted saying that, whether that is the case or not, I don't know, but I read it in The Cape Breton Post and I can't say anything clearer, that is exactly what was quoted.

When I questioned the minister in the House, he indicated that $50 million of it was going to go for Y2K. So I asked the minister as to whether or not he meant IT, information technology, because that is something that they have been saying in the House that they felt was a big problem in health care, that we didn't have the amount of information technology to make the right decisions, and that was part of the reason why health care was failing. When I asked the minister, the minister very clearly said it wasn't information technology, it was part of the Y2K bug, the Year 2000 millennium bug. These monies, to a great extent, had already been spent.

Mr. Speaker, these types of answers to the questions, which is probably the only answer I got up until now, concern me, because the fact of the matter is that everyone that I talk to in health care up to now had felt that we are spending $111 million in new health care initiatives this year, that we are going to be changing the roles of how nurses would be affected, of whether or not there would be long-term care beds whereby we could remove the problems that we have today with regard to long-term care beds versus acute care beds, doctor shortages and on and on.

When I heard that comment, it begs the question whether or not they have a plan. I am listening to what the government benches have said since we entered the estimates, and as I mentioned earlier in my debate tonight, I put the government on notice that we are looking for information as to what the plan was. Today, during the Minister of Finance's estimates, I relayed the same information to him and I mentioned that of the $111 million that $50 million was for Y2K. I asked him, of course, when they were planning this whole package whether or not he had been informed by the Minister of Health that $50 million would be spent on this. He couldn't answer the question.

These concerns don't instill a great sense of confidence that the overall plan is there. For us, we realize that there aren't too many times that we can spend $600 million to try to repair health care. We know that health care is in disarray in this province, and when I hear this same bunch across the floor say, we came in in 1993, health care was in disarray and we were going to fix it, Mr. Speaker, I was there in 1993 and when I went home to Yarmouth, people could go to the Yarmouth Regional Hospital and receive services. They could see a doctor, they could see a nurse and they could get a bed.

[Page 6927]

Now that isn't the case today. When I look at the plan that they brought into place in 1993, when Ron Stewart came in with his magical plan and said, I am the light, I know the way, I am glad he is not showing the light all the time because we would drive off the road. The question is, how much damage have you done, and that is a very good question. We know all the consequences of it, but the obvious question is, what does it cost to fix it, because you have done a lot of harm.

I look at initiatives that this government brought in four years ago. They brought in a multimillion dollar incentive package for people to get out of health care, so about 2,000 people left health care. Here we are, three to four years later, saying my God, there is a nursing shortage. Where did we go wrong? When you see that and you talk to people, whether they come from my riding, or metro, or Cape Breton, people are asking, didn't they know this? Didn't they look at the logistics of nurses, their ages and how many people would take part in it? I think the whole situation is that it showed a lack of planning.

A lot of us, when we are looking at whether or not we feel that $600 million should be entrusted to resolve the problem and we don't see the plan, that gives us a lot of concern. I look at other things that this same government put into place - and I have said it before and I will say it again - this same government shut down, I believe it was 30 per cent of the hospital beds in Nova Scotia, and the big cry was that they were going to implement home care. I remember the Minister of Health saying, over and over, we are going to move into an era of home care. It will be very productive. People won't be occupying all of these hospital beds and they will be receiving care in their homes and, as such, it will save millions of dollars to the health care profession.

For the last three to four years, our caucus has been questioning the government on the lack of long-term care beds in this province, because what we did was we created a lot of people who are staying in hospital occupying acute care hospital beds today who should be in long-term care beds. This same government that shut down hospital beds also didn't realize at the same time that they were doing these things that there would be a requirement for long-term care beds, like nursing home beds, in this province. The last two or three years we were asking this same government if there was a crisis in this regard and they were denying it. Today they are saying that we need this health fund because there is a definite need for long-term care beds. It is very obvious, and it sounds very reasonable, but when we asked this question last year we didn't get the same answer.

So the obvious question is, what has changed from last year to this year and who costed the plan? No matter what happens, those are the questions that are the basis of this whole debate, and we have tried time and time again with this minister, and also with the Minister of Finance, to find out the details.

