The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Tue., May 25, 1999

First Session

TUESDAY, MAY 25, 1999

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Justice: Motive and Fuel Oil Regulations - Strengthen,
Hon. R. Harrison 6130
Environ. - Whitney Pier: Environmental Conditions - Health Issue,
Ms. Helen MacDonald 6130
Transport. & Pub. Wks. - St. Margaret's Village Subdivision: Streets -
Pave, Mr. W. Estabrooks 6130
Educ. - Pugwash District High School: Teachers - Increase, Mr. E. Fage 6130
Commun. Serv. - Kids in Need: Treatment Facility - Build, Mr. J. Pye 6131
Fish. - Seniors: Licences - Fees Exempt, Mr. B. Taylor 6131
STATEMENT BY MINISTERS:
Econ. Dev. & Tourism: Sysco - Sale, Hon. Manning MacDonald 6132
Environ.: Industry Sector - Growth, Hon. M. Samson 6138
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 2948, NSGEU - David Peters (Pres.): Service - Congrats.,
Hon. R. MacKinnon 6140
Vote - Affirmative 6141
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 102, Petroleum Resources Removal Permit Act,
Hon. Manning MacDonald 6141
No. 103, Gaelic College Foundation Act, Hon. K. MacAskill 6141
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 2949, Devco - Transition Package: Fairness - All-Party Cooperation,
Mr. R. Chisholm 6141
Res. 2950, Greenwood Mem. Gardens - Serv. (Can.): Tribute -
Recognize, Mr. L. Montgomery 6142
Vote - Affirmative 6143
Res. 2951, Commun. Serv.: Missing Children's Day (25/05/99) -
Recognize, Ms. Helen MacDonald 6143
Vote - Affirmative 6144
Res. 2952, Educ. - Rick Hiltz (Brookfield JHS) & Dave Hefferman
(Chignecto-Central RSB): Efforts - Recognize, Mr. B. Taylor 6144
Vote - Affirmative 6144
Res. 2953, Gov't. (N.S.-Lib.) - Policies (PC)/PC Adopted: Logic -
Applaud, Mr. J. Holm 6145
Res. 2954, Resources Comm. - Meeting (25/05/99): Absence (Libs.) -
Apologize, Mr. N. LeBlanc 6145
Res. 2955, NDP Gov'ts.: Econ. Health -Hazardous,
Mr. Charles MacDonald 6146
Res. 2956, Nat. Res. - Coastlines: Access - Ensure, Mr. W. Estabrooks 6146
Res. 2957, Youth (Antigonish) - Adolescents Coming Together:
Initiative - Congrats., Mr. H. Fraser 6147
Vote - Affirmative 6148
Res. 2958, Col. - Musquodoboit MLA: VLTs (PC Policy) - Remind,
Mr. D. Dexter 6148
Res. 2959, Health - Obstetrics: Funding Alternative - Fast Track,
Mr. M. Baker 6149
Res. 2960, Salem Presbyterian Church (Greenhill, Pictou Co.):
Anniv. 150th - Congrats., Mr. C. Parker 6149
Vote - Affirmative 6150
Res. 2961, Health - Dal. Sch. of Dentistry: Kosovo Refugees Assist. -
Efforts Applaud, Mr. G. Moody 6150
Vote - Affirmative 6151
Res. 2962, Commun. Serv. - Julianne Acker-Verney: Bike-Ability Tour
(N.S.) - Dedication Recognize, Mr. G. Fogarty 6151
Vote - Affirmative 6151
Res. 2963, Justice - Correctional Ctr.: Mishandling - Recognize,
Ms. R. Godin 6152
Res. 2964, Health - Mental Health Care: Progs. Funding -
Adequacy Ensure, Mr. J. Muir 6152
Vote - Affirmative 6153
Res. 2965, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - NovaKnowledge: Promotion -
Congrats., Mr. G. Balser 6153
Vote - Affirmative 6154
Res. 2966, Commun. Serv. - Missing Children's Day (25/05/99) -
Recognize, Mr. M. Scott 6154
Vote - Affirmative 6154
Res. 2967, Leader of the Opposition: Resignation - Consider,
Mr. Charles MacDonald 6155
Res. 2968, Nat. Res. - Silviculture: Funding (1999-2000) - Detail,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 6155
Res. 2969, Educ. - New Germany Elem. Sch.: Renovations - Fund,
Mr. M. Baker 6156
Res. 2970, Sports - Swimming: Brooke Buckland (Anna.-Granville
Elem. Sch.) - Achievements Recognize, Mr. L. Montgomery 6156
Vote - Affirmative 6157
Res. 2971, Educ. - Debating Champs. (N.S.): Malcolm Munroe
Mem. JHS - Congrats., Mr. E. Fage 6157
Vote - Affirmative 6158
Res. 2972, Educ. - Classic Achievers (HS) Awards (Wendy's):
Jennifer Swan (Oxford) & Raymond McCarthy (Parrsboro) -
Congrats., Mr. M. Scott 6158
Vote - Affirmative 6159
Res. 2973, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - St. Joseph's Credit Union
(Isle Madame): Investments - Recognize, Mr. G. Balser 6159
Vote - Affirmative 6159
Res. 2974, Hfx. Town Crier - Peter Cox: Anniv. 25th - Congrats.,
Mr. J. Leefe 6159
Vote - Affirmative 6160
Res. 2975, Sports - Volleyball (N.S. Champs [Women]): Hub Club
(Truro) - Congrats., Mr. J. Muir 6160
Vote - Affirmative 6161
Res. 2976, NSGEU - Dave Peters (Pres.): Accomplishments - Recognize,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 6161
Vote - Affirmative 6161
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 976, Devco - Transition Package: Changes - Progress,
Mr. R. Chisholm 6162
No. 977, Sysco - ABN Amro: Contract - Costs, Dr. J. Hamm 6163
No. 978, Environ.: PCB Storage (Hubley) - Plan, Mr. W. Estabrooks 6164
No. 979, Sysco - Sale: ABN Amro Bank - Bid Packages, Dr. J. Hamm 6165
No. 980, Gaming Control Comm'n.: VLTs - Moratorium,
Ms. Helen MacDonald 6166
No. 981, Gaming Control Comm'n. - VLTs: Supply - Sufficiency,
Mr. B. Taylor 6167
No. 982, Justice - Jail (Bedford): Maintenance Workers - Employer,
Mr. Kevin Deveaux 6168
No. 983, Justice - Jail (Bedford): Site - Environ. Review, Ms. R. Godin 6169
No. 984, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Rail Link (N.S.-New England),
Mr. G. Archibald 6170
No. 985, Environ. - Sydney Tar Ponds: Clean-Up - Funding
(Gov't. [Can.]), Ms. Helen MacDonald 6172
No. 986, Justice - Jail (Bedford): Guards - Employer, Mr. M. Scott 6173
No. 987, Lbr.: Occupational Health & Safety Advisory Council -
Qualifications, Mr. F. Corbett 6174
No. 988, Educ. - P3 Schools: Design Comm. - NSTU Involvement,
Mr. E. Fage 6175
No. 989, SCS - Internat. Yr. of the Older Person: Funding - Guidelines,
Mr. J. Pye 6176
No. 990, Health - South Shore Reg. Hosp.: Obstetrician - Replace,
Mr. M. Baker 6177
No. 991, Educ. - Sir John A. Macdonald HS: Renovations - Status,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 6178
No. 992, Nat. Res. - Forestry: Softwood Cut - Volume, Mr. C. Parker 6179
No. 993, Educ. - Commun. College System: Subsidized Seats - Number,
Mr. M. Scott 6180
No. 994, Health - C.B. Health Care Complex: QE II Health Sc. Ctr. -
Lab Tests, Dr. H. Bitter-Suermann 6181
No. 995, Devco - Transition Package: Improvements - Failure,
Dr. J. Hamm 6182
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No.99, Direct Sellers' Regulation Act 6183
Hon. R. Harrison 6183
Ms. Y. Atwell 6184
Mr. B. Taylor 6186
Vote - Affirmative 6187
No. 100, Commercial Arbitration Act 6188
Hon. R. Harrison 6188
Mr. Kevin Deveaux 6189
Mr. M. Baker 6192
Hon. Manning MacDonald 6193
Vote - Affirmative 6194
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Health - Rural (N.S.): Second Class - Upgrade:
Mr. B Taylor 6194
Mr. J. Muir 6197
Hon. J. Smith 6198
Dr. H. Bitter-Suermann 6201
Mr. John Deveau 6202
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., May 26th at 2:00 p.m. 6203

[Page 6129]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, MAY 25, 1999

Fifty-seventh General Assembly

First Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Ronald Russell

DEPUTY SPEAKER

Mr. Donald Chard

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we commence the daily routine, I would recognize the honourable Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs.

HON. RAYMOND WHITE: Mr. Speaker, as you well know, there are times in this Legislature when our compassion and feelings for each other cross Party lines. I want to, on behalf of my family, express our appreciation for the words of comfort and condolences from the members. This weekend my dad, who was 87, passed away. He lived most of his life in Pictou, worked at the shipyard and taught me the real meaning of the dignity of work. He was a builder of ships but most of all of a family. So on behalf of my mother, my sisters and myself, to the members of the House, we want to express our appreciation for your understanding. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We will commence with the daily routine.

6129

[Page 6130]

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I am tabling a petition on behalf of Margo F. Hanley who is the manager and owner of Hanley's Service Centre Limited in Liverpool, Nova Scotia, containing some 200 names, asking, in so many words, that we strengthen Section 15 of the Motive and Fuel Oil regulations.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to introduce a petition bearing 63 signatures from the residents of Whitney Pier in Sydney. The operative clause of the petition reads, "The concerned residents of the Whitney Pier Community are conducting a survey that focuses on our lack of assurance in relation to our environmental conditions. The following is a list of those who believe that this is a potential health issue, and would also be interested in having their soil and water tested.". I have affixed my name to the document.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to introduce a petition on behalf of the 46 residents of the St. Margaret's Village Subdivision, requesting the paving of Ashford Close, Magnolia Court, Fox Ridge and Fox Hollow. I have affixed my signature to this petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Cumberland North.

MR. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table an additional petition from Pugwash District High School parents. The operative clause reads, "Pugwash District High School has been cut a further 70% of a teaching position. This makes for a total 5.9 teaching positions cut for a decline of 56 students - an average of 1 teacher per 9.5 students. As a result, PDHS has lost a number of programs and services including tech education programs, family studies programs, personal guidance services, and now the extended French program. Our children deserve better. We ask you to take the necessary steps to find 3.5 additional teaching positions so that these services and programs can be restored.". I have affixed my signature.

[Page 6131]

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, with your indulgence, I would like to do an introduction.

Today, in the west gallery, there are members of the Board of Directors of K.I.N., Kids in Need. I would like to introduce those members: Sue Jarvis, the Chairperson; Kayl Kruz, a board member; Lorne Kryz, a board member; and Colleen Sherwood, a board member. I would like this House to give them a warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North has a petition.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I do have a petition and the petition is from K.I.N., Kids in Need. It reads as follows: "Our non-profit organization needs your help to raise awareness regarding our troubled medical system. Our children today suffer from many emotional behavioural disorders and there is no treatment center in the Atlantic Provinces for them. These children are being shipped out to other provinces, placed in group homes, foster homes, hotel rooms and even juvenile jails. All this at the taxpayers expense.

We are asking for your support in our bid to have a treatment facility built in Nova Scotia which can accommodate children from all over the Atlantic Provinces. We are petitioning our Government regarding this issue and your support is needed. Kindly sign the form below . . .". I have affixed my name to this petition and present it to the Legislature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of Nova Scotians and the operative clause states, "We, the undersigned respectfully request of the Minister of Fisheries to eliminate the charge for fishing licenses levied against the senior citizens of the province of Nova Scotia as agreed by resolution in the Nova Scotia Legislature.".

Mr. Speaker, I noticed that the honourable members for Lunenburg and Cumberland South have signed this petition and I have affixed my name to the petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank.

[Page 6132]

MS. ROSEMARY GODIN: Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure today to introduce, sitting in the west gallery, the Grade 12 law class of the Halifax Regional School Board Adult High School, known as QUEST, from the Lower Sackville site and their teacher, Sandy MacDougall, if they could all rise and receive our welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I would advise members that the late debate today was submitted by the member for Kings West. It reads:

Therefore be it resolved that this Liberal Government stop treating people in rural Nova Scotia as second-class citizens who should be satisfied with second-class health care and begin correcting the serious health-care deficiencies which presently exist for residents in rural areas across Nova Scotia.

As I say, that will be debated at the hour of interruption at 6:00 p.m. this evening.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to address the House in my role as Minister responsible for the Sydney Steel Corporation Act.

Mr. Speaker, I am certainly proud to be a Nova Scotian, a Cape Bretoner, and the son of a steelworker. Many of the current and past workers, their parents and families are friends, neighbours and fellow Cape Bretoners. They are people for whom I have the utmost respect. They are honest, hard-working and, like all of us, they want to have a reasonable quality of life.

Theirs is a proud heritage, Mr. Speaker, a heritage of contributing to the well-being of this province over the past 100 years. Sysco was once part of a large family of companies which included Halifax-Dartmouth Shipyards, Trenton Car Works, and the precursor of the company which now makes the Dash-8 Aircraft. These are successful companies which provide well-paying jobs and add greatly to the Gross Domestic Product of their respective provinces.

Why are all these companies so successful? I think they are successful because they have been allowed to operate in a private sector environment as private sector companies and because they forge strong and positive relationships between management and labour. Let's face it, had these companies been run by government, they would almost certainly not be the

[Page 6133]

success story they are today, but because they have been operating in the private sector arena the jobs in these companies are real jobs, productive jobs. They are not make-work nor welfare.

For better than 30 years successive Nova Scotia Governments have proven that they are unable to operate Sysco profitably. To make matters worse, Sysco has become an orphan within the industry, a company with few ties to other major players in a world in which networks and connections are ever more important.

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Nova Scotia has made a decision to sell Sysco. It has chosen to give Sysco and its employees, who are proud Nova Scotians, the opportunity to be like their former counterparts at Trenton car works and Halifax-Dartmouth Shipyards; in other words, members of a productive workforce and not just people on a make-work project or wards of the state.

Why is this different from the rhetoric of the past? Look at what we have been doing, Mr. Speaker. Last summer this government engaged Hoogovens to operate and manage Sysco. Hoogovens was given a double mission - to prepare the plant for sale as well as to sell its products. Hoogovens immediately established a strong respectful relationship with the workers. Today, management and the steelworkers developed the plans that will enable Sysco to succeed as a privately-owned entity in a private sector market place.

We can already see results, Mr. Speaker, encouraging results. Productivity has increased. Former customers are returning and new customers are being successfully courted. The market place sees these improvements at Sysco. It recognizes the skills of Hoogovens and the competency of the workforce in a healthier, collaborative environment. Furthermore, competitors and clients alike know that Sysco now has access to the full intellectual capital of Hoogovens and its multi-faceted expertise.

Good quality, Mr. Speaker, at competitive prices is virtually assured. With the ISO certification in place, which Sysco is now aggressively pursuing, Sydney Steel's image will be substantially enhanced.

[2:15 p.m.]

Sysco is no longer an orphan. Sysco now has strong labour management commitment. Sysco is being managed by experts, experts in steel, experts in business, experts in global marketing. That is what is different, and that is what the market place is beginning to see, a modern 10 year old facility with state-of-the-art equipment run by well-trained and dedicated workers. The market place is beginning to see the benchmarks and qualities inherent in successful enterprises.

[Page 6134]

The government could have taken the easy way out, the government could have capitulated to the common folklore that Sysco is a dog which should be put out of its misery. The government could have chosen the politically popular way out, closed the plant and put the current employees on forms of welfare, make work or pension. The government has not chosen that option. We have decided again to recognize the real impact of Sysco on the economy of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, Sysco is a major customer of Nova Scotia Power, a major customer of the short-haul railroad in Nova Scotia, a major customer of many businesses on the mainland as well as a potential supplier to Trenton car works. Sysco has a profound influence on the Nova Scotia economy far beyond the impact of the 700 workers. A privatized Sysco will be an even greater positive influence.

In order to facilitate Sysco's privatization, the government has increased Sysco's operating lines of credit by $44 million. As of Friday, May 21, 1999, Sysco has not had to utilize any of that additional line of credit. I want to re-emphasize that. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, the cash flow is healthy, and if things continue the way they are going, Sysco may not need the full or any of that amount. But that line of credit is letting suppliers, customers and employees know that the company can meet its undertakings until it is successfully privatized.

I have talked to the management at Sysco about showing off the new Sydney Steel Corporation, and I am now extending an invitation to the Economic Development Committee of this House, Party critics with both Parties, as well as the media who cover the political and business scene of this province to come to Sydney. I will arrange for a tour of the plant, a full briefing of that operation and a question and answer period with the Hoogovens personnel who are operating and managing Sysco. (Applause)

Sysco has nothing to hide. Sysco wants to show its wares. Sysco and its workers want to show off what it is, not what people think it is. Let's once and for all bury the folklore that paints Sysco as a belching dinosaur. Let's see if for what it is, an opportunity for Nova Scotia to make jobs not make work, an opportunity to replicate at Sysco the successes of Halifax Shipyards and the Trenton car works.

Mr. Speaker, Sysco is a modern facility, an asset to be exploited, not closed. The Sysco issue is all about closure or going forward as a successful privatized industry. Our government has chosen the go-forward option. Sysco is a modern facility, an asset to be exploited, as I said before, for the benefit of all Nova Scotians. Steelworkers will prove that they are up to the task. Thank you. (Applause)

[Page 6135]

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, let me say at the outset that I agree with what the minister has said in terms of Hoogovens being - in place - a reputable international steel making company - that we give them an opportunity to come up with a business plan that makes sense for the future of Sysco. That has been our position, in fact we have applauded this government for bringing in Hoogovens back in July 1998. We saw this as a good measure. They seemed to be backing off, and we urged them to do that and certainly acknowledged when in fact that happened.

One of the big problems that this facility has faced over its 30 year history has been the involvement for political reasons of various governments. The workers, the plant and the production itself, have not fared very well as a result of that so we saw the pulling back of the government, the installation of this private sector, international steelmaking company as a good sign. We wanted to see indications that, in fact, there was some progress being made by this company to come up with a five year business plan that made sense. We were encouraged, the workers were finally getting an opportunity to have some say in the operation. They were included by Hoogovens in the preparation of the business plan and we were certainly encouraged by that because the steelworkers have some significant expertise themselves in this industry and in putting together plans like this for the recovery of a failing facility like this.

The concern though has been that for Sysco to be successful it needs to have access to the U.S. market. For it to have access to the U.S. market it must show itself to be completely at arm's length or further from political involvement. That has been the burden that Sysco has had to carry over the last number of years as it has tried to recover from political mismanagement in the past. I have to tell you that I was rather discouraged to see, when the minister made his appointments, that he stuck somebody on that board that was clearly a political appointment, that he put someone else on there who I believe has a conflict because of his involvement in one of the bids when they went out trying to privatize. I think that sends bad signals. On the one hand they are doing things to try to let a private operator with some business sense and expertise in the industry operate this facility and on the other hand, as the minister was quoted as saying last week, it is awful hard for government to keep their political hands off Sysco but it must be clear.

We have supported the move to involve Hoogovens. We have been prepared to wait but we wanted to see the details. In March of this year, our caucus received a presentation from a representative of Hoogovens and this government on what their plan was; overheads and a fairly detailed outline but an outline nonetheless. They assured us they were working on and were almost finished with the five year plan, that it was going to the printers and as soon as that was done they were going to make it available to our caucus because they understood how important and how politically sensitive this whole issue is. On the basis of what we had heard and on the basis of our confidence in Hoogovens and the steelworkers we

[Page 6136]

said, we will hold our fire on this, we can't make any judgements without seeing the complete information and we waited to see that.

It is now two months later and we still have not seen that five year plan. We agreed that we would sign a confidentiality agreement so that any of the proprietary information would not be released. We agreed to do that but it was important that all the stakeholders in the Province of Nova Scotia understood exactly what was involved so that we could make a responsible decision.

Let's not forget, since 1991 the Government of Nova Scotia, first under Don Cameron, then under John Savage and now under Russell MacLellan, has been promising that Sysco was going to be unloaded. We had Minmetals, of course, in 1994 when they came around and that was an absolute disaster and Nova Scotians understand that. What they don't want to see is tens of millions of dollars being thrown down the toilet because the government is too afraid to allow people to see what kind of information and what kind of plan is available.

So that is the issue here that this minister, unfortunately, has been fumbling the ball badly over the last number of months because he has been unwilling to release information. So if the minister wants the support of members on this side and of the public, he has to start to show a little bit of trust himself and make sure that that complete information is, in fact, made available so that we have it in order to make a decision. Thank you. (Applause)

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

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to respond to the minister's statement. The first question that crossed my mind, as I listened to the minister, is why? Why at this stage of the game are we having this kind of a ministerial statement? It would appear to me that the statement is saying that government has decided to sell Sysco. In fact, that decision was made some eight years ago and Sysco has been for sale ever since that time with, unfortunately, very unsuccessful results.

The whole issue of Sysco is extremely complicated and confusing and, in fact, has been poorly done by the way it has been handled by successive governments. For 32 years government has been attempting to run Sysco and very unsuccessfully. Before that, private interests abandoned Sysco because they found at that time, back in 1967, that Sysco was not a viable operation.

What a difficult time it has been and there is no one, perhaps, outside of steelworkers themselves and their families, who would be more conscious of how difficult it must have been for the last 32 years to have been a steelworker and to have been working in an industry that at any particular time could come to an end, at any particular time was not providing steady employment for that steelworker or a steady income for those families. It has been a

[Page 6137]

very, very difficult time for steelworkers and their families. But that brings us up now to the record of this government when it took over in 1993.

Since that time, this government following in the footsteps of the previous government has had Sysco for sale. That is, in fact, the right route that government should have taken perhaps long before eight years ago. Unfortunately, despite continued investment of public funds, massive investment of public funds, Sysco to this point has not been sold and to this point is not at a stage whereby any private buyer would have any confidence that, in fact, Sysco is a viable entity.

Now, I have been accused of working to the detriment of Sysco. I would suggest to you very strongly, Mr. Speaker, that the biggest detriment to what has gone on in the last several months with Sysco has been the reluctance of the government to be forthright with the people of Nova Scotia and this Legislature. Consistently we have asked for information, information that the public has a right to know and we, as legislators, have a right to know. Simple information as to why and on what basis $44 million more of the taxpayers' money will be invested in Sysco over the next number of months.

I remember back in January when I made formal application to get this particular piece of information and despite the fact that when interviewed by the press, the Premier and the minister seemed to be saying, yes, people can have the information and yet, it never is forthcoming.

I would suggest to the government and it is part of the minister's statement, he said he wants to show off Sysco for what it is not for what people think it is. What we want to know, from this minister and from this Premier is, what is the deal? Show us the deal. If it is not what we think it is, we are here to be shown. But to be shown means you have to provide us with the information. I am not asking for information that will be harmful to the steelworkers. I am not asking for information that will be harmful to Sysco. I am not asking for information that will be harmful to Hoogovens. I am asking for information that we have the right to know that will show why $44 million is being committed by the people of Nova Scotia to Sysco.

I want to know that after the eight years that Sysco has been on the block why all of a sudden we are putting $12 million of capital improvements into the plant? If the plant were to be sold, don't you think the new owner would want to generate its own capital improvements in the plant? Why are we putting $4 million this year into training a workforce that the business plan that the minister tabled in this House indicated very clearly that 60 per cent of the work force will be retired in the next 18 months. We are talking about a $4 million retraining program.

[Page 6138]

[2:30 p.m.]

If a new buyer is found for Sysco, the people who are working at Sysco today will not be the eventual workforce of that plant but they will be people who will be taken on subsequently because over the next four and one-half years, 90-plus per cent of the work force, in fact, will have retired from Sysco.

Reasonable questions continue to go unanswered. Questions like, what exactly is Hoogovens being paid to run Sysco? Questions like, what it is they are contracted to do? Questions like, what happens if the very optimistic sales projections of Hoogovens are not met this year? How much more of the taxpayers' money will be required? These are legitimate questions made of the minister. He has not, to this point, chosen to answer them. When those questions start to be answered, perhaps people will understand more fully what this statement says. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of the Environment.

HON. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, as Minister of the Environment, I would like to draw the attention of the House to the people who are proving that environmental responsibility also means economic opportunities for Nova Scotians. I am referring to the environmental industry sector.

I would like to table with the House a copy of the 1998 Nova Scotia Environmental Employment Report. I believe a copy will shortly be distributed to all members of the House.

Mr. Speaker, through our joint efforts we are solving significant environmental challenges, including reducing waste and cleaning up our water supplies. Not only are we addressing environmental concerns, but we are creating jobs in the process and we are building a reputation for our expertise around the world. We believe our progressive policies have helped to encourage the innovative thought and product development that is attracting this interest. We also believe supporting this sector is essential if we are to meet our environmental responsibilities while generating wealth and prosperity in our province.

Mr. Speaker, on that note I would like to share some news that demonstrates the growth of this sector. Staff with our Environmental Industries and Technologies Division have just completed a survey of companies working in the environmental sector in Nova Scotia. It is the second year that we have conducted this thorough review. We wanted to learn just how many jobs exist, where they are at, as well as develop realistic projections for future growth. We also looked at future global market potential.

This was not our staff trying to paint a rosy picture. These results come to us from the private industry themselves. It is an honest assessment of the employment situation in this thriving sector. What we found was impressive.

[Page 6139]

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to inform the House that this sector is showing significant growth with some 5,300 private sector jobs in the field as of December 1998. That is more than double the 2,500 jobs recorded in 1994. The growth has been primarily evident in the manufacturing and service sector. Combined with private sector jobs, the number of people working in this industry has jumped to more than 7,300 Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, these jobs are distributed throughout the province, with every region benefitting from opportunities in this field. Together, we have helped solve numerous environmental and health protection problems in this province and we have established a global presence in a field that is destined to grow in leaps and bounds.

Here in Nova Scotia, the industry is projecting strong growth for 1999. Environmental entrepreneurs have indicated that they will add another 457 people to their payrolls this year. This means Nova Scotia could see over 7,800 people working in the environmental sector by the end of 1999.

Mr. Speaker, behind all of these numbers is a story of focus, vision and partnership between the private and public sectors of our province. Partnership that has created a major force of environmental renewal and economic growth in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I want to as minister, thank the many dedicated, hard-working staff in my department, the Economic Development and Tourism, and all other government agencies who have worked together with the private industry to achieve this success.

Mr. Speaker, in closing, it was once accepted that we could have either economic growth or environmental protection in Nova Scotia. Today we are proving that is simply not the case. We can and we do have both. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

MR. DONALD CHARD: Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to thank the minister for a copy of his announcement in advance, that is greatly appreciated. I must say that we in the NDP caucus are very impressed with the figures. We are, however, a little bit puzzled as to just what they represent because this is an almost astounding increase over 1994. I appreciate the fact that the minister has provided us with a copy of the Nova Scotia Environmental Employment Report. I look forward to reading that and perhaps getting a little further information on exactly where all of these jobs are.

Mr. Speaker, just think how many more jobs we will create when we get on with the job of cleaning up the PCB storage site at Five Islands Lake, and just think how many more jobs we will create when we get on with the clean-up of the coke ovens and tar ponds sites in Sydney. (Applause)

[Page 6140]

Forgive me, in my scepticism about just what these figures mean, I have to ask if the minister is not counting total employment in all companies that do work in the environmental sector. We would really like to know how these jobs are defined. Is work being diverted from some sectors and now being counted as an increase in the environmental sector when, in fact, there may not be any net increase in jobs?

I think there are a number of questions here that really do need to be answered, otherwise, we have to look at this public relations exercise and the deluge of announcements we have had from this minister lately and wonder if it isn't just fluff designed to enhance his stature in this House. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou East.

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, I wish I could thank the minister for an advance copy of his announcement, but I have yet to receive one. (Interruptions) At any rate, any employment initiative, particularly environmental, is important to our Party. As I said in previous statements, I am certainly pleased with all environmental initiatives.

I guess we can certainly look forward to lots of employment when we start cleaning up areas like Halifax Harbour and Pictou Harbour in my area and Lunenburg Harbour; as well we all have to keep in mind the number of jobs that will be created by cleaning up Sysco when that time comes. It is going to be a very important initiative to Cape Breton, a long-term work project for Cape Breton. Again, I would appreciate in the future getting a copy in advance. (Applause)

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 2948

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union will be holding their annual convention this weekend; and

Whereas as part of the weekend, they will be holding a night to pay tribute to Dave Peters; and

Whereas after more than three decades of service to the workers of this province, Dave Peters is now retiring as President of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union;

[Page 6141]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Assembly congratulate Dave Peters on his remarkable career and wish him well in his retirement 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.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 102 - Entitled an Act to Require a Permit for the Removal of Petroleum Resources from the Province. (Hon. Manning MacDonald)

Bill No. 103 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 89 of the Acts of 1980. The Gaelic College Foundation Act. (Hon. Kenneth MacAskill as a private member.)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 2949

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

Whereas yesterday, 300 protestors crossed the Canso Causeway in a simulated exodus from Cape Breton; and

Whereas protestors were desperately trying to draw the government's attention to the disastrous consequences of the Devco closure; and

Whereas since the Premier began his effort to change the federal Liberals' shutdown plan there has been absolutely no positive gains for the miners, their families and community;

[Page 6142]

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier own up to the fact that he is not getting anywhere on his own and start to enlist the help of the other Parties, the miners and the community in securing a fair transition plan.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

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

Whereas despite an April 28th ruling by the Freedom of Information Review Officer that stated the government's payment agreement with Hoogovens should be released, the minister responsible for Sysco continues to keep the information secret; and

Whereas incredibly, almost a full month after the Freedom of Information Officer said this Liberal Government was wrong to withhold the payment agreement with Hoogovens, the minister responsible for Sysco is now saying he will let the Freedom of Information Officer decide if the payment agreement with Hoogovens should be made public; and

Whereas the minister responsible for Sysco should know that four weeks ago the Freedom of Information Officer made his ruling, stating in very clear and precise terms, that government had no valid reason to refuse to make the information public;

Therefore be it resolved that the minister responsible for Sysco reread the Freedom of Information Review Officer's April 28th ruling in which he stated that the payment agreement with Hoogovens should be publicly released and, further, that he . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That notice of motion is out of order. It is much too long.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 2950

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

Whereas the Memorial Gardens at the Greenwood Military Aviation Museum will be officially opened June 4, 1999; and

[Page 6143]

Whereas the gardens honour the memories of those killed last year in the crash of Labrador 305, as well as memorials to the crew of a Lancaster that crashed near the base and RCMP and police officers; and

Whereas the gardens contain apple trees, symbolizing the Annapolis Valley's apple heritage, and a rock garden with stones from North and South Mountains;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize that the Greenwood Memorial Gardens will be a fitting tribute to those who lost their lives in the service of our country.