[Page 6928]

Now, I don't think it unreasonable for the Opposition benches to be asking the government for the plan, because when you say you want $600 million, and you are asking the taxpayers of Nova Scotia to trust them, that we will make this fund, we will borrow $600 million and we will pay it back before 2015, that is a big leap of faith. No matter what happens, we are still in the same situation, that this is the same government that made those promises in 1993-94 and didn't deliver.

I will use one more example, Mr. Speaker, and that is probably the reason why I got back into politics, it is all in regard to health care, but I will be very specific. The reason that I and my community felt distant from government was, we got into these regional health boards. Government felt that if you got into a regional health board, there were all these efficiencies of scale and it was too much administration and there were too many administrators and, because of that, they felt that regionalization was the way that they should go.

So when we are telling people that we didn't have the money to open hospital beds, that we didn't have the money to hire nurses, that we didn't have money to get doctors into this province or keep the ones that we had, at the same time this very same government that is saying that the way to resolve health care, founded four new regional health boards. In them, they created a bureaucracy. Now this bureaucracy is one that is very secret because people cannot go to the meetings. When they have meetings, they are secret. People don't know what happens at them.

In the past, when people had regional hospital board meetings in our area, people knew what went on, councils were represented on them, they were accountable, people who were there asked questions. There were some that were more secretive than others, but, eventually, you could always get some information. When you go to these regional health boards, that isn't the case. In my riding, it goes from Lunenburg to Kings; that is a big chunk of territory and you are in a situation (Interruption)

Well, the honourable member is right. There are also a lot of MLAs. You know what? It is a lot of people. It is a lot of hospitals and it is a lot of headaches. In the past, when things went wrong in those little hospitals around, the administrators dealt with it. Now, when people want to resolve something in the same hospitals, they never make a decision on their own because they have to call the hospital administrator and it is three or four levels below him. So it is almost an exercise in futility because you never get an answer. By the time you get an answer, it is months down the road. Our communities felt part of those hospitals and today they don't. They felt part of the decisions being made there and today they don't.

I look at my own community, they are building a new regional hospital in my area. I remember when that was announced and people got behind that initiative and I think we raised $8 million in the course of a year or a year and one-half; $8 million in a small area of the tri-counties is a lot of money, Mr. Speaker. People believed in it and it was their hospital.

[Page 6929]

It was their regional hospital and they had a lot of pride. When the women's auxiliary went out to get some money, it was not very difficult for them to do it because people felt that the health system had something to offer them. They were in partnership.

That is not the case today. When I say that is the reason I got involved in politics - people in my area were crying out in opposition to what they saw was a distant, secret, bureaucratic nightmare that was not there before. I look at the situation when I say they did not have the dollars to deliver basic health care but they had the dollars to make these regional health boards. All these health boards have all hired public relations people because they don't meet with anybody. To a great extent, they send someone out to tell them what they should hear.

I have been mentioning that they leased cars because they are travelling so much, such a big territory that it is cheaper to hire a fleet of leased cars and let everybody use them. You also find yourself in a situation, Mr. Speaker, that for a lot of things they are getting regional meetings that people are always on the go and they are not being very productive. I know from my own experience as a member who travels three and one-half hours to get to Province House, and I know that some of the members who come from Cape Breton, that we probably waste over a day per week just getting back and forth to work here in Halifax. It is difficult because for a lot of people who live in metro, they have the luxury of just going to work and not having to waste a day every week travelling back and forth to work.

No matter what we say today, Mr. Speaker, the bottom line is whether or not we understand what this bill will do.

MR. SPEAKER: I wonder if the honourable member could adjourn the debate at this stage so we can get the business for tomorrow.

MR. LEBLANC: I move adjournment of the debate, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn the debate. 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, that completes the government's business for today. Tomorrow being the Official Opposition Day, I would now defer to the honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

[Page 6930]

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker. I have given this information to the two House Leaders, for the government and for the Progressive Conservatives. We hope to deal with Bill No. 114, Resolution No. 3225 and Resolution No. 2886, not necessarily in that order but those are the three items we hope to deal with tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. 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 8:00 p.m.]