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 Cape Breton The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 2951

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

Whereas last year in excess of 62,000 children were reported missing in Canada, some thankfully returned home; and

Whereas the Governments of Canada and the United States have designated May 25th as National Missing Children's Day; and

Whereas on that day the Missing Children Society of Canada asks that residents turn their porch lights on to help light the way home for missing children;

[2:45 p.m.]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature recognize this day as a day of renewed hope and remember to turn on our porch lights.

[Page 6144]

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 Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 2952

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

Whereas the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board recently presented awards for excellence in teaching; and

Whereas one of the teachers presented with an excellence in teaching award was Rick Hiltz, from Brookfield Junior High School who went over, above and beyond; and

Whereas Dave Heffernan was also recognized recently by the board for his 26 years of service;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this house recognize the efforts of both Mr. Hiltz for going above and beyond the call of duty for his students and of Mr. Heffernan for his 26 years of exemplary service with the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board.

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.

[Page 6145]

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 2953

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

Whereas it was six years ago today that the Liberals were swept into office; and

Whereas the Liberals promised to end the harsh Conservative policies of privatization, roll-backs, wasteful health care spending, enrolment-driven school funding, roads in bad repair, job losses in Cape Breton, and overall arrogance; and

Whereas today the Liberal remnants are propped up by those same Conservatives;

Therefore be it resolved that this House applauds the logic whereby the Liberals first adopted the unpopular Conservative policies and then adopted the Conservatives.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Argyle.

RESOLUTION NO. 2954

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

Whereas the Legislature's Resources Committee met this morning in order to bring forward issues and concerns relative to Nova Scotia's forestry sector; and

Whereas despite the importance of the forestry sector to Nova Scotia's economy, to our culture and to our rural way of life, not a single member of the Liberal caucus bothered to attend today's meeting of the Resources Committee; and

Whereas the no-show Liberals have once again demonstrated a complete lack of interest in an important issue that affects tens of thousands of Nova Scotians;

Therefore be it resolved that the no-show Liberals apologize to the thousands of people who depend on a healthy, sustainable forestry sector for not bothering to attend this morning's Resources Committee meeting.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

[Page 6146]

The honourable member for Inverness.

RESOLUTION NO. 2955

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

Whereas the Canadian Taxpayers Federation recently announced the winners of the first annual Teddy Awards, an award given to those who waste or increase taxes; and

Whereas the overall winner in the provincial category was the NDP Government of British Columbia for its incredible waste of tax dollars; and

Whereas it should come as no surprise that the runners up were provinces that have or had NDP Governments as well, such as Saskatchewan and Ontario;

Therefore be it resolved that the taxpayers of Nova Scotia be warned that NDP Governments are hazardous to their economic health.

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

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 2956

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

Whereas in this House on Thursday, May 20th, the Minister of Natural Resources attempted a stand-up comedy routine in his reply to concerns from Prospect area residents about the sale of coastal land in proximity to a heritage cemetery; and

Whereas Nova Scotians do not consider the loss of our coastal properties a laughing matter; and

[Page 6147]

Whereas this minister should act on these concerns for a change instead of joking about them;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Natural Resources stop trying to be a stand-up comic and start standing up for Nova Scotians and their concerns for the loss of access to one of our greatest natural resources, our coastlines.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

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

Whereas Guysborough Memorial Hospital has streamlined services and endured severe budget cuts under this Liberal Government in order to operate a deficit-free hospital; and

Whereas without any public notification, without notifying the community's representative on the Eastern Regional Health Board or the local community health board, the foundation discovered plans were underway to cut the site manager's position to three days a week; and

Whereas the Guysborough Memorial Hospital Foundation has expressed deep concern about government's intentions to further reduce resources at Guysborough Memorial Hospital, stating it will compromise the efficiency of a well-run hospital;

Therefore be it resolved that this Liberal Government and the Eastern Regional Health Board explain the decision to eliminate a full-time site manager for Guysborough Memorial Hospital and further, that they explain why they did not hold consultations with either the community or the hospital's foundation before planning a further reduction in staff resources.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That notice of motion is also out of order.

The honourable member for Antigonish.

RESOLUTION NO. 2957

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

Whereas an organization of young people plan to open a teen centre near downtown Antigonish; and

[Page 6148]

Whereas the group called Adolescents Coming Together hopes the new teen centre will give young people a place to call their own; and

Whereas the centre was made possible through assistance from provincial and federal governments;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Adolescents Coming Together for their initiative and encourage the young people of Antigonish to make use of this new facility.

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 Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 2958

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

Whereas this past weekend, the MLA for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley said that he was concerned that a Legion in his riding might lose its VLTs if they didn't meet the minimum net income; and

Whereas the MLA for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley suggested that not-for-profit organizations should be allowed to keep their machines regardless of how little money they might make; and

Whereas his concern about the impact of the loss of VLTs on this Legion and other smaller operations is understandable;

Therefore be it resolved that the Tory MLA for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley be reminded that his Party voted in favour of a cap on the total VLTs, cranking up pressure on non-profits, instead of sticking to the moratorium on new VLTs that was promised by both Opposition Parties.

[Page 6149]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Lunenburg.

RESOLUTION NO. 2959

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 Bridgewater/Lunenburg Obstetrics Clinic provides between 75 per cent to 80 per cent of prenatal and intrapartum care to pregnant women of the area; and

Whereas the five family physicians who offer their services to expectant mothers through the clinic have received enthusiastic support from the local community and the Department of Family Practise Obstetrics at the Grace Maternity Hospital; and

Whereas the clinic is now seriously threatened due to the departure of one of the two obstetricians who provide back-up services to the physicians working at the clinic;

Therefore be it resolved that this House request the Minister of Health immediately fast track alternative funding negotiations for obstetrical services so that the clinic can continue as a model for rural maternity care and so that expectant mothers can continue to receive prenatal and intrapartum care in the Bridgewater/Lunenburg area.

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

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2960

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

Whereas Salem Presbyterian Church at Greenhill, Pictou County, celebrated their 150th Anniversary this past weekend; and

[Page 6150]

Whereas the celebrations included an anniversary dinner on Saturday and a special church service on Sunday; and

Whereas guest speaker Allan C. Dunlop, retired Archivist for the Province of Nova Scotia, paid tribute to the church's first minister, Reverend George Patterson, DD;

Therefore be it resolved that sincere congratulations be extended to the organizing committee and the congregation of Salem Presbyterian Church for a successful anniversary.

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 Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2961

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

Whereas Dalhousie dentistry students recently volunteered their services in an effort to assist Kosovar refugees; and

Whereas the students will provide emergency dental care to those in need; and

Whereas students at the school are scheduled to begin treating refugees now housed at the Windsor Park military base as early as next week;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House applaud the efforts of the students at the Dalhousie School of Dentistry as well as Clinic Director, Dr. Ron Bannerman, for dedicating their time and talents to assist those in need.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

[Page 6151]

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 Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 2962

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

Whereas Julianne Acker-Verney is cycling the length of Nova Scotia to promote awareness of people with disabilities; and

Whereas Ms. Acker-Verney is spreading her message in 63 communities and at schools on her Nova Scotia Bike-Ability Tour; and

Whereas Ms. Acker-Verney, who is visually impaired, is a committed volunteer for such organizations as the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and the Metro Resource Centre for Community Living;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize Julianne Acker-Verney's dedication to promoting the achievements of people with disabilities and wish her luck as she continues her Bike-Ability Tour.

I ask for waiver of notice, Mr. Speaker.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 6152]

The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank.

RESOLUTION NO. 2963

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

Whereas the Liberal Government struck out when it chose a location for the new metro correctional centre without genuine community consultation; and

Whereas the Liberal Government struck out again when it failed to considered the cost of that location, announcing a figure which is some $20 million less than the true cost of the new jail; and

Whereas the Liberal Government is striking out a third time by avoiding its own responsibility and asking concerned local residents to determine the NDP position;

Therefore be it resolved that after six years of Liberal false steps and false starts, Nova Scotians should recognize that the mishandling of the correctional centre project is as good as it gets with this government.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill.

RESOLUTION NO. 2964

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

Whereas depression affects at least 1 in 50 children under the age of 12; and

Whereas depression affects 1 in 20 teenagers; and

Whereas 340 million people worldwide are coping with mental health problems and 10 per cent to 15 per cent of these individuals will take their own lives;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health ensure adequate funding and proper programs are in place province-wide this fiscal year to ensure access to mental health care is available to each and every Nova Scotian when it is required.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 6153]

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.

I am going to ask the House to recess for approximately five minutes. We have a problem with gas or something at this end of the House, so we can have somebody take a look at it.

[2:58 p.m. The House recessed.]

[3:03 p.m. The House reconvened.]

MR. SPEAKER: We are in Notices of Motion.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 2965

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

Whereas NovaKnowledge is dedicated to promoting the development of a flourishing knowledge-based economy in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas on May 25th, NovaKnowledge held its 1999 Knowledge Economy Summit, Achieving Excellence: Retooling for Global Challenges; and

Whereas the summit marked the organization's release of its 1999 Nova Scotia's Knowledge Economy Report Card;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend congratulations and best wishes to NovaKnowledge for its ongoing efforts to promote Nova Scotia's knowledge-based economy.

Mr. Speaker, I would seek waiver.

[Page 6154]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cumberland South.

RESOLUTION NO. 2966

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

Whereas in 1998, there were 62,087 cases of missing children in Canada; and

Whereas May 25th is recognized by child-oriented organizations as National Missing Children's Day and works towards raising public awareness of the harsh realities of this issue; and

Whereas this day is dedicated to all missing children with the hope that one day they will be located and returned to their families;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the importance of May 25th as National Missing Children's Day and add our voice of support to all families who have suffered from the incomprehensible pain of having a child or loved one disappear.

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 Inverness.

[Page 6155]

RESOLUTION NO. 2967

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

Whereas the mark of a good leader is courage and steadfastness; and

Whereas good leaders are willing to meet their foes head on, standing their ground in good times and bad; and

Whereas it has become apparent that the Leader of the NDP has lost his courage to meet the Premier face to face and has adopted a back-door approach to dealing with issues;

Therefore be it resolved that the Leader of the Opposition give serious consideration to stepping down, passing the reins of leadership to someone who has the courage of their convictions and the willingness to stand and fight for the principles of the Party they lead.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2968

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

Whereas in a March 10th letter to me this year the Minister of Natural Resources said amendments to the Forests Act had still not been proclaimed, but his department was actively funding silviculture on private land; and

Whereas since this Liberal Government has cut silviculture funding by over 50 per cent since coming to power in 1993, their so-called commitment to silviculture is questionable at best; and

Whereas Nova Scotia's forests are still being cut at unsustainable levels and the government is still having difficulty understanding that in every stick of wood cut a certain amount of value has to go to silviculture;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Natural Resources, besides ensuring passage of amendments to the Forests Act, detail as soon as possible a true commitment to silviculture funding for the 1999-2000 fiscal year.

[Page 6156]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Lunenburg.

RESOLUTION NO. 2969

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

Whereas a number of parents at the New Germany Elementary School have raised concerns about the health safety of the school; and

Whereas a number of concerns have been raised about the safety of playground equipment at the school because of its age and dilapidated state; and

Whereas the New Germany Elementary School was constructed in 1955 and is in need of improvements;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly request the Minister of Education and Culture to immediately provide funds for the much-needed renovations to the New Germany Elementary School.

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

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 2970

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

Whereas Brooke Buckland, 10 years of age, a student at Annapolis-Granville Elementary School is an accomplished competitive swimmer; and

[Page 6157]

Whereas Brooke, under head coach Matthew Carruther, has set eight age category provincial swimming records in 1999; and

Whereas Brooke Buckland is a relay member of the 11 to 12 age group 800 free relay Tritons girls team;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Government and this Legislature recognize the swimming achievements of Brooke Buckland.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cumberland North.

RESOLUTION NO. 2971

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

Whereas students from Sydney River ended any debate on April 10th about who are the best junior high school debaters; and

Whereas Emilie Pottle led the Malcolm Munroe Memorial team to victory and won the Karen Pugh Citation and Gold Gavel Award as best individual debater; and

Whereas teammates Christian Young and Andrew MacDonald also finished in the top 12 of individual scoring;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend congratulations to the entire Malcolm Munroe Memorial team and all the students who participated in the provincial debating championships.

Mr. Speaker, I respectfully request waiver of notice.

[Page 6158]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cumberland South.

RESOLUTION NO. 2972

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

Whereas each year Wendy's Restaurant Organization identifies two top classic achievers from Nova Scotia's high school graduating classes; and

Whereas Jennifer Swan of Oxford and Raymond McCarthy of Parrsboro have been chosen as two semi-finalists in Wendy's High School Classic Achievers Scholarship Awards Program; and

Whereas on Saturday, at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax, one male and one female will be chosen from 12 finalists to each receive a $6,000 educational scholarship;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature congratulate these two students for their hard work and determination and wish them great success in their future careers and extend a heartfelt thanks to Dave Thomas of Wendy's for recognizing our future community leaders.

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.

[Page 6159]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 2973

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

Whereas St. Joseph's Credit Union of Isle Madame has won a national community economic development award from the Credit Union Central; and

Whereas it is the first time in the award's 11 year history that it has gone to an Atlantic Canada credit union; and

Whereas St. Joseph's Credit Union raised $150,000 through the Community Investment Fund, which was reinvested in two shellfish farms creating 250 new jobs for the community;

Therefore be it resolved that St. Joseph's Credit Union of Isle Madame be recognized by this House and congratulated for their efforts in supporting and growing their community.

Mr. Speaker, I would 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 Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 2974

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

Whereas town crying has been around since the ancient Greeks employed it for the Olympic Games; and

[Page 6160]

Whereas this year marks a special anniversary for Peter Cox who has been serving as Halifax Town Crier for the last 25 years; and

Whereas Mr. Cox initially began his career by spending an hour a day promoting Historic Properties and now works up to 12 hours a day from mid-May to mid-October, performing 800 cries a year;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House extend heartfelt congratulations to Peter Cox on his quarter-century reign as Halifax Town Crier and wish him continued success in the years to come.

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 Truro-Bible Hill.

RESOLUTION NO. 2975

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 Hub Club captured the 1999 Nova Scotia Women's Juvenile Volleyball Championship in April with a come-from-behind victory over the Dartmouth Lakers; and

Whereas the Hub Club battled through adversity en route to its provincial crown, playing without three starters who had school commitments; and

Whereas the Hub Club made a very competitive showing at the Canadian Women's Juvenile Volleyball Championship in St. John's, Newfoundland;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Hub Club and its coach, Bob Piers for their never-say-die attitude and skillful play which led to their outstanding season.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 6161]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2976

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

Whereas this Friday will mark the retirement of David Peters as President of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union; and

Whereas David has a proven commitment to Nova Scotia's unionized government employees; and

Whereas Mr. Peters will also be missed from the executive of the Canadian Labour Congress;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize David Peters for his union accomplishments and wish him a well-deserved retirement.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 6162]

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The time being 3:14 p.m., Oral Question Period will cease at 4:14 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

DEVCO - TRANSITION PACKAGE: CHANGES - PROGRESS

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you to the Premier. The province has known now about the impending closure of Devco for nine months. The Premier said on February 15th that the federal government's pension packages for the miners "are not acceptable", and that he would work away on his own to improve them. I want to ask the Premier what progress has he made in getting changes to the federal government's pension and severance packages for the Cape Breton coal miners?

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON, Q.C. (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, it is not a question of progress, it is a question of getting a fair package and this is what we are working towards. We are still meeting with the federal government to achieve that. Nothing in the in between is going to be satisfactory.

[3:15 p.m.]

MR. CHISHOLM: You may note a thread through these questions, which is trying to identify what that progress is, Mr. Speaker.

My first supplementary, the Premier created a committee of senior civil servants and Liberal politicians which was supposed to assist the economy of Cape Breton in the face of the Devco shutdown. I want to ask the Premier, would he explain to this House exactly what that committee has done, to date, to replace the nearly 6,000 direct and indirect jobs that will be lost as a result of the shutdown and privatization of Devco?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, there are two committees, one that deals with the benefits package for the workers of Devco and a second committee that deals with the economic development of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. With respect to the benefits package, the meetings are taking place with the federal government; as recently as last week there were meetings here in Halifax. With respect to the economic development package, there will be meetings again in early June, the notices I believe have been sent out - if they haven't been, they will be very shortly.

[Page 6163]

MR. CHISHOLM: Nine months, Mr. Speaker, since this government knew about the impending shutdown of Devco. I ask the Premier of the province to report to this House what progress he has made and he doesn't give us anything. That's not good enough and . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: . . . and for 300 miners and their families . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question.

MR. CHISHOLM: . . . who protested on the Canso Causeway . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: . . . they said that is not enough. I want to ask the Premier, Mr. Speaker, will he not agree that this go it alone approach that he has been following now for the past number of months is not working, it is time to enlist the support of the miners, the community, their families and members of this Legislature?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we certainly don't mind the Leader of the Opposition going to Ottawa, I am sure that they would love to see him. We would also welcome more participation from his two MPs from Cape Breton and if they would ask even a question now and then on Devco, it would be very helpful.

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

SYSCO - ABN AMRO: CONTRACT - COSTS

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. The other day the Premier announced that the ABN Amro Bank would receive $500,000 as a retainer, $50,000 a month and $4.4 million total if, in fact, they are successful in selling Sysco. Would the Premier confirm that this amount is on top of the announced $750,000 monthly that is being paid to Hoogovens; is that amount in excess or in addition to that amount?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I wanted just to clarify something just to be absolutely sure from the question of the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party. The ABN Amro Bank, the $500,000 initially and the $50,000 a month is something that we have agreed to pay. That is a part of the $4.4 million. The balance is not paid unless Sydney Steel is sold. That would be separate and apart from the funding that Hoogovens is paid for managing the plant and attracting markets for Sysco.

[Page 6164]

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that Hoogovens initially was contracted in addition to do other things but was also contracted to conduct the sale of Sysco. As a result of giving the contract to the ABN Amro Bank, was the contract with Hoogovens altered to reflect the fact that they no longer will be selling Sysco?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, Hoogovens is still involved in the sale of Sysco. The actual putting together of the sale itself is the responsibility of the ABN Amro Bank but Hoogovens has a conflict because, in fact, they could be a part of a consortium that would be the ones purchasing the plant. So they cannot be responsible for the sale while there is still a possibility that they could be one of the purchasers.

DR. HAMM: I thank the Premier for that answer. He answered a number of questions with the single exception to the one I asked. I wonder if the Premier would tell the members of the House why it is that this government continues to be so secretive about what is really going on relative to what is going on at Sysco and the sale of Sysco?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am sorry that the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party feels that way because we are not being secretive; we want to be very open. The fact of the matter is that we cannot release the whole of the business plan. It is in three volumes, and there is a lot of confidential information that is very important to Hoogovens. What we want to do in conjunction with Mr. Fardy is to distinguish what is confidential and to be able to release the rest. As I understand it, Mr. Fardy initially wanted to turn over the business plan - I don't know, I heard that third hand - that is not possible because of the confidential information, but what we will be turning over will answer all of the questions of the honourable member.

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

ENVIRON.: PCB STORAGE (HUBLEY) - PLAN

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, on Sunday afternoon in one of the communities in my constituency, Hubley, near Five Island Lake, there was a dangerous explosion, a structural fire and a resulting forest fire within 100 metres of the notorious Junky Jim's PCB storage site. My question is for the Minister of the Environment. What is your department's plan for this so-called, 10 year, temporary PCB wasteland?

HON. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question. Again, it is important as members of this House that we make sure that we relay the proper and accurate information to the residents of Nova Scotia. This has been a difficult issue and one that our department has been working on for quite some time with other government departments. The storage facility in question is an approved facility, it has the necessary safeguards in place. The material itself is in steel containers, it is non-combustible, and my

[Page 6165]

understanding is that 30 per cent of the most hazardous material that was there has already been shipped out of the province for processing.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, obviously that minister is not doing his job and there is no point returning to him. I would like to go to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, please.

Thankfully, four local fire departments with the luck of a favourable wind were able to control this fire from spreading in the direction of the PCBs. My question to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. What can he tell this House, and local residents, about the timetable for the removal of these 27 or 28 - how many rumours I have heard - of these PCB-filled containers?

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member. We are working very closely with the committee that is there in this area, the community liaison committee. At the present time what they would prefer us to do is dredge the north bay off the Five Islands Lake. That is what is on the schedule right now.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, lets make this clear. We are talking storage and we are talking security. Last November 25th in this House, Mr. Minister of Transportation, you stated that the clean-up project was going to proceed when the required $8.4 million was available. My question to you. When will you offer something concrete to the residents of this community instead of further frustrations, further fear, and further false reassurances?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is asking when we will have the finances in order so that we can push ahead with this project. When the budget is tabled; when I know what money I have to work with on this, we will let the honourable member know exactly.

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

SYSCO - SALE: ABN AMRO BANK - BID PACKAGES

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the minister responsible for Sysco. My question revolves around the information that ABN Amro is now responsible for the sale of Sysco and distributing bid packages. My question to the minister. Are the bid packages available today and, if so, how many have been distributed?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I suggest that the honourable Leader of the Third Party ask ABN Amro that.

[Page 6166]

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, in light of the minister's statement today, I think the minister's answer is very, very surprising and disappointing. My question to the minister. ABN Amro is responsible for distributing bid packages, can the minister stand here today and say whether or not bid packages are available today? In other words, if someone is interested in buying Sysco can they get a bid package from ABN Amro today?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, all we have heard from that member for the past few weeks was that the government should get out of the operations of Sydney Steel, it should be privatized. Well, that is what we are trying to do and I, as a minister, am not going to start second-guessing or micro-managing ABN Amro as to what they are doing with their bid packages. We have contracted it to them, they are out in the steel world trying to sell a plant and I suggest that member let them get on with it and do it.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, by way of final supplementary to the minister, the Premier has stated, and I believe others, that ABN Amro, in addition to the fees that have already been enunciated by the Premier and others, will receive what has been called modest expenses. Will the minister tell us when we are going to get the information as to what modest expenses mean, relative to the contract with ABN Amro to sell Sysco?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it is sad to see that the Third Party has been reduced to a one issue Party in this province and the Leader has one issue in this province. I suggest to you that Darce Fardy is meeting with the people at Sydney Steel, as we speak, to decide what information he is comfortable with that should be released. In addition, I made the offer to the Parties opposite and to the media to come to Sydney to get a full briefing from Hoogovens and I am prepared to do that anytime they want. I suggest the Leader of the Third Party come to Sydney Steel and take the tour and he will get all of his questions answered while he is down there.

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

GAMING CONTROL COMM'N.: VLTs - MORATORIUM

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. Video lottery terminal operators are being told that if they don't earn a certain minimum revenue they face the loss of their machines. This seems like an obvious attempt to do an end run around the moratorium on VLTs. My question to the minister is when will this government impose a moratorium on the placement of new machines and not just on the number of licences?

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I understood when the House gave unanimous support to the motion of having a moratorium in the Province of Nova Scotia it was accepted and passed. We fully discussed that issue at that point and we are complying with the wishes of this House.

[Page 6167]

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, this government is bound and determined to squeeze every last penny of revenue out of these machines no matter what the cost. My question to the minister is what steps did you take to prevent Atlantic Lottery Corporation from insisting on minimum revenue targets for VLTs?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, it is interesting how this Party one minute wants you to impose your ministerial authority to dictate, drive and execute your own personal point of view, but at the other times if you say anything they say you are interfering with a due process. We had a resolution, I believe that member opposite voted for, agreed to it and we have complied with every aspect of the direction of this House.

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, these minimum targets can be met in one of two ways, either more Nova Scotians will need to gamble or more Nova Scotians already gambling will have to gamble more. My question to the minister is what steps is he taking to end this government's continued addiction to VLT gambling?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, what we have done is very clear. We agreed and voted in favour of the moratorium on VLTs in the Province of Nova Scotia. This government agreed to the concept of putting a moratorium and a cap in place in the Province of Nova Scotia. Secondly to that, this is an administration that has put money in the areas of education, treatment and assistance for any individuals who are experiencing trouble. We are the government who has actually tried in a proactive way to help those that are negatively affected by VLTs.

[3:30 p.m.]

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

GAMING CONTROL COMM'N. - VLTs: SUPPLY - SUFFICIENCY

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I, too, would like to direct my question to the minister in charge of the Gaming Corporation. The letter that the previous speaker or questioner referred to is dated May 17th and it states: "The minimum level of net video lottery receipts per terminal per week for the period July 1, 1999 - June 30, 2000 will remain at $275 per week.". I will table that. My question to the minister responsible is this. Subsequent to the moratorium on VLTs, can the minister tell the House, based on his latest figures, how many non-profit groups, existing and new businesses, have made application for VLTs and if he does not have that figure, can he tell us whether or not the supply is meeting the demand?

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I would be happy to be able to provide information. It is simply a matter of contacting our representative from the ALC, through the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation to provide the information. But I would like to inform the members of the House and the member opposite that what we have here is a retailer's signed

[Page 6168]

agreement of how we are going to proceed with making sure that these machines are properly utilized.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, with all respect, it sounds a little bit like the minister is going to surrender to big business, but my question is this. Will the minister responsible tell the House if VLTs, if video lottery terminals, have ever been yanked or removed because the gambling devices did not reach the goal that this government has of $275 per machine?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation has consulted widely, consulting with the Lounge and Beverage Room Association, have consulted with the Nova Scotia Command, and those individuals were informed at the beginning of this year through the ALC that there would be a signed agreement that would be signed by all the retailers and that is exactly what has gone on in the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I think we have learned today from the minister responsible for the Gaming Corporation that supply is not meeting demand and that this government has not started yanking VLTs out of non-profit organizations.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. TAYLOR: My question is this, will the minister commit today that no Royal Canadian Legion or Nova Scotia non-profit group, will have VLTs removed because they do not meet the Lottery Commission or this government's $275 per machine profit margin or is he going to surrender to big business?

MR. DOWNE: As I indicated, Mr. Speaker, the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation, through ALC, have had discussions with the Nova Scotia Command; that is, the legions' representatives at the provincial level. These issues have been discussed and dealt with through that body. That is why we have signed an agreement. All the retailers have signed agreements in January of this year to comply and that is exactly what we have done, is work with the Lounge and Beverage Room Association representatives and the Nova Scotia Command to deal exactly with this issue.

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

JUSTICE - JAIL (BEDFORD):

MAINTENANCE WORKERS - EMPLOYER

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Justice. Despite the assurances of the former Minister of Justice, Nova Scotia is about to receive a P3 jail from the P3 minister. Read Management has been contracted to build and manage the new correctional facility. My question to the Minister of Justice is, will

[Page 6169]

maintenance workers at the proposed Halifax correctional facility be employed by Read Management?

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, despite the opposition from the Opposition Party to private sector innovation and ingenuity, we are honouring our commitment to privatize facilities, not services, in the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, trained correctional officers are currently responsible for maintenance at the correctional facility. So my question to the Minister of Justice is, can the minister guarantee that the same level of security will be provided by corrections officers when they are maintained by Read Management?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, not only will we respect the existing contracts born of fair collective bargaining, but we will ensure the public that standards will be increased for the security in a safe, modern in 1999, standards facility for forensics and corrections.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, back in June of last year in the supply debate the former Minister of Justice told our caucus that the P3 jail was off the books. It was not going to happen. Now, my question to this Minister of Justice. What has happened in the past year and why do we now have P3 jails on the books when you have already promised they wouldn't be here?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, what can I say? A $2 million organized labour campaign across the country to destroy the concept of private sector innovation. Need I explain more? Off-book leasing is part and parcel of private sector ingenuity and they are serving our schools and our correctional facilities in this province.

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

JUSTICE - JAIL (BEDFORD): SITE - ENVIRON. REVIEW

MS. ROSEMARY GODIN: Mr. Speaker, my question is also for the Minister of Justice. The new $57 million jail is being built in the middle of the woods and, in fact, at this very moment land is being cleared. Could the Minister of Justice explain why there was no site-specific environmental review being done so that we could know what is being destroyed in the process?

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member opposite. Quite the opposite is the truth. In 1986 there was a full environmental assessment of that area and the proponent will be expected to provide to the Department of the Environment, for their approval, a full environmental plan for that site.

[Page 6170]

MS. GODIN: Mr. Speaker, I don't think I have to point out that that was over 13 years ago and that is probably not adequate.

We, in Nova Scotia, value our natural resources and between 50 acres and 100 acres of forests are being cleared. Can the minister assure those Nova Scotians, who do value our natural resources, that no rare fauna or flora, nor remains of old-growth forest are being destroyed?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, part of the fight of that community some years ago was to protect that area as a wilderness or recreational preserve. We have created a community advisory committee to work with the community to make sure that the use of that land for recreational and environmental purposes is sustained, in essence, in perpetuity. It is 800 acres that will be set aside for the use of that community in the years to come.

MS. GODIN: Mr. Speaker, myself and others are more concerned about the 100 acres that aren't being preserved in perpetuity. My final questions. If no environmental studies have been done for this particular project, could the minister tell me what measures are being put in place to protect the nearby Jack Lake, the marsh area and the Sackville River?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated in part of a previous response, the Department of the Environment will require, and this proponent will provide, a full environmental analysis of this site but, more importantly, the community has spoken years ago that this site should be set aside for recreational and environmental purposes and by co-locating this facility in the back end of an 800 acre preserve and setting up a community liaison committee, we, in fact, are satisfying the community's wishes.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

ECON. DEV. & TOURISM - RAIL LINK (N.S.-NEW ENGLAND)

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, through you, this question concerns Transportation, Economic Development and the Minister of Finance, so I will ask the Premier. Halifax Harbour has been on the news about becoming a super port and key to the future development is a rail link to the Boston States. In April 1997, CN announced the New England Clipper rail service which would reduce by 24 hours shipping time to the New England States . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Question.

MR. ARCHIBALD: The New England Clipper has been shelved, Mr. Speaker. What is your government going to do to get CN back on track with regard to rail service between here and New England?

[Page 6171]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I met with Paul Tellier, the CEO of CN, just a few weeks ago. He assured me that they were going to be doing everything they possibly could to open up rail links with New England and, hopefully, into the tristate area.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate the answer. In 1997, CN knew what it had to do, it had to establish rail service and didn't. Double-stacked rail cars were only here because of the initiative of the government at the time. Could I ask again that the Premier make CN establish the clipper service to New England and not accept any half-hearted commitments by CN? You must absolutely insist, otherwise, it will not happen. When will the Premier again be meeting with CN . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, CN of course will have to see a need for a particular service. They have recently been concentrating on the service to the Midwest through the Sarnia tunnel and the acquisition of the Illinois Central which links them up with the Midwest, southern states and well into Mexico. They have been extending their network throughout North America, and I am sure that they will be working on the North-East as well.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I know how hard CN is working everywhere but in Atlantic Canada. Again I ask the Premier, make CN come back with this clipper service, they knew how important it was and they have abandoned Nova Scotia, because they are not working to secure our market in New England. It takes real leadership to establish the market . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ARCHIBALD: . . . and I am wondering when is this government going to show the same kind of leadership that was shown with double-stacked railcars so that we can have double-stacked . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, frankly I think the service to New England is very much on the minds of CN and that they will be developing. As you know, of course, they have to be able to make liaisons on the other side of the border. I think they are in preparation to do that.

[Page 6172]

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

ENVIRON. - SYDNEY TAR PONDS:

CLEAN-UP - FUNDING (GOV'T. [CAN.])

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of the Environment. Last Thursday's Cape Breton Post had a letter from Charles Caccia, a former federal Minister of the Environment and present Chair of the Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, which states emphatically that there should be no false expectations about expecting money to clean up the tar ponds. My question to the Minister of the Environment is, what is his government doing to let the federal government know it isn't off the hook as far as coughing up its share of the clean-up cash?

HON. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, as the member is well aware, there already has been an MOU signed with the federal government along with the provincial government and the municipal government and with the JAG process. We are continuing to work with our federal colleagues and I certainly expect that funding is still in place, and we will continue to work on this with them as we move ahead on this project.

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: In another letter to the Post, the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova states that the responses to his inquiries indicate that federal and provincial funding is available. My question to the minister is quite simply, is there money available; if so, how much and from whom?

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated, we are continuing to work with our federal colleagues on this. It is a work in progress. I assure you that the minute everything has been put in place, the residents will be the first to know.

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: The same honourable member referred to in my previous question asserts that the process for developing parameters of a toxic zone in Frederick Street is well advanced. Can the Minister of the Environment tell this House why the residents have never been given a public update about what this plan is and why he is still bent on going door to door conducting a door-to-door campaign?

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, maybe if the member took some time and spoke to the JAG members or even read some of the documentation that comes out of there, she would have the answer to her question. If she is not aware that this is a work in progress - I am trying to establish this - I think it is a reflection of how much she cares about this matter and that she would rather try to score cheap political points on this than work with us to achieve a solution to this long-standing problem.

[Page 6173]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland South.

JUSTICE - JAIL (BEDFORD): GUARDS - EMPLOYER

MR. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. Mr. Premier, did you or did you not last fall provide assurances to the jail guards that no part of the new institution that is being built in this province would be privatized?

[3:45 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I gave undertakings to the guards at the correctional centres and I will refer that question to the Minister of Justice.

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, the Premier did in fact make that undertaking and we followed up with that undertaking. Not in the schools, not in correctional facilities, not in forensic facilities, will we put in any jeopardy the collective bargaining agreements that have been worked out at the table by the unions and their employer. (Applause)

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Justice, since the Premier refused to answer, he did commit to the jail guards in the fall that privatization would not happen in this jail. In light of the concerns surrounding the security in the community by the union and by the people in that area, will the minister commit today that there will not be any privatization of any services whatsoever in this new provincial jail?

MR. HARRISON: I do not know, Mr. Speaker, this is another request for Springhill to be considered or not. I cannot really tell. Let me repeat it again. We are privatizing facilities in a province that badly needs new facilities, new schools, new correctional facilities and a new forensic centre. We are fully respecting the collective bargaining rights of Nova Scotians.

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if that was an offer on behalf of the minister, but if it is, we certainly would entertain it in Springhill. That is right. Again to the Minister of Justice, in regard to the size of this new provincial jail, will the minister guarantee Nova Scotians and jail guards around this province that after this new jail is built, there will not be any closure of any provincial jails throughout Nova Scotia?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, our correction facilities and our rate of incarceration is the second lowest in Canada. We are making considerable efforts to ensure that there are not relapses on the part of provincial individuals who are sentenced to correctional facilities in this province. I will make a commitment on this floor that we will continue that and that at some point our province will be number one in Canada at providing alternatives to incarceration for those who break the law in Nova Scotia.

[Page 6174]

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

LBR.: OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH & SAFETY

ADVISORY COUNCIL - QUALIFICATIONS

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Labour. In 1996 this government passed the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The Act continued the Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Council established by the former Act to advise the minister on the important issue of workplace safety. Would the minister explain to this House what qualifications are required for appointment to the Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Council?

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, it is rather self-explanatory. It is outlined in the Occupational Health and Safety Act from Page 4 to Page 15. All the honourable member has to do is read through it. If there is still some information he is not sure of, I will provide it to him in writing.

MR. CORBETT: Can the minister explain why he chooses to replace, or attempt to replace, members on the advisory council who are teachers of workplace safety, virtual professors in the field, with raw rookies, whose first request is to go through a training course on the Occupational Health and Safety Act?

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I think that is a very important question. I think one of the most important things to do is not only have new pieces of legislation, but to ensure that we also have a culture within the process. Whether it be in Occupational Health and Safety, the Appeals Panel, the Labour Standards, Labour Relations, Workers' Compensation Board, or whatever agency, board or commission that the government has to draw from public consultation and resources. We have to continually update in keeping with the demands of the changing environment, the workplaces, but also it is the advice of the Director of the Occupational Health and Safety Division within our department that this is a requirement for all members whether they are appointed or reappointed to go through this.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, since the Westray disaster our goal must be to have the very best people on this council to provide the very best advice. Can the Minister of Labour explain how he champions the cause of workplace safety by bringing forward for appointment, candidates as employer representatives on the council who have no expertise and, indeed, no experience in this area?

MR. MACKINNON: First of all, Mr. Speaker, I would categorically reject such a suggestion. I believe if the honourable member would only draw to his own colleague's submission before the Human Resources Committee, which may get a requirement of the Minister of the Crown, irrespective of what department, that he or she has to give a personal affidavit of confidence, a personal liability affidavit that proves the person he or she appoints

[Page 6175]

has to be the most qualified and, in the opinion of the minister, that is exactly what I have done and I will stand behind it.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland North.

EDUC. - P3 SCHOOLS: DESIGN COMM. - NSTU INVOLVEMENT

MR. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I rise in my place today, through you, to address a question to the Minister of Education. On the weekend, the Nova Scotia Teachers Union held their delegates meeting on Sunday and wish to be involved in the development and design of schools built under the public-private partnership.

Is the minister prepared to put a member of the NSTU on the committee that looks after private-public partnerships?

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for bringing this issue to the floor. As the honourable member knows, and probably all members do, teachers certainly have a role, especially with the planning of these new school constructions.

Mr. Speaker, as we have seen in previous projects where teachers were involved, were invited to participate, I certainly would indicate to the honourable member that in future projects, all 55 new projects that we have approved to this date, we certainly will continue to invite teachers to be part of these SSCs.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his response, but I think the question becomes much more clear. We all understand and accept and the minister, I believe, is a former teacher, that those involved in the process can offer the most insight into how the process should work.

I would ask the minister, again, and I feel this is a very worthy request, worthy of strong consideration, that a member of the teaching profession, a member of the NSTU, would be involved in the design and planning of schools at the provincial level with that committee? Will the minister allow a member to be there?

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable member, as we build more schools, more teachers will be involved in the whole process. More teachers will be involved in these steering school committees.

MR. FAGE: Through you, Mr. Speaker, to the minister. What we are concerned about is now. Fifty-five schools have been announced. Here are the people who actually work in those schools every day, provide education and instruction to our young people who know

[Page 6176]

more about the design and the safety and security of our schools. When is he going to allow them to participate in the process at the top level?

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I just want to share with all members, this is a teacher that teaches at the O'Connell Drive Elementary School.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Are you reading a letter?

MR. GAUDET: No, I just want to share a note with all members of the House. Her name is Jan Wright and she says, as teachers at the O'Connell Drive Elementary, we were consulted for the whole process, classroom set-up, what we wanted to see in a lab, books to order. Visitors to the school say we can see the teachers' input into the design. It is hard to believe how much we are achieving in this environment. We wish the day could be longer. So, teachers are involved, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

SCS - INTERNAT. YR. OF THE OLDER PERSON:

FUNDING - GUIDELINES

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, my question is, through you, to the Minister of Community Services. Last week, the minister said there was never any question that seniors' groups receive funding for the International Year of the Older Person, even though she waited until the year is half over before announcing that funding.

I would like to ask the minister, Mr. Speaker, what guidelines are in place in assessing these funds?

HON. FRANCENE COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, the Senior Citizens Secretariat has a process in place, particularly for the community funds that are there across the province. It is a figure of around $140,000, I believe, that is going to go into community projects for the International Year of the Older Person. Valerie White, who is the coordinator there, made mention of this at the last meeting of the secretariat and there is a process for people to apply.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, once again the minister evaded the question completely. Again, seniors' groups that called the secretariat last week were told that there are no applications or guidelines in place for this funding because there isn't enough staff to develop them. My question is will the minister explain why the secretariat has remained under-staffed and weak in a year that is supposed to be the seniors' celebration year?

[Page 6177]

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, certainly the issue around the staffing of the secretariat and its future needs is one that concerns us all. I have already mentioned in this House that we want to go forward with the consultation to address those issues around how the staffing component will be, as well as other issues of concern. Clearly, what was announced at Mount Saint Vincent in the consultation is that there is a process in place for the communities to apply for the funds.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, just last week that very minister said that everything was fine, it was working great. The minister said the allocation is a little more than $2.00 per senior in the international year of the seniors. My question is, since the secretariat doesn't know how many seniors can access the funds, will the minister tell us if she really intends to spend any money this year in the International Year of the Older Person?

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I am sure the honourable member opposite will appreciate the degree of commitment that the Government of Nova Scotia has made with well over $0.25 million in funding, in support of IYOP. There have been projects that have already been funded out of that much earlier than May 12th, which I heard someone yell the date across. But clearly , there is a considerable amount of activity that is planned around IYOP and it is supported by the government.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg.

HEALTH - SOUTH SHORE REG. HOSP.: OBSTETRICIAN - REPLACE

MR. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. On the South Shore of Nova Scotia at the South Shore Regional Hospital we have one of the best family physician-run obstetrics program. Very shortly we will be losing one of our two obstetricians. My question to the minister is when is the minister going to take steps to replace the obstetrician who is leaving the South Shore?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the responsibility for seeing that those positions that are funded through government into the institutions is the responsibility of the particular groups. We will work with them and assist where we can. I am not quite sure of the negotiations in place but we are having very good results, particularly with our alternate funding mechanism which would provide salaries to those positions, and provided those types of services in those communities.

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, the minister has indicated in the House that there were 59 new physicians attracted to Nova Scotia. How many of those physicians are trained in obstetrics and gynaecology?

[Page 6178]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I could just guess at the breakdown. I know 33 per cent of those were family practitioners. There are services in those communities that were never there before. We are building a complement of strong teams, whether it is for obstetrics or paediatrics and even in areas like palliative care and home care, those types of initiatives that haven't been done before.

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, the minister continues to evade the responsibility of his department to ensure that there are physicians in hospitals throughout this province. My question to the minister is, does he feel it is his responsibility to ensure that there are adequate numbers of specialists in our regional hospitals or is it the duty of someone else? Who is leading health care in this province?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the quality of health care, in my opinion, eventually rests with the Department of Health and the minister. I accept that responsibility. I always have and I take great pride in trying to do as well as we can. We have initiatives. We have stemmed the flow of physicians out of this province as a lot of other provinces haven't been able to do and we have programs in place. They are working very well and we work with the communities. That is the answer, the community, the facility, and the Department of Health working together.

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

EDUC. - SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD HS: RENOVATIONS - STATUS

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. My local school board member says that Sir John A. Macdonald's renovations are at the top of the agenda for tonight's Halifax Regional School Board meeting, a meeting I plan to attend. On April 6th, the minister said, responding to questions about Sir John A. Macdonald in this House, "I will have to take that question under advisement. I promise I will return back to the House, to the honourable member with an answer to that question.". That was 50 days ago, 50 days. Where is my answer?

[4:00 p.m.]

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for once again raising the Halifax Regional School Board's request on the floor of the House. I can assure the honourable member, this government has approved 55 new school projects. Out of the 55 new school projects, nine of those will be built in the metro area, 9 out of 55.

MR. ESTABROOKS: This 32 year old school is at the top of the priority list for the Halifax Regional School Board. Mr. Minister, where does Sir John A. Macdonald sit on your department's priority list for renovations, not new ones, renovations to old ones?

[Page 6179]

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member raises this afternoon, that Halifax school is certainly a pressing need for that community. Again, our staff is currently reviewing this with the local school board, and as we have in the past, just last week, we approved 16 additional new school projects. Those 16 new school projects were all recommended by the school boards across the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, in December 1997, the province announced a $90 million fund for school renovations to be spent over three years. My Leader took a tour of Sir John A. Macdonald the other week. What amount of this already existing fund is for Sir John A. Macdonald's renovations?

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable member and all members of this House, our department staff will continue to review all requests that are received by the department, from all the school boards across the province, and our department will continue to bring those pressing needs to the attention of our government.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

NAT. RES. - FORESTRY: SOFTWOOD CUT - VOLUME

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Natural Resources. Mr. Minister, you know that wood acquisition plans have been in vogue now in our province for over a year and I understand the reports are now available, and it should tell us as a province if we are within our annual allowable cut. My question, Mr. Minister, can you tell this Legislature are we above, at, or below the annual allowable harvest for softwood?

HON. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I think the honourable member was at a briefing today at the Resources Committee meeting where our staff made a presentation on clearly where we are with sustainable forestry and the total allowable cut. If the member is talking about private lands or Crown lands or large private lands, I wish he would state it.

MR. PARKER: Thanks for the non-answer. I didn't get an above, at, or below. Anyway, I will ask you a second question, Mr. Minister. Under the new Forests Act, wood acquisition plans require buyers to buy wood from sustainable woodlands. Simply, Mr. Minister, who is checking to make sure that that happens?

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member was at the briefing today, and he should know. If he is talking about small private woodlots which is currently about 50 per cent of our amassed forest in Nova Scotia, we may not be in a sustainable situation. If he is talking about large or the smaller private woodlots which is probably 23 per cent by larger holdings, it is sustainable. If he is talking about Crown land, yes, it is sustainable.

[Page 6180]

MR. PARKER: Well, Mr. Speaker, many Nova Scotians are telling me that our forest-related harvesting is well above the sustainable level. I am asking the minister again, are we above, are we at or are we below our sustainable level for softwoods?

MR. MACASKILL: Yes, Mr. Speaker, we believe our department has information or data that clearly indicates to us that we are at a sustainable level at today's harvesting.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland South.

EDUC. - COMMUN. COLLEGE SYSTEM:

SUBSIDIZED SEATS - NUMBER

MR. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education and Culture. Will the minister confirm today that Nova Scotia has the lowest number of subsidized seats per capita within the community college system in Canada?

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, the question the honourable member raises I will have to take under advisement. I am not absolutely sure so, rather than misleading the House, I will report to the honourable member at a future date.

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, I will confirm with the minister today from the community college system itself that that indeed is a fact in this country, that Nova Scotia has the lowest number of subsidized seats. Will the minister please explain why someone who has enrolled in, for example, an LPN Program in this province is paying a different cost in one institution, as compared to someone taking the same program in another institution in this province?

MR. GAUDET: Again, Mr. Speaker, I don't know the answer. I will take that question under advisement and I will report back to the honourable member.

MR. SCOTT: Again to the minister, will the minister commit today to have someone in his department investigate why someone who is enrolled in the fall program of the LPN course in the community college in Cumberland County is required to pay $9,000 when three other institutions in this province are offering the same program for $1,200? Will he commit to those people to make that program available to them at the same cost?

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I will commit to that honourable member and all members of this House that I will report back to this House with an answer to the question that the honourable member raises.

[Page 6181]

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

HEALTH - C.B. HEALTH CARE COMPLEX:

QE II HEALTH SC. CTR. - LAB TESTS

DR. HINRICH BITTER-SUERMANN: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health has decided to send blood from the Cape Breton Health Care Complex to the QE II to be tested for hepatitis C and HIV, even though the Cape Breton facility is capable of doing the tests on-site. My question to the minister, will he explain how it can possibly be cheaper to send those samples across the Causeway, here to Halifax, for testing rather than testing them on-site?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the question relative to hepatitis C or other testing is an internal matter between laboratories. There would be these professional decisions made by professional people and I would respect that judgement, unless the honourable member has some other valid explanation as to why that would be done. That wouldn't be just done so the honourable member could raise the question in the House of Assembly. Seriously, there obviously is a good reason for that. It is a quality of care issue and I respect that.

DR. BITTER-SUERMANN: Mr. Speaker, Cape Breton is at my heart. Thousands of Cape Bretoners need blood tests and Sydney has the labs and the staff to do them. Why is this government continuing to treat the QE II as the centre of the health universe, at the expense of taxpayers' and regional hospitals, such as the Cape Breton regional hospital?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the Cape Breton complex has just undergone tremendous changes over the last couple of years. The Cancer Care Centre there, part of it, at any one time there are 50 people in Cape Breton being treated for cancer. They don't have to come to Halifax any longer. It is not a backwater, it is not being neglected at all. It has really been a priority of this government and I am very pleased that we are making great progress in many different areas.

DR. BITTER-SUERMANN: Mr. Speaker, I realize that the honourable Minister of Health does not know the difference between HIV testing, hepatitis C testing and cancer care. My question was, why do we send those blood samples away from Cape Breton, at the expense of their technicians, to Halifax at a time when Cape Breton needs the jobs?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, in the Department of Health, we are not micro-managing the health care system in Cape Breton. Those scientists and those people, the professionals involved with that decision, I would respect that decision. It may be something that will change. I am sure it will be evaluated and it will be cost-effective, because when their budget time comes, those are the types of issues that they will be explaining to us and defending.

[Page 6182]

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

DEVCO - TRANSITION PACKAGE: IMPROVEMENTS - FAILURE

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, it is four months now since Ralph Goodale came to Cape Breton and announced the Ottawa solution for the Devco coal industry. My question is, is this Premier as disappointed as all Nova Scotians in his lobby attempts to get the federal government to recant on its original position?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I don't feel the offer the federal government has made is satisfactory. We are continuing to ask for a better package for the workers at Devco. We are going to continue as long as we possibly can to continue to work towards this. We are meeting with the federal government. We hope they are meeting in good faith. But I can assure you, we will not accept anything less than a meaningful package.

DR. HAMM: The miners have been very aggressive in putting forward an alternative package. The miners' families have been very effective in going to Ottawa and making their position known. The Premier has been singularly unsuccessful in his lobby attempts. What is the Premier planning to do that is different from what he has done up until now?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, first and foremost, the federal government has to meet with the workers of Devco. They cannot superimpose a decision on those workers. They have to meet with them and negotiate with them and explain to them what they are doing. That is what we are looking for as the first sign. It is absolutely essential that the federal government meets with the Devco workers.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, by way of final supplementary, I ask the Premier, why is it that the Premier has failed to accept the invitation of the Leader of the Opposition and my agreement to participate in the lobby to Ottawa? The Premier has been singularly unsuccessful, why does he rule out others in helping him?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I don't object to the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party helping, I wish he would help, but the fact of the matter is, the only way we are going to get any constructive results is if the federal government meets with the workers.

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

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

[Page 6183]

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. 99.

Bill No. 99 - Direct Sellers' Regulation Act.

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

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: I rise in my capacity as Minister of Business and Consumer Services to move second reading of Bill No. 99.

Today, it gives me great pleasure to speak on these proposed amendments to the Direct Sellers' Regulation Act. When we mention the words direct seller, for many people the image that is conjured up is that of a door-to-door vacuum or encyclopaedia salesperson. The reality is that Nova Scotians spend millions of dollars every year on sales through catalogues, mail, door-to-door, telephone and now the Internet, Mr. Speaker.

As part of Business and Consumer Services' comprehensive review of all consumer-related legislation, it was determined that this Act needed to reflect changes in the business industry since it was first enacted in 1975.

[4:15 p.m.]

In our ongoing commitment to make doing business with the government easier for business and for consumers, we are proposing to remove unnecessary barriers to business and reduce the administrative burdens on direct sellers. At the same time, we must also need to balance the need for ensuring an acceptable level of consumer protection. The proposed amendments in this bill will allow government to focus its resources where they are most needed, on high-risk, high-pressure activity within this industry sector.

In July of last year, the Department of Business and Consumer Services distributed a discussion paper identifying issues and trends to all of the licensed direct sellers, their consumer groups, the general public, enforcement agencies, other government departments, business and professional associations. In all, 2,200 individuals and groups were provided direct access to this document, and the responses contributed to the formation of the proposed amendments to this bill.

[Page 6184]

The major changes in these amendments benefit consumers in the following ways. First, all direct sales people will be required to carry identification issued either by the province or an accredited direct selling company. Secondly, we have extended cancellation clauses for the consumer from six months to one year in the event that obligations of the sales contracts are not met. Thirdly, refunds will be issued to the consumer in situations where the company or salesperson does not comply with the legislation or is unable to fulfil their obligation to deliver the goods and services.

On the other hand, the major changes that benefit direct sellers are as follows. First, low-risk activities such as mail order and catalogue sales, previously included under the definition of direct selling, are no longer governed by the bill. Secondly, the changes allow for reasonable compensation to direct sellers in instances where goods are not returned in the same condition that they were sold, or when services were already provided. Thirdly, Business and Consumer Services will exempt direct selling companies with commendable records from having to license their sales people. The conditions for exemption will be outlined in the regulations and they will consider a company's positive track record in the Province of Nova Scotia.

In essence, we are encouraging best business practices and rewarding those companies who lead by example. The Direct Sellers Association of Canada recognizes these changes as positive changes for their industry. In fact, we have been told by direct sellers right here in Nova Scotia that these changes will make the transition to e-commerce smoother for them. The fact that we can help this transition is particularly meaningful in today's market place. As more and more services go on-line, Nova Scotians will be ready to take full advantage of the technology and of the opportunities which lie before them, and the government is doing what it can to help make this connection.

These amendments represent the best of both worlds, a positive business climate with less red tape on the one hand and enhanced consumer protection for higher-risk activities on the other hand. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

MS. YVONNE ATWELL: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to bring to the minister's attention that there is an error in Bill No. 99. An Act to Amend the Direct Sellers' Regulation Act needs to be amended to say the Direct Sellers' Licensing and Regulations Act, and that was probably just an oversight.

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my caucus, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak on Bill No. 99. Bill No. 99 brings certain contract requirements in Nova Scotia's direct sellers' legislation in step with other provinces across the country. Back in 1995, Nova Scotia, the federal and provincial governments entered into an internal trade agreement. Under this

[Page 6185]

agreement, cancellation requirements and direct sellers' legislation across the country is to be harmonized.

Also, Bill No. 99 provides the Registrar with an expanded range of disciplinary options. This is being done in an effort to have the punishment fit the crime. Currently, the Registrar can only suspend or revoke a licence, so there are some good things in here in which some of the red tape will be eliminated and this is good.

Bill No. 99 provides the direct seller with the right to receive reasonable compensation for goods that cannot be returned or for services already provided. Also, on behalf of my caucus, I am pleased to talk about this bill because there are some other things in here that give us cause for concern.

Perhaps the most crucial part of any legislation is its purpose and interpretation sections. In my opinion, here the minister takes a step backward. Clause 1 of Bill No. 99 changes the definition of direct selling to exclude Internet transactions. Just last week in the papers there was an editorial questioning the lack of laws regulating the Internet and in particular in the context of direct selling. I question this government's wisdom in deciding to exclude these transactions.

Commerce over the Internet is big business; in fact, I would go as far as to say that the day of the door-to-door salesperson is slowly coming to an end. The definition of direct selling is changing but is changing to become more relevant on the Internet. Excluding Internet transactions from the definition of direct selling illustrates a lack of foresight on the part of government.

At the briefing of this bill, the minister likened transactions over the Internet as being the same as flipping through a Sears Catalogue. What the minister doesn't get, for example, is when I order a vacuum cleaner from Sears Catalogue, if I am unhappy with it I can pick up the telephone and call Sears to fix the problem. This same luxury is not necessarily afforded to persons shopping on the Internet. This is a short-sighted, regressive move on behalf of this minister and I really believe this issue needs to be considered a bit more closely.

Bill No. 99 finally honours the commitment this government made in 1995, as I mentioned earlier, under the Internal Trade Agreement, by providing harmonization cancellation rights and cancellation periods across the province. This will make it easier for Nova Scotians to know their rights when dealing with sellers from across the province.

Generally, our caucus believes there are needed amendments to this bill; however, I don't believe the point can be overstated. Direct seller legislation was introduced in Nova Scotia in 1975, 24 years ago. The Liberal Government thought about the future of Nova Scotia at that time. They understood that at some point direct selling transactions may be conducted in other ways besides the use of door to door, and it is very telling of this Liberal

[Page 6186]

Government's agenda of regression that 24 years later, as we head toward a new century, with the role of technology expanding in all sectors, they would now choose to eliminate Internet transactions from the arena of direct selling. Now is not the time for any government to be removing this protection.

At his briefing, the minister stated that he wanted to focus on seller-initiated purchasing. This is yet another reason to put forth for leaving Internet transactions out of the definition. My question at the time of this briefing, and today, is why? Why not offer the same protection to those persons initiating a transaction with a direct seller that you offer to those customers direct sellers initiate transactions with? In the department's discussion paper, the minister's department admits that other provinces offer protection for such transactions under their direct selling legislation. Why shouldn't we, in Nova Scotia, provide the same protection to our citizens? The minister's reasoning for not including Interac transactions in his definition of direct selling does not make sense.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank this House for the opportunity to speak on Bill No. 99. Our caucus will support Bill No. 99 through second reading as it goes forth to the Law Amendments Committee. Thank you.

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak on Bill No. 99, the Direct Sellers' Regulation Act. On behalf of the Progressive Conservative caucus I would like to say at the outset that we are mostly in support of this legislation and, in fact, we support attempts by government and by any members in this House to make things easier for the consumer. I believe some 2,200 groups, or individuals, were consulted relative to this legislation and from examining the legislation and talking to some of the stakeholders, we are firmly convinced that the amendments do reflect some of the concerns that groups and individuals have regarding the Direct Sellers' Regulation Act.

We believe that there are four basic components of the legislation. There are new ID requirements. There are cancellation clauses in the legislation. There is legislation put in place that will see refunds to consumers expanded and I think that any time you put in place legislation that helps the consumers, it certainly has the potential at least to be good legislation. So we see this amendment to the Direct Sellers' Regulation Act as positive changes and we understand that what necessitated it, according to the minister, this legislation at least was, as he indicated, the Internal Trade Agreement.

Mr. Speaker, you might recall that when the present Minister of Justice, and Business and Consumer Services was the Minister of Economic Development in this province, he advanced legislation through this House, and at that time the Liberals had a massive majority, they rammed through the Internal Trade Agreement in spite of the fact that only one other province in this nation has an Internal Trade Agreement. We checked and found out that

[Page 6187]

Nova Scotia, in fact, was putting through - I might add, rather dictatorially - legislation that had the potential to put a number of businesses and individuals in Nova Scotia at risk.

Now the minister is telling us that we are going to harmonize the Internal Trade Agreement across Canada and I heard the previous speaker, the critic for the Official Opposition, indicate that is good, you know, we are going to harmonize the Internal Trade Agreement. Does the honourable member understand, and members in this House, that there is only one other province in this nation made up of provinces and territories that has an Internal Trade Agreement in place? So, again, let's not fool anybody or let's not let this government fool anybody into believing that all provinces have an Internal Trade Agreement.

As a consequence of Nova Scotia being one of only two provinces relative to the Internal Trade Agreement, we have seen many cases where Nova Scotia businesses have, in fact, been put at a real disadvantage but nonetheless when red tape is removed, it is certainly worthy of taking a look. We understand some of these changes will, in fact, help the consumer. We are disappointed in the Internal Trade Agreement and very surprised that the minister would have the audacity to attach and connect this legislation with the Internal Trade Agreement when so many Nova Scotia companies are being disadvantaged by the Internal Trade Agreement.

There are some housekeeping changes that have taken place and changes that will make terms such as salesman redundant. Now we have the term salesperson which is certainly understandable and supportable. With those few words, as I indicated earlier, we do support this bill going on to the Law Amendments Committee. Thank you.

[4:30 p.m.]

MADAM SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 99. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Madam Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 100.

Bill No. 100 - Commercial Arbitration Act.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

[Page 6188]

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to now move second reading of Bill No. 100, Commercial Arbitration Act. It does have a longer name and I am sure my colleagues from the New Democratic Party will straighten that out.

This bill is yet another example of the progressive and vital legislation that we have had the pleasure of bringing forward in this session. In a nutshell, this bill is designed to encourage and promote the use of arbitration as an alternative to the courts. That might explain some of the heckling from the lawyers on the other side, Madam Speaker. It is designed to help businesses save time and money. When disputes have arisen in the past, the existing arbitration Act fell short in some areas. First, it did not provide the parties with guidance on how an arbitration should actually be conducted and, as a result, there were often problems reaching an agreement on the procedures that should be followed.

Secondly, Madam Speaker, the existing law allowed parties who became dissatisfied with the conduct of an arbitration to seek a court order to upset the process. This legislation addresses these two major problems. The bill provides more comprehensive guidelines regarding the procedural matters to be followed during an arbitration, and will also make it more difficult to abuse the arbitration process through tactical court applications.

Mr. Speaker, this bill establishes innovative methods of dispute resolution. We believe there are times when alternatives to the courts are preferable. With this bill, a comprehensive arbitration procedure is established, as are mediation procedures that will help solve conflicts in an efficient and timely manner. The business community is very much in favour of this type of approach. This legislation was developed in consultation with the Atlantic Provinces Arbitration and Mediation Institute, and there have been extensive consultations with the business community with respect to this legislation. Many of those consulted reminded us that the arbitration process set up under the bill is consistent with that used in the international sector.

This legislation ensures we are able to compete on a global scale. The bill ensures that Nova Scotia's marketability is enhanced and improved. We have also ensured that the language in this bill is less technical and legalistic. We have done this to ensure that the arbitration process is accessible to all. The basic provisions on how an arbitration is to be run are set out in language that can easily be understood and applied, and this is particularly important for arbitrators who may not have legal training or background.

We have heard a great deal about alternative dispute resolution mechanisms recently; in fact, it is an approach that the Department of Justice fully supports. With the traditional court process, which is adversarial by its very nature, the alternative dispute resolution process is consented to by both parties, and it is overseen by an impartial individual or panel that renders a decision binding on both parties. It is the view of the business community that this process is advantageous. It saves time and money. It is also an accepted principle in the business community that a negotiated process is the preferred option, versus a settlement

[Page 6189]

imposed by the courts. During the past decade a number of other provinces have adopted similar approaches. Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, and Saskatchewan, all have similar domestic arbitration laws in place.

This bill is about simplicity. It is designed to make it easier for businesses to resolve commercial disputes. This bill does not impose any requirements on business. It simply provides a new mechanism that can be chosen simply by including an arbitration provision in a contract. The entire arbitration process is then set out for the Parties with a long and expensive court action being avoided.

In closing, I wish to move second reading of Bill No. 100, An Act to Reform the Law Respecting Domestic Commercial Arbitration and to Promote and Encourage the Use of Arbitration as a Means of Alternate Dispute Resolution. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I had an opportunity to attend the bill briefing and press conference on Wednesday or Thursday of last week. I head some words from the Minister of Justice with regard to the intent of the Commercial Arbitration Act. I had an opportunity to speak with the lawyer, Mr. Ferguson, from the Department of Justice and have an understanding as to where the department has been coming from.

It is my understanding that this is a bill that has been in the works for a couple of years. I think it is important for the record, for our caucus to state our support, in principle, for the Commercial Arbitration Act. There are a couple of points I want to make on this before we vote on second reading.

First of all, if Nova Scotia is to be competitive in the international economy and in selling its products overseas and being able to present itself, whether they be small employers, medium-sized, even transnational corporations that may settle here in Nova Scotia, it is important that they know that when they are creating contracts that there are laws in Nova Scotia that are not only compatible but harmonized with other parts of the world, whether it be other provinces within Canada, other parts of North America, or any other country in the world. I think it is particularly important that this Commercial Arbitration Act be endorsed by this Legislature because it is a small step forward in ensuring that Nova Scotia is playing by rules that are acceptable to others outside of our province.

I think it is also commendable that this is a piece of legislation that is attempting to avoid litigation. I think the most important thing to remember about litigation is that no one wants to be in court, no one wants to be wasting their time paying lawyers or having to be prepped for trial or discovery or what have you. What we have in this case is hopefully a set of rules and guidelines where corporations or commercial entities agree there is an

[Page 6190]

opportunity to settle the matter through arbitration which is a much quicker, more efficient manner and a more cost-effective manner than having to go through the courts system.

Let me start by saying I agree with the Minister of Justice, this is a fairly well written bill, in a way that is understandable to many people within Nova Scotia and I think that is important. I would commend any minister that is willing to bring forward pieces of legislation that eliminate a lot of legalese that we sometimes find in our laws. What is particularly good about this legislation is how it is flexible to meet the needs of various sized corporations and I will give you some examples, for small corporations, corporations that are mom and pop shops or a small computer consultant perhaps.

In those circumstances, maybe when they are entering into agreements or contracts for service, they don't have a contract, a written agreement as to how they will deal with a problem if it arises. Or maybe they have a contract but they haven't considered an arbitration agreement within that contract. In the past they may have been without any assistance and the court would be the only way of resolving it. Of course, for small businesses particularly that is a problem, the one time cost of litigation can destroy a small business that is just starting to work its way into a successful position.

What this particular piece of legislation does, it allows those people after the fact, if they don't have a written contract or they don't have an arbitration agreement, they can still apply to have the Commercial Arbitration Act applied to their particular dispute and it will allow them to have the matter done through the arbitration process, therefore avoiding the courts and the possible costs. So it is a good piece of legislation for small business because it allows them the flexibility of either adopting the arbitration agreement within this piece of legislation beforehand, or maybe that wasn't done or the contract was never written, it allows them to apply the bill after the fact, after a dispute has arisen.

What about medium-sized companies - those companies that may work all across Nova Scotia or part of Nova Scotia? Well, most likely, they are going to have contracts written whenever they do certain services or production. They may also have an arbitration agreement within their contract, something that is usually standard in most of these contracts now. What this allows, instead of them having to create separate arbitration rules or confusion over what rules will apply, they now have a piece of legislation and the Commercial Arbitration Act will ensure that the rules are standard and that if an arbitrator is selected, Mr. Speaker, it will be an arbitrator who already knows the rules, because these are rules that apply across the province and throughout North America and maybe even the world.

So we have a situation where medium-sized corporations can also benefit from this legislation by not having the burden of the cost of having to provide detailed procedures and having to hire arbitrators who must learn those procedures but cannot adopt the arbitration rules and procedures within the legislation and, therefore, save on some of the problems that may be rising from an arbitration, as well.

[Page 6191]

What about transnational corporations? In the past, in my own mind, I will sort of give an example in my head. I think of, maybe, Michelin, which is a corporation here in Nova Scotia, and IBM, one that does a lot of business throughout the world, including Nova Scotia. What if they have a contract signed somewhere in the United States or in France that deals with the issue of providing services or technical support or what have you in Nova Scotia?

Mr. Speaker, most likely they have an arbitration process lined up through their international contract. The last thing they need is to know that there may be rules that are different here in Nova Scotia that are going to result in them having to create new levels of bureaucracy or having to hire people outside the system that, in turn, are going to create higher costs. For transnational corporations, the beauty of the Commercial Arbitration Act is if they have an arbitration process in place, if they have precedents that have been set, if they have rules and procedures that are in place, then they don't have to worry about this legislation. They can opt out, so to speak, by specifically saying in the legislation that we have our own rules and, therefore, we don't have to apply to these.

So this legislation is flexible, both after a dispute arises, maybe, when small corporations may need it. For medium-sized corporations, it allows them to be able to adopt regulations and rules instead of having to maintain their own and for transnational corporations who can maintain their own and, indeed, want to because of international negotiations and contracts, it is good because it allows them to opt out.

However, Mr. Speaker, there are a couple of points that I just want to make to ensure that this is put on the record. We have heard from the minister that the Atlantic Provinces Arbitration Mediation Institute endorses this piece of legislation and that is great. I am very happy to hear that. They are an important group. But I think it is important, once we have voted second reading, for the Law Amendments Committee, that we do have some understanding of what the consultation has been, whether through the government's identification of who they have talked to, or people who may come forward at the Law Amendments Committee process. It is vital that we do have an identification of all the stakeholders who are going to be involved and impacted by this legislation, whether it be the Nova Scotia Barristers Society, The Federation of Independent Business or the Alliance of Manufacturers, groups that are going to be using this on a day-to-day basis and, hopefully, this is a call for them to come to the Law Amendments Committee and tell us how they feel about it, or even submitting in letter form so we have an opportunity to know that all stakeholders feel comfortable and, if there are some concerns, we have an opportunity to make those amendments so we can make this legislation work to the best of Nova Scotia's ability.

I look forward to dealing with this at the Law Amendments Committee, Mr. Speaker, and, hopefully, we can ensure all buy-in from all stakeholders at that level if it hasn't already taken place at this point and our caucus will be voting in favour of second reading of Bill No. 100.

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MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg.

MR. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise and speak, very briefly, on this bill. This bill has a very laudable objective. The laudable objective is to allow individuals involved in commercial transactions to voluntarily choose a method for resolving their disputes without resort to the courts. This is a very well-known, international method for resolving commercial disputes. In fact, by bringing forward this legislation, Nova Scotia will, indeed, be entering a commercial world that will make us, at least, a friendly place to international business.

[4:45 p.m.]

I am reminded of the problems that they had in Russia when people who were entering into commercial contracts in Russia could never be sure that those commercial contracts would be respected, and that their disputes would be resolved in a fast, efficient and reliable way. It is very important that people involved in international trade and involved in cross-national lines be satisfied that that can be the case.

Even more importantly, this bill allows for the reduction in cost. One of the major issues that many companies face, if they have a commercial dispute, is the cost of litigation. In many cases, the cost of this litigation is really unnecessary to resolve the dispute, particularly if the dispute revolves around the interpretation of contractual terms because, in many cases, once that issue is resolved, people will know where they fit in the great scheme of things and will act accordingly, and this gives them an opportunity to do that.

However, there has been a problem in other jurisdictions. The problem has been that as a result of court backlogs, individuals who would rather have resort to the courts are forced from the courts to commercial arbitration simply because the court system becomes unreliable. We must be very vigilant in this province to ensure that our system of justice does not deteriorate to a point where people, Nova Scotians and others doing business in Nova Scotia, cannot rely on our justice system to give them quick, speedy and cost-effective justice.

We must be very careful to not allow a system of justice to develop in this province where only very large companies and commercial entities can obtain justice. There has been an experience in other jurisdictions where, as a result of the failure to hire sufficient numbers of judicial personnel to have sufficient court facilities, people have been faced with huge backlogs, and these huge backlogs are a major impediment to people who want to have access to the courts.

I should also indicate that in provinces like Ontario, there are large panels of retired justices, both at the Court of Appeal level and at the trial court level, who after retirement from the bench continue their work as arbitrators. They do this arbitration work in order to take the burden off the system and in order to allow parties to resolve their differences

[Page 6193]

through a consensual method. The parties to a commercial arbitration can expand or reduce the scope of the proceeding to what is appropriate for that dispute. The system allows them to hire, whether it is retired justices or experts who are trained in their particular field, to allow them an opportunity to have those concerns dealt with in whatever method the parties think best.

I feel that this legislation will go some considerable distance to assist in that process. However, as I said before, it is absolutely critical that we do not allow the Province of Nova Scotia to develop a rich man's justice system, where there is only justice for those people who have large amounts of money and where those people who do not have large amounts of money cannot receive redress in a timely fashion.

As has been said often, justice delayed is justice denied. If in this province we cannot provide speedy justice to people, not only those people who want to have access to the Small Claims Court, but to those people who have claims which are required, because of the size of the claim or the nature of the claim, to be heard by the Superior Courts, if we don't provide a system in this province to allow those people to have those cases adjudicated in a time-effective and cost-effective manner because, as a practising lawyer, the largest criticism that you will hear is that the justice system is not cost-effective, that there are too many dilatory proceedings, that the matter never goes to trial, and that there are huge backlogs.

I want to make it clear to the members of the government opposite that in this province we have a serious problem with backlogs in our Superior Courts. We have to take efforts to make sure that those backlogs are reduced because the people who suffer in that situation are not the judges or the lawyers. It is the parties. It is the citizens of Nova Scotia and those people carrying on business in Nova Scotia who suffer as a result of backlogs. This is a good piece of legislation, but let us never forget that it is not a placebo to get us out of the necessity of making sure that we have a proper system of justice. Thank you very much. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would move second reading of this bill.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 100. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

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HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, this completes the government's business for today. The House will sit tomorrow between the hours of 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. Following the orders of the day, I believe it is Opposition Day tomorrow and the Opposition House Leader will outline to the House what he plans on calling tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I have already given this information to the Government House Leader and to the House Leader of the Third Party. We anticipate Resolution No. 2858 and Bill No. 54.

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

The motion is carried.

The time being 4:52 p.m., we will commence the late debate.

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

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

HEALTH - RURAL (N.S.): SECOND CLASS - UPGRADE

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I am privileged to rise this afternoon and speak on this resolution which is pretty broad and pretty wide ranging. It states:

"Therefore be it resolved that this Liberal Government stop treating people in rural Nova Scotia as second-class citizens who should be satisfied with second-class health care and begin correcting the serious health-care deficiencies which presently exist for residents in rural areas across Nova Scotia.".

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Will the members vacating the Chamber please do so quietly.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I should ask if you would be so kind as to remind me when I have approximately three minutes left. I would like to defer part of my debate to my friend, the honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill?

MR. SPEAKER: Agreed.

[Page 6195]

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, in Colchester County especially I believe that this present government is shortchanging the residents. Many health services are inaccessible to the people. In this Legislature my caucus and I have brought many of the concerns we have to the government's attention. We have taken our concerns to the Minister of Health, either through resolution, Question Period, written question, or even in private conversations with the Minister of Health.

On many occasions when we bring these real life concerns to this Legislature, the Minister of Health has the audacity to stand and accuse us of fearmongering. He tells us that we are rumour-mongering and frightening the people, but let the facts speak for themselves, Mr. Speaker. In Colchester County you cannot access haemodialysis treatment. If you have acute kidney failure, you must travel to Halifax, a lot of seniors and a lot of those who are disabled, three times a week. Can you imagine? Three times a week they must get up early in the morning and drive to Halifax to receive dialysis treatment. Shame, shame, shame on that government and shame on that minister.

Now, if that was not bad enough, that is one important health service that (Interruption) My colleague, the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid, tells me to speak up. Perhaps when he replies, he can speak up a little bit. Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is there is no haemodialysis treatment available to the constituents in Colchester County. That includes Colchester North, Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley and, of course, Truro-Bible Hill. One health service we have mentioned.

Another health service, another fact to present to the minister and his government is the fact that there is no bone scanning testing available to residents in Colchester County and, in fact - and let the facts speak for themselves, Mr. Speaker - 30 per cent of women over the age of 50 have some form of osteoporosis - 30 per cent of the women over 50 and 1 man out of 8.

Now the minister is over there laughing but those are the facts that we have been given by his Department of Health, so if he is laughing then he must be laughing at his own Department of Health. Those are the facts, those are the numbers that have been presented. Yet again, another service that should be available at the Colchester Regional Hospital has been denied because that minister, more especially than anybody in that government, refuses to use common sense. Instead, that government, supported by the Northern Regional Health Board, refused, I believe it was a $120,000 offer from the Colchester Regional Hospital Auxiliary, to provide Colchester Regional Hospital with a densitometer, so that women and men would not have to wait so long to be tested for osteoporosis.

People in Nova Scotia are waiting almost a year, between nine months and a year. Do you know, Mr. Speaker, where he got that information confirmed? We have heard it and we were accused of rumour-mongering. We called the Minister's Department of Health, his spokesperson, if you will, Mr. Speaker, we called that individual and he said yes, Brooke, I

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am afraid you are right, you are correct. But he did say that the Department of Health is coming in with a program that will see some mobile bone scanning machines on this province's roads. I would think that probably you will need a 1-800 line to coordinate scheduling of appointments, you will need a technician, you will need a driver. Now is that any way to treat our seniors - force them on a strange, mobile vehicle that may pass through their community once in a blue moon. That is what that government is doing instead of placing fixed bone densitometers in the Colchester Regional Hospital. That is the program that government is supporting.

Now another service over in the Musquodoboit Valley that is largely deficient, as full of shortcomings, is our ambulance service. We have a heavy industrial base, we have a large population of seniors. That minister well knows, and he can confirm this by looking at demographics that eastern Halifax County has the largest number of seniors per capita in the whole municipality but yet response times are less than desired, Mr. Speaker, relative to ambulances.

So there are three concerns that we have and he has the audacity to sit over there with a smirk on when we are raising serious concerns about dialysis, serious concerns about osteoarthritis and osteoporosis and serious concerns about ambulances. When is that minister going to wake up and start providing these services to constituents in Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, in Colchester North and in Truro-Bible Hill? We have the hospitals, we have the facilities and we have the health care providers. Make no mistake about it, the health care providers at the Colchester Regional Hospital and at the Musquodoboit Memorial Hospital provide number one, first rate, excellent service. There is no question about the health care providers.

What really upsets the constituents and Nova Scotians is the fact that the minister tells Nova Scotians and members of the Progressive Conservative Caucus and, for that matter, the Official Opposition, he says, oh, you folks are frightening the people out there, you are fear-mongering, you are rumour-mongering, How dare you guys say that? Well, I say to the Minister of Health, how dare you say that when we are bringing real life and health situations to the Minister.

Now Mr. Speaker, are you indicating I have two minutes? Okay, thank you. I will wrap up by just giving the minister one quick, real-life situation. We have two minutes left? Oh, I am sorry, I thought I had two minutes. I apologize and I will yield to my honourable colleague, the member for Truro-Bible Hill, I know he has something to say on this topic. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 6197]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill, you have two minutes.

MR. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to follow my colleague, the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley who has outlined some very real concerns. There is no question that rural Nova Scotia is being treated as second-class citizens, in terms of the health care provided. For example, we go to the Colchester Regional Hospital. It is the only regional hospital in the province for which a modernization plan has not been prepared or announced by this government. Clearly, rural Nova Scotia, serving central part of the province, second-class citizens.

[5:00 p.m.]

The most frequent calls that I have been receiving lately have been from concerned residents of my constituency and the surrounding constituencies who do not have access to a general practitioner. This government and this minister will stand up and say that the physician shortage in Nova Scotia has been reversed.

Mr. Speaker, in rural Nova Scotia, that is simply not the case. And it is not only in the recruitment of doctors, what has this government and this minister done to work with the medical school people to get more people into their entering classes? He has done nothing. And not only that, they allowed this program to get in there a few years ago with the Extended Internship Program which dried up that pool of practitioners that used to go out and do practicums in rural Nova Scotia. This minister has done nothing to meet with the Dalhousie people and the Memorial people and any other program that provides doctors or physicians to our province to try and solve that problem.

Another problem which indicates that rural Nova Scotia is being treated as a second-class citizen, if we take operating rooms in the Colchester Regional Hospital, one of the reasons people are having surgery delayed, this is essential surgery, it is being delayed or it is being postponed, because there are no surgical assistants available to go in the hospital. The reason for that is that the minister knows very well that in rural hospitals most of the surgical assistance is provided by GPs and he has promised the GPs to make arrangements between MSI and others to see that there is an arrangement which makes it attractive for general practitioners to go into the operating rooms. He has not done that. Again, treating rural Nova Scotians as second-class citizens. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member that introduced the resolution this afternoon. I might say to the speaker for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley - I guess I was smirking at times, because of the ridiculousness - if he could step back tomorrow and read his own notes to see the progress that has been made in health care in Nova Scotia and some of the priorities that he has recognized. Sure

[Page 6198]

osteoporosis is an issue. Its treatment is still controversial, but he is here on the floor announcing like he has just found out the issues of access this year.

I don't know where the honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill was when Dalhousie and the Department of Health made the announcement last year, that we were putting $5 million to $6 million into the program to bring 12 to 14 physicians back into the community.

However, I want to get on to some of the more positive issues here. I grew up in rural Nova Scotia, on the South Shore, and I survived that and think some days it was more good luck than good management. We hear a lot from those members about the state of rural health in Nova Scotia, but what they don't mention is how much progress we have made in rural health in Nova Scotia. They seem to forget that this government has risen to the task on many occasions, virtually developing and implementing high-quality rural health services from the dust.

Mr. Speaker, when this government came on the scene in 1993, taking over from the government that that group represents, our doctors were leaving the province in droves. We had our work cut out for us, no question. We had to work very hard to turn those statistics around, and as I mentioned earlier, we have. In 1997, we had a net gain of 95 doctors in this province, and last year an additional 56 doctors opened practices, more than half of these doctors were family physicians going to work for people throughout all of Nova Scotia.

We now have a rural locum service in place which serves to cover-off rural practices across the province, including 33 incentive area practices mutually identified by the Department of Health and the Medical Society of Nova Scotia. This program guarantees minimum income in remote communities where the number of patients makes attracting doctors difficult. All of these positions are presently filled, Mr. Speaker, 33 positions in rural Nova Scotia.

We also have every emergency room in the province on alternate funding and that is new. They are fully staffed and have introduced alternate funding for regional paediatric and obstetric specialists throughout the province, as well. In the Lunenburg and Bridgewater area, we will be looking at three physicians there, Mr. Speaker. Negotiations are under way. I might say, to the honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's, in answer to his earlier question, I had it researched and up to date and things are looking very good for having three obstetricians-gynaecologists in that community. That is the sort of thing that we are doing. This will make it more attractive for individuals to set up shop in rural Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, in addition to all the initiatives I have just mentioned, we have also reached an agreement with the Medical Society of Nova Scotia, which has a number of important benefits for rural Nova Scotians. Under the agreement, we are funding increases for office visits. We are introducing a new fee for geriatric office visits, which will allow physicians to spend more time with their elderly patients and, as mentioned, there seems to

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be more in rural Nova Scotia. I would agree with the honourable members on that. So we are doing something about that.

We are funding tray fees for pap smears and increasing funding for various in-patient hospital services. All of these changes are exclusive to family physicians and will make the weighted office visit, regular plus geriatric in Nova Scotia the third highest in Canada.

In addition, there is the province-wide telehealth network. The members didn't mention that, Mr. Speaker. It will bring continuing medical education to local communities and assist in the emergency and elective surgery consults for rural patients. This is the world's largest, and Canada's first, province-wide telehealth project. It is giving excellent clinical back-up to our rural family doctors and nurses.

Mr. Speaker, our Home Care Nova Scotia Program continues to grow in its positive impact on the well-being of Nova Scotians in their homes and in their communities, particularly rural Nova Scotia. During the past year, the Home Care Nova Scotia Program has provided service to more than 20,000 individuals. More than three-quarters of home care clients are from outside the Halifax metro area. Admissions to our acute level home care service in 1997-98 was up 136 per cent. This reflects the increased integration within our health care sector and the innovative partnership between Home Care Nova Scotia and other providers. This is particularly important in rural Nova Scotia.

In addition to the program services delivered by registered nurses, licenced practical nurses and home support workers, Home Care Nova Scotia provided 444 Nova Scotians with home oxygen services in the first year of that service. Home Care Nova Scotia staff continue to work on various initiatives to improve and to expand services. In fact, they are currently involved in a collaborative effort between Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island to undertake a demonstration project addressing palliative care services in rural settings. When I visited the hospital outside of Port Hawkesbury recently, I met people that were delivering that service. That is a new service to rural Nova Scotia. Home Care Nova Scotia staff is working closely with physicians in rural Nova Scotia in a variety of ways to ensure appropriate care.

The joint liaison committee between Home Care Nova Scotia and the Medical Society of Nova Scotia has been established and is meeting regularly to deal with physician issues. This liaison committee may be the only one of its kind in the country and is functioning in a very collaborative manner, to the benefit of patients and clients, home care and the medical profession. This will help to stabilize health care services for rural Nova Scotians.

Nova Scotia was decades behind other provinces. Some would say 10 years, even 30 years, behind other provinces in developing comprehensive, province-wide home care programs when this government came to power. But now the success of Home Care Nova Scotia is attracting national attention. This is a far cry from the Home Care Program we inherited from that member's government, when the only people who qualified for their

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services were those receiving social assistance, that is how far we have come. We recognize that this system isn't perfect and we know that we have a lot of work to do but we are making great strides.

I want to take this opportunity today to highlight just a few more examples. Another area that we have achieved excellence in is emergency health services. This whole service area did not even exist in 1993. This created a serious and lethal void in the health services being provided for Nova Scotians, particularly those living in rural areas. Prior to the creation of our Emergency Health Services in Nova Scotia, there were no provincial standards for staffing ambulances, there were no standards for maintaining ambulances, and there were no standards for equipping those ambulances with life-saving equipment.

I hope that the honourable member opposite talking to his seatmate who was so concerned about rural areas would pay attention to that type of information. Those were the days when those people were in power, the ambulances were staffed by individuals with little or no qualifications. All they needed back then was a driver's license and a strong back, not to make it sound too negative. That was then and we can now acknowledge how far we have come. We have now developed and implemented one of the finest pre-hospital emergency medical care systems in the country. This system hardly even existed three years ago but is now saving lives and preventing injuries in rural Nova Scotia each and every day.

We now have a new fleet of ambulances serving the entire province and province wide . . .

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The minister knows full well he just made a statement that he can't back up, he made a very insulting statement to say that all people had to do before was have a strong back. Mr. Speaker, I ask you to take him to task and withdraw that very unparliamentary comment.

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

DR. SMITH: All Nova Scotians now benefit from more fully-equipped and staffed ambulances than ever before. We are saving lives of Nova Scotians, particularly rural Nova Scotians.

Rural Nova Scotians have become used to hearing dramatic stories involving an air ambulance program we have started. They have seen the air ambulance arrive on highways, metres away from the crash scene. They have heard about the air medical flight crews jumping from the air ambulance to the ground in the woods to reach a patient. The air ambulances have flown over 1,000 missions. Just this past weekend two Nova Scotians were rescued from the woods in rural Nova Scotia by paramedics and taken to hospital in Halifax by air ambulance. On that same day two paramedics delivered a baby in rural Nova Scotia. This is a reflection of the resources we put into this vital part of our health care system, it is

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happening daily in this province. New ambulances, more paramedics, advanced medical communications, the Air Medical Transport Program, every rural Nova Scotian now has a comprehensive safety net for medical emergencies.

We are committed to community health care to all Nova Scotians while recognizing the special needs of those people in rural Nova Scotia. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

DR. HINRICH BITTER-SUERMANN: Mr. Speaker, it was quite interesting to see the third Minister of Health that the Liberal Government has produced so far, in his breathless, anxious way, read 10 minutes of propaganda that has absolutely no reality check in rural Nova Scotia that would give everybody the answer. He ain't knowing what he is talking about. Having said that, it is embarrassing to see the Third Party table a resolution that reads in its first sentence, "Therefore be it resolved that this Liberal Government stop treating people in rural Nova Scotia as second-class citizens . . .". Wasn't that what that Third Party promised in the last election? They had their day and now they have lost it. Now they are in a solid marriage and now they are yelping.

There is a real crisis in rural Nova Scotia but it cannot be solved by creeping to bed with the government that has caused it. I personally want to speak just about two sectors in society in rural Nova Scotia and then I will yield time to my friend, the member for Yarmouth.

[5:15 p.m.]

It is the very young and the very old that suffer. The very young in Bridgewater are at this moment in trouble. They have 36 doctors at the hospital who have had to write petitions and letters to the mandarins, to those little leaders of the fiefdoms in Wolfville, of the Western Regional Health Board. That is how the minister absolves himself of real responsibility. He dishes out a bit of power to those little sub-government, sub-agencies that have absolutely no idea in the Valley what happens on the South Shore. On the South Shore, there is a doctor crisis. We have at this moment a doctor who wants to leave and he has to negotiate with a health board in Wolfville that does not even answer his letters. A 36 doctors' petition, that is ridiculous. The Minister of Health, he should take responsibility. He should say clearly, yes, we want this doctor in Bridgewater or, no, we do not.

The other sector in society, of course, is the very old. Our seniors, Mr. Speaker, they are really at this moment not any longer served the way they should be. Here is the Minister of Health boasting that home care is on the up. Well, finally, after six years of destroying primary care in rural Nova Scotia, where our seniors normally would have gone, now the government has discovered that home care is important in rural Nova Scotia.

[Page 6202]

Mr. Speaker, when the minister says that it has attracted national attention, right he is. It is the attention that you pay to government that has failed. We have become the laughing stock in Canada because our health care has added another $400 million per year or so to its expenditures. Our health boards, the regionals that is, are overexpending; our major hospitals are overexpending; and our seniors are discharged prematurely. There are no primary care beds left in rural Nova Scotia, not enough left for our seniors, and here he is boastful that he has attracted national attention. I congratulate the Minister of Health.

I think it was not really meant to be a rueful and downbeat statement, but at least sort of a Freudian slip it was and, on that slip, I now would be privileged to yield my time to the honourable member for Yarmouth. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Yarmouth.

MR. JOHN DEVEAU: Mr. Speaker, I will say right from the outset that I am very pleased with the member for Kings West for submitting such a quality resolution for discussion in the House but, in saying that, I also feel obligated to remind this House that it was the Third Party as well, when they were government, that also ignored the health care plight of rural Nova Scotians, but we are not here to talk about that because we do not have enough time.

What we are here to talk about, Mr. Speaker, is the blatant forgetfulness of that government when it comes to the health care needs in rural Nova Scotia. In the media, every day, in rural Nova Scotia we hear repeatedly of the crisis in health care, the doctor shortage, the nursing shortage, the shortage of specialists, and bed shortages; the list goes on and on. The problem is that the Liberal Government does not have a concrete plan to provide adequate health care services to rural Nova Scotians. Their plan is that of a wing and a prayer.

I would like to focus my comments and attention at this time to my riding in Yarmouth. In the Yarmouth area, right now, we have over 6,000 residents that do not have a GP. What that means is by not having a GP, something as simple as having a medical form signed by a doctor could warrant a four to five hour wait in the outpatient department, and our seniors, children, our families needing a doctor's attention should not be expected to endure such a wait.

Yet, Mr. Speaker, this has been an ongoing problem for some time and the sad reality is that Liberal Government, with its doctor recruitment strategies is failing the people of Yarmouth. Five to seven doctors are needed in Yarmouth today but that Liberal Government's failure to designate Yarmouth as an under-serviced area is once again a blatant example of ignoring and treating rural Nova Scotians as second-class citizens.

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Mr. Speaker, as crucial as the doctor issue is in Yarmouth, we are faced as well with the nursing shortage issue. As a result of the nursing shortage issue, bed closures are imminent. The fact is it is happening now. The nursing shortage in Yarmouth didn't happen yesterday. It, too, has been an ongoing issue. It, too, needed to be addressed yesterday. It, too, is another blatant example of the needs of rural Nova Scotians being ignored.

Mr. Speaker, I made mention of bed closures at the Yarmouth hospital because of the nursing shortage, a fact that the Liberal Government continues to ignore, continues to sweep under the carpet; the safety of the patients and residents of our facility are being put in jeopardy. The nursing staff that we currently have are overworked, stressed and have thrown their arms up in the air because of the lack of leadership shown by that government. The nurses are hard-working and very dedicated to their profession but, because of the nursing shortage, they are finding it next to impossible to provide quality care.

By this government not seriously addressing the nursing shortage, indeed, we have another example of once again the needs of rural Nova Scotians, the wants of rural Nova Scotians being treated as second-class citizens. With that, Mr. Speaker, I will say thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The time allocated for the late debate having expired, the House will now rise until tomorrow.

[The House rose at 5:23 p.m.]